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him, saying, Why then say the Scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.—Matt. xvii. 1-13.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE. Jesus, thou Releaser of them that are in captivity; thou Restorer of them that are lost; thou Hope of them that are in exile ; thou inexhaustible Source of all virtues and graces ; thou eternal Son of the Father; thou “in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead;" thou Life, by whose genial influence every living creature lives, and by the communication of whose rays it is, that thousands of millions of glorious spirits preserve the brightness shed by thee on them, and on the glittering hosts of heaven that stand around the throne of glory, shed abroad the cheering light of thy sevenfold grace over my heart !
Behold here together the three greatest persons that ever were the ministers of heaven: Moses, under God, the institutor and promulgator of the law; Elias, the great reformer of it, when under its deepest degeneracy and corruption; and the blessed Jesus, the Son of God, who came to take away what was weak and imperfect, and to introduce a more rational institution, and to communicate the last revelation which God would make of his mind to the world.
BISHOP JEREMY TAYLOR.
There is not, in all divinity, a higher speculation than this of Christ transfigured. Suffer, me, therefore, to lead you up by the hand into Mount Tabor, for nearer to heaven ye cannot come, while ye are upon earth ; that you may see him glorious upon earth, the region of his shame and abasement, who is now glorious in heaven, the throne of his Majesty.
All three evangelists accord that it was immediately after those words, There be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the Son of Man come in his kingdom; wherein, methinks, the act comments upon the words. Peter, James, and John, were these some : they tasted not of death, till they saw this heavenly image of the royalty of Christ glorified.
Behold how Christ entered upon all his great works with prayers in his mouth. When he was to enter into that great work of his humiliation in his Passion, he went into the garden to pray; when he is to enter into this great work of his exaltation in his transfiguring, he went up into the mountain to pray: he was taken up from his knees to both. He had eternally possessed the glory of his Father without any witnesses; in time the angels were blessed with that sight; and, after that, two bodily, yet heavenly, witnesses were allowed, Enoch and Elias : now in his humanity he was invested with glory, he takes but three witnesses, and those earthly and weak, Peter, James, and John.
These were the attendants ; see the companions of Christ. As our glory is not consummate without society, no more would Christ have his; therefore his Transfiguration hath two companions, Moses and Elias. Heaven could not give two fitter companions, more admirable to the Jews for their miracles, more gracious with God for their faith and holiness: both of them admitted to the conference with God in Horeb; both of them types of Christ; both of them fasted forty days; both of them for the glory of God suffered many perils; both divided the waters ; both the messengers of God to kings; both of them marvellous, as in their life so in their end.
Doubtless many thousand angels saw this sight, and were not seen ; these two both saw and were seen. Oh, how great a happiness was it for these two great prophets, in their glorified flesh, to see their glorified Saviour, who before his Incarnation had spoken to them! — to speak to that Man of God, of whom they were glorified, and to become prophets, not to men, but to God I
Before, the disciples' eyes were dazzled with glory; now, the brightness of that glory is shaded with a cloud. Suddenly they hear a voice sounding out of that cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear him. They need not be told whose that voice was; the place, the matter evinced it. No angel in heaven could or durst have said so. How gladly doth Peter afterwards recount it! 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, hear him.
Twice hath God spoken these words to his own Son from Heaven : once, in his Baptism; and now again, in his Transfiguration. Here not without some oppositive comparison; not Moses, not Elias, but this, Moses and Elias were servants, this a Son : Moses and Elias were sons, but of grace and choice; this is that Son, the Son by nature. Other sons are beloved, as of favour and free election ; this is The Beloved, as in the unity of his essence.
This one voice proclaims Christ, at once the Son of God, the Reconciler of the World, the Doctor and Lawgiver of his Church. As the Son of God, he is essentially interested in his love; as he is the Reconciler of the World in whom God is well pleased, he doth most justly challenge our love and adherence; as he is the Doctor and Lawgiver, he doth justly challenge our audience, our obedience. Even so, Lord, teach us to hear and obey thee, as our Teacher ; to love thee, and believe in thee, as our Reconciler; and as the eternal Son of thy Father, to adore thee.
