The adoration of the three apostles (Mt 17:6-17:8)

“When the disciples heard this,

They fell to the ground,

Face down.

They were overcome

With fear.

But Jesus came.

He touched them.

Saying.

‘Get up!

Do not be afraid!’

When they looked up,

They saw no one

Except Jesus himself alone.”

 

καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ μαθηταὶ ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτῶν καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν σφόδρα.

καὶ προσῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἁψάμενος αὐτῶν εἶπεν Ἐγέρθητε καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε.

πάραντες δὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν οὐδένα εἶδον εἰ μὴ αὐτὸν Ἰησοῦν μόνον.

 

This adoration of the apostles can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:8, Luke, chapter 9:36, and here in Matthew, which is more elaborate, even though there are other differences in all 3 accounts.  When the disciples heard (καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ μαθηταὶ) this voice from the cloud say that Jesus was the beloved Son, in whom the Father was well pleased, they fell face down to the ground (ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτῶν).  They were greatly terrified (ἔπεσαν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτῶν).  However, Jesus came (καὶ προσῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς) to them.  He touched them (καὶ ἁψάμενος αὐτῶν).  Then he told them to get up (εἶπεν Ἐγέρθητε) and not be afraid (μὴ φοβεῖσθε).  When they looked up or lifted up their eyes (πάραντες δὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν), they saw no one (οὐδένα εἶδον), but only Jesus himself alone (εἰ μὴ αὐτὸν Ἰησοῦν μόνον).  Where were Moses and Elijah?  Was this just a dream?

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Peter wants to set up three tents (Mt 17:4-17:4)

“Peter said to Jesus.

‘Lord!

It is good for us

To be here.

If you wish,

I will make

Three tents here,

One for you,

One for Moses,

And one for Elijah.’”

 

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν τῷ Ἰησοῦ Κύριε, καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι· εἰ θέλεις, ποιήσω ὧδε τρεῖς σκηνάς, σοὶ μίαν καὶ Μωϋσεῖ μίαν καὶ Ἡλείᾳ μίαν.

 

The remarks of Peter can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:5, Luke, chapter 9:33, and here in Matthew, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts.  Peter responded (ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Πέτρος), once again as the leader of this small group of apostles.  He spoke to Jesus as the Lord (εἶπεν τῷ Ἰησοῦ Κύριε).  It was good for them to be there (καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι).  If Jesus wanted it (εἰ θέλεις), Peter was going to set up 3 tents or dwellings here (ποιήσω ὧδε τρεῖς σκηνάς), one for Jesus (σοὶ μίαν), one for Moses (καὶ Μωϋσεῖ μίαν), and one for Elijah (καὶ Ἡλείᾳ μίαν).

 

Jesus is transfigured before the three apostles (Mt 17:2-17:2)

“Jesus was transfigured

Before them.

His face shone

Like the sun.

His clothes

Became dazzling white.”

 

καὶ μετεμορφώθη ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν, καὶ ἔλαμψεν τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος, τὰ δὲ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο λευκὰ ὡς τὸ φῶς.

 

This transfiguration can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:2-3, Luke, chapter 9:29, and here in Matthew, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts.  Jesus was transfigured in front of the 3 apostles (καὶ μετεμορφώθη ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν).  There was a metamorphism, as the appearance of Jesus changed right before their very eyes.  His face was shining like the sun (καὶ ἔλαμψεν τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος,), just like what happened to Moses, in Exodus, chapter 34:35.  There the face of Moses was so bright that he had to put a veil on after talking to Yahweh, before he could talk to Aaron, his brother.  Jesus’ clothes or garments became a dazzling white, like a bright light or white snow (τὰ δὲ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο λευκὰ ὡς τὸ φῶς).  Suddenly, the human Jesus seemed more brightly divine.  White and light were good, while black and darkness were bad.

Jesus and the apostles go up the mountain (Mt 17:1-17:1)

“Six days later,

Jesus took with him

Peter,

James,

And his brother John.

