<< MATTHEW XVII: Spiritual Meaning >>
THIS chapter records the Lord’s transfiguration, which gave his disciples a glimpse of his glory, and foreshadowed the coming splendour of his resurrection and ascension, when the humanity, now partially glorified, should be wholly divine. It is a fitting sequel to the subject of the preceding chapter. There the Lord was confessed, here he is exhibited, in his true character. There he began to reveal to his disciples something of his sufferings and death; here he manifests before them something of his succeeding life and glory. There he presented to them the Son of man in his weakness and obscurity here in his power and majesty. In this too, we shall find instruction for ourselves individually, both in connection with preceding states and as a distinct subject of experience.
1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
1 See Chapter XIV., 23. A. 2708.
A mountain signified heaven and love. For that reason Zion was upon a mountain, also Jerusalem. R. 336.
A mountain signified the good of love, and when predicated concerning the Lord, the Divine good of Divine love, and from that good’ proceeds the Divine truth. It was on this account also that the Lord took Peter, James, and John into a high mountain, when He was transfigured. And when He was transfigured, He appeared in Divine truth from Divine good, for His face which shone as the sun, represented the Divine good, and His raiment which was white as the light, the Divine truth. Moses and Elias, who appeared talking with Him, signified the Word, which is Divine truth from Divine good. E. 405.
1, 2. This Divine, or this of Jehovah in heaven is the Lord, from eternity. The same also the Lord took upon Him when He glorified or made Divine the human in Himself, as is very evident from the form in which He appeared before Peter, James, and John when He was transfigured, and also in which He at times appeared to the prophets. A. 5110.
Before the assumption of the human the Divine influx into the natural degree was mediate, through the angelic heavens, but after the assumption immediate from Himself. This was the cause that the sun of the angelic heaven which is the first proceeding of His Divine love and Divine wisdom, after the assumption of the human shone forth in more glorious radiance and splendour than before the assumption. These things are said of the state of heaven and the church after the Lord’s advent into the world. W. 233.
By the face of Jehovah or the Lord is meant the Divine itself in its essence, which is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, and thus Himself. That the Lord is .seen as the sun in heaven before the angels, and that His Divine love together with His Divine wisdom appear thus, may be seen in the work on Heaven and Hell n. 116-125. R. 53.
The Lord on this occasion as to His face appeared as the sun, and as to His raiment as the light, because He was then seen in his Divinity, for the face corresponds to love, and the garments correspond to truths, and because the Divine love was in Him, therefore His face shone as the sun, and because the Divine truth was from Him, therefore His raiment became as the light. The light also in heaven is the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord as a sun. E. 401.
That He is truth itself and thus light itself is also testified in other places, for He says, I am the light of the world. B. 98.
1-5. The Word in its glory was represented by the Lord, when He was transfigured. I have been instructed that the Lord then represented the Word. By His face which shone like the sun, was represented His Divine good, by the raiment which became like the light, His Divine truth, by Moses and Elias, the historical and prophetical Word. By Moses the Word written through him, and the historic Word in general, and by Elias all the prophetic Word. By the bright cloud which overshadowed the disciples, the Word in the sense of the letter, wherefore from it a voice was heard, This is my .beloved Son, hear ye Him, for no declarations and answers from heaven are ever made, except by ultimates, such as are in the sense of the letter of the Word, for they are given by the Lord in fulness. S. 48.
Garments in the Word signify truths. Nothing else is -meant by the Lord’s garments, when He was transfigured, which appeared bright as the light. R. 45.
Nor is any other than the Divine truth meant by the Messiah or Christ, nor any other by the Son of Man, nor any other by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit which the Lord sent after His departure. He represented Himself as the Word in His transfiguration before the three disciples on the mount. T. 85.
The Word in its glory was represented in the Lord when He was transfigured before Peter, James, and John. Then follows a repetition of S. 48. T. 222.
The reason why the Lord took Peter, James, and John •was, because by them was represented the church as to faith, charity, and the works of charity. The reason why He took them into a high mountain was, because “by mountain is signified heaven. That His face shone as the sun was, because the face signifies the interiors, which being Divine shone as the sun, for the sun is Divine love. That His garments were bright as the light was, because garments signify Divine truth proceeding from Him. The same is also signified by light. The reason why Moses and Elias appeared was, because they both signify the Word, Moses the historical Word, and Elias the prophetic Word. That a bright cloud overshadowed them was, because bright clouds signify the Word in the letter, in which is the internal sense. That the voice out of the cloud said (see Verse 5) was, because a voice out of the cloud signifies Divine truth from the Word, and ” beloved Son,” the Lord’s Divine Human. E. 64.
In this transfiguration the Lord also represented Divine truth, which is the Word, for the Lord when He •was in the world, made His Humanity Divine truth, and •when He departed out of the world, He made His Humanity Divine good by union with the Divinity itself, which was in Him from conception. E. 594.
Peter spake with the Lord at His transfiguration concerning the making of three tabernacles, on which occasion the Lord represented the Word which is Divine truth, and by tabernacles is signified the worship of the Lord from the good of love and truths thence derived.
When the Lord was transformed and seen in glory a voice out of the cloud said, This is my beloved Son. It was His Human which was transformed and seen in glory and this was God’s Son. Ath., Page 39.
