Summary: The Star Witness
Brinton/Swanton Novers 10-02-02
The Transfiguration – Mt. 17:1-13
Story: A man was arraigned for murder in Los Angeles about 60 years ago. It was a difficult case with a lot of circumstantial evidence.
The man’s defence lawyer, however, thought of an ingenious ploy. In his summing up speech, he said:
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, you must find my client not guilty of murder - if there is the slightest doubt in your minds that he is not the murderer.
And now I have one final witness. “The true murderer is about to walk through the door.”
All eyes swung towards the door but no one came in.
The lawyer continued: “You see, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is doubt in your minds, otherwise you would not have looked towards the door.”
The jury retired to deliberate and came back five
hours later with a “Guilty” verdict.
The lawyer was beside himself and before the judge could pass sentence he sprang up and said “But I proved that you had a doubt about my client’s guilt. How can you possibly find him guilty?”
An old wizened man in the jury stood up and said: “As everyone looked towards the door, I watched your client. His eyes did not turn towards the door.
He did not look towards the door because he knew no one was coming through. Because he himself was the guilty one.
In contrast to that Los Angeles Courtroom, where the star witness did not appear, this morning’s Gospel reading is all about a star witness who did appear.
And He came to answer the question that was on everyone’s lips: “Who is Jesus?”
Who was this star witness? He was none other than God the Father, who answered the question by revealing Jesus’ glory to the disciples Peter, James and John and by saying: “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.”
And the relevance of all this for us was summed in three simple words “Listen to him”.
Jesus is God’s Son and we need to listen to him.
The Gospel reading is known as the story of the Transfiguration (from the Latin transfiguratio).
It refers to the “remarkable transformation that once took place in the appearance of Jesus.”
When I looked at the passage, my first reaction was
1. Why did the event take place?
I think a key to the answer can be found in the context of the story.
In the previous chapter Mt. 16, we read that people had been asking the question: Who is Jesus?
For example, Jesus asked his disciples:
“13Who do people say that the Son of Man is?
It is clear from their response that it was a hot topic.
14 “Well” the disciples replied, "Some say John the Baptist; some say Elijah; and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets."
If it hadn’t been “hot gossip” at the time, they wouldn’t have said that.
But it wasn’t just the crowds who were talking about Jesus. His own disciples were asking the same question. Listen to what Jesus said:
15Then he asked them. "Who do you say I am?"
16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God."
The question “Who is this Jesus” was burning on everyone’s lips.
And in the previous Chapter, Mt. 16 we see human responses. Now in Chapter 17 we see a divine response.
I believe the Transfiguration took place, because God the Father wanted to answer the question. Definitely - once and for all. Who is Jesus?
2. Let us look at the Transfiguration in more detail
At the Transfiguration, three major events occurred
2.1. Jesus’ appearance was transformed.
2.2. Moses and Elijah appeared with him on the
2.3. God the Father spoke to the disciples.
And all of these were part of the Father’s response to the question: Who is Jesus?
2.1. Let us look at the first significant event - the actual Transfiguration.
Jesus led Peter, James and John up a high mountain – probably Mount Hermon (2,814 m above sea level) near Caesarea Philippi.
“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as
light.” (Mt. 17:2)
Part of the Father’s response to the question: "Who is Jesus?" was to reveal Jesus in his full glory. Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white.
You may recall a similar incident that occurred in the Old Testament. Moses came down the Mountain having been in the presence of God and his face shone so much - reflecting the glory of God - that he had to wear a veil.
Let me read you the passage from Exodus 34:
“When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets of testimony – holding the 10 commandments – in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.