Summary: Jesus' Transfiguration
LIFE AT THE TOP
As any real estate agent will tell you, the most important element of selling a property is location, location, location. A terrific view, a good school, and a safe neighborhood are all crucial to making a home seem like a good fit. There are locations in the Scriptures that keep appearing again and again until they have become familiar parts of our vocabulary; Jerusalem, Galilee and Babylon just to name a few. Among those recurring landmarks are mountains, and one in particular that saw its fair share of historical biblical moments.
The mountain in question is Sinai, although it also goes by Mount Horeb and the mountain of God. It was the place where Moses spoke with God in a cloud and received the Ten Commandments for the people of Israel newly freed from slavery. It was also the retreat of the prophet Elijah when he was on the run from Queen Jezebel in fear for his life. It is featured in our gospel today as the location of a miraculous event that has come to be known as the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Get the feeling there’s something special about this mountain? Well, you should. However, in our gospel reading there is also the importance of timing, for this passage in Luke 9 begins with the statement, “About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.”
If it sounds as though we started somewhere in the middle, we did. We need to know what things Jesus said before these verses that we read. What He said was Luke’s account of the commandment for anyone who would be a follower of Jesus to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. Varying from Matthew’s account, however, is the addition of taking up the cross daily, which would seem to indicate that discipleship requires daily reminders if it is to be a lifelong pursuit.
Because Peter had just identified Him as the Messiah, Jesus had urged them not to tell anyone who He was, but He did inform them of His upcoming arrest and trial and death and resurrection. He was asking for a commitment, maybe weeding out the hesitant from among the dedicated. Then He took three of the dedicated to show them something glorious; a glimpse of heaven on earth.
Being on the mountain with God is indeed a life-changing experience; it was true for Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his beloved son. He had faith in God on his way up the mountain, but how much greater his faith had grown on the journey down when his son’s life was spared? Moses had more than one mountaintop experience of God, but when Moses came down from the mountain, more than his life was changed. His time spent in God’s presence showed on his face; it was radiating the glory of God.
So dramatic was the change in his appearance that the people of Israel were afraid of him; they could not tolerate it. Moses wore a veil over his face to put the people at ease and he removed it when he returned to the mountaintop to speak with God. While on the mountain he had a private audience with God. He could have stayed there, leaving the people to fend for themselves, but he knew what happened the first time they were left alone. If he refused to come back down to the people, they would have never received the commandments. Their knowledge of God would have been incomplete.