The view from 30,000 feet

Have you ever flown in a commercial jet when it was raining at takeoff? There is something amazing about slowly rising above the storm. If it happens during the day, it’s a special treat. For you, it’s suddenly a sunny day. Those below are wrestling with running through the rain, driving in it, or getting an umbrella open or closed. But not you. You are privy to a view that was hidden from mankind for millennia, until the arrival of air travel in the 20th century. Twenty centuries ago, Jesus gave a far more stunning view to three of His Apostles:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” He said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Matthew 17:1-9 (NIV)

I often wondered why Jesus chose these three disciples for the privilege of seeing the full glory of God in Him. But that isn’t what happened at all. As author Paul Tripp points out, this wasn’t a special treat for the trio: it was a remedial lesson. Jesus determined that these three needed to experience the full glory of God in Him. Consider what Matthew records Jesus as saying in Chapter 16, just prior to this event:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:24-28 (NIV)

Now that they have witnessed the glory of God, denying themselves is no longer optional. Jesus knows the leadership role these men will take in His church. Yet, there is evidence that these three didn’t fully understand what Jesus was showing them until after His resurrection. Jesus may not take us to a mountaintop and reveal his full glory to us, but God’s glory is on display everywhere. But do we recognize it for what it is?

The splendor of His creation, the miracle of a newborn child, the finely tuned operation of our solar system, and on and on. Further, Jesus shows us “mountaintop moments” when prayer is answered or with completely unexpected blessings.

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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