Isn’t it funny that when man first wanted to learn what it was like to be God we went to the devil? That serpent in the Garden made us believe that God was afraid that if we ate of the tree of knowledge we’d know what God knew. This Sunday’s readings show us that tree was a test in faithfulness, and we failed it miserably. So God decided to really teach us what it was like to be Him, and he administered this test over time—which didn’t exist until we were sentenced to serve it. In fact in the years ahead he would give us several lessons ending in tests. With each test, we learned that God’s job was a lot more demanding than we expected.
In our first reading from Genesis (GN 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18), God tests Abraham’s obedience by telling him to sacrifice his son’s life—a sacrifice God later told Abraham he didn’t have to make after all, stopping him just before the knife plunged into Isaac. Yet God would make that very sacrifice, of His own son, to save the lives of all mankind, preserving them for a return to timelessness.
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore … and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—all this because you obeyed my command.”
By this test, God not only proved Abraham’s devotion to Him, but He foreshadowed the sacrifice from which He would not spare Himself. As Paul tells the Romans in our second reading (ROM 8:31B-34),
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?”
And in our gospel reading from Mark (MK 9:2-10), describing Jesus’s transfiguration before his disciples, God’s son foreshadows the aftermath of his earthly death—his rising from the dead and rejoining with the prophets who appeared with him on the mountain. But before that would happen, Jesus would test his disciples several times about what it takes to be Godlike.
At the end of this account, Mark tells how Peter, James and John tested each other about what rising from the dead meant. But Mark tells of other tests, like in Chapter 10, when James and John ask Jesus if they may take seats of honor next to him in paradise. Jesus asks, “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said sure. But when the other disciples heard this discussion, they all argued about who among them has the right to take such an honor. Jesus gives them another lesson in what it means to be God:
“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mankind has always wanted to learn what it’s like to be God. As these readings teach us, that knowledge can only come from learning Christ’s lesson in how to be us.