Last Sunday’s readings were simply amazing! But, what struck me as probably the most wonderful was the combination of the first reading, which was about the Sacrifice of Isaac (blog here!), and the gospel, which was about the Transfiguration! So, let’s talk about the Transfiguration today!
First, just in case you need to have a refresher on the gospel reading, here it is!
2After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. 4Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. 7Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” 8Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.9As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Now, both the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Transfiguration share a lot of commonalities. For example! Remember that line in which God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to Him? God doesn’t merely ask for Abraham to sacrifice his son. Nor does simply ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. God specifies to Abraham in the following way:
2Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.
So, God makes a super big deal of this son being the beloved, only son of Abraham.
Now, compare this to the gospel here in Mark! Again, just as in the Baptism, God calls out, “This is my beloved Son.” God’s only son, in fact! Once more, God is emphasizing the fact that the son is loved. And, for just a moment, the trio of apostles — Peter, John, and James — see Jesus as God sees Jesus. They see Jesus as who He really is in all His glory.
Anyway! I really like this artwork of Christ’s Transfiguration by Titian:
It’s just such a splendid picture that really brings out the glory of Jesus. Jesus seems to be larger than life in this picture, looking more like the resurrected, victorious Jesus than the Jesus that walked the Earth — so much so that Peter started babbling about tents, of all things! Not that I blame him… to see Jesus like this would have been certainly quite a sight for anyone!
Yet, with all this glory, Jesus is still very much aware of the reason why He came. So, He tells the apostles not to tell anyone of this until He has risen from the dead. Not that this really made sense to the apostles… though, rising from the dead certainly sounds impressive, so the apostles might not have been bothered at all by this statement! Plus, after seeing this miraculous occurrence, they would probably think that death on a cross would be unthinkable for Jesus.
But surely Jesus knew that, in order to rise from the dead, He must die. And, in order to die, He would have to die a brutal death upon a cross, after being mocked and humiliated and beaten in front of the world.
After all, He must have known more than anyone that, to be the beloved Son meant to be the sacrifice of the Father.
So, while Jesus had a wondrous transfiguration that transformed into someone visibly filled with glory, He was still preparing for the cross. And, in many ways, we must prepare to do the same. While occasionally, perhaps God’s glory will shine out from us, other times we will need to shoulder that heavy cross and prepare to follow Jesus.
And in doing so, we can fully partake in God’s ultimate glory.
Help us prepare for your glory by assisting us in our own sacrifices that we undertake this Lent.