Power and Purity
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.
1And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,1 with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
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