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November 15, 2022 - Matthew 17

Here is the transfiguration in which Matthew reports, “A bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear’ (17:5-7). Thinking about this event, I suppose I should major on the transfiguration and its meaning. However, I just find myself empathizing with these men. We can understand the disciples’ fear; I mean, a voice from the cloud? Here’s the thing, though, they had Jesus with them: “Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’”

Jesus calms our fears even as he did those of the disciples. He did so on this occasion. In another place, he tells us that we should “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (though with the warning that we should fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell) (Matthew 10:28); after all, he will be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Jesus was with the disciples in the boat, and he calmed them in the midst of the storm (Matthew 8); in an analogous way, he is with us and calms us through the storms of life. Jesus will be with us on the day of judgment and, because he is, we will not fear. He will be our advocate (1 John 2:1). Oh, the pleading and assuring words of Henry Lyte’s hymn:

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;

the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.

What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

Who like thyself my guide and strength can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me. -- Henry Francis Lyte (1847)

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