Stepping Over a Thin Line

Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

This Sunday, I’ll be putting on a costume and being transfigured and put on the role of an old western sheriff in a local play. This is the opposite of what happens to Jesus. He goes up on a mountain with three of his disciples and is transfigured so that his human costume is taken off. For a moment they see the hidden reality. He really is God.

It is an odd event. The three disciples return to the others unsure of what to say. At this point in their journey, the disciples had become used to thinking of Jesus as a very important man, perhaps even unique. Perhaps the messiah, or anointed leader sent by God. But now, they must sort through their experiences and reconsider the thinness of the barrier between earthly and heavenly things. Jesus was transfigured because he stepped over that spiritual barrier that hovers just outside of the periphery of our vision. Then he stepped back.

Paul says, “Rejoice… the Lord is at hand,” which I interpret to mean that Jesus is this close (fingers held an inch apart), free at any moment to step over the border between the spiritual and physical world (Philippians 4:5).

The effect of the transfiguration, when combined with the experience of Jesus’ resurrection that these disciples later shared, was to make them see Jesus as only a blink of the eye away.

Note too, that Jesus has heavenly people join him on the mountain. Moses and Elijah, still live, even though they have been away from normal earth for hundreds of years. They step over the boundary and step back. 

Note that Lent begins soon. Jesus is heading to Jerusalem where the political powers that govern things here, will execute him. Moses and Elijah are both political people. Moses is the lawgiver, assigned by God to establish a system of justice for the refugees who will become a nation in the promised land. Elijah gets in trouble for opposing King Ahab and the wicked Queen Jezebel. 

I don’t know how your week has been, but I’ve been wondering if I shouldn’t abandon all political commentary and cross that spiritual boundary to a place where I don’t care what the president says or does. I can’t. While on earth, I must seek justice, love with compassion, and walk humbly with the unseen Jesus who is always at hand. 

Faith teaches compassion, compassion teaches us how to vote
Epiphany 7
Transfiguration Sunday