Faith Time: Transfiguration Sunday


Dustin Bruce with The University of Mobile joins us to talk about a key event in the Gospels. Here’s a look at our conversation:    

Chad: Some denominations celebrate Transfiguration Sunday today–what is that?  

Guest:  For churches that follow a liturgical calendar, Transfiguration Sunday commemorates one of the key events recorded in the first three Gospels, when Jesus appeared in glory to his three closest disciples: Peter, James, and John. The event, recorded in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9 speaks of Jesus leading the disciples up to a high mountain, where the scripture says, “he was transfigured before them.” We don’t know exactly what all this entailed, but we do know that the face of Jesus shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. We also learn that Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. Peter, the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth, as some have described him, offers to make tents for Moses and his Old Testament guests, before being cut off by the Father who says “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”

Chad: How does this Sunday serve as a bridge between Jesus ministry and his passion?

Guest:  When we cover the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in my class at University of Mobile, I teach my students that each of the Gospels has a narrative structure that begins with Jesus’s birth and climax’s at the crucifixion. You can think of Transfiguration Sunday as commemorating the key turning point in the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus makes a decisive turn from his ministry among the Jews and Gentiles toward his passion.  

Chad:  What should people take away from this Sunday?  

Guest: As we reflect on the transfiguration of Jesus before his disciples this Sunday, two things stand out. First, this episode speaks to the identity of Jesus as the eternal Son who shares in the Father’s glory. Similar to Jesus’ baptism, the Father affirms the identity of Jesus as the eternal Son of God. Second, as we commemorate the Transfiguration we must remember that in the person of Jesus, divine glory and the greatest of suffering met. Like Peter and the other disciples, we can struggle to understand how Jesus could be truly God and suffer the passion. But by affirming Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father speaks not only to the identity of Jesus, but to his mission as well. 

Chad: This is also the last Sunday before Fat Tuesday, ash Wednesday–how does the carnival season tie into the Christian liturgical calendar?

Guest:  You can think about the church calendar as consisting of two halves. The first half, which runs from advent until lent, commemorates the incarnation and earthly ministry of Jesus. The second half, which runs from lent through pentecost, commemorates Christ’s death and resurrection. The first half has a more joyful, upbeat tone, but as you move toward Easter, the mood is more somber, though ultimately victorious. Since lent begins on Ash Wednesday and usually involves fasting, Christians began having a feast on what became Fat Tuesday to enjoy all those delicacies they would be abstaining from for the next 40 days. Over time, this practice evolved into the carnival season you see today. 

Chad:  How can people of faith use the time of Lent to refocus their hearts on what’s important in life?

As we move into the season of Lent, which traditionally involves 40 days of fasting modeled after the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting, it is a great time to intentionally embrace practices that deepen our love for Christ and grounding in the gospel. A common mistake people make is to give up something important to them for lent as if giving the thing up is the end in and of itself. But as a mentor of mine, Don Whitney, says “discipline without direction is drudgery.” Lets say for instance you go the traditional route and commit to a partial fast of food for lent. The most effective way to fast is to let the hunger you experience serve as a catalyst for prayer and seeking the Lord. If you don’t replace the act you are abstaining from with an intentional act that draws you closer to Jesus, then you will likely find yourself frustrated, and perhaps just “hangry.”

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