It’s 4:45pm. The workday is almost over. You turn to your computer to close down what you have been working on.
You close out of the instant message dialogue box that had contained a plethora of nasty jokes about your boss. It had been tempting to add one of your own, but you had resisted. Then, you check your email last time. One message is a Facebook update. One of your friends has liked Miley Cyrus wearing more clothes than usual (but still less than appropriate). It’s tempting to look out. The other update is a link to a “Science” article attempting to prove that God doesn’t exist. The arguments are tempting you to doubt your faith.
You head out the door only to pass by a coworker that you don’t like very much. It’s tempting to frown at him. Then, your boss reminds you that you have reports to finish at home this weekend. It’s tempting to give him a piece of your mind.
You get into the car and turn on talk radio. The conversation is anger. It’s tempting you to get angry. Then, a car pulls out in front of you. You’re tempted to let that anger out. Fortunately, a giant billboard for Victoria’s Secret catches your eye and eases your angry (by tempting you to lust).
Finally, you get home. You’re exhausted. Temptations were everywhere today. It’s nice to be where you are safe.
Then, your phone buzzes. It’s a text message from your friend. A Groupon for ½ drinks at a local bar. It’s accompanied by the simple text: “Don’t B a Loser!”
Temptation is everywhere. In today’s society, that has never been more true. Thanks to technology, shady activities that formerly involved heading to the seedy part of downtown at night, are now accessible from the comforts of your own living room. And it’s always getting newer and more dangerous. New technology needs to new temptations. The iPhone 5 should really called the iTemptation 5!
With temptations everywhere, how is a Christian to survive?
Today we’re going to focus in on part of Jesus’ life when temptation surrounded him. Even though these temptations had nothing to do with technology, I think you’ll see that they are very similar to temptations that you and I face today. But unlike, how you and I deal with them, Jesus deals with temptation in a entirely different fashion that has worlds of meaning for us.
1) Temptation comes in real circumstances.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Immediately, you may notice that Jesus was not in the best condition to face temptation.
He was hungry. He hadn’t eaten for 40 days and 40 nights. Tell me if you’re the same as me, if I haven’t eaten for a few hours, I start to get cranky! 40 days and nights? I can’t even go a few days without a bag of potato chips.
And when humans are hungry, how do they do with temptation? This is so carnal and yet so true. Think about yourself.
*Are you more likely to kindly share the last stack of Pringles, if you are really hungry?
*Does not having enough food help you focus and be productive instead of being lazy?
*Are you more likely to say a happy “good morning” if you haven’t had your coffee yet?
Of course not. Hungry is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Jesus was tired. Not getting the nutrients that his body needed had to leave him tired. Plus he was in the desert. Last I checked there aren’t a lot of Serta mattresses growing wild in the wilderness. How does being tired play into the temptation battlefield?
*Are you more irritable when you get a good night’s rest or when you toss and turn all night?
*Are you more likely to spend time with your kids when you’re exhausted from the demands of work or when you’ve been enjoying a leisure Saturday?
*Is it easier to get up and go to church, when you’ve been out all night partying or when you turn in early?
Tired is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Jesus was alone. There wasn’t anyone else around. Just Jesus. Some trees. Sand. Maybe, a scorpion or two. How does being alone affect the human battle against temptation?
*Does your smart Phone tempt you to look up porn at lunch with your pastor or when you by yourself at home?
*Do you commonly say swears while driving the kids to swim practice or commuting in the car by yourself?
*Do you slip a box of pencils from the supply cabinet while office manager is watching you or when everyone else is busy?
Alone is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Consider this then: Jesus, was suffering a severe circumstance of all three of these. 40 days hungry. 40 days tired. In the desert, alone! It was the perfect time for the devil to strike. Listen to the three different ways that the devil tempts Jesus. See if they sound familiar.
2) Temptations are real tricky.
Scripture says that The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Immediately, he plays on Jesus’ situation. “You haven’t eaten in days! Your Father is going to let you die. Why don’t you do a quick miracle and feed yourself? And…maybe…at first glance, that sounds just fine to us. Jesus turned water into wine. Why not stones into bread?
It wasn’t the act itself that would be coated with sin. It was the attitude behind it. Because Jesus was the Messiah! He knew that it was God’s plan to have him suffer and die on the cross not to starve in the desert. He also knew that God would sustain him until then.
Jesus also knew that miracles were for people to see. They were to be see by people everywhere and bring them to faith in Jesus as Messiah. If he did this miracle, it would be selfish and against God’s plan.
Bottom line: The devil was trying to get Jesus to doubt God’s promises.
Has he ever done that to you?
"God won't provide for you. He’s abandoned you. Go ahead and cheat on your taxes.”
