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.…
This incident is one that stands quite by itself; it is wholly unlike everything else in our Lord's history. It was miraculous enough, yet we do not count it amongst the miracles of Christ. It may be viewed in many lights; it may illustrate -
I. THE CLOSE RELATION BETWEEN OUR SPIRITUAL AND OUR BODILY NATURE. This manifested glory was not altogether outward; it was more than a radiance thrown around or imposed upon him, which might just as readily have occurred to any Jewish rabbi. It does not correspond with the illumination or' the wall of a building or the face of a cathedral. It was the glory of his Divine nature, usually hidden, now shining through and revealing itself in his form and countenance. We are sure that the appearance of our Lord at all times answered to his character and his spirit. We gather this from the charm which he exerted over his disciples and over little children; from the confidence which he inspired in the social outcasts of his day; in the occasional flashings forth of his Divine sovereignty (John 2:15; Mark 10:32; John 18:6). The Transfiguration was by far the most striking instance of his bodily nature being lighted up and irradiated by his indwelling glory; there was as much of the spiritual as of the material about it; it could not have happened to any other than to our Lord. And this opens the question how far our spiritual experiences may and should glorify our personal appearance. The spirit does act powerfully upon and manifest itself through the body which is its organ. We know how love gleams, how indignation flashes, how scorn and hatred lower, how hope shines, how disappointment pales, how all the passions that breathe and burn in the human breast come forth and make themselves felt in the eye, the lip, the countenance of man. We may and should see a kind or a pure heart in a kind or pure countenance, as we do see avarice or indulgence in a keen or a bloated visage. We bear about in our body the marks of our association with the Lord Jesus, and other marks also which are not derived from such fellowship as that. Holiness has its transfiguring influence, as sin has its debasing effect, upon the human form and figure - the one refines and glorifies, as the other disfigures and degrades. There are two things to be heeded here.
1. We must not draw hasty and unjust inferences; there are those who, so far as appearance goes, are victims of misfortune or are vicarious sufferers.
2. We must endeavour to let a holy character be visible in our bodily persons. Inward excellence is the source of outward beauty. No tailoring or millinery, no cosmetics or perfumery, will make beautiful the face and form behind which is an ugly heart; selfishness and pride and envy will never look anything but unsightly and forbidding. The thoughts that breathe, the feelings that glow, the spirit that animates, the character that shines through - it is this which beautifies, which adorns, which makes attractive, which wins confidence and love. These are the things to care for, to cultivate, to cherish; it is thence that our influence for good will spring.
II. THE CARE WHICH GOD TAKES OF HIS OWN IN THEIR TIME OF SPECIAL NEED. What was the purpose of this wonderful scene? It was to prepare the disciples (and perhaps the Master) for the last scenes of all. Those two celestial visitants spake of "the decease which he should accomplish," etc. A terrible ordeal was that through which he and they would pass. Therefore it seemed well to the Father to give to him and to them the most imposing, the most impressive, the most convincing proof that he was well pleased with his Son, and that he was, indeed, the Messiah of their hopes. We know from Peter's Epistle (2 Peter 1:16, 17) how strong a confirmation of their faith it was and continued to be. Thus God cared for his own, and thus he still cares. Our lives glide on like peaceful rivers; but most human lives prove to be rivers with cataracts in their course. Times of grave trial and peril come, when there is a great strain on our faith and patience; when we have to draw on our last resources; critical trial-hours they are, like those which came to the Master and to his faithful baud. How shall we be assured of calmness, fortitude, fidelity, when we pass through them? If we are loyal to our Lord in the days of sunshine and prosperity, if we "abide in him" now, he will not fail us then. As our day his grace will be. He will prepare us for the trial-hour; he will be with us in its darkest moments; he will lead us oat into the sunshine on the other side. - C.
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.