Saving the best for last

A biblical reflection, based on Mark 9.2-9, for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, February 11, 2018.

Of all the epiphanies, revelations of Jesus’ identity – his words of preaching and teaching, his works of healing, demonstrating his power over the worlds of nature and of spirits – he saves the best, the most stupendous for last.

The Transfiguration, F. Alexandre Bida (1813-1895)

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop. There, he is transfigured, his appearance illumined by celestial light. There, Elijah and Moses appear, their presence testifying that Jesus is the supreme prophet and the supernal law-giver. There, vaporizing the last scintilla of doubt, the vox Deus declares that Jesus is God’s Son.

Peter, suggesting that he and his fellow disciples build dwellings for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, wants to stay. Who wouldn’t! If given a choice, I’d love to rise above the world’s proverbial and literal darkened valleys of difficulty, disappointment, despair, and death to remain on the mountaintop of glorious light.

However, mountaintop-moments are just that – moments of celestial clarity when we can see clearly, see forever things as we’d love them to be, verily, things as our loving God always intends.

If that’s true – and I believe it is – then Jesus not only saved the best for last, he saved the best for first. For mountaintop-moments are meant to strengthen our resolve to return to the valley to resume our life’s journey remembering the light we have seen and, by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, laboring to bring it to life.


Illustration: The Transfiguration, F. Alexandre Bida (1813-1895). Note: Bida shows Jesus “transfigured…his clothes (becoming) dazzling white” with Moses (on the left, the tablets of the Commandments in his hands) and Elijah on the right, whilst his disciples, Peter, James, and John stand or fall in varied postures of terrified awe.

2 thoughts on “Saving the best for last

  1. Dear Paul,
    I read this yesterday when I felt like I was on the Mountaintop after a presentation at a Baptist Church. I had intended to respond them but got didn’t. Today I feel back to reality as you mentioned. I felt a little sad and lost until I remembered the light in my past, my faith and all the things I have to be thankful for and that made me smile. Thank you!
    Much love!


  2. Yes, this cycle of mountaintop to valley to mountaintop to valley is a demonstrable, ever-repeatable – and, on this moment’s reflection, I will add unstoppable – element of life’s journey. In this, as much as I might long to remain on the mountain, I can’t. Yet, also in this, it means that when I’m down in the valley I can believe and trust that a mountain-moment will come. When? How? Where? All unpredictable, yet assured. That, for me, is good news.

    I am happy that you, following your wondrous mountain-top moment of presenting and being present with the Baptist church community and feeling the inevitable sadness of the subsequent letdown (the trudging back to the valley) remembered the light, your faith, and your gratitude. That sort of remembrance and reflection is, I think, an experience of heaven-on-earth.



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