Be Not Afraid

1 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. 2 He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

3 Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” 6 Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.

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.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9 (CEB)

The above is the story of the Transfiguration, and it is often spoken of as an example of Jesus’ divinity. What struck me today was not the divinity of Jesus, but personableness of Jesus. The historic separation between God and Creation (even his treasured people, the Israelites) is pretty straightforward when on reads Exodus 19:18-25. The people (with exceptions) are to not even approach the metaphorical throne of God. We see God here as a distant God. When one comes face-to-face with God, as Moses did in Exodus 34:29-35, one is profoundly (and in Moses’ case, physically as well) changed, that separation is desired by those who have not been so touched, and graced, by God’s changing presence. In fact, in some ways, there seems to be a quiet desperation in the Israelites that says, Moses, you go take care of that God fellow. We’ll just stay here…away from Him…and you, by extension.

The three Apostles, Peter, James and John, immediately fall into the Israelite habit. The falling onto their faces, as much as it is a (deserved) act of homage, it is also an act of avoidance, similar to the game of peak-a-boo; I can’t see you, so you can’t see me. In the midst of all this, seeing Friends of God, hearing God’s voice, a blinding light, Jesus just says, “Get up.”

Hiding is no longer an option. On the other hand, there is no separation either.