Devotional Week of March 2, 2014
Six 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. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
This Sunday we ended the Season of Epiphany as we always do with the story of the Transfiguration. It’s definitely the most difficult story in the New Testament. If you’d like to read the sermon on this tough story CLICK HERE.
Some readers and teachers of the Bible think that this is really a misplaced resurrection story. I can see why they would think that given it sure sounds a lot like those Easter stories. But, I wonder why at least one of the gospel writers wouldn’t have put it after Easter if this is where it really belongs. Why would all misplace it? Just curious.
The other strange thing about this strange story is at the very end when Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anybody about this mountaintop transfiguring experience. We’ve been wondering about that for nearly 2,000 years. What’s up with Jesus and his secrets?
For the first time, it occurred to me that maybe Jesus didn’t say this at all but that the disciples engaged in a little manipulation of the story. Ask any church historian or congregational archivist and they can tell you stories of cover-ups and manipulation of data intended to protect somebody or a whole congregation. Our regional archives at the seminary has sealed records from some congregations who don’t want their real story revealed for 25 or 50 years, after those who might be embarrassed are dead.
I started to play with the idea that Jesus’ instruction for the disciples to tell no one what they had seen was actually a part of the story because they had not told anyone what they had seen. Imagine the post-Easter community sharing Jesus stories, trying to put all the narrative and theological pieces together. Imagine Peter, James, and John saying, well, we actually did see Jesus in a heavenly vision one time up on the mountain where we thought we were going to have some prayer time. We never told anybody about it because we didn’t think the rest of you would believe us or you might be jealous of us, so we kept it to ourselves.
I can imagine that over those early decades of telling the story that slowly the ending of the transfiguration became an order from Jesus not to tell anyone thereby matching reality and giving a reason for the silence. Does any of it matter, really? I guess not. I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it. But, here’s the thing –
It begs the question: What Jesus secrets are you keeping? Has God done something awesome in your life, in your family, in your church that you’re keeping to yourself because you might not be believed or worse, people might think you’ve swallowed the Holy Spirit, feathers and all? Many of us have been well-trained to believe that religion is a private matter and best left behind closed church doors. Weird is the one who lets their God experiences leak into the workplace or the board room.
Since we love to think in extremes, we have slowly concluded that when it comes to sharing Jesus, the choices are to say nothing or preach from a street corner wearing a sandwich board. Given those two choices, of course we’re keeping our secrets.
Yet, you know there are plenty of ways to share Jesus between these two extremes. I think we might tease out two things. One is what the latest mountaintop story/epiphany/Jesus moment is for us. Even if your best story happened ten years ago, so what, it’s still a great story of how God was at work in your life. The other thing is to consider how you tell, or could tell, that story to others. Some people use words, other people use art or actions.
Any counselor will tell us that keeping secrets is a sign of a dysfunctional family or an unhealthy system. Don’t be a secret keeper. Let your light shine!
For Prayer: Jesus, sometimes your glory overwhelms and scares us into silence. Forgive the way we play the mute disciple, and for the way we make excuses for our reluctance to tell what you have done for us. As we prepare to join your journey to Jerusalem this Lent, help our voices repent as they practice speech over silence. Amen.