The Cross and Self-Denial
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
(Written for Spill the Beans)
The Feast of the Transfiguration provides a transitional point in the Christian Liturgical seasons. It marks the point between Epiphany and Lent. The point between a season of revelation and a-ha moments and a season of reflection and repentance,
Here is a big moment in terms of revelation, a significant landmark in the disciples' discovery of who Jesus is.
As told in Matthew's gospel, the Transfiguration also marks a transition point in the journey of faith of the disciples. Although not all the disciples are present at the event, they are all changed by the encounter and by the change in direction that follows.
Jesus has been pointing them towards his passion and death and outlining their call to be cross bearers. It is after the mountain top incident that he more obviously turns his face to Jerusalem and his teaching becomes more persistent and focussed.
After the Transfiguration incident, there is a marked change in the pace of the journey on which Jesus and the disciples are engaged.
So let's pause for a moment on this mountain of Transfiguration to take in the sights and the sounds and to discern the import of this life changing moment.
The mountain top setting is evocative of so many other biblical encounters- the receiving of the Commandments, the sacrifice of Isaac, The temptation in the wilderness, the Ascension of Jesus - all significant points on faith journeys in which the will of God was revealed and the glory of God unveiled.
On this mountain top, Moses and Elijah, leaders who journeyed in faith with God, appear with Jesus. There is a rooting of Jesus in the prophetic tradition but also a setting apart of Jesus as the one whose appearance is dazzling and as the one of whom the voice of God speaks: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am pleased. Listen to him."
It would seem that as Jesus embarks on the final phase of his journey, there are echoes of the beginning of his ministry when he was baptised by John in the Jordan.
There is a moment when, it seems, Peter's tendency to be impetuous threatens to derail the impact of the event and prevent its significance being captured and appreciated. Peter's wish to deal with practical things, to get caught up in the minutiae could have cost him the ability to see the big picture and take on board the wonder of this revelation on the mountain top. But even practical, hands on Peter is overcome with awe.
As Moses and Elijah fade from sight and the voice of God recedes to a whisper, one might ask the question: Who, in fact, was transfigured on that mountain top? For Peter, James and John who shared that moment with Jesus, there surely could be no turning back. Their journey of faith was emboldened and renewed. As we prepare to leave Epiphany behind, we carry with us all the new and enlightening discoveries of God revealed in Jesus And, changed by those encounters, we embark on the season of Lent, reflecting on all that has been revealed, eager to discover more and emboldened to journey on in faith.