“The appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:29)
I have always found the Transfiguration puzzling.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment in the gospel story as Jesus shines brightly on the mountain (Luke 9:29-30). Standing in glory with both the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) the voice of heaven proclaims, “This is my son, my chosen, listen to him” (Luke 9:35). It should be easy enough for them (and for us) to see and hear. Jesus is the very embodiment of good news; and the gospel writers point us to where their stories are going – to his message, rejection, suffering, death and resurrection.
The Transfiguration is a clarion call for the church to both see Jesus in all things and hear the promise of his death and resurrection meeting us in all things. OK, maybe it isn’t as hard to see or hear as I think it is. But it is still difficult to know how to react to a radiant Jesus.
It seems equally as difficult for the disciples.
Looking at the story that follows it, Jesus comes across as a bit annoyed that the disciples have no idea what is going on when they encounter a boy possessed by a demon (not that we would fare any better). After snapping at them, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” (Luke 9:41a) Jesus heals the boy. They miss the kingdom of God unfolding right before them and the opportunity to participate. Instead they are astounded while the people are amazed (Luke 9:43-44).
It remains difficult for them to see and hear him. (Maybe that is true for us too.)
It is not that they did not have opportunities.
They had after all seen Jesus heal many people and do other signs. Jesus gave them power and authority to cast our demons and go heal diseases (Luke 9:1-11). The had participated in the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:12-17). When Jesus asked what people were saying about him, Peter proclaimed him to be the Messiah (Luke 9:18-20). Jesus told them that he would suffer, be rejected, be killed and be raised (Luke 9:21-22). He called them to pick up their crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23-27). That Jesus was then transformed on the mountain so we can see his glory is a great use of foreshadowing as the good news unfolds.
The disciples just didn’t see it.
Neither do we.
Maybe that is the point.
Jesus tells them again that he is going to suffer, die and be raised, but they didn’t understand. Their confusion and fear were too much for them to see what was happening and really listen to what he was telling them (Luke 9:44-45). That happens to us too. We get overwhelmed by the baggage we carry with us. We might follow Jesus for some time and the power of God’s overwhelming love and undeserved mercy may not truly hit us as the liberating word and amazing grace that it is. We may still be afraid, bewildered, disoriented and unsettled by the pain and suffering we see around us in the world, or the hurt and shame we feel ourselves.
When we look in on ourselves, it becomes almost impossible for us to believe that God is making all things new, restoring all things, and reconciling all creation to himself. We keep looking for limitations. So Jesus keeps shining brightly until we see him.
Where do you see Jesus shining?
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