Year A: The Transfiguration

God confers sovereignty on a man and the whole of humanity becomes that man’s servants.

A line of people wait to be blessed by Jesus

Daniel 7:9-10,13-14; 2 Peter:1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9

Daniel sums up the conviction which colours the whole of the Biblical record. God and humanity are playing out a dynamic encounter which defines and gives meaning to the whole of creation. What a picture it creates as Daniel ‘watches’! Here is the sense that the imagination does not originate from our mind but comes to us from ‘out there’.  Here is an attempt, in vivid imagery, to express the author’s belief that God and the whole of humanity are intimately linked in a glorious, majestic finale to the story of the universe.  Here is the glorious climax of the story, pictured as a great court scene: the thrones are set in place, the pyrotechnics are meant to help us grasp the ungraspable, but then the hyperbole gives way to a true, almost sober revelation: the divine throne room receives not some divine theophany or demi-god but a ‘son of man’! Humanity enters the court of God. This was not a normal way to describe the relationship between humanity and the Divine. It was a revolutionary way of speaking of that relationship. The Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. ‘His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away.’ God confers sovereignty on a man and the whole of humanity becomes that man’s servants! We stand on the verge of that greatest vision – that God becomes that man!

Peter reflects that denouement perfectly: ‘It is not cleverly invented myths that we are repeating.’  Daniel’s vision of a man given sovereignty by the One on the Throne, was replaced for him on one exact calendar day in Galilee, when he heard his Master called ‘Son’ by the Divine voice. A vision is replaced by Peter’s experience of a transfigured and glorified Jesus which was confirmed by his experience of the whole life, death and resurrection of Christ: ‘we have seen his majesty for ourselves.’  Nothing about Peter’s experience of Jesus could be described as ‘majestic’. Daniel’s vision is reversed so that Peter and all those who knew Jesus, realised that the life and death of this real man, in its anguish and final degradation cloaked the reality of a vulnerable God in love with the powerless, the poor, the outcast and those on the margins. The throne room of this God is filled with the vast numbers of humanity usually excluded from coming close to thrones and the courts of kings. The dialogue ends not in splendour but in the victory of a humanity resurrected and glorified through suffering and crucifixion.  Still, says Peter, we have confirmation of what was said in the prophecies – for those with the eyes and hearts to see. It becomes ‘a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes and the morning star rises in your minds’!

‘His face shone like the sun’! Matthew describes the day when Jesus’ closest disciples have a glimpse of the divine in the man – the dialogue reaches its impossible conclusion. Representatives of the Law and Prophets of the preparatory dialogue – Moses and Elijah, cannot stop making their contributions or from sharing their amazement at the puzzles and mysteries now solved.  We can only guess at the ground they wished now to cover with the incarnation that they had only been able to intuit and foreshadow. Peter reacts totally appropriately and wants to erect three tents or residencies for all three. No wonder when the voice says: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved’ they all fall down. Our response ought to mirror theirs – if we were to appreciate in any small way the fact that in Jesus as Beloved Son is revealed the Sonship and ‘Belovedness’ of the whole of humanity.  Jesus bids them not to be afraid and to stand up.  God wants us to stand up as persons of the same on-going dialogue – freely seeing that in our humanity lies the glory and sovereignty of the divine.