And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.
"And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem.
"Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
"And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah' — not realizing what he said.
"As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
"And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!'"
- Luke 9:28-35 (ESV, adapt.)
Why is it that preachers often preach this story from the perspective of the wonders of a "mountaintop high"? Too often, we fall into the mindset that the Transfiguration story is one that points to the idea that while these "highs" can be wonderful, we need to return to the valleys, where the people live and where there is ministry to be done.
We tend to obscure this simple fact: this story is scary! Jesus glows and then is joined by two dead prophets! What we have here is a ghost story!
In this light, we are reminded that Transfiguration Sunday happens each year just before Lent, and that the real theme of this story is not the wonderful high of a mountaintop experience, but the cold, frightening anticipation of death. After this event, Jesus began to turn his face toward Jerusalem and "the fate that awaited him" there.
We have here an excellent "pre-Lent" narrative, a fine opportunity to begin the preparations for the dark pain of Good Friday as well as the unspeakable joy of Easter. Let's not just "get through" Transfiguration Sunday without giving this remarkably opportunity its due, and without giving this creepy text the morbid attention it deserves.