And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him.…
We saw that the Transfiguration was the result of prayer; but it was not the end of the prayer. This was preparation for further service. The glory is not the end, but only an incidental accompaniment, of devotedness of spirit. It is work for God, further service in his kingdom, which is the aim of all means of grace. And now these verses bring out in different aspects the secret of successful work. Let us notice
I. SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE PRAYERFUL. (Vers. 37-42.) We have here a case of failure on the part of the nine disciples, and of success on the part of the descended Christ. The difference between the two cases was that Christ had been praying on the mountain while they had been prayerless in the valley. Prayerlessness and powerlessness go hand-in-hand. Work done in a prayerless spirit cannot succeed as it ought to do. The transfigured ones alone can meet the emergencies of Christian work, and succeed where others fail. Some cases are doubtless more difficult than others, and some demons make a harder fight of it than others; but there are none of them who can stand a prayerful Christian who faithfully follows Jesus in his line of attack.
II. SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE IN SPITE OF MALIGNANT OPPOSITION. (Vers. 43-45.) Our Lord, as the crowd are wondering at his success, tells the disciples plainly that he is destined to be delivered into the hands of men. This is a sufficient set-off to his success. Men will take and kill him, notwithstanding all his philanthropy and exorcising power. This crucifixion of Jesus is but the type of the world's recognition of the best work done by human hands. A long line of noble workers have followed Jesus along the path of martyrdom. Let no worker, then, be surprised at the world's malignity.
III. SUCCESSFUL WORK MUST BE DIVESTED OF BASE AMBITIONS. (Vers. 46-48.) Notwithstanding recent failure through want of prayer, the disciples are soon selfishly contending about the first places, and who is to be greatest. It is wonderful how soon we forget our failures and betake ourselves to our ambitions. Now, one characteristic of base ambition is pride about work. Certain lines of work are thought to be beneath our dignity and worth. To correct this in the disciples, our Lord sets a little child before them, and shows that such a child might be received in such a spirit as would be recognized by God himself. The nursing of a little child may be done for the sake of Jesus Christ, and in such a case it is such a work as he will regard, and the Father who sent him also. It is not a great work, therefore, that is needed, but a great heart carried into the smallest work. We think of quantity; Christ thinks of quality. We will not "take our coats off," so to speak, unless it is some work eminently creditable; Christ could throw his great spirit into the fondling of a little child, and do the little one everlasting good. Hence we must do any work clearly laid to our hand with large-heartedness, and we shall find it successful in the best sense. It is the meek ones who are ready to put their hand to anything who are great in the kingdom of God.
IV. SUCCESSFUL WORK DEMANDS, BESIDES, A TOLERANT SPIRIT. (Vers. 49-56.) John and James, after the Transfiguration privileges, seem to have got very excited and ardent in Christ's service. Two cases in particular show how heated and hasty they were. The first was a case of exorcism through Christ's Name. Some Jew had witnessed the exorcisms of Christ, and, abandoning the Jewish methods and traditions, had tried the new plan, and proved the power of "the Name which is above every name." But because he did not join the disciples, and so preserve their monopoly of delegated power, he is forbidden by them to do such work. This was intolerance misplaced. The worker, though not uniting with the disciples, was promoting the Master's glory by showing the power of his Name. He was an ally, though not a disciple of the same set. Hence Jesus instructs them always to act on the tolerant principle that "he that is not against us is for us." The second case in which the sons of Zebedee exhibited unholy zeal was in a certain Samaritan village, during Jesus' journeys to Jerusalem. The last journey has begun (ver. 51), and nothing will keep him flora accomplishing it. The Samaritans would have liked him to linger with them, and avoid his enemies and theirs. But he would not listen to their syren voice, but insisted on going up to Jerusalem. Taking umbrage at this, one Samaritan village denied him the usual hospitalities when his forerunners sought it. Incensed at this, John and James inquire if they should not call down fire from heaven to consume the inhospitable Samaritans, as Elijah had done. Samaria was the scene of that fiery ministry. But Elijah's spirit would not suit the Saviour's times. Had the prophet descended from the Mount of Transfiguration, he would not have insisted on any such policy as this. lie had doubtless got less fiery in the peaceful abodes above! As a destructive force, he had served his generation, but the disciples were to remember that saving men, not destroying them, was to be their mission. From both these cases we learn that the true evangelical spirit must reject all intolerance if it is to secure the highest success.
V. SUCCESSFUL WORK REQUIRES FAITHFUL DEALING WITH INDIVIDUAL CASES. (Vers. 57-62.) As Jesus was moving upwards to the capital, the people perceived that a crisis was at hand. Hence the desire of some on insufficient grounds to cast in their lot with him who is to be the conquering King. Here is a case in point. A man comes and professes his willingness to be a follower of Jesus wheresoever he goeth. But Jesus undeceives him by indicating that he is not going to be sure of any lodging in this world. Perhaps the man was hoping to reach a palace by following him; but Jesus shows that the birds and beasts have more certain lodgings than he. He thus laid bare the man's danger, and prevented a rash decision. The second case is an invitation to the individual by Jesus himself. It is a case of bereavement, and Jesus seizes on it to secure a disciple. He knew that the best thing this broken-heart could do would be to become a herald of his kingdom. The bereaved one naturally enough asks leave to go and bury his father, but Jesus assures him that there are sufficient dead hearts at homo to pay due respect to his father's remains, and the formalities of the funeral may only change his promptitude into delay and neglect; and so he urges him to become a preacher at once. A third case is that of one who is ready to follow Christ, but wishes to bid those at home farewell. Our Lord tells him the danger of looking back. The farewells at home might have resulted in a farewell for ever to Jesus. It is thus Jesus shows the importance of dealing faithfully with individual souls. We have the secret of successful work laid clearly before us. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him.