And after six days Jesus takes Peter, James, and John his brother, and brings them up into an high mountain apart,…
I. The Church is led to a CREED. The time has now come for estimating the effects of the ministry of Jesus. "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
II. In the TRANSFIGURATION itself the Church is led on to a foretaste of glorious WORSHIP and high communion — the meeting for awhile of the Church militant with the Church triumphant.
1. As to the reality of the Transfiguration. We have the calmness of history in the narratives of the synoptics; we have dates and circumstances. The glory above is as historical as the epileptic writhing below.
2. As to the purposes of the Transfiguration. It had a purpose in relation to the human nature of Jesus. A sense of suffering came upon His soul, and He wanted rest. The instinct which draws so many of the highest human spirits to the quiet and elevation of the hills, led Him up into the higher mountain-range of Paneas or Hermon. If one might refer to a long-forgotten controversy, the Transfiguration was not a miracle. For such splendour was natural to a body like His, with the perfect soul and its union with Divinity. The repression was miraculous; the Transfiguration was the temporary cessation of that miraculous repression.
III. But further, in the transfiguration Jesus leads His Church to a WORK — a work which, indeed, they could not at first perform. What a contrast for Him and for them! For them: "Lord, it is beautiful for us to be here." A contrast for Him also. A contrast between the spirits of "just men made perfect," and the faithless and crooked generation, of whom even His patience cried, "How long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" They find a sufferer below. Strange contrast, as we have said. Above: the pure heaven; the words of Divine attestation; the forms of saints floating in light; the glory and honour and majesty given to Jesus. Below: the reproach; the well-meant but baffled effort; the foam on the cut lip; the withered body; the sullen muteness broken by epileptic cries. Yet there is a fresh, unselfish joy in the energy which Jesus throws into that victorious work. Thus, on the whole, in this section of the Transfiguration, Jesus leads His Church in the person of His disciples on to a world of thought, up to a world of worship, down to a world of work.
1. The three words, creed, worship, work, surely indicate, as far as single words can, the leading purpose of the three great periods which the Church has already traversed. The primitive centuries were occupied mainly, but not exclusively, in moulding Christological dogma: the Middle Ages (over and above the scholastic philosophy) were busy in elaborating worship: before the eye of the modern Church social problems have come out with a tremendous significance.
2. Again, we have here a summary of elements which must always, more or less, co-exist in a living Church. Confession, devotions, effort, must be found in her. Without the confession, devotion becomes fanaticism; without the devotion, confession becomes a congelation of dogma; without the confession and the devotion, the effort is soon left to police magistrates and poor-law guardians.
3. It may, I think, further be observed that the Transfiguration stands in our New Testament as one recognition of " the sense of beauty," of which it has been cynically said that " it never furthered a single duty." Nay, more; it is a refutation of him who has told us that beauty is inconsistent with the gospel. It shows Jesus not doing something definite for us; but showing earth for a moment what He is in His beauty. I conclude by drawing two lessons for the spiritual life of each of us:
I. Our individual life must follow and summarize the section of the Transfiguration.
1. We must lay the foundation strong and deep in the confession of Peter.
2. This must be accompanied by a second condition. There must be the love of prayer, of communion with the world unseen.
II. Let us think for a few moments of our transfiguration as the result of His. Even our fallen humanity affords hints of this.
(Bishop Alexander, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,