“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 . . . “ (Mark 9:2)
One of the essential steps for a positive and life-giving change is trust. We may change and adapt because of circumstances or need; but changes that remain and help us grow strong come about because we trust the process or the person. Jesus trusted Peter, James and John, and knew that in the times to come they would need something to hold on to. And Peter, James and John trusted Jesus, and came with him not knowing what might happen. But willing to follow their teacher anywhere.
“ . . . and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” (Verse 3)
Change that comes about because of God and the Divine is often change that is not normally found on earth and not a usual type of change amongst humanity. In our human lives we “change” daily, or more often. Changing our clothes, changing our minds, changing our plans, changing our goals – all of these things we do as humans. But changing on the level of the Spiritual most usually comes from intervention from the Divine – although at the time that might not be obvious.
“And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” (Verse 4)
There are often sign or sign posts, landmarks or touchstones for change. We see these symbols (if you will) as identifiers of significant change. The appearance of God’s prophets was an important sign that Jesus was someone special and set apart, and this event was special and set apart of most anything else.
And while we are taking in this scene, let us note that (at least in this translation) Jesus is already talking to Elijah and Moses. NOT that they appeared and Jesus STARTED to talk to them, but that they appeared WHILE Jesus was talking to them. It says as much about the power of Jesus’ prayers as it does about 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.” (Verses 5-6)
When significant Spiritual change comes about we may not know what to do with it, or do about it. We may at first not incorporate the change well or correctly. I think about new Christians who have come recently to faith (or as our theme for the year is, coming to renewed faith) who are not sure how to incorporate it into their lives or live it out. Like Peter, they may rely on old ways and old understandings, which may be inaccurate, inappropriate, or unsuited to/for the change. We do not need to fault ourselves or others if this happens. Sometimes we have to grow into the change, or let the changed ways or thinking take root before we can use it to the best advantage and outcome. Change may happen quickly, but we can take the time to integrate into our lives properly.
“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.” (Verses 7-8)
Change may be fleeting. Whether it be for good or not, it may not remain changed. Sometimes a new or different way of doing or being is only before us briefly. It is like a preview of what might be, or function as a point far ahead that we have to journey to. The change may be simply that we are redirected to a different destination or goal. And that needed change will come along the way.
We call the interlude on the mountain side “transfiguration” but is more precisely a brief revelation of the truer and deep nature of Jesus. Commentators look upon this passage as foretelling of things to come, and the nature of Christ which will be/has been revealed. It is my own opinions and reflections, in conjunction with the other RCL passages, that led me to think about the transfiguration as change.
“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.” (Verse 9)
Sometimes a change in a person can be easily seen, and sometimes the changes are not as obvious. Jesus, we know, was not that much changed from that mountain experience. That is, he did not become more or less Divine, or less or more human. And from the chapters that follow in the gospel of Mark, we do not see a sudden change or transformation of Peter, James or John. Any changes in them on the magnitude of Jesus’ revelation of his more Divine self do not come until after Jesus rose from the dead. And I do not think their not saying anything as Jesus instructed them to, and there not be a significant change until after they were free to speak about it is a coincidence. When we bury or suppress what might be changes in ourselves, we may be acting in a wise manner; or we may be resisting change with all our might. Only we and the Author of the change know for sure.
This week we have looked at Elisha and the changes that came about in his life when his mentor and teacher Elijah was taken up. (It is no coincidence I think either that Elijah shows up twice this week.) We have looked (literally) at the unchanging nature of God, that in the midst of change (for better or for worse) that God is a constant in our lives. And we have been reminded that renewal and recommitment can be made in response to greater knowledge and understanding of Jesus and our Lord God as it has been revealed to us. We can be changed and transfigured by each of our encounters with the Divine. Selah!