“God doesn’t love you. He won’t forgive you. Just drown your guilt in alcohol.”
"God won’t strengthen your faith when you study his Word. That’s foolish. Make church your last priority.”
When the devil has tempted you to doubt God, how have you done?
Jesus listened to God’s promises over the devil’s lies: 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus = 1. Satan = 0.
The devil didn’t give up so easily. Verse 5 tells us that the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Notice how tricky the devil is. This time he uses God’s Word. He quotes Psalm 91. He makes it seem like the good option is for Jesus to show his faith and jump off!
But the devil was twisting God’s Word. God tells us not to be foolish too. Satan conveniently left that out.
Has the devil ever done that to you? He focuses you on one part of God’s Word – which isn’t the whole picture – and gets you to ignore another part?
* God says, “he will spread his word to the nations,” so there’s no reason for me to share it with my friends.
* God says, ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you,’ so I guess I should condone my friend’s homosexual lifestyle.”
* God says, “You are forgiven! So you can do whatever you want.”
When the devil has tempted you to twist God’s Word, how have you done?
Jesus did great. He held to God’s Word – both his promises and his commands – in every aspect. Jesus calls him out: “It is also written: (In Deut. 6:16) ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Jesus = 2. Satan = 0.
Finally, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Notice the outright lie. The devil claims to have power to have earthly authority. He ignores God’s authority. He then promises to give it to Jesus.
This temptation runs deeper than that. For when Jesus had completed the work of his salvation, “God gave Jesus the name above every names, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow.” (Philippians 2) In other words, Jesus would have this authority after completing the Father’s plan.
Listen to the devil’s words again: “Sure, you could have that rule and authority after suffering a viciously cruel death on the cross. Why would you want to do that? I have an easier way. A less painful way. A better way. Bow down. Worship me. It’s yours.”
The devil was trying to Get Jesus to dishonor God’s Authority.
Has the devil ever done that to you? He gets you to doubt that God is in control OR that he’s even the best one to be in control?
*God’s too old fashioned to let run your life. The Bible? That’s hogwash. Modern society says so.
*You don’t need God. You’re smarter than him. He doesn’t have time for you. Why don’t you be in charge of you? Do what you want. Ignore him. Ignore his Word. Ignore his authority.
* You’re sick. Denounce God! Tell him and your family how God doesn’t know what he’s doing. Obviously he isn’t in control OR he just doesn’t care.
When the devil has tempted you to dishonor God’s Authority, how have you done?
Marvel at Jesus. When he was faced with dishonoring God, he refused! Even if it mean that he would suffer and die!In verse 10, Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
Jesus = complete victory. The devil = defeated.
3) Jesus gave real obedience.
Now, this whole section about temptation, probably makes you feel very glum. In a sense, it serves as a reminder of our failures against temptations. (It does for me.) But if that’s where your thoughts remain, Satan is tricking you yet again.
Because this section isn’t about you! It’s about Jesus. Jesus’ and his real obedience.
Notice that he never sinned during the Desert Battle. In fact, when it is over, Scripture says that 11 Then the devil left him,” He didn’t start celebrating. He hadn’t won. He left with his tail between his legs like a dog losing a fight. Then, Scripture says, “angels came and attended him.” Angels who work for God. God who judges how we do with temptation. God who had judged Jesus’ work in the desert as victorious.
But this wasn’t the only time that Jesus defeated temptation. Jesus never sinned during the rest of his life.
* Hebrews 4:15 says, “Our high priest (Jesus)...has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin.”
* 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin, to be sin for us.”
* Hebrews 7:26 says, “ (Jesus) meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, and set apart from sinners.
* 1 Peter 1:19 calls Jesus, “A lamb—without blemish or defect.”
This remains true, even during his death. Because that’s probably the only time where Jesus was in worse circumstances than the desert. He was hungry. He was tired. He had been physically beaten. And he was alone – literally attacked on every side by his enemies. Yet, even at that time, Jesus did not sin. He did not fall to temptation.
How do we know? The proof is in the empty tomb.
If Jesus had fallen to temptation – whether in the desert, in the streets, in a house, in the temple, even on the cross, then Jesus would not have risen. He would be suffering the punishment that God prescribes for all sin – hell!
But Jesus came back to life. Meaning that he had no sin AND meaning that his innocent death was not suffering for his own failures. But for ours!
Now we’re going to bring it full circle. Because now we can focus on how:
4) Jesus is our real help.
First, he offers forgiveness for our failures.
He forgives you for the times you have doubted God’s promises. He forgives you for the times you have twisted his Word. He forgives you for the times you have dishonored God’s authority. He forgives you for all the times that you have fallen to temptation.
