It was a high privilege for Peter, James, and John to witness the Transfiguration of their Lord, which was a foretaste – or first beginning – of what Jesus spoke of in verse 1: “the kingdom of God” coming “with power.” It was a high privilege for them to witness it; nor is it a small matter for us to hear their account of it, as it is here set down in these words of the Gospel (verses 1-13). When we read how suddenly Jesus was transfigured; and how soon He was seen in this altered state, together with Moses and Elijah – we should be made sensible as to how vain all this world’s objects are. Their luster is false, and their continuance is transitory; but behind the veil they make, there is the Kingdom of God – a world of excellence unutterable! To that heavenly Kingdom, we might be introduced in a single moment by the summons of our Lord. There we shall find Moses and Elijah and many others, in constant communion with Christ. It is good for us to feel that it would be a blessing for us to be there! And the longer we can uphold ourselves in such thoughts as these, the more we shall be inclined to desire this heavenly change. The more we meditate upon that spiritual universe, the better we shall be prepared to enter into its enjoyment, and the better we shall be prepared for that blessed company of saints and angels and of Christ Himself! But alas! This heavenly state of mind – which turns from things that are seen, to think upon things that are unseen – is frequently interrupted. Suddenly we look around, and we find ourselves still upon the earth. Instead of being spiritually present with that blissful assembly in heaven, we find ourselves beset with the cares and companions of this lower world. We turn from meditation and prayer, and from these tidings of Christ’s bright transfiguration in the Gospel-record; and we go to our meals, or to our jobs and callings, or to thoughts of this life’s pleasures, or to the talk of this world’s news. But just as the Apostles lost sight of all the rest, but still saw Jesus “with themselves”; let us also endeavor, in all we do and say and think, to still see Christ as being present in our midst – no matter what earthly business we are occupied in. Since we are one of His children, He is with us “alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). Each hour of our lives, each duty that we do, each meal that we eat, and each word that we utter – we should remember that we are in His presence, under the influence of His counsel, and in the hope of His glory.
During our Lord’s absence, the rest of the disciples had occasion to experience their entire dependence upon His help. When He came down from the mountain, He found a great multitude gathered together; and the scribes were questioning them because they could not succeed in casting a demon out of a boy that was brought to them. The father of the lad had grown despondent at the disciples’ lack of success, and he even seemed to doubt the ability of Jesus Himself; but the power of Christ was thus illustrated in His healing of one who had been deemed incurable for so long, and whom His Apostles had tried in vain to heal.
While passing through Galilee, our Lord avoided all public notice. And where He might have received men’s homage for His mighty works, He rather occupied Himself in preparing His disciples to expect His approaching sufferings (verses 30-37). After the tidings of His death, our Lord comforted His disciples by the assurance of His resurrection. But while they should have been applying their Lord’s discourse to their spiritual edification, it seems that they were instead disputing with each other as they journeyed about “who should be the greatest.” Thus they had transgressed two of the most plain points of Christian duty: humility and love – humility, by each one of them desiring to be the greatest; and love, by their disputing about it. And they did this even when Christ was close by to them – although they probably reckoned that He was out of hearing. Let us learn from the words of Christ that this conduct is not only the height of folly, but it is also the height of sin. Let us look at the little child whom He set before us; and let us remember that “whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.”
John seems to have thought that he and the other disciples had done well by forbidding someone else, who was not part of their own group, to cast out devils in the name of Christ (verse 38-50). Surely this was a far cry from conformity to our Lord’s injunction of receiving even a little child in His name. Let us never forbid those who attempt to do anything in Christ’s name. Any kindness shown to them, even though it may be no more than a cup of cold water, will in no way lose its reward; for they belong to Christ. And terrible punishment will be meted out by Him to any and all persons who offend and tempt one of His little ones to sin. Yes, they may have their deficiencies, mistakes, and failings; but nevertheless, we are bound to feel a brother’s anxiety for them, that they may not perish.
From the peril of thus offending a brother or sister in Christ, our attention is next turned to the risk of offending and tempting ourselves by hand, foot, or eye. Anything that leads us to sin, and encourages us to transgress the will of God, must be cast off from us – even if it is as dear to us as our right hand or right eye.
Lord, forgive us for the times when we have been guilty of striving to have the mastery over our brothers and sisters. Cause our pride and love of self to be exchanged for a broken, contrite, repentant heart! Amen.
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