February 23, 2020
Village Chapel Presbyterian Church
Dr. Todd R. Wright
Matthew begins his account of the Transfiguration with these words: “six days later …”
It has been six days since Jesus asked, “Who do the people say that I am?”
Six days since the disciples listed the peoples’ close-but-no-cigar answers; and
almost a week since Peter blurted out, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
Six days since Jesus explained to them that he must go to Jerusalem,
and undergo great suffering,
and be killed,
and be raised on the third day;
to which Peter strongly objected; and
almost a week since Jesus called him Satan and told him he was a stumbling block.
Six days since Jesus told them that if they wanted to follow him, a cross was coming; and
almost a week since he promised, “Those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them!”
Six days can be a long time:
a long time to worry that a friendship might be hopelessly broken;
a long time to worry that you are walking into danger;
a long time to worry that you are not brave enough to face what is coming.
Six days is a long time …
to hold your breath;
to put one foot in front of the other;
to wrestle with what you heard and said;
Six days is a long time …
but not nearly long enough
when you are looking for an alternative, or any other path through the valley;1
when you are desperate for a second opinion, or just a different reality;
when you are trying to stop time, or at least to encase your loved one in bubble-wrap.
You know this to be true.
You have watched and waited in a hospital;
or gone through the motions weighed down with grief;
or suffered through a darkness deeper than night.
Six days is a long time.
Matthew tells us that “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James … and John, and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.”
They are all wrestling with the implications of the exchange at Caesarea Philippi;
with what it means for Jesus to be a Messiah who will suffer;
with what it means that this world kills the prophets and spurns the one offering God’s love;
with what it means to follow faithfully in life and in death.
The heartbreak they are all feeling will not go away,
but it is on that mountain, that what has been germinating for six days flowers forth:
It comes like a flash of light,
glowing from a face that shone like the sun;
it comes from a vision of Moses and Elijah,
who have known both suffering and success while serving God;
it comes from a voice echoing from heaven, that says,
“This is my Son, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
This holy harvest gives the disciples the ability to discern something in the upheaval.
They sense that …
the chaos to come will not shake God’s plan,
the suffering will not mean that God has abandoned them;
the cross will not be the end.
One preacher writes, “The transfiguration offers the disciples the paradox that while there is nothing they can do to save themselves from suffering, there is also no way … the light of God that sheds hope in their darkest moments [can be obscured]. The mountain was the way for God to prepare a human band of companions for the sacred journey, to offer something to hold onto while they descend into the crushing reality of the world below.”2
The six days made them ready to receive that gift.
May we follow in their footsteps. Amen.
1 I owe this line of thought to Maryetta Madeleine Anschutz’ comments on the text in Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, page 452-456
2 ibid page 456