I know by now you all have seen the commercials by the Las Vegas Tourism board “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The funny thing is that nothing really stays in Vegas except for your money if you should decide to gamble. Most of the times when I have had friends make their way to Las Vegas, in one way or another the stories of what they did came out.
This week we end this time between Christmas and Lent celebrating the Transfiguration, this mysterious and magical story of a moment in Christ’s ministry when Jesus begins to reveal his true nature to his disciples. Interestingly, here, as in other places in the gospel, Jesus commands his followers not to tell of this event, you know, “What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain?” Yeah, just like in Vegas, the story did not stay there. In fact, it is one of the few events that are written of in all four gospels as well as the letters. While Christ does give permission to share this after his end, there is evidence that it was shared before, but for me one of the great biblical questions has been “Why does Christ not want this shared at that time?”
Many scholars posit various understandings as to why Christ does not want his disciples to spread their witness. Many will follow a literal interpretation saying that it is a timing thing, which in part may be accurate. However, the reasoning they use is that it is too dangerous at that time. Honestly, I discount that pretty quickly because that does not hold to the pattern. Though there are many other interpretations, including the one about human nature making us always do what we are told not to! Interesting, but again, that is more of a modern vantage point being forced onto an historic text.
I do know that the expectation is that this story is ultimately to be told, but we also know that the rumors of this story did get out before the crucifixion. But the reason Christ did this was not reverse psychology or fear; rather, it was so that people could have the time to see who Christ was, that Christ was not trying to supersede Elijah or any prophesy, but he had come to fulfill it. This means that the people had to see and witness the whole story so that they might come to believe. We know this is true, because even the disciples were mostly hanging on until they came to know the whole story.
In my mind the configuration story tells us not only about Christ and his divinity, it shows us that Christ longs for us all to come and believe, doing everything he can to show that he really is the son of God, but then pointing the figure back to us asking if we accept and believe. Often times we look at faith and say “if this that or the other thing happens (the way I want) then I will believe.” The truth is, it does not work that way; Christ did what he could, he fulfilled the prophesies as they needed to be fulfilled and he worked the miracles he needed to work, but at the end of the day the choice comes back to whether we accept or not.
As you think and meditate on the scripture, think about how you would feel if you were Peter, James, or John. Would you understand what you saw, would you want to go tell? Would you understand why Christ said to wait? See you Sunday!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen