Summary: The transfiguration is a transition. Jesus' ministry (and ours) is not all power, it also involves the journey to Jerusalem and the cross.
Mark 9:2-9 “Flip Side”
The ministry of Jesus and the ushering in of the kingdom of God reach a crescendo in today’s gospel lesson. At first glance Jesus’ climb up the mountain reads much like a Marvel Comic superhero: Bruce Wayne descending into his bat cave, Clark Kent rushing into a phone booth, or Peter Parker being bitten by an irradiated spider. The lowly is transformed (or transfigured) into something that is bigger than life. The forces of evil may put up a fight, but with superhuman power arrayed against them evil doesn’t stand a chance.
The story of Jesus’ transfiguration, however, is more powerful than any comic book character. And, it is more than pleasant reading that passes the time. This story affects our lives today and has the power to transform them.
JESUS AND MOSES
The story is filled with symbolism that ties Jesus to both Moses and Elijah. Moses was the great law giver and Elijah the greatest of the prophets. Both were to return before the Messiah and the coming of the kingdom of God.
Jesus and Moses similarities are numerous.
• Both Jesus and Moses climb a mountain.
• Jesus ascended the mountain after six days, while Moses was on the mountain for six days.
• Moses’ complexion became dazzling white as did Jesus’ garments
• God’s glory was revealed in the Ten Commandments and in the person of Jesus.
Like Moses, Elijah and the other prophets called the people of Israel back to God, and they proclaimed that God’s kingdom was coming in glory and in judgment. Jesus like both Moses and Elijah called the people back to God and proclaimed that the kingdom of God was upon them.
All of the symbolism of this story ties Jesus to these two great Old Testament figures. By doing that we see that Jesus is the culmination of a divine plan to bring in God’s kingdom. God is moving through the history of the world to accomplish his will and to bring in his kingdom. Nothing can stop the Lord from making the kingdom a reality.
The disciples understood that they were a part of God’s plan to manifest his will and establish his kingdom.
A GLIMPSE OF GLORY
When Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured before them and conversing with Moses and Elijah, they caught a glimpse of what the kingdom of God was going to be like. The kingdom was marvelous beyond their imagination.
The kingdom that Jesus was bringing in was one that was based on compassion and power over the forces of evil and the physical, emotional and spiritual constraints that prevented humankind from living in a relationship with God and experiencing the kingdom. One of the highpoints of the kingdom’s entry was Jesus transfiguration, but it wasn’t the end. The ultimate expression of the kingdom was a few days later on the cross and in the resurrection.
The disciples had been excited to be a part of God’s kingdom. They could imagine themselves living in comfort and exercising power at the right had of Jesus. But discipleship was more than that. As they glimpsed the glory of the kingdom, they also began to realize that the kingdom involved the cross. If they were followers of Jesus and people who lived in the kingdom, the cross would be a part of their lives, also. Shortly before this experience, Jesus had told them, “If anyone would follow me they must deny themselves and take up their cross.”
THE TRANSFIGURATION AND US
We have seen in the previous Sunday after the Epiphany that we live in the kingdom today.
• We are free in Christ, free indeed!
• Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly
• The presence of the Holy Spirit sanctifies, comforts, guides, strengthens and empowers
• The Spirit uses our talent and abilities as channels of God’s love and grace.
The Christian life—life in the kingdom is not without its struggles.
• We are constantly invited to take steps of faith beyond our comfort zone.
• Our faith is foolish to some and offensive to others.
• We place the welfare of others before ourselves.
• We are called to sacrificial living as we prepare for the coming of the kingdom.
Nothing can harm the superheroes, and in that we are not like them. We do, however, live in the kingdom in a relationship with God. There are times when it doesn’t look or feel like we are in the kingdom, or that the kingdom will come. We have glimpsed the kingdom and the future and we live in that reality and in that hope.