Reading over the Transfiguration stories in the gospels, I noticed something peculiar about them today. In other places in the Bible when a man or woman has an encounter with either God’s glory or an angel, their first reaction is usually fear for their lives.
When Jesus’ glory is revealed, though, the three disciples with him aren’t afraid at all. Yes, Peter starts babbling like an idiot, talking about building tents, but you never once get the impression that he or James or John are afraid that they’re about to be destroyed by God.
This is a huge departure from Moses, who could only see God’s “back” and not be killed. It’s a stark difference from Isaiah, who was convinced he was doomed because he caught a glimpse of the heavenly temple.
These disciples saw Jesus for who he really was, and not only did they survive the experience, I would submit that they were able to live more fully because of it.
Because what Jesus in all his glory reveals to us is not a God who hates us and can’t wait to use His heavenly might to destroy us all.
What we see in Jesus is a God who actually likes us, who dispels all our worst fears of what He might be like.
We see a God who loves having dinner with all the wrong people and whose capacity for forgiveness can never be measured. We see a God who enjoys it when kids climb all over him and is impressed by people’s faith. And as Jesus shows us a God who likes us, we in turn realize that it’s not only possible to obey this God–it’s actually possible to like Him, too.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have to wrestle with the harder parts of Scripture that, to our minds, suggest God is otherwise. This is the reason people have such a hard time with Joshua–because the God in that book doesn’t seem like the type of person who would tell His followers to love their enemies. What this means is that we must first rely on Jesus, who reveals God better than anyone else, and then wrestle with the Scriptures with that knowledge in mind. We trust that God is good because we know Jesus is good, and we go from there.
This is why I say that the disciples were able to live more fully as a result of this encounter, because you can’t love a God whom you’re not sure is good. You’ll never trust Him if you’re convinced you’re putting your faith in someone who’s evil or some sort of psychopath. Yes, you’re supposed to love Him, but is He actually lovable? Jesus showed us the answer to that question is, “Absolutely. And if you need any help proving it, just look at me.”
When I have trouble trusting Him, my first inclination shouldn’t be to rely on some clever apologetic or avoid a particularly hard passage of Scripture. It’ll be to ask Jesus to show me, again, that He is good and to do so by showing me Jesus, to confirm once more that the God I’ve been commanded to love is absolutely lovable and good.
My prayer is that by seeing Him, my fears will be diminished by the knowledge that He is even better than I could have imagined.