The season of Epiphany ends this week with Transfiguration Sunday. We entered it with a shining star and we leave it with a shining star.
The season of revealing is now followed by the season of introspection, of self-examination. Now that we’ve had a time of learning about how God is revealed in Jesus and can be revealed in each of us, we have a season to look into ourselves and wonder how that might best be accomplished. And the hinge between those two is the story of Jesus’ being transfigured on the mountaintop. And Valentine’s Day. Okay, mostly the first, but love has a lot to do with it.
The Gospel of Mark says Peter, James and John went up a mountain with Jesus where they see him transfigured, shining with a bright light. They see him talking to Moses and Elijah and then a cloud envelopes the mountain and a voice says to them “this is my son, my beloved, listen to him.” Understandably, the disciples are scared, by Jesus calms them. “Don’t be afraid,” he says. And then, on the way down the mountain, he tells them not to tell anyone of this until after the resurrection.
Cool story. Why not tell it?
I’ll get there, but first, let’s consider a couple of things. Jesus is transfigured. That’s not the same as transformed, is it? Transformation implies change within and without, but I think transfiguration simply shows out more of what’s in. In other words, the season of revealing ends with a big reveal: here’s the whole Jesus, shining light, companion of prophets, child of God. But is it the biggest reveal?
I can’t imagine that the disciples, Jesus’ closest and most intimate companions, didn’t want to run back down the mountain and tell everyone of this shining moment of divinity, but Jesus tells them not to say anything yet. It’s as if Jesus was okay with sharing it with them but not everyone else. But why?
What if Jesus felt that showing his divinity this way was a side he wasn’t ready to show yet? What if he felt vulnerable and was okay with that with his best friends he knew he could trust, but not everyone else. What if Jesus felt afraid that people would hear the story and either dismiss him as a fraud or worship him as a god? And that would disrupt his message: I’m just like everyone else, human and divine, and here’s how you, too, can find that in yourself and live it out. What if Jesus knew that the best time to reveal this story was after he did the one thing no one expected, the one thing no one else could do?
That’s why this is such a great story between the stories of Epiphany – that show us how God is revealed, not just in Jesus, but in us – and the stories of Lent which invite us to look inwards, into our hearts and minds, to see that Jesus was right: love is there. Grace and good are there. Here we are now, on our way to Easter, with a time to consider our humanity and our divinity, and how we might live into it and share it. To do that, we’ll need to be vulnerable. It’s okay. Jesus started with his closest friends. Maybe that’s a place for us to start, too. Maybe that’s something for Lent. Remember, too, that Jesus didn’t ever go alone and neither do we: God is with us, always. We are loved, we are love, we can love.