Summary: Apostles, Pt. 9


In the year 1271, Marco Polo, the 17-year old Italian explorer, merchant and adventurer crisscrossed Asia with his father and uncle, subsequently chronicling his 24 years adventure in a book. Marco Polo made history in China, where he befriended the great Kublai Khan, who eventually appointed him as his ambassador to Europe. Marco was about 20 or 21 when he reached Cathay (North China), and for the next 17 years the Polos reportedly even lived in the emperor’s dominions. Polo claimed to have been the governor of Yangzhou for three years. (“Marco Polo in China Pt. II” National Geographic 6/01 pp. 24-25)

Polo’s claims, however, invited a storm of controversy and a barrage of criticism from those not familiar with the exploration and discovery of the new worlds. His account, details and memory of the trip were often questioned and ridiculed. He did not help matters by keeping quiet on his return home. Some argue that he never went to China at all, noting that he failed, among other things, to mention the breathless sight of the Great Wall, the use of tea and chopsticks and the ideographic script of the Far East, and that contemporary Chinese records show no trace of Polo.

As 70-year old Polo neared death in 1324, his patchy reputation had suffered untold damage. Even his friends begged him to recant and to withdraw the stories he had told about the lands of the Far East, including China, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Japan, but to his last breath, Polo insisted, “I did not write half of what I saw.”

Walter L. Liefeld said that the transfiguration is the most significant event between Jesus’ birth and his passion. It occurs around the time he was going to Jerusalem. God’s glory is the single most covered attribute of God in the Bible – a few times more than His love, mercy or forgiveness. The noun “glory” is mentioned 200 times in the Old Testament and 163 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the priests could not continue to minister when the Lord’s glory filled the house of God. (Ex 40:34, 1 Kings 8:11, 2 Chron 5:14, 2 Chron 7:2).

Why is God described as “glorious” in the Bible? How should we respond to His glory?

Look to Him: There is None Comparable to Him

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. (Luke 9:28-32)

When my wife and I had a discussion on Moses and Joshua, I asked her if she had to choose to between Moses or Joshua, who would she prefer to be. For me, I definitely did not want to be in Moses’ shoes or have his responsibilities. Further, Joshua entered the Promised Land but Moses did not. However, she said without hesitation: Moses. I asked, “Why?” She said Moses was the only person to see God’s glory. I raised the stakes and said how about Moses and Abraham, the father of faith, but she still answered, “Moses.” Again, the answer was Moses saw God’s glory.

What is the one thing you want to see most of all? The greatest sight of all is not the seven wonders of the world, the glory of the kingdoms of the world that Satan proposed (Matt 4:8), the greatest skyscrapers of the world or the most scenic places in the world. Jesus gave us a preview to beholding His glory in heaven.

What the disciples saw that day was incredible, incomparable and indescribable. It was a spectacular, captivating and amazing sight, experience and discovery for the disciples. Peter, James, and John, woke up to a stunning, dazzling and breathtaking phenomenon. Jesus’ face, appearance and bodily form had changed, and it literally lit up the place, the skies and the mountain like flashlights, spotlights and floodlights illuminating a studio all at once. His clothes were bright as a flash of lightning, or literally in various passages, white and “starry” – the only time the word is recorded in the Bible (Luke 9:29), white as “light” or “phos” (Matt 17:2), and whiter than anything on earth (Mark 9:3).

Matthew (17:2) and Mark’s gospels (9:2) tell us that Jesus was meta-morphed or transfigured/changed, but Luke alone specifically reveals that what the disciples saw in Jesus’ altered (v 29) or, more precisely, “other” (heterox in Greek) appearance was God’s glory (v 32)! The three apostles saw, felt and experienced who Jesus was - the Lord of Glory (1 Cor 2:8, James 2:1), His glorious riches (Phil 4:19), glorious might (Col 1:11) and eternal glory (2 Tim 2:10). Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” According to John’s gospel, Jesus mirrored the glory of the Father (1:14), the glory that He had with the Father before the world began (17:5).

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