1-8. It is evident that the Lord as to His glorified Human was not the son of Mary nor of David. What His glorified Human was He showed to Peter, James,. and John when He was transfigured before them. L- 35.
1-10. He who thinks spiritually may know that Jehovah is present in His Divine truth, for this proceeds from Him, consequently that this is there understood by clouds. E. 36.
1, 2. The relation begins by saying, And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them. How significant is this mystic number of six days, as pointing to the states of labour and self-denial that precede and usher in the state of succeeding rest and peace, when the beautific vision is opened to the soul’s spiritual sense! These preparatory states are the subject of the preceding discourse. After these have been completed, the glory of the Lord is revealed. But why is it that this glory is revealed only to these three of the disciples? Did not the rest require this assurance and confirmation of their faith in Jesus? Did they not deserve it? The cause is spiritual. These three disciples represent the three cardinal graces, which, in a manner, include all the others, or to which they all belong. Peter, James, and John represent faith, charity, and good works. It was for this reason that these three were selected by the Lord to accompany him on particular occasions, and as one, and the most important, of these, on the occasion of the Lord’s transfiguration. This teaches us that those who are principled in faith, charity, and works are those who, after their six days’ labour and trial in the vale of humiliation, are raised by the Lord into the mountain of his love and holiness, and there enabled to see the Lord in the splendour of his glory, in the divinity of his humanity.
2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
2 That it is the Lord from Whom all love proceeds,, was also represented by the great light or the sun, when He was transfigured. Inmost things are signified by the face, and things which proceed from those which are inmost by raiment. Thus the Lord’s Divine or love, is signified by the sun, and His Human, or wisdom from love, by the light. A. 32.
The very celestial and spiritual of the Lord manifests itself by the light before their (the angels) external sight. That this is so may also be evident to every one from the Word, as when the Lord was manifested to-Peter, James, and John, for His face then shone as the sun, and His garments became as the light. He so appeared to them simply because their inner sight was opened. A. 1530.
The Holy itself of the Lord’s Divine Human was also-a garment, which appeared as the light, and as white and glistening when He was transfigured. A. 2576.
That He (the Lord) is the light of heaven He also manifested to the three disciples Peter, James, and John at His transfiguration. His face as the sun was the Divine good. His raiment as the light, was the Divine truth. A. 3195.
When the Lord was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, the Divine good appeared as the sun, and the Divine truth was presented as raiment, which appeared as the light. A. 4677.
Spirits appear in raiment without brightness, but angels in raiment full of brightness, and as it were made of it, for the very brightness about them appears as a garment,, as appeared the raiment of the Lord when He was transfigured, which was white as the light, and white and glistening (see Luke ix. 29). A. 5248.
Vesture made of fine linen was of purest white and lustrous, and truth from the Divine is represented by vestures of such whiteness and lustre. The reason for this is, that the shining whiteness and lustre of heaven is from the light which is from the Lord, and this light is the Divine truth itself. Therefore when the Lord was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, His garments appeared white as the light. See also Mark ix. 3 and Luke ix. 29. A. 5319.
With the angels there is a flamy radiance in the midst,, from the good of celestial and spiritual love, and from this there “is a light or brightness round about. They who so appear are likenesses of the Lord, for the Lord Himself, when He showed His Divine to Peter, James, and John shone in the face as the sun, and His raiment became as the light. A. 5530.
That the face of Jehovah or the Lord is the Divine love may be evident from the face of the Lord when He was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, that isr when He showed them His Divine. A. 5585.
Garments white as snow and fine white linen signify holy truths, for whiteness and shining white are predicated of truths, for the reason that they approach nearest to light, and the light which is from the Lord is Divine truth. Wherefore when the Lord was transfigured His garments appeared as the light. A. 5954.
The heat and light in the natural world exist from the sun of the world, but spiritual heat and light, or love and faith, exist from the sun of heaven. The sun of heaven is the Lord, the heat which comes from Him as the sun, is love, and the light which comes from Him as the sun, is faith. That the Lord is light is evident from John viii. 12, and that the Lord is a sun from Matthew. A. 7083.
By the face in the Word are signified the interiors, especially the affections, and by the face of God good itself, by the sun the Divine love.’ A. 9212.
That the angels also have appeared clothed with garments is manifest from the angels that sat at the Lord’s sepulchre, and were seen in white shining garments, also from the Lord when seen by Peter, James, and John in His glory, when He had a white glittering garment as the light, by which garment also was represented the Divine spiritual, or the Divine truth which is from Him. A. 9814.
That the Lord is seen as a sun in heaven is evident also from His appearance when transfigured before Peter, James, and John. The Lord was seen in this manner by those disciples when they were withdrawn from the body, and were in the light of heaven. H. 119.
The Lord’s garments had this appearance because He represented the Divine truth which is from Him in the heavens. H. 129.
Because intelligence is from Divine truth, the garments of the Lord, when He was transfigured were glistening, and white as the light. H. 180.
Because the Lord is the Divine good and the Divine truth, and truths are meant by garments, therefore when He was transfigured (Verse quoted). R. 166.
By garments, when speaking of the Lord, is meant the Divine truth proceeding from Him, and as Divine truth is signified, the Word also is signified, for the Word is Divine truth from the Lord on the earths and in the heavens. This was represented by the garments of the Lord, when he was transfigured. E. 195.
