February 15, 2015 (Year B, Last Sunday after Epiphany) Celtic Meditation

Mark 9:2-9

We have skipped forward in Mark’s gospel in order to be prepared for Lent by meditating on the second of the two great epiphanies which not only reveal Jesus’ identity but also the Holy Trinity. The first great epiphany was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his baptism. The revealing of Jesus’ identity that we are focusing on today occurred toward the middle of Jesus’ ministry.

The disciples were terrified of Jesus’ glory revealed.[1] This must have been a most awe-inspiring sight, to see the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). The Jesus that they have known and whom they trust is revealed to be much more than they realized. In this short passage, we hear Jesus called both Son of God and Son of Man. In Jesus is the human expression of the divine life. He is the one who is heaven on earth, God with us, the one clothed in both creation and divine light.[2]   Like the disciples, we sometimes need to be challenged to let go of our ideas about who Jesus is and be awed by who Jesus really is. How can we, as church, practice the discipline of being open to the glory, majesty, power, and authority of God revealed in Jesus?

When the disciples see Jesus’ divine glory (Psalm 50:1-6) which was normally veiled by his humanity, their understanding of the person of Jesus was challenged. But this is not all of what makes this a mind-blowing event. Moses and Elijah, both long gone from the earth, appeared with Jesus.[3] Moses is known as the law-giver, the one through whom God gave the Jewish people their identity as a nation and religion. Elijah, the prophet, is one of the great prophets who helped contextualize Moses’ teachings for the people of his day.[4] Here, with Jesus, are the two men who embodied the Law and the Prophets.   Here we see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the one to whom all of redemptive history has been pointing. The one through whom redemption has come. What radical revelation of God’s story of redemption have we, as Church, experienced in our day?

In this passage we see again the holy Trinity being revealed: the Holy Spirit is represented as the cloud which overshadows and out of which God the Father speaks.[5] And in the midst of this revelation of the holy Trinity the disciples are told what the proper response is to this overwhelming event. Just as Jesus heard his identity spoken at his baptism, now, as Jesus prepares for his crucifixion and resurrection, his disciples get to hear his identity spoken by the same loving Father. When overwhelmed in God’s presence, we, like the disciples, need to focus on Jesus: to remember who he is and listen to what he says. To listen is not merely to hear, but to seek to understand and to follow through on what we have been told. They are told to wait to reveal what they have seen at this moment because they need the rest of the story—Jesus’ death and resurrection—in order for this revelation to make sense.   As we prepare to go into this season of Lent, what has Jesus told us that we, as Church, need to meditate upon so that we are better able to live into the reality of Jesus’ resurrection?

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[1] See the epistle reading for today, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, about God’s glory being concealed and revealed

[2] Dorothy A. Lee, Transfiguration New Century Theology (Bloomsbury Academic: 2005), 2.

[3] Before this moment, Moses had seen only the after-glow of God’s glory. Now Moses has his request to see God’s glory answered. He is allowed to see God’s glory face-to-face as he speaks to Jesus. See Cyril of Jerusalem on this in Catechesis 10.8 and 12.14.

[4] OT reading for today: 2 Kings 2:1-12; Elijah had been taken up into heaven in his physical body, so here we have two men who have seen God’s glory with their physical eyes before this moment.

[5] We also see in this passage that Jesus is both the Son of God (fully divine) and the Son of Man (fully human), providing us, in a very short amount of text, the opportunity to reflect upon the mysteries of the divine Trinity and the two natures of Christ.

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