After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
I. THE GLORY OF CHRIST. The external splendour had a meaning. If it was not a purely artificial radiance created in order to dazzle the eyes of the disciples, it must have corresponded to a wonderful illumination and glory in the soul of Jesus. Moses' face shone after he had been communing with God on Sinai (Exodus 34:29). The face of Stephen took on an angelic lustre in view of martyrdom (Acts 6:15). Jesus had been speaking of his approaching death quite recently (Matthew 16:21), and of the victory of self-sacrifice (Matthew 16:25). During the Transfiguration his death was the topic of his conversation (Luke 9:31). Then we may justly infer that the splendour that shone out from him corresponded to his exaltation of spirit in devoting himself to death. It was the glory of sacrifice. Jesus is most glorious in freely giving himself up for the salvation of the world.
II. THE HEAVENLY VISITORS. It is commonly assumed that Moses and Elijah had come to complete the picture that was displayed before the wondering eyes of the chosen three. But would they have been sent for so slight an object? It is more probable that, like the angels who ministered to him on other occasions, they were sent to cheer Jesus himself. He had looked for sympathy from his disciples when he had confided in them the dark secret of his doom, but he had failed to receive it, and instead he had heard the voice of the tempter in the impatient reply of one of his most intimate friends (Matthew 16:22, 23). Thus he was left alone in his meditations of death. But the sympathy which failed him on earth was afforded by the founder of Judaism and the leader of the prophets - both men whose end on earth was mysterious - returning from the heavenly world.
III. THE PERPLEXED DISCIPLES. The splendour overwhelmed the three. Two were speechless. The third had not the gift of silence; and wishing to say something when he had nothing to say, he made a foolish remark. This showed, again, how far the Master was above his disciples, how little they could enter into his life. But it also showed a measure of right feeling in St. Peter. It was good to be on the mount with Christ. We cannot retain the ravishing moments of heavenly rapture. But we can cherish them if ever we are visited with them. At least we can learn that it is good to be anywhere with Jesus, good to meditate on his Passion, good to behold his glory.
IV. THE DIVINE VOICE. The voice which had been heard before at the baptism (Matthew 3:17) is heard again on the mount, but with an addition to its message.
1. God owns his Son with delight. Was this voice for the cheering of Jesus as well as for the guidance of the disciples? Under the circumstances this seems probable. God was not only pleased with Jesus because he was his Son, but also because his Son pleased him. At first this was on account of the innocent character of Jesus, and his resolve to dedicate himself to his work in baptism; now it is because of the courage and devotion with which he will face death.
2. God commends his Son to men. "Hear ye him." This is the addition. Christ has disciples now; and Christ has proved his right to be heard. It is not enough to adore him in his glory; we must listen to his voice of teaching and obey his word of command. - W.F.A.
not in the promises; the daily life of invisible communion is. And it is enough! We shall have the exceptional revelation if it be right for us. When the Master was there, three disciples had it, and nine had it not! And why it was when it was, and why those three were selected, we can see but few reasons. They were the three who walked the closest and dwelt the nearest to the heart of Jesus. They were also the three who were about to have their faith and their feelings strained to the uttermost by witnessing, most closely, the deepest agonies of their dear Lord. Peter was to found the Church; James was to be the first martyr of the Apostolic College; John, the writer of the Revelation. For these reasons, and perhaps also because their characters specially required the encouragements that were the most adapted to the occasion, they were selected. Do not envy others their higher joys or greater privileges. These things are talents. They do not seem to have been either the wiser, or the happier, or the better — at least at the time — for the marvellous vision. If we had to select the most dreadful position in which ever men were placed, we should fix directly on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the "burning fiery furnace." And if we had to choose the most favoured — Peter, James and John. Yet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were calm and entirely happy in the fire; Peter, James, and John were fearful and troubled on the Mount. Those on Tabor represented the three great states of God's Universal Church — this earth, the intermediate state, and glory; Christ, in heaven; Moses, upon this earth; Elijah, in paradise.
And was transfigured before them.I. Take what is taught in the passage AS TO CHRIST'S HUMANITY AND ITS ASPECTS. Among all the aspects in which the Saviour is presented to us, this one assuredly is plain, the Saviour as man. And the story of the Transfiguration shows Christ as the man in three ways.
1. It speaks of a human need, the need, namely, of encouragement and strength. Indeed, it seems that the Transfiguration was a turning-point in the mission He had come to accomplish, when His work as a Prophet passed into the background and His work as a Priest came to the front. Not for the disciples only, but for Himself, the establishing of His courage and the reassuring of His hope, was the vision on the mount, with the voice that accompanied it. So low does a Saviour stoop in His humility, that He touches our sinless infirmities at their lowest, and is not ashamed to be our companion and our example in all.
2. And this brings me to the next point, and to pass from considering the human need to consider the human exercise. That exercise was prayer. "He went up," says St. Luke, "to a mountain to pray." He was asking for the wisdom that discerned the Father's will, for the submission that embraced it, for the perseverance that adhered to it, for the joy that illumined it. If you can dispense with prayer, Christ could not.
