Thursday, February 8, 2018

Thursday Thoughts on the Readings for Transfiguration Sunday (February 11th, 2018)

My apologies for the lateness of this post and for not posting last week.  I took some vacation time last week through Monday.  I meant to get a post up yesterday, but I was called into an emergency situation.

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, so my thoughts revolve around this event as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.  If you have any questions about the passages themselves, any questions/responses to my thoughts, or any reflections that you would like to share, please leave them in the comments below and start the conversation.

2 Kings 2:1 - 10

1Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
  4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
  6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
  9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

In anticipation of the Transfiguration story, we get the story of the end of Elijah’s ministry on Earth.  It does not do much for the day other than highlight Elijah’s importance in the Bible.  Traditionally, Elijah was used as a symbol of all the prophets.  I’m not sure who these 50 others are, but they do not seem to be important to the story as Elisha (literally) takes on the mantle of Elijah (2 Kings 2:13 – 14) as the great prophet of the region.

Psalm 50:1 - 6

The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.
 3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
 4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
 5 "Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!"

 6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge.

Perhaps we can read Psalm 50:5 as a foreshadowing of the Transfiguration.  Elijah and Moses would be two of the “loyal followers” or “faithful ones” who have “made a covenant” with the Lord.  Then again, we may wonder why others (such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc.) are not invited to this scene.  Either way, the two of them testify to the Lord as the righteous judge.

2 Corinthians 4:3 - 6

3Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The light of Christ, first shown to the disciples at the Transfiguration, now shines in the hearts of all of us.  If this light, this Gospel, is veiled to us, it is because we are wearing a veil over ourselves and not because the Gospel itself is veiled.  The passage goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that “we have this treasure in clay jars…”  Light cannot shine through a clay jar unless it is opened or it is cracked.  If we carry the light of Christ in our hearts, that light can shine through both our openness and our brokenness.

Mark 9:2 - 9

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

  9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

There are so many things to comment upon in this story.  Moses and Elijah, the traditional symbols of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets, are here to testify to Jesus as the true Messiah.  There is the mention of six days, a symbol of incompleteness in the midst of Jesus’ incomplete ministry.  There is Peter’s suggestion of building booths, which is appropriate as it is believed that this happened at or around the Jewish Festival of Booths, but Jesus instead invites the disciples to go down the mountain and back to the people.  But currently, I am struck by the order to not tell anyone until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  How long can they hold this in?  It’s recorded here, so obviously they told somebody…it’s like the original ending of Mark: the ladies at the tomb are afraid and tell no one what they have seen, but the scene is described here, so they must have told someone later.  The Son of Man has risen from the dead…so how long will we wait to tell his stories?

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