Lu 9:28-36. Jesus Transfigured.
28. an eight days after these sayings—including the day on which this was spoken and that of the Transfiguration. Matthew and Mark say (Mt 17:1; Mr 9:2) "after six days," excluding these two days. As the "sayings" so definitely connected with the transfiguration scene are those announcing His death—at which Peter and all the Twelve were so startled and scandalized—so this scene was designed to show to the eyes as well as the heart how glorious that death was in the view of Heaven.
Peter, James, and John—partners before in secular business; now sole witnesses of the resurrection of Jairus' daughter (Mr 5:37), the transfiguration, and the agony in the garden (Mr 14:33).
a mountain—not Tabor, according to long tradition, with which the facts ill comport, but some one near the lake.
to pray—for the period He had now reached was a critical and anxious one. (See on Mt 16:13). But who can adequately translate those "strong cryings and tears?" Methinks, as I steal by His side, I hear from Him these plaintive sounds, "Lord, who hath believed Our report? I am come unto Mine own and Mine own receive Me not; I am become a stranger unto My brethren, an alien to My mother's children: Consider Mine enemies, for they are many, and they hate Me with cruel hatred. Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail. Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth: Show Me a token for good: Father, glorify Thy name."
29. as he prayed, the fashion, &c.—Before He cried He was answered, and while He was yet speaking He was heard. Blessed interruption to prayer this! Thanks to God, transfiguring manifestations are not quite strangers here. Oft-times in the deepest depths, out of groanings which cannot be uttered, God's dear children are suddenly transported to a kind of heaven upon earth, and their soul is made as the chariots of Amminadab. Their prayers fetch down such light, strength, holy gladness, as make their face to shine, putting a kind of celestial radiance upon it (2Co 3:18, with Ex 34:29-35).
raiment white, &c.—Matthew says, "His face did shine as the sun" (Mt 17:2), and Mark says (Mr 9:3), "His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them" (Mr 9:3). The light, then, it would seem, shone not upon Him from without, but out of Him from within; He was all irradiated, was in one blaze of celestial glory. What a contrast to that "visage more marred than men, and His form than the sons of men!" (Isa 52:14).
30, 31. there talked with him two men … Moses and Elias … appeared in glory—"Who would have believed these were not angels had not their human names been subjoined?" [Bengel]. (Compare Ac 1:10; Mr 16:5). Moses represented "the law," Elijah "the prophets," and both together the whole testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the Old Testament saints, to Christ; now not borne in a book, but by living men, not to a coming, but a come Messiah, visibly, for they "appeared," and audibly, for they "spake."
31. spake—"were speaking."
of his decease—"departure"; beautiful euphemism (softened term) for death, which Peter, who witnessed the scene, uses to express his own expected death, and the use of which single term seems to have recalled the whole by a sudden rush of recollection, and occasioned that delightful allusion to this scene which we find in 2Pe 1:15-18.
which he should accomplish—"was to fulfil" at Jerusalem—Mark the historical character and local features which Christ's death assumed to these glorified men—as important as it is charming—and see on Lu 2:11. What now may be gathered from this statement? (1) That a dying Messiah is the great article of the true Jewish theology. For a long time the Church had fallen clean away from the faith of this article, and even from a preparedness to receive it. But here we have that jewel raked out of the dunghill of Jewish traditions, and by the true representatives of the Church of old made the one subject of talk with Christ Himself. (2) The adoring gratitude of glorified men for His undertaking to accomplish such a decease; their felt dependence upon it for the glory in which they appeared; their profound interest in the progress of it, their humble solaces and encouragements to go through with it; and their sense of its peerless and overwhelming glory. "Go, matchless, adored One, a Lamb to the slaughter! rejected of men, but chosen of God and precious; dishonored, abhorred, and soon to be slain by men, but worshipped by cherubim, ready to be greeted by all heaven. In virtue of that decease we are here; our all is suspended on it and wrapped up in it. Thine every step is watched by us with ineffable interest; and though it were too high an honor to us to be permitted to drop a word of cheer into that precious but now clouded spirit, yet, as the first-fruits of harvest; the very joy set before Him, we cannot choose but tell Him that what is the depth of shame to Him is covered with glory in the eyes of Heaven, that the Cross to Him is the Crown to us, that that 'decease' is all our salvation and all our desire." And who can doubt that such a scene did minister deep cheer to that spirit? It is said they "talked" not to Him, but "with Him"; and if they told Him how glorious His decease was, might He not fitly reply, "I know it, but your voice, as messengers from heaven come down to tell it Me, is music in Mine ears."
32. and when they were awake—so, certainly, the most commentators: but if we translate literally, it should be "but having kept awake" [Meyer, Alford]. Perhaps "having roused themselves up" [Olshausen] may come near enough to the literal sense; but from the word used we can gather no more than that they shook off their drowsiness. It was night, and the Lord seems to have spent the whole night on the mountain (Lu 9:37).
saw his glory, &c.—The emphasis lies on "saw," qualifying them to become "eye-witnesses of His majesty" (2Pe 1:16).
33. they departed—Ah! bright manifestations in this vale of tears are always "departing" manifestations.
34, 35. a cloud—not one of our watery clouds, but the Shekinah-cloud (see on Mt 23:39), the pavilion of the manifested presence of God with His people, what Peter calls "the excellent" of "magnificent glory" (2Pe 1:17).
a voice—"such a voice," says Peter emphatically; "and this voice [he adds] we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount" (2Pe 1:17, 18).
35. my beloved Son … hear him—reverentially, implicitly, alone.
36. Jesus was found alone—Moses and Elias are gone. Their work is done, and they have disappeared from the scene, feeling no doubt with their fellow servant the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease." The cloud too is gone, and the naked majestic Christ, braced in spirit, and enshrined in the reverent affection of His disciples, is left—to suffer!
kept it close—feeling, for once at least, that such things were unmeet as yet for the general gaze.
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