The Transfiguration and Being Known

One of the things I have become fascinated with over the last few years is the experience of Jesus. Hebrews 2:17-18 says:

For this reason [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

I don’t think many Christians understand the full implications of this. Too many of us have this idea of Jesus as super-human. A Jesus who just knew everything – never had to figure anything out, never struggled with doubt, never had to work to forgive, never wondered what his purpose was – in other words a Jesus who doesn’t actually share in our struggles. I personally think that it took 30 years for Jesus to begin his ministry because it took 30 years for him to be certain of his path, his theology and his understanding of himself. Think about that. If there’s any truth to this, it took God made flesh 30 years to get it all together. How many of us feel like failures because we don’t have our lives all together yet? Perhaps this being human thing is hard and we need to be a little more patient with outselves.

At any rate, when you allow yourself to see Jesus as an actual human rather than God play-acting at being human, it does make you wonder what it was like to be him. (Or at least it makes me wonder!) One of the things that I can’t help but think was how lonely it must have been to be Jesus. I mean, if you are the Messiah, the Word made flesh, the only Son of the Living God, who is really going to get you? We all know that Jesus had followers who he loved and lived intimately with. But it wasn’t a peer relationship. He was the teacher, they were the students. They had to be in awe of him. And those times that they allowed themselves to think of themselves as part of God’s plan working itself out in time and space, their vision of what that meant just highlighted the fact that they didn’t really get it. And that they didn’t really get Jesus either.

I think that a lot of us can relate to feeling like those around us just don’t “get” us. Deep down we all desire to know and be known. If someone says that they love us, but don’t know or understand us, what is it they are loving? I have had relationships break because I could not get the other person to let go of their own misguided views of me enough for me to feel like they remotely “got” me. There is a point at which it can be nearly impossible for two people be in relationship with each other when one sees the other in a way which is completely unrealistic and misguided? And if this sort of misunderstanding is so damaging to the relationship between two ordinary human beings, how much more difficult must it have been for Jesus to deal with the reality that his own friends misunderstood him without breaking relationship with them? How many times did Jesus try to explain who he was and what he was doing to his disciples only to have them completely miss the point. I know that more than once I have wished that God could allow someone who has what is clearly an inaccurate, warped view of me to see me as I really am. If only they could see, I would think, they would understand and be able to love and accept me for who I am. Perhaps something similar occurred to Jesus.

In fact, I wonder if this wasn’t part of what was going on with the Transfiguration. The transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to see Jesus as he really was which of course was an enormous benefit and blessing to them. But was it also a comfort to Jesus to have those closest to him finally see him in his proper context as he really was? We all desire to know and be known. Jesus would not have been any different. No doubt he had shown his ability to know those he loved many times over, but before this point those who loved him back would only have been able to guess at who it was they were intending to love. No doubt their understanding was still incomplete, but surely, they knew Jesus much better after witnessing the transfiguration than they had before the transfiguration. Which was a gift to them, to be sure. But I also like to think it was a gift to Jesus as well to finally be seen as he really was.

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One thought on “The Transfiguration and Being Known

  1. To “see Jesus as he really was” would have meant to “see themselves as they really were.”

    From that standpoint, “the Transfiguration” was less about “Jesus as he really was” than about hero worship. Appropriate hero worship, but not understanding from the inside.

    ‘John’ portrays Jesus as saying: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I did not go away, the Spirit would not come to you.”

    So far as people are too focused on the outside, they don’t know other people because they don’t know themselves.

    Like

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