After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. – Matthew 17:1-8
This passage represents a singularity of sorts. The past, present, and future are together on the mountain. This temporal tempest begins with the transfiguration of Jesus. The witnesses to this event are Peter, James, and John. Why God chose to reveal himself in this way to these men and not others is not clear to me, but it was sufficiently traumatic to make them cower in fear. This encounter with God was apparently far from comfortable for them.
Interestingly, neither the miraculous arrival of Moses and Elijah nor the Godly “glow” imparted to Jesus made the disciples afraid. It was when God Himself showed up in the form of a cloud and spoke to them that they felt afraid.
This confluence of the Cloud and Christ seems to be the crux of the passage. It is where the God of the Old Testament, the cloud, makes it crystal clear that Jesus is His son, the Godly Condensate. This revelation and the way it was revealed had a paralyzing effect on Peter, James, and John. It was not until Jesus touched them that they were able to recover and see “no one except Jesus”. Isn’t that what God is trying to do throughout the New Testament? God is trying to “un-paralyze” His followers by revealing Himself in profound and compelling ways.
God wants us to ignore all the distractions that attempt to derail our faithful following of His Son Jesus. We are to fix our eyes on Him with such intensity that He is all that we see. If I am honest I must confess that I rarely attain this level of intensity in my imperfect attempts to follow God. Does that mean I should give up and stop trying? I think not.
God knows we are easily distracted and is willing to grant us grace along the journey. I have no doubt that God rejoices when we can see Him clearly through this hazy veil we call “reality”. “Mountain top” experiences, like the one being described here, are what carries us out of the sometimes vexing valleys of despair which seem to be a part of our experience as God followers.
The God who sees us has allowed us to see Him through His Son Jesus. The cloud, the God of the Old Testament, and the Emmanuel, “God with us” of the New Testament, are in fact different reaches of the same “River”. The One River that flows from the creation of Genesis to the resurrection of Revelation.
Prayer: Thank You God for providing opportunities for us to see you clearly.