|by Angela Lambert|
March 12th, 2017; 2nd Sunday of Lent
Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
It requires little effort to encounter Jesus in His humbled, human form. Belief in His human existence doesn’t require faith, since the historical evidence regarding His time on earth exceeds that of other great figures of history. The wisdom of His teachings resonates with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and secular persons alike. Thus, to view Jesus as a great Teacher doesn’t equate to faith per se either, but merely to good education. Limiting Christ to His human form, His own people had no qualms about making Him famous one day, shouting “Hosanna in the highest!”, and killing Him the next, shouting “Crucify Him!”.
Discipleship requires encountering Christ as He truly is – both human and divine; a great teacher, and God’s only Son sent as ransom for our sins. To see Jesus’ divinity means strenuous effort to move beyond easy earthly worldviews and comforts. Christ’s divinity and His redemptive love add a supernatural dimension to reality which impacts our decision making. Why turn the other cheek if justice can only be meted out on earth? Why forsake wealth, travel, status, or pleasures if “you only live once” and this life is it? God works in surprising ways. He calls us to follow Him and to do things we cannot do on our own. Discipleship requires faith, because it requires decisions that necessitate grace being real, and the Cross being the path to Resurrection.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the high mountain. If invited to climb a high mountain (without the reason even being stated), how many of us would choose to relax at the bottom instead. Looking up we might say, “I bet the view is beautiful, but it’s too much work.” Peter, James, and John could not have anticipated what they saw that day. They embarked on an arduous hike for the simple reason that Christ brought them. Although easy to imagine as we read it in Scripture, consider the inertia you feel when trying to make time for exercise in the day, or how many excuses and competing priorities crowd out taking time aside for prayer.
These three wanted to be great in Christ’s kingdom. Climbing the mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus revealed that greatness meant trust in His Person. He didn’t make a case to them as to why they should climb, nor did He make any promises about what they would get out of it. They followed because He took them, and they trusted Him.
True to His character, God gave super-abundantly. Peter, James, and John witnessed a magnificent sight. They saw Jesus in His glorified form, His divine nature radiating through His human nature. They saw Moses and Elijah conversing with Him, and so fulfillment of some of the greatest promises of the Old Covenant. Aware of the presence of God as His voice spoke from the heavens, they fell prostrate on the ground, overwhelmed and unworthy of such a profound gift.
Peter, James, and John did indeed become great in Christ’s kingdom. Christ made Peter the head of His Church and the first pope. James became the bishop of the Christian community in Jerusalem. John, the beloved disciple and the contemplative theologian, received Mary into his home after Jesus’ death, wrote the intensely deep 4th Gospel, three letters included in Scripture, and the book of Revelation.
Their discipleship developed gradually however. They believed they had found the Messiah when they first encountered Christ and left their possessions and careers to follow Him at His request. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, and having witnessed innumerable miracles, they came to believe He was the only begotten Son of God. Despite all of this however, the last, and hardest belief would be accepting that His messianic kingdom could only come through the Cross. Whenever Jesus prophesied that He would be rejected, suffer, and die by crucifixion, the disciples vigorously protested. They could not conceive any way in which that would make sense – naturally or super-naturally.
Jesus had compassion on their weakness. He brought them up the high mountain and gave them a glimpse of His divine power, so that during the horrific events of His arrest, scourging, crowning of thorns, carrying the cross, and crucifixion, they would not lose faith.
Each person’s spiritual journey, though unique to the individual, at the same time follows a similar pattern. Discipleship begins with an invitation from Christ. To follow Him, we must leave some things behind to attain greater things ahead. To move further, we must develop the conviction that Jesus is truly our Savior. Having begun the work of following Him, we start to witness His miracles, experience wonder at His teachings, and zeal begins to grow. The most difficult test to discipleship however, remains the cross. We might praise Jesus for dying for us, but when we must face the cross in our own lives we easily falter. Jesus sometimes strengthens us with “Transfiguration moments” prior to these tests. It might be consolation in prayer, blessings in our daily lives, heightened sight of His grace at work, or interior touches of His love in our soul. Before great crosses, Jesus strengthens our faith, so that when His divinity is utterly hidden, we can recollect the times we saw it unveiled and persevere in trust.
- When have you felt the call of Christ? What have you left behind to pursue Him? How has it exceeded your expectations?
- What would you consider your “Transfiguration” moment(s)? When have you been moved in awe by Christ’s divinity?
- When has your faith been tested? When have you found it most hard to trust Christ? How do those transfiguration moments strengthen your faith in Him?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- At the end of each day this week, write down at least one time you “saw” Christ that day.
- Pray the serenity-and-suscipe-prayers each day.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017
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