When you were a kid, did you ever try to look at the sun? I think we were all curious to find out if what our moms told us was true: “Don’t look at the sun or you’ll go blind!” How many of you bought those cool plastic glasses for the solar eclipse a few years ago? Todd and I sat in our driveway and stared up as for less than a minute, the world grew weirdly darker in the middle of the day.
I’m always amazed at what a difference a sunny day can make in our attitudes in comparison to a dreary, rainy day. We are drawn to its warmth and rays of life-giving Vitamin D. The sun pales in light of the glory of God, but it’s the only comparison that comes close when Bible writers describe Jesus revealed in His glory.
At the end of Matthew 16, Jesus speaks about His second coming and makes an unusual statement.
Matthew 16:27-28 – For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
I imagine the disciples were excited about this. Jesus had just been predicting He would be killed by the chief priests and scribes but be raised up the third day. Does He mean that after His resurrection He will establish His kingdom on earth as they hoped? It had to be soon…if some of them would see it before dying! For the next week, surely, they went to sleep each night wondering if it would happen the next day. What else could Jesus have meant?
They found out six days later. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light (Matthew 17:2). Not only that but Moses and Elijah appeared for a chat with Jesus! Peter, as always, has a plan. He suggested building three tabernacles so that they could just stay on the mountain. In childlike awe and faith, he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here!”
I don’t blame him! Wouldn’t you love to spend the rest of your life in the presence of the glorified, transfigured Jesus? After getting a glimpse of who Jesus really was, Peter didn’t want to leave! Fortunately, that wasn’t God’s plan; Jesus still had a mission to complete. God spoke (an audible voice) out of a bright cloud, acknowledging, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5)
Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:28 were fulfilled when those three disciples saw Him in His glory; they had seen the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. The word “kingdom” is basileia, meaning royalty, rule, or realm (literally or figuratively). They had been given a tiny, brief glimpse of what was coming. For just a moment, God pulled back the curtain of Jesus’ humanity and allowed them to see Jesus the King of kings. John later writes, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
As I write this, I’m looking out our front window to the most beautiful sunrise over the mountains. Today, it is a pink and blue masterpiece; other days it is a vibrant orange or deep red, but always intense and beautiful. Last night, we walked to a neighbor’s house while witnessing a sunset so beautiful it took your breath away. The sun that God created that draws our attention over and over with its beauty is just a tiny, brief imitation of the brilliance and beauty of the coming King. We can’t imagine His glory; our finite minds still bound in human flesh couldn’t handle it. Like Peter, James, and John, we would fall on our face in fear and trembling, awestruck with His majesty.
One day, Jesus is going to reveal Himself to all the world, in all His glory and power. There will only be two responses. If you have recognized Him as Lord and Savior in this life, His appearance will fill you with joy as you enter into His eternal kingdom. But if you have rejected the glimpses of glory that He has given you – the conviction of God’s Spirit, the evidence seen in the creation, and the truth that has been proclaimed to you – you will respond in fear, as the Righteous One takes His rightful throne of judgment. If Jesus gives you a glimpse of who He is, don’t waste it. As God the Father said to the disciples, listen to Him!