The ground and reason why white in the Word is-predicated of truths is, because Divine truth is the light of heaven, and from the light of heaven arise whiteness-and brightness. Hence it was that when the Lord was-transfigured, His face appeared as the sun, and His garment as the light. E. 196.
By the light with which Jehovah is said to cover Himself (Psalm civ. 2-4) is signified the Divine truth in the heavens, which is called His garment, because it proceeds from Him as the sun, and so is without, and about Him. The signification of this passage is similar to that of those which treat of the transfiguration of the Lord,, and of the light which shone from His face, and His raiment on that occasion. E. 283.
By His raiment which was white as the light, is signified Divine truth, for raiment in the Word signifies truth, and this because all the angels are clothed by the Lord according to their reception of Divine truth, their garments also are from the light of heaven, thence they are shining and of a bright white. Hence it may appear why the raiment of the Lord at His transfiguration became white as the light. E. 412.
Since heat exists from the love of the neighbour, therefore there is a correspondence between love and heat, as there is a correspondence between every cause and effect. It is from correspondence that the sun of heaven, which is the Lord, appears as fiery, also that the love thence proceeding is perceived by the angels as heat. In like manner that the Divine wisdom of the Lord in the heavens appears as light, and also that the face of the Lord, when He was transfigured shone like the sun.
D. L., xx.
His Divine wisdom was also represented by His garments when He was transfigured. Garments in the Word signify the truths of wisdom, wherefore all the angels in the heavens appear clad according to the truth of their science, intelligence, and wisdom. D. Wis., i.
The foregoing statement of S. 98 is repeated in T. 261.
2, 5. It may be evident what a regenerated person is, or one that is born again, or created anew, namely that He is altogether another, and a new man. From this image it may in some measure be conceived what the glorification of the Lord is. He was not regenerated as a man, but became Divine, and this from the very Divine love itself, for He was made Divine love- itself. What His form then was, was made apparent to Peter, James, and John, when it was given them to see Him, not with the eyes of the body, but with the eyes of the spirit, namely that His countenance shone like the sun. A. 3212.
2, 6, 7. Fear not, signifies resuscitation and adoration then from the deepest humiliation. Peter, James, and John, when the Lord was transfigured, and seemed as to His face like the sun, and as to. His garments like the light, owing to which they also fell upon their faces and feared for themselves greatly. And then Jesus coming near touched them saying, Fear ye not. R. 56.
2 In the form in which he appeared on the mount, his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. The glory in which the Lord appeared on the mount, so entirely different from the ordinary appearance he presented during the time of his humiliation, is an evidence that his frail humanity covered a glory that required only to be unveiled to be seen by those who were prepared to behold it The glory which he exhibited was not that of his divine nature, for no man can see God as he is. It was the glory of his humanity in which the Lord was seen on the mount of transfiguration. But how should his humanity exhibit itself in so different an aspect from that which it usually presented? The humanity of the Lord could not have done so, had it been the same as that of an ordinary human being. The humanity of the Lord was derived from a Divine Father as well as from a human mother. Internally, therefore, his humanity was divine from his birth, and during his life it became externally divine also, on the same principle and in the same way that during regeneration our external becomes gradually formed to the image of our internal. At the time of the transfiguration, the Lord’s humanity had become so far glorified as to be capable of being seen by the eyes of his chosen apostles. The apostles themselves were prepared for the sight. Their preparation consisted in opening their spiritual sight; which was simply to place them for the time in the state in which man is when he lays aside his material body and becomes an inhabitant of the spiritual world. Such a change may be effected in an instant; but there are indications of a gradual change of state in those who saw the Lord in his glory. Luke records that “Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory” (ix. 32). The appearance which Jesus presented was not, therefore, any glory that was shed upon him, but a glory that was inherent in him, and was but a manifestation of a degree of the fulness of glory to which he was advancing, and in which he afterwards appeared to John in Patmos, when “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters and at the sight of whom John “fell at his feet as dead” (Rev. i. 14-17). Such was Jesus in himself when he appeared to Peter, James, and John. The appearance he then presented is full of meaning The Lord’s face signifies his divine love, and his raiment his divine truth. And the Lord’s love is as the sun, which in itself is pure fire, and his truth is as the light proceeding from it for the Lord in himself is pure love or goodness, while divine truth flows from him as light from the sun.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
3 et seq. What the Lord was, as the Word in ultimates, He showed to the disciples when He was transfigured, and it is there said that Moses and Elias were seen in glory. By Moses and Elias is meant the Word. S. 98.
3 There are two especially who represent the Lord as to the Word, namely, Moses and Elias. Moses as to the historic Word, and Elias as to the prophetic Word.
Therefore when the Lord was transfigured Moses and Elias were seen talking to Him, nor could any others talk with the Lord, when His Divine was seen in the world, than they who represented the Word, for speaking with the Lord is through the Word. A. 6752. As by Moses was represented the Lord as to the historic Word, and by Elias the Lord as to the prophetic Word, therefore when the Lord was transfigured, Moses and Elias were seen speaking with Him. E. 937.
