Our minds just don't get it most of the time.
At least, not yet.
We picture Jesus in his humanity - flesh and blood, teaching, eating, suffering and dying. Even his miracles were done by someone who looked a lot like, well, us. This is the beautiful doctrine of the Incarnation. God with us. The eternal Son of God took on flesh. He was numbered with us, the transgressors (Is 53:12).
But Jesus spoke of his existence prior to becoming a Man. Yes, that's right, Jesus existed before he was born! And he tells us that in his existence before becoming a Man, he shared the very glory of God!
And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. John 17:5, ESVIncredible! Jesus knows from where he has come and where he is about to return. He knows who he is; he shares the glory of God with the Father, "implying that there was mutual giving of honor in the interpersonal relationships of the Trinity from all eternity" (ESV Study Bible notes). So Jesus shares the glory of God.
But when Jesus took on flesh he veiled this glory. It was there, but it was hidden to the eye of man. The truth was not as it appeared. God in the flesh walked the streets of Jerusalem...and many didn't give him a second glance.
But some saw it; by God's revelation to them, they beheld "his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father (John 1:14). In fact, there was one day when three of Jesus' disciples saw his glory in a unique and unforgettable way.
Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. As usual, they slept while he prayed (Luke 9:32; Oh, the patience and mercy of God towards his weak children!). While they slept, "the appearance of his face was altered," and "shone like the sun, and his clothing became white as light," "...dazzling white,"...intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them" (Luke 9:29; Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:3). What a prayer meeting! Jesus was speaking to his Father, who briefly and partially removed the veil, allowing Jesus' glory to shine!
The author of the ESV Study Bible notes wonders if perhaps Jesus was praying that the three men with him would see his glory. If so, this prayer was answered. They woke up to quite a surprise (you would think that this would teach them not to sleep through prayer meetings, but alas - it happened again in the garden). They saw the glory of God shining from Jesus!
There were other times during Jesus' life and ministry when God revealed to people who he was...but not like this! Even the thief on the cross looked at the bleeding Man next to him and saw a King - while the other thief saw only someone to insult and ridicule. All who saw his miracles saw glimpses of his glory: when he healed blind men, walked on water, raised Lazarus from the tomb, multiplied the bread and fish, and put a man's severed ear back on his head! But what Peter, James and John saw on the mountain top was a special and glorious display.
And yet, Jesus wants this experience to be repeated, and for all of his followers! In John 17 he prayed, first for his apostles, and then for all who would believe in him through their preaching (17:9, 20). This includes you, if you are a believer in Christ through his gospel! Jesus prayed for unity among his people (11), for protection from the evil one (15), for holy living and true doctrine (17). But he also made another beautiful request to the Father for all his church:
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24Hallelujah! The mount of transfiguration was a special revealing of Christ's glory to his three friends and apostles. But Jesus desires that ALL of his saints one day see his glory. He wants us to see how beautiful and powerful and strong and loving he truly is. He wants us to be satisfied solely in his glory!
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. Psalm 17:5The Day is coming when we shall see him! What a glorious Day that will be! Until then, let us think lofty thoughts of Christ. Let us fix our eyes on him in faith, meditating on his glory and beauty and strength and wisdom and grace. The one who "upholds the universe by the word of his power" has made "purification for sins" at the cross (Hebrews 1:3) and he "always lives to make intercession" for us (Heb 7:25) after rising from the grave and ascending to the Father!
Peter never forgot that experience on the mountain. He went on to write:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 2 Peter 1:16-18One day we too will be "with him," and will be "eyewitnesses of his majesty."
Praise the Lord!
Click HERE for Part Two!