The light caused wonder in the disciples; but the voice, astonishment. They are all fallen down upon their faces. Who can blame a mortal man to be thus affected with the voice of his Maker ?
They looking up, saw no man, save Jesus alone; and that, doubtless, in his wonted form. All were now gone ; Moses, Elias, the cloud, the voice, the glory, - Moses and Elias are gone; only Christ is left. The glory of the law and prophets was but temporary, yea momentary; that only Christ may remain to us entire and conspicuous. Neither could these raised disciples find any miss of Moses and Elias, when they had Christ still with them. Had Jesus been gone, and left either Moses or Elias, or both, in the mount with his disciples, that presence, though glorious, could not have comforted them : now that they are gone, and he is left, they cannot be capable of discomfort. O Saviour, it matters not who is away, while thou art with us! Thou art God All-sufficient : what can we want when we want not thee?
· How glorious and delightful was this view of our blessed Redeemer, which the apostles had when he was transfigured before them, clothed, as it were, with the Divine Shechinah, and shining with a lustre like that of the sun! How pleasing and how edifying must it be to them to see with him Moses and Elijah, those two eminent saints, who had so many ages ago quitted our world, but whose names they had often read in the sacred records with wonder and reverence.
Well might Peter say, It is good for us to be here! Well might he be contented to resign his entertainments and his hopes elsewhere, that they might prolong these delightful moments, feasting their eyes with these divine visions, and their minds with these more than human discourses. Nor can we wonder that the scene, transitory as it was, left so abiding a savour on his spirits, that in an epistle which he wrote many years after, and but a little before his death, he should single this story from a thousand others to attest it as he does, and to argue from it. (See 2 Pet. i. 16-18.) But oh! how much more desirable is it to stand upon Mount Zion, and to behold those brighter glories which our Jesus wears in the heavenly regions! To behold, not merely Moses and Elijah, but all the prophets, the apostles, and martyrs; and, in a word, all the saints of God in every age, whether to us personally known or unknown, surrounding him in a radiant circle ; and not only to behold them, but to converse with them. Lord, it is good for us to be there, in our desires at least, and in our meditations, till thou pleasest to call us to that happy world, where no drowsiness will cloud our eyes, where no hurry will discompose our thoughts, but where the perfection of holiness and of love shall cast out every degree of terror, as well as of sorrow.
In the mean time, let us reverently attend to that Saviour who appeared in this majestic form, and who comes recommended to us with so many testimonials of his Divine authority. He was again declared, by a voice from heaven, to be the beloved Son of God: as such let us hear him, receiving all his revelations with the assurance of faith, and all his commands with the obedience of love. If these sentiments govern our hearts and our lives, the thoughts of that departure from this world which we are shortly to accomplish, will be no grief or terror to our souls. Like our blessed Master, we may connect the views of it, and intermix discourse upon it, with the most delightful enjoyments and converse; nay, it will serve to render them yet more pleasing. For who would not long to be made conformable to Christ, even in his sufferings and death, if it may be a means of transforming us into the resemblance of his glories ?
“ This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” Here we have the great gospel-mystery revealed : “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This was the very same that was spoken from heaven at his baptism : — Matt. iii. 7. — and it was the best news that ever came from heaven to earth since man sinned. It is to the same purport with that great doctrine, 2 Cor. v. 19. “ God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” Moses and Elias were great men, and favourites of heaven, yet they were but servants, and servants that God was not always well pleased in : for Moses spake unadvisedly, and Elias was a man subject to passions : but Christ is a Son, and in him God was always well pleased. Moses and Elias were sometimes instruments of reconciliation between God and Israel. Moses was a great intercessor, and Elias a great reformer: but in Christ, God is reconciling the world : his intercession is more prevalent than that of Moses, and his reformation more effectual than that of Elias.
