No. 1

Matthew 17:1
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart.
Luke 9:28
And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Though our Lord Jesus in his humbled state, was despised and rejected by the unbelieving Jews, who judged only by his outward appearance, yet his true disciples beheld and acknowledged his glory.  There was such wisdom in his words, such power in his works, such grace and goodness in his whole conduct, such a virtue went from him – drawing, teaching and comforting their hearts – that they could say, We believe and are sure Thou art the Christ. [1]  On some occasions he made a more signal and open display of his glory, and in a peculiar sense manifested himself to them as he did not to the world.  This was eminently the case at the solemn and memorable season of his transfiguration, recorded by three Evangelists.  It seems a subject well suited to strengthen the faith, and promote the edification of his people.  And with these views, I would attempt to assist your meditations on it.  I may say as the woman of Samaria, The well is deep. [2]  In going through the passage, we shall perhaps be led to speak of some of the most important and difficult points both of doctrine and experience.  Here, I think, if anywhere, we have cause to pray with the Psalmist, Open thou my eyes, that I may see the great things of thy law. [3]  May this be the desire of all our hearts, and may the Lord afford a gracious answer. 
The transfiguration of Christ is recorded by three Evangelists, which does not make the fact more authentic and sure than if mentioned by one only, but seems to intimate its importance, and to point it out to our more special attention.  And each of them has recorded some circumstance not so distinctly mentioned by the rest.  For they did not consult together or copy one from the other.  There is a difference though no disagreement in their relations, which instead of being an objection, is a strong proof of their sincerity, and that each one wrote from a sufficient knowledge and information under the direction of the unerring Spirit.
If the reasons are enquired, why our Lord was transfigured upon the mount, though we must not expect by searching to find out his work to perfection, we may humbly suppose some of the reasons to be:
1. To confirm the disciples' faith and that they might afterwards declare themselves eyewitnesses of his glory (2 Peter 3:16,17)[2 Peter 1:16,17 surely intended]. [4]
2. To exhibit a proof to them, of the realities of the unseen world, against the cavils of Sadducees and infidels.
3. To give them a pattern of that glory in which his people shall be raised at the last day (Philippians 3:21). [5]
The verse I have read introduces the account, and we may consider from it, the circumstances as:
1. The time
After 6 days or, as Luke, about 8 days, the one excluding the other including the day when he spoke the words which close the foregoing chapter which undoubtedly refer to this event, in part at least, as they stand in the same connection in the three accounts.  We may observe:
  1.1 It was soon after Peter's noble confession, [Matthew] chapter 16:16. [6]  Thus the Lord rewards his people's faith with farther discoveries, as he promised to Nathaniel (John 1:50). [7]  Surely if we could give him more of the honour due to his name, by steadfast believing, he would show us more of his glory.  We are not straightened in him, but in ourselves.  It may be said even of his own people too often that because of their unbelief he does no greater things amongst them.  Let us pray for more faith, that we may have more comfort.
  1.2 It was soon after he had so expressly spoken of his sufferings, which Peter could not bear only to hear of, and which, when they came on him, put all his disciples to a stand.  This was therefore a seasonable and gracious discovery to prepare and strengthen them for their approaching trial.  And thus he is often pleased to confirm and strengthen his people for an hour of trouble.  And when he is pleased to favour them with peculiar nearness and sweetness, and to shine remarkably upon their souls, they may ordinarily expect a trial is at hand.
  1.3 It was soon after he had been enforcing the necessity of self-denial, [Matthew] chapter 16:24. [8]  This may teach us, that the knowledge of Christ in his power, glory and love, is the great means to make self-denial necessary and pleasant.
2. The persons
Peter, James and John.  It does not become us to enquire too curiously why he admitted only three of his disciples to be witnesses of his glory, or why these three rather than any of the rest.  Yet since we are told it was his pleasure so to do, it may be proper to draw an observation or two from this circumstance.
  2.1 I do not lay any stress upon the number three.  It is plain that on several occasions these three were distinguished from the others.  Some think because they were more eminent for grace – if they were so, I should rather judge this was the effect rather than the cause of the preference the Lord gave them.  They who are most with him will be most like him.  It is true humble, diligent waiting, is the way to enjoy peculiar nearness, but we can render nothing to him, but what we first receive from him.  It is sufficient to say he has a right to do what he will with his own.  He admitted these three to a nearer intimacy and John was favoured beyond them all (John 13:23). [9]  He is called, by way of eminence, the disciple whom Jesus loved, though he loved them all.  So he loves all his people, yet makes a difference between some and others, in providence, in grace, in comforts.  Some have two talents, some five, some of the good ground bears thirtyfold, other 60, other 100.  All according to his wise appointment, and yet so as that there is encouragement for everyone in the use of means, to open their mouths wide, and desire the best things, an abundance of grace and peace, and the fruits of holiness.  They who seek shall surely find. However, these apostles were not without their faults.  Peter was often wrong, and afterwards denied him.  James and John would have called fire from heaven. [10]  His favours are all of grace.
  2.2 These were appointed witnesses of his passion.  They saw him in his agony, and therefore he first gave them a view of his glory.  If their joy was now great – their sorrow after was proportionable.  It seems the Lord generally keeps a balance in the experiences of his people.  They who have the strongest comforts have the sharpest conflicts; they who have the strongest trials have the most powerful supports.  Thus as in the gathering of the Manna, they that have much have nothing over, they that have little have no lack.  If he gives great enlargement and consolation he will send something to keep us humble and low; if he calls to great temptations, he will give cordials that we be not swallowed up or overmuch sorrow.
  2.3 Perhaps he distinguished these three, that by his example he might sanctify and authorise our Christian friendships.  If we love the Lord Jesus, we are bound to love all his people, and to love them with a pure heart fervently.  But with respect to intimacy we are not bound to treat them all alike, nor is it possible in the present state of things to do so.  A suitableness in temper, in way of life, and many occasions of connection in the course of his providence, lead us into greater nearness of affection with some than with others.  And our practice herein, while we keep within Scripture bounds, and do not set up our friends as idols, is unanswerably justified, by the conduct our Lord observed himself.  Thus he graciously suited himself to our circumstances in all respects.
We can proceed no farther at present.  Let me close with entreating each of you to consider whether you are yet in the number of Christ's disciples – if not as one of the three or one of the twelve, yet a sincere follower.  Otherwise how will you appear before him in the day when he shall be revealed in all his glory to gather his people to himself?

[1] John 6:69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
[2] John 4:11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
[3] Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
[4] ‘2 Peter 3:16,17’ was surely intended to be 2 Peter 1:16,17 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. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
[5] Philippians 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
[6] Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
[7] John 1:50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
[8] Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
[9] John 13:23 Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
[10] Luke 9:54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(16), N40

Marylynn Rouse, 06/08/2020