3 While the disciples saw Jesus in his glory, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. These two men were eminent representatives of the Word. Moses represented the historical Word, and Elias the prophetical. We are told by Luke (ix. 31) that they, “spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” – that is, of his redemption and glorification, which was completed by the passion of the cross. Their talking with him represented that the whole Word, both historical and prophetical, treats of the Lord and the glorification of his humanity. In many parts of the literal sense of the Word, the Lord’s coming and his work in the flesh are openly treated of; but in the inmost or celestial sense, the Lord’s glorification is the only theme. This may seem surprising, but there is a sufficient reason for it. The written Word is not only a revelation, but, in emanation, from the eternal Word, and contains within it divine life and light, divine good and truth. The written Word in its essential nature is therefore divine, its spiritual and natural senses, known to angels and men being no other than a vesture which covers its ineffable divine glory, and makes it perceptible to finite minds. Before the incarnation, the Lord, as the eternal Word, was clothed with a vesture which made him visible to angels; but when he assumed humanity in the world, be covered himself with a garment which enabled men to behold him. The natural humanity, in which the eternal Word appeared in the world, was analogous to the natural sense of the written Word; and then the written and the incarnate Word corresponded to each other from first to last. As the vestures in which both the written and the eternal Word clothed themselves, so as to be visible in heaven and on earth, were taken from the finite nature of angels and men, they necessarily consisted of all that constitutes angelic and human nature, and therefore of angelic and human thought and affection. As the Lord’s life was a fulfilment of the Word, the Word must have been a revelation or history of his life. The whole Word then, both historical and prophetical, must have treated of his glorification so that Moses and Elias could talk with him of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. And the disciples who are able to ascend with the Lord into the mount of transfiguration, may still hear them talk with Jesus concerning that work of infinite love and mercy in which they have a spiritual and eternal interest.
4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
4 By tabernacle is signified the church as to good, or the good of the church. E. 799.
4 By Moses is there understood the historical Word, and by Elias the prophetical, and this because the Lord when He was transfigured presented Himself in the form in which the Divine truth appears in heaven. E. 624.
4 When the disciples beheld this glorious sight, Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. In Luke’s account it is remarked that Peter spoke thus, “not knowing what he said,” an evidence that be spoke under a higher influence than that of his own thought – from divine inspiration. And the sentiment and purpose are worthy of their divine origin, and are those of every devout mind when the glory of the Lord is revealed, by the opening of his holy Word in its spirit and power. “It is good for us to be here,” must be the sentiment of every regenerate soul when the Lord is seen in his Word, and when its relation to him and his beneficent work for the redemption and salvation of sinners is open to the spiritual sight. And the making three tabernacles in the mind for these divine and saintly guests is expressive of a desire to build up in the inmost of the soul a tabernacle for the Lord, as God in his humanity, and in the mind and life tabernacles for Moses and Elias – habitations for the Lord and the holy principles of his Word to dwell in. When the regenerate will is a tabernacle for the Lord’s love, and the regenerate understanding is a tabernacle for his wisdom, and a regenerate life is a tabernacle for his holiness, the purpose of Peter is accomplished.
5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
5 See Chapter II, 15. A. 2798. To hear Him means to have faith in Him and to obey
His precepts, thus to have faith in the will. A. 3869.
See Chapter XI., 15. A. 9311.
See Chapter III., 17. L. 19.
The Divine truth in ultimates, which is the same as the Word in the sense of the letter, was also represented by the cloud which covered Peter, James, and John, when Jesus was transfigured. R. 24.
The Lord often said that they should see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, and no one knows that anything else is signified by it but that when He comes to judgment He will appear in the clouds of heaven. Vet, this is not meant, but the meaning is, that when He comes to judgment He will appear in the literal sense of the Word : and as He has now come, He has therefore appeared in the Word by revealing that there is a spiritual sense in every particular of the Word, and that in it He alone is treated of, and that He alone is the God of heaven and earth. R. 642..
The Lord said, that they should see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and glory. And the Lord said this also where He spoke with the disciples concerning the consummation of the age, which is the last time of the church, when the judgment takes-place. He will appear in the Word. R. 820.
See Chapter III., 17. B. 120.
See Chapter III., 17. T. 188..
But the question arises, what is the first of faith in the Lord God the Saviour Jesus Christ ? And the answer is, the acknowledgment that He is the Son of God. T. 342.
By the clouds of heaven is meant the Word in the sense of the letter, and by the glory and power is meant (Matthew xxiv. 30) the spiritual sense of the Word. T. 776.
See Chapter III., 17. Can., Page 50.
That testification which is a sign from heaven was-given to the three disciples Peter, James, and John appears from the transformation of the Lord, for then they saw His glory, and also heard a voice out of heaven. E. 706.
By coming in the clouds of heaven is understood the manifestation of the Lord in the Word. E. 906.
5-7. By terror and dread in the Word are understood, various commotions of the mind arising from the influx of such things as cause amazement, and also conjoined with joy. By terror in the spiritual sense is signified terror on account of evil and falses. which are from hell, for these terrify the spiritual man. E. 677.
5-8. Such is the quality of the presence of the Divine Humanity of the Lord with man when in a state of
humiliation of heart, that he falls upon his face, and by the touch of the Lord’s hand is raised upon his feet. E. 77.
See Chapter VIII., 3. E. 79.
6—7,, The life of the mind and thence of the body puts
itself forth into the arms and through them into the
hands. Communication is made by the touch of the
hands. R. 55.
