Seeing Clearly

by Tripp Prince / Wisdom Hunters
While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” Matthew 17:5-7 (NRSV)
Peter, James, and John were the closest thing Jesus had to an ‘inner circle’. They walked with him in close and intimate ways, and as a result were invited into remarkable moments of spiritual clarity and insight. While they knew Jesus the carpenter from a small town with a remarkable knowledge of Scripture and power from God, they had not yet seen Jesus as he truly is, in his glory and wonder.
In many ways, the gospels are written in search of an answer to the question of Jesus’ identity. “Who is this man?” is a reoccurring question and ever-present theme. Is he a teacher? A prophet? A revolutionary? While all of these are true, the Transfiguration is a moment of remarkable clarity on the identity of Jesus. Surrounded by Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets and Jesus as the fulfillment of both, we hear a voice from on high saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5).
Like Peter, James, and John, when we follow Jesus into intimate places of prayer and trust, our vision of him is always deepened and expanded. We are forced to confront the ways in which we reduce him to a size we are comfortable with, a Jesus that conforms to our wants, desires, and manageable categories. Comfortable though this may be, the Jesus we accept may not be the Jesus we need.
For years I was perplexed by passages in the Bible exhorting us to fear God, such as Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” How could wisdom and virtue flow from a terrorized view of God? This misunderstanding was rooted in a distorted view of fear. To fear God is not to be afraid of him or to see him as unkind or unjust. To fear the Lord is to see him for who he truly is, and live life differently as a result. In Scripture, when God displays his power, people begin to see him for who he truly is, and fear is the proper response.
Yet Jesus, in a most remarkable way, sees these disciples, these intimate friends, and invites them closer to him. Even when our vision of the glory and power of God shown in Jesus expands, it is always still an invitation. God’s glory is never meant to push us away or drive us out but is instead a vision of what we were made to be, namely, sons and daughters who are so filled with his grace that we are made ready and able to enter into his presence and there find our peace and our home.