(Thanks to my dear brother and friend Richard B. for inspiration on this one.)
A friend of mine raised an interesting question yesterday. Why was the Lord Jesus Christ transfigured?
"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While He yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. 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" (Matthew 17:1-7).
In the transfiguration, the inward glory of the Lord Jesus shined forth in a manifested way. I would suspect that a number of good reasons could be offered as to why this took place. Primary in my mind, however, is the fact just before the transfiguration, the Savior had begun to tell His disciples about the cross that He would soon bear for their sakes.
"From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee" (Matthew 16:21-22).
Peter and the other disciples were deeply disturbed by the notion of their beloved Master suffering and dying. Furthermore, the Jews believed that the Messiah would come to rule rather than be rejected and killed. In both personal and doctrinal terms, a suffering Savior did not fit into the disciples' intellectual concepts or emotional sensibilities. Therefore, the transfiguration confirmed to the three primary disciples - Peter, James, and John - that Jesus was the Christ, and that His coming suffering and death was not in contradiction with who He was. This would be vitally important for all Jewish believers, many of whom would frequently be tempted to return to the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) when the church began to be persecuted (the theme of the book of Hebrews).
There is a powerful implication for us in this blessed truth. Namely, the Lord Jesus will often not fit into our intellectual concepts and emotional sensibilities. God's way in our lives is often bewildering, and every believer will at some point (or points) be tempted to question, "Lord, if You love me, how can You have allowed this to happen to me?" The Lord Jesus Himself cried out on the cross of Calvary, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). Thus, the sons and daughters of God must be prepared for grievous challenge by seeing the greatness of our Savior. He must be transfigured before us, that is, His hidden glory must shine forth upon us and within us.
Such splendor is revealed to us by three primary means, the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the church of God. We read of the glory of the Lord Jesus in the Scriptures, and are amazed to discover how wonderful is our Savior. We see His glory as the Holy Spirit works in our lives and reveals Christ in ways that others may perhaps not see, but which shine for to us in unmistakable scenes of majesty. And our brothers and sisters often become the open portals through whom our risen Lord is displayed so beautifully that the mount of Transfiguration is rivaled in glory. Thereby the Word, the Spirit, and the church prepare us to survive and even thrive when the trials of life seem to challenge the reality of God's benevolent providence.
One day we shall see the Lord Jesus in the unhindered brightness of His glory. "We shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). Until that time, His glory will sometimes seem so veiled that we may be tempted to wonder if it exists at all. It does, and journeys into our own mounts of transfiguration as directed by our Heavenly Father will enable us to also to walk through the dark valleys as we share in fellowship of Christ's sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
"Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?"