“Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Luke 9:28b-29 NRSV
If only Peter had a smartphone to capture the moment, we wouldn’t be left trying to imagine what happened to Jesus on the mountain two thousand years ago. Try to explain a moment of holiness and years later, we’re still not quite sure how to adequately communicate it . . . to describe that mystical moment of understanding, beyond the reach of human knowledge
While heaven and earth were meeting in Jesus . . . Peter, James and John were experiencing transcendence on the mountain. Later they would struggle to define their experience. Were Jesus’s clothes . . . shimmering, whiter than snow, luminous, dazzling, sparkling or almost like a flash of lightening? So white, no bleach could ever make them so? What of Jesus’s face shining with such radiance, the sun itself was not a match.
There are mysteries we cannot fully put into words, touching on a mere fragment of the moment. We speak of our mystical moments in terms we hope communicates a sense of what we felt and saw. But we can never really capture the whole of it in spoken word. What we know is that, Jesus’ first disciples drew strength from their time on the mountain with him. They lean into it and remember it as confirmation of who Jesus was. When doubts came, as they inevitably did, it was seared into their memories.
Throughout their lives, Peter, James and John would remember how they fell to the ground in fear as the voice of God spoke saying, “This is my Beloved son; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). They would recall how in their fear, Jesus touched them, telling them not to be afraid. Those same words, “Do not be afraid” would echo in their minds in times of danger, when the journey was fierce and they were uncertain of their future.
If only, someone had a smartphone to capture the moment for all time. Instead we are left to the memories of those first disciples, trying to understand the unspeakable mystery. Somehow, though, I suspect that even the best of smartphones wouldn’t quite have done justice to that moment on the mountain with Jesus.