“His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3).
Only the Gospel of Mark has this graphic description of Jesus as He was transfigured before the inner circle of His disciples. All three Synoptic gospel contain the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration atop the “high mountain” (Matt. 17:1–8; Mark 9:1–8; Luke 9:27–36). All three accounts begin with Jesus’ foretelling that some of His disciples will “see” the Kingdom of God coming in power before they die. Thus it’s safe to conclude that Jesus was referring to this mountaintop event, in which Jesus would be revealed in His future glorified state.
But it’s only Mark who mentions that Jesus’ garments became “exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” Why this description?
Thinking About It
I don’t think that Jesus or His disciples had many chances to change or wash their garments. I suspect that, with their fast-paced and relentless schedule, their clothes remained dirty and dusty for long stretches of time. People back then simply didn’t have that many changes of clothing. And water to wash them was not abundant in this semiarid region. So by the time Jesus and His three closest disciples summited the high mountain, probably the 9,000-foot high Mount Hermon, they were plenty dusty and sweaty.
But instantly, when He was transfigured, Jesus’ garments became gleaming white—as no launderer on earth could whiten them. Neither Jesus nor His disciples were required to purify themselves with water for this divine encounter. They didn’t have to undergo ceremonial washings or change their garments to meet with Moses, Elijah, and God the Father. No. God transfigured Jesus where He stood. He glorified Him in His current state, as He was going about His Father’s business.
You know, this fact about Jesus’ Transfiguration addresses a question that many Christian believers have about the Lord’s coming. What will God do about all the “unfinished business” in our lives? From the hour we first believe in Jesus, God begins an on-going work of sanctification in our lives. It’s the process by which God conforms us into the image of His Son. God the Father applies His discipline—the school of hard knocks, if you will—to us to prepare us for heaven. He uses tribulation and adversity to develop us and make us more and more like Jesus (Rom. 5:3–5; Heb. 12:4–11; James 1:2–3).
But I’m Unfinished
But what about those lessons we haven’t learned prior to the time of our departure? What about those weaknesses and deep-seated problems that we still haven’t overcome when God calls us home? Will God’s saving grace fall short of completing the sanctifying work He began in us?
By no means. God will finish the good work He began (Phil. 1:6). St. Jude said that God “is able to keep us from falling and to present us blameless before His glorious presence with great joy” (Jude 24–25). Consider what Paul the apostle wrote to the deeply troubled Corinthian church.
“Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says” (1 Cor. 1:7–9, NLT).
Yes, God is faithful to do what He promised to do—to save us eternally. He even gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will consummate our salvation by resurrecting and glorifying us (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13–14; 4:30). So God will finish whatever is left undone in our lives. He will take us as we are, soiled garments and all, and transform us into Christ’s image and make our garments shine as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
So keep following Jesus. Keep walking in the light of His gospel. And the blood of Jesus Christ will keep on cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Be busy in the Lord’s work and God will miraculously and gloriously complete all the unfinished business in our lives.
As John the apostle wrote, “we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is” (1 John 3:2).
Dear Father in heaven, into Your loving and capable hands I commit the broken mess of my life. Please, by Your grace, save me, cleanse me, and transform me from the inside out. I cling to Your holy Son and ask You to conform me into His glorious image. Amen.