Links Daily Devotional

The Incomparable One

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2, NIV)

Admit it: Some passages of Scripture are as mysterious as the sudden disappearance of your smooth swing right in the middle of your round on Saturday. As hard as you try to figure it out, you can’t.

Such a passage for me is the account of the transfiguration of Christ, which we find in Matthew 17, Luke 9, and Mark 9.

I know what the problem is. I want to be taught. I want to walk away with something specific to believe, something lined out to do. Moses’ instructions to the people in Deuteronomy? Full of “actions steps.” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? Demanding but helpful. The letters of the apostles? Perfectly practical.

Jesus alone saves because he alone can save.When I come to the transfiguration, however, it is like other passages where the unimaginable happens. And this time it isn’t even a miracle done to a regular person, the kind of healing or deliverance that we might still see today. This time—up on the high mountain with only Peter, James, and John accompanying him—the miracle is truly unique, something that could happen only to Jesus. How do I walk away from such a reading? Jesus shines bright as the sun, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with him, and the Father’s voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Wait, there it is! The instruction: Listen to him. I read the gospel writings because Jesus is there. His words are there. I can, through them, listen to him.

And yet this time I think there is something more to be learned. Not something to do or maybe even to believe. Rather, it is something to know. Jesus of Nazareth, set in history, and Jesus the Son of God, reigning in eternity, is incomparable. Matchless. Unparalleled.

The preeminence of Christ certainly stands out in the transfiguration. It stands out, too, in the signs and wonders he performed and by which he was accredited to us (see Acts 2:22). But these are only secondary things Jesus came to do. Chiefly, he came to die. Does he stand out there as well?

Os Guinness has made this statement about Jesus: “Christianity is the only religion whose God bears the scars of evil.” Consider the gods of other religions for a moment. Even the Jewish picture of YHWH—the Creator God in heaven—leaves him untouched by human hands. But Jesus, that God of whom Guinness speaks, went to the cross for our sin. “By his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In all of Jesus’ incomparability, this stands above all. He alone saves because he alone can save. No human ethic nor ethereal consciousness purchases eternal life for you or me. Only Jesus has made the way to the Father. Only Jesus, the Incomparable One.

Jeff Hopper
September 11, 2017
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