Mark 9: 2-9, Transfiguration Sunday
Well this is more like it. Brilliant lights and shining garments, a voice from the clouds, Moses and Elijah in attendance…this is what the coming of the Messiah was meant to be. No wonder Peter is ready to set up shop right on top of the mountain. Let’s get some tents up here and start the kingdom right now.
Poor practical Peter, what else was he to think? In the face of the divine, his reaction is so very human. Jesus has come to redeem the world and build an eternal, heavenly kingdom. But Peter can only think about the trappings of an earthly kingdom. Jesus is operating on an infinitely different, elevated plane. And Peter is bound by the limits of his expectations, his experience, his senses. Once again Peter is our “every man.” He stands in for all of us in our trivial, human frailty before the face of God. How like us he is.
How would we behave before the transfigured glory of Jesus? It is not a hypothetical question. In our final hour, it is a certainty that awaits us all. Surely we will be in unimaginable awe. After a lifetime of Christian instruction and worship, will we finally, fully understand the message or will we continue to project our own expectations? By the grace of God, we know the answer. All will be made plain. And since that meeting is a certainty, let’s take the little time we have here to prepare for it…better to meet with an intimate friend than to confront a neglected stranger.
While Peter is a prime, first-hand witness to the wonders of Jesus, for him the good news is still unraveling. Where is it going? Where will it end? And then Jesus spoils the party. He tells Peter, James and John to keep what they saw a secret: until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. If you think they were confused before, what’s this all about? Right after witnessing this glorious Transfiguration, they get hit in the face with the message that Jesus is facing death.
Once again we have the advantage of perspective. We have been taught the full story. We know that Jesus will climb another mountain. And this time he will carry a cross. Over and over we have learned of the sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection of Jesus. But what have we done with that ultimate good news? Is it filed away somewhere for distant, death-bed referral? Or do we live by it, shaping our choices and decisions every day? Are the life, death and resurrection of Jesus immediate imperatives that impact our lives or are they fabled abstractions, dusted off and taken out to lend texture to traditional holiday celebrations?
That is the challenge of the Transfiguration… to live transfigured lives, right here, right now… with and in the love of Christ. In this gospel, Jesus gives a preview of coming attractions both to the apostles and to us. It is a brief peek at the awesome power of Jesus… a power that he was prepared to set aside in sacrifice for us. He, who stood clothed in brilliant light in the company of Moses and Elijah, would soon lay himself down… beaten, naked and alone for our salvation.
In the words of the Father: listen to him. In Jesus we are saved. We are transfigured. Follow him to glory. God loves you no less than Moses or Elijah. He values you as a disciple no less than Peter, James and John. Make loving, praising and thanking him the focal point of your day. And you will be transfigured, too.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.