Trust Jesus. Remember he doesn't sin. Lying is a sin. Therefore, it's the devil who's lying when he says, "You've fallen to temptation too much! You can't be forgiven."
Jesus crushed Satan's head on the cross. He is a whiny loser who can't get over the fact that he lost. Your champion Jesus is the one to trust. A champion who says that “whoever believes in him will be saved!” (Mark 16:15)
Second, Jesus is a champion to turn to.
As we saw today, he dealt with real temptations in the midst of circumstances that put him in real danger of falling. Whatever temptation it is that you just keep falling to, know that Jesus knows what it is like to face that temptation.
But, here’s the difference, Jesus has faced those temptations, but unlike you or me or anyone else in the world, Jesus completely defeated them!
So pray to him! Ask him for help. Ask him for strength. Ask him for guidance. Don’t ignore the opportunity to have help from the One who has mastered all temptation!
Finally, Jesus gives us words to wield.
Notice that every time he was tempted in our text, his reply to Satan was, “It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.”
Jesus knew that God’s Word is powerful! He used it to thwart Satan’s plans.
You can do that too! It’s why we read Scripture. It's why we hear it. It's why we learn it and memorize it. We take it to heart so that when we are tempted by Satan, we can throw God’s all powerful Word in the devil’s face.
Try it! If you need help locating passages that expose your temptation as the sin it is, contact me. I’ll help you. Then, put those words to memory. And think them. No. Speak them. Shout them at the devil. “I will serve the Lord!”
Friends, it’s a battle out there. On our own, we don’t stand a chance against Satan. But Satan doesn’t stand a chance against Jesus. And Jesus, is on your side. Praise be to God for the one who gives us victory over temptation – now and always! Amen.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:17-18)
Earlier this week, I saw picture on Facebook of his funeral. But now, you won't believe what was just posted. #LazarusLives
Is this Jesus guy for real? I don't know how he could have done this any other way! #IsHeTheChrist?
So...Lazarus was dead for about a week, wrapped up and in the grave for a few more days. Yet, I just had coffee with him? #Awesome
Can you imagine what that would have like? No wonder the word spread to all of Israel, even though people of that time couldn't tell you the difference between a Hastag and a Tweet.
This news was too important. Too important not to share. Jesus had brought a man who had died (and been in the grave for at least 4 days) back to life!
And he didn't do it with any Frankenstein shock therapy. He didn't hire a Lazarus look alike actor. He simply spoke to the tomb:
This is big news. Jesus controls life and death.
Maybe, you've read the news. You'll hear of deaths in the Ukraine, unaccounted for bodies from a missing Malaysian aircraft, and many more shot and killed in the local news. That's scary.
But then you hear of Jesus. He ends death. He brought Lazarus back from the dead! He promises that all who believe in him will not perish, but have eternal life.
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11:25-26)
A promise of forgiveness. A promise of eternity. A promise of resurrection.
Of course you might be tempted to react like the Pharisees. They thought it was foolish. They thought it was ridiculous. They continued to plot against Jesus and convincing themselves that killing them would save the world from 'foolishness.'
But foolishness is infective. Especially when it's backed up by clear, visible proof. You know, like a man, who was dead that was now walking, talking, and telling his story. Telling about the awesome power of Jesus.
Join the movement. Share Jesus with your friends. Tweet it. Text it. Email it. Post it. Blog it. Instagram it. Even sit down and talk face to face with someone about it:
Jesus has power over death!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, God of Life and death, I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for what you did no earth. Thank you for resurrecting Lazarus and showcasing your power as true God. Help me to look to you for everlasting life. Strengthen my faith in you and give me a strong comfort in your promises. Motivate me to share this message of comfort to people I love in my life. Amen.
Nard is fancy perfume. It cost top dollar in first Century Middle Eastern Culture. It's not something that you want to spill. It's the type of perfume that you pour a dime sized amount into your palm and gently rub it into the your skin. You try to make it last as long as you can, because Macy's won't have a sale on it until next Christmas.
You definitely don't want to waste it. Not too much on your neckline. Just a dab on your head. Very little on your stomach, and nothing on your elbows, your legs, and your feet.
No. Definitely not on your feet.
But that's exactly how a woman named Mary used the perfume that she had bought on Jesus. Check it out and check out the onlooker's reaction from John 12:
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
Expensive foot perfume? Was Dr. Scholl's not available at the Dollar Tree?
But look at Jesus' reply: "Leave her alone...It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial." Jesus knew her heart. He knew she was doing this out of love. He knew she was doing this in faith for the day of his burial.
But she could have used it for the poor!?!
Let's play a game. Let's determine which gift is better. But it's going to be a bit different than how we normally play it. I'm going to describe not only the gift, but also the attitude of the heart.
