The story of the transformation is a difficult one for us to identify with. It is other worldly. In my experience it is rare to do more than catch a glimpse of God. Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi, along with Jesus' first prediction of his death and resurrection and teaching on cross-bearing discipleship is followed some eight days later by Jesus' transfiguration. Two Old Testament motifs are used to draw out the significance of the transfiguration:
i) The Son of man in Daniel (shining face, sleep, Elijah. Dan.10:8f);
ii)The Exodus, the theophany on Mount Sinai (shining face, booths, cloud, and the presence of Moses. Ex.13:20f).
It was difficult even then to pray in the middle of the city so they went to a quieter place. As Jesus was praying (prayer often leads to transformation even if only of our mindset) there was a bright light like a flash of lightening, a dazzling white. (Moses encountered God after 40 days of fasting and praying and his face shone). The white robes remind us of the white robes of the martyrs in the Book of Revelation and of course of angels. There were also two men as at Jesus' resurrection. The arrival of Moses and Elijah, sanctions Christ as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets but if you or I had been present we may have found it all terrifying or aweful.
The disciples were very sleepy- this was a long meeting! When they woke up they share in the experience. We find the connection with this half-waking sleeping state and visions. As the shiny men were leaving- Peter wanted to preserve the moment with the building of three shelters or booths (like the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, when they build booths out of vegetation). It is good for us that we are here he says. The shelters, tents, tabernacles add to the Exodus theme. But he did not know what he was saying-Peter's fear led to his desire to preserve the glory of the moment rather than allow the journey to continue toward a future he couldnt accept of suffering and death. His words hastened the end of the theophany and a cloud enveloped them like the cloud covering the tabernacle in Exodus and they were afraid as they entered it. The words are heard “This is my Son- whom I have chosen listen to him”, also the words at Jesus' baptism. Suddenly Jesus was alone. They are pointed to the experience of the cross, and suffering which is the traditional lot of prophets. The journey to Jerusalem continues, amid its dust and chaos and the disciples kept this to themselves- they were silent.
There are those who tell me that they can see auras around people which tell you about them, their spiritual disposition their state of health. Some painters would depict people especially holy people with such auras (El Greco for example). It is not impossible to believe that Christ received such an input of divine energy that he shone.
It may be that some of us are lucky enough to have such a mountain experience and it will show in our faces. What is certain is that it will pass as all such "high" experiences and we will once more be faced with the demands of life, come back down into the city. This small group had gone away to pray. The practice of prayer does not guarantee such an experience, although strange things may happen to us on the way to prayer. We may experience something of God. We may be transformed. And this, though not an everyday experience, will encourage us on our journey.
1. Opening prayer
Loving God help us to follow you
On the road to Jerusalem and beyond
To turn away from a safe and ordinary life
And to embrace boldly the way before us. Amen
2. What is your experience of God revealing himself to you? Can you talk about it?
3. Can you remember a time when you had a transforming experience that really changed you?
Read Genesis 28v10-22, 32v22-32, Exodus 34v29-end and then Ps 88. What does it tell us about how God reveals him/herself to us? Which one is closest to your experience?
3. Read Luke 9v28-36
What do you think the passage is about?
4. Prayers for others
Light a candle to symbolize that no corner is too dark for Gods love to reach and one for someone you want to pray for.
5. Closing prayer
God our creator who goes before us
You draw us forward in faith
Like a pillar of fire across desert waste
A rock of assurance
As we journey this Lenten time
Speak to us with your words of comfort and wisdom.