When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

The King in His Beauty

Among the Twelve were three whom our Lord loved more than the others. This he showed by liking to have them near him. Thus, when he went into the room where the minister's little daughter lay, white and cold, upon her bed, he left nine apostles outside, and took with him only these three, Peter and James and John. This was not because they were so much better than the others. None of the nine, except Judas, made such mistakes or had such faults as the three. I suppose that the explanation is that Peter and James and John loved him more, and he was able to give them more of his love because they were able to receive it. Anyhow, he preferred their company.

One day he took these three with him to climb a mountain, leaving the nine to wait in the valley. And on the way down he said, "You must not tell. You must keep it a deep secret until I shall rise from the dead." They did not know what he meant by rising from the dead, but they promised him that they would tell no man what they had seen upon the height. Then for months and months they went about remembering a strange and wonderful sight, and wishing that they could speak of it to Andrew and Philip and the rest, but saying never a word till the time came. For they knew how to keep a secret. Then they told.

They said, "You remember that day when we knew for the first time that our Master was the King of Glory, and when for the first time he told us that he must be put to death. You remember how we thought about it all that week, and talked among ourselves sometimes with pride and sometimes with grief, and how at the end of the week we three went away with him alone while you stayed below. That night a marvelous thing happened, but he told us not to tell. Now the time has come when there is no more need of secrecy. Listen, thus it was." And they spoke, while the others sat about them with open ears and eyes.

It was towards the end of the day, when our Lord and the three began to ascend the mountain. As they were going up, the sun was going down. And the shadows deepened on their path, and the stars came out; and below, when they came to a clear place and could look off, the lights of the scattered farmhouses, like other stars, were shining in the dark. Presently they stopped, and were silent in the solemn stillness. And our Lord began to pray. It was for this he had brought them apart upon the mountain, that they might feel the presence of God, and pray.

He liked to pray in lonely places. Sometimes, as when he was at Capernaum, he rose very early in the morning and went to the shore of the lake, and there walked, looking at the sky and at the ground, with holy thoughts in his heart. Once he told his disciples that it was a good plan, when they prayed, to shut the door. Some of the Pharisees had a way of saying their prayers standing on the corner of the street, folding their hands and lifting their eyes to heaven, so that people who passed by should say, "See that good man!" Our Lord did not approve of that. He greatly disliked every form of "showing off." So he said to his disciples, "When you pray, go into your room and close the door." That night on the mountain the darkness ness was like a door between him and the world.

There, then, he prayed, not asking God to give him this or that, but simply standing in the presence of God, as a little child stands by his father's knee; feeling the nearness and the love of God, praying in his heart rather than with his lips. But the three were tired, and it was late, and the night was dark and still. One would hardly think that the saints would go to sleep saying their prayers; but these saints did. As they prayed their eyes grew heavy, and before they knew it they were fast asleep. How long they slept, they did not know; but suddenly, in the midst of their dreams, they saw a light. They opened their eyes, heavy with sleep, and there was our Lord still praying, but now his clothes were shining with a dazzling whiteness, like the clouds on a bright day, and his face was like the sun when it looks down at noon. There he stood, the King of Glory indeed, no longer dressed like a carpenter, but clad in radiant garments like the angels, with the glory of heaven reflected in his eyes. And there were two men with him. How Peter and John and James knew them I cannot tell, unless it was by hearing how our Lord addressed them; for they had not come up from the valley, but down from the sky, having died hundreds and hundreds of years before. One was Moses, who met God on Mt. Sinai and brought down the Ten Commandments. The other was Elijah, who prayed to God on Mt. Carmel, and was wonderfully answered with lightning and rain. Our Lord stood between these two great men and they talked together, and the three disciples, half asleep and half awake, heard dimly that the subject of their conversation was our Lord's approaching dreadful death, of which he had spoken a week before. Indeed, it was as if the words which he had then uttered were now wonderfully acted out: the Son of the living God in his divine glory speaking of the cross.

And when the heavenly visitants made as if they would return to that blessed paradise whence they had come, Peter started up, in his impulsive way, as if to detain them. Hardly knowing what he said, through fear and sleep, "Master," he cried, "it is good for us to be here. Let us make three tents, one for thee and one for Moses and one for Elijah." He and his two companions would pull down branches from the trees, that Jesus and Moses and Elijah might stay upon the mountain. But as he was speaking, there came a swift and blinding cloud, like a sudden fog blown in from the sea, and the disciples were filled with fear, and fell upon the ground, covering their faces with their hands. And out of the cloud came a voice, such as had spoken at our Lord's baptism, saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear him." And Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Arise, be not afraid." And when they looked up, it was dark night again, with the stars shining, and they saw no man any more save Jesus only with themselves.

Then, the next day, as they went down, he told them not to tell. And they kept it in their hearts, remembering how they had seen his glory, the glory of the Son of God.