The transfiguration of Jesus is an experience that challenges us. In this experience, something happens beyond words.
This text found in Matthew 17:1-9, this moment in time is written in words, but it is one of those experiences where you probably had to be there. What we do know is that Jesus is going to the high mountain. Whenever there is a mountaintop, we know that something monumental is going to happen. So, the location is a clue to something really big. Jesus also takes Peter, James, and John. He takes witnesses with him. Not only is something really big going to happen, but Jesus wants others to know about the happening. You may remember that there was in Jewish law a requirement for 2 or 3 others to testify. There could be no sole witness. So, Peter, James, and John go with Jesus to the mountaintop. There, on top of that high mountain, there is an encounter. Jesus changed. They try to explain the facts of the event, but the event went beyond words. Jesus was altered.
You know that feeling you get when something is altered in a room, but you cannot quite figure out what is going on in the room. There are a group of people. You walk in, and you just know something is going on. You can intuitively sense something. There are no facts or rational explanations, but you know there is something. Sometimes you ask, sometimes you just figure that it is none of your business, but you know things are different.
Things were different on that mountain. Maybe Peter, James, and John could not explain it at first. Maybe it was only later, after the resurrection, when they started putting together all of the pieces of Jesus ministry did they say, “you know I thought there was something bizarre about that day when we went up the mountain.” Bishop Will Willamon refers to this as a kinky experience.
So, on the mountaintop Peter, James, John, and Jesus are joined by Moses and Elijah. The two who would be known to all of the Jewish world representing the law and the prophets. Everything that has been is wrapped up into these two figures who appear.
Peter tries to contain the experience in a way that he can understand. He offers to build the three booths or dwellings. He wants to contain this divine encounter within the temple. It is safer to try to contain the divine – this holy mystery. THE VOICE comes. Jesus is identified as the Son and the Beloved. THE VOICE instructs the disciples to pay attention to Jesus. The disciples responded with fear. Jesus assures them and the moment is over.
Having these uncontained and unexplainable experiences is acceptable and even encouraged. It is in these mystical experiences that we experience the richness and depth of life. Most of us spend our lives in the threads of the logical and rational. We deal in what makes sense and what is reasonable. But all of our reasonableness is woven together by the experiences that are beyond words.
Live beyond the words. Love more fully – no matter how nonsensical it seems. Have mystical experiences. God is with you even beyond words.