In the Lectionary

Sunday, March 16, 2014: Matthew 17:1–9

The Transfiguration has a hundred sermons in it. But to me the most touching element is the subplot.

Years ago a friend and I were introduced to a very famous and brilliant person—someone we both looked up to enormously. We found ourselves taken aback and at a loss for words. I spoke a few unfinished sentences and then my mind went blank. My friend, ever the extrovert, began talking in circles and couldn’t stop. Eventually our hero graciously cut in and saved us by making it seem as if our stumbling words made complete sense.

The Transfiguration is one of those stories that have a hundred sermons in them; it is packed with hints about the identity of Jesus Christ, the relationship of the Trinity, the story of salvation, and the connection between the old and new covenants. But to me the most touching element is the subplot: a moment when three ordinary people are overwhelmed in the presence of greatness.

Whenever there’s a mountain in the Bible, divine revelation is about to take place. Jesus taught by the seashore and on the hillside, but for the moment of Transfiguration he took his three closest disciples to a mountaintop where two towering figures of the ancient faith appeared: Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the prophet had both had their own mountaintop moments.