I have been this week thinking about how we as faithful followers of the Lord Jesus, might work and walk to live the transfigured life. The Gospel this week is the account of the Transfiguration as told by Matthew (17.1-13). So what is the point of this story? What is it trying to teach and what can we learn from it?
First, we need to consider what happen just before this story of the Transfiguration. In Caesarea Philippi, Peter announced that the 12 believed that Jesus is the Christ. The place is important because Peter’s confession was done in the presence of most of the rest of the world’s religions and many idols. They continue on from there and Jesus teaches them about what is to come in terms of Jerusalem, his death and his resurrection. The 12 don’t get what he is saying and after listen for a bit, Peter challenges Jesus and demands that Jesus stops destroying their dream of the ultimate Jewish state and their prominent place in it as ministers of his government. The will swept out the Romans and the rest of the undesirables and untouchables and get back the glory of David and Solomon. Jesus responses with a deliberate and pointed rebuke and demands that Peter get back in line and follow along as he should.
This is the background to what happened next,
Jesus took the trio of Peter, James and John and led them off to a high mountain. The trio knew by geography at least, that something major was about to happen and they could help but murmur amongst themselves as to what was highly anticipated. As they climbed Jesus’ face and clothing began to glow and shimmer, like lightening. When they reached a plateau Jesus did what he always did in these lonely, out of the way places: he prayed. I have often wondered what it would have been like to listen to Jesus as he prayed to the Father. The sight of Jesus being transfigured while he prayed must have been something else. Jesus face and clothing, because they were in contact with the presence of the Father, radiated God’s shechinah (glory) for the trio to see and experience. In essence, Jesus let his insides, out through prayer and in the presence of the Father.
Why did he do this? I liken it to the coming attractions and previews that you get on TV and at the movies. For me, one of the things about going to see a movie is to see what else is coming to decide if I what to see another movie or not. Seeing what could be good was important. In a real way, this is what Jesus was trying to communicate to the trio of disciples. It is a coming attraction – something not only that you are going to want to see but even more so to participate in. He was showing them the future – for him and for them in the days ahead, after the resurrection. He was showing them where the transfigured life is leading. He was also telling them that the path into Jerusalem and to the cross and grave were necessary in order for this to happen. Even the conversation that he has with Moses and Elijah about the new exodus – that is Jesus’ departure (death) and the procession into the kingdom and the life beyond life after death.
What is important in the transfigured life, is to work at being and remaining in the presence of the Father. The trio was shown the reality of what is and is to come by being with Jesus in the presence of the Father. And I pray that we get to hear the voice of the Father remind us, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”