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Destroying the Drapery | Matthew 17

Do you know what transfiguration is?

This week, we study Matthew chapter 17. Let’s dig in!

Listen along to the episode here or on your favorite podcast app.

Do you know what transfiguration is?  Now, if you are a fan of Harry Potter (I am, don’t argue with me about it.) you will think of changing things into other things.  Like beetles into buttons.  This is not what Jesus does on the mountain with Peter, James, and John.  I mean I knew that, but I decided to look at what the Greek word used in Matthew 17:2 to clarify exactly what happened.  

Transfigure: Metamorphoó – changing form in keeping with inner reality; Christ was resplendent with a divine brightness.

That word looks familiar, doesn’t it?  And knowing that metamorphosis is the word that is used made all the difference to me.  I have seen this passage in an entirely new way.  Jesus didn’t change into something new.  Jesus simply became ALL he was.  He changed into his true self.  The caterpillar is a butterfly all along, but it has to be a caterpillar first.  

This got me thinking.  In order for Jesus to come to earth he had to dim who he was.  He turned down the divine.  Otherwise humans would not have been able to look at him.  Let’s take a little journey to the Old Testament.  In Exodus 19, 24, 33, and 34 we see how God appeared to the Israelites.  He was a column of fire by night and pillar of smoke by day.  A cloud would cover the mountain when he spoke to Moses and the Israelites couldn’t even touch the mountain or they would die.  However, he appeared to Moses face to face (The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Exodus 33:11).  This resulted in Moses shining so brightly that it scared the people to look at him.  So Moses wore a veil when he was before them. 

Exodus 35-40 is all about setting up the tabernacle.  God gave very specific instructions how to build it.  The materials to be used and the exact measurements.  Moses begins to set it up in chapter 40.  The first thing he does is the Ark (chapter 37 gives specifications).  The Ark goes in the Holy of Holies. The Ark is the presence of God amongst the Israelites.  

Place the Ark of the Testimony in it and shield the Ark with the curtain. Exodus 40:3

The curtain was not sheer or flimsy.  It was substantial, “blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman” (Exodus 36:35).  Only the High Priest could go behind the curtain, and he only did it once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  Leviticus 16 tells us all the things that had to happen on this day.  “He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain.  He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the Testimony, so that he will not die.” (Leviticus 16:12-13)  

All of this to say, GOD IS HOLY.  We can’t forget this.  This care and attention to detail was so very important…before Jesus.  Reverence is still important of course, but we have Jesus and his blood applied.  Because he has gone behind the curtain – No – he has ripped the curtain from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).  He has opened up the Holy of Holies.  This is the backstory of Matthew 17.  This is why Jesus transfiguring in front of Peter, James, and John is so important. 

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