Transfiguration: Amazing Then and Now
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Imagine what would happen if someone from the days of Jesus were suddenly transported to our present. How would someone accustomed to walking everywhere respond to driving in a car at top speed, let alone flying in a jet? How would someone who spends their life depending on—at best—oil lamps for light respond to electric lights? It is fun to muse at how people might respond, as we reflect on how sophisticated we are.
Now imagine if the scene were reversed. How would someone accustomed to understanding much in the world around them respond to an event as otherworldly as the transfiguration? We understand volcanoes and the northern lights. We can explain lightning and thunder. We know about germs and disease transmission. So what would we do when confronted with something so amazing, awesome, and unexplainable?
The transfiguration is one of those ancient events that still puzzle us. What really happened to Jesus that day? Since we cannot go back to that time, we are left to speculate. We take stabs in the dark and make educated guesses, but at the end of the day we are left with a holy mystery to ponder.
Whatever happened that day, there is a timeless spiritual reality behind the physical details Mark gives us. God sometimes uses extreme and amazing methods to transform us when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. God’s spirit transfigured Jesus then. That same Spirit is still transforming people today. We don’t have to explain first-century miracles to trust that God’s transforming Spirit is timeless and at work within each of us today. We do not have to understand everything to see the beauty of God at work in the world, continually transfiguring us into the people we were created to be.
Gospel: Mark 9:2-9
Mark’s gospel presents the transfiguration as a preview of what would become apparent to Jesus’ followers after he rose from the dead. Confused disciples are given a vision of God’s glory manifest in the beloved Son.
2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.