Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration: the day when some of the apostles saw Jesus on a hillside with Moses and Elijah appearing with him. And, the three were talking to one another. The gospel of Luke says they were talking about Jesus’ imminent arrival in the place where they were – apparently, heaven. Good ole Peter wanted to set up a shrine to the event and to Jesus, but he was dissuaded when a voice from the midst of a cloud that enveloped him said “This is my beloved Son,” – much like the voice at Jesus’ dunking in the river by John the Baptist.
I like to think of the Transfiguration as a strategy planning session with the elders. Jesus, much as Moses did, went up on the mountaintop to get advice, to communicate with the Creator. Possibly Moses fared better than Jesus; he heard the voice of God; we are told only that the apostles heard the voice of God at the Transfiguration. Moses got his directions directly from the One; Jesus conferred with the aides. Moses lived a long life after his encounter; Jesus died a bloody death a short while later.
So Jesus says, “Okay, I’m headed for Jerusalem where I’m going to die. Right now, this repatriation isn’t going too well; not many are following my lead, and I’m not sure that I’ve told them what they need to know. So what do you think I should do to make this journey more effective? How should I change my preaching and teaching and healing to get the most out of these last few days?”
Moses was a great leader, educated in pharaoh’s courts, and he knew about the importance of looking like a leader. Perhaps he advised Jesus about the donkey business that we celebrate on Palm Sunday. Sometime after the Transfiguration, Jesus bestowed his power upon a number of people including his apostles and another seventy that he sent out to tell the good news; so someone probably told him about getting more done by delegating. He reviewed the costs of the current program with the people who followed him – any good CEO knows the pluses and minuses of the project and tells his helpers. Elijah probably helped Jesus formulate some of the prophecies about the Day of Vengeance and the suffering and the redemption.
What a learning experience that must have been for Jesus! He had the great leaders to guide him in the most important project of his life...telling people that they could have a relationship with God and with their neighbors – a relationship of love. We can’t know how much advice he remembered, how much he forgot and how much he discounted because it was out of date. What we do know is that some of Jesus’ most powerful teaching and healing occurred after this event.
Many of us have a pretty good idea where we headed and some concept of how we’re going to die. We’ve had the benefit of the world’s greatest teachers in person, through books, news and film. We’ve heard great voices proclaim the truths of each generation.
Unfortunately, most of us are still plodding along just as we were before we heard or experienced these truths. We applaud those who are out there doing, but we sit comfortably in our homes and cars and boats and let others do.
The story of the Transfiguration is a great altar call, a true mountaintop experience. Each of us is called to witness to the good news that God is available. Each of us is called to proclaim and live out this good news using the best advice we can hear. Each of us must use our own Transfiguration as a strategy-planning session for the rest of our lives. What advice are you hearing?