This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead”
From the viewing platform nearly 2000 metres high on Monte Baldo there are spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and of Lake Garda stretching out below. Standing on the platform Sarah is filled with wonder as she looks around. From a very deep place within she hears the psalmist’s words: “I lift up my eyes to the hills” and “The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it.” There are clouds in the sky but some are gently drifting below the top of the mountains. This time a hymn comes into her mind: “Thy justice like mountains high soaring above thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.” She is discovering that seeing a mountain top from ground level and seeing the world from that high place are very different experiences. Somehow she feels closer to God and yet more words from a song rise up in her: “You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply. Rocky mountain high.” She knows too that this mountain top experience will change her profoundly although she’s not yet sure how. She feels a need to “treasure all these things and ponder them in her heart” until she feels able to talk about what she saw and how the newly felt presence of God came down with her in the cable car and stays with her in all her highs and lows.
Peter, James and John are also filled with awe and wonder as they experience the presence of God high up on a mountain top with the Galilean lake stretched out below them.
They have seen their friend and rabbi transformed into a figure radiant with dazzling light. They have seen Moses and Elijah stepping out of their ancient scriptures to talk with Jesus. They have heard the voice of God speaking from the cloud of his Presence.
They have discovered that their earlier recognition that Jesus is the Messiah is a very different experience to this astounding revelation of the Messiah’s glory with that divine Voice affirming “This is my Son, the Beloved.”
So overwhelmed were they that they fell to their knees in fear and trembling. “Woe is me! For I am lost …. for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” Words from prophet Isaiah perhaps came to them with new meaning and implications.
And there are huge implications. Jesus has begun teaching them that the Messiah himself must suffer terribly and die while his would be disciples must “deny themselves and take up their cross”. Perhaps after their mountain top experience Peter, James and John will reflect deeply on what that might mean for them in the days ahead.
Perhaps they understand why Jesus warns them not to talk about what they have seen and heard. How would they find words to describe their experience? How could they explain it when they themselves have yet to understand it fully? It will be many years before Peter will write as an eye witness to that day and to the majesty of his Lord Jesus Christ.
At times we may experience a sense of awe and wonder that changes our perceptions and how we live out our faith. We might find a deep sense of God’s presence in a bluebell wood in spring, in the beauty and vulnerability of a new born baby, in music, art or in the holiness of a place sanctified by centuries of prayer and praise.
Whatever that “mountain top experience” is for us we might find it difficult to put it into words but it will live on within us and continue to reveal more of God’s glory and majesty to us. It might be for us what Peter calls “a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in (our) hearts”.
What this transfiguration teaches us is that glory and suffering are inextricably linked in the life of a disciple of Jesus and as we come down from our particular mountain top we can be encouraged to remember that the presence of God remains with us in the low places. He is beside us, not looking down on us from unreachable heights. We are not alone.
1. At a high place on a mountain Peter, James and John witness the transfiguration of Jesus, the appearance of Moses and Elijah and the voice of God calling Jesus his “Beloved Son”.
2. On the way down from the mountain Jesus warns the three disciples not to talk about this experience until after his resurrection.
3. We too sometimes have “mountain top experiences” which change us and how we live our faith.
4. God remains with us wherever we are and is not out of reach in the high mountains.
As we offer our prayers to God we remember that his Beloved Son is among us and is praying with us and for us: we are not alone.
We pray for the church that her people may faithfully and joyfully proclaim the majesty, glory and love of God and his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
We pray for the world in all its beauty and its brokenness asking God to give us the wisdom and the desire to be faithful stewards of his creation.
We pray for those holding positions of power in the nations of the earth that they will govern with justice and mercy, seeking peace and reconciliation in places of conflict.
We pray for all who live with pain or distress that they may know the touch of Jesus and hear his voice saying “Do not be afraid”.
Loving God, we thank you for your readiness to hear our prayers. Help us always to be ready to hear your voice and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.