3. Again, we have here a human experience. Was not the Transfiguration rather a token that associated itself with the Saviour's divinity, an honour that pertained to Him, not as the man, but as God? There is truth in this; but two things must be noticed at the same time. First, that even if it was the Godhead that lent the radiance, it was the manhood that was actually irradiated; and secondly, that what the Godhead effected in Christ, what is Godlike effects in His followers. Do not put the Transfiguration of Christ aside as a privilege that is purely supernatural; it is, in one sense, only the transcendent exhibition as it is the efficacious pledge of the changes which grace may work in ourselves. Such transfigurations as these are both symptomatic and prophetic. They are symptomatic of what has already begun, and prophetic of what shall yet be revealed, when the temporary gives place to the permanent, and the partial is drowned in the perfect, and a glorified soul shall create a glorified vesture, from which the last stain of sin shall be purged, and the last line of pain be smoothed out. Oh, our Kinsman-Redeemer, we have found Thee our companion in manhood's weakness, we hail Thee as the type of manhood's coming glory! As Thou has borne the image of the earthly with us, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly with Thee.
II. BUT AGAIN, WE HAVE HERE CHRIST'S DEATH AND ITS MEANING.
1. The death of Christ is the glory of the Old Dispensation; its glory, because its fulfilment and crown. That is why Moses and Elias were there. Moses was there to bear witness that in the decease of a Saviour at Jerusalem a nobler Rock would be smitten than the rock he had struck in the wilderness, and that a richer fountain would flow forth than the water that gushed from its flinty clefts. Elijah was there to bear witness that in this same decease at Jerusalem a greater sacrifice would be offered than the sacrifice he had laid upon Carmel's altar, even a Saviour's precious blood, and a more wondrous confirmation be granted than the fire that gave testimony before Carmel's hosts, even a Saviour's glorious Resurrection.
2. The death of Christ is the glory of the New Dispensation. For as it was the glory of the Old Dispensation as its fulfilment, it is the glory of the New as its foundation. That is why the disciples were there. They were there as the sponsors of a Church to be, just as Moses and Elijah were there as the sponsors of a Church and a ritual that had vanished. If Moses and Elias were the flower of the Old Dispensation, Peter and James and John were the germs of the New.
3. The death of the cross is the glory of Jesus Himself. For those that had eyes to see, there was triumph in the very shame, and the crucifixion was itself a coro-nation-it was His glory in the very endurance, as well as in the ultimate results.
III. BUT AGAIN, WE HAVE HERE SOMETHING TAUGHT US AS TO CHRIST'S CHURCH AND ITS FELLOWSHIP. Let us now look at Christ as the living Bond of eternal union. The relation of the Church beneath to the Church above is a question that throbs with a lasting interest. That there is some relation we know; though divided, the companies are in some fashion one. But what is that relation? Certainly not a visible one any longer. There is a knowledge of our friends alter the flesh no more. It was, after all, a knowledge of the flesh that Peter was thinking of when he said, in his rashness and witlessness, "Lord, let us make three tabernacles." And that is Christ's answer to Peter. It is as if He had said, "Not as you think, will the relation between us be perpetuated — by fellowship such as you would maintain, in tabernacles such as you would build. There is but one tabernacle prepared for us all, and behold, it is now coming down — the tabernacle and pavilion of Him who is as a wall of fire round His people, and the glory in the midst of them." Stand in the fear and the presence of God, as the disciples stood under the cloud, and that will be the sphere of communion; found your interests and your hopes on the cross of Christ, and that will be the means of communion; press near to the person of the Crucified, and that will be the centre of communion. There is intercourse in no other way.
IV. BUT AGAIN, WE HAVE SOMETHING TAUGHT US AS TO CHRIST'S MESSAGE AND ITS AUTHORITY. Was it not as if God meant to say, "Hear the Son, not the prophets of the Old Dispensation merely? Hear the Son, not messengers from heaven, though august as the deputies you have seen." And what God said to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration He says this day to ourselves, reminding us once more of the whole duty of man — the reception of the message, and the submission to the purpose of His well-beloved Son. Listen to Him, and not to the world. The world passeth away, and the lust thereof. Listen to Him, and not to the flesh. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? Listen to Him, not to ministers. They are frail, earthly vessels at the best. "No man can serve two masters." Hear that. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Hear that.
V. And once more, in this passage, we have here THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST AND ITS ALL-SUFFICIENCY. He who has come before us in this incident as Mall, as Redeemer, as Uniter, and as Prophet, is brought before us in the last place as a Friend. For the time came when Transfiguration experiences ended — the disciples looked up and saw no man save Jesus only. Ah yes, there is a something in our religious life that is transitory, and there is a something that always abides. What is transitory is an experience such as that which the disciples had when they were wrapped with the glory; what is abiding is the Person and Presence of Christ, which form the centre of attraction while Transfiguration experiences last, and which remain to make up for their absence when Transfiguration experiences cease. Happy are they who, when the glamour dies from their sky. and the company vanishes from their path, and life looks bare and common, like the path down Hermon for the descending disciples, have a faith that will strengthen them when feelings pass, and a guidance that will cheer them when friendships are dissolved, and who, lifting up their eyes, see Jesus — Jesus alone, it may be, but a Jesus who is all-sufficient.
(William A. Gray.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)The doctrine taught and shadowed forth by the Transfiguration is probably greater, fuller, richer than is taught in any other episode in our Lord's life. It teaches —(1) The perfect union of the human and the Divine in the Person of Jesus Christ;(2) that the future life of the children of God is not a mere pietistic, sentimental dream, but a glorious reality;(3) that the good, when they depart hence, do not go down into the darkness, but up into the light, and live unto God in a fuller, grander life;(4) that heaven is vitally, closely connected with earth by sympathy and ministry;(5) that the denizens are deeply and profoundly interested in the inhabitants of this sin-stricken world;(6) that Christ's death on the cross was not a surprise, not an accident, but a work which He came to accomplish;(7) that good men cannot for ever dwell in ease and rapture on the mount, but must toil and suffer in the great world below;(8) that mortal man cannot have unveiled audience with God;(9) that Jesus Christ will not abandon His disciples when they are sore afraid, but will draw nigh and comfort them; (10) that the mission of the servants of God is to lead men to Christ and to leave them with Him.
