“…and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white,..” Mark 9:2b-3a
As a latecomer to Bible study I hope I may be excused for mentioning what’s probably a familiar experience to seasoned readers: namely, that in looking up a reference on a particular verse, one often finds something interesting in a different verse near it.
An instance of this occurred as I consulted R. E. Brown’s An Introduction to the New Testament for his comments on Mark 9:2-13, which so vividly depicts the Lord’s transfiguration on the mountain as witnessed by Peter, James and John. What struck me about Brown’s discussion was not his description of this dramatic theophany, but rather that it was both preceded and followed by statements that the Lord’s Messiahship was to entail suffering and death–and not only for Jesus, but for those who would be his followers. Brown highlights the fact that Jesus repeatedly emphasized that his Messiahship must contain “…the necessary component of suffering” and that his followers will have to suffer as well (p.139)
In view of this emphasis, I couldn’t help reflecting that so many blessings of 21st-century American life such as antibiotics, medical anesthesia, dependable food, shelter and water supply for most–the list could be extended indefinitely–enable us to avoid sources of suffering that have been the common lot of humanity for millennia. And while I don’t wish to trivialize the very real suffering that still exists by comparing it to the voluntary exercise of Lenten disciplines, this reading helped me see their virtue in a whole new light.
In closing, I offer a passage that gives hope of transformation through suffering: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish and strengthen you.” 1 Peter 5:10