“Mountains” have been a dominant image in much of literature. For example, many sports enthusiasts want to climb “mount” Everest–mostly because it is there. Or from a religious perspective, “mount” Sinai is important to the Jewish and Christian faiths–primarily because a crucial covenant between God and humanity was established there.
Why is the “mountain” so special? I would say that the mountain images the meeting point between heaven and earth. In the Scriptures, when a “mountain” appears in the narrative, there is likelihood that something special is going to happen.
Of the many possible examples, one comes to mind. And that is the well known account of what is called the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5:1-7:29). The text tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds “…he went up the mountain….” (Matt. 5:1) and began to teach. When he had finished, “…Jesus had come down from the mountain….” (Matt. 8:1)
What was his reason for going to the mountain? Most likely he had something important to say. And we find that reason in the biblical text itself. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17)
And that “fulfillment” was to make certain that sinfulness was to be considered not just externally in the deed itself, but also internally in the will. Jesus illustrated this with the pattern of: “You have heard it said…but I say to you….” In the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Lent (Lk. 9:28-36) we note that Jesus takes a few of his disciples with him up a mountain. Thus we know that something special is going to happen there.
And what is that something special? It is what we generally call the “Transfiguration.” That is to say that the figure of Jesus is transformed into something else. The descriptive images of “light, white, cloud” were biblical images that described the presence of the divine. Most likely, the disciples saw another aspect of Jesus.
Part of the vision showed Moses and Elijah standing on either side of Jesus. Both are Old Testament characters. Many commentators say that Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets. The idea was that Jesus was to be considerd the proper interpreter of the Law and the Prophets.
But the most significant aspect of that vision was the cloud (another image representing the deity) and the voice which came from within. The voice said “…This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” (Lk. 9:35) The voice confirmed what the disciples had seen. ” Confirmation” of who Jesus is and “command” in how to deal with him were the key aspects of the message given to the disciples.
And what can we learn from this Gospel reading? Various things, I’m certain. But I would like to suggest a couple of items. The first would be to “climb the mountain” to pray–as Jesus did. However, the “mountain” that we can climb could be the challenges we receive from temptations. As in Lent, so throughout the year, we face many “mountains” (temptations.) It would be important to choose one that we find especially bothersome. Lent can be our focus time to “climb” (overcome) that mountain (temptation).
The second thing we can learn from the Gospel reading is to realize that the “voice” from the cloud is speaking directly to us. We also need that confirmation that Jesus is the Son of God, and take seriously the command to listen to Jesus, especially through the Scriptures.
Consequently, through encountering and successfully climbing our “mountain” (temptation) and “listening” to Jesus through Scripture, we could experience a good Lenten season which would mean that by Easter we would have successfully arrived on the other side of the mountain which would most likely be our “transfiguration” into new people.