After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:2-7)
My husband, Dan, is just finishing a book on Glory, the fruit of a seed planted some 30 years ago when as a student at Princeton Seminary he wrote a paper on the Transfiguration. The marvel of the transfiguration in his mind, is not only that Jesus’ glory shows his divinity, but also that this glory, encapsulated in a physical body, gives us a vision of what it means to be truly human.
It’s this idea of becoming truly human, following the path that Jesus marks out for us, that I’m trying to grab a hold of as we move from Transfiguration Sunday into Lent. Like my friend, David Henson, I was finding it difficult to put my thoughts into prose, and so opted instead for poetry. In the poem below, I imagine Peter, whose impulsive suggestion to build tents on the mountaintop makes it into Mark’s narrative, remembering this glimpse of glory and the transformation that marked out the rest of his life.
I wanted to stay a while more
there up on that mountaintop:
Pitch a tent to mark the spot,
Take in the crazy wonder of it all,
And maybe in a couple days
(when I could breathe again)
Ask Elijah how things were.
But that idea got squelched.
The voice wouldn't take no talkin' back.
“Listen up to Jesus now!”
Who then walked down into Jerusalem
And told us not to be afraid.
“Hold on tight to me,” he said.
“And don’t stop lovin' -
even if it kills ya.”
When I saw him shine again
(up on another mountaintop)
He told us somethin' else. He said,
"You go and wait for heav'nly fire.
You'll know it's real, cause pow'r will come."
And so we did.
And when they came, those glory flames
Ignited somethin' deep inside of me
And kept on burnin'.
Kept on burnin' 'til
I wasn't anymore
The man I was the day we saw
What men were really meant to be.
Note: Photo credit by Rich Gibson; Transfiguration - Mosaic in basilica of St. Peter