The transfiguration is an epiphany (revelation), a moment at which the glory of the risen Christ, who shall also come in glory at the end of the world, is made manifest in advance, even in advance of his passion and death. Upon the mountain Jesus was “transfigured.” The Greek term literally means, “a change in form.” The idea it conveys is that Jesus’ earthly form was exchanged for that of his heavenly form; for a moment in time he appeared to his disciples as the risen, glorified Christ. In particular he appeared to them in the form of the Son on man who is portrayed in the book of Revelation (1:12-16). Two Old Testament figures appear on the scene: Moses and Elijah. These two men had an important role concerning the coming of the Messiah. Moses was the first to announce his coming (Deut 18:15), and Elijah was to return and announce his coming at the last hour (Mal 4:5-6). Why would Peter suggest making dwellings on this occasion? Dwellings symbolized that the people were “at rest” under the protection of God during the 40 years, and that they would again be “at rest” in the messianic age to come. The high point of the drama followed. A “bright cloud” overshadowed them—an indication of God’s presence. God spoke out of the cloud: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to him.” Here the Father confirmed Jesus’ own teaching that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise.
In this lesson from the Sermon on the Mount the truly hard cases are dealt with. How is one to react to insult, injury, and bothersome requests? And if one has enemies, how does one relate to them? The first part of the text deals generally with nonresistance. Jesus departed from the given form of the law to get to a deeper concern: one should not go about life seeking revenge for wrongs committed against them. Christians are not to let their own concerns for self govern their attitude toward others, regardless of how insulting, annoying, abusive, or demanding others may be. What is at stake, then, in this section (5:38-42) of the Sermon on the Mount is a way of life that is responsive to the will of God, not self-will, in problems which face us. The next section (Matt 5:43-48) deals with the extent of love. Jesus said, Christians are to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. To love one’s enemies sounds impossible. But the term love has a breadth of meaning in the Bible it does not have today. Love in the Bible is not merely an emotional thing, nor is it “liking” the other person to a high degree. It is a commitment of the one who loves toward the other person, and it seeks the well-being of the latter. Christians love not because other people evoke a feeling of love from them, but because it is the Christian’s nature to love; the Christian is simply a loving person. Christ himself gives us the capacity to love, and even forgive!
Our text comes from the section of the Sermon on the Mount which spells out the “higher righteousness” prescribed for Jesus’ followers (Matt 5-7). Three of these sections are covered in this text: adultery, divorce, and oaths. First Adultery: “You shall not commit adultery” is one of the Ten Commandments. A wife was thought of essentially as her husband’s possession, therefore adultery was the act by which one man offended his neighbor by trespassing on another man’s property. A man could have several wives and even women servants (a harem) and still not be considered an adulterer as long as he kept to his own. Divorce second: Jesus was clearly opposed to divorce. It is not likely that he granted any exceptions. Unless it has been broken by adultery already, those who go through a divorce and remarry are themselves guilty of adultery. While legalism should be avoided, the church must be in the business of asserting the sanctity of marriage and seek, through support and counseling, to shore up marriages which begin to disintegrate. Neverless, to affirm that even in the area of divorce and remarriage the doctrine of forgiveness of sins in operative. Third oaths: It is said that all speech must be truthful. It need not be accompanied by an oath to make it so. Language cannot, according to Jesus, be used to deceive, and no double standard can be used which required truth where an oath is taken and allows lying where there is no oath. One of the great problems of mankind is clear communication. The problem is that people use language to deceive. Jesus is urging his disciples to energetically seek reconciliation with others as we have received reconciliation with God as the result of Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul teaches (2 Cor 5:19) that we have been reconciled with God and empowered by Christ to live out Christ’s mission of reconciliation in our daily lives.