And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.…
The evangelists, in their record of the Transfiguration scene, seem to concentrate the attention of Christian people on the irradiated garments in which our Lord's sacred form was enveloped. Indeed, the description of the irradiation of the garments of Christ is certainly fuller than the description of His transfigured humanity. St. Matthew tells us that "His raiment was white as light"; St. Mark, that "His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them"; and St. Luke, as our text reminds us, that "His raiment was white and glistering." Therefore, in studying the history of the mystery of the Transfiguration our duty is carefully to notice this feature, and to seek to learn the lesson that the glorified beauty of the raiment of Christ teaches us. The scene of the Transfiguration is one which each of us can easily paint for ourselves by an effort of the imagination. Jesus Christ was, no doubt, poorly clad, probably in the garb that a mechanic" was wont to wear in those days. His clothing was not the clothing of "soft raiment," for "they that wear soft raiment are in kings' houses"; not in the palace of a king among a favoured few dwelt the Incarnate Son of God, but in a cottage where His lot was cast among the toiling many; and there He dwelt for thirty years, clothed surely in raiment of the most homely nature, probably made by His mother's own hands, and woven from the wool of the flocks. And if the raiment of our Lord had no beauty of form or material to make it lovely, so, too, it must have borne signs of wear, the stains and marks of daily toil. Thus clothed, then, our Lord passed to the Mount of Transfiguration; and, whilst He prayed" He was transfigured before them." The light of the essential Godhead within broke forth, and, lo! as its rays shone through the veil of His humanity, it pierced the poor garments in which He was clothed, which, though worn and stained, now became white with a supernatural whiteness, and, though lacking beauty, now became beautiful with a supernatural beauty. Sweet vision of irradiated garments! what an abiding spiritual meaning it shows forth! St. , in a notice which occurs in his "Commentary on the Psalms," says "The raiment wherewith Christ was clad is His Church." Sweet, sacred vision of a transfigured Lord associated with an irradiated Church; showing forth the abiding relationship of Christ with His Church through endless ages of glorified eternity, and His closest union with this Church, which He has put on as a mystic garment shining with the glory of His own mystic beauty. In this glorified raiment of Christ we see shadowed forth His Church under all conditions of time and of eternity. The Church exists, and is eternally predestinated in the fulness of time to be the glorified vesture of her Lord; the Church, which is God's elect, admitted by baptism and by the cleansing waters of the holy font brought into this election, this ecclesia of God. Is not the Church in her making like the garments of our Lord? Mary takes of the wool of the flock, and therewith weaves the raiment which He puts on in all its meanness and poorness, and then glorifies. Just so with the Church. In what is she poor, do you say? Surely her poverty is in the men and women within her who are lacking in purity and in beauty; but our Lord stretches out His hand and brings them into union with Himself; not a hypostatical union, such as the union of the Divine and human natures in Himself, but a sacramental union, which can be severed, like the putting on of the garments with which He was clad. Then, having as it were put them on to lie on His Sacred Heart, He works in them the work of justification, taking from them the soil of guilt, and by the work of renewal ever removing from them all spots and wrinkles, till passing from glory to glory, and going from beauty to beauty, the just become more and more pure in the sight of God. He gives them not only purity but beauty; Christ acts on the pure and makes them lovely; He communicates to them His own Divine beauty, till in time the Church on earth becomes "white and glistering" with the glory He imparts. And what is the glorification of the Church? What is the consummation of sanctification? What is the end of justification? Is not the goal to be absolutely beautiful? is it not that when we awake we may find that we are beautiful even in the sight of God? Yes, in the glorified raiment of Christ we see a pledge of His work in His Church, a pledge which in her perfect day shall be accomplished, yet for its accomplishment it is necessary that her members co-operate with Him in a three-fold way. The members of Christ's Church must be channels of Divine grace. Men and women touching the garments of Christ were made whole; as, for instance, that poor woman who had suffered for many years from a sad disease, and who stretched forth her hand in the crowd, saying within herself, "If I may but touch His garment I shall be whole"; but Christ said not, "Who touched my raiment?" but "Who touched Me?" (as St. Luke tells us), for His raiment had been but the means of conveying His own healing power: and in the same way Christ has made His Church the instrument through which He distributes truth, and grace, and peace; and if her members would reach forth to her essential glory in eternity they must reach forward to her Divine mission in time, and become, like His garments, channels of His grace to those around. Is it not so? Have you thought that those same garments were probably on the hill of Calvary? But where do we see them then? No longer clothing that sacred form, but thrown at the foot of the cross, given over to the Roman soldiery, His very vesture the prize of a gambling game which they were playing just beneath Him. As with the raiment of Christ so must it be with His Church. The Church can only pass to her Divine glory under the same conditions by which Christ passed to His; the Church must not only imitate Him in His active ministry, but share His sufferings: she, too, must go to her Gethsemane, and pass along her way of sorrow, and hang down upon her cross of shame, and pain, and humiliation; and only as she patiently perseveres in walking on the road of the Cross can she hope to reach to the glory awaiting her above. There is only one ladder from earth to heaven, that is the ladder of our Saviour's Cross. And it is necessary for us always to keep this vision of the transfigured raiment of Christ before our minds; for this reason, that we never look at any creation of God aright unless we keep in sight the ideal of that creation as it is in the mind of God, otherwise we form a wrong conception of it. God's ideal cannot be realized here and now. If we look at the world in its present conditions only, should we not find it hard to justify the dealings of God with men? But these conditions are only accidental; sin came into the world, and with it poverty, crime, pain, death. God has mysteriously permitted a temporary marring of His creation, but that which mars it does not come from God, therefore it cannot last. We Christians are saved from being pessimists because we know that the present conditions are not final. There is a time, at the coming of our Lord, when error will be banished by truth, iniquity by righteousness; when universal knowledge mill cover the face of society; when peace shall be the only condition of mind among God's people. Look with eyes brightened by faith, then, even though we see antichrist developed, yet our hope shall be bright, aye, brighter than before, for the development of antichrist is the very pledge of the coming of Christ. And so, too, with the Ideal of man; none have ever realized, even if they have grasped, their own ideal; and certainly no one can ever have grasped their ideal as it is in the mind of the Creator, far less have carried that out. What is this ideal? is it not conformity to the perfection of God Himself? "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Yet we know by experience that, here and now, we cannot conform to this perfection; and so the Church, here and now, fails to realize her ideal: to-day she is of the earth earthy, as poor, and stained, and marred as the garments of Jesus before they were transfigured by His imparted glory. Often perplexities meet us when we try to reconcile the actual condition of the Church with the ideal. But on the Mount of Transfiguration we see this — that in His own time and way Christ will realize the ideal of His Church. Till then let us live in faith and hope, refusing to let our faith be staggered by the Church's troubles in time, but giving ourselves up to His service, lying, as His sacred garments did, at the foot of His cross, in sure and confident expectation that He will realize His own ideal, and that in eternity we shall see Jerusalem the Golden, shining with the glory of God and of the Lamb, and the Church, as His vesture, lying on His bosom in closest union with her Lord!
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.