Glory And Majesty!
by Melvin Newland
I want to read a passage of Scripture that I imagine is familiar to most of you. It is where Matthew tells about the transfiguration of Jesus, & it is found in Matthew 17:1-8.
“After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James & John the brother of James, & led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, & His clothes became as white as the light.
“Just then there appeared before them Moses & Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, `Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses & one for Elijah.’
“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, & a voice from the cloud said, `This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came & touched them. `Get up,’ He said. `Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”
This Transfiguration scene must have been one of the most exciting events in the life of Peter, James, & John – & maybe even for Moses & Elijah as well. And I am convinced that it can mean a great deal to us, too.
The Greek word translated as “transfiguration” is the word “metamor-phothe,” from which we get “metamorphosis.” As any student of biology knows, a “metamorphosis” is “a transformation, a complete change of appearance & form.” (Example: Caterpillar into a butterfly.)
Jesus certainly went through a metamorphosis – & more than once. First, He left the glories of heaven to come to earth in human form – to live with us – to share our pain & suffering, our hungers & temptations. For 33 & 1/2 years He lived upon the face of this earth in human form.
But at the time of this scripture that we have read, Jesus coming to the end of His ministry upon this earth, & for a few minutes on a mountainside in Galilee, Peter, James, & John are privileged to see another metamorphosis, as Jesus is once again clothed in His glory, the glory of Almighty God.
This morning I want us to look at the transfiguration through the eyes of the apostle John, & behold what he beheld. So what did John see? As John stood on that mountain & saw the transfiguration of Jesus, what did he see?
I. JOHN SAW HIS GLORY!
Years later, in the 1st chapter of his Gospel, vs. 14, John says, “The Word became flesh, & made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One & Only, who came from the Father, full of grace & truth.”
John knew what he was talking about, for on that mountainside they had seen Jesus transfigured, His appearance changing dramatically, His face & clothing shining like the light of the sun. And just as that happened, Moses & Elijah appeared & began talking with Jesus. So awed was Peter by this sight that he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses & one for Elijah.”
But that obviously wasn’t God’s plan, for “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, & a voice from the cloud said, `This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’”
About a week before the transfiguration Jesus had asked His apostles this question, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “Some think that you are Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Some even think that you might be John the Baptist come back from the dead.”
Then Jesus asked them, “But what about you?…Who do you say that I am?” It was Peter who answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” [Matthew 16:16].
I have always wondered how the other apostles reacted when Peter said that. Did they all join in, saying, “He’s right, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Peter is absolutely right!” Or did they look at one another in confusion? Did they turn to Peter & ask, “Why did you say that? Are you really convinced that He is the Messiah?”
I think that there must have been some late conversations around the campfire as they discussed what Jesus had said. They re-examined His miracles, & talked about the people who had come to Him. “Is He really the Christ, the Messiah we long for, whose coming we have prayed for again & again?” There must have been many lingering questions until, on this mountainside, Peter & James & John saw the glory of God.
Suddenly, like the rushing of a mighty river, John was convinced that what Peter had said is true. “Jesus is the Christ!” And that is important.
You see, it is one thing to recognize that there is a God who has put the sun & the moon & the stars in place. It is one thing to recognize that there is a God who made us & who appreciates beauty, & who gives us morality & helps us feel bad when we are bad, & good when we are good.
It is one thing to recognize that there is a God of order who is in control, but it is another thing to recognize that God became one of us.
To John that must have been an overwhelming revelation. “This Jesus who patted me on the shoulder when I was discouraged – this Jesus who prayed with me – this Jesus who dried my tears – this Jesus who is concerned about my family – this Jesus who is concerned about my feelings when I am lonely & tired – this Jesus is God! He is actually God in human flesh!”
Years ago I visited an old & very famous church & was able to attend one of its Sunday morning services. The minister was an orator. He preached a masterpiece of a sermon about the philosophy, the teachings, of Jesus, & he showed how to apply them to our lives.
But as I listened to him, I became more & more aware that he evidently considered Jesus just a master teacher, much like some other master teachers of ages gone by. Not once did he suggest, or even hint, that Jesus was more than a man – that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Do you realize how blessed we are week after week to be able to come & share our faith together that Jesus is the Christ? I pray that you will never grow tired of that. I pray that you will proclaim it with all your power. He is the Christ, the Lord of all. John realized that as he saw the glory of Almighty God, & we need to realize that too.
II. WE NEED TO SEE THE GLORY OF GOD
You know, I think most of us are very much like the apostle Philip. Do you remember? After 3 years of being with Jesus, seeing all the miracles, listening to His teachings – & just a short time before His crucifixion – Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, & that will be enough for us.”
