Prepping the Witness

You can listen to this reflection hereSunday’s gospel reading is here

Passages in the gospels often begin with phrases like, “On the third day…”, or “In the sixth month,” that require you to look back and see what came before. So it is with this week’s passage, the story of Jesus’ transfiguration: Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.

Six days earlier, Peter had identified Jesus as the Messiah. Then Jesus had told his followers about taking up your cross, and how the Son of Man would have to suffer and die. Maybe Jesus thought his closest disciples needed an experience to match their head knowledge. Maybe it was time Peter saw how right his first answer had been. So up they went, to a high mountain. Apart. By themselves. Just the three fishermen and Jesus. Quite a treat – and retreat.

The Transfiguration is one of the odder stories in the gospels, one that we read at the end of the Epiphany season every year, maybe because it was the penultimate revelation of Jesus’ divinity. For a short while on that mountain, these men saw Jesus’ true nature revealed. Why do you suppose Jesus gave them that glimpse of glory?

Perhaps he was setting up his witnesses. Peter already believed Jesus to be the Son of God; now let him see it, and other witnesses with him, so these men could later testify to Jesus’ messianic identity. Afterward, he instructs them not to tell anyone until after “the Son of Man is risen from the dead,” a phrase that doubtless made no sense to them. But later it would. And then this experience would reinforce their faith so that they could boldly testify to the truth of that greater revelation.

One New Testament definition of “apostle” is a person who knew Jesus in his earthly ministry and could witness to his resurrection life. I’m intrigued by the notion that here Jesus is giving those who will later serve as the key witnesses to the in-breaking Kingdom of God a crucial experience to strengthen their faith. Because it is the witness of these men and women that laid the structure of the Church. They are the reason we are here.

And we are here to carry on their apostolic witness. We are here to testify to the glory and power and love of the Risen Christ as we experience him in our lives. Perhaps we don’t get the dazzling display Peter, James and John got to see… and maybe we don’t need to. We are apostles on the other side of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus gives us experiences that strengthen our faith; we can see his power poured out whenever we speak or pray or love or act in His name.

If we don’t feel we have had enough experience of Christ to truly bear witness… well, there’s a prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to make the presence and peace and power of God known to you. I believe God will answer that prayer, as we open ourselves. I truly believe God wants us to experience God’s goodness. Jesus is still preparing witnesses – you and me.

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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