Have you ever been in a really thick cloud? When driving through fog (especially at night), it can be intimidating, as the headlights provide only a limited amount of visibility for the road ahead. When flying through a cloud in an airplane, the scenery below disappears into a blanket of white. (If we don’t think about the instruments that the pilot has available, that could be a little intimidating, too!)
After the account of Jesus’ transfiguration in Luke 9:28-31 (including a conversation with two previous leaders of God’s people), and the reaction of three disciples, especially Peter (Luke 9:32-33), we get to the following verses:
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
Luke 9:34-35 NIV
Now, there are some who think of God as only being loving and gentle and kind, and there might even be a few who would scold the apostles for being afraid. God does indeed have qualities of love, gentleness, and kindness, but He is also a holy God, meaning that He is set apart from His creation. He isn’t just a being who “evolved” ahead of us, or a super-powered human being. God is separate from His creation (i.e., “transcendent”), and when sinful, limited human beings are confronted with His perfect righteousness, holiness, and glory, then some holy fear is appropriate.
Said another way, being brave is one thing, but being brazen and arrogant in the light of the power and glory of God is just foolish. As a result, it makes sense that the disciples would be afraid. If the glory of God (or the lesser glory of angels) is enough that conversations with them often start with “Do not be afraid”, we should appreciate that being in the presence of the holy God is a little scary (especially if we are still in our sins).
Comparing verse 35 (above), God gave a similar testimony about Jesus at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13-17). In both cases, those observing the event had gotten a preview of glory, but here (on the mountain of transfiguration), the observation wasn’t just for their own benefit. There was a command that came with it. As a result of that command (whether here, or elsewhere in the Bible), let us not just give lip service to Jesus, or claim His name for our own glory. Instead, we must obey Him.
Continuing to Luke 9:36 (click on the link to read this), it might seem strange why the disciples, who found Jesus now alone (i.e., no more Moses and Elijah), didn’t immediately tell everyone that they saw about this experience. I’m pretty sure that if I saw this, I’d want to tell a lot of people! However, the other accounts of this event in the gospels (Matthew 17:1-13 and Mark 9:2-13) mention Jesus instructing the disciples to not spread the news about this until after His resurrection.
Even if they kept this to themselves at first, though, these disciples could testify to it later. For instance, the gospel of Mark (which includes an account of this event) may have been from Peter’s ministry. In addition, we find a specific testimony from Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-18.
And, even today, we can do the same thing as we testify to the nature of God. While we may not have been on that particular mountain when God spoke, we do find insight in God’s word, along with experiencing His participation in our lives. I can appreciate that the time might not always be right to share certain things that we have seen or heard, but when we are called to testify, let us speak up about God – and our personal experiences with Him – boldly and clearly.
As God told the disciples: we must listen to Jesus. And, when our relationship with God is healthy, we can also testify to others about what He has done for us, and bring them into that conversation as well.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 12, 2021
- The Lookout, December 12, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.