JESUS IN A BOX
Scripture Reading: Mark 9:2-10
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
A couple of weeks ago (see In the Image of Man), we looked at how we often try to remake God in our image and likeness because we can't seem to fit into his. We find something similar happening in today's story of the transfiguration. Let us look at the background, so we understand what is happening. Jesus has asked his apostles, "Who do you say I am?" And Peter responds, "You are the Messiah" (see Luke 8:27-30). Six days later, Jesus goes up a high mountain with Peter and two other of his favorite disciples in tow. They are James and John.
On the mountain, Jesus is suddenly transfigured, and his clothes became dazzling white, whiter than Clorox could make them. And two other people, Elijah and Moses, long since gone, appear and start talking to Jesus. This is a spectacular event. Picture it. There are six people on a mountain. Two are prophets who have done great things for God. Three are apostles who are going to do great things for God. And standing in their midst is a man who is glowing. This is to let them know that he is neither apostle nor prophet; he is something greater. Then Peter opens his mouth and says to Jesus, "Teacher, it is good for us to be here."
Teacher? Less than a week ago, he was calling Jesus the Messiah; how was he demoted to "Teacher" again? Especially now, when he was shining like the sun. In any event, Peter was delighted to be there. Wouldn't you be — to be in the middle of a conversation between two of the greatest prophets who ever lived and your boss. But then, Peter doesn't want to be in on the conversation; he is terrified by what he is seeing and wants to turn the event into something he can understand! "Let us put up three tents here," he says, "one for each of you." "And I'll be in your tent," are the unspoken words to Jesus.
When we don't understand things — and much of heavenly matters are not understandable if we look at them with worldly eyes — we try to make them understandable by reshaping them to fit our understanding. We do the same with Jesus. We try to put him in a box. Peter was trying to do that here, and it took a sharp voice from heaven to set him straight. "Guys! This is my Son! Stop trying to put him in a box. He is here to break you out of yours. Listen to him!" And the advice to the apostles is advice to us. I know there is much we don't understand about the things that Jesus says. But we don't always have to! We just have to listen.
So, as the Father says, listen to Jesus! And do what he says.