Heeding the Glorious Christ
“Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!”
The transfiguration is one of those events during Christ’s time on earth that registered as barely more than a curiosity for me for several years. Recently, I have developed a great appreciation for this unique event. Peter, James, and John have a “glimpse of glory” and truly see who Jesus is. They also see that he is superior to Moses and Elijah, who appear alongside him during this event. For a brief moment, these disciples get a peek at the literal brilliance of Jesus. They have the ultimate mountaintop experience and encounter God in an intense and amazing way.
It is interesting. When the cloud appears and God speaks and confirms that Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Messiah, the disciples are told to listen to what Jesus says. Given the epic nature of this experience on the mountain, we might have anticipated that God would tell them to “remember what happened here today,” but that’s not what happens. Why tell them to listen to Jesus? Jesus has been telling his disciples that he is going to suffer rejection, die on the cross, and then be raised from the dead. He has also challenged his disciples to follow him without being ashamed of him (Mark 8:31-9:1). This had to be shocking to them, because while they believed he was the Messiah, they did not yet understand that Christ’s path to victory had to go through the road of suffering.
The transfiguration occurs on the heels of these revelations, like a great gift to bewildered disciples who may have been tempted to waver in the loyalty to Jesus. And once they “see” Jesus in the moment of glory, it is important for the disciples to be reminded that they need to trust the one who has told them about victory that will come only after the suffering on the cross. While the vision provides comfort for a moment, the rugged journey to the cross is still ahead. They need to heed his words and remember them when the horror comes.
This is a great reminder for us when the horror and distress in the world threatens to break our hearts and tempt us to wonder whether we can really believe that God is in control of history. The Christian life does not come with a “suffering-free existence” card. But we can trust that God will be with us in suffering just as he was with his disciples. Ultimately, he will bring justice and wholeness to the world. Sometimes God will grant us a taste of glory, but the rest of the time we must trust his words and remember he holds the future in his hand.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you given much attention to the meaning of the transfiguration? What is your approach to the reality of suffering and pain in the world? How does your faith address the sorrows that life brings?
PRAYER: Almighty God, full of glory and power, we thank you that even though we live in a world that is often heartbreaking, the evil in this world does not have the final word. Help us to follow Jesus and heed his words, knowing that they are truly the words of life that guide us and comfort us. In the face of our suffering and distress, bring us comfort. In the still, small voice of the Spirit, remind us that Christ is victorious. May our present tears be wiped away when your kingdom arrives in fullness. This we pray in Christ’s glorious name. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: Dr. Vincent Bacote has been on the faculty at Wheaton College since 2000 where he is currently Associate Director of Theology and Director of Center for Applied Christian Ethics. His work on Abraham Kuyper, race, ethics, and other topics has appeared in publications such as Commet, Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, Christianity Today, and his book The Spirit in Public Theology: Appropriating the Legacy of Abraham Kuyper. Marcus Goodyear, Senior Editor of The High Calling, first met Dr. Bacote at the Jubilee Conference and we have been looking for opportunities to work together ever since. We are excited to have him leading us this week as our "guest reflector," and we commend his work with enthusiasm!