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Seeing Jesus in a New Light

February 10, 2018

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday in the Lectionary. It is the last Sunday in “Ordinary Time” before we begin the season of Lent. It is a story that is told in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) so we hear one of the three different perspectives each year in the three year Lectionary cycle. This year we are hearing it from the perspective presented in the Gospel of Mark.

It begins the same way each year. Jesus takes the inner circle of leadership (Simon Peter along with James and John, the sons of Zebedee) up to the mountain where he is transformed before their very eyes. “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and 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 one on earth could bleach them.” (Mark 9:2-3)

As if that wasn’t enough, Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared in the cloud and began talking to Jesus. The disciples could see what was happening, but they didn’t hear what was being said. It was almost as if they were interlopers looking in on a very private moment that Jesus was having.

One way to look at it might be to see it as a gift from God to Jesus before he began the journey towards Jerusalem and his crucifixion. Later on in chapter nine, Jesus predicted his death (Mark 9:30-37) after the disciples failed to exorcise an evil spirit from a boy and Jesus had to complete the miracle. He knew that he was heading to Jerusalem where he would be confronted by the religious powers that be. He knew that this confrontation would lead to his death. In the mountain top moment of his transfiguration, perhaps Jesus was being reminded by God that he was indeed God’s Son and that he not only had God’s backing, but also the backing of the heroes of the faith like Moses and Elijah, who knew a thing or two about suffering for one’s faith.

Another way to look at it might be to explore it from the disciples perspective. Here Peter, James, and John are on the mountaintop with Jesus when they see this miraculous moment! Scared silly (terrified actually), Peter blurts out the thought that perhaps they should build shelters and stay on the mountain with Moses and Elijah. After all, of these two movers and shakers of the the faith showed up, something big must be about to happen. Maybe it would be better to stay in the mountain instead of returning to the reality of life as it was unfolding. They didn’t understand what was happening and so the reflex reaction was to hunker down and stay in the moment of glory (the mountaintop experience) rather than go back to the ugly reality of life. However, Jesus takes them down from the mountaintop and tells them to be silent about what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead! What? How were these poor disciples supposed to interpret that cryptic saying?!

It hit me this week that perhaps there is another message in this passage and the event of the Transfiguration for followers of Jesus nearly 2000 years later. At least there seems to be another way to look at it for this Padre…

Just as the disciples had gotten used to their particular vision of who Jesus was (great teacher, healer, miracle worker, and radical revolutionary to name a few possibilities), haven’t we become complacent with our sanitized versions of who Jesus was? I know that in my own faith journey this has happened more times than I care to admit.

Who is Jesus to us today, dear reader? Is he a nice, comfortable white guy who saves you from Hell? Or is he a radical who turns the religious elite and our own neat and crisp “eternal life insurance policy if you simply say the sinners prayer” faith on its ear? Or is he a revolutionary dude who challenges us to love God and love our neighbor… even the neighbors who are difficult and even our enemies?

As we approach this season of Lent, perhaps we need to go back to the beginning. Perhaps we need to spend some time walking with Jesus in the way of Saint Ignatius and his Examen. Perhaps we need to literally put ourselves into the story and look at it with fresh eyes of faith. Perhaps then we may be open to a radically transformative experience like Peter, James, and John had. Perhaps we may see Jesus in a new light in the midst of the old, familiar story. Will you join me, dear reader, in this Lenten adventure?

5 Comments
  1. Pastor, I agree completely. “Perhaps we need to literally put ourselves into the story and look at it with fresh eyes of faith.” That is great wisdom and good advice for every day.

    Be blessed. God is in a good mood.

  2. I agree, Michael. A fresh perspective is something God is often calling us to have. Not only in readying ourselves to hear something different from His word that hadn’t occurred to us before, but also to not get stuck in a rigid, unhelpful mindset when He longs to reveal new thoughts to us. As I read your summing up, I wondered if you had ever read Philip Yancey’s book, ‘The Jesus I Never Knew’? 😊

  3. You’re welcome, Michael! 😊❤

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