Well, just think: Jesus has recently set his course toward Jerusalem, and he has already predicted his arrest and trial and death to his disciples several times.
So why manifest to his disciple his glory, his face shining like the sun, his clothes becoming white as light, when we preparing ourselves for his Passion? Well, this is no human glory, no human light, no human radiance. Jesus is imbued at this moment, up on the mountain, with the glory, the very holiness of the Lord God himself: God, who has called Jesus into service on our behalf; God, whom Jesus loves as his Abba; God, the beginning and the end of all that Jesus says and does: This God now accepts the love of our Lord Christ, and in return, loves Jesus, affirms Jesus, and bathes him in the glory and power of God’s love.
Look a bit more carefully and notice that with Jesus at this radiant moment of Transfiguration are two very important figures in salvation history, great biblical servants who themselves at one time also shined with the glory of God, but who were not Divine: Moses, whose face always shined with the light of God when he came down from the mountain after engaging with God in prayer; and Elijah, among the prophets of Israel, “the most prominent,” and who, tradition holds, was taking up into heaven on a chariot ablaze with the glory of God. For the Jews, there was no greater law than that of Moses and the Prophets. Now, as he prepares for Jerusalem, Jesus interprets the Law, not by holding classes or teaching theories, or by awarding degrees, but by freely choosing sacrifice of his own body, and the shedding of his blood: He chooses to be the Lamb of God. By allowing himself to be emptied, emptied and sacrificed, this glorious, Transfigured Christ who stands in the light of God, will take away the sins of the world.
This is why the Divine Voice says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” And we do listen to Jesus: At every Eucharist, we proclaim God’s Word, culminating in the proclamation of the Gospel. We listen to Jesus because by listening to his teaching, the Gospel is alive, and we can take it all to heart, and we apply the Law of Christ to our everyday lives and our relationships, in our good times and in our bad times. For us baptized believers in Christ, we the servants of God and of each other, there is no other way to live but in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus the center, the ground, and the origin of our faith. Jesus, the beginning and the end.
This Love which now shines forth from Jesus is not worldly glory, not worldly power; the glory of Jesus, because it is truly of God, does not seek itself or maintain itself by accumulating power: No, the glory of our Lord Jesus will soon manifest itself under the distressing disguise of the poor, as St. Teresa of Kalkuta used to say, by allowing himself to be led to the Cross, by shedding its blood.
Yes, we will enter Jerusalem with Jesus; we will be with him at his trial; we will hear his sentence of death read aloud. We will walk with him as he trudges his way up the hill and when he falls and cannot get up, but does. We will wish with all our heart that we could do something, anything, to spare Jesus, the Lamb of God, so that he can live a long and prosperous life and die a natural death, just as we want for ourselves and for those we love.
And when he finally says, “It is finished,” and dies, we will wonder with the Apostles, well, what now? Where to, from here? Was this all for naught? Where is that glory we saw in the Transfiguration? And we will wait, praying that the Lord will come back to us, and he will, the Crucified-Risen Lord, and we will love him again, and love him more and more.