January 12, 2015
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is given to us in Mark 9:2-13.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant. Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt? But I tell you the Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
According to Moloney in The Gospel of Mark, Mark’s notation that this event took places after six days echoes the experience of Moses when after he and Joshua had spent six days on the mountain God called to Moses from the cloud. Moloney also notes that Moses and Elijah are the only characters in the scriptures to meet God on a mountain and both in Jewish tradition were transported to heaven. Mark is making the point that Jesus is in the same rank. But somehow Peter didn’t make the connection as he addresses Jesus as rabbi, certainly not a heavenly title. However, as Mark says, he was terrified and didn’t know what to say, so he reverted to his customary address of Jesus as rabbi.
I wondered for a while whether Jesus’ transfiguration was primarily for his benefit or the disciples. Today I’m thinking it was for the disciples. So far they had been unable to comprehend all that had transpired and all that Jesus was telling them would take place in Jerusalem — his passion, death, and resurrection. Their minds just weren’t able to grasp all this. Together their minds and their feelings basically in denial locked them in denial. So, God had to enter the picture in a forceful, vivid way. He spoke to them from a cloud and commanded, “Listen to him!” — him, His beloved Son, His word enfleshed, the promise of His covenant. No wonder the poor disciples were terrified and bewildered.
It seems like that’s what God has said to me as well. It’s as if He’s saying to me, “Listen to me as I have spoken through my only begotten Son. Read his words. Take heed. I’m talking to you.” It’s like a slap in the head. Pay attention. Barclay writes, “They still did not understand, and their failure to understand was due to the cause which always makes men fail to understand — they clung to their way and refused to see God’s way. They wished things as they desired them and not as God had ordered them. The error of their thoughts had blinded them to the revelation of God’s truth.”
What always makes men fail to understand. I cling to my way and refuse to see God’s way. I wish things to be as I desire them and not as God has ordered them. That’s kind of my problem in a nutshell. All my instincts — stemming from my fears and my experiences — cause me to fail to understand God’s truth over and over. That’s why God has had to break through and tell me to “Listen to him!” I listen but sometimes I still fail to understand and I reject what I hear. But reading the gospels over and over is very slowly changing me, opening me to God’s love so that I want to return His love by following the command of His Son to love one another. If I can just resist reacting in the way I have all my life, I can hear God tell me, “Listen to him.:” When I do, love has a chance to intervene, a chance to change how I respond. That’s the transformation that God is trying to effect in me.