“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John 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 dazzling white.” —Matthew 17:1-2
Peter, James, and John were in the inner circle. Jesus would tell and show them things that he didn’t reveal even to the other disciples. They went everywhere with him. They saw the masses fed, the sick healed, and the dead raised. Jesus was doing things that only the prophets of God had ever done before. It was clear to them that Jesus belonged in the ranks of the holiest men known to history.
But for all that they had seen, nothing could prepare them for that day on the mountain. They expected this was just another “small group meeting.” They would pray for one another and for the Kingdom of God. Can you imagine their surprise when before their very eyes Jesus was transfigured? He shone like the sun, and his garments became pure white (no more dinginess from the dust of the road). Then out of thin air, Moses and Elijah, the champions of the law and of the prophets, appear with Jesus. If this isn’t enough to shake them, they then hear a voice from heaven proclaiming that Jesus is His son, and that they should listen to Him.
I’m sure this isn’t what they expected when they woke up. They had been with Jesus every day for almost three years; they had served with Him, taught with Him, walked with Him, done everything with Him. They thought they knew everything about Him. But before we judge them for their blindness, let’s ask ourselves the question. “Have I seen Jesus?” We too serve with Jesus, we’ve seen Him as we work in mission and as we’ve sought justice for the oppressed. But have we seen a Jesus that shines? Have we seen Jesus in the splendor of holiness? Have we heard the voice from heaven declaring that Jesus is His son, and that we should listen to Him?
Lent is sandwiched between this moment of splendor, and the moment of God’s greatest glory, the cross. In one we see in His radiance that He is holy and blameless. In the other we see His divine sacrifice for our sakes, that we might be blameless and holy too.
As we enter the season of Lent, this season of self-examination, let us call to mind both our Lord’s transfiguration and his crucifixion. It is in this picture, when we truly see Jesus, that all of our work for the Kingdom of God finds value.