(E. D. Solomon.)I. The Church is led to a CREED. The time has now come for estimating the effects of the ministry of Jesus. "Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
II. In the TRANSFIGURATION itself the Church is led on to a foretaste of glorious WORSHIP and high communion — the meeting for awhile of the Church militant with the Church triumphant.
1. As to the reality of the Transfiguration. We have the calmness of history in the narratives of the synoptics; we have dates and circumstances. The glory above is as historical as the epileptic writhing below.
2. As to the purposes of the Transfiguration. It had a purpose in relation to the human nature of Jesus. A sense of suffering came upon His soul, and He wanted rest. The instinct which draws so many of the highest human spirits to the quiet and elevation of the hills, led Him up into the higher mountain-range of Paneas or Hermon. If one might refer to a long-forgotten controversy, the Transfiguration was not a miracle. For such splendour was natural to a body like His, with the perfect soul and its union with Divinity. The repression was miraculous; the Transfiguration was the temporary cessation of that miraculous repression.
III. But further, in the transfiguration Jesus leads His Church to a WORK — a work which, indeed, they could not at first perform. What a contrast for Him and for them! For them: "Lord, it is beautiful for us to be here." A contrast for Him also. A contrast between the spirits of "just men made perfect," and the faithless and crooked generation, of whom even His patience cried, "How long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" They find a sufferer below. Strange contrast, as we have said. Above: the pure heaven; the words of Divine attestation; the forms of saints floating in light; the glory and honour and majesty given to Jesus. Below: the reproach; the well-meant but baffled effort; the foam on the cut lip; the withered body; the sullen muteness broken by epileptic cries. Yet there is a fresh, unselfish joy in the energy which Jesus throws into that victorious work. Thus, on the whole, in this section of the Transfiguration, Jesus leads His Church in the person of His disciples on to a world of thought, up to a world of worship, down to a world of work.
1. The three words, creed, worship, work, surely indicate, as far as single words can, the leading purpose of the three great periods which the Church has already traversed. The primitive centuries were occupied mainly, but not exclusively, in moulding Christological dogma: the Middle Ages (over and above the scholastic philosophy) were busy in elaborating worship: before the eye of the modern Church social problems have come out with a tremendous significance.
2. Again, we have here a summary of elements which must always, more or less, co-exist in a living Church. Confession, devotions, effort, must be found in her. Without the confession, devotion becomes fanaticism; without the devotion, confession becomes a congelation of dogma; without the confession and the devotion, the effort is soon left to police magistrates and poor-law guardians.
3. It may, I think, further be observed that the Transfiguration stands in our New Testament as one recognition of " the sense of beauty," of which it has been cynically said that " it never furthered a single duty." Nay, more; it is a refutation of him who has told us that beauty is inconsistent with the gospel. It shows Jesus not doing something definite for us; but showing earth for a moment what He is in His beauty. I conclude by drawing two lessons for the spiritual life of each of us:
I. Our individual life must follow and summarize the section of the Transfiguration.
1. We must lay the foundation strong and deep in the confession of Peter.
2. This must be accompanied by a second condition. There must be the love of prayer, of communion with the world unseen.
II. Let us think for a few moments of our transfiguration as the result of His. Even our fallen humanity affords hints of this.
(Bishop Alexander, D. D.)
I. THE PEACE. This is specifically described as " up in an high mountain." There is much said in the Scriptures about mountains, and many of the most memorable events of sacred history transpired upon mountains. The Law was given upon a mountain: the last decisive conflict with the prophets of Baal, and the last of the three great conflicts of our Saviour with Satan, occurred on mountains. The offering up of Isaac, the great type, and the subsequent offering up of Christ, the antitype, were accomplished upon mountains. All this is not mere accident. Mountainous elevations are particularly fitted to the sacred and the Divine. They are Nature's symbols of the Majesty of God. They have a natural harmony with His everlasting purity, power, and Godhead.
II. THE WITNESSES. "Peter, James, and John his brother." There were different circles, even within the little circle of the twelve, to which different degrees of privilege and trust were given. Not all the members of our natural bodies have the same functions, or the same honour; and so the members of Christ "have not all the same office." And yet we are to "covet earnestly the best gifts."
III. THE TRANSFORMATION — "He was transfigured before them."
IV. THE TIME, particularly as related to the act in which the Saviour was occupied — prayer. Prayer is a transfiguring power. It is the opening of the earthly nature to the inflowing of the heavenly. Prayer is the drawing near of the soul to the light and majesty of heaven, and always gathers to itself the gilding of that light. It not only ascends to heaven, but it calls heaven into itself, and illumines with the grace of heaven, and makes, not only the face, but the whole man, more heavenly.
V. THE ACCOMPANYING APPARITIONS — "And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him." However alone we may seem to be in our devotions, we are never alone. Though effectually withdrawn from this world, beings of another then join us.
VI. But, finally, NOTICE THE PARTICULAR MEANING OF ALL THIS. It had, first of all, an important relation to the fore announcements which the Saviour had just been making of His approaching sufferings and death (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:22). These sad things had greatly disturbed, perplexed, and disheartened the disciples. And it was necessary that they should be strongly certified of the Saviour's Divine glory before He went down into those dreadful depths, lest their faith should utterly fail them when the facts should occur. We are also fully authorized to take the Transfiguration as a picture and earnest of His future coming and kingdom, which is to embody the consummated results of His obedience unto death. If it was a foretaste and pledge of "the glory that should follow" from His sufferings, it must needs be of the same kind and nature with that of which it was a section given in advance. Brethren, "it doth not yet appear what we shall be."
