"Then Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
"Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!' Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
"As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead."
- Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV)
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 macabre attention it deserves.
Originally posted 2/13/2007