Last Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, Mark talked about the temptation of the Lord. As we saw, it was a reminder that the Christian pilgrimage is not an easy road. There are many trials and troubles. Hence, we were reminded that the Christian journey is not a picnic or a freeway ride. It is a continuous via crucis, or way of the cross. This theme is continued in this second Sunday of Lent in the account of the transfiguration of Jesus, which links his suffering in Jerusalem to his glory on the cross. Hence, the Christian journey is also about suffering and glory. Accordingly, this gospel text fits perfectly well into the message of Lent. Jesus is on the march towards Easter via Jerusalem. But it will not be a cakewalk. It will not be about bread and butter. It will be a journey leading to the “crucify him, crucify him” road. Accordingly, this is another appeal to the so-called prosperity gospel preachers, the “name it and claim it” preachers, to drop their honey-coated preaching and embrace the real Christianity, which has the cross as its center. In short, Christianity is not an easy life that one can just live. It has the cross as it center, which leads into the glory of the resurrection in union with Christ. If there is no cross, there will be no crown.
Transfiguration is a change into another form. It is metamorphosis which means to be different. In the case of the transfiguration of Jesus, it means to match the outside with the reality of the inside. Here, it means to change the outward so that it matches the inward reality. So this transfiguration was a glimpse of his glory.
The experience described in this gospel, took place in the company of three of the innermost disciples of Jesus: Peter, James, and John. The presence of these three Disciples has a great theological symbolism in the light of the Jewish law of evidence, requiring two or three witnesses. So it was important to report that there were eyewitnesses, who saw what happened.
This same rule of evidentiary validity extends to the presence of the two glorious men, Moses and Elijah, who were present. Hence, they too are authentic witnesses of the event taking place. They are heavenly witnesses. Accordingly, in the story, there is a two-front witnessing: From below (Peter, James and John) and from above (Moses and Elijah). And finally, there is a confirmation of the witnessing going on, by a voice from the cloud. As we can see, all the witnesses are authentic. There is no fake one among them. Based on the Jewish law of evidence, the transfiguration is founded on solid theological ground. The place of the event narrated was a mountain.
The mountain is an important place of prayer which suggests that the event took place at the moment of prayer. Hence, Luke said: “And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes, became dazzling white.” This is a practical teaching on prayer for the Christian. Prayer time is holy time. It is pertinent that something holy should take place during this holy period of Lent.
The gospel of today is a reminder to all Christians that ‘no cross no crown.” Also, it points out to all and sundry that every rose has its thorny petals. As we have seen, Jesus is going to Jerusalem where he will meet two things: His death via the passion narratives, and His glory via the resurrection. In other words, struggle and victory are linked together. Each of us is a disciple of the One whose pathway is that of a rejected prophet. This is also going to be the pathway of the Christian. Hence, we are reminded today that there are no shortcuts to heaven. As Paul told the Christians of Philippi, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Finally, Lent is not a picnic time. It is a time of very somber reflection. Indeed, we are marching to glory, like Jesus in the gospel of today, but it has to be through “Jerusalem,” the place of the via crucis. So this Lenten season is offering us a good time for stocktaking.
In our Old Testament reading, with strong faith, Abraham did not spare his son, Isaac, and was going to sacrifice him. God provided the animal for the sacrifice in the end (Genesis 22:1-2, 9,10-13,15-18). Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, God out-did him in generosity. God did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all (Romans 8:31-34). For that reason, we should not be afraid of carrying the cross, or ashamed to carry it to follow Jesus, knowing that it will result to our victory in the end.