Podcast Reflections

Reflection on Matthew 17.1-9 (Sunday next before Lent, Year A)

Listen to a reflection for 19 February on Matthew 17.1-9 (Sunday next before Lent, Year A)

Matthew 17.1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ 


Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

On the Last Sunday before Lent it is customary for the Church to engage with the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain. Before we begin our Lenten journey of fasting and prayer, we are being given a glimpse of what lies ahead. When Jesus speaks of the Son of Man being raised from the dead, he is implying that first there has to be a death. At this stage the disciples did not understand what he was saying but, from our post-resurrection standpoint, we are able to see the revealing of Christ in all his glory as a moment in which we can find strength for what lies before us. In the coming weeks we will see the adulation of the crowds turn to hatred; we will see a faithful disciple become the one who betrays him; we will see the other disciples scatter in fear for their own lives; we will see the religious leaders claim a short-lived victory as Jesus is nailed to a cross. But, all of that is yet to come. Today we see Jesus revealed in all his glory and we hear a voice from the cloud say: This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him! So, why, we might feel justified in asking, did Jesus order Peter, James and John to tell no one about the vision?

Jesus’ earthly mission and ministry had been foretold in the words of the prophets. His miraculous birth and his forthcoming ignominious death had been foretold, just as his glorious victory over death had also been heralded in the words of the Hebrew scriptures. But, these prophecies were ancient. They had often been recited in the synagogues, but over such a period of time that their urgency and their importance had become diminished in the minds of those who heard and recited them. Jesus knew that for his mission to be fulfilled the people had to see those prophecies brought to life. Jesus knew that stories of his ultimate victory were premature. The horror of human betrayal and cruelty had to come first.

In just three days our Lenten journey will begin. We will travel, once again, through the trials and tribulations that will take us to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. As we take that darkening route, let us hold firm to the vision of today, the vision we will see once again as the crucified Jesus emerges from the tomb to bring redemption to humanity for the whole of time.