(for Transfiguration Sunday, February 15, 2015)
Six 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, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then 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.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As 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. (Mark 9:2-9, NRSV).
Earlier on in the gospel of Mark we saw the revealing of the ‘authority’ of Jesus. Authority over the demons, illness, the sabbath. It is difficult to imagine more.
But more is exactly what Mark sets out to show in his account of Jesus’ transfiguration. It is the ultimate epiphany. The height of the revealing of Jesus.
Well, at least up until this point. Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection will soon reveal even more.
Prior to this the highest revelation point has been Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question: ‘Who do you think I am?’ His reply: ‘The Messiah’.
But although this was revealed to Peter by heaven itself, Peter has no idea what God’s Messiah will do. As soon as Jesus begins to talk of suffering, death, and resurrection, Peter is the first to rebuke. Jesus’ reply: ‘Get behind me, Satan!’
Since then Peter has been silent
Peter knows that though Jesus is at the very height of his popularity such talk will not go down well. Why not continue with the miracles or tell another mind-bending parable?
I think it amounts to a faith-crisis for Peter. He needs to see more if he is to continue to follow Jesus.
And he is about to lay eyes on more than he ever imagined: a glowing time-travelling, death-defying glimpse of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in all their glory.
And Peter’s response: a bumbling offer of ‘three dwellings’. He really is ‘terrified’.
And it’s not even over. A cloud. A voice.
I can’t help but wonder if Peter walked the track off that mountain convinced that God had spoken to him. The words: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ are not addressed to Jesus. Moses and Elijah are gone. John has been a silent spectator.
Who else could these words be addressed to? Does anyone need to hear them more than Peter? No one I suspect.
And it worked. Heading down the mountain it would seem Peter began, again, to listen.