He Was Transfigured
EVENING is drawing on as Jesus calls to His
side three of His disciples, Peter, James, and John, and leads them across the fields, and
far up a rugged path, to a lonely mountainside. The Saviour and His disciples have spent
the day in traveling and teaching, and the mountain climb adds to their weariness. Christ
has lifted burdens from mind and body of many sufferers; He has sent the thrill of life
through their enfeebled frames; but He also is compassed with humanity, and with His
disciples He is wearied with the ascent.
The light of the setting sun
still lingers on the mountain top, and gilds with its fading glory the path they are
traveling. But soon the light dies out from hill as well as valley, the sun disappears
behind the western horizon, and the solitary travelers are wrapped in the darkness of
night. The gloom of their surroundings seems in harmony with their sorrowful lives, around
which the clouds are gathering and thickening.
The disciples do not venture
to ask Christ whither He is going, or for what purpose. He has often spent entire nights
in the mountains in prayer. He whose hand formed mountain and valley is at home with
nature, and enjoys its quietude. The disciples follow where Christ leads the way; yet they
wonder why their Master should lead them up this toilsome ascent when they are weary, and
when He too is in need of rest.
Presently Christ tells them
that they are now to go no farther. Stepping a little aside from them, the Man of Sorrows
pours out His
supplications with strong crying and tears. He prays for strength to endure
the test in behalf of humanity. He must Himself gain a fresh hold on Omnipotence, for only
thus can He contemplate the future. And He pours out His heart longings for His disciples,
that in the hour of the power of darkness their faith may not fail. The dew is heavy upon
His bowed form, but He heeds it not. The shadows of night gather thickly about Him, but He
regards not their gloom. So the hours pass slowly by. At first the disciples unite their
prayers with His in sincere devotion; but after a time they are overcome with weariness,
and, even while trying to retain their interest in the scene, they fall asleep. Jesus has
told them of His sufferings; He has taken them with Him that they might unite with Him in
prayer; even now He is praying for them. The Saviour has seen the gloom of His disciples,
and has longed to lighten their grief by an assurance that their faith has not been in
vain. Not all, even of the twelve, can receive the revelation He desires to give. Only the
three who are to witness His anguish in Gethsemane have been chosen to be with Him on the
mount. Now the burden of His prayer is that they may be given a manifestation
of the glory
He had with the Father before the world was, that His kingdom may be revealed to human
eyes, and that His disciples may be strengthened to behold it. He pleads that they may
witness a manifestation of His divinity that will comfort them in the hour of His supreme
agony with the knowledge that He is of a surety the Son of God and that His shameful death
is a part of the plan of redemption.
His prayer is heard. While He
is bowed in lowliness upon the stony ground, suddenly the heavens open, the golden gates
of the city of God are thrown wide, and holy radiance descends upon the mount, enshrouding
the Saviour's form. Divinity from within flashes through humanity, and meets the glory
coming from above. Arising from His prostrate position, Christ stands in godlike majesty.
The soul agony is gone. His countenance now shines "as the sun," and His
garments are "white as the light."
The disciples, awaking,
behold the flood of glory that illuminates the mount. In fear and amazement they gaze upon
the radiant form of their Master. As they become able to endure the wondrous light, they
see that Jesus is not alone. Beside Him are two heavenly beings, in close converse with
Him. They are Moses, who upon Sinai had talked with God; and Elijah, to whom the high
privilege was given--granted to but one other of the sons of Adam--never to come under the
power of death.
Upon Mount Pisgah fifteen
centuries before, Moses had stood gazing upon the Land of Promise. But because of his sin
at Meribah, it was not for him to enter there. Not for him was the joy of leading the host
of Israel into the inheritance of their fathers. His agonized entreaty, "I pray Thee,
let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and
Lebanon" (Deut. 3:25), was refused. The hope that for forty years had lighted up the
darkness of the desert wanderings must be denied. A wilderness grave was the goal of those
years of toil and heart-burdening care. But He who is "able to do exceeding
abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20), had in this measure answered
His servant's prayer. Moses passed under the dominion of death, but he was not to remain
in the tomb. Christ Himself called him forth to life. Satan the tempter had claimed the
body of Moses because of his sin; but Christ the Saviour brought him forth from the grave.
