Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Witnessed by Disciples" International Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending February 21, 2010

Purpose: To see how God calls us to share in the transfiguration of Christ

Scripture Text: Matthew 17:1-12 (NRSV)

Matthew 17:1-12
(1)Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. (2)And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. (3)Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (4)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.’ (5)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!’ (6)When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. (7)But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’(8)And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

(9) 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.’ (10)And the disciples asked him, ‘Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ (11)He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; (12)but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This past Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday, which precedes the Lenton Season, according to the Liturgical Calendar. Our lesson takes place just prior to Jesus and the disciples beginning the long journey to Jerusalem where the Passion of Christ would take place. According to Matthew it is just 6 days since the declaration of Peter, that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah, promised by the prophets. Jesus has tried to explain the situation and what was coming, but Peter and the rest did not want to hear, let alone believe, that what Jesus was saying was reality.

Jesus elects Peter, James and John to accompany him up to the top of an unnamed mountain, perhaps Mount Hermon some 20 miles north and east of Caesarea-Pillipi. Jesus would later choose these same three to pray with him after his last meal with the disciples, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night of his betrayal.

Once they reached the mountain top, Jesus was transformed before their eyes, the Greek verb used is metamorphoo, (translated “transformed” or “changed in form”). The three witnesses saw Jesus go from His human form to a “glorified” form; His Divinity became visible to the three disciples. Jesus was not only radiant, but He was joined by Moses and Elijah, and the three of them conversed, Matthew uses the word suddenly to give the moment a bit of dramatic flair. Why Moses and Elijah? One reason could be that they represented the Law and the Prophets. Another reason may be the mysterious way each of them came to the end of their earthly life. No one ever saw Moses die or his body; we only read he was buried by God. As for Elijah, he went up in a fiery chariot and was never seen again, until this meeting. (The only Old Testament figure missing was Enoch, he too did not taste earthly death but we are told in Genesis 5:24 “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Interestingly Enoch was the father of Methuselah, the oldest man, Methuselah lived 969 years and still died before his father did).

Back in the Book of Deuteronomy Chapter 18 verses 15-19 God promises the Messiah through the words of Moses. God promised to raise up a prophet like Moses and commanded “Him you shall hear.” It is not a coincidence that God tells them on the Mount of Transfiguration “listen to him”.

When Peter saw all of this he immediately wanted to erect three tabernacles, probably out of tents, like the one constructed by Moses for the nation of Israel as they traveled in the wilderness. Peter seemed to have limited vision, he only thought of the now and could not see the eternal dwelling place that God has prepared for those that love Him.

Maybe the most important thing is what happens when these three fisherman cower in fear, and are overcome, Jesus touched them. You cannot help but think of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s song “He Touched Me”

Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame.
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same.
He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.
Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls.
He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole.

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