“And He was transfigured before them. And His garments became exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” (Mark 9:2-3)
Life in First Century Palestine wasn’t pleasant. Water was scarce in this arid land. Therefore drinking, rather than washing – except perhaps ceremonial washing, was the priority. Life was also impoverished. While Americans in the 21st Century might think it abominable to wear the same clothing day after day, this was the only option for those in First Century Palestine.
It is, therefore, safe to assume that neither Jesus nor the disciples were able to change their garments very often. Don’t think little of them for it. That was life in those days. And by the time Jesus and His inner circle reached the summit of this mountain (perhaps Mount Hermon) their clothes were soiled with sweat and dust. Yet, instantly, as Jesus is transfigured, His clothes became whiter than any launderer on earth could whiten them.
I’ve thought about this many times and I’m convinced it offers great hope to the Christian believer. For Jesus did not first have to bathe and change His garments to make Himself presentable for this manifestation of God’s glorious Kingdom. His body and garments were cleansed and transformed by God’s power.
This is a demonstration of God’s power to take us as we are and make us fit to be in His presence. It proves to us that God is able to consummate all the unfinished work of sanctification in our lives when He calls us home.
Think about it. Throughout the New Testament believers are admonished to be conformed into the image of Christ (e.g. Romans 8:29; 12:1-2). They are told to grow in their faith and other Christian virtues (2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 4:15-16; 5:22-23; Colossians 1:10; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18). And they are commanded to put off the “old man” with all his sinful deeds and put on the new man who is being renewed into Christ’s image (Ephesians 4:20-25).
Fortunately, this process is the work of God. For we could never save or change ourselves. We could never make ourselves holy by our own human efforts. Yet there is most definitely an element of human responsibility in our sanctification. God is certainly working in our hearts to make us desire to do His will and to empower us to do it (Philippians 2:13). Yet, we are commanded to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). In other words, God expects us to cooperate with His Holy Spirit, rather than resist His efforts. For without this work of sanctification in our lives, we cannot hope to see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
But who of us can claim that they’ve already reached perfection, that God’s work of sanctification in their lives is complete? Not even Paul the apostle could do that (Philippians 3:10-14). It seems that the more we learn of Jesus Christ, the smaller we become in our own eyes. The more we grow in our awareness of God’s holiness, the more unfinished work we see in ourselves.
Yet, Christ’s Transfiguration shows us that God is able to take us as we are, with all our unfinished work, and consummate His redemptive work in us instantly. Although it has not yet appeared to us what we shall be, we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
So don’t despair the next time you’re reminded of your own frailty. Don’t lose heart whenever you stumble and see how far you have to go in your own spiritual growth. Keep trusting in Jesus. Keep believing in His power to save you and to consummate His redemptive work in your life. He is able to present you blameless and perfect before His glorious presence (Jude 24).
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, into Your loving and capable hands I commit my spirit. I trust in Your blood to cleanse me. I trust in Your righteousness to clothe me. I trust in Your power to take me from where I am now and to make me ready for heaven’s glory. Amen.