“Jesus answered: `Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” [John 14:8-9]. When we see Jesus we know what God is like, for Jesus came to reflect & reveal God to us.
We need to see God. We need to listen to His word. When we don’t, there are frantic attempts, I think, to reach out & find something to believe in.
A few years ago a housewife in New Mexico was frying tortillas on her stove. One of them burned, & it just so happened that the burn formed the shape of a face. She decided that the image was the face of Jesus.
She took it to her priest & asked him, “Do you think it looks like Jesus?” He thought that it looked like Jesus, too. And he blessed it. He had never blessed a tortilla before, but he blessed that tortilla.
She took it home & put it in a little box, surrounded with white cotton so that it would look like it was floating on a cloud. Then she & her husband built an altar & began to pray before it. The news spread, & soon thousands of people were coming to see & pray before this burned tortilla.
Well, it has happened here, too, hasn’t it? In the past few years crowds of people have seen what they believe to be sacred images on tree trunks & car fenders. And they have prayed devoutly before them.
Several years ago, some people in Poland discovered a tree with a strange shape in the bark. The one who discovered it was a crippled man & he decided that it was an image of the Virgin Mary. Later he claimed that he was healed while there, & he tied his crutches to the tree.
Sixty miles away another tree was discovered that seemingly had the same image on it.
So, in Poland, thousands of people are buying train tickets to go out to the countryside & kneel before two trees – to leave their money at the foot of the trees – to ask the blessing of the Virgin Mary on their lives. Why? Because they want so desperately to see & feel the glory & power of God.
We all want that in our lives. We search for it & when it is not there, somehow we try to create it. We try to put it there in one way or another.
When Ethel & I were in Israel, & then again in Greece, we visited some magnificent church buildings, hundreds of years old. We saw stained glass windows, & statues. I think of all the years of labor put in to build these wonderful monuments to God, but none of them even touch the hem of the garment of what John saw on the Mt. of Transfiguration when he beheld the glory of Jesus. We need to see that glory too.
III. WE NEED TO REALIZE THAT WE HAVE A SHARE IN HIS GLORY
In John 17, Jesus prays that very wonderful prayer which he prayed just before Judas betrayed Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed for Himself, & for the apostles, & for all who would believe on Him because of the witness of the apostles.
In that prayer He mentions the glory of God 8 times. His prayer goes something like this, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” [John 17:1,4,5].
Then, a little bit later on, He prays for us, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”
It is a shared glory. That glory is something that we share because we are Christians – because we are born anew – because God works a change in each of our lives. Then we can share in the glory that John saw on that mountain.
But we need to watch out. There is a danger that the change might be a counterfeit change – not a transfiguration – not a transformation – but simply a masquerade that fools most of the world & maybe even ourselves.
I know that most of you know who Erma Bombeck was. In one article she wrote these words:
“Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything? My answer was `No.’ But then I thought about it & I’ve changed my mind. If I had my life to live over again I would wax less & listen more. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased & sprayed.
“I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained & the sofa faded. I would have eaten popcorn in the good living room & worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.
“I would have taken time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would have sat cross legged on the lawn with my children & never worried about the grass stains. I would have cried & laughed less while watching TV, & more while watching real life.
“I would have eaten less cottage cheese & more ice cream. I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, or would not show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
“When my child kissed me impetuously I would never have said, `Later. Now go & wash up for dinner.’ There would have been more `I love you’s; more `I’m sorry’s; more `I’m listening’s.
“But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it. Look at it & really see. Try it on. Live it. Exhaust it. And never give the minute back until there was nothing more left of it.”
It is not with great trumpets – or magnificent choirs – but in simple acts of service that we reflect & reveal the glory of God. Maybe it is while washing dishes at home, or vacuuming the carpet, or changing diapers, or caring for crying babies.
Maybe it is while driving on the highway, or when you display a different attitude than any of your coworkers at work. Maybe it is out there in a world that seems so alienated from God that you can just consistently day after day witness, share, reflect, & reveal the glory of God.
When Peter blurted out, “Let’s stay here on the mountain & build 3 tabernacles,” Jesus answered, “No, we’re not going to stay on the mountain. Down at the foot of the mountain there is a boy possessed with a demon, & a concerned father who has brought him. The boy is sick, & we need to be there more than we need to be here.”
So they went down from the mountain to heal a sick boy. They went out into the world to feed the hungry, save the lost, & bring the sheep back into the fold again, & to reveal His glory. We who are His disciples are called to do the same thing.
Maybe there are people here who need to make a decision for Jesus this morning. We would have you behold His glory & know that He wants to be your savior. We invite you to accept Him as Lord & master of your life, too.