Reading Ramblings – Transfiguration Sunday

Reading Ramblings

Date: Transfiguration Sunday – February 26, 2017

Texts: Exodus 24:9-18; Psalm 2:6-12; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

Context: As we prepare for Lent, we conclude with remembering our Lord’s Transfiguration. We dare not see Jesus as the tragic figure, the helpless victim in the clutches of his enemies. We dare not presume to pity Jesus for his predicament. He is the Son of God made flesh. Nothing happens to him except by his obedience in allowing it. His glory is hidden, surrendered to his humiliation in becoming part of the creation He spoke caused to come into existence (John 1:1-5), but it is his glory, and no one is capable of taking it from him.

Exodus 24:9-18 – Witnessing the glory of the Son of God is not simply a transfiguration or resurrection thing. I hold with this who trust that events in the Old Testament where God is described as coming amidst his people in physical form is merely the Son of God prior to his Incarnation. In God’s appearance to Moses towards the end of this section, note the presence of the cloud covering the mountain and compare to the Transfiguration account of Jesus.

Psalm 2:6-12 – The second half of this psalm emphasizes the power and majesty of God’s chosen one, the king who is also the Son of God. Once again we have the Old Testament language of God’s holy hill as the setting for the rule of God’s chosen one. This chosen one rules in power, not in meekness and humility. The nations are warned, and rulers are cautioned lest God’s holy ruler move against them who rage and plot in vain (v.1). But those who take refuge in him and acknowledge his lordship are blessed. Those who recognize the authority of God’s chosen one have nothing to fear from him. It is only those who continue to strive against him who have reason to fear.

2 Peter 1:16-21 – Peter reflects on that moment on the Mount of Transfiguration, when he and James and John viewed Jesus in his true glory. Peter defends his gospel. He has not made it up. He has not collaborated with others to create a story to fool others. He simply has told what he saw and experienced in regards to Jesus of Nazareth. So he reports seeing Jesus in his glory and hearing the voice of God the Father speaking from heaven. It is this relationship that gives Peter the authority to speak to others. So when Peter warns against false teachers in the following chapter, he expects his words to be taken serious. He has not chosen this role for himself, but he does not shrink from it now that it has been given to him. He will testify to the truth of Jesus Christ and call out those who preach and teach falsely. These false teachers seek their own benefit, but Peter contends that the Word of God has never been given simply for the material benefit of the man who spoke it, but rather God’s prophets were compelled by God the Holy Spirit to speak the Word of God honestly and completely, to the blessing of God’s people.

Matthew 17:1-9 – Peter, James and John are given a glimpse of Jesus in his divine glory. They watch and listen as He talks with the greatest figures of the Old Testament – Moses who is associated with God’s Law, and Elijah who is the greatest of God’s prophets. So Jesus’ divinity is attested to not simply by the disciples witness but by the presence of these esteemed personages and their representation of God’s complete Word to his people. Why are only these three privileged to witness this? Scripture does not say. Why does Jesus command their silence? Perhaps because reports of his divine glory might only confuse the people coming to hear him teach and receive his healings. What they witness is for them, and for them to share with others after Jesus’ death and resurrection when they can make proper sense of what they saw and experienced.

As we sit on the edge of Lent, we marvel that the glorious Son of God, co-eternal with God the Father, should submit himself to the humiliation of arrest and beatings and crucifixion and death. We marvel that He gives up everything – both his divine glory and his human life – that we might be saved. He does this voluntarily. There is no power on earth that could force him to give what He did not wish to give. Jesus’ hope is fixed on the plan of God the Father and the glory that awaits the Son on the other side of death. So we enter Lent, with our eyes fixed on Easter even as we take on the ashes and sackcloth of mourning and repentance.

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