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)I. THE PLACE.
II. Let us direct our attention to the PERSONS assembled on the Mount. We learn, I think, that saints, after death, know each other. Moses and Elias did so; and even the disciples, in a way not explained, were enabled to identify their celestial associates. Are we to say, then, that an earthly mountain was more than the heavenly Zion? It further appears, from what has been said, that the recompense of saints after death has some proportion to their prior discipleship. Jesus on this occasion had special honour to confer on some members of the heavenly Church, and whom did He select to be the subjects of distinction? In short, we learn here that saints may see more of the Church and of the world after death than before it. Moses desired, prayed for admission to Canaan. The request was denied, and yet here he is — all as you wished, and as he wished — within Palestine, and surveying from no foreign Pisgah, but from one of its own mountains, the inheritance of his people.
III. Let us consider the CONDITION IN WHICH THESE PERSONS APPEARED ON THE MOUNT. It is unnecessary that I should expatiate on the aspect of the disciples. No intimation is given of any change in their state. They remained as they had been, and their bodies displayed all the frailties common to our frame. The most interesting fact in their case is that they were not changed; and we hence see the folly of looking for transformation of our natures from any juncture of circumstances. It was otherwise with Moses and Elias. We are told by St. Luke that they appeared in glory. That glory is manifest when we compare what they once were with what they have now become. Moses has no more need of Aaron and Hur to sustain his arm for the discomfiture of Amalek. Though fifteen hundred years have passed over him they have brought no frailties of age, but the inextinguishable fires of an immortal youth. Mark the disparity between them and the apostles. Both parties were on the summit of a mountain, but how different their manner of reaching it! On the one hand the approach was from beneath, by slow, tedious, arduous steps. On the other hand the approach was from above, from the holiest of all in the third heavens, and was effected by a descent which no barrier could obstruct and no distance protract. When a bright cloud came and overshadowed them, the disciples, as we learn from St. Luke, feared to enter into the cloud; its lustre dazzled or appalled them. There was no such apprehension on the part of Moses and Elias; the wide universe contained not that which could frighten them; and as to the glory of God, its light, so inaccessible to mortals, was their element of joy. The disciples fell asleep, overcome by consternation and fatigue. But while they slept Moses and Elias talked with Jesus, and freely discussed the deep things of God. But I am restricting your attention to mere men, when one and another and many are saying, "We would see Jesus." "His face did shine as the sun." Usually it was darkened by grief; but now gloom is gone.
IV. Let us now direct our attention to their DISCOURSE. The subject discussed by such an assembly must surely have been important: it was important to all there assembled. You require no proof that the event spoken of was important to Jesus, for He was to be the sufferer. The subject was also important to Moses and Elias. No doubt they were glorified saints, but all this blessing they had acquired in virtue of the Messiah's anticipated sufferings; and not a plant bloomed in their paradise, not a note thrilled in their songs, not a gem gleamed in their crowns, but was due to the decease which Christ should accomplish at Jerusalem. The three disciples had a like stake in the event, which was not the less precious to them that they were insensible to its consequence. But these disciples were representatives of the New Testament Church, and if so, what was important to them is important to us. Christ died, not for their sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
(David King, LL. D.)I. IT WAS DESIGNED TO MAKE THE THINGS OF THE FUTURE WORLD MORE A REALITY, A DISTINCT CONCEPTION. The veil between us and the world of spiritual glory is, as it were, drawn aside, and we are permitted to view the unseen. Humanity, our humanity, is capable of a refinement of feature and expression united to a higher spiritual development in a purer state than the present.
II. WE ARE TAUGHT THAT CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD, ITS GLORIES BEING AS MUCH ABOVE IT AS ITS PRINCIPLES.
III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT CONFINED TO, AND DOES NOT CONSIST IN A PARTICULAR PLACE, BUT IN AN INWARD CONDITION OF THE PERSON; that inward condition will inevitably make itself visible, shining through the restraints of adverse and even fleshly circumstances.
(W. I. Keay.)
I. The transfiguration is to be considered as ONE OF THOSE SOLEMN ACTS BY WHICH CHRIST WAS INDUCTED INTO HIS OFFICE AS THE TEACHER AND SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. This is the principal truth taught by it. All the old prophets were appointed by some special designation and call of God. But Christ being at once the greatest of all Prophets, it was to be expected that His designation should be accompanied by circumstances which should mark this distinction and superiority.
1. There was their frequency. The prophets were generally designated by one glorious appearance of Him who called them. But Christ, by a series of wonders. Then there was the manner. The prophets had a glory conferred upon them, but to the Master belonged the greater glory. "Hear ye Him." The command still applies to you.
II. From the subject of the discourse held with Christ by Moses and Elias WE LEARN THAT THERE WAS IN HIS DEATH SOMETHING SPECIAL AND EMPHATIC. The mode of expression, indeed, shows this. It was a departure from life which He had to fulfil, etc. His was a sacrificial death. The Old Testament saints were saved in anticipation of this. Let that be the subject of our thought and converse here, which shall be the theme of heaven itself.
III. THE CONFIRMATION WHICH THIS EVENT GAVE TO THE ANCIENT PROPHETIC DISPENSATION (2 Peter 1:17-19). The transfiguration thus confirms "the word of prophecy," in several remarkable particulars.
1. The ancient prophets speak of the Messias in terms indicating a strange union of the extremes of debasement and glory. Very strikingly was this illustrated here.
