Sunday Devotional: The eyewitnesses of the Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-8

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

In law, there’s an important concept critical to the determination of truth.

The concept is “percipient witness”. According to Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary, a percipient witness is “A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.”

Today, the universal Church celebrates and remembers a particular event about which the Apostles were percipient witnesses — the Transfiguration.

2 Peter 1:16-18

Beloved:
We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.

Do you doubt these percipient witnesses?

This is how the Apostles — percipient witnesses of the transfigured and later resurrected Christ — died, testifying to the truth they’d witnessed until their last breath:

  • St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, was stoned to death in Jerusalem, c. AD 34.
  • St. James, son of Zebedee and brother of St. John the Apostle, was the first Apostle to be martyred. King Herod had St. James beheaded in 44 AD.
  • St. James, son of Alpheus, was reported by the Jewish historian Josephus to have been stoned and then clubbed to death in 62 AD.
  • St. Jude Thaddaeus was crucified in Syria, c. 65 AD.
  • St. Simon the Zealot ministered in Persia and was sawn in half, c. 65 AD after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
  • St. Peter and St. Paul were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. St. Paul was beheaded. St. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, because he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
  • St. Mark, a rope around his neck, was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt, in AD 68.
  • St. Thomas was pierced to death in India, 72 AD, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder.
  • St. Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas, was burned to death in Syria, c. 80 AD.
  • St. Bartholomew (identified as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John) is believed to have been skinned alive and crucified. He ministered in India with St. Thomas, in Armenia, Ethiopia and Southern Arabia.
  • St. Philip was crucified in Hierapolis, Asia Minor, 80 AD, for converting the wife of a Roman proconsul. He also ministered in North Africa.
  • St. Andrew was crucified in Patras, Greece. He also preached in Asia Minor and modern-day Turkey. Christians in the former Soviet Union say he was the first to bring the Gospel to their land.
  • St. Matthew was beheaded in Ethiopia. He had also ministered in Persia.
  • St. John was the only Apostle who died a natural death from old age, after surviving an ordeal of being thrown into boiling oil. He was the leader of the church in Ephesus and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. In mid-90s AD, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation.

Below is an account of the Apostles’ martyrdom by Dean Jones in the stunning one-man play St. John in Exile. Though filmed in 1986, I had never heard of or seen it until I discovered it three years ago.

I urge you to watch St John in Exile, which reduced me to weeping, in its entirety.

May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~E

Please follow and like us:
 
4 4 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
8 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tim Shey
10 months ago

The Lord is always glorified in the death of His saints.

Killing the Prophets

This is The Book of the Bee:

CHAPTER XXXII

OF THE DEATH OF THE PROPHETS; HOW THEY DIED, AND (WHERE) EACH ONE OF THEM WAS BURIED.

 MANASSEH the son of Hezekiah slew Isaiah with a wooden saw; he was buried before the outfall of the waters which Hezekiah concealed by the side of Siloah6.

   Hosea the son of Beeri, of the tribe of Issachar, (was) from the town of Be`elmâth. He prophesied mystically about our Lord Jesus Christ who was to come; saying that when He should be born, the oak in Shiloh should be divided into twelve parts; and that He should take twelve disciples of Israel. He died in peace, and was buried in his own land.

   Joel the son of Bethuel (Pethuel), of the tribe of Reuben, died in peace in his own land. Others say that Ahaziah the son of Amaziah smote him with a staff upon his head; and while his life was yet in him, they brought him to his own land7, and after two days he died.

   Amos (was) from the land of Tekoa. The priest of Bethel tortured him and afterwards slew him. Others say that it was he whom Ahaziah the son of Amaziah8 killed with a staff, and he died.

   Obadiah from the country of Shechem was the captain of fifty of Ahab’s soldiers. He became a disciple of Elijah, and endured many evil things from Ahab, because he forsook him and went after Elijah. However he died in peace. After he followed Elijah, he was deemed worthy of prophecy1.

