Jesus Glistens With Glory
The passage I read you today is often called "The Mount Of The Transfiguration." The same narrative is recorded in both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark respectively. There is a commonality visible in the three gospel accounts. This story is placed just before the preliminary announcement of the Lord's passion. A number of the words are different in each gospel, but first of all comes the confession of faith by Peter. In Luke's gospel, Peter gives the answer, "You are the messiah from God," to the question posed by the Lord in verse twenty, "Then, who do you say I [am]?" Thence, the Lord begins to speak after the following manner. "The son of man will surely experience many troubles, be rejected by the elders, chief priests, legal scholars, killed, and on the third day he will return to life," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two), and as he continued there was a call addressed to the followers. "As for a person wanting to come to me, throw yourself away, carry the cross on your shoulders every day, and follow me," (verse twenty-four). As this one complete event continues, it goes into the narrative of the transfiguration on the mountain top. It is thought that perhaps from a very early period the church combined the preliminary announcement of the Lord's passion with the narrative of the mount of the transfiguration as they transmitted them. As we continue to retain in our hearts the preliminary announcement of the Lord's passion and the call to "carry your cross on your shoulders and follow me," I'd like for us to think together about what "the mount of the transfiguration" means in light of their connection.
When As Many As Eight Days Have Passed [Or, When About Eight Days Have Passed]
First look at verse twenty-eight, if you would. "When as many as eight days have passed after giving this speech, Jesus climbed a mountain to pray taking along Peter, John, and James," (verse twenty-eight).
[This passage] connects itself to the previous story line by means of the words "eight days." The advancement of the story line by a similar technique is the same in both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. But, when we read and compare the three [gospel accounts] we notice something immediately. There is a discrepancy in the number of days. Matthew and Mark record it as "after six days," (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2). Should one think it is a trivial thing? Luke is certainly not saying eight days exactly and we cannot necessarily say he is making an inconsistency or contradiction when he says, "as many as eight days (in other words, about eight days)." However, it's not an issue of whether he made a contradiction. It has been said that Luke wrote this gospel account based on the Gospel According To Mark and in conjunction with other source materials. So, even though Luke intentionally overdid the number for "six days" that Mark had written, he did re-write it. Even though he did what he did the way he did it, we can't help but say that it was his specific design that he wanted to insert that message of "eight days." Why should [there be anything in this matter of] "eight days?" What did "eight days" mean back in the ancient church?
As I think along this line, one passage of scripture immediately comes to mind. It is the account of the Lord's resurrection in the Gospel According To John. "So, after eight days, the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though everyone was locked up inside behind the door, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you,'" (John 20:26). In this text as well the [words] eight days appear, which is speaking in connection with the Lord's resurrection. What is written as "eight days" is as we say in our words "after a week." Sunday is the beginning day of the week and after a week passes from that point it is Sunday. That is the eighth day and at the same time the first day of the week. We say that on that day the risen Lord appeared. Actually, we find the following description in a document called "The Epistle Of Barnabbas" written somewhere between the end of the first century to the beginning of the second century. "...Therefore, while filled with joy we also observe the eighth day which is the day the Lord rose again." From this fact we are told how the ancient church was careful in connecting the words "the eighth day" or "after the eighth day," to the resurrection. Why [should it be] the eighth day? [The answer] is because Genesis records about this world that in seven days it was created. In other words, against [the backdrop of] this world created in seven days, the eighth day points out the world which goes beyond this one. In other words, it is not pointing out the world based on the old creation, but it is pointing to the world to come based on the new creation. What has been shown through this setup through the eighth day is the resurrection of the Lord who appeared as a figure from the world to come. Therefore, as the church remembered the resurrection of the Lord, the church did not gather on the seventh day which is the Sabbath of Judaism, but on the eighth day, that is, on Sunday they would gather for worship. Therefore, what the reader associates with the idea in the words "eight days/eighth day" is the resurrection of Christ and "the day of the Lord" which commemorates the resurrection. For that reason it is thought that when Luke intentionally inserted the words "eight days" it was in order to stress the connection between the narrative on the mount of the transfiguration with "the resurrection of the Lord" or "the Lord's Day."
In A Figure Of Glory
I will read you next from verse twenty-nine to verse thirty-two. "While he was praying, the state of Jesus' face changed, and his clothing shone in absolute white. Upon looking, two men were talking and meeting with Jesus. They were Moses and Elijah. The two appeared and were wrapped in glory, they talked about the time of his death which Jesus would accomplish at Jerusalem. Peter and his partners were terribly asleep, but when they came to, they could see two men standing near Jesus who was glistening with glory," (verses twenty-nine through thirty-two).
An inquiry as to whether this was an actual event or this was a vision that the disciples saw will not yield much in the way of significance. Rather than that the important thing is that this event did not end with the individual mystical experiences of a few disciples but was told and passed on by the church spanning generation after generation. For, the induction of this narrative into a book like the gospels, more than anything else, points out the important facts of the truth. We have got to listen and receive what the Bible is wanting to pass on through this narrative.
What the disciples saw was Jesus glistening with glory. The next meeting of a Jesus glistening with glory is at the time of the resurrection of the Lord. The glory of the Lord displayed at the time of his resurrection shines into [this] one scene of the Lord's life [at the mount of transfiguration] just as the light of the sun shines in from the crack of a cloud. The three disciples get a glimpse of his glory. That is the event recorded here. Then, they saw two men were talking and meeting with the Lord who changed into a figure of glory. It was Moses and it was Elijah. Moses was the person to represent the Old Testament law. In addition, Elijah was representing the Old Testament prophets. To put it another way, the entire Old Testament was denoted by these two persons. The two men representing the Old Testament say that "They talked about the time of his death which Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem." In other words, what would happen to the Lord after this has already been written in the Old Testament. What has been written in the Old Testament is that there is the will of God who has directed the history of salvation therein. From here on things will be taking place in accordance with God's will and plan.
