Last Sunday after the Epiphany
March 2, 2003
The Gospel: Mark 9:2-9
Sermon: "Join Jesus to Jerusalem"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
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.
Join Jesus to Jerusalem
Last Sunday after the Epiphany - March 2, 2003
The reading from the Gospel this morning seems a bit out of place or unusual at first glance. Why do we have the reading of the Transfiguration at this time of the year? I was pondering this question while I was reading the commentaries and working on other projects. Suddenly, the reason became clear.
For the last eight weeks we have been in the season of Epiphany. The word Epiphany means manifestation. Manifestation in turn means visible, able to see and touch. In Christ, God became flesh and blood. God, our God, in the person of Christ, became flesh and blood and experiences life as we do. Jesus experiences all the joy, like a wedding at Cana. Jesus experiences all the suffering, look at how many people he touched to heal. Jesus experiences heartbreak. His father, Joseph, dies and so does his friend Lazarus. Jesus experiences the entire range of emotions and life situations we face day to day.
However, Jesus is not only human. Jesus is also fully divine. Jesus is God. In today's reading we are reminded of Christ's divinity. He goes up the mountain. The mountain in scripture is a place of God's revelation. Moses and Elijah both had special moments with God on mountains. Jesus goes up the mountain and he takes Peter, James and John. They watch as Jesus is transfigured before them. They see him talking to Moses and Elijah. They hear the voice of God speak to them. Jesus is God's beloved. They are to listen to him. These three disciples see Jesus revealed in all of his glory. What an incredible moment. But they can not stay on the mountain. Jesus' mission and ministry is not to be a mountain top experience in the wilderness. Jesus' ministry brings him off of the mountain, down to the valley, and onto the road to Jerusalem. Jesus has to go to Jerusalem, even though he knows the cross awaits.
Here we find the reason for this reading on the Last Sunday of Epiphany. For the last eight weeks we have celebrated the birth of Christ. We have celebrated the arrival of the magi who followed the star. We have heard stories of Jesus healing people, casting out demons, and teaching the crowds about the incredible love of God. We have read the stories about the calling of the disciples and their willingness to follow Jesus. Today, we are invited onto the mountain with the disciples. We are invited to recall the true nature of Jesus. We are reminded that Jesus is fully human and fully God. We are reminded that we can go to the mountaintop with Jesus.
However, we can not stay there. The journey does not end on that mountain. The journey will only be complete when Jesus goes to the cross. Jesus' ministry will only be finished when he has suffered for our sake, died for our sins, and been resurrected for our hope of eternal life. Jesus has to go to Jerusalem. We are invited to join him on the journey.
Beginning next week we start the season of Lent. With this season we begin a journey. For us, it is a journey of self-examination, repentance and penance. We examine our relationship with God, our journey if you will, with Jesus. Are we willing to walk with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem? We can not stay on the mountain top. Jesus isn't there. Jesus is on the way to the cross. The mission must be complete. Will we walk the road? Perhaps that is the first question we are asked of ourselves?
This day we see Christ transfigured. In a short while we will see the glory of God in a different way. We will see the Son of God crucified and resurrected for our salvation. The two images are in stark contrast to one another. Yet, they draw us, compel us to join Christ on the road. Jesus invited Peter, James and John to the mountain. Then he invited them to go with him to Jerusalem. We are reminded today that we have the same invitation.