Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.
As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’
With all the challenge and denial I wonder how often did Jesus ask himself - how can my Father be pleased with this? How often did Jesus return to the lonely places asking his Father for loving consolation?
Probably not an image of Jesus anyone would want to consider; yet the conversation in Gethsemene tells us that Jesus is not in control of the Mission; sometimes Jesus does seem to learn as he goes; the woman who asks for healing as scraps from the table for instance. Some would say Jesus uses the situation to teach a lesson. I wonder if Jesus himself sometimes needed the lesson - after all he believed he had come to gather Israel first - maybe the woman was his teacher this day - a lesson learned from experience - and many others along the way.
Now, three years later, the final pilgrimage to Jerusalem; the one that will end with his death. In the past few days he has talked with the disciples about the sacifice that is to come and they still don't get it. I imagine Jesus sitting at the fire during the morning de-camp; watching the hustle-bustle as preparations are made for the day; the talk of anticipation for the Passover. I see his eyes reaching towards heaven and in his fearful heart a simple cry - 'Father'.
And his Father says 'Come to me and bring your friends'.
The mountain is not an escape. It is a refuge. The going up will mean coming down again but surely worth it? It isn't always about moving on; moving forward; sometimes its about reaching a point where there is nowhere else to go and staying with that.
At the top of the mountain the air is thin; they feel lightheaded; catching their breath at the landscape rolling out below them. For the fishermen this is as far from the sea as you could be; as far from their early life as they could imagine. Maybe as they watch Jesus pray they whisper together about the adventures they have had; the lives that have been changed because of this man, this friend, this brother.
And then they see this man, this brother, as the Father sees him; shining and wonderful beyond all recognition; washed clean again from the doubts and prejudices of human perception. Resting in the company of the fathers of faith; wrapped in the light of his Father's eyes.
Why would Peter even suggest tents? Why seek to confine this experience; to enclose it within manageable 'space'? Because they could not cope with the wonder of what they were seeing?
And then the voice of the Father; speaking to them - ordinary men out on a mountain - the Father witnessing to them 'This is my Son; I love him; listen to him.'
As they come down the mountain the doubts and misunderstandings are already beginning to set in. Keep this to yourself - Jesus tells them - you don't understand now, talking about it won't help. But the experience will come back to you when it is needed.
What does Transfiguration mean to us? That we are fearfully and wondrously made. That even in our fears and mistakes we are blessed, Yet how often do we believe that? How often does life not let us believe that?
Surely there are times when we can imagine no greater gift than being on a mountaintop and letting God hold us; seeing ourselves reflected in God's eyes; letting God tell us we are Beloved; that we have a message worth listening to?
As disciples we follow Jesus. Jesus knows his need of the Father, he makes the time, he takes the journey. Jesus finds rest in his Father. Enough to face death and more than death. As disciples we have accepted the cross of desolation; we may also accept God's embrace of consolation. We are Beloved.