There are always two Sundays in the Epiphany season that you can count on—the Baptism of our Lord and Transfiguration Sunday.
At first glance, the two couldn’t appear any more different. For the first one, Jesus goes down into the water. And the Jordan River is pretty low, altitude-wise, when compared to all other rivers. And the second one is literally a mountain-top experience.
There is one thing that is almost exactly the same, though. There is the voice from heaven, the Father’s voice, who claims Jesus as his beloved Son. Only in Luke’s account does the voice say that this is my ‘chosen’ one. (This isn’t surprising, given the introductory chapters in Luke that focus on Jesus being special.)
In the Gospel according to Matthew, it is at this point that the three disciples fall on their faces. I was surprised to find out that this is something relatively rare in the gospel accounts.
It’s interesting that, near the beginning of Luke, there’s a man with leprosy who falls on his face before Jesus and asks to be cleansed. And then, near the end of Luke, there’s the Samaritan man with leprosy who, after he was cleansed, falls down on his face before Jesus and thanks him. And the only other time is in Matthew when Jesus himself falls on his face and prays while in the Garden of Gethsemane.
It’s rare for someone to fall on their face. It probably would hurt a bit. I guess I’m a little surprised that the disciples didn’t fall on their faces a bit more—or a bit earlier on that first day of the Transfiguration. Jesus’ clothes are like light and his face like the sun—two important things mentioned during creation.
Peter liked that mountain-top situation, especially having Moses and Elijah around. That comes at a pretty high price. What he and the others get, after tasting a little dirt, is ‘only Jesus’. And that’s good enough to last a long, long time.