2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A
I wonder if Jesus needed to experience the Transfiguration as much as His apostles needed to witness it? The Transfiguration was, quite literally, a mountaintop experience. He had taken Peter, James, and John up a mountain where they watched Jesus transform into someone they didn’t quite know as He conversed with Moses and Elijah.
But it was a mountaintop experience in the metaphorical sense too. For a brief moment, Peter, James, and John understood the greater message. They experienced the eternal. What we often don’t consider is that at that moment, on that mountain, Jesus got to do the same thing.
Jesus’s humanity often gets swallowed up in His divinity, His Son-of-God status. But, He was as human as God on earth could be. We don’t actually know how much Jesus understood about His destiny nor do we know if the exact timing of His death had been revealed to Him. We do know He loved His disciples. We know He had friends, relationships that went deeper than the myriad of acquaintances He made on His journeys. We know, even as He was here to serve His heavenly Father, He was deeply tied to the earthly—those ties were what made Him human.
Maybe Jesus needed the Transfiguration to remind Him that His mission on earth was in fact not the end, not all that God had planned for Him. He knew that, but did He know that, know it deep in His bones? In those moments with Moses and Elijah, Jesus would have more than glimpsed the eternal, He would have lived it. He would have seen where He came from in His companions and simultaneously gloried in the future, not just His own, but that which God had planned for all His people.
Maybe the Transfiguration gave Jesus exactly what He needed to be able to carry out His mission, to go the distance to the cross. To go to His death. To leave His earthly friends and family. To remember that death is not the end.
That’s what a mountaintop experience does. It reminds us deep at our core that we are meant for more. The experience can never last long because it isn’t meant to be the eternal, just a glimpse of what is to come, to remind us not to grow weary, to do the tasks at hand knowing the tasks at hand lead to something greater, something we can’t quite put our finger on.
Peter tried. “Lord, it is good…I will make three tents…” (v.4) Peter wanted to hold on, to try to grasp exactly what he was meant for. Peter was sure that if he just held on tight enough, if they just stayed put, he could stay right there in the eternal. But Jesus knew we can’t hold on to the end before we’ve lived out the story.
Perhaps the Transfiguration reminded the Messiah of that very fact.