We have what seems to be two impossible storylines in our readings today. Abraham who has been promised by God that he would be the father of a great nation. And as he looks out over the land of Canaan, he’s promised that all of that land would belong to his descendants, and his descendants would be a blessing to the world. That’s extraordinary when you consider that Abraham was an old man with a rather old wife, and they had no children. I’m sure Abraham thought, “How could this possibly happen?” But of course, nothing is impossible for God. Nothing.
I think we sometimes forget that nothing is impossible for God. We easily get caught up in the face of difficult situations and find ourselves feeling helpless or hopeless, believing that nothing will work out. We convince ourselves that nothing will turn out for the best, especially when depression sets in, like when we lose someone we love. How will I ever get through this? The anxiety and discouragement that comes in facing an addiction and not knowing how to manage it, or the fearful feelings we get when a family member is alcoholic or addicted, has a severe health problem like cancer, or a mental health problem, etc. How am I ever going to get through this? How can I help when the other person doesn’t want to be helped? In these situations, life can be quite overwhelming. But again, regardless of the situation, nothing is impossible for God! Nothing!
And then there’s our Gospel reading – the Transfiguration of Jesus. Three apostles, Peter, James and John, are invited by Jesus to go up on the mountain with the Lord and witness the Transfiguration. They witness the impossible. They see Jesus transfigured before them. And who is with Jesus? Moses and Elijah, two of the most important prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus face shines like the sun, reminiscent of Moses face which shone with the glory of God because of his encounters on Mt. Sinai. Moses was transformed on Mt. Sinai. And Jesus is transfigured on the mountain, except that in this situation, Moses is at Jesus’ side. Moses, the most important and central prophet of the Old Testament is attending to Jesus, not the other way around. This clearly indicates to Peter, James and John that Jesus is even greater than Moses.
It was just a chapter before this reading in Matthew that Jesus asked the apostles the question, “Who do you say that I am?” And it was Peter that gave the most insightful answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And in essence Jesus says to him, “You couldn’t have known that on your own. God the Father revealed that to you.”
Strangely, right after that Jesus says that he will have to suffer much in Jerusalem, be killed, and on the third day rise again. Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. Right after saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter refuses to believe that something like that could ever happen to Jesus, and he challenges him over it. Then Jesus sternly rebukes Peter by saying, “Get behind me Satan! You are thinking as man thinks, but not as God thinks.” God revealed to Peter the reality of who Jesus is, and yet Peter attempts to rebuke Jesus? That’s because it all seemed so impossible to Peter. The incarnation seems so impossible. God becoming human flesh, a man, and walking this earth all seems so impossible. But nothing is impossible for God.
Once again on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter sees Jesus for who he is. But that doesn’t settle it for Peter. He still has his questions. He still denies Jesus on the night before Jesus died. Deep down he has faith, though – a very real faith.
There are so many situations in life that seem impossible. And then there’s the gospel reading which emphasizes God’s voice from the heavens testifying to Jesus as his Son in whom he is well pleased. And the Father said, “Listen to him.” “Listen to him.” Such an important command from God the Father to all of us, not just Peter, James and John. It’s hard to listen when we really want to tell God the best way to answer our prayers. It’s so hard to listen when we think we know better than the wisdom of God.
Answers may not come the way we want or expect, but God does not abandon us. He does not leave us in times of trouble. It may feel like it at times, but he never leaves our side. He is at our side, within our hearts and souls, suffering with us in our losses, whispering to us in our pain. So as difficult as it may be, “Listen to him” and nothing, no matter how overwhelming, will ever be impossible.
(Readings based on Gen. 12:1-4a and Matt 17:1-9)