After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
As John Lennon and Paul McCartney once suggested, there are places we’ll remember all of our lives. Surely Peter, James, and John would have regarded this mountainside, where they saw Christ’s transfiguration, as one of those places. Certainly Peter never forgot it (2 Peter 1:17-18).
What was involved in the transfiguration? To begin with, it changed Jesus’ appearance. His face “shone.” Clearly this was not a matter of cleanliness but of supernatural transformation. There was a radiant glow to His face that Matthew could only describe as “like the sun.” His clothes were dazzling white—whiter than you or I have ever seen—signifying the matchless purity of heaven.
One of the ways in which the Old Testament describes God is that He wraps Himself “with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2). And that is how Jesus looked at the top of His mountain. Who does such a thing? Only God! It was no coincidence, but a clue that the transfiguration was a revelation not only from God but of God Himself. In this scene, Christ revealed Himself as God in an unprecedented way. Scripture tells us that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3). Yet when He entered our world, God’s glory was veiled in Christ’s humble humanity. The transfiguration was what John Calvin referred to as “a temporary exhibition of his glory.” It was a little pulling back of the curtain—a little flash up on the mountainside and into the minds of these three disciples. God was making it possible for Peter, James, and John to get a taste of what they could not yet fully comprehend but would one day enjoy eternally.
In Scripture, when there is a display of God’s majesty people often react by falling on their faces. The disciples were no different, responding with terror. But Jesus graciously said to them, “Rise, and have no fear” (Matthew 17:7).
Do you and I approach Christ in similar awe of His perfect holiness and transcendence? Or is there a possibility that our view of God is at times too small? Come before Him in such a way that you find yourself on your face as you consider His power and His purity. Then hear Him, in His mercy, say, Get up. You don’t need to be afraid. That is the way to live in awe and joy today and every day, until you gaze on our glorious Lord for yourself.