They who are in no faith are signified by the fearful. R. 891.
5 But, While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. The literal sense of the Word is as a cloud, for it veils the glory and moderates the light of its internal sense: the cloud of the letter is dark or bright according to the state of the mind that looks upon it. The letter of the Word is a bright cloud when illuminated by the indwelling light of the spiritual sense, which is when its truths are spiritually discerned. Such is the cloud that overshadows the disciples who have seen the Lord in his glory. It is out of this cloud that the divine voice comes which proclaims to us who and what he is whose glory we have beheld, for all revelation comes from the Word; and, indeed, from its literal sense, but from the literal sense illuminated by the light and glory of its spiritual sense. And what is the divine testimony respecting Jesus that proceeds from this bright cloud that overshadows us on the mount? The voice out of the cloud said of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son.” The truth thus declared from heaven is the same that Peter had so recently uttered upon earth. We have already examined these divine words as uttered at the Lord’s baptism (ch. iii. 17). The Father, we have seen, is the Lord’s divinity, and the Son is his humanity, which are actually related to each other as Father and Son. Viewed more interiorly, the Father is the Lord’s love, and the Son is his wisdom, for wisdom is the offspring of love. The Father and the Son are therefore the divine and the human in one person love and wisdom, life and light, in Jesus Christ, in whom all fulness dwells. The Father also says of the Son, “In whom I am well pleased.” The Father’s pleasure in the Son is the satisfaction of the divine in the human, as the power of effecting man’s salvation. This is the pleasure of Jehovah which should prosper in the hands of the Messiah (Isa. liii. 10). The love of the human race was the love which prompted the Lord to accomplish the work of redemption; and this work finds its reward in the salvation of men. How lofty and weighty, then, the command, “Hear ye him!” He is the power of God, the wisdom of God (I Cor. i. 24); be is God manifest in the flesh; he is the Divine Wisdom, in which is the Divine Love; he is the Fountain of every saving grace, the Author of every saving virtue; and he alone hath the words of eternal life. Then let all who would know the truth, and obtain this life, hear him!
6 The effect of this divine voice on the disciples shows what effect it will have on all who receive it sincerely. When the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. Hearing the voice is expressive of the Divine love entering into the will and its affections; and this produces profound humiliation and holy fear, meant by falling on the face and being sore afraid. Prostration and fear also imply the renunciation of our own will and wisdom, and a consequent sense of our unworthiness and nothingness in the presence of Him to whom belong all goodness and power.
7 When we thus profoundly humble ourselves, and renounce self-righteousness, and present ourselves before the Lord in our own inherent weakness, be can exalt us in his own power, and inspire us with the love which casteth out fear. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. To arise in the Lord’s might, and rejoice in his love, this is the privilege of those only who practically acknowledge Jesus to be the Lord of life and glory. The touch of Jesus is the communication of his power, the inflowing of his Spirit into the lowly mind. To arise spiritually, is to raise the affection from earthly to heavenly and divine things; and to fear not, is to have the confidence of a sincere and living faith.
8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. The view which the disciples had of the Lord in his glory, and of Moses and Elias, was given them by the opening of their spiritual sight. The closing of their spiritual sight shut out the glorious spectacle, and they saw Jesus only, and him as he was wont to appear amongst them. In the spiritual sense these words teach an exalted truth. When, after being raised up by the Divine power from the dust of humiliation, we lift up the eyes of our understanding, we see no man but Jesus, only. He to is all and in all. He is also the all of his Word. Moses and Elias may testify of him, but he himself is the only true witness. He testifies by them. He is the truth itself, which, when all human mediums and finite forms have been removed, remains alone the sole Object of love and perception.
9 Here again, in the vision, as in the confession, of Jesus, silence is enjoined on the disciples. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. The disciples representing the affections and perceptions of the spiritual mind, the divinity and glory of the Lord could be perceived by them, because the Lord’s humanity was already so far glorified as to be capable of being brought down to their degree of perception. But as the multitude, even the believing multitude, represented the affections and perceptions of the natural mind, these were not to be told of the confession and vision, because the Lord’s humanity was not yet so far glorified as that this truth could be brought down to the apprehension of the natural mind. The Lord’s glorification was completed in his resurrection, and hence the command to tell the vision to no man till the Son of man was risen from the dead. This, too, is our experience. In us the transfiguration must precede the resurrection. As with the Lord the first took place in the spirit, and the second in the body; so in us the first takes place in the spiritual mind, and the second in the natural; and in each, acknowledgment must arise from actual reception. The truth exhibited on the mountain of the inner man cannot be imparted to the outer man till that truth has come down to his state and apprehension – till after the Lord has there risen from the dead. We have an exemplification of this law in the circumstance that only the three leading disciples were taken up into the mount to see the transfiguration, the rest of the disciples being left below.
10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
10-12. As John the Baptist represented the Lord as to-the Word, which is the Divine truth on earth, in like manner as Elijah, he was therefore the Elijah who was to come before the Lord. A. 5620,
It is plainly declared by the Lord Himself that John was the Elias here spoken of, not that he was Elias, but that he represented the same as Elias, namely the Word, and as the Word teaches that the Lord would come into the world, and in all its particulars, even the most minute, treats concerning Him in the inmost sense, therefore John was sent before Him, to teach concerning His advent. E. 624.
