So far in the series ‘Captivated By Jesus’ we have presented an interview with Alexander Venter in both audio and text forms. What follows in this post is an article on one of the many attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ and picks up on some of the features of the interview.
After that, we will present the podcast version of this article and this will be followed by an interview with another international Christian thought leader… and so on throughout the series.
His Unimaginable Glory
This series is called ‘Captivated by Jesus’ and the title of the article is ‘His Unimaginable Glory’, but who is this Jesus, what is his glory, and why is it unimaginable? Is he the Jesus of religious paintings carried in pomp and ceremony on special occasions? No. Is he a historical wise man and healer who lived in Israel two thousand years ago but who is now just an icon? No! The Jesus who captivates us with his unimaginable glory is the one of whom the Apostle John wrote: ‘In the beginning was the Word… Through him all things were made… In him was life and that life was the light of men… The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1: 1-14)
This same John who wrote the Gospel that bears his name is the one who Jesus chose to accompany him, together with Peter and James, up Mt. Hermon. ‘There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2)
In the Old Testament, a bright light was often associated with divine appearances. When God descended on the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) to talk with Moses, it looked like a bright shining cloud filling the tent. Moses could not immediately enter the tent because ‘the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle’ (Exodus 40:34) Also when Moses ‘went up on the mountain’, to receive the Ten Commandments, ‘the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai’ (Exodus 24:15-16). The three disciples who accompanied Jesus up Mount Hermon would have been taught these Exodus accounts from early childhood. Jesus was allowing them to see that he was the very same one who gave the Law to Moses and who talked with him, face to face, in the Tent of Meeting.
This is the Jesus who captivates us but whose glory we just cannot adequately imagine.
This is the one who said to his critics, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58) This is the one who Paul called ‘the image of the invisible God’ and the ‘fullness of the deity permanently established in bodily form’. (Colossians 1:14, 2:9). The author of Hebrews wrote concerning this Jesus that he is ‘the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his Being’. (Hebrews 1:3). Now, again I ask, can you imagine this? Can you understand just how glorious he is? I believe this but I cannot imagine it because my mind is just too limited.
On mount Hermon, Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes, but then, as if this were not shocking enough, things became even more glorious. Moses and Elijah appeared to be speaking with Jesus. Two men who they knew to be in Heaven were talking with their teacher right there before them. Peter’s response seems so very silly because he offered to build religious shrines for each of them, but it is what came next that is important to note. ‘While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) Peter and the other two now responded appropriately because they fell to the ground like people who had been struck by lightning. Now this I can imagine.
John’s Experience of Jesus’ Glory
The three Synoptic Gospels record the account of the Transfiguration, but John omits it from his Gospel. He opened his Gospel by writing of how he had seen the Lord’s glory, so what then did he have in mind? The omission from John’s Gospel has been pondered on by many theologians but the only proposed reason that resonates with me is that the whole of John’s Gospel is a presentation of the glory of Jesus. This makes sense because John recorded the first glorious sign performed by Jesus as
- The turning of the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, right at the beginning of his ministry. John wrote that ‘He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.’ (John 2:11) This first marvellous sign revealed Jesus’ kindness and consideration for the wedding host, but John recorded more glorious signs.
- The second sign is recorded in John chapter four when Jesus displayed his mercy and the power of his spoken word by healing a man’s son even though the boy was in a different location.
- The third sign was the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.
- The fourth was the feeding of the five thousand which was triggered by Jesus’ compassion for the hungry crowd. John went on to record the display of Jesus’ mastery over the elements of nature by walking on water, recreating the eyes of a man born blind, and raising Larazus from the dead.
Now I have never seen someone turning water into wine or multiplying a few small loaves of bread into thousands of pieces. I have not witnessed the healing of a man born blind or one who had not walked for most of his life. Nor do have personal experience of walking on water and things of this nature. I am unable to even imagine them with any clarity, but I believe them because I have come to know Jesus over my lifetime… and he is glorious!
His Glory In And Through The Church
Now, just how does Jesus’ glory manifest in and through the church? In the context of the gathered church, a Sunday service for instance, I think that we can still experience his glory in a similar way to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. When the glory-cloud appeared and they heard the voice of God the Father, the disciples ‘fell facedown to the ground, terrified’ (Matthew 17:6). The word ‘terrified’ evokes feelings of horror, fear, and panic and I think a better translation in the context of this text would be ‘very much in awe’. They didn’t curl up into a fetal position, or throw themselves behind the nearest rock; they fell forward with their faces to the ground in the universal response of awe and reverence.
When Jesus manifests his glory in a church meeting, the response of all Spirit-filled believers present is unmistakable. Some stand still with faces tilted up and eyes closed, arms raised high, and an expression of reverent attention on their faces. Others kneel with bowed heads, and some fall face down full length on the floor. The glorious presence of the Lord is almost physically tangible to all but the most spiritually insensitive. When Jesus is preached with anointed power and authority, the signs are also easily observed. People sit forward on their chairs in rapt attention, their faces alight. Some cry quietly although their faces reflect no sadness. These are just some of the things that I have observed and experienced, but whatever the particular human manifestations are, the glorious presence of Jesus is unmistakable to all who are born of the Spirit.
His glory also manifests through the church, particularly when disciples of Jesus minister healing, deliverance, or prophetic words to unbelievers. When Jesus performed works of grace in the power of the Holy Spirit, the people were very aware that he was someone exceptional. A great example of this is Matthew 8:27, which records that ‘the men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!“’. Similarly, when believers obey Jesus’ command to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed then “these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18) they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17-18). In this way, Jesus’ glory is manifest not only in the church but through the church.
This is Jesus
This is the Jesus of scripture. This is the Jesus who is the focus and subject of the ‘Captivated by Jesus’ series. This is the Jesus that the people we interview will speak of, and this is the Jesus whom I will lift up in further articles.