2. The ancient dispensation was marked with special care as to the quality of the sacrifices to be offered to God. Here we see the shadow giving place to the substance. The victim is distinctly marked — "This is My beloved Son."
3. The doctrine of the prophets was that the Messiah should die for the sins of the people. Here the doctrine is both illustrated and confirmed.
4. The law and the prophets were continually holding forth some " better thing " than themselves. Now both Moses and Elias converse with Him, to show the harmony of the whole; and He being declared by the voice from heaven to be the supreme Teacher, they surrender, as it were, their commission into His hands, and then depart, leaving Him the sole object on which the eye of the world should rest for ever.
5. The ancient dispensation was founded on the doctrine of the soul's immortality, and of rewards and punishments in a future life. Here it is confirmed and made clear. In these scenes life and immortality burst upon us.
6. The ancient prophets speak of an advent of Christ in glory. Behold it confirmed.Conclusion: The prophetic word being thus confirmed, there are two important lessons to be learnt.
1. Take heed to it. It is intended to usher in Christ, and the day of salvation. All other light is delusive.
2. The whole history is most encouraging to those who truly believe in Christ. See how He shares His glory with His disciples. And if you suffer with Him, you shall also reign with Him.
(Richard Watson.)I. Took place amid the grandeurs of nature.
II. Was witnessed by three of Christ's most favoured disciples.
III. Consisted in an outshining of the enshrined Divinity.
IV. Was heightened by the presence of two of the greatest men of past history.
V. Was accompanied by a voice of approval from heaven.
VI. Did not destroy the human sympathies of the Saviour. He did not rebuke the ecstatic idea of St. Peter. He calmed their fears.
(Anon.)I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND MANNER OF IT.
II. ITS CHIEF DESIGN.
1. The inauguration of Christ as the Lord's anointed.
2. A direct confirmation of former dispensations.
3. The law in the fulness of the time to be clone away .... they saw no man save Jesus only."
III. A FEW SUBSIDIARY MORAL USES.
1. It assured the disciples in sensuous manner that Jesus was the Son of God.
2. The immortality of the soul.
3. An evidence of the nature of our glorified humanity, and of our mutual recognition in the world to come.
4. Christ is one with us in earthly shame and heavenly glory.
(D. Moore, M. A.)1. We must no longer expect any visible or external manifestations of Christ to be made to us.
2. All Christ's true disciples have some manifestations or discoveries of Christ made to them.
3. All Christ's true disciples have not the same manifestations or discoveries made to them; some not taken to the mount. Now turn to the text: —
I. PETER'S PROPOSAL.
1. The principal thing right in it is the delight it manifests in the Redeemer's glory.
2. The wrong thing in it is a forgetfulness of the main business of life.
II. THE ANSWER GIVEN to Peter's proposal.
1. Our highest enjoyments are sometimes put an end to by God. A cloud came between them and the vision.
2. When God interrupts our enjoyments, He has always some other blessing ready for us, and generally better. The voice which came out of the cloud was something better.
3. We must not judge ourselves by religious ecstasy.
2. There was only one Transfiguration in the life of Jesus. Nor were all the disciples permitted to behold even that. This shows that the business of the Christian is hard work, and not the nursing of visions. Visions are rare, and sent only for the refreshment, not for the daily food of the soul.
3. Our nearness to the spiritual world and its supernal glories. Moses and Elias and the rest still continue to be interested in the plan of redemption, and in our personal relation to it.
4. Happy for us if, like Peter, we recognize the value of good company, and are ready to say when in it, "Lord, it is good for us to be here."
5. Glory and suffering are yoked together in this life. The Transfiguration is only a preparation for Calvary.
6. "Moses, Elijah, Jesus, the law, the prophets, the gospel; but the personal Christ is the centre, and the theme of all is the cross." And this will be the theme of the redeemed for ever.
(T. S. Doolittle, D. D.)I. To CONFIRM THE FAITH OF THE DISCIPLES IN THEIR LORD as the Son of God and the promised Redeemer. To His enemies He would give no sign; to the disciples He gave this.
II. To INAUGURATE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS THE SUPREME HEAD AND LAWGIVER OF THE CHURCH.
III. To APPRISE THE DISCIPLES OF THE DEEP AND INTENSE INTEREST FELT BY HEAVEN IN THE REDEMPTION ABOUT TO BE EFFECTED BY THE DEATH OF JESUS,
IV. TO SUSTAIN THE HUMAN NATURE OF OUR LORD IN THE IMMEDIATE PROSPECT AND THE ACTUAL ENDURANCE OF HIS UNEQUALLED SUFFERINGS.
V. TO DEEPEN THE CONVICTION OF THE DISCIPLES AND OUR OWN OF THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL AND OF THE BLESSEDNESS OF DEPARTED SAINTS even in a disembodied state.
(G. Brooks.)Let us contemplate —
I. The Lord transfigured before us. Can we not truly say, in viewing Him, "It is good for us to be here"?
II. Saints holding communion round about us.
III. The world and its misery beneath us.
(C. Gerok, D. D.)
I. It confirmed their belief in a future state.
II. It taught them that there was a spiritual body.
III. It revealed to them Christ's Divine character and mission.
IV. It prepared them for coming trials. Sorrow often follows closely upon joy. The joy prepares us for the sorrow.
1. It was good to be there; it would not have been good to remain there. There was work to be done, sorrow to be lightened, sin to be grappled with and overcome.
(F. J. A.)I. THE PLACE. The mountain emblematical of God's sanctuary. As distinctly separate from the world. As the place of happy intercourse with kindred minds. As a place of hallowed instruction. As a place of glorious manifestation.
