How many times have we heard this story?
Peter, James, and John join Jesus on the mountain, when suddenly everything is glowing white and there is Moses and Elijah! The three men are terrified, but Peter, bless him, though terrified, can’t NOT say something, so he jumps in with, Let’s build three houses—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” A voice tells them that Jesus is his son. Then, as suddenly as it began, it is over. It was a terrifying, but brief encounter with the power of God.
Well, this week, as the liturgical calendar celebrated the Transfiguration, I was in the middle of something BAD. And for the first time in a long, long time, I found myself–like Peter, James, and John–terrified.
I was sure that my husband, and possibly myself and my children, were in terrible danger, and it shook me to my core. When was the last time you were terrified? Not anxious, not uncomfortable—TERRIFIED.
Let me tell you, fear that is strong enough to terrify you is a game changer. Fear that is terrifying is TRANSFIGURING. So, this entire Gospel story takes on a whole new light to me. I forgot how powerful terror is.
In the story, it is noted that the change in Jesus—his transfiguration—was TERRIFYING. Think about that for a minute. This is not written as a happy little Sunday School story to be portrayed with puppets and a cute song. Something big happened on that mountain. Jesus transformed into “radiant glory”—HE TURNED INTO LIGHT, PEOPLE, WITH RAYS OF LIGHT SHOOTING OUT OF HIM–and was joined by not just one, but two of their long-dead, spiritual heroes. If that is not enough to undo a man, there is this huge voice without a body attached that starts admonishing Peter, James, and John. These three men–Jesus’s favorites, Jesus’ closest confidantes, the folks who knew HIM best–were rightfully terrified by the whole experience.
And then everything goes back to normal, and Jesus turns to his best mates and tells them to not tell anyone about any of what just happened. Only Peter, James, and John will never be normal again. The transfiguration transfigured them. Perhaps that is the point. All of Christ’s teachings and miracles and advising to this point had not yet changed the men dramatically enough. They were the closest people on the planet to the Creator of the Universe. Until the Transfiguration, though, they didn’t really get just how big and powerful the Creator of the Universe really is.
I get it now. I get how you can find yourself in an experience that terrifies you, and changes how you look at your life, your normal, your Creator. I cannot yet articulate how I have changed, but I know that I have. This will be unfolding for a while longer, I am certain.