The Same Face

Reading Time: 2 mins

At the Transfiguration, we say farewell to alleluia and hello to the horrific reality of our lost condition.

Can this be the same face? Can it possibly be the same face? Can it really be the same face we’ll behold in the weeks to come as we go down this mountain again with him? Can’t we stay here? Can’t we stay with Moses, with Elijah? Can’t we stay on the mountain? 

There’s something about God and mountains. There’s always been something special about mountains when it comes to God and His people. Mountains mark our salvation history. 

Moses climbed a mountain—a terrifying mountain. The people shrank in fear and begged God not to speak to them, to speak only to Moses, for that was a holy mountain, threatening destruction to all who approached it with unclean hands and hearts. God gave Moses the law there, and what a bloody law it was, full of threats and death! It was serious business. 

Elijah climbed a mountain; he climbed a mountain for battle. Almost all of Israel had fallen from the faith. They bowed to statues of stone and wood. They offered what belonged to God to demons. They persecuted the prophets and ridiculed the remnant. So God told Elijah to climb that mountain and take the fight to the idols and idolatrous hearts. And Elijah did. 

Moses climbed the mountain to receive the law. Elijah climbed the mountain to proclaim God’s Word. And those mountains, the Law and the Prophets, made up the Old Testament. And now Jesus invites us up a mountain. The Law and Prophets meet, the veil is lifted, and where before they had known only a coming Messiah through shadows and symbols, Moses and Elijah see Jesus face to face. This day is what had refreshed them in their tiresome labor, what lifted them up when everything else weighed them down. And now, with dazzling brilliance, Moses and Elijah meet on a new mountain, a better mountain, and see in all his splendor the one whom they foretold, proclaimed, and promised so long ago. 

Peter was ecstatic. Oh, that they could stay there! But that wasn’t to be.“Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus” (Mark 9:8). As quickly as that, plain old Jesus was back again. Plain old Jesus was back, bidding them down the mountain. 

Could that have been the same face? Could that possibly have been the same face? Could that really have been the same face that is now resolutely set on Jerusalem, on another mountain, on Calvary? Yes, it was the same face, the same face we will soon see beset with the venom of the evil one and crowned with the twisted and thorny curse of our flesh. Yes, it was the same face, and we dare not forget it.

At the Transfiguration, we say farewell to alleluia and hello to the horrific reality of our lost condition. We enter Lent and contemplate the passion of our Innocent One. But remember that face because God does, and it’s through that face that he sees you in the same way he sees the one who shone on that mountain we now leave behind. 

Moses and Elijah looked at him, delighted to see him. Look to him, too. He is what the book is about. He is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. This face is for you, in its torment and its beauty, now and forever. This face is your favor so that God lifts up his countenance upon you.