Lent it coming! This is not a drill! Lent is coming! This Sunday brings with it the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration, which can only mean one thing, Lent is coming! Every year, on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, which is also the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, we hear a version of the Transfiguration story. This being Year C, we get Luke’s brief account, which brings with it a detail that I have never noticed before. Maybe it is because the Transfiguration is so full of pyrotechnics. Maybe it is because I’m already thinking about Lent. I’m not sure the reason, other than I’m probably reading quickly past the story’s setup to get to the meat, but I’ve never before picked up the particulars of Peter, James, and John joining Jesus on the mountain.
That isn’t to say that I’ve never known they were there: it is hard to read the story and not notice at least Peter. What I’ve never seen before it the fact that they really have nothing to do while they are up there. According to Luke, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him, but it seems that only Jesus was in seek of space to pray, and it was while Jesus was praying that his clothes became dazzling white and the appearance of his face was transfigured.
So, what were Peter, James, and John up to? Luke says they were exhausted. Maybe they just needed time to rest and recharge. More likely, it seems, is that Jesus took them along because he knew what was fixin’ to happen. In Luke’s Gospel, the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism seems to be only heard by him, and so here, roughly half-way through his ministry, eight days after Peter pronounced him as the Messiah, Jesus brought witnesses along so that others might hear and know the Truth. Like so many other events in the course of his life and ministry, the Transfiguration seems to be masterfully choreographed by Jesus, but this only happens because of the first part: Jesus prayed.
Jesus was in the habit of prayer. For Jesus, prayer was a conversation: both talking and, more importantly, listening, and so he was well tuned to the voice of his Father. Every major event in his ministry was perfectly put together because he was following the Way his Father had laid out. Jesus prayed, and we, like Peter, James, and John are all beneficiaries of those prayers.