“Step by Step: Up and Back Down” … Matthew 17:1-9

March 2, 2017

From:  Pastor Bill Mugnolo                                                HARP Pastoral Advisor

“A Word for this Week” “Step by Step: Up and Back Down” … Matthew 17:1-9

      In our high tech world of today, there are small devices that can actually measure how many steps that you take in a given day. Of course, two-thousand years ago, there were no such devices to measure the tens of thousands of steps that Jesus and His three disciples must have taken going up and then back down the Mountain of the Transfiguration. But let’s treat each verse of Matthew’s account as a step along the way as we recall this amazing journey of Peter, James, and John together with Our Lord.

Step 1 (v.1): The journey begins six days after Jesus first tells his disciples that He must suffer.die, and then rise from the dead (Matthew 16:21-23). The disciples—especially Peter—cannot accept that fact that following Jesus means suffering and dying and that we are called to do this each day (Matthew 16:24). In the aftermath of this, Jesus takes three of His disciples, His “inner circle”, to reveal more about himself to them. In our own congregations, there are those who are meant to receive, like that “inner circle” of Jesus, special training to equip them for their role in the Church.

Step 2 (v.2): On high mountaintops, The Lord had been known to reveal Himself to His people in special ways (Mt. Sinai, Mt Carmel). The same now takes place at the unnamed Mount of the Transfiguration. Jesus here shines in the same way that Moses, in his face, once shone as he brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:29-35). But as Moses bore the Law—which condemns us as sinners—his shining face had to be veiled. But Jesus—who bore the Gospel which saves us—could be viewed unveiled as his whole body shone forth.

Step 3 (v.3): Moses and Elijah, in a special vision from heaven, appear alongside of Jesus. Together, they speak of what is to come for Jesus in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). In Moses and Elijah, we see the principle of “two or more” gathered in Jesus’ Name bearing witness to Him (Matthew 18:20).

Step 4 (v.4): The truth of what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are saying goes right over the disciples’ heads as Peter tries to arrange an extended “camping trip”. Aren’t we too like this when we are confronted with some difficult truths from God’s Word which, at least for a while, “go right past us”?

Step 5 (v.5): As He once appeared to Israel in the wilderness, the Father is present through the form of the cloud. Repeating the words that He had spoken at Jesus’ Baptism the Father now adds: “Listen to Him!” In effect, He is saying to Peter, James, and John, “Listen to Him when He speaks of His suffering, dying, and rising again.”

Step 6 (v.6): The disciples fall face down in fear. Aren’t we also afraid when God confronts us with certain challenging truths about Himself? Do we not also fear His revealing to us certain “unpleasant truths” about ourselves?

Step 7 (v.7): But when we are afraid, Jesus comforts us through the words that He so often used when He was among us here on earth: “Do not be afraid”.

Step 8 (v.8) Jesus alone is standing before them as the one who, in His perfect love, casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

Step 9 (v.9) It was time to go back down the mountain. The three disciples would question among themselves as to what “rising from the dead” was all about (Mark 9:10). They would someday see this take place just as Jesus said that it would. They would also go on to share their “mountaintop experience” with all the world (1 Peter 1:16-18).

      While we can measure the steps that we take with high tech devices, only God can see the step by step progress that we make in our faith. May the steps of faith that the three disciples made going up and down that mountain be an inspiration to us as we step forward in our own walk of faith.

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