And after six days Jesus takes Peter, James, and John his brother, and brings them up into an high mountain apart,…
I. Take what is taught in the passage AS TO CHRIST'S HUMANITY AND ITS ASPECTS. Among all the aspects in which the Saviour is presented to us, this one assuredly is plain, the Saviour as man. And the story of the Transfiguration shows Christ as the man in three ways.
1. It speaks of a human need, the need, namely, of encouragement and strength. Indeed, it seems that the Transfiguration was a turning-point in the mission He had come to accomplish, when His work as a Prophet passed into the background and His work as a Priest came to the front. Not for the disciples only, but for Himself, the establishing of His courage and the reassuring of His hope, was the vision on the mount, with the voice that accompanied it. So low does a Saviour stoop in His humility, that He touches our sinless infirmities at their lowest, and is not ashamed to be our companion and our example in all.
2. And this brings me to the next point, and to pass from considering the human need to consider the human exercise. That exercise was prayer. "He went up," says St. Luke, "to a mountain to pray." He was asking for the wisdom that discerned the Father's will, for the submission that embraced it, for the perseverance that adhered to it, for the joy that illumined it. If you can dispense with prayer, Christ could not.
3. Again, we have here a human experience. Was not the Transfiguration rather a token that associated itself with the Saviour's divinity, an honour that pertained to Him, not as the man, but as God? There is truth in this; but two things must be noticed at the same time. First, that even if it was the Godhead that lent the radiance, it was the manhood that was actually irradiated; and secondly, that what the Godhead effected in Christ, what is Godlike effects in His followers. Do not put the Transfiguration of Christ aside as a privilege that is purely supernatural; it is, in one sense, only the transcendent exhibition as it is the efficacious pledge of the changes which grace may work in ourselves. Such transfigurations as these are both symptomatic and prophetic. They are symptomatic of what has already begun, and prophetic of what shall yet be revealed, when the temporary gives place to the permanent, and the partial is drowned in the perfect, and a glorified soul shall create a glorified vesture, from which the last stain of sin shall be purged, and the last line of pain be smoothed out. Oh, our Kinsman-Redeemer, we have found Thee our companion in manhood's weakness, we hail Thee as the type of manhood's coming glory! As Thou has borne the image of the earthly with us, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly with Thee.
II. BUT AGAIN, WE HAVE HERE CHRIST'S DEATH AND ITS MEANING.
1. The death of Christ is the glory of the Old Dispensation; its glory, because its fulfilment and crown. That is why Moses and Elias were there. Moses was there to bear witness that in the decease of a Saviour at Jerusalem a nobler Rock would be smitten than the rock he had struck in the wilderness, and that a richer fountain would flow forth than the water that gushed from its flinty clefts. Elijah was there to bear witness that in this same decease at Jerusalem a greater sacrifice would be offered than the sacrifice he had laid upon Carmel's altar, even a Saviour's precious blood, and a more wondrous confirmation be granted than the fire that gave testimony before Carmel's hosts, even a Saviour's glorious Resurrection.
2. The death of Christ is the glory of the New Dispensation. For as it was the glory of the Old Dispensation as its fulfilment, it is the glory of the New as its foundation. That is why the disciples were there. They were there as the sponsors of a Church to be, just as Moses and Elijah were there as the sponsors of a Church and a ritual that had vanished. If Moses and Elias were the flower of the Old Dispensation, Peter and James and John were the germs of the New.
3. The death of the cross is the glory of Jesus Himself. For those that had eyes to see, there was triumph in the very shame, and the crucifixion was itself a coro-nation-it was His glory in the very endurance, as well as in the ultimate results.
III. BUT AGAIN, WE HAVE HERE SOMETHING TAUGHT US AS TO CHRIST'S CHURCH AND ITS FELLOWSHIP. Let us now look at Christ as the living Bond of eternal union. The relation of the Church beneath to the Church above is a question that throbs with a lasting interest. That there is some relation we know; though divided, the companies are in some fashion one. But what is that relation? Certainly not a visible one any longer. There is a knowledge of our friends alter the flesh no more. It was, after all, a knowledge of the flesh that Peter was thinking of when he said, in his rashness and witlessness, "Lord, let us make three tabernacles." And that is Christ's answer to Peter. It is as if He had said, "Not as you think, will the relation between us be perpetuated — by fellowship such as you would maintain, in tabernacles such as you would build. There is but one tabernacle prepared for us all, and behold, it is now coming down — the tabernacle and pavilion of Him who is as a wall of fire round His people, and the glory in the midst of them." Stand in the fear and the presence of God, as the disciples stood under the cloud, and that will be the sphere of communion; found your interests and your hopes on the cross of Christ, and that will be the means of communion; press near to the person of the Crucified, and that will be the centre of communion. There is intercourse in no other way.
IV. BUT AGAIN, WE HAVE SOMETHING TAUGHT US AS TO CHRIST'S MESSAGE AND ITS AUTHORITY. Was it not as if God meant to say, "Hear the Son, not the prophets of the Old Dispensation merely? Hear the Son, not messengers from heaven, though august as the deputies you have seen." And what God said to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration He says this day to ourselves, reminding us once more of the whole duty of man — the reception of the message, and the submission to the purpose of His well-beloved Son. Listen to Him, and not to the world. The world passeth away, and the lust thereof. Listen to Him, and not to the flesh. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? Listen to Him, not to ministers. They are frail, earthly vessels at the best. "No man can serve two masters." Hear that. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Hear that.
V. And once more, in this passage, we have here THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST AND ITS ALL-SUFFICIENCY. He who has come before us in this incident as Mall, as Redeemer, as Uniter, and as Prophet, is brought before us in the last place as a Friend. For the time came when Transfiguration experiences ended — the disciples looked up and saw no man save Jesus only. Ah yes, there is a something in our religious life that is transitory, and there is a something that always abides. What is transitory is an experience such as that which the disciples had when they were wrapped with the glory; what is abiding is the Person and Presence of Christ, which form the centre of attraction while Transfiguration experiences last, and which remain to make up for their absence when Transfiguration experiences cease. Happy are they who, when the glamour dies from their sky. and the company vanishes from their path, and life looks bare and common, like the path down Hermon for the descending disciples, have a faith that will strengthen them when feelings pass, and a guidance that will cheer them when friendships are dissolved, and who, lifting up their eyes, see Jesus — Jesus alone, it may be, but a Jesus who is all-sufficient.
(William A. Gray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,