All the readings for this Sunday point to the gospel reading, which is the story of the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain.
- God tells Moses to come up Mt. Sinai. He has some instructions to give the people through him. (v. 12)
- Moses makes preparations for the trip, delegating authority to others who will remain in camp. (vv. 13-14)
- God was present on the mountain. The writer uses metaphors to try to describe it. He calls it God’s “glory”, whatever a glory is. He describes this glory as a cloud and like a fire. It must have been an incredible sight to see. (vv. 15-17)
- So, Moses went up there and waited. He had a personal meeting with God that kept him there nearly six weeks. (v. 18)
In biblical times, if you wanted to meet God, you went to a high place. All the Canaanite temples were on hilltops or mountaintops. The temple in Jerusalem is also on a hilltop. Moses’ encounter with God flows with this pattern.
Where do you go to find God?
2 Peter 1:16-21
This letter was written in response to growing doubt regarding Jesus’ return. In the third and final chapter of this letter, Peter finally reveals the reason for the letter. But first, he lays the foundation. He gives them the reason they should remain vigilant. He recalls the scene of Jesus’ transfiguration.
- He tells them that he didn’t make this stuff up. He saw this event with his own eyes. Then he gives them a Readers’ Digest version of the story. We’ll dig into the event a little deeper in the gospel lesson below. (vv. 16-18)
- Peter says that it should therefore be very clear to all that this is a true prophecy. Plus, true prophecy comes only through the Holy Spirit. (vv. 19-21)
It will be summarized with the gospel lesson below.
In recent weeks, we have been studying excerpts from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5, 6, & 7). This Sunday we fast forward eleven chapters to wrap up the Epiphany season with the story of the transfiguration of our Lord. Three of the four gospels include this event in their narratives. Just prior to this story in Matthew, Jesus foretells his death, Peter rebukes him, and Jesus says “Get behind me Satan”.
Also of note, Matthew’s gospel was written about 40 or 50 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection. There could also have been some doubts surrounding the second coming cropping up in Matthew’s audience as well.
- Jesus takes Peter and the “Sons of Thunder”, James and John, up a high mountain. (v. 1)
- Here’s where it gets strange and a little confusing. Jesus is “transfigured” before them. Transfigure means to improve the appearance of something or someone, often spiritually. A metaphor is used— “his face shone like the sun”. People use metaphors to try and describe indescribable things. And his clothes were super white, like in a laundry soap commercial (or even more!). The writer of the commentary I recently read says that the apostles were given a glimpse of Jesus in his resurrected glory (and clothes). He’s a retired seminary professor, so I respect his opinion. (v. 2)
- Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appear. Two famous people from the Old Testament. They are talking to Jesus. (v. 3)
- Peter babbles something stupid about making tents, so they could all hang out together. (v. 4)
- God speaks, telling them to listen to His son. This scares the apostles, and they fall to the ground. Jesus tells them to get up and not be afraid. (vv. 5-7)
- Just like that, it was over. Jesus tells them to keep this to themselves until he’s raised from the dead. (vv. 8-9)
Both Peter and Matthew use this story to strengthen the faith of those waiting for the second coming of Jesus. We are shown Jesus in his heavenly form. God calls his other two “heavy-hitters” to talk to Jesus and to demonstrate Jesus’s authority to the three apostle witnesses. The way is going to be difficult for Jesus and for the apostles. God provides this scene to give them the vision and strength to carry out their mission.
This scene should also help us to firm up our confidence in Jesus’ promised return. Note that at the time of this transformation event, about 1,300 years had passed since the time of Moses. 2 Peter 3:8 states the God, a day is like a thousand years and vice versa. Our task as Children of God is to be Jesus’ presence to those around us. Jesus is most certainly coming! We just don’t know when.