Transfiguration, 1560, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) c. 1488-1576
Maggie and Beth were roommates and good friends through all four years of college. Both majored in business management, and they had big plans. In their senior year they had many late night discussions about the on-line children’s clothing business they were going to build together. Friends saw them as a great team, were impressed by their drive and determination, and were sure that their company would be a big success. Maggie and Beth got started even before they graduated, worked very hard, and their new business did quite well– for a while. But then there were some bumps on the road, success was stalled, and one day, to everyone’s surprise, Maggie bought out Beth’s half of the business and they went their separate ways. “What happened?” friends asked. “Well,” Beth said, “we had too many conflicting agendas.” Maggie said, “We weren’t on the same page anymore.”
Conflicting agendas and not on the same page: those phrases can be applied not only to the business world, but also at times to friendships, marriages, churches, politics, and schools; in fact, anyplace where people have to work together. Maggie and Beth remained friends. Neither one said that the other was a bad person or dishonest or mean. They just had different ideas on how to run a company, and were no longer able to be partners.
These phrases, ‘conflicting agendas,’ and ‘not on the same page,’ do not appear in the Gospels, but Jesus had that problem in his relationships with those he knew, worked with, and ministered unto. He impressed people and confused them at the same time. People were attracted to him and irritated by him. The afflicted found comfort in Jesus, but then Jesus found ways to challenge and afflict those who became too comfortable. He came announcing a whole new world– “The kingdom of God is at hand,” he would say. But then, oftentimes when he did a miraculous healing, he would tell the healed person not to tell anyone. He would get huge crowds following him, and the disciples would tell him to come and meet them, but then sometimes Jesus would withdraw to be by himself and pray. Later, when the crowds grew turned against Jesus, the disciples warned him that it would be dangerous to go into Jerusalem; but then Jesus chose to go to Jerusalem and mix with the crowds, and within a week of his arrival his was arrested and put on a cross. Jesus told parables to simplify his message for the common people, but then sometimes his parables were so mysterious that his own disciples didn’t even get the point. His interpretation of the Law of Moses was at times even stricter than Moses, but then Jesus was tender and merciful to even the worst sinners. As time went on, people began to see that Jesus was not on the same page as anyone. Sometimes it seemed he wasn’t even in the same book. Jesus had his own agenda.
The account of the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9 is a perfect example of this. The story comes when the ministry of Jesus is in full swing. He is well known, but people are baffled by him. “Who is this man?” was a common question, meaning, “Who is he that he is able to control the weather, heal a leper, make the lame walk, let the deaf hear, give sight to the blind, and even raise the dead?” But the people also asked “Who is this man?” in the sense of “Who does he think he is to forgive sins, reinterpret the Law of Moses, associate with prostitutes and tax collectors, and even say that he and the Father are one?” Everyone was wondering who Jesus was and what he was all about.
The Transfiguration would have sealed the deal for Jesus. Who was Jesus? There he was, on the mountain with Moses, the greatest Liberator, and Elijah, the greatest prophet that Israel had ever known: Moses, back from the dead, and Elijah, visiting from heaven where he had been transported by fiery chariot 700 years earlier. And in the presence of those two great men, a voice from heaven said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!”
Any questions? Not any more. That settled everything. Moses and Elijah disappeared, and the Son of God remained, with “his face shining like the sun and his clothes as white as the light” (verse two).
Even before Moses and Elijah disappeared, Peter could see the marketing possibilities in an event like this. “Let’s build three shelters,” he said, perhaps meaning a place for these Jesus and these two old favorites to stay, and then more people could come up and see them together and know that Jesus was the One they had been waiting for. No one could have any doubts then about who Jesus was. (continued…)
Matthew 17:1-9 — After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters; one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face-down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Send down, O Lord, Thy wisdom to lead us, teaching us what is acceptable to Thee; so that we may keep in mind our end and wisely choose our way. Amen. (source lost)