Matthew 17:1-9 Exegesis
Step One Acquaintance
English Translation: King James uses common phrase in Matthew Behold in verse 3&5 where it is missing in NIV and NRSV. NIV Beloved in verse 5 and NSRV whom I love. Peterson's The Message uses marked by my love. Peterson uses several different phrases but most striking is describing transfiguration as changed from the inside out, referring to the booths as memorials, and saying that Jesus is the focus of God's delight. NIV calls them shelters and NRSV Dwelling places and the KJV tabernacles. In Peterson he says - they were scared to death. NRSV - The Vision. CEV - what they had seen. Peterson says what's you've seen. Tie of Behold to the vision.
Textual: Nothing here of significance to note.
Rough Translation: Vs. 1 And after days six takes Jesus - Peter and James and John the brother of him, and leads up them to mountain a high privately.
Vs. 2 and he was changed in form (metamorphosis) before them, and shone the face of him as the sun, and the garments of him became white as the light.
Vs. 3 And behold was seen by them Moses and Elisas conversing with him.
Vs. 4 Answering now Peter said to Jesus Lord, good it is us here to be; if you will, I will make here three tents (tabernacles), for thee one and for Moses one and for Elias one.
Vs. 5 Yet him speaking, behold cloud bright overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud saying: This is the son of me the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.
Vs. 6 and hearing the disciples fell on the faces of them and feared exceedingly.
Vs. 7 And approached Jesus and touching them said: Rise and do not fear.
Vs. 8 And lifting up the eyes of them no one they saw except himself Jesus only.
Vs. 9 And coming down out of the mountain joined them Jesus saying: To no one tell this vision
Step II Disposition
Genre: Epiphany - Supernatural occurrence. This story reminds me a great deal of the story of the Magi and the Baptism of Jesus. All three are epiphany stories. They are all three linked by the announcement that Jesus is the Son of God. This text is a narrative passage. However, it is more than a narrative. It is a divine pronouncement from God about the person of Jesus - i.e. This is my Sonů This is noted by the use of the word Behold in this text. God is speaking his word here. It is a key passage in the Gospel of Matthew. It also must be read from the position of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus. There is some foreshadowing going on here and it only makes sense if you have read the end of the story. Classic Biblical Theophany narrative.
Personal Interaction: 1) Word Questions - transfigured vs. 2; enveloped vs. 6; terrified vs. 6; listen vs.7; love vs. 5; raised in verse 7 and 9; booths and tabernacle in verse 4. Behold uses three different times in the text here. What is the significance of this use? 2) The story appears between two passion narratives. Why would the story appear there? What kind of statement is he making? The word for transfigured is metamorphosis in the Greek. Metamorphic rock is created by stress and pressure. Could it be that it was the stress and pressure of his journey to the cross that transformed him. Could we go as far to say that people who live lives of sacrifice, other oriented, will be transformed? 3) What is the significance of his transfiguration? Are there other such stories in the OT or NT that could gives us some insight into the text? 4) Why did Jesus lead only Peter, James, and John up the mountain, is there any specific theological reasons for Matthew. Are these persons of importance for Matthew's community? 5) Peter here seems to stand out in the text? Why does he want to build three booths? Any relationship to the feast of booths? What is it anyway? 6) What is the significance of having Moses and Elijah on the mountain with Jesus? Who do they represent in this story? 7) How is this story seem any different from the version in Mark. Matthew copied 80% of Matthew. 8) Is there anything to be revealed in the structure of the text? Here we see the cloud speaking about Jesus - saying he is the Son of God? Falls in line after the Baptism, the Confession of Peter, and this one. What is Matthew trying to do here? 9) God says listen to him. This raises some interesting questions for me. Do I listen to him? He took them to a time apart and there they saw his glory? Do I need some time apart in a culture where all are the margins are gone? 10) I'm troubled by the secrecy motif in the text? Why would he want to keep it a secret? 11) There is a mystery here in this text? How do you really talk about the mystery and describe it. As well it comes on the last Sunday of Epiphany and just before lent that poses some interesting questions about its use in the pulpit? 12) When they fell on their face what were they doing? Any other reference to such a thing in other OT or NT Theophany? What is the significance to him being alone? 14) Any significance to use of word raised - He raised the disciples up - until the son man be raised up? 15) Can anyone really climb to the places where Jesus is? 16) What is significance to the story of the failed healing story following it? 17) Any special significance to mountains in Matthew? 18) Big question here: What is the tabernacle reference for in booths? Memorial? Shelter? Tabernacle? What do we want place to build a memorial. Shelter - for our safety. Tabernacle - place for people to experience God power. Good place to begin a sermon. Christophany. Theophany. Epiphany. Any diiference. Christophany is unique to Christ. Post resurrection appearances are Christophnay. Theophany is natural -like wind and smoke on the mountain - and it is anthropomorphic - Abraham visited by three people or Jacob wrestling with stranger. Epiphany is more general disclosure of God's will. These are types of Genres.
