Well, the season of Epiphany’s a wrap this week with the glorious story of the Transfiguration. That’s assuming you recognize Epiphany as a season - and not everyone does. But I hope you do, because epiphany means “to reveal” or “make known” and, week after week since January 6, we’ve heard gospel stories which reveal something about Jesus. It hasn’t been a long Epiphany this year, so I’ll do a quick recap.
The first story is the arrival of the magi who followed a star seeking the promised one. Next is the story of the adult Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan River. “The Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22). This is followed by the miracle-worker Jesus turning water to wine at a wedding in Cana. Then Jesus reads scripture from Isaiah in his home synagogue, proclaiming it fulfilled in him. Being challenged by Jesus, who they think they know, angers the crowd who drive him out of town. And finally, this week, Jesus goes to the mountaintop with three disciples and is transfigured there: “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Moses and Elijah appear with him and again a voice says “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9:29, 35).
That’s a lot of important information about Jesus: Jesus is the promised one, the Messiah; Jesus is God’s beloved; Jesus is a miracle worker; the “Spirit of the Lord” is with Jesus to accomplish all Isaiah promised; Jesus is more than the “Joseph’s son” they think they know; Jesus is God’s chosen, the one to whom we should listen.
Jesus is. Yes, that’s a lot of revealing. But if you stopped at “Jesus is,” then I think you missed the most important point of Epiphany. It’s not just how Jesus is revealed to us, but how Jesus is revealed in us.
Let me recap again, a little differently. Let me tell you some of what I think’s really being revealed here.
Jesus is revealed to the magi as the promised one. That’s magi who were not Jews, nor were they from Judea. They were mysterious visitors we don’t know anything about from somewhere “east,” we’re not sure where, exactly. We just know they’re different. That reveals to me that Jesus is for everyone. That’s everyone. And we should be, too.
Jesus is God’s beloved. You know who else is beloved by God? You. And me and everyone. Jesus wanted to be baptized by John, just like everyone else, before he began living that ministry that teaches us how to live, loving others as we are loved. Maybe that reveals that we, too, should recognize that we’re loved and love others as we are loved.
Jesus is a miracle-worker. Sure, but is that really the point of the story? Or is it that Jesus, in his first miracle in John’s gospel, gracefully and without drawing attention to himself, brings joy in a moment that could have gone disastrously in the opposite direction. Maybe that reveals that we could offer our gifts - our own little miracles - in an equally humble and selfless way.
Jesus is filled with the Spirit and moved by the Spirit. The scripture he is proclaiming fulfilled is that he will bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, give sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. Isn’t that what Jesus calls us all to do? Sure it is. And when we preach it, it sounds good and gives everyone a warm feeling. But when Jesus challenges his own home crowd that they aren’t doing it, that isn’t what they want to hear and they’re offended and angry. It takes strength of Spirit to stand up to them. That reveals to me that we need to embrace the Spirit within us, not only to talk, but to do, to get on with a life that makes our living life-giving, too.
|"Transfiguration" by Socrates Magno Torres
And that’s the thing about the Transfiguration story and why it’s such a great way to wrap up Epiphany and launch into Lent. It’s not just that there’s this awesome mountain top experience with blinding light and all the signs of God’s love and presence. It’s that it doesn’t stay there on the mountain. Jesus goes into the world. And so should we, knowing that God is with us, the Spirit gives us strength, we have gifts to share, we are loved and we should love others as we are loved, all others.
That’s a huge challenge and maybe needs some time and some thought to figure it out. I think that’s why Jesus went into the wilderness that we call Lent. Perhaps we could join him there over the next few weeks and wonder how we, too, are living into being Jesus.