Thursday Reflections – Matthew 17:1-9

MATTHEW 17:1-9

1 Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain.2 His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light.3 Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.4 Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?”5 While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”6 When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death.7 But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.”8 When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.9 Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t breathe a word of what you’ve seen. After the Son of Man is raised from the dead, you are free to talk.”

This is one of those stories that I have read and heard countless times throughout my life as a Christian.  So much so, that the impact of the story often falls flat on me.  Lately, however, I feel like God has been opening me up to receive his word through scripture in a way that I have never really been open before.  I would not be so bold as to presume that God is giving me some kind of revolutionary insight into the scriptures that no one has ever heard or experienced before.  It's simply that I have stopped trying so hard to "understand" the scriptures and I have started looking to the scriptures to point me to Jesus.  Maybe that sounds strange, but much of my reading of scripture in the past has been to try to gain some kind of academic insight… the kind of things that I could wow others with during sermons or at cocktail parties.  "Look at me an how much I know.  Look at me and how smart I am to understand what the rest of you are to feeble minded to get on your own."  It's not that an academic approach to scripture is wrong or fruitless.  But in reality, to gain the kind of "insight" I have been striving for means spending much more time digging in to sources outside of the Bible (commentaries and historical documents) then in the text of scripture itself.  In this season of my life I have grown hungry for the Word… not just what someone else says about it.  So today, as I read this story (for the third time in two weeks) I feel like God is speaking to me through his "living and active" word, through the same words that have long fallen upon my ears that have struggled to hear.  

It's easy in a story such as this one to get wrapped up in the fireworks.  The glory comes down and there are bright lights and the prophets of old are there.  There is the booming voice of God.  It is quite a display.  But what stood out to me this time around was not the extravagant display — it was in the words spoken by the Father and then, most notably, what followed. I can almost picture the scene in my mind.  Peter, James, and John are wowed by the light show.  I envision James fist-bumping Peter and John saying, "Dude.  This is awesome."  But the point, I think, was not in the light show.  The point was that in that moment the Father was making it clear to the disciples exactly who Jesus is.  “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”  And then the fireworks stopped.  When the disciples looked up there were no lights and loud voices just Jesus, with his hand outstretched inviting them to follow.  In my life I have spent a lot of time looking for the way that God is at work in the world.  Throughout my journey of faith I have looked for my own version of bright lights and booming voices, but what I have really been looking for (even before I realized it) was Jesus.  God has been telling me time and time again throughout my life, "This is my son… listen to him."  In some ways I have spent my life simply chasing after evidence of where he has been… looking for clues like some kind of Jesus CSI, piecing together a story and a picture even though I had not witnessed what happened myself. In doing so, however, what I have often missed is the reality of where HE IS!  Jesus… that same Jesus from this story is standing right here inviting me to follow.  Today it feels like I met him again for the first time.  I have confidence in who he is and I am learning to trust that where he leads is exactly where I want to be.  I don't just want to go where he has been, I want to be where he is.

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