No. 4

Matthew 17:2
And was transfigured before them:
and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
The transfiguration of Christ is so called, with reference to his ordinary appearance while conversant among men.  With respect to his own original glory, a ray of which he was pleased at this time to reveal to his disciples, we may say that he was transfigured, when for our sakes he took upon him the form of a servant, and was seen in the likeness of sinful flesh, that is, in an obscure condition, with nothing to distinguish him, as to his outward form, from a common man.  So that by multitudes he was either unnoticed or despised.  So if the sun for a season should be emptied of its light and we could discern nothing of it but a dark surface, like a common cloud, we might say it was transfigured, and if we saw it shine again, it would only be, with the light that properly belonged to it.  Thus the Lord Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, [1] emptied himself, veiled the beams of his glory, and became of no reputation. [2]  Here for a little season, he was pleased to shine forth, and his disciples beheld his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. [3]  May we with that humility which becomes us, when searching into the deep things of God, enquire into the design and ends of this peculiar dispensation.
His face shone as the sun, and such a glory beamed forth from his whole body, that his ordinary raiment was, if I may so speak, transfigured likewise, not changed, and became exceeding white as the snow, and shining like the light.  The Evangelists express it by comparisons yet so as to intimate that all comparisons fall short.  Now:
1. This was a declaration of his glory
  1.1 Of his personal glory
His divine glory as the Word of God, can only be represented to the eyes of men, by an emblem or token.  So the Lord revealed himself in the temple and tabernacle which was a token of his presence.  For he cannot be seen as he is by mortal eyes.  Now the various expressions used in this description, seem plainly designed to teach us, that this was the most signal and eminent outward display of the glory of God, that had been ever vouchsafed.  The Scriptures of the New Testament were not yet written.  Therefore the Lord favoured his disciples with a sight of his glory, for the confirmation of their faith, and that they might speak and write as eye-witnesses of his Majesty.  Now we have his Word complete, he reveals his glory not to the eye but to the heart – to the eye of faith.  O that we could all thus perceive him.
  1.2 Of the glory of his grace
This is his peculiar glory – grace and truth came by JC[Jesus Christ]. Here the Lord was manifest upon the mount.  But how different was this from Sinai – when the mountain was covered with flames and smoke, and trembled to the foundations, and the sound of the trumpet and thunder struck terror into Moses himself.[ 4]  How great the difference between the prospect of devouring fire, and the cheerful though glorious shining of the Sun – the one is the glory of the law, the other of the Gospel.
    1.2.1 Let not the convinced soul fear.
    1.2.2 Take heed how any despise (Hebrews 10:28). [5]
  1.3 Of his pre-eminence as Mediator above Moses
When Moses' face shone, it was easily concealed by a veil – not so Jesus.  The one was the servant, the other Lord.
2. It was a solemn attestation to his office as Mediator
When he was transfigured there came a voice (Luke 9:35). [6]  There was the like voice at his baptism, and the Spirit of God pointed him out, but he was not transfigured then.  That was in the presence of the multitude; this was to his own disciples apart from the world.  Answerable to this we may observe:
  2.1 There is a manifestation of the power of God, witnessing to the character and office of Christ, as set forth in the Gospel, that is more ordinary and common, which often convinces the conscience, though it does not change the heart.  How many like Felix hear and tremble – perhaps are offended with the light and say they will come no more, and yet they are, as it were, constrained to attend to hear the same things.  It is a proof this word is of God, that it is not of man's devising, or it would not have this effect.  No other doctrine, though perhaps much more palatable to the carnal heart, will draw and hold so many people together.
  2.2 There is a spiritual witness to the Gospel which not only points out the Lord Jesus as the Saviour, but reveals his glory to the soul.  And they who thus behold him must and do believe in him, and are made his willing people.  And where something of this is not seen, no convictions or profession will be abiding or saving.  We are by nature stark blind to the glory of Jesus as Mediator, nor can any descriptions make us understand it, till the Lord is pleased to open the eyes of the mind.
3. It was a confirmation to their faith
To show them how easily their Lord could put forth his power, and act beyond that obscure appearance in which they daily saw him.  They were shortly to behold him given up into the hands of wicked men.  At such a time the remembrance of what they had seen upon the mount, was suited to support their spirits, and to encourage them to hope for an happy issue.  As his person was then treated with contempt and opposition, so is his Gospel now.  It is accounted foolishness – but the Lord has given us some instances of what he can do by it, which, like the transfiguration, should establish our hearts, and keep us from being offended.  There is sometimes a season of glory, a day of divine power vouchsafed, when God as it were sets his own seal to his own Word.
4. This was an earnest of his future glory and of our resurrection.
  4.1 Of his future glory
After he had accomplished his work, he entered into glory.  He is sat down at the right hand of God.  In that nature in which he suffered, he reigns.  Thus we should see him now could our sight pierce through the veil.  Thus faith views him.  Thus, believer, you shall see him, not for a few minutes as the three disciples did, but forever.  This is the heaven we look for, to see Jesus as he is and to be like him.
  4.2 Of our resurrection
As has been observed from Philippians 3:21, [7] he assumed our nature and became our Head, that he might be conformable to us in sufferings, and we to him in glory.  He took our evil, and gives us his good.  What an exchange!
Let this:
1. Teach us to be content to follow Jesus in sufferings.
2. Glorify God with soul and body which are his.

[1] Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
[2] Philippians 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
[3] John 1:14 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.
[4] Hebrews 12:21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:
[5] Hebrews 10:28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
[6] Luke 9:35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
[7] 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.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(16), N40

Marylynn Rouse, 06/08/2020