22nd February 2009 (Next before Lent)
In 2 Peter 1:16-18 we read a glowing account of seeing the glory of Jesus: ‘We were eye-witnesses of his majesty. He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory... We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.’ The gospel account is much more sober! A mountain-top experience it may have been; but the apostles almost slept through it, and when they awoke they were terrified and their reactions rather embarrassing. ‘Seeing the light’ can be a marvellous experience; often it is not what we expect or are hoping for.
The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain took place six days after Peter had declared that he was the Christ. At that time Jesus said that some of them would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9:1) and it may be that this event was the fulfilment of those words (2 Peter 1:16). On the other hand, he may have been referring to the defeat of evil through his death and resurrection, or the coming of the Spirit and growth of the church.
Moses and Elijah were two of the most important figures in Israel’s history, representing the law and the prophets. They also could be seen as hints of death’s defeat – Moses’ death seems to have been hidden from view by God (Deuteronomy 34:5,6) and Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind, seen only by Elisha (who ‘inherited a double portion’, ie became his successor.) The whole of God’s revelation up to then could be summed up as the law and the prophets, as in Matthew 11:13. Luke tells us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about the end of Jesus’ earthly life. More significant was the voice from the cloud, the voice of God himself, singling out Jesus as his beloved Son, the one the disciples were to listen to. Peter’s suggestion about three shelters (to prolong the experience?) was irrelevant – they weren’t to concentrate on law and prophets but on Jesus. All the best mountain top experiences focus on him.
1) What mountain top experiences have you had? Did they help you ‘see the light’ in any way?
2) Only three of the apostles saw all this. How do you think the others felt?