Today is the Sunday of the Transfiguration, the end of the season of Epiphany, which had as its purpose to show to us who Jesus is. The lesson for today is Mark 9:2-9. Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the top of the high mountain, where they were alone. Suddenly Jesus changed in front of them, they saw Jesus standing next to Moses and Elijah and then suddenly Jesus alone, then a voice came from heaven: “This is my own dear son, Listen to HIM!”
Jesus has come
to offer us something completely different than Moses and Elijah. Elijah was on a program to wipe out Baal
Moses we are
told could not see God without a veil.
God was hidden to him and all
In our lesson Peter immediately makes a positive connection between Jesus, Moses and Elijah. I don’t think we should! Mark tells us Jesus is transfigured, not Moses or Elijah. When Peter wants to build a shrine at that high place a cloud veils his vision and the voice once again singles out Jesus. Listen to HIM! When the cloud is lifted only Jesus remains. This is putting distance between Jesus and the pair Moses and Elijah, as we read in throughout Corinthians and Romans. In those books especially Paul p0aits the Mosaic interpretation of the law in a negative fashion. When Paul wants a positive figure he skips over Moses and goes to Abraham.
In Mark there
are only two long teaching sections or sermons.
One is in Chapter 4 and the other in chapter 13. Each features the word Listen and Watch. These come from Mark’s prominent usage of the
quote from Isaiah 6 regarding people who have ears but cannot hear and eyes but
cannot see. Disciples are called to hear
in the opening chapters, to listen to the good news, climaxed in chapter 7 where
the deaf person is made to hear. Chapter
8-10 has three predictions of Jesus going to the cross and two more healing of
blind men. The climax of the second long
sermon in chapter 13 is Jesus asking these same three disciples to watch him
Without the experience of the resurrection no one will watch and listen or see and hear. Jesus’ death and resurrection show the clear difference between Jesus and Elijah. Jesus did not come as Elijah with an anti-sacrifice bloody purge. But with and anti-sacrificial self-sacrifice. Jesus did not slaughter the Priests in the temple upon his resurrection, rather he let himself be sacrificed, and God’s raising him from death exposed the futility of sacrifice.
Another illustration from our First Lesson. Elisha is focused on his maser Elijah. Jesus’ disciples are focused on each other. The result of Elisha’s focus is that he is not fighting with the other prophets over position which is exactly what Jesus’ disciples were doing. Elisha might seem to be grabbing at power and position but Elisha does his ministry and miracles for the brotherhood of prophets and his community. If the disciples were similarly focused on Jesus there would be no room for their rivalry. Their hearts would soften to the point where they could follow the movements of Jesus’ heart. A heart way too large to need to fight over it.
Right after the first saying of Jesus concerning his death on the cross is our lesson for today on the transfiguration. On the mount of transfiguration the disciples hear the voice that they should listen to God’s son. You might think that like Elisha they might have received a share of Jesus spirit! Unfortunately the grace of Jesus transfiguration did nothing at that point in their lives.
Each time Jesus predicted his crucifixion the disciples fight over who was the greatest only got worse. Moreover it was James and John, two of the disciples who were on the mountain to see the transfiguration who asked for thrones of glory in Jesus’ kingdom one on his right and one on his left. Their hearts were still hard!
Unlike Elisha the disciples did not receive Jesus’ spirit until he was resurrected. Each time Elijah ordered Elisha to leave him Elisha replied, “As the Lord lives and you yourself live I will not leave you.” Contrast this to the disciples after the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and go before him to the other side, while Jesus went up into the hills to pray. Being tossed around in a boat in a storm is a really good image of a disciple going off in a different direction rather than following the master.
In that feeding miracle Jesus tells the disciples: “You give them something to eat!” But they did not. Instead of giving anything of their own the disciples offered the bread and fish of somebody else.
In the feeding of the 5,000 it was not especially helpful to the disciples to imitate Jesus by distributing the food, it did not soften their hearts. Their inner being did not imitate Jesus through sharing Jesus’ feeling for the people that they were like sheep without a shepherd.
True imitation of Christ is receiving the inner being of Christ into ourselves so that we ourselves are transfigured so that we shine with the light of Christ. Rather than wanting to feed off others we will instead seek to give life out of our inner being that life being the living bread from heaven, The Risen Jesus Christ.