The Transfiguration: Talking It Over

The Transfiguration: Talking It Over

The Transfiguration: Talking It Over.

“Jesus went on to say to his disciples: ‘I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!’ Six days later Jesus took Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone…” (Mark 9:1-2).

(Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36).

( A campfire scene. Many people scattered around on the ground, late at night, most of them sleeping; three men are huddled in blankets, wide awake; they are lying down near each other near the campfire).

Peter: What was that all about? I’m not sure I get it! Did we go up to heaven, or did heaven come down to us?

James: Shh! Quiet, Simon! We’re the only three awake, and we need to keep it that way!

John: James, patience, or you’ll be the one waking the others up. We need to talk about last night privately, so lower your voice!

Peter: Do you have to go at each other all the time like that? Sons of Thunder, stop your infernal noise!

James: Yeah, you’re the one to talk, Simon. If we’re the Sons of Thunder, what does that make you? You make more noise than both of us put together!

Peter: Ok, Ok, I get it. (chuckling to himself. Then all three men stifle their good-natured laughing and got each other quieted down).

John: My head is still spinning from our time with the Master yesterday. I’m still in a daze.

James: That’s the thing! We may have started praying with him alone on that mountaintop, but then we had visitors! From out of nowhere! From the dead!

Peter: But wait – You’re going too fast. I need to start at the beginning, so I don’t forget anything.

James: Forget anything! How can you forget any of this? Were you sleeping the whole time?

Peter: No, I was awake. I just thought he was asking us to be with him on another of those prayer hikes… to be alone and all that. This was nothing special, I thought. I wasn’t ready for this!

John: Yes, but remember, this was a little different right from the start. He said that he always wanted to go to that high peak on Mr. Tabor. Remember? He said he hadn’t been there since he was a boy, when Joseph would take him there for their father-son type chats.

James: Yeah – He said something about one particular place there that was far apart, where no one would ever see us. I didn’t know what he meant, but I have a lot better idea now.

Peter: Did Jesus know this was all going to happen?

James: Oh! Brilliant! He just finished telling us he was going to Jerusalem to die and then jump out of his tomb in three days! Sometimes he sees into the future, Simon. Of course he knew  this was going to happen!

John: I’m not so sure. But, brother, why the sarcasm? Have you learned nothing these years with the Master?

James: What do you mean? And quit talking to me like some little kid. I’m older than  you are!

John: Well sometimes you deserve it! It’s not so much what you say; it’s how you say it, the spirit of your speech. Rabbi says this to us all the time. He thinks that speaking the truth with a hard heart makes those words as good as false. (They all pause to let that sink in.). But think about what Jesus has done these past few weeks: the storms have obeyed him; he’s fed over 5,000 people with a little boy’s lunch; he’s cured diseases that are supposed to be incurable.

Peter: And need I mention he has brought two people back from the dead! A young man and a twelve year old girl! Who else but the Messiah could have done that? He’s the One we’ve been waiting for. But it’s all still so bewildering sometimes. And then this on the mountaintop!

John: But our time on Tabor last night was still different from all that. I wonder if somehow this miracle was the most glorious of all the miracles we’ve seen. But what purpose did it serve? No one was healed or fed. No demon was exorcised. It was all very private, just the three of us and Jesus.

James: Don’t forget our heavenly visitors!

Peter: Yes, and don’t forget that Voice in the cloud of light. I’m wondering if the whole heavenly host and Adonai Himself was there too! Not that private after all.

John: But Jesus gave us clear directions: Keep this day of glory under our hats, at least for now. Don’t tell a soul. So, from the beginning. let’s talk this over, and quietly.

Peter: Okay… The Master tells us early in the day that he wants us to go with him on a hike to the top of Tabor, just the four of us. It didn’t seem that strange a request. We all know he likes to keep moving, and he always wants his privacy after days and days of crowds and demands.

James: And it took us a good part of the day just to get to that one spot he was looking for. It was nearing dusk when we finally reached the top. What a lonely, desolate place.

John: We were tired and hungry, remember? So after some bread and cheese we started settling into a little nap. We all were startled awake at the same time because of the glaring light, that intense white light. Only a blind man could have slept through that. At this point, I didn’t know what to think. I was awake, but I wasn’t  really wide awake. I was in a daze of some sort.

Peter: I thought at first that lightning had struck. But it was a clear sky!

James: Strangely enough, I thought it was like the sun was coming down too close for comfort. We all had to shield our eyes, like when fishing on a clear day at noon, and the reflection on the water was too bright to see the nets.

Peter: Exactly! Only this time the light was pulsing from his body, not the sky. It’s like he somehow swallowed a star and light radiated outwards from some secret place inside of him. I thought then that the promised Kingdom had come. I have often wondered if we will all be full of light like that when the Kingdom arrives.

