What Happens on the Mountain

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9

February 17, 2023, Words By: Lina Thompson, Image By: Saulo Zayas

Made Flesh

It’s safe to say that James, John and Peter had the strangest, scariest, holiest, most other-worldly experience when they accompanied Jesus on a hike up a high mountain. At some point during this trek, Jesus’ appearance changed — right before them. It was like he was shining from the inside out. One translation said, “Sunlight poured from his face.” Even his clothes became super bright.  

And if this wasn’t weird enough, out of nowhere (it seems) they were joined by Elijah and Moses, who decided to have a conversation with Jesus. Then a cloud enveloped them all and they heard a voice from above saying: 

“This is my beloved Son. I am well pleased with him. Listen to him.” 

That’s a lot for one day of discipleship training, don’t you think? Any one of those things by themselves would’ve been plenty. 

It’s no wonder they were afraid. So afraid, they fell flat on their faces. 

What happened next is a great pastoral move on Jesus’ part. He went over (I envision him laying a hand gently on their shoulder) and told them not to be afraid. When they finally opened their eyes, they looked around and the bright-shining Jesus had been replaced by the much less incandescent Jesus they knew. The prophets were gone. No more audible voice from heaven. That was it. Things were back to “normal.”
As they made their way down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t breathe a word to anyone about what happened here. You can talk about it when I’m dead and gone and resurrected.”   

I read this text today and chuckled. If this whole thing happened now, there’s no way that would have stayed on the mountain, right? It would have gone viral…the perfect opportunity to set the record straight with Jesus’ true identity. Cue all the memes.  

So why the hush-hush? 

Jesus says, “Don’t tell anyone,” when he could’ve said, “Go tell everybody what just happened up there!” That would’ve made more sense. 

Unless, of course, there was more to the story that had to unfold.
While the “end” was made clear that day (i.e. Jesus’ resurrection and glory — the shiny part), there’s a really important part of this story that hasn’t yet been fulfilled — the suffering part. Ahhhh. That part. 

We live in a world, and oftentimes Church, that moves to “shiny” or “glory” really fast. But the narrative we belong to is one that holds glory AND suffering together — not in opposition to one another. This is part of Jesus’ identity, and by default ours, too. 

I love that it’s part of Jesus’ identity — his “brand.” Jesus most certainly gets the suffering of the world. But in my country, most people don’t view the modern church in the same way. 

We are bombarded with daily marketing efforts and messages that are designed to distract and distance us from suffering — whether it’s our own or the suffering of others.  
It is pure wisdom on the part of God to ask us to pause before we speak. To take in the fullness of the gospel — the shiny with the suffering —  so we can tell the full story of the incarnation…a God who bears our brokenness and creates new life from within it. Wait. See. Let the story unfold. Then…maybe then… you might have something to tell. 

That is what lies ahead as Lent awaits us. 

Dwelling Among Us

Where did you first hear about suffering as part of your formation as a disciple?

About The Author

Lina Thompson