Moses upon the mount of
transfiguration was a witness to Christ's victory over sin and death. He represented those
who shall come forth
from the grave at the resurrection of the just. Elijah, who had been
translated to heaven without seeing death, represented those who will be living upon the
earth at Christ's second coming, and who will be "changed, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trump;" when "this mortal must put on
immortality," and "this corruptible must put on incorruption." 1 Cor.
15:51-53. Jesus was clothed with the light of heaven, as He will appear when He shall come
"the second time without sin unto salvation." For He will come "in the
glory of His Father with the holy angels." Heb. 9:28; Mark 8:38. The Saviour's
promise to the disciples was now fulfilled. Upon the mount the future kingdom of glory was
represented in miniature,--Christ the King, Moses a representative of the risen saints,
and Elijah of the translated ones.
The disciples do not yet
comprehend the scene; but they rejoice that the patient Teacher, the meek and lowly One,
who has wandered to and fro a helpless stranger, is honored by the favored ones of heaven.
They believe that Elijah has come to announce the Messiah's reign, and that the kingdom of
Christ is about to be set up on the earth. The memory of their fear and disappointment
they would banish forever. Here, where the glory of God is revealed, they long to tarry.
Peter exclaims, "Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three
tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." The disciples are
confident that Moses and Elijah have been sent to protect their Master, and to establish
His authority as king.
But before the crown must
come the cross. Not the inauguration of Christ as king, but the decease to be accomplished
at Jerusalem, is the subject of their conference with Jesus. Bearing the weakness of
humanity, and burdened with its sorrow and sin, Jesus walked alone in the midst of men. As
the darkness of the coming trial pressed upon Him, He was in loneliness of spirit, in a
world that knew Him not. Even His loved disciples, absorbed in their own doubt and sorrow
and ambitious hopes, had not comprehended the mystery of His mission. He had dwelt amid
the love and fellowship of heaven; but in the world that He had created, He was in
solitude. Now heaven had sent its messengers to Jesus; not angels, but men who had endured
suffering and sorrow, and who could sympathize with the Saviour in the trial of His
earthly life. Moses and Elijah had been colaborers with Christ. They had shared His
longing for the salvation of men. Moses had pleaded for Israel: "Yet now, if Thou
wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou
hast written." Ex. 32:32. Elijah
had known loneliness of spirit, as for three years
and a half of famine he had borne the burden of the nation's hatred and its woe. Alone he
had stood for God upon Mount Carmel. Alone he had fled to the desert in anguish and
despair. These men, chosen above every angel around the throne, had come to commune with
Jesus concerning the scenes of His suffering, and to comfort Him with the assurance of the
sympathy of heaven. The hope of the world, the salvation of every human being, was the
burden of their interview.
Through being overcome with
sleep, the disciples heard little of what passed between Christ and the heavenly
messengers. Failing to watch and pray, they had not received that which God desired to
give them,--a knowledge of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
They lost the blessing that might have been theirs through sharing His self-sacrifice.
Slow of heart to believe were these disciples, little appreciative of the treasure with
which Heaven sought to enrich them.
Yet they received great
light. They were assured that all heaven knew of the sin of the Jewish nation in rejecting
Christ. They were given a clearer insight into the work of the Redeemer. They saw with
their eyes and heard with their ears things that were beyond the comprehension of man.
They were "eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16), and they realized that
Jesus was indeed the Messiah, to whom patriarchs and prophets had witnessed, and that He
was recognized as such by the heavenly universe.
While they were still gazing
on the scene upon the mount, "a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice
out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye
Him." As they beheld the cloud of glory, brighter than that which went before the
tribes of Israel in the wilderness; as they heard the voice of God speak in awful majesty
that caused the mountain to tremble, the disciples fell smitten to the earth. They
remained prostrate, their faces hidden, till Jesus came near, and touched them, dispelling
their fears with His well-known voice, "Arise, and be not afraid." Venturing to
lift up their eyes, they saw that the heavenly glory had passed away, the forms of Moses
and Elijah had disappeared. They were upon the mount, alone with Jesus.