The disciples saw Jesus transfigured and then crucified before their very eyes. They may not have caught on as the events unfolded, but they soon understood—as we can also now—that Jesus’ path to glory was marked by suffering. What seems less clear is how we get to share in his glory. How exactly does that work?
The Scriptures give us good warrant for asking this question. Paul describes Christians as those who “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2c) and assures us that “When Christ who is [our] life appears, then [we] also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). God has called us to his kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12). Jesus prayed that his people, given to him by the Father, would be with him to see his glory (John 17:24). Glory is our destiny, and it includes both future glorification and present transformation.
The future glorification will not be complete until the final resurrection, when our bodies will be raised in glory and power (1 Cor. 15:42–43) and transformed to be like the glorious body of Christ (Phil. 3:21). But glorification has already begun, for as we saw in the beginning of this chapter, the Spirit transforms us as we behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). In fact, the word Paul uses for this process of transformation is the same word used by Matthew and Mark for Jesus’ transfiguration.
How then are we transformed? How do we participate in the glory of Christ? The story of Jesus’ transfiguration suggests that we must gaze on his face, listen to his voice, and walk in his steps.
Gaze on His Face
We know what happened during Jesus’ transfiguration because the disciples saw it and were stunned (Matt. 17:2; Luke 9:32). As they gazed on the resplendent radiance of Jesus on the mountain, so we, by faith, gaze on the glory of God in Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6). And we see that glory in the gospel.1 We gaze upon Jesus’ glory in the gospel and are “transformed by the renewal of [the] mind” (Rom. 12:2).
Gazing on God’s glory by faith involves what Martin calls “a two-fold revelation”—an external revelation of God’s glory in the gospel and an internal revelation of this same glory to the soul by faith. Think of it like this: each person, spiritually, is like a blind man enclosed in a dark room. The man needs two things before he can see: sight and light. Sight gives him the faculty of seeing, while light illumines the object of his vision. In the same way, we need both the objective light of God’s revelation and the internal illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Listen to His Voice
As the Father commanded the disciples to listen to the Son of his love (Luke 9:35), so he commands us to hear Jesus, to listen to Jesus, to pay attention to Jesus. This means that it is not enough to read the Bible. That is essential, but not enough. Do you remember what Jesus once said to a bunch of Bible experts? “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). It is possible to read the Bible and miss Jesus, so we must take care to see him and hear him. This may be one reason why Moses and Elijah appeared only briefly on the mountain: God was teaching the disciples to listen to the Son.
Walk in His Steps
When Jesus first told his disciples about the suffering of the cross (Luke 9:22), he also taught them the first and most foundational lesson in discipleship: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23–24). The road to Calvary is the path to glory: this is the paradox of the kingdom. This pattern of suffering and glory, death and life, cross and resurrection runs through all of Scripture. The first is last and the last is first. To be great, you must be the servant of all. Brokenness is the condition of blessing. Humiliation is the pathway to exaltation. To live, you must die. The sure path to death is clinging to life. As Amy Carmichael wrote, “There is no gain except by loss, / There is no life except by death.”4
This a lifelong process for the Christian, and it involves daily mortification. As Calvin observed, this mortification is both internal and external, involving crucifying the flesh and its lusts on one hand (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5) and submitting to God’s hand in the painful providences that attend this life on the other (John 15:2; 2 Cor. 4:7–12).5 But mortification is only the means to the end. The suffering is temporary, leading to everlasting joy (see Heb. 12:2). After the cross comes the resurrection. After darkness, light.
The path is difficult, but it ends in glory.
Excerpted from With Jesus: Finding Your Place in the Story of Christ by Brian G. Hedges.