- The Revd Camellia Flanagan
Transfiguration B Daniel 7.9-10, 13-14 Psalm 97 2 Peter 1.16-19 (21-21), Mark 9. 2-10
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today we look again at the transfiguration of Jesus. Here we have a vision of a person known to three of the disciples as a fellow human being, suddenly transfigured into a state of glory and majesty and all this accompanied by ancient symbols which point to divine attributes, even to God Almighty himself.
Clouds throughout the Bible represent the majesty and awesome presence of God. God’s glory appeared in a cloud in Exodus and at the giving of the Law at Sinai. The clouds of heaven now portray the glory of the son of Man as divine.
In the transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw Jesus’ glory. - His identity and power as the Son of God.
We don’t know why Jesus singled out Peter, James, and John for this special revelation of His glory as Son of God. Perhaps they were the ones most ready to understand and accept this great truth. These three disciples were the inner circle of the group of 12. They were among the first to hear Jesus’ call. They were listed as disciples in the Gospels, and they were present at certain healing miracles where others were excluded.
One of the unknowns of the New Testament is the identification of the mountain where Jesus underwent his Transfiguration. Jesus took the disciples to either Mount Hermon or Mount Tabor. A mountain was often associated with closeness to God and readiness to receive his words. God had appeared to both Moses (Exodus 24:12-18) and Elijah (1 Kings19: 8-18) on mountains.
The name of the mountain is not mentioned in the scriptures. Mount Hermon is further north and could have been the mountain, because is it close to Caesarea Philippi where previously reported events took place, however it would have been quite a climb as it has several peaks and is much higher than Mount Tabor which rises like a large hill out of a fairly flat area of countryside. Mount Tabor is the traditional location.
People, including Jesus, often selected high places to pray, or to be close to God. The earliest identification of the Mount of Transfiguration as Tabor is by Origen in the 3rdCentury. It is also mentioned by St Cyril of Jerusalem and St Jerome in the 4thcentury. The beautiful Church of the Transfiguration consecrated in 1924 is located on Mount Tabor and built on the ruins of many previous holy structures. I can remember being on Mount Tabor on a cloudy day, and while standing near the wall of an ancient monastery near the church of the Transfiguration, suddenly a shaft of sunlight burst through the dark clouds. One of those special moments of the revelation of the divine presence and a little glimpse of what it must have been like for Peter, James and John, to see Christ glorified.
In addition to the transfiguration revealing Jesus’ divine nature, God’s voice exalted Jesus above Moses and Elijah as the long awaited Messiah with full divine authority. Moses represented the law, and Elijah, the prophets, and their appearance showed Jesus as the fulfilment of both the Old Testament law and the prophetic promises. Jesus was not a reincarnation of Elijah or Moses. He was not merely one of the prophets. As God’s only Son, he far surpasses them in authority and power and God’s voice told the disciples to listento him. In other words, to listen to Jesus and to follow him, was to be the new and living way. Since when this happened, Jesus was still on earth with the disciples, and had not yet died and risen from the dead, he asked them not to say anything to anyone yet. This was also partly because they did not fully understand what was happening at the time either. Later they realised that only through dying could Jesus show his power over death and his authority to be King of all. The disciples could not be powerful witnesses for God until they had grasped this truth.
It was natural for the disciples to be confused about Jesus’ death and resurrection because they could not see into the future. We now have the whole story and understand the meaning of Jesus death and resurrection.
Jesus spoke of John the Baptist as representing Elijah and who had fulfilled the role prophesied for Elijah.
However, Peter, James and John were eye witnesses to this spectacular event and Peter writes about his experience in his second letter to the church at large, warning Christians about false teachers and to exhort them to grow in their faith and in knowledge of Jesus Christ. Peter knew that his time on earth was limited and wrote about what was on his heart, warning believers of that would happen when he was gone, especially about the presence of false teachers and that believers should listen to his messages and the words of Scripture. He was reminding them that he was an eye-witness to the revelation of Christ as the Son of God.
Peter is referring to the transfiguration where Jesus’ divine identity was revealed to him and the two other disciples, James and John. This is a strong statement on the inspiration of Scripture. Peter affirms that the Old Testament prophets wrote God’s messages. He puts himself and the other apostles in the same category because they also proclaim God’s truth. The Bible is not a collection of fables or human ideas about God. It is God’s story given through people to people. Peter emphasized his authority as an eyewitness as well as the God-inspired authority of Scripture.
Peter’s message could have been written for us. Can we listen carefully to his message and heed his warnings? Can we have a faith that is real? It will be evident in our faithful behaviour. Our diligent Christian growth is essential. It begins with faith and culminates in love for others. This love we cannot keep to ourselves, but as God so loves us, we also reflect love to others, to our families, friends and neighbours and are instruments in the transformation of the city of Grafton where we live. To keep growing we need to know God, keep on following him and remember what he taught us. What better reason can we have, but to listen to an eye-witness to the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God? This is what transfiguration means for us, in addition to revealing Christ as God, as we grow closer to God, through following Jesus, our lives and attitudes are transformed and we are changed. We become new people growing closer to the likeness of Christ. Can we remain diligent in faithful obedience and Christian growth and be instruments of transformation for others?