After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
I was at the counter of a local coffee shop with a friend the other day and we were deciding what to order for lunch. As we pondered the menu, the gal waiting on us complimented my friend and said, "Oh my gosh, you have the most beautiful skin! Your face just shines, what in the world do you do?"
My friend was smiling and I could tell the compliment took her by surprise. I looked at her and it was true, she was simply glowing. She thanked the young girl and tried to think of what exactly in her skincare routine was responsible for such great results and I quickly jumped in and said, "Oh, that's the Lord! She spends a lot of time with Him, doesn't it look good on her?"
We laughed and the girl at the counter who was also a Christian said, "Wow, I need to do more of that!" It's true about my friend. This gal is walking hand in hand with Jesus right now through some exciting and terrifying times. She prays constantly, worships fervently, and serves selflessly. The beauty on her face doesn't come from a jar, she's been transfigured.
The gospels give accounts of Jesus' own transfiguration. The definition of transfiguration is a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. It's hard to believe that the Son of God Himself would even become more beautiful or more spiritual but God wanted us to see that Jesus in his humanness had the ability to achieve more spiritual beauty. Jesus took his best buddies to the top of a mountain to get a break from the madness and monotony that can be found in ministry. He needed a minute. And there in the quietness, God was able to bathe Jesus in His glory.
Moses had a similar experience after spending time with the Lord. He also went up to commune with God and seek Him because the weight and responsibility of leadership was too much. Exodus 34:29 says "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord." Like my friend, Moses was not even aware of his radiance. And notice that no major effort was made by either Jesus or Moses...they simply spent time with the Lord and allowed Him to do the work.
I traveled to Haiti for the second time a few months ago with a short term mission team from my church. I haven't even written about it much partly because it was indescribeable. Our team had the task of building a huge playground for the children there who live in extreme poverty. This playground is actually located near the constantly burning trash pile for the mission nearby but the surrounding mountain ranges and smiles of beautiful children make the burning trash hardly noticeable. We worked together in the heat for days to erect this symbol of childhood and innocence in a land stricken with the most extreme poverty. We sang praise music, prayed together at mealtimes and at night, we shared testimonies of how God worked in our lives and by the end of the trip our faces also shined like sun.
Upon return, people would ask me about the trip and all I could do was grin. I compared the unveiling of the playground to a thousand Christmas mornings as those kids took off to play on it. The laughing and joy they displayed was more than my heart could handle. I've been a Christian for a very long time and thought I knew the Lord well but I felt like I met Him for the first time at that playground. I imagine it might be how Jesus felt when He met with God on that mountain. He already knew God but this time was different. I came back with my face tanned by the sun but also shining with a deeper relationship with my Lord.
There aren't any more verses describing the faces of Jesus and Moses continuing to shine. We know they went through trials not long after their encounters. We know Moses came down from his mountain top experience to find his people sinning and out of control. Jesus came down to His own disciples arguing and mobs of people complaining. We come home from mission trips to face our own problems again and the realities of day to day life. I begin to wonder if transfiguration is temporary. Do we only receive a certain amount of glory from time to time?
I have no exact answer but I do know that while we live in this world, we will struggle with our flesh and the pull of this life against a godly walk with God. We have to make conscious decisions to choose the Lord over the things of the world. Like my friend at the coffee shop, we have to dedicate each part of our life to Him fully if we'd like to have that radiance that affects everyone around us. We can encounter the Lord right where we are and do not have to travel to a third world country to find Him, it might just take a little more effort here because we have so many distractions. But we must make the choice to spend time with Him.
Both Jesus and Moses made a conscious decision to take the steps up those mountains to seek the Lord, their transfigurations did not just happen by coincidence. We can't expect that an increased spiritual beauty is just going to happen. The mission trip may have ended but it's possible to shine on. It a choice to continue to seek Him and spend time with Him constantly in spite of our location or circumstances.