Rise, and Do Not Be Afraid

Sometimes we have AHA moments. You know...when you aren’t really sure of something or it isn’t quite clear...and then all of a sudden like a light bulb – you see. You get it. It’s all clear. For three of Jesus’ closest friends, the Gospel from the 2nd Sunday of Lent, the Transfiguration of Jesus, is one of those AHA moments.

Jesus Transfigured

A transfiguration is a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. How could Jesus become more beautiful or spiritual?  Why did he need to transfigure on the mountaintop in front of Peter, James and John? Maybe because they needed to be witnesses to the resurrection that was to come.

Bible Study

The transfiguration as told my Matthew is found in chapter 17. It’s helpful to back up a little and read what was going on just before. Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. In chapter 16 Jesus made his first prediction of the passion. It says, “from that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly.” He told them that he would be killed and on the third day he would be raised. I am not sure that the disciples completely understood what Jesus was talking about. And then Jesus made a detour and took them up to a mountaintop where they had an AHA experience: they saw Jesus in all his divinity.

And there, something else happened

Two other figures appeared. One was Moses, who also experienced great and glorious things with God on a mountain. The other was Elijah the Old Testament prophet from the 2nd Book of Kings, who was taken up in a fiery chariot and never seen again. Moses represents the Law and Elijah represent the Prophets. Jesus’ life fulfilled both the Law and the Prophets. Peter, James and his brother witnessed the mountaintop scene change as Jesus’ face began to shine like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

God Speaks

We could only imagine how flabbergasted they must have been. Peter seemed to get a little carried away and suggested making three tents. Then the voice of God came from a cloud and said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And God told them to “listen to him.” At that point the three disciples got scared and threw themselves to the ground. And then Jesus came. And he touched them. And then he said, “Rise and do not be afraid.”

Facing our Fears

This is an interesting gospel to read at a time when we seem to be going through a very challenging time. The Coronavirus leaves many of us scared and unsure. Some people don’t know what or whom to believe. Maybe we don’t feel comfortable about where we are going and whom we are with.  How long can we expect this to go on? Every day the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health updates their website and there are new cases every day. If the consequences of climate change fuelled by global warming weren’t enough to scare us, an unknown virus has sent all of us into a world of uncertainty to the point of panic or hysteria. We can only take it day by day and week by week. In a way, the future cannot be guessed, it is as unpredictable as the weather and this virus.

We are not alone

These are the times when we try to hear to the voice of God. In the middle of difficult times, when there is so much noise and commotion going on around us we sometimes have a hard time hearing it. This can be the time when we get comfort from Jesus. Jesus, who gave his own disciples a vision of what was to come: his resurrection. But before they could experience his resurrection, they had to live through Jesus’ suffering and death. They had to experience their own sense of loss and feelings of abandonment. They were confused and found themselves in a world of uncertainty. But Jesus rose from the dead, just like he told them. And he wouldn’t leave them alone. He would send them his spirit.


This is what I believe: challenges, disappointments will come, changes will happen but God does not abandon his children. Last spring I visited the Italian town of Assisi where St. Francis was born. There is a beautiful Basilica on the hill which is dedicated to him. Inside I found a wonderful bronze statue from a Sicilian artist. It shows the crucified with St. Francis kneeling down in front of him. St. Francis’ arm is stretched upwards to Jesus who in turn has an outreached hand to him. It is a very moving image, one I will never forget. Because you see, Jesus gives us courage and strength to climb up that mountaintop. It is in the light of Jesus’ resurrection that the meaning of his life and his mission can be truly understood. It is there on the top of the mountain that God says, “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.”  It is there on that mountain, where Jesus says, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” Amen.