Glory and Majesty Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
May 26, 2008
Glory and Majesty
I want to read a passage of Scripture that I imagine is familiar to most of you. It’s 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." Any student of biology could tell you that 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 was 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 afternoon 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?
FIRST, 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, because "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.
Have you ever wondered how the other apostles reacted when Peter said that? Did they all join in, saying, "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’re bad & good when we’re 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 and 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 the past.
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. Jesus was a great teacher; I believe He was the greatest who ever lived. That’s one reason for Him coming to earth; to train His apostles on what they were to do when He was gone. And it’s for us too! We must live our lives by those teachings. But if He was only a man who was a great teacher, He wouldn’t be able to satisfy God’s demand for a sinless sacrifice.
And what could we base our hope of heaven on? Jesus is God and He did die to save sinful men and women.
Do you realize how blessed we are week after week to be able to meet together & 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.
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.