A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – Day TWENTY-SEVEN

 I have chosen the gospel text for the 2nd day in a row – the first time I’ve done that since we started this journey together. I chose it because it is one of my all-time favorite gospel narratives, one of the ones I chose when Nancy Owens Franson asked us a while back to pick one or two narratives into which we wished we could insert ourselves as an eye witness. 
The top picture was taken just before a massive rainstorm hit southern CA, as we were leaving our wonderful desert hideaway for the trip home. These mountains and the ubiquitous presence of palm trees all around them always make me think of old Bible pictures of the Holy Land. (Of course, that would be minus the golf courses/casinos/resort hotels.) The 2nd picture is actually what I sort of imagine the transfigured body of Jesus to vaguely look like – radiant, sunshiny brightness against clouds and a blue, blue sky.
Mark 9:2-13, Common English Bible
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. 
Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. 
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. 
As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” 
Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” 
Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.” 

Do you remember the closing words of yesterday’s passage? That promise that some of those gathered would not die before seeing the glory of God? 

Well, here it is. 

I find this dramatic vignette one of the most powerful in all the New Testament. It pictures for me two realities: the fullness of the divinity of Jesus – and the fullness of the humanity of Jesus. 

The first is perhaps a bit more immediately obvious: the transmogrification of Jesus’ clothing, the heavenly visitors, the covering cloud and the voice of love – all of it overwhelming in their capacity to stun and inspire awe. 

The second requires a little more work, some pondering, some placing of this incident on the time line of the narrative thus far. Think with me for a minute on this. 

Jesus has just asked that critical question: Who do you say that I am? 

He has answered it in completely unexpected ways and he has made sure that all those within hearing distance have listened. 

Yes, I am the Messiah. No, my role is not what you think it is, not even what you think it should be. 

He has had one of his closest friends deeply disappoint him, lecturing him about ‘stickin’ to the program.’ 

He is headed to Jerusalem and he has prayerfully figured out exactly what awaits him there: suffering and death. 

I can imagine that maybe – just maybe – our very human Savior needed some encouragement, some reminder that he was on the right track, some validation of his journey. 

And I cannot imagine a better one than this. 

At the very beginning of his active ministry life, Jesus heard the voice of love from heaven. And right here – on the way to the end of that ministry and that life – he hears it again. 

And so does Peter. 

Listen to him. 

And there’s the rub for all of us. Listening to what Jesus says about himself and his true identity, his role in the plan of salvation. 

Instead, we’d like to join with Peter when he asks to preserve this moment of glory – to build some garden sheds for each of the three radiant beings he sees before him. To fix-in-place the triumph of heaven. Ah, but this is something neither he nor we can ever do.

And just like that, it is all gone – the visitors have disappeared; Jesus looks like himself once again. 

Peter was given a glimpse of glory, yes, indeed. But only a glimpse. 

Now the hard part comes into focus. Jesus talks again about suffering. About dying. And about rising from the dead. 

And Peter and the others are mystified. What does it all mean? 

What does it all mean?


Radiant Savior, how it gladdens my heart to read these words. To see how you found encouragement for the rest of the journey. To be reminded that even you needed help to make it to the cross. We’re walking this road with you, Jesus. Will you help us get there, with our hearts softened, our minds open, our hands ready to receive the gifts of Holy Week, Good Friday…and Easter Sunday? Thank you for making that walk for us. Thank you.

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  1. Fully God, fully human.  (Love your garden shed translation. =)
    I have never fully grasped that part about some not seeing death…
    and never, ever have I tied the two encouragements from the Father together like this
    Thank you for these gifts to open each day.

    On the road with you…

  2. Thank YOU for faithfully stopping by and so often leaving a word of encouragement. I don’t think I had ever made the connection between the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9 – between the promise to see glory before death and the transfiguration. But there it was, staring me in the face because I’m doing this daily discipline of reading the texts in order. I am loving that part of this journey and I’m glad for your company along the way.