Have you ever been so struck with awe that words failed you? A clear night sky with no light pollution reveals the shear magnitude of creation. The smell of your newborn child’s hair fills your nostrils—a smell of innocence and purity—and peals back a depth of love you’ve never before experienced. Standing in the congregation, singing a hymn, you are struck with a sense of presence so powerful it sends a shiver through you and brings tears to your eyes. If you’ve ever had an experience for which there were simply no words adequate to convey its meaning and power, then you have an inkling of what Peter, James, and John went through on the mount of transfiguration.
Nearly every scene in the Gospel of Mark depicts Jesus actively engaged in the work of his ministry. We see him teaching, calling, healing, working miracles and casting out demons, and engaged in debate with the religious authorities. Jesus is the actor and speaker in nearly every scene. Today’s scripture is an exception. Jesus doesn’t speak a single word, and the “action” in the scene is done to Jesus rather than by Jesus. In the company of his close friends, he is suddenly transfigured, and his dazzling appearance overwhelms the bewildered onlookers.
Scholars call this scene a “christophany”...but if you ever find your way up that mountain with Peter, James, and John, you’ll probably find that there are no words for what happens there.