Weird! That’s the only word for this story. (Mark 9:2-9)
Jesus takes three disciples up a mountain – and glows ?!
Yet it is clearly important. All of the first three gospel writers tell it, after Peter’s key recognition of Jesus as Messiah. But even the disciples don’t seem to understand at the time, and we struggle to make sense of it.
I think it helps our focus. Jesus has done some amazing things – healings and other miracles. His teaching is sometimes puzzling, but popular. The disciples enjoy some of Jesus fame, busy themselves with crowd control, – and haven’t noticed the change that is coming.
Jesus has started to talk about suffering, coming in Jerusalem. His followers seem unable to hear. They are focussed on senior positions with the new King.
Which is what Paul was speaking of in 2 Cor 4:4 “the god of this world has blinded . . to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”. The Christians gospel is wonderful news, for all sorts of people – and many fail to hear because it does not lead to fame, celebrity, wealth, or simply getting your own way.
For us, like the disciples, freedom and forgiveness seem less than giving love, service and obedience. It is a very normal temptation.
Jesus’ Transfiguration is weird – or, if you prefer, unexpected and unparallelled. He appears in otherworldly light, with the representatives of the Old Testament Law and prophets, to place the Son of God firmly in the sweep of God’s plan. The voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to Him” underlines the point.
And the disciples need to listen – they have much to learn. Jesus chosen path will per, frighten and test them. They have to know He is the one to follow without hesitation.
And so do we! We read this before Lent. If we think of the cost of Christian faith – what it means to take it seriously, and not just go through the motions – we need confidence Jesus knows what He is doing, and what He asks of us.
Perhaps the Transfiguration was deliberately a weird experience – outside all routine. Perhaps only something strange and bizarre would ready them for a Messiah who also chose to accept the role of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.
There is always more to faith than meets the eye, more to learn, and we still need to go on learning.