Monday, February 5, 2018

Intermission


When Jesus came up from the waters of baptism in Mark 1, Jesus heard God say to him, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Although it's possible that other people heard it, Mark places the emphasis on Jesus' encounter. He's the one who saw the heavens torn open, and he's the one that the divine voice addresses. During the season after the Epiphany, when we journey from the River Jordan through the early miracles of Jesus' ministry, we get glimpses into who Jesus really is. He's the one with authority over demons. He's the one who can heal the sick. He's the one who can raise the dead. Then, right smack dab in the middle of Mark's account, we hear an echo from Jesus' baptism, but this time the voice speaks to us.

In Mark 9, Jesus goes up on a mountain and takes with him his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John. While there, he is transfigured before them. His clothes become dazzling white. His skin begin to shine. His divinity breaks through the surface and those around him get to see plainly what everyone has seen hints of. In that moment, God again speaks, but this time God addresses whomever is listening, presumably the disciples, the reader, and the whole world: "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" They are almost the same words--statement of filial identity, statement of preferential love--but this time they are given not to Jesus himself but to those who are with him.

We're still only half way through. The baptism was a moment when Jesus heard God proclaim his identity as God's beloved Son. The transfiguration was a moment when Jesus' disciples heard God repeat that identification. At the end of the story, in Mark 15, when Jesus dies on the cross, questioning his own identity with the words "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" we hear the centurion repeat the true identity of Jesus: "Truly this man was God's Son!" It's the moment of clarity when the full implications of Jesus' sonship are manifest. Yes, Jesus heard it at the Jordan. Yes, the disciples heard it on the mountain top. But what it means for Jesus to be God's Son is only fully disclosed in the crucifixion.

This Sunday is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. Ash Wednesday is a little over a week away. Lent begins. We journey down the transfiguration mountain and on toward Jerusalem. With each step, the remaining puzzle pieces are put into place. Jesus doesn't need to show us that he's God's Son any more. We've already seen that. Now, he has to show us what it means to be God's Son. This Sunday is only an intermission--a brief moment when things seem clear. But then it's time to journey on and go to Jerusalem and learn for ourselves what it means to be a child of God.

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