The Heart of Light

Mark 9:2-8

He didn't tell us why we were climbing the mountain. We were used to that. We trusted him.

We walked and walked; we took goat-paths at first, between the rocks, kicking up clouds of dust in the sun. I couldn't stop thinking about the things he'd said that week—that we would take up crosses, that he'd be killed. Who do you say that I am? He asked, and I answered, The Messiah—and he said I was right, he said I was blessed, and then he started talking about crosses, and being killed. Killed. No, I told him, not you, not you—and he turned and called me Satan. I could still hear the ring of his voice as I climbed that mountain behind him—my Master, whom I loved, calling me Satan. And it stung.

We climbed for hours, till the sun was high. We were sweating, but the air was getting cool. The land was laid out before us, underneath—field and pasture and the paths between them, and rocks everywhere like scattered seed. We had no idea what he meant to do. Show us the land, maybe, tell us what God meant to do for Israel, tell us where we were going next. We didn't know what he was going to do, we never knew what he was going to do, we knew to follow him. That was all. We knew he was the Messiah. And then we reached the crown of that mountain, and suddenly—before we could fling ourselves down on the grass to rest, before I could raise a hand to wipe the sweat off my brow—suddenly we knew something we had never known.

It happened so fast.

At first I thought the sun had come out from behind a cloud, suddenly; there was so much more light than there had been a moment before—but the sun rode high in the cloudless sky, and looked pale as a candle-flame in the sun compared to Him. Him. His face and clothes shining—like the clouds on Lake Galilee after a storm, when the sun catches them from behind and fills them with light—only brighter. If something could catch the sun like a cloud, and fill it with light—that something was him. There was so much light. Oh, I cannot tell you, I cannot tell you what I saw. I can only swear to it, and I will swear to it every day of my life: I saw the glory of the One and Only. If a man stares at the sun, is he not blinded? We stared and stared into the heart of light, and were not blinded. We saw and saw.

When I came to myself there were two men with him, who stood in his light. They were talking; they had been talking, I thought, for a long time. They were—I don't know how I knew—they were Moses and Elijah. My hands were shaking. You are the Messiah, I'd said, but I hadn't known. I hadn't known this. I wanted to throw myself face down on the ground but there they were, standing there in all the glory of the light, quietly talking. And I was afraid it would stop, the light would go, the sun would be all we had left. I started babbling—Master let's stay here, let's build three shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah, as if that light needed a roof over its head against the rain. I was shaking all over. And then I couldn't see—we were inside a cloud that was filled with light, we were inside the light itself—I heard a voice say This is my son, whom I love, listen to him. I heard the voice of God, and I saw the light.

I have been in darkness many days since that day; I have been in the dark heart of life. I have known why he called me Satan. He can call me anything he likes. I have seen the darkness of the grave; but that light has never left me. It is inside me. I am inside it. Until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts, in the darkest hour, still he is in me and I in him. I am still in the heart of light.