Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.). Mark 9, verses-5-6.
Let’s talk about terror again, about feeling terrified. And let’s do so without getting all judgy or preachy about it. You and I can say, from the vantage point of hindsight and so-called ‘modern’ thinking, how small the disciples were; how they should have been elated instead of scared to see what they were seeing in Jesus’ transfiguration. Of course we would be wrong. We’d be wrong because we’re terrified all the time and in some ways that may not be a bad thing.
Here is a partial list of things that I, as a 48 year old man, still give me pause and fear: spiders, being alone in the dark, losing my family, burning to death. Wake me out of a sound sleep at 3 AM with loud sounds and you’ll have me completely terrified in an instant. This kind of terror isn’t what one would feel if confronted by ISIS, or the kind that a politician would feel when he realizes the press is no longer interested in him. Instead, it’s simply feeling startled, intimidated by the sudden ferocity of having one’s senses assaulted by matters out of your control.
Is this irrational? Absolutely it is, and I freely embrace that; some would say I embrace irrationality too freely anyway. No matter, I think it was the sheer irrationality of the transfiguration that had Peter, James and John terrified when they saw what was happening before them. I can’t blame them. Their senses would have been overloaded. Their intellects would have been challenged by past and present, eternal and earthly, all crashing together in an observation of what God’s world really looks like when time and the ephemeral no longer matter. They must have quickly realized that this man they knew as friend and teacher really was the all-powerful God of all the earth. Can you imagine how that would have made them feel?
And yet, these were the same all too human men who would return to humanity in all too human ways. When it ended, they would return to their friends, sworn to secrecy until the time was appointed to tell others. John would see Jesus die and rise, and provider for Jesus’ mother for the rest of her life. Peter would deny he even knew Jesus before knowing the worst of despair and then the heights of forgiven elation. James would one day die a martyr’s death.
Thus, maybe it’s unfair if we look down on the three apostles for feeling terrified and frightened to see Jesus as He really was. If Jesus suddenly appeared to me, I doubt I would react any different than the Apostles did if, indeed, I reacted so well as they.
Lord, forgive me my fears, strengthen my faith, and thank You for any way in which You reveal Yourself.
Read Mark 9, verses 1-13.