1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 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.”
5 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!”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. (Matthew 17:1-8)
Sometimes we need to be a bit disturbed by Jesus Christ. Maybe even more-so at Christmastime.
Jesus didn’t have a problem shaking his earthly disciples to their core, especially his inner intimate three: Peter, James and John. He did just that on the Mount of Transfiguration with “The Rock” and the “Sons of Thunder” (an excellent name for a WWE tagteam duo).
High on the mountain top it says Christ was “transfigured” (metamorphoō), which means transformed or metamorphisized. His humanity is peeled back for a time and the three are given the opportunity to peer into his preincarnate (and future) glory. Christ’s countenance blazes like the noon day sun and his clothes give off the radiance of white-hot light. Moses and Elijah appear on the scene to counsel with Christ; their appearing is meant to show that Christ is the culmination of all the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). (verse 3)
The disciples have seen glimpses of His glory before; on the raging sea when Christ halted the hurricane in a word, they wondered, “What manner of man is this, that the wind and the waves obey him?” Since then, it had been progressively revealed what manner of man they were dealing with: a God-man. But none of the miracles and signs were quite so overt as this mountain top display.
Peter, the zealous and misguided one, offers to pitch a memorial tent for all three: Jesus, Elijah and Moses. Peter has missed the mark again, because the Father interrupts him with a booming public glowing endorsement of Christ from a bright cloud: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” (v. 5) Like the announcement at His baptism (matt. 3:17), the Father lifts up Christ as His only unique Son, superior to both Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets). God seems to intimate: Three altar tents aren’t needed, Peter, only the God-Man deserves all our worship and fear. To be able to rightly interpret the Scriptures stop listening to traditions of man, you must “listen to Him!”
With the surreal experience and command from God the disciples fall down like dead men and are literally “terrified.” With their faces to the dirt they are crippled with mingled fear and amazement. We know little about such godly terror in the contemporary church. But when humanity and holiness meet in such a way the disciples knew there was only one correct posture to assume. (v.6)
So from the mysterious cloud the Father demands absolute undivided obedience to Christ. As a result, the three men melt like a watered down witch before Christ. And at the very next scene, this Holy God-man is approaching the poor wretches with a reassuring touch and these words of compassion : “Rise, and have no fear.” (v.7) What does Christ do with the disciples newfound revelation of His power and glory? In their (and our) terror and fear he makes this first simple command: “Rise, and have no fear.” Did ever such holiness and tenderness meet?
The disciples lift their troubled eyes to see “no one but Jesus only.”
At Christmastime, with visions of mangers and jolly fat men dancing through our heads, I hope we take to the time to be terrified. Not terrified at wars, depressions, sickness, or natural disasters, but terrified with a right vision of Christ. In the midst of the festivities and gifts maybe we should stop and be disturbed a bit.
After all, He is not coming back as a baby, but as a lion. What manner of man is this baby in the manger?
And once He has struck us down with the trembling epiphany, He will also soon lift our eyes to meet His loving gaze. With gentleness in his voice all our terror will wash away in the flood of His love. The words He speaks will finally resonate in all areas of our life “Rise, and have no fear.”
Once Christ has shattered all our long-held traditions and suppositions about Him He can give us a new vision: A vision where we can look past the challenges before us with confidence because we see “no one, but Jesus only.”
Have a very merry and disturbed Christmas peeps!