What I’m Thinking: A Better Time, Perhaps

Why did Jesus tell his friends not to talk about their experience with him on the mountain? Did he want them to wait for a better time?

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-9). This coming Sunday is the end of the season after Epiphany, and so the Revised Common Lectionary brings us the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. The story is both fairly straightforward and very mysterious.

Straightforwardly, we have Jesus, James, Peter, and John climbing a mountain. Jesus begins to glow. Two figures appear to speak with Jesus whom the disciples identify as Moses, the prophet of the Exodus, and Elijah, the prophet who challenged some of the kings of Israel and was taken away to be with God in a whirlwind.

When Peter says something innocuous, a voice sounds from heaven with the same words that were pronounced at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved son; listen to him!” Well, that silences Peter, James, and John. When the glow fades, they find Jesus alone with them once more, and he tells them not to tell anybody about this event.

Mark, I’m sure, shared this story as yet another demonstration of his fundamental assertion, made in the very first sentence of his gospel, that Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God, the Savior of the World. To Peter, James, and John, however, the events were extraordinarily mysterious. Peter wanted to build booths because, well, you’ve got to do something, right? And I have no doubt that Jesus’ instructions to keep the story to themselves were quite mysterious to all three of the disciples, and they remain somewhat mysterious to us in this day.

For this moment, I’m thinking that there are worse times and better times to share the stories of our mountaintop moments, of our epiphanies, of our encounters with the grace, the glory, and in this case certainly the power and the wisdom of God. Some moments in which we might tell the stories: they simply would fail. They would go nowhere. They would not be heard. They would not be accepted. They would not be believed.

There are other moments, moments that await us in time, in which those stories might well find their way into someone else’s heart.

Is that what Jesus had in mind when he gave those instructions to his followers? I simply don’t know. But I do know that people have mountaintop experiences, experiences that are as strange and as astonishing as the one that greeted Peter, James, and John. And I know that they tell these stories of those experiences, and sometimes those stories go nowhere. Sometimes those stories feed others’ souls.

So I’m thinking this week that the experience is one of wonder and mystery and power. But the sharing of the experience is also one of wonder and mystery and power, an experience that demands the proper time.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , | Posted on February 8, 2021

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