The great gospel duty required, and it is the condition of our benefit by Christ: “ Hear ye him.” God is well pleased with none in Christ, but those who hear him. We must hear him, as the great Prophet and Teacher ; hear him and be ruled by him, as the great Prince and Lawgiver. God does here, as it were, turn us over to Christ for all the revelations of his mind : and it refers to that prediction concerning the “ Prophet God would raise up like unto Moses.”—Deut. xviii. 18.
Moses and Elias were now with him, the law and the prophets : hitherto it was said, “ Hear them.” — Luke xvi. 29. The disciples were ready to equal them with Christ, when they must have tabernacles for them as well as for him. “No,” saith God, “hear Him,” and that is enough: Him, and not Moses and Elias : they were willing to see all their interest transferred to Christ, that “ in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” Be not troubled that Moses and Elias make so short a stay with you; hear Christ, and you will not want them.
Christ gave the disciples charge to keep the vision very private for the present. « Tell it no man till the Son of Man is risen.” If they had proclaimed it, the credibility of it would have been shocked by his sufferings. Christ observed a method in the manifestation of himself: would have his works put together, mutually to explain and illustrate each other, that they might appear in their full strength and convincing evidence. Every thing is beautiful in its season. Christ's resurrection was properly the beginning of the gospel state and kingdom, to which all before was but preparatory and by way of preface. Rev. MATTHEW HENRY. . Our Lord took those three whom he honoured with peculiar regard, and “ brought them up into a high mountain apart,” and manifested to them his glory, the glory which he had with his Father, before the world was. A simple account of what could not be adequately described. Nothing on earth, nothing seen by mortal eyes, can equal the brightness.
How wonderful and how inspiring is the thought, that this brightness, this glory, is prepared for those who here belong to Christ Jesus ! Paul assures us, that He “ shall raise our vile body, that it may be made like unto his glorious body.” Christ was “ made flesh," as ourselves : he bore the body of earth. We bear the image of the earthy : but on the mount where this wonderful transfiguration took place, Christ put on the appearance of “ incorruption,” of “ glory,” of “ power :" the glory and power of the celestial body. So likewise will his true and faithful disciples.
We may unite with the apostle in these words, “ It is good for us to be here :" to be where he was, and where he wished to remain, in the company of Christ Jesus, and of Elias, and of Moses. We are with Moses and Elias while we walk, as they walked, in all the ordinances and commandments of the law blameless. We are with Christ Jesus while we abide in his faith. He is one with us, and we with him. He has said, 6. If any man love me, he will keep my words : and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
The interpreters of the law were right in expecting, that one typified under the title of Elijah, (see Mal. iii. 1.; iv. 5.) “ a burning and shining light in a dark age and country,” should precede the coming of the great Deliverer. But they had not perceived that this prophecy was already accomplished in the ministry of John the Baptist. He had « restored all things ;” that is, he had established them in the state in which they must needs be when Christ appeared ; he had called men to repentance, the first step towards restoration, and awakened the hearts of those who had ears to hear.
But the error of the apostles reminds us how much of the meaning of Scripture, how much of its spiritual force, how much of its personal application, may be unperceived, unless, through the grace of its Divine Author, it is brought home to our minds. May he so “ open our eyes," that we may see the wondrous things of his law ! BISHOP J. B. SUMNER.
The apostle Peter, adverting to this memorable occurrence, says, “ We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses 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. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” — 2 Pet. i. 16-18. This event is to be considered : 1. As a solemn confirmation of the prophetic office of Christ. 2. As designed to support the faith of the disciples, which was to be deeply tried by his approaching humiliations; and to afford consolation to the human nature of our Lord himself, by giving him a foretaste of “ the joy set before him.” 3. As an emblem of humanity glorified at the resurrection. 4. As declaring Christ