Detail from The Transfiguration (Raffaello, Sanzio 1518-20)

Detail from The Transfiguration (Raffaello, Sanzio 1518-20)

“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus . Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified . Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’ Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had arisen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.”(Mark 9:2-10)

As a boy, I loved the tales of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. However, of all the tales, the one I loved best had very little to do with Robin himself but rather with the one he served, King Richard the Lionheart. This tale comes at the very end of the saga: After years of fighting the oppression of  Prince John and longing for the return of the rightful king, the Merry Men capture a dozen or so riders traveling incognito through Sherwood Forest. The riders all wear dull cloaks with hoods which cover their heads and shade their faces. They are immediately taken to Robin and  are questioned before the whole company about who they are and just what they are doing in the forest. There is a good deal of drama as Robin and the others speculate on just who these men might be. Then  one of the riders in the back , the most inconspicuous of them all, begins to slowly move his horse to the front. As he does, the other riders give way. When he reaches the front, Robin asks him, “And just who might you be?” And in answer, the rider removes his hood and drops his cloak revealing Richard, himself, in full battle dress. Silence reigns and awe. Then one by one the men, beginning with Robin, fall to their knees and bow to their king and Lord. It is the climax of the entire saga!

Just such a moment times ten is the event recorded in today’s Gospel reading, the event we know as “The Transfiguration”. For two and a half years the disciples have travelled with Jesus and for all of that time there has been speculation about just who he might be. Only six days before Jesus had brought the speculation to a head by asking his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They had replied, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others say one of the prophets”. And then he had asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”; to which Peter had replied, “You are the Christ.” Now, six days later it was God’s choice to remove all doubt. After all, the ultimate question is not who do men say he is, nor even who does Peter say he is, but who does God say he is? And God’s answer is clear. Moses and Elijah appear, representing all that has come before, the law and the prophets. But they quickly disappear before the grandeur of Jesus, for something greater than the law and the prophets is here. And it is only Jesus, transfigured in glowing white, over whom the cloud descends and of whom God himself speaks:

“This is my beloved Son.”

The hood is removed, the cloak is dropped and all who see–who really see–both then and now, must fall to their knees in awe and homage. This is not a matter of the opinions of men, but of the revelation of God.

What does God expect of those of us who have recognized Jesus? I am always amazed at how simply Scripture puts it. Nothing elaborate, nothing esoteric, nothing complex. From the lips of Mary at the wedding at Cana of Galilee it is “Do whatever he tells you”. From Jesus’ own lips it is simply “Follow me!” From the cloud at the Transfiguration God says simply “Listen to him!” What is asked is a simple thing – that we listen, trust, and obey. Of course “simple” does not mean “easy”. Nevertheless, it is the call, to follow wherever he leads.

Of course our willingness to do so is not ill placed, for just as Robin Hood and his men welcomed the return of King Richard as the end of oppression and the return of a just ruler, so we who recognize and follow the Son of God, know this even more is the return of the righteous king who has come to end the oppression of sin and death in our lives and restore us to life and true freedom. Remember how he said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly?” He meant it. Listen to him.

 

Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.