Beholding, Not Just Declaring

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses one through twenty of the seventeenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the apostle Matthew transitioning to an event which took place within the life of Jesus—an event which he himself did not partake of, but only Peter, James and his brother John. It’s actually quite interesting that when you read this passage of scripture and you read of Jesus and His disciples coming down off the mountain, Jesus instructed His disciples to tell no one of the vision which had occurred until after He had been raised from the dead. It’s actually quite interesting and unique that Jesus would instruct His disciples not to speak of the vision which they had seen, experienced and witness until after His resurrection, for it almost appears that Jesus was intrinsically linking and connecting the vision of Him being transfigured before them to His resurrection from the dead. One thing that is interesting about this particular event and occurrence within the life of Jesus was that scripture doesn’t reveal at what point during the life and ministry of Jesus this event actually took place. We aren’t given any indication or any clue as to when this particular vision of Jesus being transfigured before these three disciples actually occurred. That simple fact is actually quite interesting, for I can’t help but wonder how long Peter, James and John had to hold this vision within their hearts and within their minds before they were actually released to speak of it before and unto others. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder what it was like for these three disciples to sit on this vision which they witnessed and experienced before Jesus rose from the dead and they were able to speak of the vision to others. What’s more, is that we are given no indication as to when this vision was spoken of by these disciples—even after Jesus rose from the grave. There is virtually no indication that the disciples spoke of the vision immediately following His resurrection, or whether they waited a little longer.

What is so unique about this particular event and Jesus’ instruction is that it wasn’t simply the apostle Matthew who wrote about this particular event within the life and ministry of Jesus. If you read the four gospels found within the New Testament you will find that there were two other authors who also wrote about this transfiguration. If you turn your attention to the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find how he too took up writing about this particular event within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that it wasn’t just Mark who wrote concerning this particular event within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, but also the believed physician Luke wrote about it as well. This is quite interesting for one thing you will learn about both Mark and Luke was that neither one of them were disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither Mark nor Luke walked with Jesus for three and a half years while He was upon the earth, but only came to follow Christ later on during the life and ministry of Paul. In fact, both Mark and Luke were gentiles and weren’t even actual Jews themselves, and yet they took up writing concerning this particular event which occurred within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. What makes this truly unique is that it seems to point to the fact that they heard about this vision—this transfiguration of Jesus before peter, James and John from their own lips and mouths. In fact, if you read the second epistle which the apostle peter wrote unto the saints you will find him writing and speaking of this particular event which he himself had personally witnessed. The very fact that Luke Abe Mark were able to write about this event in addition to Matthew suggests that this vision was in fact related unto them, or perhaps that they had heard of the vision by and from someone else. Matthew was an actual disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, and he did not personally experience this vision of Jesus being transfigured atop the mountain, thus suggesting that the disciples were perhaps the first to hear of and know the vision and its occurrence within the life and ministry of Jesus.

What I can’t help but think about and wonder is whether or not peter, James and John related this vision unto others after the resurrection but before the day of Pentecost, or whether they waited until after the day of Pentecost had actually occurred. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder what it was like for these three disciples to speak of this vision to the other disciples—particularly and especially considering the fact that there were several times when they were taken apart and removed from the other disciples in order that they might experience something truly remarkable and wonderful within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. What was it like for these three disciples to actually speak of this vision and describe it before the other disciples? What was it like for them to describe being atop the mountain with Jesus and to witness Him being transfigured before them? What was it like to speak with the other eight disciples and speak to them of an event which occurred atop the mountain there in the land, and how they had seen Jesus transfigured before their faces? Moreover, it wasn’t just simply their seeing Jesus transfigured before their faces, but they also saw Jesus talking and speaking with Moses and Elijah there atop the mountain. Jesus—in His glorified state—appeared not only transfigured before them, but also speaking with Moses who represented the Law, but also Elijah who represented the prophets. There atop the mountain Jesus the Christ was transfigured before the three apostles, and appeared to be speaking with that which represented both the Law and the prophets within the Old Testament and under the Old Covenant. What’s more, is that as if it weren’t enough to see Jesus transfigured before their faces atop the mountain, and as if it weren’t enough for them to witness and experience Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah there atop that mountain, the disciples also heard the audible voice of the Father speaking directly unto them. It’s worth pointing and mentioning that when the disciples heard the voice of the Father speaking from heaven, the Father not only spoke and declared the same thing He did when Jesus emerged from the waters of baptism, but He also added a word of instruction as well. I am convinced that in order for us to truly understand that which was taking place atop the mountain between Jesus and these three disciples, it’s necessary to first consider that which took place at the Jordan River when Jesus was baptized of John in the waters and emerged from those waters, as well as that which took place atop this mountain during the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. Consider if you will—both the event of Jesus’ baptism of John the Baptist at the Jordan River, as well as Jesus’ transfiguration before Peter, James and John atop this mountain:

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17).

“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 Elias 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 Elias. 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. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only” (Matthew 17:1-8).

