[Matthew 17:1-9] And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
God of God, Light of Light
Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one.” “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” And we wonder, “Why?” Why tell no one?
On the mount of Transfiguration, Jesus shows three of His disciples His divine glory. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a high mountain and there He was transfigured - His appearance changed - before their eyes.
Jesus is the Son of God, and is God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Father, Son, Holy Spirit - three persons, one God. Jesus is God the Son who has become man. He is God from all eternity from the Father. He is man, conceived and born of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus, who is both fully God and fully man in one person, has all power, glory, and majesty as almighty God. He also has all weakness and frailty as man (yet without sin). God and man in one person.
In His earthly ministry, as He walked with His disciples, Jesus operated in what we call a “state of humiliation.” ‘Humiliation’ doesn’t mean He was embarrassed. Humiliation means He humbled Himself, lowered Himself, and set aside the use of His divine power, glory, and majesty.
Jesus still possessed all His divine majesty, but He set it aside, put it down, in order to live as man-like-you: “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” [Philippians 2:6-7]
This humiliation is made complete in Christ’s work of redemption - His work of dying as a ransom for sinners, and as a God-pleasing sacrifice on our behalf: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” [Philippians 2:8]. “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (like you), to redeem those who were under the law” [Galatians 4:4-5].
This state of humiliation went so far that Jesus, on the cross, was under the curse - under the curse due for man’s fall into sin. He was under the Law’s condemnation in the place of condemned sinners: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” [Galatians 3:12].
It was the will of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to redeem and forgive man. God the Son, Jesus, had the glory and honor of being the one who would become man to redeem man by His great humiliation.
For the Son’s humiliation, the Father highly exalted Him: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” [Philippians 2:9-11]
We call this Jesus’ “state of exaltation”. He fully takes up and uses again His power, glory, and majesty as God. His glory as God shines in and illuminates His human nature - just as it is for Him now in His resurrection and ascension - and as He will be when He returns in power.
So, why on the mount of Transfiguration did Jesus command His disciples to tell no one? In the transfiguration, when Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light, He was giving His disciples a glimpse of His state of exaltation.
But, to understand Christ’s exaltation properly, you have to understand His humiliation first. To understand Jesus as “God of God, Light of Light” rightly, you have to first know Him as Christ-crucified. In fact, to know God rightly at all, you have to see Him in the cross of Jesus.
So Jesus commanded, “Tell no one about My transfiguration glory yet. Don’t tell them until after they’ve seen my cross. In my resurrection, when I still have those nail marks in my hands [John 20:20,27], then you can know my glory rightly.”
Many people believe in “G-O-D”, but which God? And do we believe in Him rightly, as He is, for who He is? Who is He? And all people have an idea of “glory” - a human idea. But what is God’s glory? God’s glory is seen in the nail-marked hands of Jesus crucified for lost sinners, for you. God’s glory is the Lamb of God - a Lamb slain for sinners - sitting on His throne forever.
Don’t have any thought of God’s glory, except the glory shining through the humiliated human nature of the Son of God.
And think of this: Just as God is the God of the cross, so we, as the children of God, are called to be those who bear the cross. That is, we are called - each of us - to bear the load for others. To give of ourselves for our neighbor, just as He gave Himself for us.
Just as there is no God but the God of the cross, so there is also no being a child of God except as one who gives of himself or herself for the sake of others. This is true for all those in need - in need physically, or in need in soul - around you, where you are, or in any place where you are able to benefit them. Think of your closest neighbor - the one in your home - and also those far away, or in your city.
We are called to humiliation - the setting aside of much of what’s of interest to us for the sake of a greater glory - glory ground in the sharing of Christ’s cross for others. Our glorious God is found even now, in this world, in the work of the cross among His people.
As the saving cross of our Transfiguration Lord has so benefited you, seek to share in that glory by being children of the cross for others. Amen.