with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration
by Don Schwager
Shortly before the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to visit southern Lebanon. My guide was Archbishop George Bakouni from Tyre who took me with a group of friends to the region of Mount Hermon, the tallest peak which today borders Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. For me the journey was a spiritual pilgrimage, because I believe that Mount Hermon is the place where Jesus took three of his beloved disciples and was transfigured in glory before them as he spoke with Moses and Elijah. What is the significance of Jesus' transfiguration for us today?The mountain of God
Jesus often went to a lonely place to pray – to seek solitude and sanctuary away from the crowds. His favorite place in Jerusalem was the Mount of Olives which overlooked the temple mount. Matthew, Mark, and Luke recount an extraordinary encounter which took place on a high mountain when Jesus was transfigured before three of his disciples – Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah also appeared with Jesus and spoke with him. Why Moses and Elijah? Like Jesus both Moses and Elijah went to a high mountain to seek the face of God and to hear his voice.
The scriptures speak frequently of the mountain of God. God’s people are called to worship at his holy mountain (Psalm 99:9). Isaiah says: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Is. 2:3). “Why look you with envy, O many peaked mountain, at the mount which God desired for his abode, yes, where the Lord will dwell for ever” (Psalm 68:16).
"Jesus led them
up a high mountain"
And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesare'a Philip'pi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Eli'jah; and others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." (Mark 8:27-29)When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God (see Exodus 34:29). Paul says that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its brightness (2 Cor. 3:7). In this incident Jesus appeared in glory with Moses, the great lawgiver of Israel, and with Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, in the presence of three of his beloved apostles.
What is the significance of this mysterious appearance? Jesus went to the mountain knowing full well what awaited him in Jerusalem – his betrayal, rejection and crucifixion. Jesus very likely discussed this momentous decision to go to the cross with Moses and Elijah. God the Father also spoke with Jesus and gave his approval: "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." The cloud which overshadowed Jesus and his apostles fulfilled the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the cloud of God's presence would fill the temple again (see Exodus 16:10, 19:9, 33:9; 1 Kings 8:10; 2 Maccabees 2:8).
glory of the Lord"
Are you spiritually awake? Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the glory of Christ. We, too, as disciples of Christ are called to be witnesses of his glory. Through the eyes of faith, we too, can behold his glory and be transformed by it. Do you seek his presence with faith and reverence?
We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).“Lord Jesus Christ, keep me always alert and awake to you, to your word, action, and daily presence in my life. Let me see your glory and be transformed by it.”
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