Weekend of 12 March 2017

2nd Sunday of Lent | Year A

Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’  When they heard this, the disciples fell on their faces, overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but onlyJesus.


When they began the climb up the mountain Peter, James and John knew that Jesus was a most unusual person. His teaching and his counter-cultural behavior fascinated them, but the question of who he really was did not have a clear answer in their minds. 

On the mountain they saw Jesus in context.  Moses and Elijah, two of their forefathers and prophets were talking to him as if he belonged among them. Suddenly the three disciples saw Jesus in the context of Jewish history, and realized he was, at the very least, a prophet. Peter recognized this when he offered to make three tents for the people he saw as three prophets.
But there was a further dimension to the disciples’ experience to follow. A voice from heaven spoke to them describing Jesus as “my beloved Son”. In that moment they knew Jesus must be more than a prophet – he was in the lineage of the prophets but the possibility that he was the Messiah opened up before them.
When reflecting on this scripture we tend to focus on the beautiful and startling words from heaven, the bright light, the disciples awed response. But it is worth considering the events that preceded the voice speaking from heaven, and how the disciples were led into that climatic moment. 
They were Jewish and they knew their scriptures and their history. They understood who Moses and Elijah were, so seeing Jesus with them placed him in a context which immediately opened their eyes to his significance in their history. It prepared the way for the greater revelation which was to follow when the voice spoke, that he was the Son of God. 
Putting things in context is important, especially in our relations with other people. Looking at the bigger picture can provide insight, and help us to understand or decide on a response.  When someone offends us in some way, it is much easier to forgive and forget if we know the context, for example, the stress in the person’s life at the time of the offence. Knowing the context for the actions of others helps us towards empathy and compassion. 
On the mountain the disciples saw Jesus in context. If we wish to see another person’s action in context, we must first learn to wait before we respond. An immediate response to something that offends us does not allow the context to be taken into account, and is more likely to continue the conflict or offense than to end it. 
Sometimes the most important thing is to remember that during the transfiguration the last words of the voice from heaven were “Listen to him”. Listen to Jesus, listen to the other person, and the result will be the deepening of a relationship rather than its fracture.