“I felt like I had touched a live wire,” said Professor Holly Ordway, describing her reaction to John Donne’s majestic poem “Holy Sonnet 14.” There’s something happening in this poetry, she thought. I wonder what it is. Ordway recalls it as the moment her previously atheistic worldview allowed for the possibility of the supernatural. Eventually she would believe in the transforming reality of the resurrected Christ.
Touching a live wire—that must have been how Peter, James, and John felt on the day Jesus took them to a mountaintop, where they witnessed a dramatic transformation. Christ’s “clothes became dazzling white” (Mark 9:3) and Elijah and Moses appeared—an event we know today as the transfiguration.
Descending from the mountain, Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone what they’d seen until He’d risen (v. 9). But they didn’t even know what He meant by “rising from the dead” (v. 10).
The disciples’ understanding of Jesus was woefully incomplete, because they couldn’t conceive of a destiny that included His death and resurrection. But eventually their experiences with their resurrected Lord would utterly transform their lives. Late in his life, Peter described his encounter with Christ’s transfiguration as the time when the disciples were first “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
As Professor Ordway and the disciples learned, when we encounter the power of Jesus we touch a “live wire.” There’s something happening here. The living Christ beckons us.
Father, when we approach You in prayer, we come to what we don’t comprehend. Forgive us for taking for granted the majesty of Your presence.
To learn more about the life of Jesus, visit christianuniversity.org/NT111.
It’s interesting to see both Moses and Elijah join Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:4). Though separated by many years, the ministries of Moses and Elijah had much in common. God used Moses to part the Red Sea with the symbol of his authority, the shepherd’s staff (Exodus 14:15–16). Meanwhile, Elijah parted the Jordan River with his cloak—which represented his prophetic office (2 Kings 2:6–8). Both had a significant encounter with God on Mount Sinai/Horeb (Exodus 34; 1 Kings 19). God provided food miraculously for Moses (and Israel) in the wilderness (Exodus 16), and did the same for Elijah during the drought-induced famine he’d prophesied (1 Kings 17). And both Moses and Elijah were succeeded by men (Joshua and Elisha—see Joshua 1:1–2; 1 Kings 19:16) whose names mean “The Lord/God saves.” Scholar H. H. Rowley said of the ministries of these Old Testament giants, “Without Moses the religion of Yahweh as it figured in the Old Testament would never have been born. Without Elijah it would have died.”