The Transfiguration is another of one of those stories in the Bible that I simply find strange, and only floods me with questions. Jesus takes three disciples with him up a mountain and all of a sudden his clothes are dazzling white, and he’s with Moses and Elijah. FIrst of all, did Jesus know what was going to happen as he led them up? Or did he merely know that he was going to have some kind of encounter with God, since that’s what happens on mountains. The text tells us that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus. What were they talking about? What could they have possibly been talking about? Were introductions made? Or was it a reunion? Every time I read this story the image of a pitcher, catcher and manager in a conversation on the pitcher’s mound comes to mind. What is being said there is one of life’s great mysteries. Are they talking about intricate strategies for the next move? Or are they talking about whether to go for Tai food or Italian after the game. We outsiders may never know. And what is the purpose of this event? Does Jesus need reassurance for what he is about to go through? Does Jesus feel the need to give Peter, James and John some reassurance about who he is, that he is indeed, “The Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (MT 16:16)?
It’s a strange story. And once again, I feel bad for Peter. He’s often painted as a bit of a buffoon here for recommending the building of three dwellings, but isn’t it only human to feel a need to respond to such an awesome and strange happening? He simply doesn’t know what to do. His heart feels the need to do something right and good, but all his brain can come up with is three dwellings. I’ve been there. I get that. In understand the need to respond, but not know how to do so. Perhaps the story’s purpose is to key Peter, James and John into the bigger picture. By the end of the story some lights seem to have gone on as they discuss Elijah and John the Baptist. So maybe that’s what it’s about. Who really knows? My best guess? I think it has to do with Jesus dazzling white clothes. The word translated as “dazzling” is used only one other time in Matthew’s Gospel, and it is in describing the appearance of the angel at Jesus’ tomb. Perhaps this is a story that makes no sense here, but becomes clear in chapter 28. Perhaps it is a foreshadowing to the resurrection, to new life.
How have you read the transfiguration? What meaning do you take out of it? What stands out to you in this story? Think, wonder and ponder on that. It’s obviously an important story, but it is also deeply mysterious.