Random Thoughts on Matthew 17:1-9: Transfiguration

As familiar as this story is, I find new depth each time I come back to the scene of Jesus on the mountain with Moses and Elijah. Here are a few directions that a sermon on Matthew 17:1-9 might go:

  1. You could preach an entire sermon series on this text by bringing in other Biblical stories that connect to the Transfiguration. There are stories of Moses on the mountain (Exodus 19) and Elijah (1 Kings 19). The voice from the cloud brings to mind Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:17). Or, for fun, you could look at other examples of Peter’s impulsiveness (Matthew 4:18-20; 14:22-33; 16:13-23; 26:31-46, 69-75).
  2. There are particular lines in this text that have the power to stop me in my tracks.
    1. “It is good for us to be here.”—When can we say that? Where can we say that? How often are we in a good place and fail to recognize it? Why does Peter declare that place good? And if building tents isn’t the proper response to being in a good place, then what is the faithful response?
    1. “a bright cloud overshadowed them”—I love the way this images plays with our standard concepts of light and dark. The cloud, generally considered dark and negative is “bright.” And yet in its brightness, it still overshadows them. Here, as in the angel’s annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:35), shadows and darkness are presented as holy spaces to connect deeply with God.
    1. “Listen to him!”—This is a pretty basic summary of Christian discipleship: Listen to Jesus. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of this core principle.
  3. In reading the story again this week, I was particularly struck by verses 6-7. The disciples’ fear is common to all three versions of the Transfiguration (see Mark 9:6 and Luke 9:34), but it is only in Matthew’s version where Jesus touches them and tells them not to be afraid. What fears are we experiencing? Where do we need to feel Jesus’ touch and hear his comforting voice? How can we share Jesus’ presence of compassion with others who are living in fear?

Blessings to you in your reading, praying, thinking, writing, and preaching this week!