Beholding the glory of Jesus

Here are some words from John Owen:

Make up your mind that to behold the glory of God by beholding the glory of Christ is the greatest privilege which is given to believers in this life. This is the dawning of heaven. It is the first taste of that heavenly glory which God has prepared for us … A constant view of the glory of Christ will revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive … This is what transforms us daily into the likeness of Christ. So let us live in constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and power will then flow from him to us, healing all our [failings], renewing a right spirit in us and enabling us to abound in all the duties that God requires of us … On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. (John Owen, The Glory of Christ, abridged by R. J. K. Law from Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ, Works Vol. 1, Banner of Truth, 1994, 21-23, 167, 7.)

Let me encourage you to think in these terms. As you read your Bible, as your pray, throughout the day, think in terms of seeing the glory of Christ. To look upon the glory of Christ is to see ‘the dawning of heaven.’ We get a ‘first taste of … heavenly glory.’

So what do we see when we look at Jesus? Consider the story of the transfiguration in Mark 9.

  1. The glory of the King who rules the world (9:1)

Verse 2 begins ‘after six days’. Mark isn’t normally interested in exactly when things happen. But here he’s very specific. So it begs the question: Six days after what?

The answer is verse 1: Jesus ‘said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”’

  • Is Jesus talking about his resurrection when he rises from the dead in power?
  • Is he talking about his ascension when he ascends to receive all power and authority from God – something to which he alludes during his trial (14:62)?
  • Is he talking about the day of Pentecost when he pours of the Spirit in power on his people so they can call on the nations to submit to his power and authority?

I think the answer is all of these and more. The resurrection, the ascension, Pentecost together are the coming of the kingdom of God in power. And all this is anticipated and prefigured in this moment on the mountain. This transfiguration of Jesus is a sign of what’s coming – a sign of his true and ultimate identity.

Jesus is the King who rules the world. In Jesus the kingdom of God has come in power. He is the one ‘who … was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection’ (Romans 1:4). Jesus is the King who has ascended to his throne. Jesus is the King who sends us in power to proclaim his power and authority to the world.

So in Jesus we see the glory of the King who rules the world.

  1. The glory of the God who lights up heaven (9:2-3)

Look at 9:2-3: ‘After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.’

Jesus is ‘transfigured’. We don’t really know what that means other than what Mark describes: ‘His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.’ If this was a washing powder advert, we would be shown ordinary washing powder and then new, improved washing powder which is visibly brighter. But when we looked at Jesus we would have to turn away because his clothes are ‘dazzling’ – like looking into the sun.

What do we see when we look at Jesus? The world looks at Jesus and sees a man. Just a man. A man whose life ended on a cross – in apparent failure. Indeed he didn’t just die. He was executed. He died as a criminal. He died in shame.

But in the transfiguration we see his true character and his true nature. And he radiates with light. Throughout the Old Testament that is how God is described. The Psalmist says: God ‘wraps himself in light as with a garment.’ (Psalm 104:2) It’s as if the glory of God shines through the human form of Jesus.

Paul says: ‘in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.’ (Colossians 2:9) It is as if the splendour of God has been squeezed into a human body. Imagine trying to pack all your possessions into a suitcase, squashing it, pushing, it, sitting on it, trying to cram it in. That is what God did at the incarnation. He took the fulness of the Deity and squeezed into bodily form.

But now in this moment on this mountain the glory of his divine nature is poking out, blazing out. It happens again on Easter Sunday when he bursts from the tomb – true God, true man, full of glory, full of life.

The voice from heaven declares: ‘This is my Son, whom I love.’ Jesus is the Son of God, loved by God. He is the radiant, majestic, dazzling Lord of glory. He is the God who lights up heaven with his presence.

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