The Transfiguration (Feb 26th)

Pastor's Summary of Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus has told his disciples that "the Son of Man is to the glory of his Father...There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see...[him] coming in his kingdom"(16:27-28). Now he and the inner circle of disciples ascend a mountain. Jesus is "transfigured" (v. 2, given an unearthly appearance). An aura of unnatural brightness is linked with mystical appearances in Exodus and Acts; "dazzling white" is a symbol of transcendence. In Jewish tradition, both "Moses and Elijah" (v. 3) were taken into heaven without dying; here Moses represents the Law and Elijah the prophets. Both are associated with Mount Sinai. Peter recognizes Jesus as "Lord" (v. 4), both earthly and heavenly sovereign. In his suggestion of making "dwellings" he thinks of Sinai, for dwellings (booths) were erected on the Feast of Tabernacles, commemorating the events there, and a time when the city was brightly lit. On Sinai too a "bright cloud" (v. 5) symbolized God's presence. The words spoken by the voice recall Jesus' baptism and add "listen to him"; Jesus is not only God's Son and his Chosen, but also the prophet, God promised to Moses.

Early Christians knew the book of Daniel well. Vv.6-7 would tell them that this "vision" (v. 9) is linked to the end times: see Daniel 8:17 (where "mortal" is son of man in the Hebrew). Moses and Elijah vanish into insignificance, leaving Jesus alone. The Church Fathers saw the Transfiguration as fulfilling Jesus' prediction that some would not die until they had seen the coming of God's kingdom; others saw the event as a prophecy of the Second Coming..