10-13. As the prophets represented those who teach, and hence the teaching of good and truth from the Word, and Elias the Word itself, in like manner does John, who for that reason is called the Elias that was to come. A. 3540.
There are two who especially represent the Lord as to the Word, namely Moses and Elias. A. 6752.
That Elias came, and they did not acknowledge him, but did in him whatsoever they willed, signifies that the Word indeed taught them that the Lord was to come, but that still they were not willing to comprehend, interpreting it in favour of self-dominion, and thereby extinguishing the Divine which was in it. A. 9372.
10 The disciples now put a question to the Lord. Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? The scribes would demand, How can the Messiah be come, when Elias has not appeared?
The disciples believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but saw and felt the difficulty about Elias; for they themselves evidently know not the truth on this subject – that the prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist. And for what purpose were they allowed to remain in ignorance on this point till after the transfiguration? Because it represents the experience of every disciple who follows the Lord in the regeneration. The Christian disciple does not truly understand the means till he has attained the end. When he is with Christ in the mount, it seems to him as if a new light had broken in upon his mind, the coming of which no herald had ever proclaimed; and that a new joy had sprung up in his heart, that no experience had ever taught him to expect. He can say “Eye hath Not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit” (I Cor. ii. 9, 10).
12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
12 By Elias is signified the Word. How the Jews explained the Word and thus rejected it, is evident from very many passages in the gospels. E. 83.
12, 22, 23. The Son of Man means Divine truth. That He was to suffer and to be slain involves that so it was done with the Divine truth, consequently with the Lord. A. 9807.
Again it is said that the Son of Man should suffer and be put to death by which is signified that thus they would treat Divine truth, consequently the Lord, who was Divine truth itself. E. 63.
11-13. Nevertheless, no state of light and joy, however much it may exceed our previous states of knowledge and experience, is without it’s harbinger. In every coming of the Lord to the mind his way has been prepared by the truths of his Word, however unperceived their agency or silent their operation, as they are in the days of infancy, childhood, and youth. Our Lord, therefore, answers the inquiry of his disciples by saying, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. This restoration of all things is the forming in the human mind of the rudiments of all states which can afterwards exist by being developed and perfected by regeneration. To all who have reached maturity Elias hath already come, even although they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed, – for the corrupt selfhood too often, and to some extent always, treats the Lords messenger as the Jews treated John the Baptist. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them, – for this hostility of the proprium continues till it dies together with the Lords body, that the new man may rise with him from the dead. But this rising from the dead is also unknown to the disciple; indeed, it is, like every other actual state of life, hid from his eyes, so far as relates to its real character, till it comes into his experience. When the Lord had explained the prophecy respecting Elias, often the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. The light of experience, shed back upon the path by which we have reached it, reveals the true character of the means and instrumentality by which the Lord has prepared it for bringing us to him, and him to us.
14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
14-20. See Chapter VIII., 26. E. 815.
That those miracles signified those which the disciples were to do, and which were done by them at the beginning of the church, as the casting out of demons, speaking with new tongues, etc. E. 815.
14-17. And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed. In his picture of the transfiguration, Raphael has skillfully introduced this case below the mountain, as a contrast to the scene of glory which was being exhibited upon it above. Nothing could more strikingly exhibit the spiritual glory of that great event, and the degraded state and deplorable condition of humanity which the Lord had come into the world to redeem. The Lord took human nature upon him, to deliver his human creatures from spiritual bondage and wretchedness, of which this case presented so appalling and affecting a type. Below, we see fallen humanity in its utter helplessness as well as degradation; above, we behold it in its greatest power and glory, the pattern of that to which the Saviour came to raise it. And here, also, we see the absolute necessity of his immediate divine interference. For while the Lord is on the mount, the father has brought his child to the disciples, who are utterly powerless to cast the demon out. The Lord has now come down from the scene of his glory in the interior of the mind, to be present and diffuse his influence amongst the multitude of thoughts and affections in the natural mind; where, in man’s unregenerate state, evil and disorder reign. But the subject relates to the mind in which regeneration has commenced, and is in progress. The kneeling father is spiritual love, producing profound humiliation of heart before the Lord, as the only deliverer of natural love from the infestation of evil and falsity. The son was a lunatic. Lunacy, or insanity, although it may be a physical disease, has generally a mental cause, which therefore it represents. The present case was produced by the agency of evil spirits, who, indeed, in all instances, act through the evils of the human mind. There is a spiritual as well as a natural lunacy. We do not mean insanity on the subject of religion, but a spiritual derangement which incapacitates the mind for judging and acting sanely in spiritual things, however sound it may be in natural affairs. And as, when reason is dethroned, the will becomes rather an involuntary than a voluntary faculty, for there is no real volition without reason, no liberty without rationality – the mind becomes alternately the sport of ardent ungovernable feelings and of delusive thoughts. The poor lunatic, ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. Those possessed by evil spirits were not responsible for what they did. Spiritual insanity, which is the result of internal possession, is different. Evil spirits can now have no more power over us than we give them. They cannot, at their pleasure, cast us into the fire of evil and into the water of falsity; we run into them of our own accord. This freedom, however, may lead us into hopeless misery; for by long indulgence we may bring ourselves into the most complete thraldom to our lusts and imaginations. The cure of such cases requires more than ordinary means and agencies. The father of the child, as a reason for applying to Jesus, said, I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. The Lord then exclaimed, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? As the subject comes up again, we need not speak of it here, further than to remark, that the Lord’s words of lamentation and reproof have reference to that twofold condition of the mind so often treated of in the divine Word, and of which several instances occur in the present relation. The youth was lunatic and sore vexed, and often fell into the fire, and into the water; and the Lord calls the generation faithless and perverse, and asks, “How long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” All these refer to the two faculties of the human mind – the will and the understanding- and to the principles of which they are receptive. Faithless has relation to the want of truth or faith, and perverse to the want of good or charity, and the Lord’s question, “How long shall I be with you?” relates to the Lord’s presence with man by the good of his love; and the question, “How long shall I suffer you?” has relation to his presence with man by the truth of his wisdom. But to show that, in judgment the Lord remembers mercy, he follows his reproof by saying to them, of the child, Bring him hither to me, – at once showing compassion, and his desire that his creatures should act reciprocally with him in his will and operation to save.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil, and he departed out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. The Lord’s rebuke contains in it the power of divine truth and when this finds faith as a medium, which we learn from Mark ix. 24 it did with the father of the child, evil cannot resist it. The devil departs, and the mind is restored from that same hour, or the state of the reception of the power of the Lord’s truth in faith, which the hour signifies.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
19, 20. The Lord spoke those things to the disciples when they supposed that they could do miracles from their own faith, thus from themselves, when notwithstanding such things are only done by faith derived from the Lord, and thus by the Lord. E. 405.
