Transfiguration Sunday: The Gospel Passage – I am thinking about this

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.” (Matthew 17:1)

In the last section of Matthew chapter 16, the writer of Matthew says that Jesus started telling/prophesying concerning his death. It is important to know and understand this at the end of the passage. And, actually, to understand the context of this passage.

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” (Verses 2 – 3)

I am sitting here, fingers posed above the keyboard, and a number of thoughts go through my head. How did Peter, James, and John know it was Moses and Elijah? How did the writer of the gospel of Matthew know? Well, most probably Peter, James and/or John told the writer of Matthew. But that still leaves the question, how did they know?

And why? Why would Moses and Elijah come to talk to Jesus? Advice or counsel? Comfort? Planning? With a message from God? I have some thoughts on that. Why Moses and Elijah, of all the saints and prophets that had gone before? I have some thoughts on that too.

“Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Verse 4)

The other gospels that report this interlude state the Peter was overwhelmed, in shock, and was just fumbling words and a response to this. And that he did not completely understand the situation, and/or could not take it all in.

“While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Verse 5)

This is an echo or refrain from when Jesus was baptized, which Matthew, Luke, and John record in their gospels. And this blessing and benediction shook the disciples there even more.

“When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” (Verses 6 – 7)

My thinking on this goes something like this; first, the writer of the gospel of Matthew (and perhaps the other gospel writers who wrote of it) wanted to make it very clear that Jesus was from God & from Heaven. and so was connected in an ongoing way to God and Heaven. The transformation/transfiguration was a revealing of Jesus’ divine nature and the source of Jesus’ power and authority. Connecting Jesus to two of the most prominent saints in Jewish history place Jesus directly in the line of God’s plan, intention, and intervention in the world. Second, interestingly, Elijah’s and Moses’ deaths are never really emphasized or spoken too. Elijah was taken up to Heaven, and Moses was laid to rest by God the Godself. This compares/contrast to Jesus’ death; both that it was spoken of by Jesus and the foretold by the prophets, and that Jesus spoke of it well before it came to pass.

My next “pondering” is . . . did it really happen? Or was it an “invention” by the writers of the gospel?

“And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.” (Verse 8)

I am not, truly, questioning it authenticity. That three of the gospel writers and the writer of the second letter of Peter speak of it confirms it in my own mind. My point is, it so perfectly reminds the reader that Jesus was more than just a teacher but could call on and converse with the prophets; not just read scripture to understand the prophets but speak to them as well. And it makes manifest, again, Jesus’ relationship to God. It does all these things so well, that one must conclude it was contrived, BUT contrived by the Divine and not by human invention!

“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Verse 9)

So why not talk about it in the moment? That is my last question, and the one I have very few thoughts on. Why wait? There are some theories on that out there. As for me, I do not have an answer. However, one thing it does tell me is that there is a course of events that must happen at certain times and places. We may think we have a glimpse of things and understand the whole of it, while in reality we only know a part. When all things, that is ALL THINGS have been revealed, then we will understand. Until then, we must wait on the Divine. Selah!