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.…
I. Look AT THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH THE EVANGELISTS RECORD.
1. The scene was a mountain. It is not fanciful to say that mountains seem to have a power of attracting to themselves the great things of men. Natural advantages may account for it in part; symbolism may account for it still more. Physical qualities present a strong claim, spiritual significance a stronger. However some may disesteem the more ethical relations of the material to the mental, we believe that men have been wise in seeking for types as well as space in the outward world, and that their religions, whether of human origin or of Divine origin, as among the Jews, have embodied a deep truth in connecting their sacred scenes and sacred services with "the ancient mountains" and everlasting "hills." When the Son of God appeared in glory, the earth assisted in his temporary enthronement, and the local accident harmonized with the spiritual import of that august event.
2. The company who witnessed it. These witnesses were enough to attest the reality of the occurrence. But why select them? Why not permit all the apostles to be thus privileged? The answer to this may not be within our knowledge. It is, however, probable that they were more intimately related to the Saviour than the rest. They had a closer fellowship; they could follow Him further; they required a higher preparation. They perhaps loved more, could bear more, and needed more. And thus, as He showed Himself to all of them more than to the world, so He showed Himself to some of them more than to the rest, admitted them to the deeper things of His spirit, and the stranger facts of His history, now permitting them to behold His "sorrowfulness unto death," and now permitting them to be "eye-witnesses of His Majesty."
3. The time it took place. A week after the conversation which Christ had with His apostles at Caesarea Philippi, when Peter declared his belief in His Messiahship, and Christ predicted His sufferings. The immediate season was night, for what took place on their descent from the mount, Luke says, was " on the next day." Hence the disciples fell asleep. The darkness of the night would add to the solemnity of the scene. And may we not say that the seasons of our greatest glory are commonly connected with gloom, and that the evil of sorrow and shame help the display of the moral lustre of the soul? But the circumstance to which I would especially call attention is that Christ was "praying." The obvious lesson to be drawn from our Lord's conduct on this and other occasions is, that not only should we always indulge the spirit of prayer, but that we should enter into the greatest events and experiences with peculiar devotion; that special temptations, special duties, special sufferings, and special good, all call for special wrestling with God; that instruction and strength, fortitude and honour, are to be sought from heaven; that only in prayer can we meet our enemy, only in prayer can we fulfil our vocation, only in prayer can we drink the cup of love, and only in prayer can we gain "the Spirit of glory and of God."
II. THE MEANING AND DESIGN OF THIS GLORIOUS SCENE.
1. It had immediate reference to the circumstances of Christ and His disciples. Jesus was now entering upon the last and most sorrowful portion of His career. He was probably within a fortnight of His death. It was not the dying, but the attendant circumstances that made the future so distressing to the mind of Jesus. In another sense than that of the disciples, "He feared as He entered the cloud." He was chastened and oppressed by the anticipation of His peculiar woe. And, doubtless, " He received from God the Father honour and glory," on the occasion before us to strengthen Him for the coming conflict. But if the Transfiguration was meant for Christ, it was also meant for the disciples. It was intended to reward and establish the conviction of His Messiahship, which they had lately expressed. It was intended to extend and exalt their conceptions of His character and work.
2. The Transfiguration has a meaning to ourselves, as a type of the redeeming majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1) Christ is glorified. He is personally transfigured in heaven. He is "changed," and His body is a "glorious " one, the beauteous type of the restored bodies of all who "die in" Him. This body exists in light. Ineffable brightness invests it. Far different is it from what is below — the seat of infirmities, and pains, and death. Far different is its state from its state below — one of want, exposure, injury, and shame.
(2) The glory of Christ is the glory of One who is appointed the Lord and Lawgiver of man. He is to be "heard."(3) It is the glory of One who passed to honour through suffering and death. Most notable is it that the theme of conversation with the glorified messengers was His decease.
(4) It is the glory of One whom both worlds obey and honour.
(5) It is the glory of One in whom all history finds its meaning and its honour.
(A: J. Morris.)
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.