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. From 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.