Truths of Christ's Glory
28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) 34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
In what nowadays is a rather unusual form of advertising, people driving through the countryside occasionally see signs on barns that invite them to "SEE ROCK CITY". Rock City is near Chattanooga, Tennessee and boasts the tourist attraction called "Lookout Mountain.” On clear days it gives visitors a positively glorious view, and seven States can be seen from that one location!
Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, where they experienced a far more glorious sight, the very glory of God manifest by Jesus Himself! It wasn't a manner in which Jesus had been seen by anyone before. – A hymn writer captured why it was that Jesus ordinarily presented Himself without the glory:
My Father's home of Light, My rainbow-circled throne, I left for earthly night, for wand'rings sad and lone...
No other human existed before God's work of creation. No other had any form of existence before conception in a mother's womb, but Jesus already existed before His incarnation, being the "Light of Light" and "Very God of Very God." – From eternity He dwelled in perfect holiness and infinite, all powerful glory! It wasn't just a glory that surrounded Him from a different source, but He Himself was and is the full Light and Glory of God.
We can't define what that means, of course, except that it includes not having even the tiniest speck of defect or sin. – When the time approached for Jesus to be fully returned to that state, He prayed: "Now, Father glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world was made."
Although we can't comprehend it, the Bible partly lets us know what Christ's glory is like. Here are three important truths for our faith concerning His glory...
HIS GLORY IS TRUE
The first truth is simply that our Lord’s glory is true! God's glory is something that is for real, and it exists in conjunction with Jesus Christ who displayed that glory to real live human beings!
Accounts in Three Gospels
A lot of the reports about Christ's teaching and doings are recorded only once in the Bible. (Sometimes minor little discrepancies can be found, too, when comparing all the ancient scrolls and manuscripts available for any given verse or Bible selection.) – The Gospels of Matthew (17) and Luke (9) each give fully developed accounts of Christ's "Transfiguration," however, and we are certain from all the ancient manuscripts we have that what was originally written has made it all the way to our own generation with complete accuracy.
Other Scripture Accounts
What happened wasn't only a vision or dream experienced by a single individual that nowadays might be labeled as "schizophrenic." – Peter, James and John each saw it, and they each heard it! It's true that Jesus Christ possesses the very glory of God!
The event of His Transfiguration was so astounding for John that he wrote in the first chapter of his Gospel: "The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father."
It burned such an imprint in the memory of Peter that even many years later he wrote: "We did not follow clearly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father and the Voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory ' This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we heard this Voice borne from Heaven for we were with Him on the holy mountain... You will do well to pay attention to this..." How excited he must have been in writing that for us! — (The first "Truth" to remember is just that Christ's glory is true!)
NO LASTING EXPERIENCE OF GLORY WITHOUT THE CROSS
A second truth concerns the importance of the conversation described in the Gospel text between Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The account in Luke's Gospel identifies it as being about the “departure” which Jesus was to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Not For Peter and the Disciples
Peter's wishful thinking about erecting the "tabernacles" to hang around for a while was simply not to be! Jesus had a mission to fulfill: saving every generation of this world from sin against God by going to Jerusalem to be murdered at the Cross, and then to conquer death by rising after three days.
Jesus had earlier asserted to His followers the "MUST" of His suffering and death and rising to life again. Jesus was manifest in glory on that mountain because He was going to fulfill what Moses and Elijah (the respective representatives of the Law and the Prophets) had foretold concerning Him precisely. Forever after, therefore, Christ's followers would be able to know that they could trust His own words directly!
Although it wasn't clear to the disciples at the time, the upshot of the whole event is made sensible only in light of Christ's death and resurrection. To Him belongs all glory and dominion forever and ever because of that "departure..(to)..Jerusalem." — Had His glory remained intact coming down that mountain, people might either have refused to look on Him out of fear (as once happened with Moses), or adoringly proclaimed Him as universal King. No humiliating crucifixion would then have taken place, though, and we ourselves would still be marked for death as the wages of our sin. Satan would have been the winner of the war of wars. – It's not possible to disconnect Christ's glory from the Cross!
And Not For Us
The same pertains to us as Christian believers. We can no more expect God's intention for our glory to one day be restored without likewise bearing the crosses and sufferings God has tailored and permits to come to us. Life here will have its hurts and sufferings and pains.
The disciples descended that mountain to an immediate experience of frustration, failure and defeat. Only the power and presence of Christ got them through – both at that time and ever after!
FOR OUR ASSURANCE
The third truth is the joyous disclosure, though, that although it couldn't remain without the Cross, Christ's being manifest in glory on earth was given for the benefit of sinners. It was meant to grant us a foretaste of what He wants to share with us all!
For the Three Disciples
Our Heavenly Father didn't need to reassure Himself of His own intentions. Neither did Jesus Himself require any evidence that His Father intended to restore His glory. Moses, who once caught the afterglow of God's glory during his earthly life, no longer needed the assurance. Nor did Elijah, who was the man taken up into Heaven by the fiery chariot.
The glimpse of glory was given to the three least likely disciples! – Peter rarely did anything right, and James and John earned a nickname as "sons of thunder" because of their tendency to want to destroy anything that stood in their way. – Stumbling around in blind ignorance, those three were God's prime candidates for spending time learning from Jesus, witnessing His transfigured glory, being present for His trial and death, and eyewitnessing His resurrection and ascension to glory.
And For Us Today
That means oodles and volumes for us! – The account of Christ's showing His Divine Glory while here on earth, preserved in its original writing through several authors, is God directly telling us that, in spite of our sin and spiritual ignorance, He wants us to finally come to His eternal Heavenly glory, too! At a very old age St. John wrote:
"It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when (Christ) appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure."
If people heed the simple little advertisement seen here and there on barns, they can take in a glorious view and see seven States at once. – If you and I will heed the words of God's beloved Son, embracing the Cross and His death with His resurrection and glory... If we'll hear the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John... If we'll listen to Peter saying: "You will do well to pay attention to this..." And if we'll pay attention to Scripture and with power from God's Holy Spirit embrace it fully in faith, — then the experience granted to Peter, James and John will also become a reality for us for forever!