Transfiguration of Our Lord
Matthew 17:1-9 (NRSV)
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It is the Sunday in the Christian Church when we remember Jesus’ transparency with three of his disciples as he was revealed as the Son of God upon a mountaintop.
I’ve always wondered what that experience was like for everyone involved…Can you imagine being Peter, James and John? They were Jesus’ best earthly friends. They were his inner circle. They were often privy to things that others were not. But, even they could not have imagined what their eyes would see and their ears would hear as they stood upon the mountain and heard the very voice of God declare "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"
These words echo throughout Jesus’ ministry, as book ends of a sort, right?
Words very similar were uttered at the inception of his earthly ministry as he was baptized by his cousin John. Scripture teaches us that as Jesus came up out of the water God declared, ““This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
And at the moment of transfiguration, as Jesus began the last weeks of his earthly life, the words were uttered again, with one change. And additional declaration was made when God said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"
These words echo in my spirit as I think about the fact that we will begin the Lenten Season this week by observing Ash Wednesday. As you may know, Lent is the time of year when Christians give special care to the repentance of sin, as well as the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, and service.
I hear God saying to me—and to us—Listen to him!
Listen to Jesus. Listen to his call to Love God and neighbor. Listen to the commandment to walk in love by saying and doing loving things. Listen to his words from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do…”
Transfiguration, in essence, is the start of the slow march to the cross. Jesus chooses to show himself to his friends, to become truly and remarkably transparent, and in so doing to plant a seed that would only bear fruit after his resurrection from the dead.
It amazes me that at his revealing, Moses and Elijah were present. That would have been such a special moment for Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah were the heroes of their faith. They were among the patriarchs of the Jewish religion and they were held in the highest esteem.
To see Moses and Elijah with Jesus would have confirmed for the disciples that Jesus really was a great prophet sent from God. It would have helped them to understand that Jesus was truly special, as he had the chutzpah to keep company with two of the greatest men to ever live…
But, it was not until God spoke, that Peter, James, and John would have truly had supernatural confirmation of what Peter had suspected only days earlier--Jesus was more than a great leader and more than a great prophet, he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!
During the Lenten Season, we are called to notice all of the ways that Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, is at work in our lives.
We do this through prayer and fasting. We do this through regular weekly attendance in worship. We do this by reading our Bibles daily. We do this by serving others. We do this by giving and sharing our money with God’s church and we do this through evangelism—or the sharing of the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to make atonement for our sin and gift us with eternal life.
When Jesus’ friends heard the declaration of God, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!,” they fell to the ground on their faces gravely fearful.
In response, Jesus touched and lifted them saying, “"Get up and do not be afraid…Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
As modern day disciples of Jesus, we are released from Peter, James, and John’s promise to keep silent until after the resurrection.
We are allowed to share the disciple’s joy that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!
We are set free to declare to the entire world that God has created us for joy, and that although life often brings times of hardship, pain, sorrow, trial, tribulation, and heart break, “faith takes our moments of both happiness and sorrow, collects them, and arranges them into a worldview that sees God’s hand in all things. Therein is joy! (Foss, 9).”
By allowing ourselves to believe that God delights in us, gives us significance, sets us free to fully live into our passions and purposes, attends to us as we practice the six marks of discipleship, and helps us to realize that achievement only comes when we invest in forever, choosing to never, ever give up on God or His good plan for our lives, we are set free to live in love and joy no matter how dark our paths may be!
This is the secret to the Lenten Journey to Easter. The path may be dark, the way may be rough, the climb may be steep, the journey may be treacherous, but as we follow Jesus along the way of the cross, we must ever remember that Jesus is the Light of the World, and darkness is not dark to God, and at the end of the road, there will always be an empty tomb and the eternal question, “Why do you look for the living, amongst the dead? Jesus is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaLta