"Jesus Transfigured with Moses and Elijah, Witnessed by Disciples Peter, James, and John" Ladislav Zaborsky
The Collect of the Day O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah. In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshowed our adoption by grace. Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King in His glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Exodus 24.8-18 Our reading serves as the compliment and the climax of the covenant ceremony that began in Exodus 19 with the arrival of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses has thrown the blood of sacrifice upon the altar (Ex 24.6) and now the other half is thrown on the people. A covenant is cut with the blood of oxen; “I will be their God, and they will be My people.” Gibbs makes two points regarding this ceremony; “first, how gracious God is to establish a covenant with a people at all! Second, then, how necessary it is to have a mediator who stands between the utterly strange and all-powerful Creator and a flawed and broken people” (CJ 40.1.66)
The events on Mt. Sinai prefigure the wonder of the Transfiguration in several ways. First, only a few are allowed to even step foot on the mountain and in the end only one, the one whom God has appointed mediator, may enter the cloud. This first mediator appears and speaks face-to-face with the greater and final mediator, Jesus Christ. Second, the terror of the three on this mountain, give a visible reminder of the “devouring fire” that Israel witnessed from below as Moses ascends into the cloud. Finally, the apostasy of the people, the Golden Calf, occurs even as Moses remained in God’s presence underscoring our need for a Savior.
Read the Text and Discuss
What elements of this text are completely outside of our experience?
What is the relationship of this covenant and the one that preceded it, the one the God sealed with Abram in Genesis 15?
How does the “pace” of this narrative impact our hearing of the Word of God?
Psalm 2.6-12 Reardon places our psalm in its proper context when he writes, “The Book of Psalms, having begun on a theme associated with Wisdom, next turns to messianic considerations. Psalm 2 commences: ‘Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine something vain.’ The ‘blessed man’ introduced in Psalm 1, Jesus our Lord, is an affront to the wisdom of this world. The powers of this world cannot abide Him. The moral contrast described in Psalm 1 thus becomes the messianic conflict narrated in Psalm 2” (3).
For the celebration of our Lord’s Transfiguration, the lectionary committee drops the opening five verses of Psalm 2 to focus our attention on the pivotal sixth and seventh. Only here among all the royal Psalms do we find the expression, “you are my son.” This declaration of God to the king, becomes the central assertion about the relationship of Jesus to God the Father in the New Testament; see Acts 13.33, Hebrews 1.5, and 5.5. However, the Psalm does not tell us how the office would be fulfilled by Jesus; that is the surprise of the gospel, the scandal of the cross.
Read the Text and Discuss
Who is the speaker in our reading?
How do you reconcile the death of the son, Jesus, with the promises of the psalm?
Have the kings and rulers of the world taken heed of verse 10?
2 Peter 1.16-21 While a place in the canon was never questioned regarding Peter’s first epistle, the second is decidedly antilegomenon (spoken against), with the weakest historical attestation of any book in the New Testament. The letter has often been called the Epistle of Knowledge; knowledge not for its own sake, but for strengthening the Christian hope and defending it against the attack of error and to preserve it from the corrosion of doubt. Note the “golden chain” of Christian virtues laid out in 1.5-7. Our reading assures the reader that the Christian hope is guided and sustained by the inspired Old Testament prophetic word, now made more sure by the apostolic witness to the mystery of the Christ, the fulfillment of that prophecy.
This is the only reference to the Transfiguration outside of the synoptic gospels.
Read the Text and Discuss
Who is the antecedent of the first person plural pronouns in vv. 16, 18, 19?
What is more certain or made more certain in verse 19?
What does Peter have to say about the source and interpretation of Scripture?
Matthew 17.1-9 The location of the “high mountain” of the transfiguration remains a mystery. In 16.13 we find Jesus and his disciples at Caesarea Philippi beyond the northern border of Galilee. Immediately after Peter’s great confession we come to a major break in the gospel in 16.21 when “from that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem…” The break is likely more theological than physical but we note the opening chronological marker in our reading “after six days” the first such marker in the entire gospel. Did the group journey south during this time? We are not told but we find them in Galilee after the events of our reading in 17.22.
The epiphany of our Lord takes a very different twist in our reading. Up to this point, the manifestation of Jesus has been couched in the circumstances of his birth, the content of His preaching and teaching, and the power of His miraculous works. Suddenly, the manifestation is no longer external but physical and ontological as the divine nature, which was His from before creation, shines forth in the creation. Yet it is not the transfiguration or the appearance of Moses and Elijah, but the voice of the Father that causes the disciples to fall on their faces in terror. Read the Text and Discuss
Why Moses and Elijah?
Compare the theophany of God at Sinai with that recorded by Matthew.
What is right and what is wrong about Peter’s offer to tabernacle on the mountain?