Lexegete™ | Year A | Matthew
TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD
Last Sunday after the Epiphany
February 3, 2008
Psalm 2 (7) or Psalm 99 (9)
2 Peter 1:16-21
1. CONTEXT - Matthew 17:1-9 / The Transfiguration
The Transfiguration story follows Peter's profession of faith
at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus' first Passion Prediction, and his
teaching on the way of the cross, and it precedes the healing of the
epileptic boy. Matthew's account mainly follows that of Mark, and
carries to a higher stage the opening of the disciple's eyes which
began with Peter's confession. Only much later do Jesus' followers
understand these events, but they are part of the teaching on
discipleship which runs through the rest of the public ministry.
The story may reflect a unique experience of the disciples,
but as it is told it is filled with a wealth of allusions to the
O.T.which express a theology. The older theory, that the
Transfiguration was originally a resurrection appearance, is
probably incorrect. Matthew uses the event to express his Son of
God theology, whereas Mark and perhaps Matthew also employ it to
portray the glory of the coming Son of Man. Luke's form of the
story connects the story more definitely with the Passion and
Ascension (Luke 9:31).
Pagan mythology told of theophanies in which gods appeared in
shining glory; cf. the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the glory of the
Persian king's face (additions to Esther 15:6-14), but this is
irrelevant. Instead the background is the shining of Moses' face
(Exodus 34:29-35), a motif which Paul applies to Jesus in II Cor.
3:17-18. The cloud (Matt. 17:5) also recalls Moses on Mt. Sinai
(Exod. 24:15-18, part of the first lesson for the day). Both Moses
and Elijah were believed to have ascended into heaven. Philo said
that Moses' body was finally transformed into mind, a substance like
light (Life of Moses ii. 14,51).
Peter's desire to make three tents or booths suggests some
connection with the Feast of Tabernacles. This was one of the most
popular and spectacular festivals of the Jewish year; its importance
here is connected with eschatological hopes (Zech. 14:16-19). Some
of the ceremonies of the festival (the Hosanna and the waving of
leafy branches) appear at Jesus' triumphal entury into Jerusalem,
and in John 7-8, Tabernacles is the occasion when Jesus announces
the living water of the Spirit.
2. TEXT: Matthew 17:1-9 (ESV)
17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,  with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” [ 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. ]
 17:5 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved
 17:18 Greek it
 17:18 Greek the demon
 17:18 Greek from that hour
 17:20 Some manuscripts insert verse 21: But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting
 17:22 Some manuscripts remained
 17:27 Greek stater, a silver coin worth four drachmas or approximately one shekel
1kai meq hmeraV ex paralambanei o ihsouV ton petron kai iakwbon kai iwannhn ton adelfon autou, kai anaferei autouV eiV oroV uyhlon kat idian. 2kai metemorfwqh emprosqen autwn, kai elamyen to proswpon autou wV o hlioV, ta de imatia autou egeneto leuka wV to fwV. 3kai idou wfqh autoiV mwushV kai hliaV sullalounteV met autou. 4apokriqeiV de o petroV eipen tw ihsou, kurie, kalon estin hmaV wde einai: ei qeleiV, poihsw wde treiV skhnaV, soi mian kai mwusei mian kai hlia mian. 5eti autou lalountoV idou nefelh fwteinh epeskiasen autouV, kai idou fwnh ek thV nefelhV legousa, outoV estin o uioV mou o agaphtoV, en w eudokhsa: akouete autou. 6kai akousanteV oi maqhtai epesan epi proswpon autwn kai efobhqhsan sfodra. 7kai proshlqen o ihsouV kai ayamenoV autwn eipen, egerqhte kai mh fobeisqe. 8eparanteV de touV ofqalmouV autwn oudena eidon ei mh auton ihsoun monon. 9kai katabainontwn autwn ek tou orouV eneteilato autoiV o ihsouV legwn, mhdeni eiphte to orama ewV ou o uioV tou anqrwpou ek nekrwn egerqh.
2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 17:1-9
Mt. 17:1 - eis oros hupselon - "up a high mountain" (AILL) -
Peter, James and John were later with Jesus in Gethsemane and are
elsewhere prominent as an inner group (4:18-22; Mark 5:37; 13:3).
A mountain is an important place for revelations and significant
events (e.g. 5:1; 28:16).
