Today’s’ reading: Matthew 17
Today we see Jesus transfigured. Here are some quick things to note. First, not again that it takes on a mountain top. Remember, when biblical characters go up a mountain something important is going to happen. Here we see Jesus transfigured in front of three of his Apostles. At this point Jesus has begun to reveal to them that he will have to suffer and die. No doubt part of the reason for the Transfiguration is at least in part to strengthen them for what is to come. In addition, one of the purposes is to show for us the full nature of Jesus.
Jesus is transfigured before them. His face shines like the sun and his close glow white, a cloud surrounds him. The voice from the cloud says, “”This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”” This recalls Jesus’ baptism. It also recalls creation itself when in Genesis it says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”. All three events are related. Jesus will soon embark on the work that will bring about the new creation. We enter into that creation through baptism.
Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah. Elsewhere Jesus says that God is the God of the living, not the dead. Moses and Elijah are alive. They are aware of what is happening on earth. They can communicate with God. This shows that death is not the end. There is no soul sleep or state of suspended animation. We can’t say from this exactly how we will experience time and our relationships after death but we can see that it is not a completely “me and Jesus” type situation. We continue to exist and we remain in communion and relationship with each other.
Jesus explains to them that the fulfillment of the second coming of Elijah was fulfilled in John the Baptist. Elsewhere he says that John the Baptist is not literally Elijah. This shows us that the fulfillment of prophecy will not always take the expected form.
At the end of the chapter we see the discussion of the payment of the temple tax. Note that it takes place at Capernaum. Remember, important things tend to happen at Capernaum. Here the tax collectors ask if Jesus will pay the temple tax. Jesus makes to points. First, he analogizes the situation to a regular tax that normally would not be applicable to the citizens of a kingdom but would fall on foreigners. In that situation the members of the kingdom would normally be free. Since the temple is God’s dwelling on earth, and the Apostles are with Jesus, the tax, strictly speaking, does not fall on them. Jesus is showing that a new kingdom is inaugurated and that the rules of the old will not apply to the members of the new. Second, Jesus miraculously produces the money to pay for Peter and himself and He sends Peter to answer the tax collectors and pay for him. Two points are apparent here. Jesus will pay the price for you to enter the new kingdom and second, he will pay that price through Peter. Having just promised to appoint Peter the head of the Church in the last chapter we see here Jesus confirming him in that role.
Tomorrow: Matthew 18: 1-20