Teaching Disciples

This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Lent. In yesterday’s post we reviewed the theme of conflict which is a recurring theme throughout Matthew’s gospel – a conflict which is building heading toward the events of Holy Week, a week in which the faith of the disciples will be sorely tested. In today’s post we consider the event of the Transfiguration itself.

Matthew 17:1-13 is an instructional session for all the disciples – note that in v.10, Peter, James and John have joined the remainder of the group. Just as the preceding scene (16:13-28) juxtapositions the divine transcendence of Peter’s confession of Jesus as Son of God based on a revelation from heaven (16:17) with Jesus’ own teaching about the suffering Son of Man, so also in this scene the confession of the heavenly voice is juxtaposed with Jesus’ self-confession as suffering Son of Man.

The description of the Transfiguration is brief—just the first three verses of Matthew 17. But the incident becomes the context for two significant incidents for the disciples.

  • In the first, Peter’s hasty response to the glory of the Lord (…make three tents) is corrected by the same heavenly voice heard at Jesus’ baptism (17:4–8; cf. 3:17).
  • In the second, Jesus once again forbids the disciples to make him known (cf. 16:20), which leads to their question about the future coming of Elijah (17:9–13).

Jesus answers their question cryptically in terms of a past coming of “Elijah,” and when he compares his own future suffering to what has happened to this “Elijah,” the disciples finally grasp that he is speaking of John the Baptist. Thus, the passage contains the transfiguration proper (17:1–3), a lesson on the fulfillment by Jesus of all that is promised in the Hebrew scriptures (17:4–8), and a lesson on the continuity of John the Baptist with Elijah of old and with Jesus himself (17:9–13).

Image credit: Sunrise, Simon Berger, Pexels, CC

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