Terror and a Touch (Day Six)

Thanks for joining me on this journey! Today is day six of reading through the New Testament, and the reading is from Matthew 16 through Matthew 18.

In the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, there is an absolutely breath-taking scene, when Lucy Pevensie, the youngest of the four children, realizes that this large battle ensuing over the kingdom of Narnia was both planned and executed without the influence of Aslan. So she goes to find him.

Yet she is followed. And, as a child, there is little she can do to push back those attacks.

So Aslan arrives, emerges, from the forest, with a spectacular roar, and comes to her rescue. Here’s the clip:

She is in awe of Aslan, and when she finds him, she runs to him, to this amazing lion, and to the creator of the Narnian world. Moments before, he was vicious and just. Now he is gentle, and meek.

And Lucy runs to him, holds him in her arms, and he falls to the ground with her.

If you’ve not seen the film in its entirety, perhaps this scene means very little to you. But I am so moved when I watch this.

In the reading today, we find, in Matthew 17, the transfiguration of Jesus. It is a very apocryphal scene in the gospel of Matthew, and one that is a bit surprising. Like a scene from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, the transfiguration involves Jesus, a mountain, a cloud, and two of Israel’s greatest heroes, Moses and Elijah.

It is intended to give the disciples a profound vision, though.

Matthew 16:21-28 is Jesus’ discourse about his own personal suffering. His way is the way of sacrifice, and it’s a brutal passage. Again, Jesus is almost giving a warning, a bit like this: “My way is not the way to fame. It is not the way of wealth. It is far from the way of comfort. And if you want to walk my way, you must first die.”

It is almost a hopeless passage. Even with the exception of Jesus coming in his kingdom, there isn’t much promise for his follower. And we draw heavily from 16:26, when we are warned that our soul is the cost of gaining fame and wealth and comfort. Jesus even attacks ambitions.

All of this, then, is followed by the transfiguration. Privy to just Peter, James and John, Jesus is changed before them. His face shines. Moses and Elijah join him. They are enveloped in a bright cloud.

Jesus is intended to show himself glorified. The transfiguration is a message of hope, after the very dire words in Matthew 16. The transfiguration is the message that pain and sacrifice are worth it. There is an exaltation waiting. Jesus casts this vision to his disciples on the mountain. And, as members of the kingdom, they would obviously share in this glory, because they are on the mountain with him.

I’m sure Peter, James and John were in awe. Yet it wasn’t shocking enough for Peter. He actually is bold enough to speak to Jesus, and to suggest a memorial to the moment. If he had an iPhone, he would’ve taken a picture and posted it.

Yet when God spoke from the cloud, in response to Peter’s suggestion, even without answering it, they fell face-down to the ground. Overwhelmed. Awe-struck. And finally silent.

In 17:7, though, Jesus comes down from the mountain, from his pedestal, from his meeting with these ancients, and the Word says this:

But Jesus came and touched them …

Jesus, the Word incarnate, the one who summoned Elijah and Moses, came and touched them. His hands felt their shoulders. He calmed their fear.

He moved beyond a barrier. He walked out of the cloud. The only thing that would cause Jesus to leave the company of both Moses and Elijah was the overwhelming terror of his disciples. He had compassion on them.

And Jesus tells them to stand up, and to not be afraid.

Their vision is so profound, though, that later, in 17:20, Jesus tells them that their mountain-top experience should not paralyze them. It was a mountain that needed to be moved. And a mustard-seed faith, compared to a vision-laden mountain, was just enough to realize that life is still waiting to be lived, and that demons still needed to be purged.

__________

Thanks for reading. You can find the complete posts, through these ninety days, here.

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