2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C
Huts on a Mountain…is That What We Really Want?
The Transfiguration solidifies Peter, James, and John’s growing suspicions of the identity of the man they have chosen to follow. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus has asked Peter, “But who do you say I am?” And Peter responds, a little uncertainly I imagine, “The Messiah of God” (v. 20). After the Transfiguration, none of them could have had any doubt.
But even though they understand Jesus’s “title,” the disciples, His best friends, still don’t understand who He is. Like us, they are tied by temporal bonds. They want to build Jesus, Moses, and Elijah huts and stay there forever. At that moment, that sounds like heaven. I call moments like these “photographic memories,” those times that I don’t want to end. So I take a mental snapshot to hold on to that particular slice of time forever. But Jesus reminds Peter, James, and John they can’t be on the mountain forever. They have to keep going.
That’s true for us too, isn’t it? We, who also have chosen to follow Jesus and are blessed with the complete scriptures and thousands of pages of commentary on it, also know who Jesus is but we still don’t understand Him. If we did, our world wouldn’t look as it does. The hungry would be fed; the naked clothed; the homeless sheltered. There would be no need for weaponry because there would be no war. But that’s not our reality. People are hungry and cold and homeless. There is war, and none of the solutions are easy or straightforward.
I don’t actually think Jesus was trying to say the problems of the world can be solved easily, even when we follow Him. But I do think He was giving those disciples a gift, a mountaintop experience, their own photographic moment, to help carry them through the hard times. When my kids were little and we’d had a particularly challenging day—we were trapped inside with lousy weather, the milk had gotten spilled for the 5th time, or my (now) favorite, the jar of honey fell out of eager hands and broke, golden goo oozing all over the kitchen shelves— I would sometimes stand in the midst of the chaos, close my eyes, and call up one of my mental photographs. The vision of how things could be was what got me through to the next round.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus was giving His disciples a glimpse of, not what was at that moment, but what could be. He wasn’t saying this is how things should be right now. He was showing them what they were working towards. Then they too would be able to stand in the midst of the chaos and call up their mountain top experience to get them through to their next round.
That’s all Jesus really asks of us: to keep going. He knows we’re going to fail Him at times. He knows the problems of the world are too complex for us to solve in the here and now. He knows. Because He is all too aware of our humanity, He grants us the occasional mountain top experience to carry us through—that glimpse of what could be, of what will be, when the Father is ready to welcome us into His grand masterpiece, a house with many rooms (John 14:2), not mere huts on a mountain.