We Can See Glory Coming Upon Our Lord Jesus
For now, the calendar causes me to think about the Transfiguration and its prominence. My trusty old Church Calendar places the commemoration of the Transfiguration at last Tuesday, August 6th. Our nervous times would benefit from some renewed grasp of the beauty and awesomeness of that day in Christs glorious and earth-shaking life, and I hope a discussion will improve our focus.
My latest study began in the first 13 verses of Matthew 17 and benefited as expected from the accounts in Luke 9:28-36 and Mark 9:2-13. And then, of all things, I quickly remembered the ludicrous effort of a pastor I encountered some time back to preach about the Transfiguration. A nice man, and educated (in the wrong things, obviously), he was outright silly (in my opinion, of course) in “explaining away” the Bibles accounts of miraculous events, which cant be done if you read the Bible as the Word of God. But this weeks remembrance of his feeble attempts truly drove home the deep truth of this important section of Holy Scripture, which is the revelation of the glory of the Son of God, a glory hidden now but to be fully revealed when He returns.
According to The New International Dictionary of the Bible, the name Transfiguration is derived from a Latin term meaning, “to change into another form.” The accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke portray the transformation as outwardly visible and consisting in an actual physical change in the body of Jesus.
“The appearance of His face changed” (Luke 9:29, NIV), “His face shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2), while “His clothes became dazzling white” (Mark 9:3). The three apostles accompanying Jesus Peter, James, and John testified that the glory was not caused by the falling of a heavenly light on him from without but by the flashing forth of the radiant splendor within. He had passed into a higher state of existence, His body assuming properties of the resurrection body.
Remember, beloved, this was the Son of God, not some earthly creature dispatched on a mission. He wasnt like everybody else; He conversed openly with such Old Testament guys as Moses and Elijah.
The rendezvous was held at a place simply identified as “a high mountain” (Mark 9:2). Tradition has identified it with Mount Tabor, but because of its distance from Caesara Philippi and the fortification on it at that time, a spur of Mount Hermon seems more probable, according to the New International Dictionary. Jebel Jermuk has also been suggested.
Sometimes its hard to think in these terms since, after all, this was the Son of God (God Himself) but this whole experience gave encouragement to Jesus, who was setting His face to the Cross. To the shocked disciples, it confirmed the necessity of the Cross, since all the accounts told of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus speaking of Christs “departure” as well as the divine endorsement on Christs teaching. It inseparably linked the suffering with the glory and crowned with glory the perfect human life of Jesus.
In effect, this was an entry for Jesus into the glory in which He would reign. It constituted, one might say, a typical manifestation of the king coming into His kingdom.
Yes, good folks, the mountains were terribly significant and important to our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us bow down before Him! Amen.
Throughout recorded history, mountains have always engendered a sense of awe, honor, and even mystery in humankind. For believers from every religion (and for the most ardent atheist, too) mountains are places of revelation—whether from God, the gods, Mother Earth, or one’s inner self. The power of these formations jutting from the face of earth is so universal that we reserve a special phrase for moments that are particularly full of import and impact: the “mountaintop experience.”
This sort of experience isn’t limited to modern-day life, of course. In fact, many of the most significant events in Israel’s history happened on the heights of literal mountains: Think of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark landed; or Moriah, where Abraham offered Isaac; or Sinai, where God revealed Himself to Moses. Or consider the life of Jesus—the Son of God and many times the creator of powerful, ecstatic, even mystical experiences. It’s no accident that at the beginning, middle, and end of His ministry, mountains play a crucial role. And every time, they reveal more about who He is.
The first great teaching of the New Testament takes place on one and is appropriately called the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5-7), where Jesus shows Himself to be the truest and fullest revelation of God. As His enemies’ opposition increases and He heads toward Jerusalem to die, we read the story about the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8). Jesus takes His closest friends to a high place, and there they see Him in radiant glory, talking with none other than Moses and Elijah. And finally, Jesus’ last teaching before His arrest and crucifixion—an explanation of the future of the world—happens on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Matt. 24-25).
My family spent several summers in Colorado, and we’d often drive from Fort Collins, following the snaking path of the Big Thompson River until we reached Estes Park. Ears popped as we arrived in this little town 7,522 feet above sea level. But that was only the beginning, as Estes Park is the entry point into the glorious Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove our van, filled with two adults and six kids, far up into the Rockies, winding along near the edge of narrow mountain roads, pulling off to play in the snow still there in June. No matter how many times we made this drive, we were all in absolute awe of the vistas on every side.
Whether in Palestine or in Colorado, in the ancient world or today, mountain views take our breath away, wake us up, and give us something unique. Vistas give us vision. From physical heights, we can see farther and clearer. The same is true of spiritual heights. God gives us these mountaintop experiences in the Bible and in life so we have direction, a lodestar by which to navigate and shape our course. We need a panoramic view in order to know how to direct the desires and decisions of our lives toward God and His goodness. But we also need valleys.
Valleys, not just vistas, are places where we see God. Herein lies a paradox at the heart of Christianity. Mountaintop experiences help us chart our course, but deep valley experiences help us know God and ourselves most profoundly. When we are broken, helpless, in dark and low places, we come to see in a different way. The Puritans called this startling experience “the valley of vision.” The Scriptures are filled with examples of this puzzling truth.
In the Old Testament, we can point to many people who knew this valley of vision. One example comes from the prayer that Jonah uttered when he was in the belly of the great fish—a place far lower even than an earthly valley (Jonah 2:1-9). Topside, Jonah was rebellious and running his own way. When he found himself at “the roots of the mountains” (Jonah 2:6), with seaweed wrapped about his head, he saw God and His kindness clearly. Or consider Job, a man who knew God well but, after his deep valley of physical and emotional pain, came to see God unlike ever before. Referring to the time before his valley, Job told God, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,” but afterwards he said, “My eye sees You” (Job 42:5).
Our Example to Follow
Greg Laurie, crosswalk.com
Our Example to Follow
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. – (Mark 9:2–3 NKJV)
The miracle of the Transfiguration wasn’t that Jesus shined like the sun; the miracle was that He didn’t shine like the sun all the time. When Jesus came to Earth, He never gave up His deity. But we might say that He shrouded His glory and laid aside the privileges of His deity.
Jesus Christ is God. He is a member of the Trinity, coequal and coeternal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was God before He was born, and He remained God after He became man. His deity was prehuman, pre-Mary, and pre-Bethlehem.
Jesus laid aside not His deity, but the privileges of deity, to model what it is to be a servant. Paul told the believers in Philippi, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5–7).
We are to follow His example. If Jesus could lay aside the privileges of divinity, then how much more should we, as human beings with sinful hearts, be willing to put the needs of others above ourselves?
This isn’t easy. In fact, we could say that it’s virtually impossible—apart from the power of the Spirit. This is not so much about imitation as much as it is about impartation—Christ Himself living in us and giving us His love and power. It’s the only way we can put the needs of another person above our own, love people whom we really don’t like all that much, or effectively die to ourselves. It seems impossible. But this is the way God has called us to live.