No. 12

Matthew 17:6-8
And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face,
and were sore afraid.
And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
Though the voice from the cloud was full of grace and encouragement, yet the disciples when they heard it were sore afraid.  I have spoken something already concerning that holy awe which the best of men feel and must feel while in this mortal state when they are favoured, when they are favoured with peculiar manifestations of the glory and presence of God.  It arises partly from the frailty of our nature – which would shrink and faint and die if the Lord did not graciously accommodate himself to our weakness – and partly from the remains of sin and unbelief.  I proposed this as a trial of our spirits and experiences.  The more we see of the Lord, the more we shall be humbled before him.  When people can talk of comforts and discoveries, in a light and trifling frame of spirit, if instead of being filled with wonder and humiliation at the thought of his condescension they seemed to be puffed up with a high conceit of themselves, there is reason to suspect that they know but little either of him or of themselves.  We read how Abraham, Job, Isaiah and Daniel, how the Apostles Paul and John were affected on the like occasions, and how it was with these disciples.  Their examples may help us to judge of ourselves – for though we do not now expect to hear a voice out of the clouds, yet when the Lord speaks to the heart and reveals his power and g[glory] there, the effects will be something in this way.  But having observed this before I shall only add upon this point: if the disciples, who, according to the divine command, sincerely followed, loved, obeyed and depended on the Lord Jesus, where[were] thus afraid at hearing the voice which spoke grace and peace and a confirmation of their hopes – what fearfulness, what terror, will surprise the wicked, when they shall hear the voice from heaven which shall summon them to the tribunal.  Behold he cometh in the clouds and every eye shall see him.
For the rest we have:
1. The gracious readiness and compassion of the Lord Jesus to relieve the fears of his disciples.  He immediately came to them, not in the glory of his transfiguration, which was now suppressed, but as they had been accustomed to see him; he touched them and said, Arise and be not afraid.  Observe:
  1.1 The Lord is always near and always attentive to his people 
If any that love him, are cast down and sore afraid (and such cases are very common) he takes notice of them.  It is not his will that they should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.  He has an appointed hour when he will surely come to them.  It is one of the titles by which he is known, The Comforter of those that are cast down. [1]
  1.2 They could not recover themselves till he came to them   
Believers are compared to children: a little matter will throw them down, but they cannot rise without help.  Troubles and fears they easily receive, but he alone has power to comfort them.  All their strength and sufficiency is in and from him.  But they learn this lesson slowly. When he holds them up they are ready to think they stand alone, and that they shall never be moved – by repeated experience they come to know that they are nothing.
  1.3 He touched them
Great was the power when he touched any in the days of his flesh.  So he opened the eyes of the blind.  And when the woman touched him she was healed of her plague.  There was a great crowd who pressed and thronged him, and therefore could not but touch him; the woman's was a peculiar and intentional touch.  So when he touched, power and virtue went forth. [2]  We touch him by faith.  He touches us by applying to our hearts.  Many throng him, as it were, in public worship – but they are happy who truly touch him.  When he touched the disciples they were revived and strengthened and freed from their fears.
  1.4 He said, Be not afraid 
And his word is effectual.  As when he said to the sea, Peace be still, there was a great calm. [3]  Thus he can calm the spirits of his people in a moment.   
You that have received the testimony God has given of his Son – though you find fightings and fears, be not discouraged.  Wait upon him and wait for him; in due time you shall hear his voice and feel his power.
2. When they arose they found the whole of the late extraordinary appearance was withdrawn – they saw no man, save Jesus only. 
  2.1 The design was answered, which was only intended to bear witness to his character and to confirm their faith in him.  This is the end of all means and ordinances, not to be rested in, but to lead the soul to him.  Like the star which guided the wise men at his nativity.  Young converts are subject to attend too much to things which are only valuable so far as they help us to know more of Jesus – means and frames and ministers – but when they grow more experienced, though they will always value what he has appointed (in the proper place), yet it is he himself and he alone in whom they rejoice and glory.
  2.2 What they had seen was extraordinary, but the continuance was short.  It is in general so, of all those seasons of refreshment with which the Lord favours his people.  They are but visits.  We must not abide always upon the mount, though we think it would be good to be there.  We must serve and suffer for God in the world – fill up our appointed stations in life and let our light shine before men to his praise.  We must know not only what the Lord is, but what we are ourselves – therefore changes are appointed.  But though dispensations vary, his love and grace are the same. 

[1] John 14:26,27 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
[2] Luke 8:43-46 And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
[3] Mark 4:39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(16), N40

Marylynn Rouse, 06/08/2020