There’s always been a time in our lives when we’ve seen somebody who we know is very good at something look like he’s about to lose at it. Maybe a friend who is an excellent swimmer but in the middle of the race your watching isn’t doing too well. Yet, because of what we know about that person, we expect the results to change before the race is over, so to speak, so we sit back and wait.
This Sunday, we see Jesus setting Himself up to do the exact same thing for His three closest Apostles: Peter, James, and John. This is what the Transfiguration is, at least in part. Jesus intends to reveal His glory to these three so that when He is crucified shortly after and looking like He's losing the race, they know that the story won’t end that way. We’ll come back to this in a moment.
The Liturgy of the Word, this Sunday, begins with a reading from the book of Daniel. It’s quite a strange one. Let me explain it.
Daniel is having a vision of some kind of apocalyptic (to do with the end-times) event. He says:
As I watched: Thrones were set in place and one of great age took his seat. His robe was white as snow, the hair of his head as pure as wool. His throne was a blaze of flames, its wheels were a burning fire. A stream of fire poured out, issuing from his presence. A thousand thousand waited on him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. A court was held and the books were opened.
This is how Daniel sets the stage for what is about to happen. Then enters the star of the show.
And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man. He came to the one of great age and was led into his presence. On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants. His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed.
“Son of man?” This is the title that Jesus uses to describe Himself all the time! But, clearly, in Daniel’s use of the phrase he is implying that this “son of man” is “eternal” and clearly divine. You see, many people think that when Jesus uses the term “son of man,” that He is downplaying His divinity (the fact that He is God) and some even think that He is saying that He is actually not divine; that we just made a mistake! This is outrageous and just not true. In fact, we see that His usage of “son of man” comes from a place in the Bible that completely implies divinity and nothing less! Jesus, at one point, even quotes the passage Himself, with reference to Himself to be sure, right in the middle of His trial. See for yourselves.
And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” (Matthew 26:63-66)
So Jesus quotes the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven from the book of Daniel and what’s the reaction? “He deserves death!” What, for quoting the Bible? No, for claiming to be God! An important point, however: It’s not wrong to claim to be God, if you are! But they didn’t believe that, of course.
In the Transfiguration, however, on top of Mount Tabor, Jesus showed Peter, James, and John Hi