Scriptures and Reflections for the Week of March 4-9 – The Transfiguration

Monday, March 4

Matthew 17:1-2

1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a mountain by themselves.  2There he was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

This is certainly an unusual scene, and we will see that it caused momentary terror in Peter, James, and John.  The term “transfigured” comes from the Greek word “metamorphoo” that gets us to the word “metamorphosis.”   Jesus goes through a metamorphosis, a complete transformation in form, thus revealing His true glory. Jesus is setting the stage for what will soon happen in Jerusalem on a cross.  The transfiguration scene is also a confirmation of Peter’s proclamation in Matthew 16:16 “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” These are the facts that occurred on that mountain, but let’s see what it means for us.

Tuesday, March 5

Matthew 17:2 and 5

2There he was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!

The metamorphosis of Jesus is one thing, but a voice coming from the cloud is really something else – I dare say that any of us would be frightened.  Let’s get some direction for our lives.  First, note in Romans 12:2 we find another “transformation” – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul is telling us that we need a sincere and dynamic change in our lives.  This is important not only for our spiritual lives here and now, but also for our own transformation in the afterlife.  Look at the facts in what God said from a cloud in Matthew 17:5 – (a) Jesus is My Son; (b) whom I love; with him I am well pleased; and (c) listen to him!

Wednesday, March 6

Matthew 17:6-7

6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground terrified.  7But Jesus came and touched them.  “Get up,” he said.  “Don’t be afraid.”

Looking back on the events described in Monday and Tuesday – the transformation of Jesus that reveals His true nature, His sonship with God, and then God speaking from a cloud instructing the disciples to listen to Jesus.  This is an emotionally-charged experience that drives Peter, James, and John to the ground in fear!  You can relate – when God calls an audible in your life, the odds are pretty high that you will not continue to casually sip your morning coffee!  But look what Jesus does at that very moment – Jesus touches His disciples – all fear is gone! Mike Landreth always reminds us to touchthe frightened when we encounter them.  It is a meaningful way to share our faith.  Of course, much more is going to occur as the events will play out in Jerusalem with the death and resurrection of Jesus. But at that moment, on a mountain, the three disciples are even more assured that Jesus is the Son of God and He is to be loved and obeyed. 

Thursday, March 7

Matthew 17:8 

When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

The transfiguration scene included Moses and Elijah – Moses representing the Law, the old covenant, and the promise of salvation; and Elijah representing Prophesy, although Jesus would later connect Elijah with John the Baptist.  These details are important, but the key issue for Peter, James, John, and us on that mountain was the only person who remained after this life-changing vision – Jesus.  Matthew ends his Gospel with the Great Commission and the words of Jesus, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the every end of the age.”  We have our commission from Jesus to love, serve, and share the Good News. N.T. Wright describes the task this way, “The intermediate stage between the resurrection of Jesus and the renewal of the whole world is the renewal of human beings – you and me – in our own lives of obedience here and now.”   

 

Friday, March 8

Matthew 17:8b

…no one except Jesus.

Read Matthew 17:1-8 and consider the characteristics of a life transformed by Christ as Paul describes in Colossians 3:12-17 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Saturday, March 9

“The Transfiguration” by Raphael

Go online or open virtually any history of art publication and spend some time reflecting on “The Transfiguration” by Raphael, the Italian High Renaissance master.   You will probably want to read about the painting and Raphael, because there is much to absorb.  But do spend some quiet time taking in the beauty of the painting.  Put yourself on the mountain with Peter, James, and John … and your Savior.

Weekly Devotionals for March 10

Sayings of Jesus

Matthew records a group of sayings from Jesus in chapters 18 and 19, many are difficult to hear as they cause us to wrestle with our independence and need for God.

 

Monday, March 11

Matthew 18:1-5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

 

The disciples are preoccupied with their status in the Kingdom of Heaven but as long as disciples are worried about their own status, they have missed the point of Jesus’ ministry completely. Children had no rights or status in the ancient world, but Jesus tells his disciples they need to become like children. It is the one who gives up their claim to power and status, understanding their total dependence on God, who will be counted great in the kingdom of Heaven. How are you a “child before God?” In what ways are you dependent upon God for everything in life? Or do you resist dependence?

 

Tuesday, March 12

Matthew 18:6-7

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!

 

Not only is it necessary to become a “little one” to enter the kingdom of heaven, but there is a dire warning for any who would lead “little ones” astray. Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus places a special burden on those who would be leaders in the community. Woe to those who, instead of embracing little ones, cause them to stumble or lose their faith! In what ways is church viewed by society as a “stumbling block”? How has the church earned its reputation as a place of exclusivity and rejection?

 

Wednesday, March 13

Matthew 18:10-14

10 “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

 Who are the “little ones” in our society, communities and neighborhoods? Who are the ones without status or power? It seems counterintuitive to leave 99 sheep for just one, the economics just don’t add up.  But the ones left on the mountain are actually safe and have the advantage of the mountain. What advantages might you have in your life? Can you think of a time when God has gone after you to bring you back into the safety of faith and the community? How has God relentlessly pursued you?

 

Thursday, March 14

Matthew 18:21-22

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

 

For many of us, reconciliation and forgiveness are more easily said than received or offered. The number seventy-seven (or in some translations seventy times seven) is an expression of an unlimited number of times. Forgiveness lies at the heart of our faith in God and our love of one another. Forgiveness, which we receive from God our King in the person of Jesus,is what our King expects from his subjects in their dealings with each other. There are few things more freeing than forgiveness – both given and received – so that our hearts and minds are not occupied with bitterness and regret but instead mercy and grace. How well do you accept forgiveness from others? Especially if you did not seek it first? Who do you need to forgive? What might you need to let go of?

 

Friday, March 15

Matthew 19:13-15

13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

As stated before, children in the ancient world had no status or power of their own and were not permitted to participate fully in organized religion. But Jesus insists that children are just as valuable to God as adults. The Gospel writer Matthew and his church understood Jesus as authorizing the practice of including children and young people in the corporate life of the church. Christianity became a family religion in which all members of the family could participate together. With the aging of the church, have we unintentionally moved away from this practice by alienating the younger generations? How might we welcome children and families without imposing traditions that may feel like barriers to participation?

 

Saturday, March 16

Matthew 19:23-26

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

The disciples are dumbfounded by this exaggerated example told by Jesus. None of the disciples are wealthy, and yet they also feel the rebuke. The young man in this hyperbole is a model citizen and his wealth signifies, culturally, that he has been blessed by God. But if he is not acceptable to God, what hope do the rest of us have? The answer is found in grace. We are not saved by our works but by grace and grace alone. Salvation is impossible through human action, but for God all things are possible. How might we allow God’s grace and mercy define who we are instead of our accomplishments?