II. THE ADVANTAGES. It is good — As it is acceptable to God, as it is elevating to the mind, as it is joyous to the heart, as it is truly profitable to the soul, as it prepares us for the services of heaven.
III. THE SPIRIT WHICH IT SHOULD PRODUCE. A spirit of diligence in rightly using the means of grace, of love and zeal for the prosperity of Zion, of ardent longing for the perfected scenes of heaven. Application: Can you experimentally employ the language of the text? Seek the end of these Christian ordinances.
(J. Burns, LL. D.)
I. THIS IS MY BELOVED SON.
1. The Father here comes forth from His concealment, and audibly addresses the disciples.
2. The momentous truth to which He bears witness is — the Sonship of Christ. This showed Divine love to man. This constituted Christ's fitness for the work of redemption. This forms the basis of our confidence in the atonement.
3. He characterizes Christ as His beloved Son.
4. For such a declaration there was the most urgent call. It had a reference to Christ, as about to have His Father's face hid, etc. It had a reference to His disciples, as about to be tried.
II. IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.
1. The Father having declared His paternal love, next declares His satisfaction and complacency in Christ as the Surety of man. This regarded His Person, offices, work, people.
2. This testimony was repeated at His resurrection, exaltation, outpouring of the Spirit, every instance of a sinner's being saved.
III. HEAR YE HIM. As a Lawgiver and King, as a Prophet. The manner in which He is heard.
(J. Stewart.)1. Because in it the soul receives light from God, that she may know Him and herself and all things more clearly.
2. By it the soul seeks and obtains grace to blot out the stains and vices by which she is deformed. In it she receives consolation for desolation; out of weakness she is made strong; from slothful she becomes fervent; for perplexity she hath understanding; for sadness, gladness; and for cowardice, courage.
3. She is raised above herself, and is lifted up to God in heaven, where she learns and sees that all the things of earth are fragile and worthless, so that from her lofty height she looks down upon them as fit only for children. She perceives that the true riches, honours, and pleasures are nowhere but in heaven.
4. In prayer she unites herself to God.
(Lapide.)I. This incident is valuable as bringing prominently forward the OBJECTIVE element in Christianity.
II. As bringing prominently forward the DEVOTIONAL element in Christianity.
III. The PROPITIATORY element.
IV. The DIVINE element. The eternal Sonship of Christ.
V. The PRACTICAL element.
(A. L. R. Foote.)
I. THIS EVENT HAD A SPECIAL EVIDENTIAL VALUE; it proved to St. Peter and — to the other apostles with him that their Master's claims were not exaggerated; that in giving up all to follow Him, they were not making a mistake; that the religion He had taught them, and of which He was Himself the centre, had come from heaven. These Jews see their Master in the correspondence with the great lawgiver and the prophets. Also they were assured by the voice out of the cloud. Then our Lord's glorious appearance at the Transfiguration was exactly fitted to remove a prevalent objection to the second advent. That objection was due to sluggish imagination rather than to offended reason. The picture of the Son of Man coming in " the clouds of heaven " seemed to a certain order of minds too remote from all experience to be conceivable, and St. Peter's answer in effect is this: "We have been witnesses of an event which has prepared us for the second advent; we saw in the Transfiguration a rehearsal of the glories beyond."
II. Besides contributing an evidence of the truth, the Transfiguration MARKED THE CHARACTER OF THE RELIGION OF CHRIST. It enabled the apostles to distinguish the inner and real value of their Master and His religion from the public estimate of Him. We are all of us affected by the spirit of the men around us. When they saw their Master transfigured, they saw that the vulgar estimate was not the true one; He was not to be measured by that which ordinarily met the eye. "The form of a servant " was but a veil; beneath it were the lineaments of the Lord of glory. In our own day there is a like difference between the popular estimate of the religion of Christ and the true one. But if a man can retire into the solitude of prayer, he may learn to take a different view of religious truth and life. It is not that he invests it with ideal qualities that do not properly belong to it; it is that he escapes from the obscure traditions which have hidden from him the reality. The Transfiguration marked Christianity as a distinctly supernatural religion. We can conceive that Christianity might have been merely natural; in such a system the Transfiguration would have been out of character. The soul requires an object above this world. The Transfiguration is an answer to this need.
III. The Transfiguration was a scene of glory; but it was something more, — IT WAS A PREPARATION FOR A SCENE OF SUFFERING. "His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." Does not this show us the true use of a time of prosperity, whether in material or in spiritual things; to prepare for time of trial. Thus is it with nations: times of peace and plenty enable us to prepare for reverse. On the Mount of Transfiguration we should always hear whispers of Calvary.
IV. THE RELIGIOUS VALUE OF OCCASIONAL WITHDRAWAL FROM THE ABSORBING INTEREST OF ORDINARY LIFE. Not seldom does He now, as of old, take Peter and James and John into a mountain apart, and is transfigured before them. He detaches men by some unforseen providence, by some great perplexity, by some great humiliation, by some heart-searching sorrow, from their surroundings, and from their past; He takes them with Him into a high mountain of thought and feeling to which they were previously unaccustomed, and they see how little hitherto they have understood either themselves or Him. Hitherto they have "known Christ after the flesh;" henceforth know they Him so no more. The prayers which had been long used, but with little sense of their meaning, are lighted up with force and pathos that makes them the very language of the soul; the Scriptures, which had been read only as a more interesting department of literature, are found to be, indeed, as St. calls them, "Letters from the heavenly country, describing all that is most important to know about God and about man;" the sacraments, which had been scarcely thought of, or which had been noticed only as graceless forms, are now seen to be channels of the life of the Divine Redeemer; fellow-Christians who had in former days been deemed uninteresting or stupid are now reverently looked up to as characters of rare and of unselfish beauty, whom it is a privilege and a blessing to approach.
