2 November 2016Matthew 17:9-13
“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’” (v. 9)
Psalm: Psalm 38:10-22
We return today to the narrative around the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. This week's readings feel like a biblical version of the Three Peak Challenge! We move from a mountain top to a valley, coming back down to earth to face the consequences of recognising Jesus for who he truly is.
The light that shone from Jesus, displaying him in his full glory, has faded. The disciples have heard the clear affirmation of Jesus as the Son of God, who must be listened to (Matthew 17:5). The desire to build tents and stay on the mountain forever (Matthew 17:4) has been replaced with a different longing. You can imagine that Peter, James and John wanted to tell everyone they could meet what had happened, all that they had seen and heard. Often in the Gospel accounts, those who have encountered Jesus in his full power, are ordered to remain silent - after healings and exorcisms, as well as this profound experience of God's glory that the three disciples have witnessed.
There is an irony that Peter is told to remain silent and to hide his knowledge of who Jesus really is when later, given every opportunity to show his allegiance to him, he denies any knowledge or relationship with Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).
The link between secrecy about demonstrations of divine power and Jesus' future death is a common thread in the Gospels. What would be the consequences of broadcasting the fact that Jesus is the Son of God? And why is it important at this stage for there to be secrecy? It is clear from the story of the temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) that his mission is not about spectacle and show - he recognises the reality of diminishing returns that comes of convincing people of his true identity through dramatic events, that will lead to the crowd wanting more and never being truly satisfied. There is also wisdom in hiding his true identity because the threat to his life and ministry is growing stronger, and those who want to protect their own status and understanding of God's plan will be further threatened by stories of Jesus demonstrating his divine power. It is not through power, in the end, that Jesus wants to demonstrate the true nature of the kingdom of God, but through service and self-giving love.
- Why do you think it matters to Matthew to make the link between Elijah and John the Baptist?
- How do you imagine Jesus? Is it in the full glory of heaven, in the temple turning the tables (Matthew 21:12-17), in the crowd healing a woman bent double (Matthew 9:20-22), on the cross (Matthew 27:32-54)? Who is Jesus to you?
- If you were to tell a friend about Jesus, which story would you tell?
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