Today is the last Sunday before Lent begins.
A Sunday that is a culmination of the past several weeks with our readings during church that told of the amazing acts and profound teachings of Jesus.
A Sunday when people around Jesus have their eyes open to see the glory of God surrounding the man born in Bethlehem, raised by a carpenter yet with a much larger purpose.
Mark 8:27-9:8 is our text today.
Jesus is walking with his followers when he turns to ask a question.
The question might sound like a simple one, but in reality this is the question that is the point of what Jesus had been doing, the reason for the rest of the journey to come.
“Who do people say that I am?”
In other words, Jesus is getting feedback. He wants to know if people are really starting to figure out what is going on.
Do they think he’s an upstart? A fraud? Someone who is all flash but no substance? A carpenter who should go back to working with wood and not people?
Is he a prophet? Does he stand in a long line of people called by God to bring a message? Is he one like so many before who comes to bring words of caution to those who strayed from God and words of hope for those who wait in darkness?
Or is he something more?
The followers answer. “Well, some say John the Baptist.”
The voice in the wilderness. The man who called loudly for people to repent and turn back to God. The one who stirred hearts and baptized people, that ritual of cleansing so that people can once again stand before God.
A favorite prophet of God. Powerful, able to perform miracles. Powerful, able to make kings and queens nervous when he shows up. Powerful, defeating another god with a hundred prophets. One who did not die but was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, meaning that he can come back whenever.
“Or another prophet.”
A messenger. One sent to bring the word of the Lord.
Then Jesus asks another question.
“But who do you say that I am?”
Asking those who have been there day after day. Those who have seen many great things. Those who have been taught by Jesus.
This is a test question: did they finally get it all figured out?
And Peter did.
This guy known for putting his foot in his mouth answers.
“You are the Messiah.”
The anointed one. The one person who is to bring hope and prosperity back to the people of God. The one who will be mighty and victorious, much like King David of old who defeated enemies and brought glory to God and God’s people.
Jesus is the one people have been waiting for.
Then Jesus turns and begins to tell the followers what is to come.
And it’s not what is expected or wanted.
Instead of glorious victory in battle, betrayal.
Instead of ruling over a proud nation, rejection.
Instead of a long and prosperous life, death.
And Peter voices the frustration. “But how can this be? That’s not what the Messiah is supposed to do and be?”
And Jesus reminds him that God’s plans seldom follow human expectations.
Six days later, Jesus takes a few disciples with him up to the top of a mountain.
And while Peter, James and John look on, Jesus is tranfigured.
He changes before their eyes, miraculously wearing clothing so white it seems to glow.
And he’s not alone.
There stands Moses and Elijah, two of God’s favorite prophets. The one who brought the people out of slavery and the one who sought to remind people that they were the people of God and should act like it.
Peter, with his ability to say the wrong thing, offers to build dwellings for the three.
But the three are not meant to dwell on the mountain top.
Then Jesus and Moses and Elijah disappear in a cloud.
And a voice cries out: “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him!”
Then the cloud disperses and Jesus stands there alone.
The Son, the Beloved, the one to whom all should listen.
And so Peter and James and John, after seeing with their own eyes, know that the man before them is beyond their expectations or understanding.
Because God is truly beyond human understanding yet walks alongside the people of God on the road.
And all they can do, all any of us can do, is listen.
So may we listen.
May our eyes be open to see what God shows us. May our ears be open to what God says. May our hearts be open to whatever God teaches us and may we follow where we are led.