Text: Mark 9:2-9
Date: Transfiguration + 2/11/18
“And as they were coming down the mountain, [Jesus] charged [Peter, James and John} to tell no one what they had seen.” What did they see? A miracle, for sure. A spectacle, so may Peter have thought. And what do we see?
This season of the revealing of God through the Son, this epiphany, began with the Gentile wise men coming from the east. They came because they believed an important king had been born. They came following the guidance of the light of a miraculous star. They came and they saw the infant Jesus and giving Him royal gifts of welcome.
The Epiphany light then shown in our darkness at the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit coming upon Him and the Voice from heaven, the same Voice we hear today again on the final Sunday of the Epiphany season, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” now adding the words, “Listen to Him.” So now the question expands asking not only, “what do we see?” but now also, “what do we hear?”
Thank God St. Peter told the whole world by means of his second epistle what he and the others saw and what they heard on the mountain that day. What did they see? They saw the very divine nature of Jesus as it shown through His human being including even His clothing. What is the divine nature of God? We confess in the creed, “Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…God of God, Light of Light.” St. John would identify Him in his Gospel saying, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:4, 6-9). So says Peter, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).
Jesus is the divine Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is also the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fully, one-hundred percent God and one-hundred percent Man. He is the only way anyone can look and see God without being consumed, not only now but even through His appearances throughout the Old Testament.
It was on another mountain that the patriarch Moses saw God. “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Ex 34:29). Then it was on another mountain, Mount Nebo, where “Moses the servant of the Lord died…but no one knows the place of his burial to this day” (Dt 34:5-6).
Today we heard of Elijah being taken up into heaven by a whirlwind not to be seen anymore. The mystery of the missing grave of Moses and Elijah’s entry into heaven without death is answered here as the eyewitnesses saw not only Jesus but also these two, representatives of the Law and the Prophets all directing our attention to Jesus. Now what does all this mean?
The Transfiguration of Our Lord has not always everywhere been celebrated on this last Sunday of Epiphany. Anciently it was celebrated on August 6, a date now remembered for the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Today the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Transfiguration on the second Sunday in Lent. One explanation is that it is meant to focus us on the meaning and the end or purpose of the Christian life, a reminder of our own resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come. The Transfiguration of Jesus does have the hope of our resurrection to it.
Among us, however, it is because of those last words, “as they were coming down the mountain, [Jesus] charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Those churches that are guided by the common lectionary consider ourselves today coming down the Epiphany mountain into the valley of Lent, a time of more intense repentance of our sin in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection. Today we pledge ourselves not to even speak that word of highest praise, “alleluia,” until we come to Easter.
What do we see with the three disciples in our Lord’s Transfiguration? We see His two natures, divine and human. So we see the perfect sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world, that takes away and forgives your sin. As the Son of God He possessed the perfect holiness that fulfills God’s Law. In mercy He fulfills God’s Law for us. As the incarnate Son of Mary He was also the perfect Lamb of God by whose sacrifice on the cross frees us and all believers from sin and its wages. “The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). So what do we see? Nothing less than the Kingdom of God, His reign and rule of grace in love for His creation.
“Listen to Him.” And what do we hear? We hear nothing but God’s mercy and deliverance from His lips. We hear the proclamation of good news, liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, liberty to those who are oppressed, we hear of the Lord’s favor for us (Lk 4:18-19).
So now let us follow Him back down the mountain to the Mount of Olives and the Hill of the Skull, that in the strength of His resurrection we may endure until we are welcomed and enter into the Father’s eternal mansion at the feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that will have no end.
Text: Mark 9:2-9