by Father Mike Stubbs
It looked like a brown mess, not at all attractive. Only after it had spent a good hour in the oven did it begin to resemble a chocolate cake.
Some things make no sense at first. Only later on do we start to understand them, to see their purpose.That definitely holds true for the Transfiguration, featured in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, MK 9:2-10. On top of a mountain, Peter, James and John witness an event which they cannot explain. They behold Jesus transfigured in glory. They observe him conversing with figures from the past: the prophet Elijah and the patriarch Moses. (How Peter, James and John are able to identify these figures, we cannot explain.) They hear a voice from heaven.
Peter, James and John cannot begin to understand the mysterious event that they have witnessed. Had they reported it to others, they most probably would have been soundly mocked, accused of suffering from a mass hallucination, of making impossible claims. With that in mind, the warning that Jesus gives them makes sense: “He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”
But Jesus’ instruction to the disciples does not merely protect them from ridicule. It also continues the theme of secrecy that we have already encountered in Mark’s Gospel. Earlier in the Sunday readings for February, we saw how Jesus sought to silence the demon who recognized him as the Holy One of God (Mk 1:21-28); we saw how Jesus also wished to silence the other demons he drove out (Mk 1:29-39); and we saw how Jesus ordered the leper whom he healed not to publicize the miracle (Mk 1:40-45).
Once again, Jesus issues an order for secrecy.
We should notice that this time, Jesus links the order for secrecy with his resurrection from the dead: “He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Only after Jesus is risen from the dead will the disciples begin to understand the reason for Jesus’ glory. Only after he is risen will they begin to understand why he must suffer and die on the cross.
The death and resurrection of Jesus occupy a central place in Jesus’ identity. They serve as the key piece in the puzzle, the mystery of Jesus Christ. No wonder that Jesus cautions the disciples to wait until he has risen from the dead.
As we begin the season of Lent, a similar caution applies to us. We also must wait and experience the discipline of Lent, before we can arrive at the joys of Easter. We must pass through the cross to reach the resurrection. Only after the resurrection will the cross make sense.