Sunday, December 19, 2021

Intrusions of Glory

R.C. Sproul had a well-known teaching series through the Bible called From Dust to Glory. Paraphrased, he says, “God’s glory is set above the heavens and displays His majesty, but then when He comes to this world, He sets aside His glory and takes the role of a servant.” The natural progression is from humility to exaltation. But in the supernatural event of the Incarnation, the trajectory is reversed. Jesus set aside His glory. And yet the glory of God is all around the story of Christ’s birth.

In his sermon on the Transfiguration of Christ—I know that’s a later story, but follow me here—Sproul describes the event as a “intrusion of glory.” But he names another, found earlier in Luke chapter 2: The angels’ appearance to the shepherds.

Let’s back up for a second and take a look at the Transfiguration.
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
(Luke 9:28-35)
Jesus in dazzling white light. The ones who wrote the law and the prophets arrive from history past to meet with the One who would fulfill it all. Clearly an intrusion of glory. But Jesus’ glory is not just a reflected glory. He is Himself the source of the Light, it is coming from His very being. Sproul calls this, “Jesus’ divine nature breaking through the veil.”

And when the disciples see all this, God’s glory—Jesus’ glory—they are ready to act. They are called to action, though misguided in the moment. The three have no need for first century tents. Moses and Elijah know about God in a tent, and that way of securing the Lord’s presence is no longer needed. The King needs no tent, for He is the exact imprint of the Father, chosen and perfect in light.

How does this compare to the New Testament’s first “intrusion of glory”?
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

(Luke 2:8-15)
The angels dazzling in the Lord’s glory light. Proclaiming the fulfillment of the prophecies, the salvation promised to the Patriarchs.

And here we have the same turning point. Once the shepherds saw the glory of God, they were ready to act. To find the Chosen One, that the Lord made known to them.

Both times, the glory is revealed to the laborer—the fisherman and the shepherds. Jesus had other work for the fishermen, Peter, James, and John. And their vocations changed. I wonder if the shepherds continued their careers caring for sheep. If we know anything from the Gospels, it’s that the glory of God transforms. Either way, the shepherds would never be the same again.

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