In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in a “community” approach to study and prep for the sermon, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!
I’m preaching in the contemporary service this week at my church and the text is Matthew 17:1-9. This Sunday is “Transfiguration Sunday,” which immediately precedes Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. I’m preaching the Ash Wednesday service as well, but that will be for another post.
I’m still doing initial study on this passage, but I’ll go ahead and offer a few beginning observations and thoughts.
1. This is, I think, the strangest passage in the Gospels. I mean, what does “transfigured” mean anyway? Sounds like something you could get in trouble for. The only clues we have are in verse 2: “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Oh, okay, thanks for clearing that up. Still, I’m sure there are clues here that we’ll unearth with a little more careful reading of the text. One possibility is that this is an echo of a description of Moses after his encounters with God on the mountaintop. After all, we are on a mountaintop here (v1 – “led them up a high mountain”) and Moses does show up just a little later.
2. Peter’s typical enthusiams and penchant for riding the moment shows up here as in many other places.
3. The voice from the clouds repeats basically the same words spoken over Jesus at his baptism: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased” with the notable addition, “listen to him!” That is fantastic. Not that it’s just a touch of humor, but it is a little touch of humor, don’t you think? Of course, at Jesus’ baptism, these words spoke to his identity and his Father’s affirmation of his Son’s ministry. A key moment at the beginning of Jesus’ public career in ministry. Again we find a key moment in Jesus’ public ministry career in which Jesus experiences a profound physical religious experience and hears the words of the Father affirming his identity and ministry. Having been correctly recognized by Peter and the disciples as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16), Jesus is now fixing his path on the suffering and death he will face in Jerusalem en route to his resurrection (16:21). But this time, curiously, those word from the Father are not spoken to Jesus, but to his disciples, Peter, James, and John.
There is much to dig into here. I’ll try and offer more soon. Thoughts so far?