Matthew 17: 1-9
Exodus 24: 12-18 Psalm 2 2 Peter 1: 16-21
Today is our last Sunday before Lent – a journey we are asked to start as we too walk with Jesus to the cross – knowing fully what and where it can lead us – are we willing to start that journey?
The transfiguration is not always easy to understand when it comes to practicalities for us as followers of Christ.
Is it recorded for the disciples benefit only – or is it important for us today as well.
Good questions to think carefully aboutt.
Some say the transfiguration is there to assure Jesus that he is on the right track and the time has now come to make his way to the cross.
Others focus on the words about – “listen to him”, meaning that we are to intensely listen and obey.
Others may focus on the “glory aspect of who Jesus is.
But for me, when we celebrate the transfiguration on the Sunday before Lent, it directs me away from trying to understand Jesus being revealed in all his glory, and because I am a practical person when it comes to faith – for me the transfiguration points us not to a mountain top experience – but it points us down the mountain, inviting us to walk with Jesus into the next stage of his call, that of the suffering and the crowds of people who are searching for more meaning to life, to that of his crucifixion.
In our story the divine voice commands us to listen to Jesus. But listening is more than hearing.
So in many ways our Gospel today not only confirms Jesus’ identity but it points us to a fulfillment of that identity of what is yet to come – His death and resurrection – or I should say – his suffering, crucifixion and then the resurrection.
It points us to a God of action who is willing to go to EXTREMES to reconcile his created people.
Remember last week’s reading about – love your enemies. God’s greatness, God’s mercy, Gods compassion – showing us that Gods desire is that ALL people, good and bad would come to know him as Lord.
In fact God cringes, God cries out every time someone is lost to the forces of evil and darkness.
So again for me we need to take the two side by side as we focus on the Transfiguration – as we focus on what is yet to come – which of course is where Lent leads us to – the crucifixion.
Im going to compare both according to Matthew but using the transfiguration as our starting point.
TRANSFIGURATION Here on a mountain Jesus is reveled in Glory.
CRUCIFIXION On a hillside outside Jerusalem Jesus is reveled in shame.
TRANSFIGURATION Here is clothes are shining white.
CRUCIFIXION Here they have been stripped off, and gambled for.
TRANSFIGURATION Here Jesus is flanked by Moses and Elijah, 2 of Israels greatest heroes, representing the law and the prophets.
CRUCIFIXION Here Jesus is flanked by 2 criminals, representing the level to which Israel had sunk in rebellion against God.
Verse 4 – Peter – speaks before thinking
TRANSFIGURATION Here Peter blurts out how wonderful it all is.
CRUCIFIXION At the crucifixion he is hiding in shame after denying that he even knows Jesus.
TRANSFIGURATION Here, on the mountain a bright cloud overshadows the scene.
CRUCIFIXION Here darkness comes upon the land.
Verse 5 Part B – Listen to Him – our call to follow
Verse 5 – Part C – the voice
TRANSFIGURATION Here on the mountain a voice from God Himself declares that this is his wonderful son.
CRUCIFIXION And at the crucifixion a pagan soldier declares, in surprise that this really was God’s son.
So in many ways what we learn from today’s story – leads US into Lent because we ourselves as Followers of Christ – need to ask ourselves – are we willing to follow, are we willing to take up our cross and follow him – knowing that it could lead to something great – but hopefully not to crucifixion – but to glorifying God our Father.
So again I’m saying today that for us as disciples, as followers of Jesus – we can see and know that the mountain-top experience of Jesus explains the hill-top – the hill of Golgotha – and vice versa.
Perhaps we only really understand either of them when we see it side by side, one with the other, as we have done today.
If we learn to see the glory in the cross; then we can learn to see the cross in the glory, and we will have begun to bring together the laughter and the tears of the God who hides in the cloud, the God who is to be known in the strange person of Jesus himself.
This story is of course about being surprised that we should learn to recognise that same power, that same love and that same beauty within Jesus, and to listen for it in his voice – not least when he tells us to take up the cross and follow him.
Let us pray