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Reflections From the Bible

Reflections From the Bible

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Reflections from the Bible

On Matthew 17:1-8
Background
This narrative is found in the wider matrix of the Matthean narrative about Jesus the Messiah. Many students of the first Gospel in the NT canon almost agree that Matthew was written by a Jew who perhaps had in his mind a Jewish audience (however, that may not restrict the recipients of the Gospel to the Jews). There are different elements that amount to Jewish readership:  High concern with fulfilment of the OT (the Gospel has more quotations from and allusions to the OT than any other NT writings);  The genealogy of Jesus that goes back to and stops at Abraham (1:1-17);  Lack of explanation of Jewish customs (especially, in contrast to Mark);  Use of the term ‘kingdom of heaven’, instead of the common ‘kingdom of God’, which is reflective of Jewish reluctance to use the name of God;  Emphasis on Jesus’ role as ‘Son of David’.[1] The overall drive of the Matthean narrative is to demonstrate that Jesus is the awaited Messiah, whose coming was anticipated by the prophets of the OT times. The Gospels tell their readers that Jesus’ messiahship was not accepted by his contemporaries. Different reasons may be counted: His lowly and infamous birth, the ideality of his mission and the radical nature of his teaching (the ethical prescriptions in the Sermon on the Mount are good indicatives of this radicalism). Thus, the Gospel demonstrates that Jesus was the Messiah, which is not revealed until Jesus has to go through crucifixion. His passion, the Cross, was the only way of recognizing the true identity of Jesus. One important aspect of the Matthean narrative is the motif of secrecy, where Jesus is depicted as commanding his disciples not to tell what they have experienced, which is also mentioned in v. 9 of our text. The testimony of the centurion at Golgotha – ‘Surely he was the Son of God’ – the test-case for the secrecy motif that only the Cross the is epistemological matrix of understanding the true identity of Jesus. Having this as a background we shall now turn to the examination of the passage.

where a . If the experiences of Moses and Elijah could be connected to the transfiguration scene in the story.[2] Of what service is the appearance of the two persons in Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry? The mentioning of Moses at this point echoes the story recorded in Exodus 33 and 34. advances this point: But while the text may present Jesus as a new Moses (especially 17:5). how should to be ‘in…Father’s glory’ look like? A demonstration of this glory was perhaps needed the transitional effect of these verses matures in the following story – the story of the transfiguration. Jesus took three of his disciples. just as Moses and Elijah heard God on Mount Sinai. but an inverted image of his glorification. it also presents him as something more. Is Jesus of the same status as Moses and Elijah? The answer is negative. then. especially in v. Moses and Elijah were ‘recognised as the supreme representatives of the law and the prophets of Israel’. Keener. Jesus tells his disciples that his forthcoming death is not sort of an end to his life and mission.[3] In verses 4-8. Craig S. In verses 1-3. Not only so but another visional phenomenon took place – the appearance of Moses and Elijah. The presence of Moses and Elijah indicates that Jesus is incomparably greater than the prophets with whom some were comparing him (see 16:4). It portrays the disciples as witnesses of his glory on the mountain. the two important prophets of Israel. we find the heart of the story. Still another question pops up. this will be visible to everyone at the eschaton – when he comes again ‘in his Father’s glory with his angels’. The American biblical scholar. What about Elijah? Elijah also had similar experience. 5. Moses met Yahweh at Mount Sinai and as a result of that when he got back his face was radiating God’s glory (34:29-30). in verses 27 and 28. Peter. it follows that Jesus is presented as the ‘new Moses’ and the ‘new Elijah’. And. John and James – who are commonly known as the ‘Three Pillars’ – with him to a mountain and there he was transfigured before them. But.Exposition At the end of the preceding chapter.

This junction has a massive Christological implication that Jesus true identity and work was in fact God’s identity and work. it has both aesthetic and theological significance. Just as it was in the time of Jesus’ baptism. What lesson do we get from this story – especially from Peter’s remark. John Piper notices this aspect that God’s glory is like beauty – ‘the beauty of his manifold perfections.[4] Theologically. It can refer to the bright and awesome radiance that sometimes breaks forth in visible manifestations. it is good for us to be here…’ (v. ‘it is good for us to be here’? Are we today in the same position as Peter’s to say. operative in Jesus’ life and ministry was God and his saving activity. This is the privilege we believers have. Or it can refer to the infinite moral excellence of his character. well. ‘This is my Son. Finally. we are called to be partakers of God’s glory – to stay always in God’s glory.voice from the cloud heard saying. Moses and Elijah). the story subsides in Jesus’ instruction of the disciples not to tell anyone about the incident (v. Peter might have been overwhelmed of the experience that he could not let it go off. it may at face value appear to be naïve and uninformed (Luke. it is good for us to be here’? As Christians. here comes another instance of God’s commendation and approval of Jesus’ true identity and ministry. 4). As I have indicated earlier. with him I am well pleased’. The cross is the intersection point of the dialectic of true rejection and true recognition of the Messiah. Put another way. qualifies Peter’s response that way). 9). Whenever believers faithfully serve God’s purpose. Peter might have experienced being in the presence of God – which was radiated through Jesus. Yet. ‘Lord. This is evidenced in the fact that God’s voice implied his presence – an echo of the experience of God’s presence (Shekinah) among his people. the true identity of Jesus would only be revealed at the cross. Aesthetically. Application When we observe Peter’s sort of reaction to the experience – where he says ‘Lord. the presence of God’s glory and his approval accompany them. To stay in the presence of God’s glory made him respond with simplicity as to erect a dwelling place for each of the three (Jesus. In either case it signifies a reality of infinite greatness and worth’. for instance. whom I love. But the .

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sister. The Christianity we are invited into is not a ‘Sunday Christianity’ – like the Sunday markets we have in cities. in this case. who are called to serve in the kingdom of God. [3] Craig S. [2] Michael Green. Matthew. But my concern is these things should not override our desire to stay in the presence of God’s glory. limiting it to a certain place. what should be our highest ambition? A better livelihood? A better education? A better recognition? A better ministry? I am not against these things. . but we pretend to be holy during Sundays – the day when we gather for worship. Rather. 1997) 278. it is to be lived daily. [4] John Piper. 2000) 185. IL: IVP. As Christians. Keener. OR: Multonmah Books. the place where we gather for corporate worship. [1] Taken from NIV Study Bible’s introduction to the Gospel of Matthew. UK: IVP. The Message of Matthew. The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester. One observable implication of this kind of thinking is that we live at our disposal during week days and Saturdays. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove.reality is that we often time rate the presence of God’s glory spatially. 1996) 43.

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