Here as in other texts, the light theme interplays with sound, seeing with hearing. The conclusion states the reasons for the light show: ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’
There is prequel to this story which helps us interpret it. In the story of the baptism of Jesus, a similar divine word is addressed only to him: ‘You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased’. Now on the mountain the divine voice addresses the disciples and the world: ‘This is my beloved son; listen to him.’
Hearing the word is reinforced by the presence of Moses representing the Torah, the Jewish teaching heritage, and again by Elijah representing the prophets who interpret events.
Somehow John’s gospel missed this story. But John chapter 1 presents the same understanding: Jesus becomes both the Word and the Light of the world! Seeing and Hearing. Seeing Jesus lit up won’t mean much to us unless we hear what he has to say.
After years of counselling ‘listening for feelings’, a mentor of mine affirmed that behind every feeling is a thought. What we listen to can change our thoughts and then our feelings and all of life. We choose the messages to which we listen, such as Neil Mitchell or Virginia Trioli. The gospel invites us to tune in to a message of forgiveness and hope and be changed by it.
But now, what more do the disciples have to hear? They’ve heard his parables. They’ve accepted him as God’s anointed. They’ve heard him speak of ‘Easter’ - rejection, Cross and resurrection. They have already heard the challenge to lose their lives in order to save them.
We also have heard it all before. What more is there for us to hear? Matthew provides one answer.
He is bold enough to tell us: ‘You are the light of the world.’ Is there anything more profound, more challenging. Jesus did not hog all the light! Nor did he take on all the responsibility! Have we listened to this message? “Greater things you will do.”
The Latin word ‘transfiguration’ seems to emphasize a change in appearance. But the Greek word ‘metamorphosis’ means a change in form. We all know the story of the caterpillar, cacoon and butterfly. May we take the metamorphosis of Jesus as a metaphor for our own enlightening transformation when we listen and hear at depth the radical message he left us.
At age 22 I was in a student share house with 3 guys and 2 girls. Tricia was bright and a great debater but for 7 months I thought she was plain, until suddenly she was something else! I would like each of us to have the same ‘a ha’ moment of seeing ourselves differently.
In the story, Peter, James and John are as usual out of their depth. Later in the darkness of Gethsemane they fell asleep at the time most critical for Jesus. We also may hear a lot of deep truth but still not let it touch us in a transforming way.
To help us avoid this, our services will feature conversations with other voices. Let us renew our journey as a congregation with a new intention to listen and hear the hopeful truth of our own lives and of others and to be changed by it.