GENESIS 12:1-4A | 2 TIMOTHY 1:8B-10 | MATTHEW 17:1-9
The first Sunday of Lent always invites us to take an inner journey – to confront our inner demons – to hear Jesus’ call in our hearts, “Follow me.” The second Sunday of Lent presents us with a powerful icon, an image, a doorway to the divine. Let’s first pray through the scene Matthew paints in his icon, The Transfiguration.”
Jesus chose three disciples, Peter, James and John, to leave the group and to accompany him to the top of a high mountain. He had just predicted his passion and death to his disciples. Upon hearing it, Peter immediately chided him for thinking such thoughts. Jesus, with fire in his voice, turned on Peter. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as man.” He reinforced the prediction and added another prediction, Peter’s death. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” The brothers, James and John, were dubbed the sons of thunder by Jesus. These three disciples were passionate and hot-headed but deeply committed to discipleship. James would be the first of the Apostles to suffer martyrdom. Peter would be crucified. John, the youngest of the group, came to be known as Jesus’ beloved disciple.
These three rough, gritty fishermen were chosen to see Jesus as Lord. They had the fire in their hearts necessary to glimpse the divine glory – the past, present and future of God’s manifestation to the human family. They were the first to be anointed as Christbearers by the Father. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” They heard the voice; they saw the light. They collapsed in fear and awe.
Then came the affirming touch. “Rise, do not be afraid.” The event ended with another prediction. “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
These same three disciples are represented in another of Matthew’s icons, the Agony in the Garden. While the Transfiguration icon portrays the disciples prostrate, shading their eyes from the light of the Glorified Christ, the Agony icon presents the disciples asleep, hiding their eyes from the vision of the Suffering Christ.
How we long to see the Glory! How we fear the Agony! Matthew’s icons remind us of our call. “Follow me.” They remind us of our anointing. “Listen to him.” These icons will speak uniquely to each of us. No matter the images evoke in our souls, we’re challenged to say in chorus, “Father…not as I will, but as you will.”