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.
Matthew 17:1-3 (NIV)
I was never much of a science guy back in school. It just wasn’t my jam. The further I get in my life journey, however, the more fascinated I’ve become by it. In particular, I find it fascinating the mysteries being uncovered and discovered. I learned as a child that the atom was the smallest “building block” of matter, but physicists have discovered a number of subatomic particles, with even more of them theorized. What’s crazy is that they behave in strange ways we don’t understand. I find it fascinating that we are at once discovering the expanding universe and its mysteries at the same time we’re discovering newer layers of the building blocks of the universe and their mysteries. In either direction, macro or micro, we’re making mind-blowing discoveries beyond our current comprehension. Amazing.
I mention this because the further I get in my spiritual journey, the more aware I’ve become of the connectedness of the Great Story and the mysteries of eternity to which it points. Jesus was always making a distinction between earth-bound thinking and eternity-centric thinking. He continually contrasted the kingdoms of this world to the kingdom of God, earth as opposed to heaven, temporal as opposed to eternal. This is not confined to Jesus. In fact, it’s connected throughout the Great Story.
In today’s chapter, Matthew records one of the most mysterious episodes in Jesus’ story. Jesus takes His inner circle of followers and goes up a mountain. In an instant, Jesus is revealed in His eternal glory. Light brighter than you can imagine, a dense cloud, a voice from within the cloud, and then two beings appearing with Him: Moses and Elijah.
Jesus said in His message on the hill that He didn’t come to “abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.” The climactic event for the Hebrew people was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the God giving of the Law to Moses on a mountain. If you go back and read about that event in Exodus chapters 19 and 20, there are amazing parallels between that episode and the episode described in today’s chapter.
Both events happened on mountains. Jesus shines like the sun, just like Moses whose face was so bright after returning from the mountain that he had to wear a veil over his face (Ex 34:29-35). Both involved seemingly natural phenomena of clouds/smoke and God’s voice from the midst. The former event precipitated the giving of the Law, the latter precipitated the fulfillment of it. Why did Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus? Moses was the instrument of giving. Jesus was the instrument of fulfillment. Moses represented the Law, Elijah represented the Prophets, and Jesus was the fulfillment of both just as He said He came to do. The Transfiguration was a bookend event to Moses’ receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai.
What struck me as I read the episode again today was the instantaneous transfiguration from temporal normal to eternal glory and then the instantaneous transfiguration back from eternal glory to temporal normal, along with the disciples’ terror.
In the quiet this morning, I find myself contemplating the probability (based on evidence in the Great Story) that the veil between earth and glory is thinner than I’ve ever imagined. I live, move, and have my being in an earthbound, three-dimensional world which frames my thinking and perception. But physicists now theorize that there are actually 11 dimensions (or more). There’s more to it than I ever realized, which is exactly what Jesus continually tried to get His followers to understand.
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
In essence, Jesus is saying that there is an eternal reality that is more real than the earthy reality I experience in three dimensions with my five senses. He called it “the Kingdom of God” and He asked me as His follower to seek it, find it, see it, believe it, and allow it to transform the way I live, move, and have my being on this earthly journey.
Jesus chastised Peter in yesterday’s chapter for being so bound to his earthy perceptions that he couldn’t see heaven’s intentions. The further I get in my spiritual journey, the more convinced I am that every time Jesus tells His followers to expand their faith, He’s encouraging me to open my mind and spirit to see what is beyond my human senses yet just as real as physical matter. It is already woven into creation itself. I believe it’s right there behind the veil that is thinner than I imagine.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.