Through his transfiguration Jesus received encouragement to go the extra mile.
Do you know the show “Undercover Boss?” I love that show. It’s a prank of sorts. Where the CEO of a certain company masquerades as an aspiring employee and steps into the world of his or her creation.
He dresses like them. Eats like them. Talks like them. He works with them, shoulder to shoulder, and seeks to understand their struggles, their triumphs, and their future dreams. In essence, he becomes one of them. But he is not. They never really know exactly who it is they are speaking with. Until the last day, that is.
That’s when the employees gather and in walks a man who is both familiar and brand new at the same time. In that moment the veil is lifted and the true identity of the undercover boss is disclosed. That disheveled wanna-be employee who was pretty much clueless in everything he did? Well he has become transfigured before their disbelieving eyes.
This sort of shocker must have been similar to when Jesus became transfigured before the astonished faces of Peter, James, and John. In that moment everything changed. The dried hummus under his fingernails, the camel dung stuck there in his leather sandals, his wrinkled prayer shawl and crooked teeth. It all mysteriously morphed into brilliance, perfection, and loving radiance. He was familiar and brand new at the same time.
In that moment all he had ever taught and shared made perfect sense in the hearts and minds of three speechless young apostles. His glorious majesty, his wondrous identity – all that Jesus had willingly laid aside for the joy of his mission – had been gracefully uncovered. Just like that.
No doubt about it. Jesus was, is, and always would be, the eternal Son of God.
In the midst of the theophany two people appear who had previously died. Moses and Elijah. They speak with the transfigured Christ, reasoning, sharing, encouraging, and reminding him of his mission, of the worthwhileness – no, the essentialness – of the Call, and the assurance of God’s Promise waiting for him on the other side.
Moses eyeballs him. He speaks emphatically, nose to nose, into the heart of his Messiah. “I was the Lawgiver. You are the fulfillment of the Law. You… you embody the Law. You will go to Jerusalem and bleed for the sins of the world. All the sacrificing I did at the temple can’t add up to a single drop of your blood. You will intercede for us. And God will answer your prayers. And let me tell you something wonderful.” He drops his voice with a sparkle in his eye. “There is nothing like interceding for a people so that they can live. I know that joy. I prayed for God to turn away his wrath and spare his people. And he did! So go to your Cross, young Messiah. Intercede for the world. And intercede for me.”
Elijah blends into the conversation. “Our Father is faithful,” he proclaims. “On this you can be assured of. I saw him move mightily in my day: fire from heaven, rain in a drought, his voice in the stillness of my darkened cave. And so it will be with you.”
Jesus peers through the brilliant atmosphere southwards to Jerusalem. He sees the jeering crowds, the torturous abuse of the soldiers, and a broken man hanging between two criminals. He feels an earthquake. He is held by his mother, and wrapped in linens He is placed in a darkened cave.
“He will resurrect you,” Elijah whispers intently. “He will resurrect you, young prophet! As I laid my body across the body of a dead boy three times and he lived, so you too will be covered three days in death. Then you will arise to life! And why not? If Gods power in me could raise a dead boy, how much more will your heavenly Father lift you up for all the world to see, dear Son of the Living God?”
There on the mountain, with nothing but a hellish road to Calvary before him, Jesus, like us, is given the wherewithal to walk the road, to embrace the race, and to fight the good fight. Though aware of his Calling he still needed encouragement. Like us, even Jesus sometimes needed to be reminded of the God he had forsaken all to serve. To be assured of his shekinah promise in the desert, and of his still small voice in the darkest of caves.
Jesus, as my life is an echo of yours, encourage me and empower me on my way to the Cross. Amen.