Matthew 17:1-13

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

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!”

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.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

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.”

And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:1-13

We all understand the concept of a “turning point.” It is the sudden plot twist that changes the direction of the story. It is December 7, 1941. September 11, 2001. This scene, remembered every year in the church as Transfiguration Sunday, is the turning point in the ministry of Jesus.

As with all turning points, it comes with a quick glance backward and a long, uncertain, gaze into the future. We are reading a story where the bad guy is suddenly unmasked. We think back upon the story and wonder why we couldn’t see that coming all along. Then we watch as the rest of the story unfolds. Movies do this with flashbacks. The gospels do the same with the transfiguration.

Moses – representing the law, the religious rituals and lifestyle rules that guided the people of Israel in their relationship with God – and Elijah – the voice of the prophets who challenged Israel when they strayed toward idolatry and injustice – both appear speaking with Jesus. Jesus is unmasked. He is seen in continuity with God’s actions in the past. God is clearly up to something in Jesus and a few chosen disciples are privileged to see it first-hand.

Peter wants to capture the moment. Of course he does. That is what we do. We want to stay there. The grandeur of mountaintop experiences is exhilarating. We don’t want to leave. But we have to. Mountaintops are majestic but no one can live up there. Jesus certainly can’t. His work is not done.

Before they turn, they hear the voice of God. “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” This was the point of the entire experience. Nothing changed for Jesus. His mission, his destiny, didn’t change. God’s affirmation, first heard at Jesus’ baptism, echoes again, now for the sake of the disciples. They will still struggle to understand. They will still resist what lies ahead. But they will do so with a new memory. A new unmasking. God is up to something in Jesus and they are along for the ride.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, our lives also have had numerous turning points along the way. Surprising lucky breaks, disappointments, deaths, divorces, jobs lost, natural and not-so-natural disasters. Each time we wondered if you were with us. Each time we wonder how we will make it through. Sometimes you give us a sense, a vision, of your presence in our lives. You give us just enough to keep going. Thank you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Matthew 17:1-13”

  1. Theresa Prebilsky Says:

    thank you again, and again.

  2. Carolee Groux Says:

    Your prayer was especially significant for me today; thank you.
    I am sick and the words you prayed were comforting to me.

    In times of disaster, sickness and myriad hardships I wonder if you are with me. I wonder how will I make it through. Jesus gives me just enough of His presence to keep me going. Thank you blessed Jesus who grants me strength at these times. Amen.

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