John: I don’t know, I don’t think about those things. I do know his clothes were so bright, so dazzling, that I could hardly see his face. He was the same person, but he was wrapped in all that light. When I saw this, I thought of my favorite psalm: “You are clothed with honor and majesty, you cover yourself with light as with a garment.” (Ps. 104:2). Can there be any doubt now about Jesus being divine?

Peter: Yes, I was also shocked at the brightness of Jesus, at that flood of light. But seeing him talk with Moses and Elijah terrified me! I think I fell into some sort of trance.

James: I thought I was seeing things, you know, shadows and light playing tricks with my eyes. So I rubbed my eyes and those three were still there talking! Where did they come from? They just appeared!

John: Where else… Heaven! God’s very presence! But the question is why? Why did they appear like that?

James: It was mind-boggling! They were talking together like they were long-lost friends! How could that be? Simon, you were the first of us to figure out who they were… What were they talking about? What did you hear?

Peter: I didn’t hear everything. But I do know I heard them talking about the very thing Jesus told us a few days ago… that he was to go to Jerusalem, and die, to fulfill the Law and the Prophets from Holy Scriptures. I heard Jesus mention the word “exodus.” To hear Moses and Elijah talk about death was interesting. Moses’ death is still a giant mystery. We don’t even know when he died or where his body is. And Elijah didn’t even die in the first place!

John: I think I heard them referring to Isaiah… the Suffering Servant, the broken Messiah, the death of the very one we’ve been waiting for. This is all too much to take in. Are you sure we weren’t dreaming this? That it wasn’t a vision of some sort?

Peter: How could we all be dreaming the exact same thing at the same time? No, this was real.  Now, I do remember Moses talking about the Law, and Jesus somehow completing what Shaddai, blessed be He, told Moses on Sinai, the holy mountain. Oh! And I heard Elijah congratulating Jesus on being the one and only true Prophet! Elijah said that his defeat of the Baal priests on Carmel was nothing compared to Jesus’ defeat of Satan on… on some little hill near Jerusalem. What was that about?

John: I’m not sure. But I do know that Moses and Elijah both saw God’s fiery presence and power on a mountaintop. And there we were, listening to them talk like we talk every day! Here’s something else. Remember listening to the story of when Moses asked to see God’s face? Maybe he finally got his wish! And now after this, will Tabor be as important as Sinai or Carmel? Will our little ones some day hear this story, just as we heard about Moses and Elijah when we were young?

Peter: And then I had to open my big mouth again!

James: I don’t blame you for not knowing what to say, Simon. But why would you want to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles on Mt. Tabor right in the middle of all this?

Peter: I have no idea! I was scared out of my mind! I somehow got it into my head to build three booths. I wanted to honor them somehow because this seemed like a coming of the Kingdom somehow, just like we celebrate God’s presence at the Feast. And I wanted to stall them. I wanted them to stay! Can you imagine the conversations we could have had with those three if they had stayed put? Think of it. A conversation with Moses and Elijah!

James: Well, I guess that makes a certain kind of sense. But so much of this is beyond us. It’s obvious now that if Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets, if anyone deserved a permanent shelter it was him. After all, our Rabbi has his own departure, his own exodus to travel now. And now I am more convinced than ever that I want to go with him, no matter what.

John: I’m with you! But now the most astounding wonder of all! The cloud of light and the Voice!

Peter: I’ll never forget that as long as I live! I thought we were on Mt. Sinai, in God’s presence, where God met Moses! I couldn’t stand up, my legs were so weak with fear and awe!

James: We soon joined you flat on the ground, our faces in the dirt. I felt like my heart was in my throat!

John: That was unlike any cloud I have ever seen. When it floated down and swallowed us up, it reminded me of the cloud that led the people in the wilderness during those 40 years! This cloud with us looked like it bottled up lightning so it couldn’t escape. Light was everywhere inside that cloud! And we were somehow inside the radiance!

Peter: Yes, that pure light inside the smoke and fog completely surrounded us! Moses would have been comfortable. He probably would have been laughing at us if we had seen him. It all reminded him of old times with the Lord. But he and Elijah were long gone by the time this cloud from heaven rested on us.

James: That Voice that came from the cloud… How would you describe something like that? It was different than anything I’ve ever heard.

John: It was sort of like nearby thunder, rumbling all around us. It wasn’t ear-splitting, but it was a little intimidating, a force to be reckoned with.

Peter: It was a little like a strong wind out on the sea, gusting with power and a little scary.

James: I was thinking of a slow-moving waterfall on Mt. Hermon… steady, majestic, but dramatic and loud!

John: As you have said, James, the Voice was not of this earth. So how can we describe this, the very voice of Yahweh? We aren’t poets, we’re just fishermen!

