There’s an unusual fever striking New York Knicks fans, a kind of Asian flu called Linsanity. It goes beyond New York, really, the whole sports world is going nuts for Jeremy Lin, the out-of-nowhere star point guard. Stories like Jeremy Lin’s are a rarity in big-time sports, mainly because we already know the guys and gals who are big time, we’ve followed them through college or the minors. But very few saw Jeremy Lin coming, or they dismissed him before he even had a chance to approach. Being a Harvard-educated, Asian-American Christian, there is exactly no one like him to ever play in the N.B.A. By all accounts, he shouldn’t even be there, but there he is, out-scoring Kobe Bryant and making some bona fide stars look silly. No one saw him coming; Lin’s rise is so improbable that you couldn’t find a Lin jersey anywhere in New York, but only because the N.B.A hadn’t licensed any fan jerseys to be made, they didn’t think anyone would ever want one. Lin is a humble, quiet, obviously intelligent Asian kid, who when finally given the chance, was revealed to be almost preternaturally gifted.
Revelations like that don’t come along often, in sports or in any other context. One such revelation came along once in the earthly life of Jesus, and we heard about it today. “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here,” said St. Peter, and he was right, it was good for him and for James and John to be there, to see a glimpse of the true glory of our Lord, to be the first mortals to lay eyes on Moses and Elijah in a thousand years. It was good for them to be there, despite being terrified, despite being so overwhelmed by the whole thing that Peter made the surreal suggestion that he pop up some tents for all of them. Nowadays we might ask Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to squeeze in so we could take a picture with our cellphones.
This episode is one of the “Twelve Great Feasts” of the Orthodox Church. Just so you know, today is not the Feast of the Transfiguration. The actually feast is on August 6, and that date has nothing to do with the actual date of the Transfiguration. In fact, “Despite the importance of this event, the Feast of the Transfiguration was not among the earliest of the Christian feasts. It was celebrated in Asia starting in the fourth or fifth century and spread throughout the Christian East in the centuries following. T he Catholic Encyclopedia notes that it wasn’t commonly celebrated in the West until the tenth century. (The date comes from the effort) To celebrate the great Christian victory at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456, during which the Muslim Turks were routed and the Islamic advance into Europe was halted, Pope Callixtus III elevated the Transfiguration to a feast of the universal Church and established August 6 as the date of its celebration.”1
It was good for those disciples to be there, to see Jesus revealed more fully for who He is. Jesus was, of course, transfigured – we don’t call this episode The Transformation – He was revealed, the curtain was drawn back a bit, the disciples got to see a few seconds of what life for Jesus was like back in Heaven, hanging out with His best buds Moses and Elijah.
Oh, to know what they were talking about! Mark tells us that Peter, James, and John saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah with their own eyes, and since Peter spoke to them, they must have been within earshot. But no one managed to record what was said, or maybe they weren’t really close enough to listen. I bet those disciples were trying to listen in, though, and then the Father Himself interrupted: “Stop eavesdropping,” I only wish God had said, but then He actually said “This is my beloved son; listen to Him!”
Listen to Him, James and John, and especially you, Peter! Peter had trouble really listening to Jesus; he heard what Jesus said, of course, but he had issues with listening, taking it all in, with understanding the fact that Jesus was not beholden to the expectations Peter had for Him. Those expectations, that Jesus would rule as an earthly king, were so repugnant to Jesus that He had called Peter Satan just six days before the Transfiguration we heard about today. So Peter, for quite truly the love of God, listen to Him!
On that mountaintop, Jesus was revealed to be greater than even the disciples had come to expect. The curtain was drawn back, His true glory, His true self was revealed, and in the midst of this revelation only one command was given: Listen to Him! As we move into this season of Lent, as we take the time to listen once again to the story of God’s love for us, I hope you’ll listen for the love of God, listen for Jesus as He reveals His true self in His suffering for us; that in listening for Him and to Him, His glory will once again be revealed, that in beholding Him for who He is, everyone might come to follow Him.
1Scott P. Richert, Catholicism, About.com