Peter, James and John were the only three people to witness one of the greatest events of human history – the Transfiguration. For a few brief moments, they witnessed God in all his glory.
Moses saw something similar, but with one major difference. You’ll remember that Moses was up on the Mountain and it was there that he received the Law. Afterwards, as a way of knowing that God would truly be with him and the Israelites, Moses asked God to reveal himself. He said, “Show me your glory.” The Lord responded, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
And there is the that major difference in the story of Moses and the story of the Transfiguration, “… my face must not be seen.” To look upon the face of God was to die.
Yet, in our Gospel reading we read, as Peter, James and John were watching, Jesus “was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory…” Peter, James and John saw the face of God. They saw what not even Moses was allowed to look upon. Our Gospel said that following the Transfiguration that Peter and the boys were “terrified.” They were terrified because they knew they had seen the face of God and they feared they were about to drop dead.
Why didn’t they? Answer: Jesus. The prologue to John’s Gospel begins to explain this, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” … but it is Jesus himself who provides the answer a bit later in John’s Gospel, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” God revealed himself and his full nature – his glory, his grace, his truth, his love – in the person of Jesus. And through that revealing, that revelation, we became his sons and daughters. Peter, James and John did not drop dead when they witnessed the glory of God… WE do not drop dead when we witness the glory of God, because we are His. He is in us and we are in Him. As Jesus stated in his prayer on the night before he was crucified, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”
The Transfiguration is a picture of who God truly is, but not only that, it is also a glimpse of who WE truly are, for the glory that is in Jesus… is also in us.