When you consider the event and occurrence of Jesus being transfigured before the faces of Peter, James and his brother John atop the mountain on this particular day, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand it in direct context to His being baptized of John the Baptist at the Jordan River. It was at the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John in the waters, and as He emerged from the waters of the Jordan, the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and a voice broke the silence on that day and not only declared that this was His beloved Son, but also that it was in Him who He was well pleased. There at the Jordan River as Jesus emerged from the waters of the Jordan River, the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, but perhaps the single greatest event that took place was the voice of the Father speaking forth from heaven and not only declaring that this was His beloved Son, but also speaking of His great delight and pleasure in the eternal Son. Although no glory was revealed on this particular day as had occurred atop the mountain when Jesus was transfigured before the faces of Peter, James and his brother John, the heavens were still opened, the Spirit still descended, and the voice of the Father broke the silence and emphatically proclaimed Jesus to be His Son, and how He was well pleased with Jesus. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus hadn’t even performed a single miracle, nor had He healed a single individual at this point, and yet the Father broke the silence and emphatically declared concerning the Son that in Him was He well pleased. Before Jesus had even performed a single miracle, before Jesus had healed anyone who was in need, before Jesus had cast out a single devil and evil spirit, and before Jesus had uttered a single word of teaching, the Father had already expressed His great delight and great pleasure in Jesus. This actually flies directly in the face of a popular form of thinking in the church that men and women need to do something for the Father before and in order for Him to be pleased with them. There are those among us within the house of God who think and feel that the delight and pleasure of God has everything to do with what they do and what they are able to do for Him, and nothing to do with the Father simply being delighted in them for the sake of being delighted in them. Jesus simply allowed Himself to be baptized by John there in the waters of the Jordan River, and as soon as He came forth from the waters, He heard the voice of the Father speaking forth from heaven—not only declaring that this was His beloved Son, but also that it was in Him whom He was well pleased.

Perhaps one of the most important and incredible realities concerning Jesus’ being transfigured before the faces of Peter, James and his brother John is the fact that when He was transfigured before their faces, it was almost as if the veil was pulled back and a curtain was removed from Jesus, and the disciples were able to see Jesus as He truly was. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that what occurred there atop the mountain was essentially the pulling back of the veil which concealed the glory that was present within Jesus in order that the disciples might behold and witness the glory which Jesus had and shared with the Father before He took on the form of human flesh. There are specific passages within Scripture which describe Jesus taking on the form of human flesh, and such passages bring us face to face with the fact that when Jesus came to the earth, He did not take on Himself the form of angels, nor did He enter into the realm of time and space in the fulness of His glory, but rather, He entered into our world in the form of a man having taken on Himself the form of human flesh. There are three specific passages within Scripture which bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus did in fact take on the form of human flesh while walking upon the earth. The first is found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, the second is found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle of Philippians written by the apostle Paul, and the third is found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. Consider if you will the specific references found within Scripture which describe Jesus the Christ as having taken on the form of human flesh and walking and dwelling among us:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me. And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:1-18).

“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any Bowles and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on His own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, of the things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).

“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst Him with glory and honour, and dust set him over the works of thy hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he mighty destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).

I feel it absolutely necessary to present these three passages found in the New Testament gospel of John, the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippians, as well as the epistle written unto the Hebrews, for each of these passages paints a wonderful and powerful picture of Jesus taking on the form of human flesh, and walking among us in the form as of a man. When Jesus came and dwelt among us in the earth, He did not come and dwell among us in the fulness of His glory, nor did He dwell among us in the fulness of the majesty and honor He shared with the Father before time began. Perhaps one of the greatest realities concerning this glory which Jesus had with the Father before time began is not only found in the first three verses of the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of John when we read how “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” but also in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the seventeenth chapter, you will find the following words spoken by Jesus after He had just finished speaking unto His disciples there in the upper room. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke in the company of His disciples, bu t basically before and unto His Father who was in heaven:

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him. And this is eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:1-5).

