Sunday, March 12, 2006
Transfigured into Faith  

The Gospel reading for the second Sunday in Lent is the account of Jesus' transfiguration. It is an interesting passage because it marks the transition point in our Lord's ministry after which He has set His face toward Jerusalem in order to undergo His Passion.

Jesus picks three disciples to accompany Him on a retreat on the mountain. The three disciples are Peter, James, and John. These are the same three who are given exclusive access to the raising of Jairus' daughter and Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemene. It seems that our Lord wanted to help them understand that He is able to overcome death despite the appearance that He is very human as He showed in the garden. In the transfiguration, Jesus shows His glorified humanity as a foretaste of how these three disciples will encounter Him after the resurrection.

Peter, of course, is the clear leader of the disciples, but he has also shown that he does not understand our Lord's Passion. Although He correctly answered the question which Jesus posed to the disciples as to who He is, Peter followed up his right answer with a rebuke to our Lord that it is unnecessary for Him to suffer and die. Jesus is giving Peter private instruction in order that he will be able to strengthen his brothers after he repents of his denial of Jesus. After the transfiguration, it would seem more difficult for Peter to question our Lord's words. Instead, he should pay even more attention to what Jesus says.

James and John are the sons of thunder. They were ready for our Lord to call down fire upon the Samaritans who would not let Jesus pass through their towns. They may have held the same idea as others that Jesus was preparing to overturn all of the wrongs in the world with great violence. Instead Jesus is helping them to understand that all of the violence is going to be focused on Him. Jerusalem is the place where the king will be crowned with thorns, and He will be rejected by His own and thrown out of the city to be violently removed.

The disciples learn this through what must have been an absolutely terrifying experience. The master is transformed into the brilliance of glorified humanity. It is as if, part of the curtain is pulled back for the three disciples to see how man is meant to appear. Then the three are given a hint of the fact that God is Triune. The Holy Spirit overshadows them all in a cloud, and the Father speaks to them to let them know that Jesus is His beloved Son. The Father follows this with an exhortation for the disciples to listen to Jesus. After this experience, I would think that this would be easier to do.

In addition, Elijah and Moses appear to speak with our Lord about His Passion. Again, the disciples are privy to the discussion of Jesus' Passion to help them grasp that this is what is going to happen--Jesus will suffer and die. Even Moses and Elijah, who stand for the Law and the Prophets, know about this. Peter, James, and John should remember this when later they struggle to grasp what has happened with all of their expectations for the Messiah.

Just as quickly as it had begun, the transfiguration is over. Peter, James, and John are there with Jesus in complete shock over what they have just experienced. I wonder how long was the pause before anyone said anything. Then as they come back down the mountain, Jesus commands them to not tell anyone else about what happened. In His mercy He had picked three witnesses in order that they could discuss it among themselves. One would have not been able to not tell someone else. Two might not be certain what they saw happened. But with three, each can be sure it has happened, and for each, there are two persons' perspectives from which to draw.

The transfiguration is a mysterious event that transformed the disciples. After the resurrection, they could point to this event as a powerful revelation of who Jesus is. Such a man is not overcome by evil because He is too weak. Instead, He clearly laid down His life as the strong man submitting to the weak. He was in complete control of all that happened to Him because no one who was transfigured like that is going to be caught unaware or surprised. Instead, He died for a reason because He meant to die. That He rose from the dead should also not be a surprise. He had raised others from the dead. He communicates with Moses and Elijah. And the Heavenly Father calls Him His Son.

The transfiguration would strengthen the faith of Peter, James, and John because it would help them piece together all that Jesus had said and done. His mission culminated in His Passion, and it was completed in His resurrection. They had heard about His Passion on the mountain of transfiguration, and on the same mountain, they had seen Him as He would be appear after His resurrection.

Posted by David at 1:03 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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