We often times, and rightly so, think of Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. For Jesus took upon himself our sin and guilt, in order that the ransom price would satisfy the justice of God through his gracious mercy for our soul’s salvation. Yet Christ is not to be thought of as if he belongs to us personally, in exclusion of others. For our Lord is the Head of the church; our Father has adopted a people whom he has called his children, the Holy Spirit teaching and admonishing us as a body of Christ. We are members one with another in the body of our Savior. There is a covenant relationship involved in the saving of our souls. We must not forget that we are a people who have been taught to pray, “Our Father.”
We must also remember that the uniqueness of being one with the Father is seen in Christ as the Son of God, the second person in the Godhead. The three persons of the Godhead are sufficient in and of themselves as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each one being “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Shorter Catechism #4). We, on the other hand, are totally dependent upon God for life. God is our Creator and Savior, providing for our need here and in eternity.
Our lesson centers upon the transfiguration of Christ, the Son, and his relationship to God the Father. It is in this relationship within the Godhead that we know the depth of the love of God towards us in Christ. For it is the Father who, according to his good pleasure, “made us acceptable in the beloved: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1:6–7). Our response to this love of God in Christ is to glorify him: “Let us exalt Christ in our hearts, believe, adore and love him. We cannot lift him up higher in heaven, but we may in our hearts. Let us exalt him in our lips; let us praise him. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost; our tongues must be the organs in these temples. By praising and commending Christ, we exalt him in the esteem of others. Let us exalt him in our lives, by living holy lives” (Thomas Watson).
Jesus takes his disciples—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain. It was here that our Lord was transfigured before them. God’s Word tells us that the face of Christ shown “as the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light.” Evidenced by the outward appearance of Jesus, the brightness of his countenance and of his clothing, the disciples witness a supernatural transformation. Later Peter would write of the truth of what he witnessed: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
The power, and the wisdom, and the glory of God were manifested in that moment, revealing Jesus to be truly the Son of God. John witnessed: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Peter reminds us that we do not follow the devised myths of Roman gods, but Christ who is both God and man. For a moment, Jesus lifted the veil and revealed his glory as being equal to God (Phil. 2:6). For in Christ is the supernatural light that shines in the darkness of this world: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
Jesus is truly the Messiah that came from the Father as the One who would save his people from their sins. Jesus has myriads of angels at his command, but he calls two witnesses to his side: Moses and Elijah appeared, and talked with him. Elijah was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, and Moses’ body was never to be found. They live, waiting for the final resurrection, yet they know their Savior. He was with Moses in the wilderness. In Moses and Elijah, we claim the truth that both the law and the prophets speak of the coming of the Christ.
Discussion: What does the transfiguration tell us about Jesus?
The zeal and boldness of Peter would be soon directed for the use of the Master as he would witness and die for him. But now it only shows the weakness of men who would build tabernacles on earth rather than store treasures in heaven. Moses and Elijah had the greatest of tabernacles in heaven, alive in the presence of their Creator and King. From the greater tabernacle comes a better voice. From a bright cloud which overshadowed the disciples, the voice of God the Father speaks, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”
The Father reveals the nature and work of the Son, a voice to which we need to listen today. The three declarations of God the Father about his Son are meaningful to us today. The Father announces that this Jesus is his very own Son. Christ Jesus is one with the Father; he is God. Therefore he is not only able to save his people, but he has the divine and sovereign authority to take upon himself the sins and guilt of the elect, to pay the price with his blood and satisfy both God’s justice and righteousness. Second, the Father says that he is well pleased with the Son. Christ pleases the Father both in his willingness and obedience to carry out his part in God’s plan of salvation. Because of the nature and work of Christ, we are admonished to hear him. To know the mind of God is to hear Christ. This is the hearing of the Gospel whereby we confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Christ Jesus is our Prophet, Priest, and King.
The disciples responded to the voice out of heaven by falling down to the ground, “sore afraid.” They were terrified; this was not a wholesome fear, but a fear which rattled their very souls. God said to Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Ex. 33:20). We should take care how we approach our Lord in worship and praise. The wicked should be warned in the Gospel preaching. The wicked may rage, and the rulers of this world may redefine morals and claim sovereignty, but he who is the King of kings sits at the right hand of God in the heavens, and “shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Psalm 2:1–4).
The disciples finally looked up and saw only Jesus. When everything else is gone, Jesus will be there. He will not leave us comfortless. When the best of our experiences are cloudy memories, we will look up and see Jesus. When the worst of times come, Jesus will be there as our Good Shepherd, to heal and lead. His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6).
Discussion: What three things has the Father revealed to us about His Son?
As Jesus and his disciples were coming down the mountain, he charged them, saying, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead.” When the work of Christ for the salvation of his people was completed in his death and resurrection, it would be the time when things would be seen and understood. The time of things is in the hand of the Lord; for he is working out all things to the glory of the Father and the good of His people.
The disciples move to another subject. Thinking of Elijah: Is it true, they ask, as the scribes have said, “that Elijah must first come?” Jesus answers: “Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.”
The Prophet knows his Word, spoken through Malachi: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). All that was written of this prophet would come true. And it was to be found in John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who prepared his way. The scribes who knew the prophecy refused the fulfillment of it in John. Instead they beheaded John, and sought to kill the Christ of whom he spoke. The blindness of the wicked not only refuses the truth but seeks to destroy it. Likewise also shall the Son of man suffer. Likewise shall those who follow him suffer. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
Discussion: How is Elijah used as an illustration of the work of Christ?
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