Organization: 1. Translation issues. 2. Organization of the compositional whole. 3. Context: New Testament - Hebrew Scriptures. 4. Historical question in relationship to Matthew's community and the context of the composition. 5. Same as four and some study of history of feat of booths. 6) History - and at the intent of the author's composition. 7) Context question within primitive Christianity 8) Organization of the text and how it says what it says. 9) Devotional and application for the preacher. 10) Organization of the composition. Seen best in looking at it from the position of the passion and resurrection. 11) For the work of the preacher. 12) Hebrew and N.T. context. 14) Organization of the composition and Matthew's theology. 15) Context and composition. 16-17) Composition of the text. (Many of the answers to these questions can be found in the issues of authorship. 18) Historical context in Hebrew past. 19) Interesting to note that word used for raised when say son of Man be raised is same word that used when he tells them to get up off the ground. Be raised.
Step III Composition
Immediate context: The pericope is framed by two movements - up the mountain in verse 1 and down the mountain in verse 9 - verse 10- 13 not apart of the pericope in itself. However it is important that it is read because it helps determine the meaning of the text. The text is situated between two passion predictions by Jesus - 16:21-22 and 17:12. This is critical to understand the text because it hints at what is to come and the transfiguration is a hint at the resurrected Christ to come. Some even think this is a post- resurrection story that has been reformatted. Also important that the text follows the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ. Likewise following the text is a failure on the part of the disciples to heal a boy with a demon.
Composition of the text: The text is part of a epiphany trilogy for me in the overall text that makes a specific overall theological statement. First, chapter two the story of the magi and announcement he is the Son of God. Second, the story of the baptism of Jesus and announcement that he is the Son of God. Third, the Transfiguration and announcement that he is the Son of God. All three use the word Behold which is literary device he uses to announce a theophany. Raymond Brown claims that this part of a section (13:53-18:35) where Matthew deals with Christology and Ecclesiology. A lot of narrative mixed with dialogue. Following the unit Jesus begins his journey to Jerusalem.
It happens on a mountain and great things always happen on the mountain for Matthew. Mountains were very important to Matthew. When Jesus was tempted to worship the devil in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world, it happened on a mountain. In Luke Jesus preaches on a nice level place, but when Jesus preaches essentially the same sermon in Matthew he does so on a mountain. Other times Jesus went to the mountain to pray. And in this story of the transfiguration, he goes to a mountain again. What is it about something happening on a mountain that adds such special significance? For Matthew, whose roots were in the Jewish tradition and who was writing to Jewish Christians, mountains were holy dwellings of God, places where God's presence was known and God's laws were given. "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths" (Isaiah 2:3).
Issues of authorship: Matthew was writing a Jewish/gentile Christian audience in Antioch. He is attempting to demonstrate that Jesus is intimately connected to the Hebrew salvation story. Moses and Elijah are to pivotal figures in Hebrew history and the fact they are in conversation with Jesus confirms this point. Both were prophets who were rejected by the people who were later vindicated by God as was Jesus, both were advocates of God's covenant with the people, both worked miracles, and both were considered transcendent heroes. For Matthew he is working on a theme here - Jesus is the Son of God and we must listen to him - almost get idea here that he is saying that Moses and Elijah were listening to him so should you. This is a special story and Matthew is saying that God has spoken his word. I wonder if this is a sermon to his audience in effect saying to them - Listen to him. Key issues here: Listen to him. He is the Son of God. He is in the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is going to suffer and die and be raised. Peter and James and John were his apostles. - Connection to the past - along these lines could be saying that it is important that you know your Hebrew past. . Lot of argument that Matthew is doing a Moses typology here with Jesus. Wanting to show Jesus as a great figure like Moses. It is important to note that this is a key and pivotal story for Matthew.
