Reading for Transfiguration Sunday
Peace be with you!
Stories and pictures capture moments in time, so we hold onto the memories in the future. Some people hold onto the past to avoid change, to avoid ending a relationship, or to avoid admitting someone has left. Some are afraid of what the future has in store for them. Still others are afraid of being controlled by forces outside themselves. And for yet others, the motivation is positive: they get stuck in a moment when things are going well, and they resist any change.
In Mark 9:2-9, Peter, James, and John witness Jesus conversing with Elijah and Moses, both important figures in the Old Testament. After fleeing the Pharaoh in Egypt, Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and others laws for the Israelites to live by. Moses transformed the Israelites into living as God’s chosen people. Elijah challenged the King Ahab of the northern kingdom when they allowed the people to worship Baal and Yahweh simultaneously. True to the first commandment, Elijah believed Yahweh was the one true God who should be only god worshipped—not Baal. Elijah spent his fifteen years as a prophet transforming the way the northern kingdom worshipped. Both of these prophets work tirelessly to keep God’s people faithful to him.
When Peter sees Jesus with Elijah and Moses, he wants to build Elijah, Moses, and Jesus each a tent (Mark 9:5) to preserve the moment, because he doesn’t want things to change. Peter is enjoying listening to Jesus preach and wacthing him perform miracles. Why does it have to change? Yet the moment ends with God saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him” (Mark 9:7c NRSV). God the Father confirms Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 8:29) and the demonic voices’ recognition that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:34; 3:11). What does God mean when he tells the disciples to “listen to” Jesus? What is the context? The Greek verb for “listen” (ακουω) should be translated “hear.” In the previous chapter, after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus told Peter he would suffer, be rejected, be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31-33). Peter had rebuked Jesus for saying this, mistakenly thinking that glory and suffering do not go together. When God says, “hear him,” he is saying Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection must happen—it is the divine plan. Glory will come through the cross. God affirms Jesus’s authority and instructs the disciples to do as Jesus says. God uses Jesus to transform the people who follow him and to set them free from their sins. Jesus has work to do and will be drawing many people to God the Father—not just the chosen few.
The transfiguration is a time to reflect and give glory to God for what Jesus has accomplished, a time to look forward into the future for what has to happen. Jesus has healed the sick, raised the dead, and rebuked demonic voices. Now Jesus has to endure a difficult journey to the cross in order to conquer death and to free us from the bondage of sin. This is why we Christians give glory to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ, we are transformed from sinners to saints every day.
The pictures and stories of Jesus healing the sick, comforting those who mourn, and helping the poor make it easy to give him glory. These snapshots give us the “warm fuzzies” and make our hearts glad. However, without Jesus dying on the cross, we would not be able to worship the risen Lord. We would not know God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We Gentiles would not be a part of the community of the “chosen”; Jesus makes it possible for us all to be in community. No matter how much Peter wants to freeze the transfiguration in time, Jesus must move forward with the plan. Jesus has to go to the cross—a painful snapshot to view—in order to conquer death. This is whaty God the Father sent Jesus Christ into the world to do. Who are we to stop him?
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for transforming us through Jesus Christ. Help us to let go of the past and move forward into the future. Guide us with your grace and love into the unknown. Help us to understand why Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection has to happen. Thank you for your wisdom to know our needs before we do. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- Which memories do you hold on to?
- How have you been changed by Jesus?