With these words Jesus spoke of the glory which He had with the Father before the world began—a glory which was not evident, seen or manifested when He came to the earth and took on the form of human flesh. When we consider the presence of Jesus Christ within and upon the earth, it is important that we recognize that up until this moment in time atop the mountain His glory was hidden and concealed from before the faces of all men. As Jesus walked upon the earth for thirty-three and a half years, the glory which He had with the Father before the world was was hidden and concealed, and there was not a single man or woman who could see the glory which He had and shared with the Father before the world was. If you look at and examine the life and ministry of Jesus Christ you will find that He went thirty years living in Nazareth in relative obscurity before He was finally released by the Father to be manifested among men within the earth. For thirty years Jesus was essentially secluded and separated from the world around Him until the appointed time came when He could and would be revealed and manifested before and unto men. Even more than that, it wasn’t until later on during His actual ministry that the veil was lifted and removed from His being in order that these three disciples might see and witness and behold His glory. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous reality of what it was like for these disciples to be with Jesus atop the mountain and to see Him as He truly was—to see Him as He was before the world was, and with the Father in the beginning of time. There atop the mountain the disciples were able to witness and experience the glory which Jesus had with the Father as He had before He took on the form of human flesh, and before He chose to walk among us in the form of a man. There atop the mountain the disciples were able to catch a glimpse of the glory which Jesus had with the Father before time began, and in all reality see Jesus for who He truly was. This is actually quite a concept to think about and consider, for there are many men and women who see Jesus, but how many men and women see Jesus for who He truly is. How many men and women see Jesus as He truly is? How many men and women not only see Jesus, but also see Jesus as He really is, and as He is with the Father in heaven? I am completely and utterly convinced that there are a number of men and women among us in the house of God who might very well see Jesus, however, they are completely unable to see Jesus as He truly is. There are men and women among us who might very well see Jesus, however, they are unable to see Jesus as He truly is, and as He was with His Father from before the world was. I can’t help but be reminded of the first chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ when the apostle John—the same apostle who was atop the mountain with Peter and his brother James and saw Jesus transfigured before their faces—also saw Jesus in the fulness of His glory in heaven. Consider if you will the words which the apostle John wrote in the first chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation:

“Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatria, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His Harris were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:7-20).

I can’t help but be completely enamored with and by this concept of seeing Jesus as He truly is, for there are countless men and women among us within the house of God who might very well see Jesus, and yet they don’t see Jesus as He truly is. There were countless men and women who saw Jesus during those three and a half years He walked upon the face of the earth, and yet there were only a select number of men and women who could actually see Jesus for who He was—as the eternal Son of God, and as the long awaited Messiah. The more I read the New Testament gospel of Matthew, the more I am convinced that there were those who saw Jesus the Christ in the earth, and those who witnessed His miracles, and those who heard and listened to his words and teachings, and yet such individuals could not recognize Jesus for who He truly was—the eternal Son of God and the long awaited Messiah. What’s more, is that as you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that only Peter, James and his brother John were able to catch a glimpse of Jesus in the fullness of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was and before time began. That which these three apostles witnessed and beheld atop the mountain on this particular was in and of itself a wonderful and powerful witness and testimony concerning the glory which Jesus the Christ had with His Father before the world was, however, it was only a glimpse of the glory He truly had. I find it absolutely wonderful and remarkable that these three disciples were able to witness and behold the glory which Jesus the Christ had with the Father before the world was, for it was as if the veil was pulled back—albeit only for a brief period of time—and they were permitted to see Him as His truly was. Oh, I can’t help but think within myself that there is a great and tremendous need among men and women within the house of the Lord to see Jesus Christ as He truly is, and not as we would like Him to be, or even as we think He truly and actually is. There are men and women among us who might very well see Jesus, and they might even hear and listen to Him speak, and yet they are unable to see Him as He truly is. There are men and women who might see Jesus, and men and women who might even hear His voice, and yet they are completely unable to see Him as He truly is. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found in the third chapter of the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints, as well as the words which he wrote in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle. Consider if you will the words which are found in the third chapter of this second epistle written unto the Corinthians, as well as the words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle:

“…seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).

“…Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).

When I read the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, and when I read of the apostles Peter, James and John beholding Jesus with the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, I can’t help but think about how long they had walked with Jesus and knew who He truly was, yet hadn’t seen or beheld the glory He had with the Father before the world was. In the preceding chapter we find the apostle Peter emphatically declaring concerning Jesus that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus responded by calling him blessed, because flesh and blood did not reveal this unto him, but His Father who was in heaven. In the preceding chapter we find Peter acknowledging verbally who Jesus truly was, for he declared Him to be the Christ and the Son of the living God, while in the very next chapter we find this same apostle being atop the mountain with Jesus, as well as James and John, and not only declaring who Jesus truly is as the Christ and the Son of the living God, but now catching a glimpse and partaking of who Jesus Christ truly was with the Father before the world was. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this, for I am convinced that there are many men and women who might know who Jesus Christ is, and who might even be able to speak of and declare who Jesus Christ is, and yet they have not seen Him as He truly is. I find it absolutely amazing that in the sixteenth chapter the apostle Peter speaks of a revelation he received of the Father in heaven concerning Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the living God, and in the very next chapter we read of the same apostle being atop the mountain when the veil was removed from before Jesus, and he was able to catch a glimpse of who Jesus Christ truly was, and to behold the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. I read the account of Jesus being transfigured before Peter, James and John atop the mountain, and I can’t help but not only find a wonderful and tremendous need for men and women to see who Jesus Christ truly is, but to also see behold Him the way He was intended to be seen. I feel a wonderful and tremendous call for men and women to turn their eyes upon Jesus and to look full in His wonderful face in order that they might behold His unmatched and unparalleled beauty, glory, wonders, splendor and majesty. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to knowing about Christ, and even knowing who Christ truly is, and actually seeing Him as He truly is and as He intends to be seen. Oh that we would with reckless abandon pursue Jesus the Christ, and beholding Him as He truly is before and with the Father in heaven.

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