I am not surprised by the terror that the disciples feel. They have just been given a vision that helps them to answer the question, “who is Jesus” and I imagine that they don’t quite know what to do with it. Peter wants to literally contain this mountain top experience. I can’t say that I blame him. What awaits him and the others will be terrifying in a much different way.
What they are learning in this experience is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law represented by Moses, and the fulfillment of the prophecies of scripture, represented by Elijah. Jesus is the promised fulfillment of the covenant between God and humanity. In him, the fullness of God and of humanity is present, joining all of us to God in a way that cannot separate us. It’s a lot to take in for them and for us. And, Jesus knows what awaits him as he gets closer to Jerusalem. Perhaps this experience is also meant to provide hope; hope that what awaits all of them is not the last word; hope that God is faithful even in the midst of the darkness they all will experience.
As I think of this experience of the 3 disciples in this morning’s Gospel, I am reminded of something a dear friend and mentor used to say about the Eucharist. He said that when you and I participate in taking communion, that we get a “sip and a taste” of the heavenly banquet. It’s hard for us to imagine what it will one day be like as we are surrounded by the great choir of angels and the saints, not to mention in the very presence of God. However, whenever we gather together around God’s table, we are called into a celebration where we join with the heavenly choir to sing praises to our God. We are given Jesus’ body and blood as the first disciples were at the last supper. The experience of the Transfiguration gives Peter, James, and John, an insight into Jesus’ identity. They won’t know the fullness of his identity until Easter morning; but this brief experience gives them just a glimpse of what awaits all of humanity.
Beloved, every time we gather together, we are given a glimpse into who Jesus is and what God continues to do for human beings. Every time we gather, hope is alive because God is always faithful to God’s promises. God has made covenants with God’s people from the time of Noah; and while we sinful humans haven’t always done the right thing, God has been faithful, and has used all of us, no matter who we are or what we have done to bring about God’s holy kingdom. Peter, James, and John don’t have a clue about the life that awaits them; but they will one day be proclaiming in word and deed the love of God found in Jesus. Our call as disciples is the same. To proclaim in word and deed the love of God found in Jesus Christ. And when we gather to celebrate Eucharist, Jesus is present with us in the bread and wine, giving us that glimpse, that sip and taste of the kingdom that awaits all of humanity.
“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” That is the commandment for the disciples and for us. As we glimpse the reality of who Jesus is today in the Eucharist, may we hear his call to us to love God and love our neighbor. May each of us listen to Jesus’ call to us to help bring the kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. May we feel the hope and the faithfulness of our God who keeps his promises, and who loves us beyond measure.
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.