Luke 9:28–36 (NLT) About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. 31 They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 34 But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them. 35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” 36 When the voice finished, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
This is called “The Transfiguration” which comes from the Latin meaning to transform in appearance. This event took place immediately after Peter had declared that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (see Matthew 16:13-19). The Father desired to give Jesus’ inner circle, Peter, James, and John, a glimpse of His Son’s glory. Moses representing the Law, and Elijah representing the Prophets appeared with Him. But when Peter thought that 3 shelters (sukkahs like at Sukkot) should be built to memorialize the three of them, the Father intervened to give priority to His Son, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.”
When Jesus came to earth we read, “Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.” (Philippians 2:7–8). The Apostle John declares, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (John 1:14). Do you realize this is the Christmas Story in John’s Gospel?
As Jesus faced cross, He asked the Father to return the glory He had willingly laid aside, “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” (John 17:4–5). Did you catch, “Before the world began”?
Years later Peter was still in awe of what he saw on that mountain,
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16–18).
My dad fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. His best friend also fought in WWII. They were fishing in northern Minnesota one night when a strange site appeared in the sky. They thought they were witnessing the end of the world and were so terrified that these two tough veterans wound up sitting in the middle seat of the boat holding onto one another. What they were experience was holy awe! What they were seeing was the Northern Lights.
Awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, and fear produced by that which is grand and extremely powerful. One author defines awe as “overwhelmed by greatness.” Peter, James, and John were in awe on that mountain, and after the awe, they were left with inexpressible joy (see 1 Peter 1:8). Awe and joy are connected!
So What? When was a time you experience holy awe?
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