January 20, 2016: Day 17 – Matthew 17

If you know your Baroque art then you know the image below is not from Caravaggio, but rather from Raphael.  It is a depiction of the transfiguration which is the story that we find at the beginning of Matthew 17.  As soon as you walk into St. Peter’s along the left hand side about halfway down you will see this painting.  It has always taken away my breath.  It is the full depiction of Matthew 17.  Look at it closely.  transfigurationFrom the top to the bottom you see the chapter played out.  You find Jesus in his white arraignment, transfigured, on the top of the mountain with Elijah and Moses on his sides.  Peter, James, and John are prostate under the three figures and I’m guessing it is right after God says: “Listen to him!”  

Don’t you love Peter?  He is such a go-getter.  I’ve got a great idea, let’s make three booths so that we can keep you here forever.  We often have great ideas and jump way ahead of where God wants to go and eventually find ourselves in a bit of a pickle wondering why God didn’t help us out.  Well, maybe we wanted the safety of God in our booth so that we could let Him in and out as we pleased.  That’s not the way the Holy Spirit works.

Do you notice who else made the painting.  We find the man who wants his son healed, and brings him to Jesus before the whole crowd and we find ourselves in a place where they are not able to heal him.  You can see them trying to heal him and pointing at him, and then pointing at Jesus like, there, he’s the one who can do it, because we can’t.  I love this painting.  It is all of Matthew 17 wrapped into one painting.

Okay, what about the Scripture?  The Transfiguration is a portion of Scripture which reveals to the disciples the true person of Jesus.  He is the embodiment of God and the fulfillment of Scripture.  Elijah represents the one who will return to pave the way for the Messiah.  John the Baptist played that role.  He announced the coming of Jesus.  Moses represents the giver of the law and Jesus is the one who came and was a testimony and the fulfillment of the law.

It is a great Scripture which really shows who Jesus was.  And then you have the fish with a coin in his mouth.  It does seem a bit random, but it works because it shows that Jesus and his disciples were not completely removed from the world.  Even in the Scripture where Jesus says render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s is a testimony to Jesus telling his disciples to remain in the world, even while being distinct.   

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2 Responses to January 20, 2016: Day 17 – Matthew 17

  1. kcooper says:

    I don’t normally comment on what I wrote, but I did get an email with a question. Who is the woman in the painting, in the lower right hand? Here is what I found:
    “Matthew (or Andrew) gestures to the viewer to wait, his gaze focused on a kneeling woman in the lower foreground. She is ostensibly a part of the family group,[11] but on closer examination, is set apart from either group. She is a mirror image of comparable figure in Raphael’s The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple (1512).[3] Giorgio Vasari, Raphael’s biographer, the woman as “the principal figure in that panel.” She kneels in a contrapposto pose, forming a compositional bridge between the family group on the right and the nine apostles on the left. Raphael also renders her in cooler tones and drapes her in sunlit pink, while he renders the other participants, apart from Matthew, oblivious to her presence.[1] The woman’s contrapposto pose is more specifically called a figura serpentinata or serpent’s pose, in which the shoulders and the hips move in opposition; one of the earliest examples being Leonardo da Vinci’s Leda (c. 1504), which Raphael had copied while in Florence.[1]”
    So, no, she doesn’t have a place in Scripture but Raphael uses her as a bridge between the two stories in Scripture and his modern day. He’s allowed to do that, he did the painting after all. But no, you can’t find the woman in any of the stories in Scripture of Matthew 17.

  2. Sally Reinhart says:

    Beautiful painting! It does take your breath away. It adds so much to the scripture.

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