Matthew 17 has the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. There’s a lot of powerful theological stuff packed into about eight verses of the Bible.
Matthew tells us the transfiguration happened “after six days.” So it was the seventh day. It makes me think back to the creation story in the book of Genesis. After six days of creative work, God rested. Things were brought to completion on the seventh day.
And Jesus’ face and clothing shone. Jesus’ face, in fact, shone “like the sun.” That made me think to the book of Revelation where in the new heaven and earth there will be neither sun nor moon, but the glory of God will provide all the light — and “its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:23).
And so the transfiguration provides a link between the very beginning of the biblical story and the very end.
And, of course, the transfiguration reminds us of Moses going up on the mountain to receive the instructions for the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant. He took three others with him. Jesus took three with him. And unlike Moses’ three friends, Jesus’ friends saw the whole thing. And there’s no physical tabernacle to be built. That work is already done. Again, there’s some kind of fulfillment going on here.
And Moses and Elijah were there, talking with Jesus. Peter had a suggestion, and Peter was cut off by the voice of God. God told the disciples about Jesus, and God said, “Listen to him.”
This, of course, was terrifying, and the disciples fell to the ground. And Jesus came and touched them. “Rise, and have no fear.”
What a story!
I was struck by the touch of Jesus. He touched them. I wonder if that was to remind them of his humanity, of his “with us”-ness. Clearly, Jesus is divine. He is untouchable perfection, but he comes to his followers who are face down on the ground in their fear, and he touches them. I can’t help but think about the comfort that can come from the human touch. And Jesus, of course, spoke words of comfort and reassurance to his followers.
And then Matthew wrote, “And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” This is probably the key to the whole passage. They saw no one but Jesus only. If there is to be true fearlessness, we must see no one but Jesus only.
Can we say this about our own lives? We have no fear and we listen to him because there’s no one else in our field of vision, there’s no one else in our devotion, there’s no one else who we care to see or hear. No one else is crowding into the frame. It’s all about Jesus and his leading. There is no one else.
Jesus is the one who connects heaven with earth. He’s the beginning and the end. He’s untouchable, and yet he comes so close as to touch us. And he promises that we, too, can live without fear.
Mary and I went to the grocery store yesterday, and people were tip-toeing around the store in masks and gloves. And they would do little dances in the aisles as they tried to get around each other while still maintaining a six-foot buffer. Frankly, that’s impossible to do in a narrow grocery aisle, but they did their best. It was both amusing and sad.
And the anxiety in that building was palpable.
“Rise, and have no fear.” I told the lady in the check-out line it probably wasn’t as much fun as it used to be to work at City Market. She told me how she prays to Jesus that she doesn’t get sick and that the coronavirus just goes away. And then she told me that I should be wearing a mask.
It’s an interesting time to be a Christian. She might be right. It might be we all should be wearing masks and dancing around other people in the grocery store aisles. Sickness remains a real thing, even after the transfiguration. Jesus is coming back to make all things new, but he’s not come yet.
And still, there was not even the slightest stirring in my heart that I should grab a mask. As I listen to his word for me (and it might not be the same word for you), I don’t hear him telling me to put on a mask. I hear him telling me, over and over again, “Rise, and have no fear.”
To me, he seems to be saying – “Live!” Be people of life. Get up, go out, and be a witness to the life you have been given. Rise, and have no fear. To stand before the creator of the universe without fear is the greatest gift of all. Surely, that impacts all that we do.
And when we lift up our eyes, we see only Jesus.