Luke 9: 28-36
Ever since Christmas we have been hearing gospel reading after gospel reading that tries to help us to see something of God’s glory in the life of Jesus Christ.
Last week, we had the presentation of Jesus as a baby in the temple, and his recognition as the Messiah by Simeon and Anna; the week before that we had Jesus declaring his purpose and mission when he preached at Nazareth; before that it was the miracle of the water being turned to wine at the wedding at Cana; and before that the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John and the voice from heaven ‘you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased’.
We haven’t been encouraged to listen to the teachings of Jesus, or wonder at his healing of people who are blind or deaf or disturbed – that comes at other points of the year – we have been forced to come face to face with the question ‘who is this Jesus?’.
And the readings have, I think, forced us to conclude that this is no ordinary man, however good a teacher and wonderful a healer he was.
Going right back to Christmas and the reading from the start of John’s gospel that we always hear at some point in our Christmas celebrations – ‘we have beheld his glory, the glory of the father’s only begotten, full of grace and truth’.
When we look at Jesus, we see God’s glory.
When we look at Jesus, we see God here with us.
And just in case you haven’t been paying much attention over the last few weeks, the lectionary has a final poke at us before Lent starts. Who is this Jesus?
The one who astonishes Peter, James & John when they go up the mountain and just for a moment glimpse him as he really is.
Luke tells us that this happens “about 8 days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God” . Eight days before, Jesus asks his disciples ‘who do you say that I am? And Peter replies ‘You are the Messiah of God’. The disciples are starting to see who Jesus truly is – and he warns them that he ‘must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’. Everything they are about to see happen to Jesus – as the opposition to him mounts and as eventually he is crucified – will make them wonder whether he can be God’s chosen one. Surely God’s chosen wouldn’t suffer like this. But Jesus wants them to know that it is precisely because he is the Messiah that he will suffer and die – and then be raised to life as the triumphant proof that he is the son of God.
So they go up the mountain together, a place to draw nearer to God. While Jesus is praying, a change comes over him.
But everything that happens is for the benefit of the disciples, not to reassure Jesus. Jesus’ face and clothes glow – a sure sign that he is talking to God the Father; then Moses and Elijah appear, talking with Jesus; then a cloud overshadows them – another sign of God’s presence; finally, just as at the baptism, God’s voice is heard “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”.
When Jesus meets with God the father he becomes like God himself: and the disciples see that Jesus is the one who contains the glory of God in his human form – he is the chosen, the Messiah, the Son, the Christ.
So what does all this mean?
For the disciples, it is a rare opportunity to see Jesus clearly, as he really is, full of the grace and truth and glory of God. This knowledge of who Jesus is will help them, after the resurrection, to make sense of all that has happened to Jesus.
And what about us, what does this story of transfiguration teach us about Jesus?
Perhaps is can help us to wonder about who Jesus really is. It can give us nudges and hints that we have not yet fully understood Jesus. If we have been trying to follow Jesus the teacher; or pray to Jesus our friend; or ask help from Jesus the healer – the transfiguration points us to something more.
Jesus is teacher, healer, friend – but he is more than that. We will never fully grasp who Jesus is – there is something deeply strange and wonderful about Jesus – the one who glows with God’s glory, the one who walks and talks with Moses and Elijah, the one of whom God says ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’.
So we can never sit back and think we have fully worked out who Jesus is. Our lives are spent journeying, wondering, following Jesus.
So with the start of Lent next week we have a chance to wonder again about who Jesus is, to explore more deeply the mystery of his presence and his love.
We have Lent groups again this year – looking at Isaac Watts hymn ‘when I survey the wondrous cross’ – there are flyers and free booklets to take today. Come and learn more about the Jesus who dies on the cross and offers us God’s love.
Or use the time of Lent to take a part of each day to think more deeply for yourself – read a gospel, bit by bit; reflect on the sermons you hear; take time to pray.
And here at this table celebrate the greatest mystery of all – Jesus here, for us, in bread and wine.
Be fed by God’s love, receive Jesus as you receive the bread & wine and enter more deeply into the mystery of who Jesus is, to God’s praise and glory. Amen.