The adult Bible study today talked about Jesus’s Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9. Here are some items:
A. Transfiguration Sunday marks a transition between Epiphany and
Lent. Epiphany is about the revelation of Jesus as God, to both Israel
and also the Gentiles. It covers the magis’ visit of Jesus and goes to
the Transfiguration, where Jesus reveals himself to be God to Peter,
James, and John. Lent then commences on Ash Wednesday, which focuses on
our fallen humanity as well as Jesus’s humanity, which includes his
hunger, his suffering, and, ultimately, his death. The Transfiguration,
too, transitions to an emphasis on Jesus’s death and resurrection. Jesus
speaks about those things more often after the Transfiguration than he
did before. He also forbids his disciples to say anything about the
Transfiguration until after Jesus’s death and resurrection. According to
the pastor, this is because Jesus is saying that Jesus’s death and
resurrection, not only his glory, are crucial aspects of who Jesus is.
Jesus wants us to understand him in light of his death and resurrection,
not just his glory. That brings us to the next item.
B. The pastor was criticizing Christianity’s current focus on “your
best life now”—-prosperity—-and becoming better people through
sanctification. Its focus here is on glory. Christianity in the first
two centuries, however, did not recoil from suffering. Ancient
Christians saw suffering as a mark that they belonged to God, and they
believed that, in suffering, they were more like Christ. As Christians
pull away from the anti-God world (not necessarily socially), the world
abuses them in an attempt to keep them under its dominion.
C. Matthew 17:1 states that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the
mountain after six days. The pastor referred to the view that this could
be an allusion to Exodus 24:16. After six days, the Israelites see
God’s glory while Moses was in a cloud. Like the Israelites, Peter,
James, and John behold divine glory after six days.
D. When Peter sees Moses and Elijah standing alongside Jesus, he
proposes to make booths for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Peter was placing
Moses and Elijah in the same boat as Jesus, as if the three of them were
equal. But Jesus is above Moses and Elijah. Only Jesus glows brightly
in glory, something that is not said in Matthew 17:1-9 about Moses and
Elijah. In addition, God tells the disciples to listen to Jesus. Moses
and Elijah appear with Jesus to demonstrate that Jesus is the
fulfillment of the law and the prophets: God’s intentions laid out in
the law and the prophets are fulfilled in Jesus. But also, when Moses
and Elijah appear with Jesus, that shows that Jesus is not Elijah or one
of the Old Testament prophets, contrary to rumors (see Matthew 16:14).
Jesus is beyond Elijah and the Old Testament prophets.
E. While we are on Matthew 16, Jesus says that flesh and blood did
not reveal to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, but the Father did so.
Peter’s understanding is incomplete, however, for Peter attempts to
dissuade Jesus from going to the cross. The pastor referred to a belief
in the Missouri Synod of the nineteenth century. In those days, the LCMS
believed that it was the one true church. It still held, though, that
people could have appropriate faith in their heart, even if that faith
was not fully correct in their minds. The pastor mentioned his mother,
who, on some days, does not have clarity about her religious beliefs, or
much else. But she still was a faithful, lifelong Christian, and she
believes in her heart, if not (with full clarity) in her head. The
pastor speculated that something like this was going on with Peter: he
believed in his heart, but not with full precision or accuracy in his
F. The Transfiguration demonstrates the Trinity, the pastor said.
Jesus and the voice from heaven are two distinct persons. We do not see
here modal monarchianism, in which God revealed himself as the Father in
Old Testament times, as Jesus during the life of Christ, and as the
Spirit after Jesus’s resurrection. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are
three persons, not three manifestations of only one person.
G. Jesus touches Peter, James, and John after they fall down in fear
and reverence. The touch communicates reassurance and also acceptance
and belonging, as a handshake (touch) does.
Waiting in vain
4 hours ago