TRANSFIGURED AS HE WAS TRANSFIGURED
"He was transfigured before them." Matt 17:2
The whole emphasis should be laid upon these last two words. It was wholly for their sake that upon this occasion He was transfigured. There are no means of knowing, but perhaps those silent mountain heights, and the starlit sky of night, had often witnessed such wondrous scenes. Luke declares that as He prayed He was transfigured; and he, moreover, tells that the apparent purpose of this journey to the mount was that of prayer. (Luke 9:28-29) Who knows but that during those years of public ministry, when withdrawn from the crowd, and even having left His chosen disciples behind Him, He spent the hours of the silence with God, the angels saw Him transfigured? Be that as it may, the emphasis here is surely upon the words "before them." The outshining of this light, and all the radiant glory of the holy mount, was for their sakes.
This vision of their Master was a revelation to them of God's thought of Him. In the events preceding, He had asked, and they had given, MAN'S OPINION. Human voices had expressed different thoughts. These opinions are all suggestive and valuable, showing how the fulfillment in His Person and character of all that was great in the past, had impressed itself upon the minds of different men. Some said He was John the Baptist, the stern prophet who had dared to denounce the king. They had heard Him in some sterner moment of His preaching, had hem reproved by Him for some willful sin, and they found John the Baptist risen from the dead. Others said, This is Elijah, the man who came to bring the people back to the law. Others, who perhaps, had seen such tears as He shed over Jerusalem, and heard such words as He spoke of her ruin, were reminded of the weeping prophet of old, who in his agony had cried, "Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" (Jer. 9:1) and some said He was Jeremiah. Others again had said, "one of the prophets," being unable to decide which. All had discovered the prophetic genius and power of speech, and yet all fell short of the ultimate fact that He was Messiah. This was the opinion of a man, not resulting from his own observation, but created by distinct revelation, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father Who is in heaven." (Matt. 16:17)
And even now Peter and his comrades did not understand the full significance of their own confession, and it is as though the Master had said, having heard the expressed human opinion at its best, "Come now to the mount, and learn God's thought of the Christ." That thought is expressed in A THREEFOLD WAY, first, in the glory streaming from His Person; second, in the visit of Moses and Elijah; and third, in the actual speech of Deity. The mount revealed the awe-inspiring fact that the Divine opinion included, and glorified all human conceptions. Moses and Elijah conversed with Him, and withdrew. When they had departed, and no one remained except Jesus only, then God said, "Hear ye Him." (Matt. 17:5) HE IS SUFFICIENT, ALL THAT OTHER PROPHETS HAVE SPOKEN IS FULFILLED HIM, THEIR MESSAGES HAVE BEEN BUT GLEAMS OF TRUTH; HE IS THE TRUTH.
Thus upon the mount, standing in the light and glory of the transfigured Christ, they learned the Divine thought of their Master, as they had given expression to the human thought six days before.
There are certain practical applications of this preliminary study, which will prove profitable. God's "afters” are worth the waiting for. However dark the "now" is, there will be light enough in God's "after” to explain the darkness. The very genius of Christianity consists in living in the dark "now," with the hope of the "after" upon it. Wait always for "Light after darkness, gain after loss."
Remember also, that beyond the mount lies the valley. It may be that the experience of the present moment finds expression in the language of the poet:
“I stand upon the mount of God,
With sunlight in my soul;
With sunlight in my soul;
I hear the storms in vales beneath, I hear the thunders roll.
"But I am calm with Thee, my God,
Beneath these glorious skies;
Beneath these glorious skies;
And to the height on which I stand No storms nor clouds can rise.”
Do not forget, however, that it is not intended that the follower of Christ should abide on the mount. Just beyond lies the valley, and away further still, out of sight at but surely to be reached, is the somber shade of the olives of Gethsemane. For that, this is preparation; this is a Divine process of training, and it is full of grace. The valley and Gethsemane lie beyond the holy mount. To them God never leads except by the way of the mount. The mount forever stands after the six days, before the deepest darkness and the severest trial.
It is also true that revelation is according to capacity. There are those to whom God cannot reveal some of the methods of His government. Peter, James, and John were taken to the mount, but eight others saw no transfiguring glory. Do not ask for the vision of the mount. He takes there whomsoever He will. The light of transfiguration creates new responsibility. The men who saw its glory were taken also to the vision of Gethsemane's sorrow. Let there be no asking for visions. When transfiguration, and garden, and Cross, and resurrection, and ascension hours are passed, the Master will not apportion His rewards according to the number of visions, but according to fidelity to the opportunities He creates. Is there no vision? Then let there be faithfulness without, and after all, this may be the more heroic life. The man to whom God grants a vision should find it easy thereafter to be heroic. To the larger company of apostles and disciples, no vision comes. They patiently follow “until the day break, and the shadows flee away." (Cant. 2:17) Ask for no vision, O, my soul, lest its coming bring also testing which God had not intended for thee. Take what He gives, and follow in His steps.
Lastly, communion with God issues ever in transfigured life. It was when He was praying that He was transfigured. When the disciples pray as He prayed, they also will be TRANSFIGURED AS HE WAS TRANSFIGURED. This will not be until salvation is completed. While there lurk within possibilities of unbelief, fellowship is not perfected, and final transfiguration cannot be. And yet, the measure of fellowship is the measure of transfiguration, even here and now. How often, even amid the shadows of the little while, the faces of the saints are seen lit with the light of the inward glory. Those who, indeed, would shine amid the darkness of the world, must be transformed and transfigured by union with God. May the communion of the saints with the Son be such that, in some measure, upon all of them may rest the light and glory of the holy mount.