This theme is repeatedly seen in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. For example, as we read this gospel and come to chapter twenty-four we meet up with the following words. The risen Lord speaks to the disciples who were on the way to Emmaus. "How poor in understanding and dull of heart, you people who don't believe all that the prophets have said, that the messiah has to experience these sufferings and enter into glory, doesn't he?," (Luke 24:25-26). Then, "Beginning from Moses and all the prophets the Lord explained to them what the scriptures say about himself covering the entire body of scriptures," (Luke 24:27). In this scene when Moses and Elijah appeared their manifestation also showed to the three disciples what similar things [would appear] in the future.
Well, the important thing there is that he was talking about "the time of death which Jesus would accomplish at Jerusalem." This word "time of death, or one's last moments" [in the Japanese version of the Bible] can be translated as "escape, exodus, or departure." Luke was using this particular word on purpose. If you ask why, it's because that is the word which indicates in particular "the Exodus from Egypt." In other words, what they were talking about was not about "the time of death" which just means "death." That's not it, rather, they were talking together about the event which ought to be called "The Second Exodus." In this text Christ is being portrayed, so to speak, as a second Moses leading the second exodus.
By these words what the cross of Christ in Jerusalem is and what the resurrection three days later is are shown. Moses liberated the people who were once slaves of Egypt and just like he began to lead them towards the promised land Christ liberated humankind who had been a slave of sin and death and He began to lead them towards the glory of the kingdom of God. As such a second Moses, he himself made an exodus and entered glory first, which is the events that happened at Jerusalem. What Moses and Elijah were talking about was surely in regards to this. So what was promised by the Old Testament came true in reality. In pointing to that reality Peter and his group were touching upon the glory of the resurrection. That is what happened on the mountain top.
In Order To Follow The Lord
So, this was not simply written as an individual special experience by Peter and his group. The generations of the church had also come to experience it. They had the experience of none other than the eighth day, that is, the Lord's Day. When the Bible is read and explained at that point, what the event which happened at Jerusalem was becomes clear and plain. God's work becomes obvious, that he saves us from sin and death and allows us into the glory of the world to come. Here we are looking adoringly at Him who entered glory first as [our] guide and savior. This eighth day is the day on which he touched upon the glory of the One who was resurrected as our first fruits and the day on which our future induction into glory like him was made clear.
Now, the Bible records something here that is very very interesting. Please check out verses thirty-three and following. "When the two persons were ready to depart from Jesus, Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, our being here is so wonderful. Let's build three huts. One for you, one for Moses, and one more for Elijah!' Peter didn't even understand what he himself was talking about. As Peter was talking like this, a cloud appeared and covered them. As they were engulfed in the cloud, the disciples were afraid. Thereupon, a voice was heard from the midst of the cloud that said, 'This is my son, whom I have chosen. Listen to this One.' When the voice finished, Jesus was there alone. The disciples maintained a silence and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen," (verses thirty-three through thirty-six).
Peter did not even know what he was saying. That is certainly true. However, inspite of his being confused, we can understand why this particular word appeared in the text. Peter was wanting to stay on the mountain top with Elijah, Moses, and Jesus. But, that was not allowed. The scene turns back to the original one. They just hear a message from God from the middle of the cloud. "This is my son, whom I have chosen, listen to this One." Those words alone remain behind, [that is], "Listen to this One," and "Obey." They were not allowed to stay on the mountain. They went down the mountain with the Lord. So, it was about the One who said, "As for the one who comes to me, throw yourself away, carry your cross daily on your shoulders and follow me." As they returned back to level ground, the ordinary was waiting. Therefore, he says, "daily/every day, bear the cross/carry on your shoulders."
This is the same for us. Rejecting the ordinary and detaching ourselves from the daily grind, we worship the Lord in assembled unison. But, we are not to remain here, we go back to every day ordinary life. In the final analysis, at that place [of every day living] we are asked to go and follow Christ by "carrying our cross daily." In that type of "day to day" living we won't become persons who might deny a relationship with Christ. We won't become persons such as "those ashamed of me and my words," (verse twenty-six) or have such an easy way to run out of a difficulty. Until we reach the last day when we are received into the glory of the resurrection, we go and follow the Lord. So, what is needed there is endurance. That is what the Bible says over and over.
However, what is it that could possibly make us strong in endurance? When we ask a question like that, we can be illuminated by the meaning of this narrative of the transfiguration at the mountain top recorded as a continuation to the call of the Lord. What brings about endurance is hope. It is an unconditional absolute hope. A person with no hope cannot live with tough endurance. To "throw yourself away, carry your cross daily, and follow me" is not just to "grin and bear it, or gnash your teeth and try hard." It is important who you follow after. The one we follow after is the One who experienced suffering for us and who was raised from the dead. Therefore, the important thing is to turn our eyes on the glory of the resurrected Christ. We turn our eyes on Him who walked the road of suffering for us, entered into glory, and is the second Moses leading the second exodus. We are to keep a tight look at the eternal hope, especially keeping our look at our resurrection in light of His resurrection. The day to day life on the level ground is deeply related to the experience on the mountain top. That is, we shouldn't forget that the life we live from the second day to the seventh day is deeply related to how we spend the Lord's day which is both the first day and the eighth day.