Gospel Words: 44. The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1‑9  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Listen from:
In the midst of His service of humiliation our Lord was for a little transfigured. It was not like Moses whose face shone from his nearness to the divine Presence. Our Lord was with His own here below. A week before He prepared them for seeing the Son of man coming in His kingdom. After it He takes with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain apart. “And His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became white as the light. And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah talking with them.” It is a miniature of His kingdom wherein will be the risen and changed saints with others in their natural bodies, and the Lord the center of all.
Yet it would seem that the divine aim of Moses and Elijah being there was to mark the surpassing glory of the Lord before Whom the chief representative of the law and the most honored of the prophets gave place and vanished away. The personal glory of Jesus is most conspicuous as elsewhere in this Gospel. He is Son of God and Son of man.
Peter counted it a great thing to see His Master with saints so renowned and glorious. “Lord,” said he to Jesus, “It is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, I will make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He made the natural but fatal mistake of equalizing all three. Yet he who had only so short a time before confessed His Master to be not only the Messiah, but the Son of the living God, ought not to have so erred. So easy is it to forget what flesh and blood never truly knows, what is revealed by the Father; just as then too he could not bear to think of His going to Jerusalem, suffering many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and being killed but raised the third day.
Here it was not the withering rebuke of the Lord Who knew that all blessing for man and glory for God, in a ruined world, hung on His rejection. It was the Father’s voice out of the excellent glory. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son in Whom I found my delight: hear ye him.” The Father then displayed His jealousy for the honor of His Son. He would not allow the law-giver or the law-restorer to be put on such a level. They were servants and to be honored in the place He set them. But His beloved Son!—there were His delights; and if Christ went down in love infinite to suffer as man, and as man to be exalted, the glory of the eternal Son was precious beyond all thought of man in His Father’s eyes.
It is the Son Whom we are to hear. See how the great truth is attested in the Epistle to the Hebrews, both in chap. 1:2, and in chap. 7:25. Equally explicit is John 5:2525Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25) for quickening, and in John 10 for every day; and not only for the sheep led out of the Jewish fold but for other sheep, Gentiles, not of this fold. Dear reader, does not this reach to you? If the blessing is immense, what is the loss? And what must be the fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries and the indifferent? For Himself has said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give to them life eternal; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” On the other hand “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
When the disciples heard the Father’s voice, they fell on their faces and were sore afraid. They were far from knowing yet His love; but He, Who brought it in His own person, was at hand to strengthen their hearts. “And Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, and be not afraid.” Not less now but more does Jesus cause His word to come home in the power of redemption to those that believe. And the God Who sent Him would fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope in the power of the Holy Spirit. Is it thus with your souls? Can you say that you have heard the voice of Jesus by faith, and that you are “not afraid”? This is His will, not only for the three who then heard, but for all that believe the gospel of God. Perfect love casts out the fear that has torment, and creates the fear of reverence. It is the effort of the enemy to work on the conscious guilt of man that he may distrust the words of Jesus; it is the work of the Spirit from the beginning to efface it all. The entrance of that word dispels darkness before the light of God to the soul, and enables the heart to receive “Be not afraid.”
“Lifting up their eyes, they saw no one save Jesus only.” Visions were always rare; such a vision is unique. But for the heart’s comfort, and the right direction of the eye, there is nothing to compare with having Jesus the Son of God to hear. So has God the Father ruled: “hear Him.” And He abides the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever, May we by faith look to “Jesus only.” It is not only at first that the soul may be saved by faith, but for every day and hour after we do believe. For the only right Walk is by faith, and the fight of faith is the only good fight, in which Jesus is the one unfailing Captain. Other fights we may have to our shame, where flesh is not judged, and Satan gains advantage for the moment. To Jesus then may we ever look, to “Jesus only.”