1. Love was within Christ, perfect, undefiled, intense, filled with the joy of giving and blessing. On the mountain He let His love loose, and oh, what the face of Christ must have been then, when infinite love overflowed His eyes and trembled on His mouth, no tongue can tell.
2. And the mighty stress of duty, filled full with the ideas, infinite in beauty, majestic in truth, which He was yet to accomplish — that and these arose like a tide of light into His expression.
3. And He, too, had come to endure death, cud here, on Hermon's side, He realized the last sacrifice. And death seemed to Him then, in that hour of the ecstasy of love and duty, not sad as it was when its power to subdue was brought home to Him by the sin and sorrow of earth, but most beautiful and joyous, full of glory and life. It was beautiful, for it was death for the sake of ideas of eternal beauty; it was joyous, for it was filled with impassioned love; it was glorious, for it was filled with the splendour of the truths He was through death to make alive among men. Therefore as He spoke of His death His face shone like the sun.
II. WE SEE CHRIST HERE IN THE UTTERMOST REALIZATION OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION WITH GOD. Always God and He were at one; but the rapture of that union was not always present. From end to end, body, soul, spirit, brain, and heart were all vividly happy with the indwelling God. This the highest conception of prayer ever given to the world — the transfiguration of man through perfect and rapturous union of being with God. There were two special means through which that was reached, and they had been wrought by Christ always.
1. Obedience to God's will. A man must be free to pray perfectly, and no man is free who is under the yoke of his own will to do wrong, who loves pleasure more than God's righteousness. There must be the freedom of love; the man can pray and feel himself one with God. It is possible for him at rare moments to stand on the Mount with Christ and be transfigured.
2. The other element in Christ which secured this communion was loving as God loved. God is love. In giving He is blest and blesses. Such prayer cannot be ours; we are not able to obey and love as Christ did.
III. How Is THAT PRAYER TO BE LIVED? Not in continued solitary contemplation. In the common tasks of life; making them the Father's business; in it finding communion, prayer.
(S. A. Brooke, M. A;)
(C. R. Conder.)It almost seems as if this, like the natural position of Hermon itself, was, if not to be connected with, yet, so to speak, to form the background to what was to be enacted. Suddenly a cloud passed over the clear brow of the mountain — not an ordinary, but a " luminous cloud," a cloud uplift, filled with light.
(E. De Pressense.)risible and striking proof to His disciples that those sufferings were perfectly consistent with the dignity of His character, and the highest state of glory to which He could be exalted.
(Bishop Porteus.)manhood so filled the apostle with joy that he was unwilling to be sundered from it, how shall it fare with those who attain to the contemplation of His glorious Godhead? And if it was so good a thing to dwell with two of His saints, how then to come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born that are written in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to those, not seen through a glass and darkly, but face to face.
(Matthew Henry.)I. The Father's DECLARATION — "This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." No doubt there is an allusion here to Deuteronomy 18:18. He is My Son, My own Son (Romans 8:32).
II. The Father's COMMAND — "Hear ye Him." Hear ye Him, ye thoughtless men and women that dwell at ease (2 Corinthians 5:10). Hear ye Him, ye self-righteous souls (Acts 4:12). Hear Him, ye that have gone on in the ways of ungodliness and wickedness, adding sin to sin, iniquity to iniquity (Isaiah 46:12). Hear Him, ye men of delay, whose watchword is, "To-morrow." Hear Him, ye young sinners, whose is the bloom, the blossom, the springtime of existence, but who have not yet begun to live. Hear Him, ye aged sinners, whose is the hoary head, but that head not yet found in the way of righteousness (Proverbs 16:31). Hear Him, ye backsliders. Hear Him, ye His tried and tempted disciples. He speaks — "It is I, be not afraid."
(J. Evans, M. A.)
I. WHY SHOULD WE HEAR HIM?
1. Because God Himself commands us.
2. Because He deserves to be heard.
3. Because His message concerns your present and future welfare.
4. With what zest should those of us hear Him who profess to be His disciples.
5. Sinners must hear Him in this day of grace, or in the day of judgment.
II. WHAT ARE WE TO HEAR?
1. There is much to hear concerning the Person of Christ.
2. He has many varieties of utterance, but by whomsoever He speaks let us hear Him?
3. The word of the Lord is not always a voice of instruction, but of command.
4. He also gives the word of consolation.
III. How SHALL WE HEAR HIM.
1. With devout reverence.
IV. WHEN SHALL WE HEAR HIM?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE LOSS OF THEMSELVES THROUGH THEIR GREAT FEAR. "And when they heard it they fell on their faces," etc. They were no longer the men they had been. This prostration sprang from the conscious nearness of God, and the voice from the cloud was the chief cause of this feeling. Are these not experiences which seem to rob us of our manhood: in great sorrow our powers seem paralyzed. We feel that it has brought us into the presence of God, and we are sore afraid.
II. THE GRAVE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY WHICH COMES UPON US IN SOME CRISES OF OUR LIFE. Then the faculties we most want refuse to obey our bidding. The sudden out-flashing of some great truth may fill the mind with fear.
III. But there is yet another side to look at. We have been looking at the disciples, let us now turn to the Master. IN THE CONDUCT OF CHRIST TOWARDS THESE MEN THERE IS MUCH TO CHEER US. He did not leave them in their helpless condition. His love toward them is unchanged. He comforts as well as delivers from fear.