Step IV Context
Primitive Christianity: Matthew had a copy of Mark when he wrote his gospel - Mark 9:2-13. It is important to note what he does to the text that is different from Mark. Like Matthew he places the story between passion predictions. Mark makes Peter sound more confused in desire to build the tabernacles. In Matthew Peter seems more confident and sure of what to do in response. In Mark he says this because he does not know what else to say. Note the following difference in the text: (Mat 17:5 NIV) While 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!" (Mark 9:7 NIV) Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" As well the following text is unique to Matthew: (Mat 17:6 NIV) When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. My hunch is this makes the disciples much more reverent than Mark's whom do not seem to know what is going on. I think this is more than just fear but it is a response seen in numerous places in scripture where in the presence of God people fall prostrate before God in fear and worship. See this in (Rev 1:16 NIV) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Rev 1:17 NIV) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last." Also (Acts 9:3-4 NIV) As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" In 2 Peter 1:16-21 - the epistle reading for today there is a direct reference to the transfiguration. The only reference to the event in a text outside the gospels. Here author seems top be saying that he was an eyewitness to the event. But probably a follower of Peter who was writing in his name. If by Peter then it would have been by a secretary.
Old Testament: There are lots of examples in the Old Testament where God speaks from a mountaintop to a religious figure like Jesus. Did the same thing with Moses and Elijah. With Moses in particular beginning in Exodus 24:12-18. Moses takes three people on the mountain with him - Joshua, Aaron , and Hur. He gets instruction from God. His face is transfigured on the mountain. Elijah also has encounter with God on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal and then another mountain with the still small voice. Clear this context and what it is setting up. Also very important reference here to the booths or best translated the tabernacle. Tabernacle was the central place for the worship when people were in the wilderness and in the land before the temple was built. Clear instructions are given on what was needed to build it in Exodus. It was a series of tents with the most sacred being the most inside tent. This was the place where God resided and the place where sacrifices were made to atone for the sins of the people. In the inside was the Ark of the covenant and the mercy seat where the blood was spilled to atone for their sins. Hovering above it was a cloud that enveloped it. Point being made here then is that the place where God has now come to reside is in another tabernacle - Jesus. He is the place where the presence of God now resides. And instead of the sacrifice of animals he will be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the world.
The point is that any Hebrew hearing this story would recognize it immediately. Whereas we would probably miss it.
Step V Distillation
Salient Features: Behold Jesus is transformed. It is his way of suffering that God affirms and transforms him. Jesus is the Son of God. He is beloved by God. The New Tabernacle - the place of God's presence and Glory revealed. He is going to suffer and die and be raised. Our response is to Listen to Him and To Worship him. Not something to study but to worship.
Hermeneutical Bridge: Chad and Chris constant challenge on a trip up a mountain to go skiing. Throwing pennies out the window of Van. Do you think its fun sitting next to the minister on the Van. Reminds me of Chad and Chris saying that Carlsbad Caverns was a rip off. Spoiled by this high tech world we live in. Was told how can you expect a kid to listen to a sermon that is read when see MTV. Cyberspace and virtual reality. Danger in world of Steven Spielberg and Star wars and Lord of the Rings and such that we will miss the miracle here and say: BIG DEAL DAVE. Got to get our eyes here on a significant story in Matthew. But this is a different kind of amazement and fear. This is a reverential fear. Says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God.
Makes me think of death and Dying because that is what the text is about. Transformation occurs in the process of death and dying to self.
Sermon could be about the closing in of our world with cell phones, pagers, and the Internet? Calling people to a time apart with Jesus to: See his Glory, To Listen to Him, To Worship him. Presence of God invites silence instead of commentary. Every been left in silence by an event.
Reminds me of time I climbed a mountain with my daughter - was physically completely exhausting. It is interesting to note that when you get to the top of mountain you see how many more there are to climb. Suppose Disciples thought that on the mountain Jesus would be revealed to them. But I suppose it may have brought more questions than answers. There are other mountains to climb I suppose. Suppose that in Christian life there are many such mountains to climb but will always be another and will never take away all the mystery?
Another possible direction: In response to this Good News What Will We Build? Memorial? Shelter? Tabernacle? Of course, must do what is going on Here: Behold.
Also: May want to talk about Metamorphosis. Something occurs that is not possible. Changes because of sacrifice. Looking at something here that human eyes do not normally behold. In OT where God has made an appearance they build and altar there and where you would go there and make sacrifices.
Peter wants to build here a site. Our temptation is to do. But text says that we need to just experience God. To listen. To Worship. Temptation is to do ministry and not experience God. Some need to be silent. Theophany demands silence and not a commentary.
Step VI Contemporary Address
Audience: At the end of Epiphany and week before Lent. Good Preparation for beginning of Lent. Also to be preached to people who are too busy - they are all wired with cell phones and beepers. They need some time apart on the mountain.
Goals for the address: Want to help congregation dig deeply into the deeper meaning for the text. Want to prepare congregation for beginning of Lent. Want to preach good News that Jesus is the Son of God and that we need to listen to him