I have always loved those moments when, through a black, brooding and menacing sky, a shaft of bright, brilliant sunlight breaks through and illuminates the ground beneath it. Or when in an airliner you’re thundering along the runway under dark skies to be thrust into the air, clawing your way through the black clouds until quite suddenly, you burst into clear skies and bright light, the brilliance of which is enhanced by the darkness that preceded it. The light was always there. It didn’t disappear. It just couldn’t be contained any longer and upon its release the world is transformed.
I have always thought of the transfiguration of Jesus in a rather similar way. Imagine all the glory, all the brilliance, all the power and wonder of heaven, gathered, compressed and packed into a small, vulnerable physical body. The pressure it would be under to manage its containment. But here, just for a moment, it cannot be held anymore, and it bursts out in all its astonishing intensity.
For Jesus and for the three disciples present, it’s a moment of incredible significance and lasting encouragement. Indeed, Peter writes about it many years later in his 2nd letter and acknowledges God the Father honouring His son.
How did it happen? It came out of Jesus setting aside specific time with his close friends for worship and prayer and during that time God intervened. We’re told that the figures of Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Jesus. Two very significant figures, representing the supreme law of God and the supreme voice of God. We can only speculate as to what was said, but I can imagine their voices of encouragement: ‘Well done Jesus – Go on! Keep on!’ In Jesus was everything they had dreamt of and all that history had longed for. Jesus, being assured and affirmed that He had chosen the right path. And then, into this incredible moment, Peter dashes in with a desire to capture it, contain it and box it in. I have sympathy with that reaction; that overwhelming impulse to take the moment and wrap it up for later. But in doing so, Peter is missing out on the wonder of the moment, for what is happening, is happening now. How many times I wonder have I, have you, missed out on a significant encounter with God because we have been too absorbed with ‘the later’ rather than with ‘the now?’ Peter would have been better served by absorbing the moment, for the glory of God cannot be constricted or contained, and Jesus is not to be placed on the same level as any human figure, no matter how revered, and so God speaks: ‘This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to Him.’
Affirmation and instruction, but notice that the first thing they are instructed to do, is to listen.
How often, I wonder, do we try and do what Peter proposed? How often do we restrict and limit and shape God to what we want Him to be rather than what and who He really is? How often do we limit God to what we understand of Him or have experienced of Him? We could live a thousand lifetimes and still just be starting in that adventure. I wonder what areas of our lives may need barriers removing today? What is God saying to you and to me? Are we giving Him a time and a place to do that? What unique things is He wanting to reveal through you? How is He speaking to you about reading and understanding His word? What is he encouraging in you? What is He wanting to transform, revolutionize, transfigure in you? Are we listening?
May we all find the heart and the hunger to allow Him the opportunity to speak with us and to release so much more within us.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale