34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One [or Son of Man] will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” 9 1 Jesus continued, “I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see God’s kingdom arrive in power.”
2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3 and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. 4 Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Human One had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, wondering, “What’s this ‘rising from the dead’?” 11 They asked Jesus, “Why do the legal experts say that Elijah must come first?”
12 He answered, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. Why was it written that the Human One [or Son of Man] would suffer many things and be rejected? 13 In fact, I tell you that Elijah has come, but they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it was written about him.”
A dazzling transformation, Moses, Elijah, God’s voice—seeing Jesus glorified left Peter, John, and James speechless. Jesus usually looked like just another person. On this day, “his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white.” This was not a random light show. It was a preview of God’s kingdom arriving in power (Mark 9:1), a time to strengthen Jesus and his disciples to face the cross (the completely counter-intuitive path to the kingdom).
Lord Jesus, so often I just want you to listen to my plans, my wishes, my dreams. Grow in me a spirit willing to obey the divine command: “Listen to him!” Quiet my demands and wishes when I need to listen to you. Amen.
Don’t you just love Peter? He is impetuous, boisterous, impulsive – we see that from the start when Jesus calls him to “Follow me,” and Peter literally drops what he’s doing and follows. Last week we learned how Peter is the first one to say that Jesus is the Messiah. Matthew’s Gospel describes Peter’s enthusiasm for taking a walk with Jesus – on the water, that is. And eventually Peter becomes “the rock” upon which Jesus builds his church.
And yet Jesus also calls Peter satan… We read today how Peter doesn’t know when to shut up during Jesus’ transfiguration… He gives in to fear and nearly drowns in the sea (of doubt as well as water)… And one of Peter’s first acts as the “church rock” is to crumble when faced with fingers pointing his way.
Apparently, Peter’s enthusiasm is matched by his bumbling.
In today’s passage, Peter blows the chance to sit and listen at the feet of Jesus, Elijah and Moses. Can you just imagine the conversation?! Jesus to Moses and Elijah: Nice work parting water. Elijah and Moses to Jesus: Nice work walking on it! Seriously though – what an opportunity to just sit silently and soak up every word! Except instead of doing that, Peter blurts out something about building shrines for the three. The next thing you know, Elijah and Moses are gone and Jesus is left (probably shaking his head in some measure of exasperation over his bumbling friend). How many of us amid fear or misunderstanding or our own ego, will blurt out something thoughtless, maybe even inappropriate? Hand raised here!
It’s no wonder God joined this mountain-top scene: Listen to him!
Of course we know that the shrine-building idea is pretty small potatoes on the list of Peter’s bumbles. And yet Jesus never gives up on Peter, never stops trying to build him up, to work in him and through him. Jesus never stops loving Peter – never stops loving us. Not even when we blurt in our own bumbleness.
Perhaps Peter’s impetuous, boisterous, impulsive bumbling is what Jesus sees in him in the first place. We aren’t called to be perfect. We are called to “listen to him!” We are called to love and be loved by Jesus, to love like Jesus... and to blurt the good news! And when we bumble (because we will bumble), to accept that God still loves us, to accept his forgiveness, and to model his forgiveness for our bumbles – and those who bumble against us.
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