Scripture: Matthew 17:1-13
Key verses: (1-7) 1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
Reflection: The problem with following someone is that you end up where they do. The disciples learned that about following Jesus. From the top of a mountain with a dazzling vision and the rock-stars of Jewish history, to a criminal’s cross and death. It must have been hard to keep up.
Immediately after this story, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus comes down off the mountain and enters an angry crowd, dealing with a man whose son is violently ill, and the father asks Jesus to heal his son from the unclean spirit within him. The boy has been rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth, and Jesus reaches out and touches him. He doesn’t stay radiant and removed on the mountain. He comes down and gets messy with the children of God. His bleached white robes get muddied with the evidence of encounters with others: a sick woman who touches his garment, a dying friend, hungry people, poor people.
We’d like to stay on the mountain in our clean robes and heavenly vision and heroes of the past, who wouldn’t? Instead our task is to follow Jesus back down into the dirty work of loving others, and be transfigured ourselves. Not as Jesus was, but as his disciples were and always are. Despite how cleaned up we might get for worship, when we head down the mountain following Jesus, we don’t wear robes bleached dazzling white, pristine and holy. When we follow the leader, our robes end up stained by soup at Urban Ministries, or dusty from a Habitat build. They end up looking like a wadded up Kleenex from the hospital waiting room, or wrinkled from kneeling in prayer. They are bundled in an overhead bin on the way to a mission trip in El Salvador, or given away completely to those who need them more.
As we enter a season of celebration, and consumerism, with the temptation to keep Jesus a manageable little baby in a manger, let’s not forget the work he calls us to in his name. Let’s prepare to follow him wherever he leads us, together.
Prayer: Lord, I want to follow you. Help me keep my eyes on you. Help me trust and follow wherever you lead me. Help me love others in your name, and be transformed. In the name of Christ, I pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].