Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Secret of the Transfiguration

Today's Gospel reading was Mark's version of the Transfiguration,

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. Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV)
Our preacher pointed out that this, or one of the other versions,  usually appears on the Sunday calendar immediately before Lent.  I have to wonder why.

Clearly, the Transfiguration occurs before Jesus' death and is so placed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but the witnesses were to keep it all a secret.

It seems likely that people, perhaps even the other disciples, would have doubted the testimony of Peter, James, and John until the presence of the resurrected Jesus in their midst proved the Transfiguration account to be true.

Why not recount the story of the Transfiguration after Easter in the modern Church calendar? Wouldn't that have more of an impact on us pewsitters? After all, Peter, James, and John were ordered not to talk about it until after Jesus' Resurrection, so why should we be talking about it now?

Wouldn't it be good to hear this story when the Resurrection is fresh on our minds?

What about those today who doubt the witness of the Gospels? Don't forget, there are many who wish to treat the empty tomb as "irrelevant" (Marcus Borg) and better understood as a metaphor for our continuing life with Christ. Can one accept today's story of the Transfiguration as a real, historical event if one has not accepted the fact that Jesus' body really rose from the grave?

Alas, it appears that our Presiding Bishop has fallen under the spell of the metaphor and can't speak of the real Resurrection in her most recent Lenten letter which she concludes with,

"I wish you a blessed Lent and a joyful resurrection at the end of it that may be shared with others around the world."

To Schori, and to the rest of the sceptics, Christianity is all about the here and now, a resurrection of the self, which unfortunately gives us a resurrection with a small "r".

No cross, no crown.

It may sound backwards but, no Resurrection, no Transfiguration.


  1. Anonymous8:23 PM

    Please see the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians. If Jesus Christ did not arise from the dead, our faith, our entire belief system, is in vain. And those who would deny the actual, physical resurrection are heretics. To deny the physical resurrection is to deny the basis of Christianity.

  2. Anon,

    But in this day and age to deny the physical resurrection gets you a job as canon theologian at Trinity Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.

  3. Anonymous12:26 AM

    "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Romans 1:16)

    Perhaps the gentleman in Oregon might care to ponder that which awaits the non-believer.

  4. Why right before Lent?

    It was the vision that Jesus gave to Peter, James and John before heading to Jerusalem - to his passion, cross and resurrection.

    It creates cognitive dissonance - a shining light in the darkness of our fallen world, our sinful selves.

    For Peter, it is an abiding and defining vision, one that can sustain help us walk through the darkness:

    For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but 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. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.(2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV)

  5. Tim+,

    Are you sure that us simple pewsitters need any more cognitive dissonance?

  6. Buns. I thought I left a comment yesterday.

    I agree that the Transfiguration precurses the Resurrection. However, I think it's place in the Gospel timeline is necessary to show Christ's purpose before His death and resurrection. It is God revealing Himself to man while in human form. That is fundamental to the Gospel along with His death and subsequent glory.


  7. Randall,

    Sorry I deleted your first comment by accident.

    Christ ordered the Transfiguration story to be told after the Resurrection. In the Gospel narratives, it is well placed, but that is because we all know how the story plays out.

    But how does that fly with those that doubt the Resurrection of the Lord?

    I can only guess that, to them, the Transfiguration story becomes just another story to be explained away as myth or metaphor.

  8. Why doesn't PB Scori read, say, a story about the Easter bunny to celebrate Easter. That's more in line with her beliefs of giving to others (the here and now) rather that the saving grace of Jesus' resurrection (eternal salvation).

    Ensign in MI