Summary of the Text
There they are on top of a mountain praying with Jesus. Mount Tabor in lower Galilee? Mount Hermon in the far north of Israel near Syria? Some other mount? No one knows.
Suddenly, Jesus is transfigured before them. His face and his clothes shine with a dazzling brightness. Peter, James, and John get a glimpse of his glory.
Time shatters. Past, present, and future come together in holy communion. They glimpse Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, two of the faithful who came before to prepare the way.
Moses, who faced his fear in facing Pharoah. Moses, who faced God on Mount Sinai and faced the people with the commandments of God. Moses’ face shines from so much time with God.
Elijah, who faced the prophets of the false god Baal on Mount Carmel and won. Elijah who faced the wrath of Queen Jezebel and faced his own despair in the cave where he hid from her. Elijah, who ascended to the glory of heaven in a shining chariot of fire.
Peter starts making plans for them all to settle and stay on the mountaintop. It’s what folks did back then. The mountains were covered with small shrines and places to pray. Peter hadn’t even finished his thought when a great cloud overcomes them and fear overcomes them and a voice from above overwhelms them, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
And with that, the shine is gone. It’s ordinary again. The glimpse of glory was just that … a glimpse.
Or is it? The transfiguration reminds us God is powerfully present in the shining and the shadow, the absence and the ordinary, the mountain of glory and the valley of need. May we have eyes to see.
Another Thought – Peter and James and John get to see things other disciples don’t. They witness the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) and the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah. Jesus implores them to watch over him while he prays in Gethsemane. Jesus trusts them to witness his immense power and his most intimate needs. Peter, James, and John are Jesus’ inner circle, those he trusts and entrusts with leadership of the early church.
Jesus trusts and entrusts you as well. Will you follow? Will you watch and pray? Will you step out to serve and lead?
Lisa Degrenia is an ordained pastor currently serving Coronador Community United Methodist Church. Lisa studied at the University of South Florida and received her Masters of Divinity from Duke Divinity School. She’s served congregations in Largo, St. Petersburg, DeBary, and Sarasota.
In addition to serving as a pastor, Lisa enjoys leading retreats, photography, theatre, travel, and writing. She is indebted to the many wonderful mentors and teachers in her life, including her mother who first gave her a love for words.
Lisa met her beloved husband Ed on a trip to NYC and they were married ten months later. They are blessed with two grown daughters, two sons-in-love, one new grandchild, and two dogs. You can find more of her work at https://revlisad.com/.
I remember taking my youngest son to one of the national art galleries in Washington, DC. As we made our approach, I was so excited about what we were going to see. He was decidedly unexcited. But I just knew that, once we were inside, he would have his mind blown and would thank me for what I had done for him that day.
As it turned out, his mind wasn’t blown; it wasn’t even activated. I saw things of such stunning beauty that brought me to the edge of tears. He yawned, moaned, and complained his way through gallery after gallery. With every new gallery, I was enthralled, but each time we walked into a new art space, he begged me to leave. He was surrounded by glory but saw none of it. He stood in the middle of wonders but was bored out of his mind. His eyes worked well, but his heart was stone blind. He saw everything, but he saw nothing.
Paul David Tripp, Awe: Why it Matters to Everything We Think, Say, and Do, Crossway.
I’d bet that when Peter, James and John hiked up the mountain that day they thought they were going for the exercise. (Mark 9:2-8). They never expected to see Jesus “transfigured in front of them…his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they’d been bleached white.” They never expected to see Elijah and Moses talking with him like old friends. They never anticipated the voice in the cloud that declared, “This is my Son…Listen to him.” No wonder they were terrified! They were scared stiff by a startling experience of the sacred.
– Jim Harnish in his blog post What Did You See on the Mountain?