The view from the Mount of Transfiguration (if it was, indeed, Mt. Tabor that Jesus was on that day) is spectacular.
It’s a long, winding trip to the top. The road today is so narrow and crooked that only small taxi buses or people on foot make the trek. I like to imagine Peter, James, and John hiking up there with Jesus, as Matthew 17:1-9 tells us they did. The modern pilgrim’s attention is caught at the top by the magnificent Franciscan basilica. The apostles, however, would have arrived to see something like this (minus the buildings!):
Even with all the mist, I can’t take my eyes off this sight. Imagine how it looked to them after that long walk up! Yet something more glorious drew their eyes from the view: Jesus “was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” As if that blinding vision wasn’t enough, Moses and Elijah — two of the greatest figures from the Old Testament — appeared too and stood talking to Jesus. And to top it all off, the voice of God echoed around them: “This is my beloved Son … listen to him.” No wonder they fell down on the ground!
When we read this in Matthew’s gospel, it comes right after another momentous occasion: Simon Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah (“Christ, Son of the living God”) and Jesus’s response, that “on this rock I will build my Church.”
You may recall that Jesus goes on to show the disciples that he will have to suffer and die, and that at Peter’s protests he answers, “Get behind me Satan!” Then he tells them that anyone who wants to follow him will have to take up his cross, too. This is tough stuff to swallow. And it very well could have been in the minds of Peter, James and John as they hiked up Mt. Tabor. Their experience on the mountaintop gave them what they needed to “listen to him” – and eventually to carry their own crosses in the certain hope of being resurrected and transfigured like Jesus.
I find myself thinking of Psalm 27:8-9,14 (the paragraph separations are mine):
You have said, ‘Seek my face.’
My heart says to you,
‘Your face, LORD, do I seek.’
Hide not your face from me. […]
Wait for the LORD:
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD!
My cross can get heavy. Maybe yours is, today. Seek the Lord’s face! Soak up his gaze, and “listen to him.” The cross leads to glory.
+ + + + + + +
From heaven “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil 3:20-21)
+ + + + + + +
Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration is the gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Lent. To take this and the other Sunday readings into your week and meditate on them together, download my lenten reading plan, 40 Days in the Bible. Message me on facebook to join an online conversation about the same readings.
This is a series of posts on the Lent 2017 Sunday readings. Find the first one here.
© 2017 Sarah Christmyer