17:2 - metemorphothe - "transfigured"(AILL) - The verb is used in 2
Cor. 3:18; Rom. 12:2; for the eschatological transformation of
Christians, see also l Cor. 15:51; Phil. 3:10; l John 3:2.
17:4 - skenas - "booths" (AILL) - The figure of a tent or booth
primarily suggests Tabernacles but is also applied to the
Incarnation in John 1:14; Rev. 21:3, and in these cases there is a
possible reference to the word Shekinah (presence of God), which has
the same consonants in Hebrew; cf. also Ezek. 37:27.
17:5 - Houtos estin ho huios mou ho agapetos, en ho eudokesa -
"This is my beloved Child, with whom I am well pleased" (AILL) -
Matthew adds "with whom I am well pleased" to the quotation in Mark,
emphasizing the parallel to the voice at Jesus' baptism (3:17).
The voice thus begins and closes the Epiphany season. - akouete
autou - "to this one you shall listen" (AILL) - In all three Synoptics, this phrase perhaps
calls attention to the teachings on discipleship that will follow.
17:6-7 - ephobethesan sphodra - " and were filled with awe"(AILL) -
Matthew in these two verses heightens the emphasis on the fear of
the disciples and adds Jesus' reassurance.
17:9 - horama - "the vision" (AILL) - A supernatural vision; as in
Mark, this is part of the secret not disclosed until after the
3. STRATEGY: Matthew 17:1-9
The homily might concentrate on the epiphany or theophany
theme. The Transfiguration corresponds to Jesus' baptism (lst
Sunday after Epiphany) and is a direct preparation for Lent through
the disclosure of Christ's nature.
The theme of seeing might, however, be developed. Matthew
does not include the blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26), which
tells of the gradual restoration of physical sight; spiritual
insight begins at Caesarea Philippi and there is a clearer vision at
the Transfiguration. Christian experience is not yet another
"instant" phenomenon, but develops gradually.
The metamorphosis of Christians (from 17:2) is a more subtle
application.The gospels portray the disciples as immature all
throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, but Paul believes that
Christians, seeing the glory of the Lord the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18) or
the glory of Christ (4:4) are transformed into the vision they see.
This beatific vision is eschatological but it can begin now.
Connections can also be drawn with the story of Moses on Sinai
(especially Exodus 24:34; 34:29-35). Paul held that the law of
Sinai could not save and was inferior to the covenant with Abraham,
but Torah--truly understood--is God's act of Grace (Exodus 34:4-6).
4. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Matthew 17:1-9
O WONDROUS TYPE, O VISION FAIR (HB 136/7,LBW 80);
HOW GOOD, LORD,TO BE HERE (LBW 89);
FROM GLORY TO GLORY ADVANCING (HB 326);
O GOD OF GOD, O LIGHT OF LIGHT (LBW 536);
O LIGHT OF LIGHT (HB 133/4);
CHRIST UPON THE MOUNTAIN PEAK (HB 129/30);
O LORD OF LIGHT (LBW 323);and
WHERE CROSS THE CROWDED WAYS (HB 609, LBW 429),
which connects the Transfiguration with the miracle of healing
that follows, a homiletical commonplace, but edifying.
Exegete: Sherman E. Johnson [†], fourth Dean of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific
5. FURTHER READING
Several classic books on preaching have proved to be immenseley
useful, both for experienced and beginning preachers, including:
Craddock, Fred B. Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon, 1985. Like his
earlier books As One Without Authority and Overhearing the Gospel
(the Beecher Lectures at Yale Divinity School), this one presents a
clear, simple case for more understandable, accessible preaching
that reaches into the experience of the hearer.
Gibble, Kenneth G. The Preacher as Jacob. Minneapolis: Seabury,
1985. Gibble, a Church of the Brethren pastor, encourages us to
confront the daimonic in our lives and thereby tap hidden energies
that can transform preaching into an almost therapeutic event.
This is an interesting thesis, well presented.
Killinger, John. Fundamentals of Preaching. Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1985. Though aimed primarily at the novice preacher, this
volume nevertheless contains many insights into the process of
preparing and delivering the sermon and is full of sound advice.
Markquart, Edward F. Quest for Better Preaching Minneapolis,
Augsburg, 1985. This book is ideal for the parish pastor in that it
is written by practicing preacher accountable for Sunday sermons
each week and because, as the title implies, it really does reflect
his own personal quest for renewal and growth as a preacher. A very
creative and useful book!
LEXEGETE © 2008