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. (NRSV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus Christ our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
When our daughter was little, she would accuse me of not listening to her if I didn’t do what she wanted. She would make some outrageous demand, such as to have marshmallows for breakfast, and when I would put out cereal and a banana, she would stick out her bottom lip and wrinkle up her brow and say, “Mom, you didn’t listen to me.” “Oh yes, I heard you.” I would reply. “I am just not giving in to what you want.” She automatically assumed if I truly listened I would automatically understand the rightness of her decision.
She was being much more biblical than we ever imagined at the time. God’s command from the cloud, “Listen to him.” is the most important line of this whole of today’s gospel passage. It is the key that unlocks the whole mystery.
But if we hear “Listen to him” in our American context, we will miss part of the point. In the ancient near east, the command “Listen” is much more than mere hearing. In class students are told to listen so they might know the material and remember it. Knowing what Jesus meant is only part of what God is telling Peter, James and John—and through them, us—to do.
“LISTEN TO HIM” IS MUCH MORE ABOUT HEEDING THAN HEARING.
It is much more about how we live than what we know.
They are onto something, you know. This concept begs the question… If you “know” something to be true, but you don’t act on it, do you REALLY know it? If you KNOW something to be true, how can you NOT act on it? If you have listened to Jesus say, “Love your neighbor.” and you know him to be worthy of following, how can you disregard your neighbor’s pain?
Moses and Elijah were sent to be seen with Jesus. That was not random. Moses was the bringer of the law. Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. The law tells us how to live. The prophets tell us how to be in relationship with God.
Their presence confirms that BOTH ARE IMPORTANT in Jesus’ life and message.
Jesus constant message is that LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW. The right relationship with God is about trusting God’s provision, caring for the neighbor, living with justice for all, making peace. When we listen to Jesus and live like we have really listened to him, we are heeding the law and the prophets, honoring God, making the world the place God intended, as participants in God’s blessing to all.
This is what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that God’s will be done… not by other people. That WE will enter into doing God’s will. We will be part of God’s kingdom coming.
Following Jesus is how we tell God’s story.
Listening to Jesus, living like him, being “little christs” as Martin Luther put it, is how we live into the sacraments, being the body of Christ in the world today.
The Transfiguration is the second of three instances where Jesus is named as the Son of God. The first is in his baptism, which we celebrate on the first Sunday of Epiphany. The third is when the centurion declared, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” The first time it was for Jesus to hear. The second time it was for the disciples, and the third time, it was for the whole world to know. This “great three” is parallel to the “little three” of the three days leading up to Easter. It all points us to Jesus and through him to God. We are meant to be in awe of the multiple ways God conveys to us the truth, struck by the wonder of the lengths God goes to that we might get the message.
This story, you might remember, comes on the heels of Peter reprimanding Jesus for saying he will suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests, be put to death and then rise. Peter could not accept this because it did not fit with his image of Jesus bringing in God’s kingdom. Peter expected a political revolution, not a revolution of the heart.
Jesus’ point is if we all get our hearts right, our common life will follow. And that is all politics really is. It is our collective effort at ordering our life together as a society. If we get our hearts right, we will live with justice. We will want what is good for all, not just what is good for me and mine. Because you see, if it is not good for all, in the long run, it isn’t good for any of us.
Hear the message and live it. God said, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to him.” Jesus said “Follow me.” So when we follow Jesus and are bold to trust that when we give of ourselves to feed the hungry, care for the sick, protect the poor and live with justice, God is with us, God’s will is done in us, God’s power is alive in us.
When we are afraid to follow Jesus… When we are unwilling to trust God… When we don’t heed Jesus’ message… we cannot see beyond our own needs and limitations. There will never be enough. We will live with an expectation of scarcity.
So friends, God has come to us in Jesus. God has given us everything that we might live fully. So hear the message and live it. God said, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to him.” Jesus said “Follow me.” Follow Jesus and be bold to trust. May we be faithful enough to give of ourselves to feed the hungry, care for the sick, protect the poor and live with justice. God will be with us. May God’s will be done in us. May God’s power be alive in us.
Please join me in prayer.
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.