February 24, 2020
Scripture Matthew 17:1-9
While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”
Matthew 17:5-6 NRSV
In this scripture, a cloud covers Jesus and the three disciples with him: Peter, James, and John. The description is similar to the experience of Moses when he confronted God on Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandments on stone tablets (Exodus 24). The writer of Matthew introduced Moses, along with Elijah, to insure that those receiving these words would tie all of this to the traditions and scriptures of those of Jewish faith and tradition. Jesus is transformed with the disciples as witnesses. Then, to insure that everyone gets the full message, God speaks and declares that this is Jesus, Son of God!
This is a time of transition for Jesus, the disciples, and the ministry of Jesus. Events lead them in time to Jerusalem, where Jesus was rejected, crucified, died, and rose again. Like the cloud and the voice, God determines these activities with the ultimate outcome for Jesus: resurrection and ascension to God to reign in power. So, the cloud is both a symbol of change and a key part of that transition and transformation for Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
Even with a casual reading, the cloud is a significant turning point in the scene with the disciples and Jesus. But, the result was a clear declaration about Jesus and his purpose among the people of Palestine. With Easter still weeks away, the changes for Jesus and the disciples can seem as remote as a cloud in the sky. And, when a cloud comes low to the ground and surrounds us, we call it a fog. In this scripture, there is no fog. Instead, through God there is clarity of purpose and mission.
As we come upon Lent this week with Ash Wednesday and all that follows, let us look at the cloud over our hearts, our relationships, our challenges, and our living. As with Jesus, God will make things clear for us through faith, worship, and prayer.