(J. J. Goadby.)I. WHAT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED TO THE OTHER DISCIPLES AFTER THEY HAD SEEN THE TRANSFIGURATION. There were four things, either of which might have occurred.
1. They might have seen nobody with them on the holy mount; they might have found all gone but themselves. In such a case they would have been in a sorry plight, like those who, having begun to taste a banquet, suddenly find all the viands swept away; like thirsty men who have tasted the cooling crystal drops, and then seen the fountain dried up before their eyes. How many people after such experiences have nothing left of joy or comfort; the whole has been a splendid vision and nothing more. Nothing is left to bless the present hour. Christ is with us for ever by His Spirit.
2. They might have seen Moses only. Who would exchange Christ for Moses; the sun for the moon; love for law. There are many who see Moses only; they delight in outward ordinances, precepts and duties. They had bright visions once, but have relapsed into condemnation.
3. They might have seen Elijah only. Instead of the gentle Saviour they might have seen the stern-spirited Elias.
4. They might have seen Moses and Elias with Jesus, even as in the Transfiguration. Moses could preach the law and make men tremble, then Jesus could follow with His gospel of grace. Elias could flash the thunder bolt in their faces, and then Christ could have uplifted the humble spirits. Would not the assemblage of such diverse forces have contributed to the greatest success. They were all merged in Jesus only; as the morning star in the sun.
II. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED — "They saw no man save Jesus only."
1. This was all they wanted to see for their comfort — "Be not afraid." All the Saviour we want we find in Jesus only.
2. Jesus was enough for a Master — "No man can serve two masters."
3. He was enough as their power for future life.
4. He is enough as our reward.
III. WHAT HE DESIRE MAY HAPPEN. That the great object of our thoughts, motives, and acts may be Jesus only.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Our external personal circumstances.
2. Our intercourse with men.
3. Our Christian feeling. High joys seldom last long. Jesus, so to speak, loses His splendour, and comes down again from the mount, as a man, to His humiliation. The supreme solace is that Jesus comes down from the mount along with us. We learn to prize Him in proportion as we learn the deceptiveness of all beside. Out of our ecstasies, which often hide the reality, there comes a gift of God more precious than all — Jesus Himself. Whatever form He may assume, He is still the same; still the same whether He goes up the mountain with us, or comes down with us from the mountain. Our illusions vanish, but Jesus does not disappear.
(C. Bailhache.)Christianity — Jesus only. This is the theme of thought for the scholar, of proclamation by the preacher, of discussion by the student, of delight by the saint. Not the splendours of transfiguration, but Jesus only; not the blessedness of the saints in glory, but Jesus only; not the law of the old dispensation represented by Moses, but Jesus only; not the prophets of the intermediate dispensation, represented by Elijah, but Jesus only; not the apostles of the last dispensation, as represented by Peter, James, and John, but Jesus only.
(Dr. J. H. Vincent.)I. OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE ON EARTH NEEDS THAT WE SHOULD HAVE SPECIAL SEASONS OF COMMUNION WITH JESUS. It was from the midst of the activities of His ministry that our Lord took His disciples to this " mountain apart." Our animal and mental life needs stimulating.
II. OUR HIGHER SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES WILL NOT HAVE THEIR RIGHT EFFECT UPON US UNLESS THEY LEAVE OUR ATTENTION FIXED ON "JESUS ONLY." Some seek the evidences of their saved state, and find all their comfort in emotional experiences. It is "very good" to be alone with Christ, and to behold His glory, but we may forget, and lose sight of Him in the sense of personal enjoyment. This was Peter's error. The three disciples were permitted to behold this transfiguration of the Saviour, that their attention might henceforth be fixed more on Him and less on themselves. Do not seek rapturous religious experiences merely for their own sake.
III. No RELIGION WILL DO FOR US TO LIVE WITH, OR TO DIE WITH, BUT THAT IN WHICH WE SEE "JESUS ONLY." Ethical theories, philosophy, etc., will not do for us to live or die on. The simple gospel alone can give peace to the soul in life and death.
I. In the STREETS. Apathy and zeal, honesty and fraud, the athlete and the cripple, the millionaire and the pauper, the abstainer and the drunkard, the sister of mercy and the painted harlot, meeting and touching each other — joy and sorrow, good and evil, life and death. I passed by a great mansion glowing with light from roof to basement, with long lines of carriages hard by; and tapers glowed, and music breathed, and beauty led the ball. Not many days after I passed it again, and the stones were thickly covered with litter to deaden the sound of wheels, and I knew that sickness was in that house. And yet once again, and the rooms were darkened which had been ablaze with light, and there was silence where I heard the joyous music, broken now only by the sigh of the sorrowful; and again there was a long line of carriages, but they were filled with mourners, and at the head of all was the hearse.
II. In our HOMES — what contrasts! Only an outer wall may separate the house where there is peace and contentment, where hearts are of each other sure, where there is the tenderness, the respect, the loyalty of true affection, where forethought and forbearance unite husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, master and servant, and bring domestic happiness — that only bliss of paradise which has survived the fall. Only an outer wall may divide this bright abode from the dwelling-place of jealous suspicion, fretful disquiet, sullen resistance, waste, lewdness, and tyranny.
III. In our HEARTS — ah! YOU know, you only, the bitterness and the joy. Yes, you know the cold, dark shadows and the sunny gleams succeeding in such swift and strange alternation, like the uncertain glories of an April day.
(S. R. Hole, M. A.)
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