Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 17: 1-9: How thick are we?

Peter, James and John: did you ever know any thicker headed fellows in your life?  Peter just got rebuked, and you can be sure James and John were right there agreeing with Peter.  Jesus said he had to suffer and die and be raised on the third day and Peter said, “Never, no way, I ain’t gonna let that happen…”  So he got rebuked.  So GET WITH THE PROGRAM…

Alright.  So Jesus maybe figured they need some extra help.  He took them to the top of the mountain.  Do you think Peter walked up the mountain with his head hanging for having been rebuked?  I don’t.  I would guess the three imagined they were being taken apart to get the straight scoop.  Something like, “When we get to Jerusalem, in reality I am going to kick Roman butt…”

Didn’t happen.  Isn’t that just the way?  Right when we think we have God all figured out, he throws us a curve ball.  We try to put God in a box, as we used to say, and in reality, God is standing several feet away watching us do the box thing and laughing at us…

Jesus did not tell them anything they might have expected.  He showed them something instead.  He was transfigured, made bright as the sun, impossible to look at, and Moses and Elijah showed up for a conversation.

Did you ever see and do you remember the end of the movie Raiders of the Lost Arc?  Here, they found the Arc of the Covenant, if not the most, certainly one of the most priceless artifacts in human history.  Something as priceless or more than the Great Pyramid itself.  But in the end, the government crates it up, assigns it a number and stores it away in a secret warehouse so full of crated artifacts it will never be found again.  How human.  We like to control things.  We want it catalogued and safely put away so it won’t get out of hand.  God forbid life should get out of hand!  (To this day, for many it is God forbid we should actually take Jesus at his word – but that may be a different message).

So Peter suggests three tents: one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah…

“Yeah, Peter,” James might have said.  “And we can backlight the whole thing to give the flavor of it, and maybe charge admission.”

“Holograms,” John might have countered.  “James, you are so behind.  We make the images holographic.  That way we can increase the light in the hologram to really give it the umph…”

Can you see Jesus rolling his eyes?

So God the Father comes in the cloud (reminiscent of the pillar that led Moses through the wilderness or the cloud that descended on the tent in the wilderness) and the voice says:  “This is my son whom I love.  With him I am well pleased.  Listen to him, you Bozos.” (I added the Bozos part.  Maybe it was implied).

They tremble and get down on their faces and I don’t blame them for that, but I do think Jesus probably sighed when he touched them and said, “Get up.  Don’t be afraid.”

Then they simply go back down the mountain and Jesus says, don’t tell anyone until he is raised from the dead. 

Peter might have thought, like telling someone about what he saw and heard was a possibility?

James might have thought, ”Yeah, right!  I go bragging on that and the Sanhedrin will chop my head off just to close my mouth.”

John might have laughed.  “Yeah sure.  They will stick me in the Patmos asylum until I’m  100.”

So what was the point?  Faith.  You see, after what they saw and heard, almost despite the fact that they were as thick headed as possible, the next time Jesus talked about dying in Jerusalem and being raised on the third day they were more likely to believe and less likely to argue. 

I mean, you think THAT one is hard to swallow,” Peter might have said.  “Wait until I tell you what happened on the mountaintop in plain daylight…”

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