20 See Chapter V., 18, 26. R. 23.
See Chapter V., 18, 26. E. 228.
These words are spoken of saving faith which makes a one with charity. All such faith being from the Lord, is therefore called the faith of God, as the Lord by this faith, which is the faith of charity from Him, removes all the evils flowing from the loves of self and of the world, and casts them into hell whence they originate. By mountains are signified the evils of those loves, and by the sea is signified hell. E. 405.
19, 20. When the disciples saw the Lord eject the evil spirit, they asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? He answered, Because of your unbelief. The disciples to whom the father brought his child were those who had remained with the people on the plain below, while Jesus and the three went up into the mountain. When the disciples are regarded as thus divided, the three represent the cardinal principles or graces of religion, while the others represent the subordinate common principles that belong to them. When in the inferior or natural mind, amongst the natural thoughts and affections, away from the higher principles and from the Lord, who dwells more immediately in them, they cannot act with effect on the evils of the natural mind. The reason is, because of their want of faith; for effective faith is from the presence of internal in external principles, The Lord said unto them, indeed, that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed, they would be able to say unto this, mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it would obey them. The mustard seed is faith in which there is love, which is life. No matter how small the truth is which men know, if that little has the germ of heavenly love within it, it will perform any work, even the rooting up and casting out of self-love – the mountain which faith removes. But had the disciples no faith of this character? Those who formed the life of their faith were separate, and these, who had been left below, could do nothing without them. Yet the lesson which the words of our Saviour teach is one that may be profitably studied and practised by every one, – that a living faith finds nothing impossible. Indeed, possibility is on the side of virtue. All power, and consequently all possibility, belong to God and to those who co-operate with him. All is possible that is according to order. To the faithful, therefore, who live according to divine order, nothing is impossible.
21 Jesus expresses this, in reference to the disciples, with the reservation, Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Prayer is the aspiration of the Internal man to God; fasting is the turning away of the external man from the world. The combined effect of these must be to expel the worst of demons, for what can be more conducive to through reformation than seeking strength from God to resist the devil? Spiritual lunacy can be removed by no other means. The demon by which the child was possessed represents a life of evil of a grievous kind. And though naturally, a child was not capable of any grievous evil, yet, spiritually understood, a child being expressive of innocence, the demon by whom the child was possessed must represent the opposite of innocence, which is malignant evil. This, it is evident, cannot be removed merely by grief on account of its existence, or on account of the want of the opposite life of innocence and goodness. Fasting, therefore, here means a steady abstinence from every act in which the evil disposition would seek to vent itself. This is the fasting enjoined as effectual for the casting out of the worst of demons. But this is more than man is able to do of himself. Therefore prayer is mentioned as equally necessary with fasting; or looking to the Lord is ever to be united with abstinence from evil by man as of himself. Doing both, he will be enabled to surmount the greatest obstacles; and no evil so direful but may thus be cast out, as to its influence on the mind and conduct, for ever.
22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry
22, 23. See Chapter XIL, 40. A. 2788.
See Chapter XIL, 40. E. 532.
22, 23. While they abode in Galilee, Jesus instructed the whole of the disciples on that subject which he had begun to teach the three as they descended from the mount of transfiguration. It is unnecessary again to dwell on this prediction, further than to consider why it should have been imparted to the disciples in Galilee. And as Galilee represents the natural mind, and the Lord’s suffering and death have more especial reference to the glorification of the natural or ultimate of his humanity, he chose the corresponding place to reveal it to his disciples.
24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
24-27, See Chapter IV., 18, 19. R. 405.
