Tuesday 25th January 2022

MATTHEW 17

The final verse of chapter 16 is said almost as an afterthought: “Truly, I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (16:28).  What did it mean?  Perhaps we should ask Peter again!  In his second letter he says: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’.  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”  (2 Peter 1:16-18).

So that ‘afterthought’ statement is probably looking only a few days forward to the Transfiguration of Christ on a high mountain in Northern Galilee.  The very next chapter in Matthew (today’s reading) also covers this event.  Meeting at the top of that mountain were five men (Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John) along with Jesus, and God the Father himself.  The purpose of the exercise was to show who was Boss!

Jesus revealed his true glory in a dazzlingly pure whiteness and received the praise from his Father in Heaven.  It was an ‘unreal’ scene – with Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah about his own ‘Exodus’ (see Luke 9:30) that would reach its fulfilment in Jerusalem shortly.  Peter was so scared that he wanted to embark upon a small building project, just to take his mind off things!  He probably thought that he was really honouring Jesus by equating him with Moses and Elijah – but God the Father had bigger ideas:  the clouds came down, whisked Moses and Elijah away, and the disciples were told to listen to the Son only from that point onwards.  For the days of Moses and Elijah had ended, but Jesus’ work was still to be finished.

Some have drawn the conclusion that part of the reason for the disciples being permitted to witness this scene was the concept of ‘succession’:  Moses was succeeded by Joshua, Elijah by Elisha; but WHO would succeed Jesus???  “You shall do greater things than me”, he told his disciples in John 14:12.  And the Book of Acts is the account of the things that Jesus CONTINUED to do and to preach (see Acts 1:1).

But perhaps the most important reason was simply that they should SEE his glory, and that their lives would never be the same again.  When we truly catch a glimpse of the Anointed One in OUR lives, we can be sure that we will be changed and that the things of THIS world will start to become fainter and dimmer.  The journey will have begun, and the healing will have started.  The world will have become a better place as a result!  We are called to look to him until we see him, to listen until we hear and to obey until his priorities become ours.

“We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

GENESIS 49 and 50

In Ch. 49, Jacob called all his sons to his deathbed and prophesied a blessing over them one by one.  The ‘blessings’ are mixed, showing God’s justice for a mis-spent life in some cases.  For example:

Reuben had effectively forfeited his right of the firstborn, many years previously, by sleeping with Bilhah, one of his father’s wives.  Simeon and Levi had murdered the citizens of Shechem, in retaliation for their sister’s rape – and the judgement upon them was to be ‘scattered’ in Israel; this came to fruition later, when Levi received no land inheritance and Simeon’s population was subsumed within the land area belonging to Judah.  Judah is rehabilitated – whether due to his willingness to take Benjamin’s place as a hostage in Egypt, or simply due to God’s grace – and of course he later became the biological forefather of Jesus (in Mary’s lineage).  Some of the brothers had prophecies that described the geographical position of their tribes within the Promised Land.  Joseph receives the greatest blessing, “from the skies above, the springs below and the mountains and hills”.  Finally, Benjamin’s ancestors are described as war-like and aggressive – which became the characteristic of that tribe in the Promised Land.

After all these prophetic blessings, Jacob gave instructions to his sons that he was to be buried alongside his parents and grandparents and with his first wife, Leah – in the cave at Mamre that Abraham had purchased from the Hittites.  Then he breathed his last and began that final great journey.  See Isaiah 35.  Pharoah insisted on the burial being on a grand scale – a state funeral with grand processions and a period of mourning.  After the burial, Joseph’s brothers became anxious that Joseph would take revenge on them for their mistreatment of him all those years ago.  The now-mature Joseph reassured them that he had forgiven them and that he recognised the sovereignty of God in using their actions to save many lives.  (He had already said this to them in 45:5-8).  He promised to look after all of them.

Egyptians regarded 110 years as the ideal lifespan – and so would have regarded Joseph as a supremely blessed man.  His own family was becoming increasingly populous and indeed so were his brothers’ families; Israel was halfway towards becoming that ‘nation and family of nations’ that God had promised Jacob that he would become.  Joseph himself made Israel swear that they would carry his bones out of Egypt one day and bury them with his fathers.  It was Moses (Exodus 13:19 and Joshua 24:32) who centuries later fulfilled that oath during the Exodus.  Then Joseph died and they embalmed him.  This provides a fitting end to the mighty Book of Genesis, which charts the creation, the fall and the beginning of the redemption of mankind.  Joseph’s ultimate ancestor began life in a paradise in Eden, whilst this descendant ended it in a coffin in Egypt!   

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