You can see all the lectionary readings for the Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
The last Sunday of the Epiphany season is all about Jesus’s transfiguration—suddenly appearing amazing—glowing brightly and then being joined miraculously by Moses and Elijah—ancient forefathers of the Jewish people.
Jesus climbs a mountain with three of his disciples: Peter, James, and John. While they were watching, Jesus changed before their eyes. The Bible says, “His face became bright like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. Then two men were there, talking with him. They were Moses and Elijah.”
Peter (always quick to speech and action, not always thinking so hard about it first) said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you want, I will put three tents here—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter was ready to worship the three of them right there and then. But then they heard a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, the one I love. I am very pleased with him. Obey him!”
Peter, James, and John were freaked out at this experience (you’d think they already would have been pretty freaked out at the glowing and the ancient dudes suddenly appearing). They fell to the ground in fear, but Jesus came and touched them and told them not to be afraid. When they looked up they saw that Jesus was alone.
As they went down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they saw until “the Son of Man has been raised from death.”
This can be a bit of a confusing lesson; there’s a lot of weird, miraculous stuff happening here, but I won’t overexplain it. A quote on the Worshiping With Children website says, “this story is meant to be savored as presented rather than to be explained.” I like that and it seems like good advice.
This event is appropriate to end the season of Epiphany with such a beautiful epiphany experienced by the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. The trip up the mountain echoes Moses’ journey to the top of the mountain where he received the Ten Commandments. It also reminds me of Exodus 33 when God allows Moses to see His glory. In some versions, it says he was allowed to see the “back of God”. In this story, the disciples see the full glory of Jesus and his importance, though they seem to struggle to understand the full meaning.