In the last chapter, our Savior forbade His disciples to be expecting any restoration of earthly dominion to the nation of Israel by His earthly ministry; and He promised them, at the same time, that some standing there would not taste of death until they had seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. This promise was fulfilled in what is called His Transfiguration; for herein He gave them, it seems, some idea of what He meant by “his kingdom” (verse 28). In His Transfiguration, there was a visible outward change of that natural body which He had as the Son of Man, to a glorified body such as He now has in heaven. In so much of this glory as mortal eyes might see, He appeared for a short time to Peter, James, and John on the “high mountain.” And with Him were also seen Moses and Elijah – representing, to the understanding of the Jews, the connection that exists between the law, the prophets, and Christ.
This heavenly sight overwhelmed the three beholders. The voice that came from heaven even caused them to fall flat on their faces in fear. They were in the immediate presence of God and listening to the Father’s voice! Well might they lie low and tremble. But then “Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.” The Savior had seemed to go away from them, lost in a cloud of brightness; but now he “came and touched them.” His communion with pure heavenly spirits did not make Him disdain the touch of feeble flesh. O the sweet comfort of that gentle touch! It aroused, consoled, and strengthened His amazed and trembling disciples. The touch of Christ’s Manhood is more reassuring to poor flesh and blood than the blaze of the Divine Godhead. And what did the disciples see when they opened their eyes? Moses, Elijah, and the beautiful brightness had all gone away; and they had all come back to their common-place life with Jesus. “They saw no man”; but they had lost nothing, since Jesus remained.
As Jesus and His three disciples were coming down from the mountain, He told them to tell no one what they had seen. What they had seen would confirm their own confidence, and remain a secret spring of delight to them; but since it would require great faith in others to believe it, they were to “tell the vision to no man.” The Transfiguration would be as hard to believe as the Incarnation itself; and until the greatest confirmation of all was given in our Lord’s resurrection, the vision on this holy mountain would be more of a burden than a support of the faith of those who did not personally see it. But now that the Son of Man has risen again from the dead, no doctrine needs to be kept back!
Meanwhile, while Jesus and the three disciples had been on the mountaintop, the rest of the disciples had vainly tried to cure a lunatic; but when Jesus arrived on the scene, He rebuked the devil and the child was cured immediately (verses 14-21). Here is a picture of Christ’s undertaking to be our Redeemer. It encourages parents to lay both the physical and spiritual needs of their sons and daughters at the feet of Christ, for He is able and willing to help and heal them. Not only must we bring them to Christ by prayer; but we must also bring them to His written Word, by which Satan’s strongholds in the soul are beaten down.
Again and again, our Lord reminded His disciples that He would be “betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again” (verses 22-23). There was no point which they were so reluctant to believe as the fact that He would suffer, and there was no point which He was more anxious to impress upon their minds. The text here tells us that “they were exceeding sorry.” They did not understand how, by His death, He would secure life eternal for them. Let us take care in our religion, so that we may be kept from looking too much at “the things which are seen” (2 Cor. 4:18) in this present world, instead of at the prospects which it gives for the next. Let us remember that we must suffer with Christ, if we would also be “glorified together” (Rom. 8:17).
While Jesus and His disciples were at Capernaum, those who collected the tribute-money came to Peter and asked him, “Doth not your master pay tribute?” (verses 24-27) This was a head-tax that was collected by the Jews for the support and upkeep of the Temple. Peter was out-of-doors at the time, and he gave a quick reply in the affirmative. Little did he imagine that Jesus would note what he had said, and tell him of it as soon as he had come into the house; but so it came to pass. The Savior made it clear to him that a king’s subjects, and especially the foreigners under his rule, must pay tax; but his sons and daughters of royal blood are free. Therefore, just as earthly kings do not tax their own children, neither ought Christ to have been asked for tribute to support the house of His heavenly Father. Nevertheless, even though this tribute was not justly due from Christ, He paid the demand; for He did not want to give the Jews any needless cause of stumbling or offence. But here we observe that the Savior and His chosen followers did not have the means to pay this small demand, without recourse to a miraculous supply. Only He Who knows all things could know how the piece of money could be lodged in the fish’s mouth, and only He Whose power is almighty could bring it to Peter’s fishhook. If we are called by Providence to be poor like our Lord, then we may rest assured that He will use His power to supply all our need, according to His riches in glory.
We praise You, Lord Jesus, as Jehovah’s beloved Son, in Whom He is well-pleased. Thank You for Your gentle strengthening touch as we behold Your majesty! Amen.
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