Seeing Is Becoming

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Matthew 17:1-21

2 Corinthians 3:18: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

We hum the music we listen to. We speak with the accent of our vicinity. We pick up the courtesies of our parents. And we naturally tend to imitate the people we admire most. So it is with God. If we fix our attention on him and hold his glory in our view, we will be changed from one degree of glory to another into his likeness. The challenge is how can I best portray the glory of God so that the greatest number of people will see it and be changed by it?

One place we see the glory of Jesus is at the transfiguration. The one of the most fundamental thing we can say about the God is that he takes pleasure in his Son.

1. God has pleasure in Jesus. (Matthew 17: 5; 2 Peter 1:17; John 3:35, John 5:20, Matt  12:18)

God the Father loves the Son, not with any self-denying, sacrificial mercy, but with the love of delight and pleasure. He is well-pleased with his Son. His soul delights in the Son! When he looks at his Son, he enjoys and admires and cherishes and prizes and relishes what he sees.

2. Jesus has the fullness of deity.

You might agree that God has pleasure in the Son, but make the mistake that the Son is merely an extraordinarily holy man that the Father adopted to be his Son because he delighted in him so much.

But Colossians 2:9 gives us a very different angle on things. "In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." The Son of God is not merely a chosen man. He has the fullness of deity in him.

Then Colossians 1:19 relates this to God’s pleasure: "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him."

In other words, it was God’s pleasure to do this. God did not look out over the world to find a man who would qualify for his delight and then adopt him as his Son. Rather God himself took the initiative to bestow his own fullness on a man in the act of incarnation. Or we could say he took the initiative to clothe the fullness of his own deity with human nature. And Colossians 1:19 says he was pleased to do this! It was his pleasure and delight.

It is a mistake to say that God made a Son who was pleasing. This fullness of deity, which now dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9) in Jesus, already existed in personal form before he took on human nature in Jesus.

3. Jesus in whom God delights is the eternal image and reflection of God and is thus God himself.

Colossians 1:15: "He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation in him all things were created in heaven and on earth."

The Son is the image of the Father (Hebrews 1:3; Philippians 2:6).  So Jesus in whom God delights is God’s own image; reflects his own glory; bears the very stamp of his nature; is in his very form; and is equal with God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The Son in whom God delights was never made or created at the incarnation or at any time. As long as there has been God, there has been the Word of God, the Son of God, who took on a human nature in Jesus Christ. From eternity past the one reality that has always existed is God.

This is a great mystery, because it is so hard for us to think of God having absolutely no beginning and just being there forever and ever and ever without anything or anyone making him be there—just absolute reality that every one of us has to reckon with whether we like it or not.

The Bible teaches that this eternal God has always had

    a perfect image of himself,
    a perfect reflection of his essence, 
    a perfect stamp of his nature, 
    a perfect expression of his glory.

Perhaps we may dare to say this much with John Piper:

“As long as God has been God, he has been conscious of himself, and the image that he has of himself is so perfect and so complete and full as to be the living, personal reproduction of himself. And this living, personal image or reflection or form of God is God, namely, God the Son. And therefore God the Son is co-eternal with God the Father and equal in essence and glory.”

4. The pleasure of God in his Son, Jesus Christ, is pleasure in himself.

Since the Son is the image of God and the reflection of God and the stamp of God and the form of God, equal with God, and indeed IS God, therefore God’s delight in the Son is delight in himself. Therefore the original, the primal, the deepest, the foundational joy of God is the joy he has in his own perfections as he sees them reflected in his Son. He loves the Son and delights in the Son and takes pleasure in the Son because the Son is God himself.

At first this sounds like vanity, and has the feel of conceitedness and smugness and selfishness about it, because that is what it would mean if any of us found our first and deepest joy by looking at ourselves in the mirror. We would be vain and conceited and smug and selfish.

But why? Because we were created for something infinitely better and nobler and greater and deeper than self-contemplation. What? The contemplation and enjoyment of God! Anything less than this would be idolatry. God is the most glorious of all beings. Not to love him and delight in him is a great insult to his worth.

But the same is true for God. How shall God not insult what is infinitely beautiful and glorious? How shall God not commit idolatry? There is only one possible answer: God must love and delight in his own beauty and perfection above all things. For us to do this in front of the mirror is the essence of vanity; for God to do it in front of his Son is the essence of righteousness.

How shall such a righteous God ever set his love on rubbish people like us? It is precisely the infinite love that the Father has for the Son which makes it possible for me to be loved and accepted in the Son, because in his death he restored all the insult and injury that I had done to the Father’s glory through my sin.