- Madeleine L’Engle
“This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you who are standing here are going to see it happen, see the kingdom of God arrive in full force.” Six days later, three of them did see it. Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them. Elijah, along with Moses, came into view, in deep conversation with Jesus. Peter interrupted, “Rabbi, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking, stunned as they all were by what they were seeing. Just then a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and from deep in the cloud, a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love. Listen to him.” The next minute the disciples were looking around, rubbing their eyes, seeing nothing but Jesus, only Jesus. Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t tell a soul what you saw. After the Son of Man rises from the dead, you’re free to talk.”
- Mark 9.1b-9 (The Message)
Those lucky disciples: Peter, James, and John! Jesus invited them to a high and lonely mountain, and there they saw him, really saw him, for the first time. They were offered something precious; a vision, a glimpse of Jesus as he truly is. But it didn’t last. Even before they descended the mountain the vision faded, and they found themselves rubbing their eyes, seeing nothing but Jesus; no shimmering, no glistening white, just Jesus, a peasant artisan turned teacher with whom they had traveled many dusty roads. There was really no reason for Jesus to swear them to secrecy. By the time they reached the valley his glory, as L’Engle expresses it, had become invisible.
This scene as it unfolds begs the question; what good was the vision? Why bother if it didn’t abide, transforming their lives as they saw it again and again in the following days. The real Jesus had finally shown up, only to disappear again. A vision on a mountain is one thing, but a vision in the valley – smack dab in the middle of daily life – now that would be something! That would change things.
Perhaps the vision was available in the valley, not obscured by the dust they kicked up on their journey. Perhaps there was shimmering and glistening if only they had the eyes to see. Shimmer in the eyes of the one grateful leper who returned to thank Jesus; or a glistening aura emanating from a scene in which Jesus, or even one of the disciples, reached out in compassion to one in need.
This is an important “perhaps” for our faith, because we don’t have the slightest chance of climbing the mountain and seeing the Christ revealed in glory. But perhaps we can “Take the mountain to Muhammad,” as the expression goes. Perhaps we can see the Christ in our everyday experience, if only we have the eyes to see. What would be the circumstances in which we caught a glimpse of the Christ and were ourselves transformed? What type of experience might afford us such a vision of glory? We will consider such questions on Sunday. We hope to see you then.