This week, we are contemplating the power of our voices in establishing justice in our present world. Our reading this week is from the gospel of Mark:
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
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Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9)
This is the earliest version of this story that we still have today, and the one that all other reports of this event in our sacred text are dependent on (see Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18).
In Mark’s narrative, Jesus is focused on Jerusalem. He will soon be protesting in the temple courts and quite probably provoking the empire’s violent response. So our story this week prepares us for the rest of the events of this gospel. First, though, this story points us back to Jesus’ baptism:
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)
Remember, in the book of Isaiah, this language was tied to the one who would establish justice:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth. (Isaiah 42:1-4)
Mark then points forward to the resurrection with a detail that would appear later in Mark’s version of the story:
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. (Mark 16:4-5, italics added)
The transfiguration story that we’re looking at this week places Jesus in the context of significant figures in Mark’s audience’s past liberation and justice traditions. We’ll unpack what that may mean for us, next.
(Read Part 2)
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