Last summer Carol and I were travelling in the mountains of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. Periodically we would stop by the side of the road where there was a scenic view. There we were in the mountains looking out over a scenic landscape in all of its glory. In those moments, I felt as if I was part of something much larger, that being able to partially glimpse a small section of the grandeur of creation was humbling and exhilarating at the same time. It was a moment that reinforced to me that I was not at the center of creation, but I was blessed to be a participant in God's grand design.
I wonder if Peter, James, and John had the same feeling on the Mount of Transfiguration. They had been with Jesus during his ministry, not just as spectators, but as participants. There was no doubt that the disciples did not understand the radically different nature of Jesus' messianic calling. His talk of death and resurrection in chapter eight just before this mountaintop experience would have been so outside their frame of reference, such words would have seemed nothing more than nonsense.
There on the mountain as they experienced Jesus in his transfigured glory, we are told that the three disciples of Jesus' inner circle were terrified; but I wonder if there was also a sense of humility and exhilaration. There already had been moments when the disciples must have realized that they were part of something larger as Jesus' disciples, and that possibly also led to a real sense of humility, that they were too small in and of themselves and not up to the task. But here on the mountain Peter, James, and John were experiencing the scenic view of what God was doing in their midst in Jesus. With the appearance of Moses and Elijah the large panorama of Israel's history was before them and Jesus was at the center. They were not at the center, but they were blessed to participate in God's grand design for the salvation of the world.
And so it remains today. Two thousand years later Jesus Christ invites us to participate in the scenic view of God's design for redemption. We are not at the center of it all, but we are privileged to enjoy the benefits of salvation and participate in the great task of offering that salvation that is centered in Jesus Christ to the world.
The Transfiguration is a glimpse of the glory that is to come on Easter.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)