“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” God’s voice echoed through the Holy Spirit cloud on the mountaintop. The raging storm listened to him, and was still. The life-wrecking demons listened to him, and departed. Jairus’ daughter listened to him, and was raised to life.
The mountaintop transfiguration of Jesus is a strange tale. For the first time, Jesus had shared with his followers that he would be rejected, suffer and die at the hands of his enemies. Instead of promising comfort and easy living, Jesus promises the way of the cross for himself and any who would follow him (Mk 8:27-9:1). Within a week, his three closest disciples witness Jesus transformed into a heavenly being, with two pillars of Jewish faith standing beside him. Moses (representing Torah) and Elijah (representing the prophets) show up and start talking to Jesus. Peter, James, and John (who have probably peed their pants from fear at this point), suggest setting up tents for these three heavenly beings, maybe as a way to memorialize what is happening, or somehow hold onto the glory of the moment. The cloud of the Holy Spirit overshadows everyone, and God tells them to listen to the Beloved Son…and then its over. You imagine the whole thing to have happened in the span of three or four minutes that felt like an eternity.
What were they supposed to listen to?
The first thing Jesus does as he walks them back down the mountain is remind them that he will be raised from the dead, after he is rejected and suffers at the hands of his enemies. And then he gives a small child the ability to speak and hear. And then he tells them again that he’s going to suffer and die before he is raised.
“This is my Son,” says the voice of God. This one. The Beloved; whose glory is truly discovered in the cross. The Beloved; who is able to do the impossible…LISTEN to him!
Follow me. The denied and rejected one. The suffering and resurrected one. To be a disciple is to face the reality of suffering and death with Christ, and to trust that though it looks and feels like defeat, you will be raised with him.
I wanted the demons in this comic to look like the main character: pale and decaying, sightless voices that insist their words are ultimate. Some days you can be so overwhelmed by the lies that it’s hard to listen to the voice of the Beloved, let alone trust that Christ has conquered those lies. Like the parent of the demon-possessed child in Mark 9, we feel helpless to conquer the demons, like we are doomed to lose what we love. With that parent we say, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24).
As we brace ourselves for the Lenten journey to the cross, may you find yourself in prayer. May you listen to the voice that says, “Neither death, nor life…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39). May you find yourself transformed more and more into the image of Christ each time you tie your shoes and agree day by day to deny yourself, to take up you cross, and to follow the Suffering Servant, the Beloved Son.
This week’s comic is written especially for all those women and men in the ordination process, which causes you to face all your demons, challenges your feelings of self-worth, and leaves you feeling spiritually exhausted. Our prayers are with you.