   Elijah the fiery, of the family of Aaron, (was) from Tashbî2, a town of the Levites. When this (prophet) was born, his father saw in a dream that one was born, and that they wrapped him in fire instead of swaddling bands, and gave him some of that fire to eat. He came to Jerusalem, and told the priests the vision that he had seen. The learned among the people said to him, ‘Fear not, thy son is about to be a fire, and his word shall be like fire, and shall not fall to the ground; he will burn like fire with jealousy of sinners, and his zeal will be accepted before God.’ He was taken up in a chariot towards heaven. Some say that his father was called Shôbâkh3.

   Elisha his pupil, from Abêl-Mehôlâh, (was) of the tribe of Reuben. On the day of his birth a great wonder took place in Israel; for the bull4 which they worshipped in Gilgal lowed, and his voice was heard in Jerusalem. The chief priests in Jerusalem said, ‘A mighty prophet is born to-day in Israel at this time, and he will break the images and idols to pieces.’ He died in peace, and was buried in Samaria.

   Jonah the son of Amittai5 (was) from Gath-hepher6, from Kûryath-Âdâmôs7, which is near to Ascalon and Gaza and the sea coast. After this (prophet) had prophesied to the Ninevites in the time of Sardânâ8 the king, he did not remain in his own land because the Jews were jealous of him; but he took his mother, and went and dwelt in Assyria. He feared the reproach of the Jews, because he had prophesied, and his prophecy did not come to pass. He also rebuked Ahab the king, and called a famine upon the land and the people. He came to the widow of Elijah, and blessed her, because she received him, and he returned to Judaea. His mother died on the way, and he buried her by the side of Deborah’s grave. He lived in the land of Serîdâ, and died two years after the people had returned from Babylon, and was buried in the cave of Kainân1. This (prophet) prophesied that when the Messiah should come, the cities of the Jews would be overturned.

   Micah the Morashthite (was) of the tribe of Ephraim, and was slain by Joram the son of Ahab. This (prophet) prophesied concerning the destruction of the temple of the Jews, and the abrogation of the Passover on the death of the Messiah. He died in peace, and was buried in Anikâm.

   Nahum, from the city of Elkôsh, (was) of the tribe of Simeon. After the death of Jonah this (prophet) prophesied concerning the Ninevites, saying, ‘Nineveh shall perish by perpetually advancing waters, and ascending fire;’ and this actually took place. He prophesied also concerning the Babylonians, that they would come against the Israelitish people; and therefore they sought to kill him. He prophesied that when the Messiah should be slain, the vail of the temple should be rent in twain2, and that the Holy Spirit should depart from it. He died in peace, and was buried in his own country.

   Habakkuk (was) of the tribe of Simeon, and from the land of Sûâr (Zoar)3. This (prophet) prophesied concerning the Messiah, that He should come, and abrogate the laws of the Jews. He brought food to Daniel at Babylon by the divine (or, angelic) agency. The Jews stoned him in Jerusalem.

   Zephaniah (was) of the tribe of Simeon. He prophesied concerning the Messiah, that He should suffer, and that the sun should become dark, and the moon be hidden. He died in peace in his own land.

   Haggai returned from Babylon to Jerusalem when he was young. He prophesied that the people would return, and concerning the Messiah, that He would abrogate the sacrifices of the Jews. He died in peace.

   Zechariah the son of Jehoiada returned from Babylon in his old age, and wrought wonders among the people. He died at a great age, and was buried by the side of the grave of Haggai.

   Malachi was born after the return of the people, and because of his beauty he was surnamed ‘Angel.’ He died in peace in his own land.