By paying tribute or custom were signified subjection and servitude, and hence tribute was imposed on strangers, who were not of the children of Israel, as appears from the historical parts of the Word. By the children of Israel, among whom the church was established, were signified those who were spiritual, and by strangers those who were natural; and the natural is subject to the spiritual and serves it, for the spiritual man is as a lord, and the natural man is as a servant. As the natural are servants, and thence are understood by the tributary, therefore it was so effected that the tribute was not given from the Lord, nor from Peter, but from the fish which signified the natural man. E. 513.
Men who are spiritual being free, and they who are natural being servants, in which Peter was instructed when he took the piece of money out of the mouth of a fish, and gave it for tribute, for by a fish is signified the natural man. E. 820.
24 When they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? The tribute money was a tax levied for the support of the temple service, but not imposed by the law of Moses. The Jews, though they hated Jesus, were not averse to accepting tribute from him. A corrupt church, while it despises and persecutes the truth, is willing to recognize the Word, so far as it can be made tributary to it, and subservient to its interests. But to be able to make the Word tributary to a corrupt worship it is necessary first to obtain the sanction of some of its secondary truths, which is to come through Peter to his Master.
25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
25-27. Here also by tribute or custom are meant those who serve, and thus it is said that strangers should give, and sons should be free, for strangers are servants. That Peter should take a fish out of the sea and should find in its mouth a piece of money, which he was to give, represented, that the lowest natural which serves should do this, for fishes signify that natural. A. 6394.
25, 26. When the Jews asked Peter if his Master paid tribute, He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? We see in this an illustration of the circumstance that the truths of the Word give different testimony according as they are looked at from without or from within, as they are interrogated by custom, or by principle. We learn also that even the faithful, of whom Peter was a type, see the truth differently when they are in an external state, in intercourse with men, and when they are in an internal state, in communion with the Lord. Peter was without when he was asked and consented to pay the tribute money; it was when he was come into the house that, in reply to the Lord’s question, he declared that kings levied custom, not of their own children, but of strangers. When Peter had given this answer, Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. The principle which the Lord lays down is one of much importance in relation to the church and its members, but one which the Jews had, as in many other instances, violated. By paying tribute or custom was signified to be subject or to serve, wherefore tribute was imposed upon strangers, who were not of the children of Israel, as is evident from the historicals of the Word. By the sons of Israel, among whom was the church, were signified the spiritual, and by strangers the natural; and the natural principle is subject to the spiritual and serves it, for the spiritual man is as a lord, and the natural man is as a servant; and since the natural are servants, and hence are meant by tributaries, therefore it was effected that neither the Lord nor Peter gave tribute, but a fish, by which is signified the natural man.
27 But although the Lord did not acknowledge that himself or his disciples were tributary, he said unto Peter, Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish, that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee. The whole of the Lord’s minute directions to Peter are significant and instructive. The sea, being a type of the Word in its literal sense, the fish of the sea are the natural truths which the literal sense contains. In the vision of the new temple seen by Ezekiel, the waters that issued from under the threshold of the house went down into the sea, the result of which was “a very great multitude of fish” (xlvii. 1-9). The opening of the spiritual sense of the Word, and its effect in communicating life to the truths of the letter, which by themselves are dead, are described by the river flowing into the sea. We spiritually obey the command, “go thou to the sea,” when we go to the Word in our trials and emergencies, to obtain the means of relieving our troubles or supplying our wants. And we “cast an hook,” into the sea when we intelligently search the Scriptures, with a confiding faith in the Divine promise that we shall obtain what we require, however much appearances may be against its fulfilment. What could be more unlikely than that the first fish that came to Peter’s hook should carry in its mouth the coin that was required to pay the tribute money? What more unlikely, in our times of spiritual perplexity and need, than to find in the Word the very truth which shall relieve and comfort us! We must not, however, interpret the promise too literally. Not the first text that meets our eye, or comes up in our mind, is to be expected always to have the needed and promised piece of silver in its mouth. Not necessarily that which is first in regard to time, but that which is first in regard to state, brings us the tribute money. Truth must be first in our estimation before it can yield the desired supply. And when the truth that bears the treasure in its bosom has been, by the Lord’s providence, brought to us, we must “take it up,” or raise it out of the general treasure house of the Word into the particular treasure-house of our own mind, and elevate it in our thoughts and affections. Then we must further “open his mouth,” for the literal sense must be opened by right interpretation, to discover in it and obtain from it the treasure it contains, and which we require. The reason the Lord gave to Peter for paying the tribute money at all was, “lest we should offend them.” The collectors of the tax, no doubt, knew nothing of the miracle that had been performed to discharge the debt which Peter had mistakenly acknowledged; they believed that his Master had paid it, And those who pervert order, by making tributary the children who should be free, are under a corresponding delusion. They pervert order, indeed, in themselves; and it seems to them as if things spiritual and divine were tributary to them, when yet they themselves are only in the knowledge of what is spiritual; and think they have drawn down wealth from heaven, when they have in reality derived it from the waters under the earth.
Before concluding, we would offer a remark on the miracle itself. It certainly is one of the most striking exhibitions which the New Testament supplies of the Lord’s divinity. One who performed it by his own internal power could be no other than the omniscient and omnipotent, the ruler of the world and controller of events.
AUTHOR: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (COMPILED BY ROBERT S. FISCHER AND LOUIS G. HOECK 1906)
COMMENTARY AUTHOR: WILLIAM BRUCE (1866)
PICTURES: JAMES TISSOT Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum