How do you picture Jesus? We’ve never seen him face to face, but we have seen artwork depicting him. That artwork can be very inspiring. But that artwork can also give us a false, overly-familiar look at Jesus our God. Maybe the picture you have is from Jesus of Nazareth or the Passion of the Christ. Or maybe you have that picture of the kind of studly-looking Jesus who may as well have walked off a Hollywood movie set. Or you may even have in mind that picture of the laughing Jesus. All of these are okay, but they can give us a false picture of our Jesus, who is definitely immanent and present to us, but who is also transcendent and higher than the heavens. I tend to think Peter, James and John also had a kind of familiar picture of their Jesus. Over the time they had spent with him thus far, they had become close to him and saw him as a friend, a companion on the journey, and a great teacher. But they were always having trouble with his connection to God.
Today’s feast changes all of that for Peter, James and John, and for us as well. If there was any doubt about who Jesus was, it’s gone now. That voice from the cloud is absolutely specific: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Jesus is the Son of God and his divinity must be regarded just as much as his humanity. While it can be comfortable for us to have a picture of Jesus that is absolutely human, we must always keep in mind the Transfigured Christ, dazzling white, radiating glory, the lamp shining in a dark place. He is the Son of Man of whom Daniel speaks, and to him belongs dominion, glory, and kingship. If Jesus were only human, we would have no Savior, we would have no chance of touching divinity ourselves, that divinity for which we were created.
On the way to the mountain, the disciples came to know Jesus in his humanity, and on the way down, they came to know Jesus in his divinity. That trip down from the mountain took him to Calvary, and ultimately to the Resurrection, the glory of all glories. Christ is both human and divine, without any kind of division or separation. We must be ready to see both natures of him, so that we humans can transfigure our world with justice, compassion and mercy, in the divine image of our beautiful Savior. No matter what challenges may confront us or what obstacles may appear along the way, we must be encouraged to press on with the words of the Psalmist: “The Lord is king, the Most High over all the earth.”