He led them up

A high mountain,

By themselves.”

 

Καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέρας ἓξ παραλαμβάνει ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὸν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάνην τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀναφέρει αὐτοὺς εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν κατ’ ἰδίαν.

 

Going to a special mountain can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:2, Luke, chapter 9:28, and here in MatthewMark and Matthew are exactly the same, word for word, but Luke talked about 8 days and going to pray on the mountain.  This activity takes place 6 days (Καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέρας ἓξ) probably after the proclamation of Peter about Jesus being the Christ messiah.  Jesus took with him (παραλαμβάνει ὁ Ἰησοῦς) Peter (τὸν Πέτρον), and the 2 sons of Zebedee, James (καὶ Ἰάκωβον) and his brother John (καὶ Ἰωάνην τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ).  There was no mention of Peter’s brother Andrew.  Jesus brought these 3 disciples to an unnamed high mountain (καὶ ἀναφέρει αὐτοὺς εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν), presumably near the Sea of Galilee, probably Mount Tabor in lower Galilee or Mount Hermon near Caesarea Philippi, much further north.  They were by themselves (κατ’ ἰδίαν), not with any of the other apostles or disciples.  Going up a high mountain was an attempt to have a special communication with God just as Moses had done in the Old Testament.

Why do they not wash their hands before eating? (Mt 15:2-15:2)

“They said.

‘Why do your disciples

Break the tradition

Of the elders?

They do not wash

Their hands

Before they eat.’”

 

Διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων; οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται τὰς χεῖρας ὅταν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν.

 

There is something similar to this in Mark, chapter 7:2-5 and Luke chapter 11:39.  These Pharisees wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus (Διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου) did not wash their hands before they ate bread (οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται τὰς χεῖρας ὅταν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν).  They said that this action was a transgression or violation against the tradition of the elders (παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων).  Originally, this practice of washing hands before eating was what the Levites did in the Temple to practice ritual purity as indicated in Exodus, chapter 30:17-21.  Yahweh had told Moses that there should be a bronze basin with a bronze stand for washing.  Thus, Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet when they went into the meeting tent or the altar.  The penalty for not washing your hands and feet was death under this perpetual ordinance.  However, the Pharisaic oral tradition, or the tradition of the elders, had extended this practice to individual homes.

Secrecy (Mt 8:4-8:4)

“Then Jesus said

To the leper.

‘See that you say nothing

To any one!

But go!

Show yourself

To the priest!

Offer the gift

That Moses commanded,

As a testimony to them.’”

 

καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ὅρα μηδενὶ εἴπῃς, ἀλλὰ ὕπαγε σεαυτὸν δεῖξον τῷ ἱερεῖ, καὶ προσένεγκον τὸ δῶρον ὃ προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς.

 

This admonition to the leper can be found in Luke, chapter 5:14, and Mark, chapter 1:41-42, perhaps indicating Mark as the source.  Jesus told the leper (καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς) not to say anything (Ὅρα μηδενὶ εἴπῃς), often referred to as the messianic secret.  Jesus did not want anyone to know about his power.  Instead the leper was to show himself to the priest (ἀλλὰ ὕπαγε σεαυτὸν δεῖξον τῷ ἱερεῖ,), as recommended in Leviticus, chapter 14:2-9.  He should offer the gifts (καὶ προσένεγκον τὸ δῶρον) as outlined in Leviticus, since this is what Moses had commanded (ὃ προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς) in the Torah.  He wanted this cleansed leper to show himself as a witness or testimony to the priests (εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς).

Great crowds (Mt 8:1-8:1)

“When Jesus came down

From the mountain,

Great crowds

Followed him.”

 

Καταβάντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοί.

 

Just like Moses went up the mountain and came down from the mountain, Jesus went up the mountain in chapter 5:1, now he came down from the mountain (Καταβάντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους).  Matthew continued to use the phrase great crowds followed or accompanied him (ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοί).  A new phase in the life of Jesus was to begin.  The time of mountain teaching had ended.  It was time for action.