What awaits us on top of the high mountain?

by Susanna Mak

We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
(2Pt 1:16)

What a confident claim made by the author, Peter the Apostle! No matter how ridiculous or fantastical the truth may sound or how unbelievable it may be, it is not some “cleverly devised myths”, Peter insists. One of the main focuses of Peter’s letter is to reaffirm the verity of what he has witnessed to combat the teachings of false prophets who wilfully denies Jesus’ second coming in glory as the judge of the world (ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible 460). Peter reminds all of us that it is paramount to give witness to the truth; that Jesus is the only Son of God, the “beloved … with whom [God is] well pleased” (Mt 17:5).

Matthew recounts the scene where Jesus reveals His glory to His Apostles. Consider the location of the extraordinary experience of Peter, James, and John: “a high mountain” (Mt 17:1). High mountains are, according to traditions, holy places where God reveals Himself to mere mortals. The experience of these Apostles echoes that of Moses on Mount Sinai where God decrees the Ten Commandments. We all know how the two simple stone tablets have changed the world! Symbolically, Jesus leads the three men away from their daily ordinariness and elevates them to a new height unimaginable where they may get a glimpse of a bigger and better reality. They may not know it yet, however, Jesus is preparing them for the arduous journey to come. So, what happens on this mountain on this particular day?

The day begins just like any other day, Jesus brings His friends, Peter, James, and John, on an excursion. When they are on top of the mountain, Jesus suddenly changes, “transfigured”, right before their eyes, “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light”. Overwhelmed by God’s glory, the witnesses have no choice but to “fall on their own faces”. Peter recognizes what he and the others have witnessed is the truth and an absolute gift bestowed on them by the only Son of God. They get a glimpse of “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1Cor 2:9).

Jesus’ Transfiguration confirms his divine Sonship and reveals His glory that is to come. All visions of glory point to the ultimate figure of glory and authority, Jesus Christ, “The Lord is King, the Most High over all the earth” (Ps 97:1a, 9a). The glorified figure of Jesus in Matthew’s scene of the Transfiguration, in which Jesus’ face shines like the sun and his clothes “white as light”, echoes the image of the “Ancient One” whose “clothing was bright as snow and the hair on his head as white as wool” in the Book of Daniel (Mt 17:2, Dn 7:9). In Daniel’s vision, the “one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven”; he receives “dominion, glory, and kingship” from the “Ancient One”; “all peoples, nations, and languages serve him” (Dn 7:13-14). Jesus is the Son of man who will come in glory again.

Jesus knows that most people may not be ready to receive and understand these visions and experiences, therefore, He cautions Peter, James, and John not “to tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Mt 17:9). Are we ready for this? Many tend to dismiss talks about God or the Good News as “cleverly devised myths” (2Pt 1:16). Are we as such? Whenever we have doubts, look up! Let us hike to the top of the mountain to get a better and clearer perspective of the world around us. On this high mountain, who knows what we may find or who may be waiting for us! But let’s not remain on the mountain top for too long. We must pick ourselves up, descend, and report back to duty: to bear witness to the risen Lord by being the salt and light of the world!