Peter: But let’s think about this Voice. Was it truly the Holy One of Israel, the High and Lofty One, blessed be He? Can it be true that we heard with our own ears the Voice of the Creator of the universe?

James: Mortals since the dawn of time have wanted to hear the voice of the Lord. Why us? Why now?

John: I wonder if we’ll ever know that. This whole thing couldn’t have been put together just for our benefit, could it? For now, another mystery stacked on the other mysteries.

Peter: And that Voice… He could have said anything: judgment, mercy, the past, the future, questions, answers, a call to action. But Elyon, blessed be He, repeated Himself! Why wouldn’t He say something new, something different?

James: Peter, what on earth are you talking about?

Peter: My brother Andrew told me. He was there at the Jordan when our Master was baptized by John the prophet. I thought you knew this! When Jesus was lifted back to the surface of the water during the baptism, the Holy Spirit of God rested on him, the sky parted like a curtain, and this same Voice said the same thing as we heard here: “This is my beloved Son. I am delighted with him, and he enjoys my favor.” Or something close to that.

John: That sounds just like the blessings we say over our children every Sabbath. I guess it’s not that surprising that the Father, blessed be He, wants to extend His holy hands to bless His Son. Every child needs his father’s blessing, even Jesus!

James: And maybe especially so now, on the heels of Jesus’ talk of death and suffering. What a great encouragement for Jesus at this particular time!

Peter: That was quite the Father-Son chat!

John: But I heard the Voice say one more thing. Remember?

Peter: No, I heard nothing more!

James: Neither did I!

John: Actually, this was pretty much a call to action. I heard the Voice say, “Keep listening to him!” Only then did the cloud drift away, as quickly as it came.

Peter: Well, of course we’ll listen to Jesus! We’ve given up our lives for him!

John: Yes, but the Voice must have meant something more. Maybe the Father wanted to make sure we knew not to stop at Moses and the Law, or Elijah and the Prophets. Maybe Adonai, blessed be He, is saying that Jesus is now the One we constantly listen to. He is the One with the full authority of heaven and earth. The Father told us that Jesus is not to be compared with the great saints of the past or future. He is our reference point now. The saints are only the front steps to the Door. Everyone else points to Jesus.

James: Well said, brother! I agree! Remember, Simon, when the cloud departed, what did we see?

Peter: Jesus – only him.

James: That’s right – only Jesus. And the mountaintop returned to normal, did it not?

John: Yes, and the more we talk about this, the more I am convinced that the heavenly saints and the supernatural light and the divine cloud were only to point to one thing… We are to worship Jesus only. Not Jesus and the Law. Not Jesus and the Prophets.

James: Not Jesus and the Temple. Not Jesus and good works. Not Jesus and miracles. Not Jesus and my favorite doctrine. Not Jesus and anything.

Peter: Yes, that has to be it. That’s the point. All these other things are good, in their place. But nothing is to share the throne with our Master. He is our partner, but not our equal. He is supreme. Jesus only.

James: This has been quite enough for one night. I’m exhausted from all our talking, and my eyes are closing fast. Can we talk more about this tomorrow? I’m still kind of confused about what he meant when he talked about rising from the dead.

John: Yes, but remember… Jesus said to tell no one of this. Right, Peter? Peter?

(Peter is snoring. The other two shake their heads, chuckle, and settle down to sleep).

John: I can’t go to sleep, James. My mind won’t quit. There’s too much to think about. I just had a crazy thought… What if Jesus didn’t change at all on Mt. Tabor? What if he always is wrapped in this other-worldly light, all the time? And so, then wouldn’t we be the ones to have changed on the mountaintop, not him? Maybe our eyes were opened for a time, to see what has always been true of Jesus, his heavenly light. Remember the servant of Elisha? When the Lord opened his eyes, he could see what had been there all along… heavenly horses and chariots of fire. Maybe our eyes were opened by God to see what is always there. None of us can usually see that light because our eyes are not opened to heavenly realities like that. Could it be we just don’t have the eyes to see Jesus in all His glory? What do you think, James? Oh, and another thing. Looking at Jesus reminded me of Daniel’s vision (Dan. 10), the messenger from heaven. Daniel said he saw a man who gleamed like a precious jewel, and his face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. Does that remind you of anything, James? Daniel could have been looking at Jesus, right? James? James?

(John hears nothing but the soft snoring of all those around him. So he drifts off to sleep).

One Reply to “The Transfiguration: Talking It Over”

  1. Pretty cool, pops! Takes the otherworldy spiritual element and brings it down to earth a bit to be unpacked by the everyday disciples who witnessed. The nothing-but-Jesus part reminded me of the “Jesus Only” packet you guys used to hand out