J. Alec Motyer
Readings: Exodus 34:29-35; Luke 9:28-36
IN a certain sense we enjoy a privilege which the Lord Jesus never had. We have our own copy of the Bible -- often a prized one -- whereas the Word of God was not printed in pocket form in His day, but was much too bulky and too expensive for most people. On the other hand, in the mystery of God becoming Man, He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52) and knew the Word of God with such accuracy and aptitude that as a child of twelve He surprised learned professors by His understanding and His answers. How magnificent was His knowledge of the Bible! He had a reply for every temptation drawn out of the Word of God. He took care to honour the Word of God when men came to Him with their questions. "What is written in the law? How readest thou?" He asked a lawyer, so displaying His confidence that it was all there in the Scriptures. When He spoke of always doing the things that pleased the Father, He was not mainly speaking of any intuition as to the will of God but of the will of God as stated in the written Scriptures of which the Lord Jesus was Master. Oh, if we would be like Jesus, let us covet to be like Him in our knowledge of the Word of God!!
The knowledge which the Lord Jesus had of the Word of God not only allowed Him to quote the Scriptures but enabled Him to use them in a special way. There were times when He reached back into the past, into Scriptural events which had happened earlier, and then reproduced those events in His own experience so that the Old Testament acted as a commentary upon Himself. It was this that He was doing when He took His three disciples up into the mountain for what we call His transfiguration. It would seem that He deliberately reached back into the past and plucked events out of the earlier Scriptures so that we might learn more of Himself.
IN the first of our two passages we read that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai "he did not know that the skin of his face shone by reason of his speaking with him" (Exodus 34:29). Bible translators try to help us by sorting that one out and some say that Moses' shining face was by reason of the Lord speaking with him and others that it was by reason of his speaking with the Lord. The Hebrew simply says, as we have read, "by reason of his speaking with him". Who was speaking with whom? I don't know; you don't know; nobody knows! Usually when a Scripture has two possible meanings, I like to suggest that we take them both. What we do know is that as the result of that mountain-top fellowship, something of the divine glory was imparted to Moses so that the skin of his face shone.
Jesus went up to enjoy mountain-top fellowship with the Father and while He was praying, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became white and dazzling. The glory that Moses had was on the skin of his face; it was imposed from the outside. It was a glory that rubbed off from God and rubbed on to Moses. The glory of Moses was partial; it touched his face only. The glory of Moses could be hidden; he wore a veil upon his face because the people were understandably scared by this sight of glory. The glory of Jesus, however, was the glory of His whole person; the glory of Jesus could not be hidden so that even His clothes became white and glistening. Out from His whole person there shone a radiance which penetrated even the opaque veil of His clothing. The lesson is plain and thrilling. It is that the glory of Jesus transcends any glory that preceded it. Here on earth those three disciples had an inkling of the surpassing glory of Jesus which fills the heavens.
The passage in the Gospel tells us that "Jesus took with him Peter and John and James" (Luke 9:28), while in the Old Testament we read: "Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel" (Exodus 24:9). Jesus went up with three named individuals; Moses went up with three named individuals; and they saw the God of Israel. As they went up that mountain did Christ's three disciples remember the incident in history and did their knowledge of the Bible prompt them to realise that Jesus was taking them up into the place of revelation? They knew that both Moses and [31/32] Elijah in their day had gone to the mountain top and held communion with God, so did their glimpse of the two heavenly visitors heighten their expectancy that they too were to have this supreme privilege?