“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.”
Have you ever stayed awake to watch the sun rise? I did this awhile ago. My wife’s water broke in the middle of the night and we were alert from that very pivotal moment, until much much later we held our beautiful baby girl, Eden, safely in our arms. But in those first charged moments, after sending my wife back to bed to wait and sleep, I witnessed the sun slowly and gloriously break into new day. That wonderful morning, beauty spoke to me in whispers, as I waited for both the sun and my sweet child to come.
Now, while I love my sleep, there are just some moments so beautiful that to sleep through them would be a shame. I think this is certainly the kind of thing we see in Matthew 17 where Peter, James and John nearly sleep their way through one of the most terrifyingly beautiful moments of their lives.
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. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.
This is, of course, referred to as the “Transfiguration of Jesus,” but I wonder if the title we’ve given this scene is the best. I used to get the impression that this was some magical moment where Jesus became more… Jesus. But was Jesus not yet fully Himself until this? Was He not every bit who His Father said He was already? Something tells me this story is much more human than magical.
I’m convinced that His disciples were truly seeing Him for the first time. That is, Jesus had always been radiantly beautiful, and perhaps it is the disciples here who are transfigured by the revelation of that truth, not Jesus.
And it’s not like Jesus comes down from the mountain with people all over town whispering amongst themselves “Whoa..what happened to that guy? He’s glowing and sparkly!” It seems far more likely that all the glory and splendor wrapped in flesh had always been there, just waiting for the eyes of mankind to be opened to it. Isn’t this really a story about the disciples going, “I looked at Jesus and …it was like my eyes could finally see Him, my senses couldn’t take anymore, he was so good…and I was terrified!”
But isn’t that the truest kind of beauty? Beauty so powerful it overwhelms you and at the same time makes you ache for more? I’m certain now this is from where the sweetest kind of love flows, the places where we ache and long. This kind of beauty is Heaven around us existing in ordinary people, and this is probably the most powerful way in which God reveals Himself to us.
I believe this is what Jesus knew and wanted His disciples to experience on that mountain. That beauty isn’t just in the eye of the beholder, but does in fact, transform the beholder to really see.
I believe we never perceive one another more truly than when we see each other’s beauty, the preciousness of our existence. It seems we often think that the ability to see someone truthfully means we can see all their flaws. We say things like, “Well, I love you too much not to tell you truth..” and that truth is always some sort of criticism. How much more beautiful that truth and grace are not values in conflict. It is actually only through the lens of love that we can see one another truthfully, the way God sees. You’ll know it when it happens, because the people around you will suddenly transfigure, more radiant, more beautiful. And you’ll love … man, will you ever love.