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Interpretation

February 17, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

TRANSFIGURATION PICTRANSFIGURATION/A (02/19/23): Ex. 24:8-18; Ps. 2:6-12; 2 Pet. 1:16-21; Mt. 17:1-9

Interpretation

[W]e ourselves heard this very Voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word … a lamp shining in a dark place … knowing … that no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation, because no prophesy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the HS spoke from God (vv. 18, 19b, 20, 21).

Much time has been spent this season “After the Epiphany” on mountain-tops; from “Sermon on The Mount” to today’s Mount Transfiguration, the Gospel of which concludes, “And as [Peter, James, and John] were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the sight to no one until the Son of Man is raised from the dead’” (Mt. 17:9).

The transfiguration revealed Jesus God’s Son and final Davidic king (Ps. 2:7) prefiguring his resurrection from the grave, God’s final enemy; but first the necessity of the “Beloved’s” filial obeisance on the cross (Acts 13:33). Transfiguration Sunday gives the Church a foretaste of Jesus’ resurrection for her movement into Lent’s penitential preparation culminating in Easter “Alleluias”.

Our OT describes a similar revelation; Moses ascended Mt. Sinai attended by Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu. At the foot of Sinai an Altar was constructed, a bull sacrificed for a “peace offering”; half its blood splashed on the Altar of Presence, whereon Moses read the “Book of The Covenant” recording God promises and Israel’s spousal obligations.

Upon Israel’s consent to be bound by the Covenant, Moses sealed their oath sprinkling the remaining exsanguination on the population or at least their representatives. After seventy representative elders were invited-up into heaven’s precincts for a celebratory meal before God beholding him face to face.

By this mutual exchange of promises, we observe Sinai’s Covenant corresponds with the rite of Christian marriage; the husband’s fidelity and the woman’s promise to obey her husband in the Lord to whom she would look for her provision and protection.

As for the wedding meal upon crystalline pavement of sapphire blue, the visual of heaven’s majesty would have been beyond stunning; no doubt Moses, three chief priests, and 70 elders were awe-struck. Notably God seemed not to engage in the table conversation; all that was communicated of His love for his Israel was delivered in his Word of the Covenant Book and sealing in blood.

From then-on God’s majesty and glory with man would be located in “Scripture alone” comprehended through his final “messianic Son”. Such is the significance of the Father’s concluding words on Mt. Transfiguration, “Listen to him”; all God’s covenantal words of love and fidelity toward mankind are embodied in heaven’s Word and the sacramental Flesh of “the Beloved, the Son”.

Following heaven’s meal, Moses was invited into the cloud of Presence to receive the Decalogue, written in stone by “the finger of God” (Dt. 9:10), cypher for the pre-incarnate Christ (Lk. 16:24; Jn. 8:6). Thus, St. Peter says “no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation”; rather by the surety of God’s own “prophetic word”.

Jesus, on establishing his authority over Scripture (Mt. 4:23-25), began teaching (Mt. 5-7) his disciples the hidden understanding of God’s word, “You have heard it said … but I say to you” (5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43) Christian teaching is not esoteric; nevertheless, on account of sin God’s light in ages past had been veiled.

As of yet an associated meal was yet to frame Jesus’ teachings until his “Bread of Life” discourse (Jn. 6:22 ff.) sandwiched between his feeding 5,000 in Galilee and 4,000 in Gentile territory (Mt. 14:13 ff. and 15:32 ff.). Now Jesus teaching would culminate for apostolic witness with his soon to be instituted Supper in procession to passion, death, and resurrection.

At the Transfiguration, Jesus was in conversation with Moses and the Baptist’s alter-ego, Elijah. Peter thinking, he had something to contribute inserted himself into the heavenly conversation, but was quickly shut-down by the Voice out of the enveloping cloud.

Luther renders Jesus our cypher to the Father: “God … has a Word, a Speech, a Thought, or a conversation with Himself in His divine heart, unknown … until the Word became flesh … God … is pregnant with a Word or a conversation … reflecting the thoughts of His heart … God is so absorbed in this Word, Thought, or conversation that he pays no attention to anything else” (Luther Sermons, John 1, AE 22:9-10).

Peter and disciples as yet were not baptized with the HS; that would await the Resurrection (Jn. 20:22) and Pentecost; nevertheless, Peter had been blessed by Jesus’ beatific empowering (Mt. 5:8), a purity of heart for seeing the Father’s revelation, to confess, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt.16:16, 17).

Nevertheless, Peter acted the part of first “Christian” enthusiast, thinking himself in direct and independent communion with Father for immediate knowledge of God’s will (so also Rome’s papacy). For his arrogation of an independent relation to God, Peter earned from Jesus, the ignoble title of “Satan” or adversary (v. 23).

Jesus, incarnate Torah of God, alone employs the HS for our light, sight, and new begetting. Apart from Jesus’ “prophetic word” and sacraments by which he promises to be with us always (Mt. 28:20), we are admonished in this NT place of Presence to deferential silence in “listen[ing] to [Jesus]” alone with an affirming “Amen”.

The church is neither debate stage nor place for inward individual or excited group expressions. It is a listening place, apart from the hurly burly of the world and our own assertive natures. Hearing Jesus’ word, daily we learn to trust him Jesus for all.

Peter teaches, “no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation”. Peter was accused of teaching “cleverly devised myths” about Jesus’ 2nd Coming; against these he directed his witness to Jesus’ “power and coming” in union with his two eye-witness brothers James and John for the significance of the transfiguration’s revelation.

But for us there is even greater surety in the Church’s; “the prophetic word”; that God’s word sources and draws from itself, “Scripture interprets Scripture” for our understanding of Christ crucified and risen.

When men hear Scripture according to impulsive individual hearts, personal “light”, or group emotion, Christ is filtered out. “Enthusiasts” and legalists make themselves incapable of hearing the divine conversation to which God invites by our listening to his Word.

The Church participates in the water, blood, and Spirit from Christ’s riven-side, for a right understanding of his word. From the cross Jesus handed-over the Spirit, that in the Ascension the Father through the Son delivers the Spirit to the Church for knowledgeable and faithful hearing.

By listening we claim our place at God’s marriage feast of the Lamb as sons and daughters before his throne; a place graced for an eternal conversation with the living God, in possessing the mind of Christ and the heart of God; the visual of which angels and archangels stand in awe of forgiven sinners. Amen.

pem.