Some of the stories in the New Testament are important as they explain a sequence of events, others have a particular point to make. And then there are some which are clearly important, but mainly because they make us see things in a new way. You might say the impact is emotional rather than logical – as long as that is a way of explaining their impact, not diminishing their importance.
This week’s gospel, preparing for Lent, is the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). Three disciples see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, representing the Old Testament Law and Prophets. Jesus dazzles them, and then a heavenly voice emphasises his importance.
We can imagine the importance of this in increasing their motivation as disciples. It may even have helped them as Jesus took the unexpected path of voluntary suffering – victory through (not avoiding) the Cross. It may not have told them anything they had not been told, or heard, before. But it sorted out their resolution, their emotional attachment to this way and this teaching.
This may be what we need. Peter’s confusion, wanting to prolong an experience rather than move on taking it to illuminate the next challenge, is what so many of us do. We would like God to give us great experiences, but are less enthusiastic about experiences which prepare us for service. That is surely why we read this just before Lent. Lent is not about giving up sugar in hot drinks, or other negatives, so much as thinking again of the cost and importance of discipleship. What is it that gets in the way of our being more Christian, more full of joy and love, more ready to serve? Probably a whole confusion of things which need clearing. It may even be wanting a certain sort of religious experience.
Three disciples saw Jesus in a new light, literally. We imagine it helped them resolve more firmly, even more effectively, to listen, follow, and do what they were told. If our worship this Sunday helps us see Jesus, and be re-motivated, it will have succeeded.