This is, of course, a real picture. But there’s a lot that is “unreal” about it. It was from a hike last fall but there’s a lot of extreme photoshopping that I did to this picture. Why? Not because I think it looks good or real – in fact it looks fake – the colors are too bright, they are oversaturated, there is fringing around some of the trees because of the extremes of color, and so forth.
But trying to find something that fits with the story of the Transfiguration (and the one that follows) from Luke 9:28-43 is pretty hard to do because what did it really look like? Jesus’ face was changed, clothes became a dazzling white, figures that looked Like Moses and Elijah (although how did Peter, James, and John even know what Moses and Elijah looked like?) were there as well. This was a moment unlike anything any on that mountain had ever experienced. We can try to wrap our minds around it but it still feels like it escapes our grasp.
There’s a lot about God that is like that – feels “unreal” and just beyond our grasp (or maybe even way beyond our grasp). Yet, this story happens with Jesus being right there with the disciples on the mountain. Its all happening right there around them and not some distant place or reported by others. They were right there. So, the unreal entered into the real. That’s the God we serve – that somehow the divine could be human and the human divine in Jesus at the same time. That life can come out of death, healing can come out of sickness, and the unreal can be experienced in the real.
Now about eight days after these sayings 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. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.