Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Luke 9:21-36

And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Although Peter had correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus warns them to tell no one. It is not yet time for the end of his ministry, and statements such as this would give his opposition too much ammunition. Although he flat out tells them that he will be killed and raised again, this will not strike them until all is accomplished.

The disciples may have been on a spiritual high from their experience of personally healing and casting out demons followed by the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish. Jesus teaches them that his followers will not live on a spiritual mountaintop. Choices will need to be made daily to forsake glory and the comfort of the world in order to follow him. He will not at this time usher in the kingdom of God in the way they are expecting. This will not occur until he returns in glory, surrounded by an army of angels.

The fact that Jesus taught that some would not taste death until they saw his glory, among other reasons, led some in the early church to believe the second coming would be soon. But in fact, Jesus' three closest disciples saw Jesus in his glory a mere eight days later. Can you imagine the shock of Peter, James, and John when they awoke and saw Jesus with his countenance changed and his clothes whiter than anything on a Clorox commercial, talking with Elijah and Moses like old friends? They were seeing with their own mortal eyes a glimpse of the invisible kingdom of God in its glory. Peter, always one to feel the need to say something, offers to put up tents for his three heroes. He was possibly thinking of the Feast of Tabernacles and also did not want to leave (even though he was probably freaking out). A cloud descends, reminiscent of the glory of God in the Old Testament. The voice of God affirms again that he is well pleased with his Son, the cloud lifts, and Moses and Elijah disappear from sight. (The disciples have fallen facedown in terror until touched by Jesus and instructed to rise without fear.) On the way down the mountain, the disciples are instructed to tell no one until after Jesus' resurrection.

One purpose of the transfiguration would be to show Jesus' closest disciples a glimpse of who he really was. Although they could still not fully comprehend Jesus' deity, a glimmer of something beyond his humanity is revealed to them. Many scholars believe that Moses represents the Old Testament law and Elijah the prophets. God's voice from heaven revealed that even the Law and the Prophets were superseded by Jesus. The three friends would never forget the experience, and it surely strengthened their faith. As John writes in the introduction to his gospel, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Peter later penned, “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).

We may never literally see the glory of Christ in our lifetime, but the moments we catch glimpses of God's kingdom strengthen our faith. Like the apostles, we must daily choose to "take up our cross and follow him". Many days this seems easy; some days we can barely get out of bed. But when we rely on him and draw strength from the Holy Spirit, in the midst of any trial we can know that "His yoke is easy and his burden is light" (Matt. 11:30).

Your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love, and you are cheerfully to accept it. You are to take up the cross as your chosen badge and burden, and not to stand caviling at it. Jesus bids you submit your shoulder to His easy yoke. Do not . . . kick at it in petulance, or trample on it in pride, or fall under it in despair, or run away from it in fear; but take it up like a true follower of Jesus! - C. H. Spurgeon

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