The darkest hour save only one has now come in Jesus' life. And that one which was actually darkest, in every way, from every view-point darkest, had in it some gleams of light that are not here. Jesus is now a fugitive from the province of Judea. The death plot has been settled upon. There's a ban in Jerusalem on His followers. Already one man has been cut off from synagogue privileges, and become a religious and social outcast. The southerners are pushing the fight against Jesus up into Galilee.
Four distinct times that significant danger word |withdrew| has been used in describing Jesus' departure from where the Judean leaders had come. First from Judea to Galilee, then from Galilee to distant foreign points He had gone, for a time, till the air would cool a bit. The bold return to Jerusalem at the fall Feast of Tabernacles had been attended, first by an official attempt to arrest, and then by a passionate attempt to stone Jesus to death.
And now the Galilean followers begin to question, and to leave. His enemies' northern campaign, together with His own plain teaching, has affected the Galilean crowds. They come in as great numbers as ever to hear and to be healed. But many that had allied themselves as Jesus' followers decide that He is not the leader they want. He is quite too unpractical. The kingdom that the Galileans are eager for, that the Roman yoke may be shaken off, seems very unlikely to come under such a leader. Many desert Him.
Jesus felt the situation keenly. The kingdom plan in Jerusalem had failed. And now the winning of individuals as a step in another plan is slipping its hold. These people are glad of bread and the easing of bodily distress, but the tests of discipleship they pull away from. He turns to the little band of His own choosing, with a question that reveals the keen disappointment of His heart. There's a tender yearning in that question, |Will ye also go away?| And Peter's instant, loyal answer does not blind His keen eyes to the extremity. With sad voice He says, |One of you, my own chosen friends, one of you is a -- devil.| Things are in bad shape, and getting worse.
It was a time of dire extremity. God was in sore straits. The kingdom plan was clearly gone for the present. The rub was to save enough out of the wreckage to get a sure starting-point for the new plan, through which, by and by, the other original plan would work out. There can be no stronger evidence of God's need of men than this transfiguration scene. Just because He had made man a sovereign in his will, God must work out all of His plans through that sovereign will. He would not lower one whit His ambition for a man free in his own will. He Himself would do nothing to mar the divine image in man. For man's sake, and through man's will -- that is ever God's law of dealing.