Friday, February 24, 2017

Matthew 17:1-9 Beholding Jesus' Unveiled Glory

KEY TEXT: Matthew 17:1-3, 5-6 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him... behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.

KEY THOT: Seeing Jesus in his unveiled glory is always terrifying. Peter, James and John "fell on their faces and were terrified" (v.6). The same John reacted the same way in his old age when he received the revelation of Jesus Christ at the prison-island of Patmos: "his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead" (Revelation 1:16-17). 

At the transfiguration, the three brothers were given a momentary glimpse of Jesus' unveiled glory. For Peter, it was a life-transforming experience: "For we did not follow cleverly 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 ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter 1:16-18). If our lives are to be transformed deeply, we need to know Jesus Christ, not just in his humanity but also in his divinity.

In his humanity, we experience the Abba-love of the Father. But in his divinity, we behold the unveiled glory of God's majesty. Such revelation of Christ's unveiled divine majesty must create within every believer a sense of awe that causes us to fall down on our faces. John the "beloved disciple" of Christ, when confronted with the unveiled glory fell down on his face as though dead. It must be an awesome experience to be confronted with the unveiled glory of Christ's divinity. Human pride and ego are utterly demolished by Christ's revelation of his glory.

The fact that Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus' death in the transfiguration suggests that Christ is the focus of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah): "And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure (death), which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:30-31). So Jesus explained to his disciples after he rose from the dead: "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms together represent the OT Scriptures that spoke to the people of Israel on the basis of God's grace to be revealed in Jesus Christ.

At the transfiguration, the Father spoke out of the cloud of glory: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (v.5). Not only does the OT Scripture affirms Christ, but the Father also affirms him. The Father's affirmation is an echo of the affirmation Jesus received at his baptism in Jordan: "And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17). Here we see the Father's affirmations of his Son in his humanity and also in his divinity.

It is important that we likewise affirm Jesus' humanity and divinity. Through his humanity we draw near in intimacy (as John the disciple did when he laid his head on Jesus' bosom). But in his divinity we fall down in worship (as the same John did in his old age when he beheld the glory of the exalted Christ). 

We must be careful not to become overly-familiar with Jesus in his humanity that we forget to honour Him in his divinity. True, the Word has become flesh in Jesus Christ--but he remains the holy God who calls us to be holy even as "I, the Lord, am holy".

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to behold both Your love and holiness, so that we may draw near to You as the Word made flesh while rendering to You the honour and fear that belong to You as the majestic God on high. Amen.

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