For some reason the transfiguration of Jesus has always been a difficult moment in the life of Christ for me to wrap my head around and to enter into… In terms of the time-line where it shows up in the Gospel, it’s already long into the time after the apostles had been called and had begun to follow Christ. It’s almost like an unexpected diversion where Jesus goes off for a hike with Peter, James and John – not long before He will enter into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the dramatic roller coaster that is Holy Week begins. We can hear the mix of emotion for Peter, James and John who go from excitement “Let us build tents and never leave” to then after hearing the voice of God the Father declaring “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” become very much afraid… Which is all wrapped up with Jesus walking back with them and saying guys, keep this among ourselves until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.
I can’t help but find myself getting lost in questions. They just experienced this amazing moment of revelation, of confirmation, where whatever doubts they might have had or questions that lingered were kind of answered in this awesome manner… How did they falter so soon, so quickly after this to not be there for Jesus during his hour of greatest need? Recognizing that being judgmental and critical of three of the apostles isn’t probably a good way of reflecting and wrestling with the Gospel, I realize better stop going down that path. So try to enter into the scene myself: I think about how cool it would be to experience what they did, to hear and see what they have – and then jealousy or envy starts creeping in. So that’s not good. Full stop again. So you can see why this has been a bit of a challenge for me.
It was reading a bunch of different reflections on this Gospel today that something stuck out… This one writer described the transfiguration as “God not breaking in ‘from outside’ but letting us see with new eyes what was already there.” Emphasizing or viewing the transfiguration as kind of like lifting the veil. Where God’s hidden activity; where the sustaining hand of our loving triune God is seen; where we can cherish from a unique vantage point the presence of God, experiencing His intimate presence that is always there. It’s just unmasked in a dramatic “a-ha moment” and we’re lost in wonder, in joy. When I look at it like that, yeah I have had transfiguration moments for sure throughout my life. Even recently over the last few months – I think of one of the very first students I ever met here at MSU and seeing him and his wife becoming parents for the first time … or baptizing another baby, adopted by two former students – knowing the pains, the trials and now the joys and the miracle of that day… Those are just two moments of pure joy where the veil was lifted.
It’s understandable at the transfiguration, to want to build tents, withdraw from everyday life and stay up the mountain forever… But the same Jesus who walked them up there, leads them and us back down – and remained with them – remains with us. The challenge is for us to let those moments of transfiguration, when the veil has been lifted, when God showed up, showed out and confirmed in some dramatic way His presence, His activity, His love, His care to animate the ordinary, everyday. To let those moments when our heart and soul soared in a way that was similarly unexpected to enliven the bleaker, more monotonous days, weeks, months. To, like the apostles after that moment had passed “saw no one else but Jesus alone,” and come to recognize — as they did – He is all we need.