Paxtonvic’s Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Thoughts on the Transfiguration

Short sermon on transfiguration.

There is a mysterious story in 2 Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the story of Jesus’ transfiguration.

Israel is at war with Aram and Elisha the man of God is using his prophetic powers to reveal the strategic plans of the Aramean army to the Israelites. At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy but when he learns the truth he despatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha’s servant is the first to discover that they are trapped and fears for his master’s safety.

He runs to Elisha and says, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The prophet answers, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” But who would believe that when the surrounding mountainside is covered with advancing enemy troops?

So Elisha prays, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opens the servant’s eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23).

This vision was all that Elisha’s disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe but the invading army was totally humiliated.

This story can help us understand what is going on in the transfiguration because at this stage in his public ministry Jesus is very much like Elisha being hemmed in on every side by his foes.

His disciples, and Peter in particular, feel very much like the servant of Elisha, afraid and anxious for their master’s safety. Remember that just before the transfiguration Jesus asked his disciples whom the people and they themselves think he is. When Peter gives the correct answer the he is Christ the son of the living God, Jesus congratulates him and then proceeds to warn them and prepare them for his unavoidable suffering, death and resurrection. But Peter is so unprepared for this that he protests visibly. He takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he says. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus sharply corrects him, telling him that he is seeing things from a purely human point of view (Matthew 16:13-23).

Like Elisha’s servant, Peter needed a vision from God’s point of view, to see that in spite of the death sentence hanging over the head of Jesus, God is still with him, God is still in control of events, God will see to it that in the end he triumphs over his foes as Elisha did. What Peter and his fellow disciples needed was for God to open their eyes and them give them a glimpse of God’s abiding presence with their master Jesus. The transfiguration is that experience.

Peter was preoccupied for the safety of his master just as the servant of Elisha was. But when his eyes were opened at the transfiguration and he saw his master Jesus bathed in the glory of the divine presence his fear evaporated. And Jesus turns to him [them] and says “Get up now, stop being afraid.” This is a more exact rendering of the Greek present tense imperative of prohibition.

Every time we gather for the Eucharist we can experience a moment of transfiguration when we meet with our risen Lord in the forms of bread and wine.   May the reassurance of God’s loving presence with us at communion take away all fear and doubt from our hearts and strengthen us to get up and face with courage the challenges and trials amidst the pleasures of our daily lives. Amen.

2 Kings 6 v 8-23

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”

The man of God  Elisha sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.”  So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.

This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

“None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.”  Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.

After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

“Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”  So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

March 6, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: