Posted on April 16, 2014
#50: Glimpsing Glory
One winter morning, Jim and I were driving east across Pennsylvania on our way to a seminar. A severe ice storm the night before had left broken tree branches and downed wires along the way but the roads were clear. We crested a hill, and there before us was a dazzling scene.
Sunlight streamed down from the clouds in distinct rays, turning the frozen land into a spectacular, sparkling show. Rainbow colors danced off icy prisms in breathtaking beauty. It was as if we’d crept up and caught the Creator at His easel. I wanted to stop, to take in all the wonder—but the clouds shifted and it was gone. I’ve never lost the feeling that that moment was a holy gift. I still feel a sense of reverence when I think of it.
Maybe you’ve experienced a glorious moment like that. On a seashore, in a concert hall, in a delivery room or beside a deathbed, in a field of flowers or in the darkest valley—God’s glory may surround us at the most unexpected moments and take our breath away. That’s what Peter, James and John experienced in today’s scripture. Grab your Bible and read!
Look at Mark 9:1-13, and parallel accounts in Matthew 17:1-13 and Luke 9:28-36.
Jesus invited Peter, James and John to climb a mountain with Him. Luke recorded that Jesus went there to pray, which would have seemed routine to the disciples by now. However, this moment would not be routine. As Jesus began to pray, He was changed—transformed, transfigured.
The Greek word is metemorphothe, the source of our word for metamorphosis; like a butterfly sheds its cocoon, Jesus’ humanity dropped away and His true glory shone. The appearance of His face changed. His clothes became dazzling white. He was joined by two men who also “appeared in glorious splendor” (Lk. 9:31)—Elijah and Moses (who had been denied entrance into the Promised Land but now, by God’s grace, stood in it!). These were spiritual heroes the disciples had heard about and revered all their lives. Peter, James and John were terrified.
Moses and Elijah were no strangers to mountaintops. Moses had spent forty days on Sinai’s heights, surrounded by God’s glory (Exodus 24:1-18). Elijah had witnessed the glory of God firsthand at the peak of Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8-18). But for Peter and company, this was an astonishing sight. They wanted to stay; Peter blurted out, “Let’s build three shelters—one for each of you!”
Suddenly the cloud of God’s Shekinah glory descended around them. God had often displayed His glory in a cloud. (See, for example, Exodus 13:21-22; 19:18; 24:16; 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11, and the very sad vision of God’s glory departing from Jerusalem’s temple after He gave rebellious Israel into captivity in Ezekiel 10:4, 18). But I’m confident none of these disciples ever expected to feel its mist. They heard the voice of God speak. “This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” (Emphasis, mine.) Instantly, Moses and Elijah were gone. Jesus stood alone.
The message was clear, and Peter never forgot it. Years later when he wrote about the Transfiguration, Peter would mention the miraculous appearance of no one but Jesus: “. . .We were eye-witnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16b-18)
This glimpse of glory was beautiful and impressive, but its real value was yet to come. Peter, James and John—the “inner circle” and leaders among the Twelve—would be faced with great challenges. Their faith would be tested. They would be beaten, imprisoned, rejected by their own Jewish countrymen. Two of them would be martyred. But they would never waver. This moment would be their anchor, a holy gift. They had witnessed His glory; they knew who He was.
When God presents you with a glimpse of glory, don’t miss the gift. One tiny preview of the delights that await can carry you through a load of life’s troubles. Thank Him and store it in your heart until you see Him face to face in all His glory!
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© Diane McLoud 2014