The Transfiguration of Jesus
Matthew 17: 1 — 9
Yet again we find ourselves meditating on a passage, which contains a very special account of a unique moment in our Lord's time of public ministry. Even the shortest commentaries seem to analyse every word or phrase of this short account and we shall leave that to them. The following is a short meditation on the passage.
Some Notes On Our Text
At the transfiguration of Jesus as it is normally called (Matthew 17: 1 — 9), we hear God the Father proclaim his unique command: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him".
This echoes Deuteronomy 18: 18;
"….I will put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him."
It is worth noting that this incident occurred on a mountain (we are not sure which), and clearly was intended to be linked with the giving of the Word at Sinai. In the company of Peter, James and John, the face of Jesus shone as the sun shines, and his clothes became as white as light. For a moment, the three disciples see Jesus as he really is, as he always is: always in a state of prayer and oneness with God.
To add to the spectacle, Moses and Elijah appear and talk to our Lord, representing as they do the Law (Torah) and the Prophets. Here, the three disciples behold the fullness of God's revelation to mankind.
Peter in particular, as usual, is the most profoundly moved. He suggests, out of courtesy, that a customary shelter be quickly arranged for each. Although he does not really know what he is saying, he demonstrates his deep-seated consciousness of the harmony between the Old Law and the teaching of Jesus.
Peter's suggestion is met with silence and while he is still speaking, another amazing thing happens.
A cloud of bright light envelopes, surrounds, encompasses them all. This is the Shekinah — the cloud of God's presence. It does not hover above nor does it cast a shadow. It embraces them: God's presence touches them. At this point God speaks to them. "This is my Son whom I have chosen; Listen to him". So Jesus is the revealer of all that God wishes to say to us. Just as God's voice in the cloud at Mount Sinai gave authority to his law Exodus 19: 9), so now God's voice gives authority to the words of Jesus. It is he to whom they must now listen with all their attention.
In fear, the three disciples fall to the ground, Jesus touches them, and then speaks to them warmly, "Don't be afraid." They leave the mountainside peacefully, and quietly question Jesus about parts of this amazing experience.
They never forgot God's instruction to them: "Listen to him".
It was not long before they got the full import of the heavenly voice's message:
(Glenstal Bible Missal)
Let us take God's command at face value and "listen". Reading the Bible prayerfully, reflecting on portions of the message, allowing Scripture to absorb us: all this is listening to the Word. It is listening to the words, in a way which enables us to hear the Word behind the words, the Word within the words.
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