   The Jews stoned Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah in Egypt, because he rebuked them for worshipping idols; and the Egyptians buried him by the side of Pharaoh’s palace. The Egyptians loved him much, because he prayed and the beasts died which used to come up from the river Nile and devour men. These beasts were called ‘crocodiles.’ When Alexander the son of Philip, the Macedonian, came (to Egypt), he made enquiries about his grave, and took and brought him to Alexandria. This (prophet) during his life said to the Egyptians, ‘a child shall be born–that is the Messiah–of a virgin, and He shall be laid in a crib2, and He will shake and cast down the idols.’ From that time, and until Christ was born, the Egyptians used to set a virgin and a baby in a crib, and to worship him, because of what Jeremiah said to them, that He should be born in a crib.

   Ezekiel the son of Buzi was of the priestly tribe, and from the land of Serîdâ3. The chief of the Jews who was in the land of the Chaldeans slew him, because he rebuked him for worshipping idols. He was buried in the grave of Arphaxar, the son of Shem, the son of Noah.

   Daniel (was) of the tribe of Judah, and was born in Upper Beth-Horon. He was a man who kept himself from women, and hence the Jews thought that he was an eunuch, for his face was different (from that of other men), and he had no children. He prayed for the Babylonians, and died in Elam, in the city of the Hôzâyê1, and was buried in Shôshan the fortress. He prophesied concerning the return of the people.

   Ahijah (was) from Shilo. A lion slew this prophet, and he was buried by the oak at Shilo in Samaria.

   Ezra the scribe was from the country of Sâbthâ2, and of the tribe of Judah. This (prophet) brought back the people, and died in peace in his own land.

   Zechariah the son of Berachiah, the priest, was from Jerusalem. Joash the king slew this (prophet) between the steps3 and the altar, and sprinkled his blood upon the horns of the altar, and the priests buried him. From that day God forsook the temple, and angels were never again seen in it.

   Simon the son of Sîrâ (Sirach) died in peace in his own town.

   Nathan died in peace.

   Here ends the first part of the book of gleanings called ‘the Bee.’

   To God be the glory, and may His mercy and compassion be upon us. Amen.

   Again, by the Divine power, we write the second part of the book of gleanings called ‘the Bee,’ regarding the Divine dispensation which was wrought in the new (covenant).

 
Tim Shey
10 months ago
Reply to  Tim Shey

Dr. Eowyn: Could you please break the link to “The Book of the Bee” in the above comment. For some reason it is linked to my blog. Thank you.

 
joandarc
joandarc
10 months ago

Thank you Dr.E for this magnificent post. The apostles as percipient witnesses to Our Lord Jesus Christ, what he taught and all the miracles he performed, understanding Truth as never before, were motivated then to die in the worst ways possible for Jesus, and for His Gospel. You set forth the manner of martyrdom for each apostle, notwithstanding St John who was to take care of the Blessed Mother Mary, and who was the only apostle to be with Jesus and Mary during Jesus’ Passion and death. What a proclamation of Truth and Love from the apostles who intercede for us before God.

As to the Transfiguration, one can only imagine how great was this experience for the apostles, St,. Peter, St. James and St. John. Amazing!

 
Tim Shey
10 months ago

Josephus on John the Baptist

Psalm 105: 15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”

This is from Wikipedia:

An account of John the Baptist is found in all extant manuscripts of the Jewish Antiquities (book 18, chapter 5, 2) by Flavius Josephus (37–100):[26]

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus*, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.”[27]

 
Gracie Storvika
Gracie Storvika
10 months ago

Beautiful and thoughtful article. I certainly loved the performance by Dean Jones. What a spectacular effort he put forth in that production.

 
mca
mca
10 months ago

Thank you, Dr Eowyn.

 
Brian
Brian
10 months ago

Thank you Doc. We should see our selves in their light and follow in their foot steps. And today in this time we will probable get the same treatment I am sure of it. But what will you do when the time comes for your Lord. Will you be a denier of your Lord when our country comes to full bear on God and his people.
Or will you stand with the Apostles it might be harder than most think. We can hope when the time comes we have the courage to stand after we have done all we can.