“And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” (Matthew 17:8)
We envy them sometimes, the twelve who walked so closely beside the Savior that they heard the Gospel from his lips and witnessed the miracles from the frontlines. They were the Carpenter’s nearest companions as he traversed the Galilean hills and journeyed through the Judean countryside. Yet, along with their privileged position came hazardous turns with turbulent storms, gardens swarming with Roman guards, and mountaintop experiences overshadowed by ancient prophets and God’s own fearsome voice – reason enough for fear to be a steady companion, too.
When Peter, James, and John caught sight of Jesus’ transfigured face radiating like the sun, Peter‘s nervous chatter was suddenly interrupted by Jehovah’s dramatic proclamation: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The disciples buried their faces in the rocky soil, trembling with the kind of fear that consumes every smidge of courage. Their familiar friend now possessed a supernatural countenance and prophets long dead were present.
Moreover, Jehovah had taken the opportunity to bestow commendations out loud. Into this scary scenario Jesus demonstrates gentleness kindness. “But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (Matthew 17:7-‐8).
They retraced their steps down the mountain then, deep in conversation but void of fear. Christ had entered their dread-filled place and with his touch and voice clarified that they had nothing whatsoever to be afraid of.
He speaks a similar message into our troubled days. Like his band of followers, we may become overwhelmed by threatening situations that produce sweaty palms and heart palpitations. We cower and cringe; he speaks and stills. He gives us permission to stand up and recognize that with him by our side we can “Rise, and have no fear.”
May we lift up our eyes like that trio on the mountaintop and recognize that Jesus is fully present as our brave companion. The Father instructed them to listen to his Son; that’s good advice to follow, no matter the direction we face.