No. 13

Matthew 17:9
And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
Mark 9:9,10
And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.
And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.
The account of the Transfiguration closes with the former verse.  But this verse seems to belong to the subject, and I shall employ our present opportunity in some observations upon it.  It contains an injunction of secrecy for a limited time, after which they were freely to declare what they had seen.
1. They were enjoined secrecy
May we humbly enquire why our Lord was pleased to forbid them to speak of it, till he should have risen from the dead.  It may afford us some instruction for our own conduct.  I conceive there might be several reasons:
  1.1 On account of the people
They daily saw Jesus conversing among them as a common, yea, as a poor man.  The scribes and Pharisees traduced him and treated him as an impostor.  Now the doctrine and miracles of our Lord in public, were suited to convince the unprejudiced that He was indeed a teacher sent from God – but his transfiguration was a point which, if it had been mentioned, must have depended on the testimony of the three disciples, who would hardly have been believed, when they could only say and not prove.  Afterwards when he had declared his power and glory by rising from the dead, and sent down his Spirit to confirm the words of his servants, the case was different – the disciples might enlarge upon our Lord's public works, and urge the testimonies of Scripture concerning him.  But they were directed not to take notice of this; having no such proof as the world would call for to offer, their bare assertion of such an extraordinary event might bring their sincerity into suspicion.  It seems still a good rule when conversing with unawakened people with a view to their good – to keep to such things as we can plainly prove from the Scripture.  And there may be some kinds of experiences which, for this reason, it would be improper to lay before worldly people, because, not being able to understand them, they would be more prejudiced against anything else we could say.
  1.2 On account of their fellow disciples
Lest they should be grieved and discouraged, as they probably would have been, for they, as well as we, had a mixture of Self, and were often contending who should be the greatest.  I have found such an evil in my heart, that when persons on whom I could depend have been speaking of comforts and manifestations beyond the line of my experience, I have felt for the time an anger and enmity against them, and a repining of spirit against the Lord.  Besides, I knew not but they would have absolutely disbelieved the relation.  It was perhaps upon one or both [of] these accounts, that when St Paul had been caught up into the third heavens, he kept it a secret in his own breast, for fourteen years, and it would probably have died with him, if he had not seen his duty to mention it for the sake of the Corinthians. [1]  We have cause to be glad that their conduct made it necessary for him to relate it.  From whence I would observe in general that there is a wisdom and caution to be used in speaking of our experiences – perhaps not all things, nor to all persons.  We should endeavour to suit what we tell them of ourselves to what we judge is their state and attainment.  Lest we discourage when we would comfort and offend when we would instruct.  So there are depths of Satan in a way of temptation, which are not so fit to be told to young converts, unless we know they are led something in the same way.
  1.3 On their own account
Such a favour as they had lately received, was very likely to open a door to spiritual pride, and if they had been suffered to speak of it, it would have been like adding fuel to fire.  We know their graces were but weak.  Now our Lord by enjoining them silence preserved them from a snare.  It is right and our duty to declare upon proper occasions, and within the bounds of prudence what God has done for our souls, but if he is pleased to lead us in an extraordinary way and to favour us with peculiar comforts, it is not always easy to preserve a right spirit when Self is nearly[closely] concerned.
2. They were only restrained, till he should rise from the dead 
In the meanwhile they understood not what he meant.  You see they had an extraordinary privilege upon the mount, above anything that we can expect, and yet in point of knowledge they were below the lowest of us.  Peter could not bear to hear of Christ's death and none of them could conceive what was meant by his rising again. [2]
  2.1 But the rising of Christ from the dead was properly the beginning of the Gospel kingdom.  Then he opened their understandings, gave them his Spirit, and commanded them to proclaim as on the housetops the things which they had heard in secret.
  2.2 Under this state which was established at his resurrection, we live – under the dispensation of the Spirit – now all things are made known to us – his transfiguration, his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension.  What was once hidden from the apostles for a season is made [known] to us.
1. Say not then, Though the love of the world now keeps me from professing the Gospel, if I had lived then I should surely have followed Jesus.  If any perish here it will not be for want of evidence.  If what you hear and say does not affect you, neither would you be persuaded though one should rise from the dead. [3]
2. Let not the troubled soul say, If I could have seen him, and been permitted to touch him and cast myself at his feet, surely he would have bid me go in peace; I should have believed.  Nay, indeed you have in some respects greater advantage than those who saw him in the flesh.  His word is himself – when you hear the promises, you hear him speak.  He is now in the midst of you.  Lift up your heart to him.  If his time is come, he will surely give you peace.  If not, continue waiting, and you shall surely find; he never bid any seek him in vain.
Transfig end

the end of discourses on the Transfiguration

[1] 2 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
[2] Matthew 16:22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
Mark 9:9,10 And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.
[3] Luke 16:31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(16), N40
Dr Timothy Underhill, Cambridge

Marylynn Rouse, 06/08/2020