Which is better:
Writing out a check for $100 to a charity that you can't even pronounce the name of simply because you are sick of your next door neighbor asking and you know you'll feel guilty if you don't? Or scrounging together whatever funds you can in order to help buy one new chair for your church's preschool. Yes, they have one, but it's old and you'd love for them to have something nice. Besides, you are thankful that the teachers shared Jesus with you kid while she was there.
Which is better:
Half heartedly, without thinking about it, grab the $20 bill from your wallet to put in the church offering plate -- all the while wishing that you could take out some change? Or skipping the offering plate because you want to save the $2.57 that you have in your coin purse for lunch with your friend. She's out of work and struggling to pay rent. You want to show her the love of Jesus by paying for an ice cream cone.
Which is better:
Saving some money to feed the poor, because you have to and "God will be angry, if you don't." Or spending it all on expensive perfume to pour on the feet of the man who raised your brother to life and who promises to raise you to life through faith in him?
Here's the point:
Jesus knew her heart. She knew that she was pouring perfume on his feet in complete love. He also knew Judas' heart. He knew that he was wanting to give to the poor out of compulsion and a desire to skim a little off the top.
Attitude is important. Sometimes we get so fixated on the amount, the way it's used, the method it's used (which are all important and valuable to consider) that we completely forget to focus on our reason for giving: "Jesus took away all my sins! Through faith in him, there's nothing else I need to do to earn heaven. He gave his life for me. That's awesome love! Now I'm going to share that awesome love with the way that I give!"
Now we may react to the incredible love of Jesus in a lot of different ways: One helps her friend in need. One pays for flowers on the altar. One buys sheet music for the choir. Another routinely buys the paper towels for fellowship after the service. Still another offers to pay for a struggling member's month of rent.
But all of these acts of love, are acts of love! In our pride, we might try to bring down these acts of love, but who are we to judge!?!
Are you going to be the one to tell your four year old that she should invest her quarter in order to one day pay for her college tuition?
Or will you encourage her and thank her for her Sunday School gift that goes to help build a new classroom for a church in Apacheland?
Jesus is the judge of heart. And he loves a cheerful giver.
PRAYER: O God above, who deserves all prayers and who sees not only the gifts presented to him, but the attitudes of our hearts, forgive us. Forgive us for attitude of unthankfulness and compulsion. Forgive us for looking down on the gifts of others. Forgive us for judging the hearts of those around us. Instead, help us to look at your love. Help us to judge that love as incredible. Compel our hearts to respond to your love with love -- in varied and numerous ways. Amen.
Ash Wednesday doesn't feel very happy.
Last night, at our Ash Wednesday service, the mood was somber. The church was quiet. The organ was subdued. The Bible readings were tough to swallow. The liturgy forced us to think about our failures. Our voices joined together to say, "Lord, we are sinners."
The whole setting forced my soul to be faced with the many failures I have had over the past months. To top it off, there was a technical difficulty in the middle of the service that only attacked my conscience all the more. It was really a quite uncomfortable feeling.
Contrast that with this morning. I just finished the First Lesson in the Lenten Bible reading plan. It was Matthew 21:1-11 and...well...the mood of this reading is a little different.
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”' 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the
trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
At first glance, the mood of Palm Sunday seems diametrically opposed to the mood of Ash Wednesday. Shouts of hosanna. Singing. Palm branches of praise. Excitement and joy that the king is here. How could I feel that excitement and joy after a night of confession and internal repentance?
Because Ash Wednesday finds its joy in Palm Sunday. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we can't get ourselves out of this sin. Yes, we are in danger of sin ruling over us forever.
But then, our King. He is gentle. He is loving. He has come to rescue us from sin and bring us to eternal life.
And that's exactly why Ash Wednesday is really happy.
The confession ended with the promise of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The devotional message pointed us to God's complete work of redemption. The last hymn spoke the truth of faith: "I Lay My Sins on Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God." The final words came from our King (and they were words of blessing NOT condemnation.)
As you start your Lenten journey, remember who your King is and where he is heading. Remember that he came to save you. Remember that, though you will learn about your own sins, you will also learn about your own Savior.
There's nothing happier.
I joined Twitter this past week. A pastoral leadership magazine told me to. I joined, but I wasn’t quite sure how a pastor might use it, so I followed a few famous pastors to see how they were using it.
One pastor with over 10,000 followers tweets Bible passages. On Tuesday he tweeted, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him…will have eternal life.”
That’s sounds nice, right?
Then, I read the responses:
“Only he didn’t stay dead. He came back to life. So he only played dead. Foolish much?”
“Humans live to their low 100s at best. Eternal life? That’s a bit of a stretch." #Atheist #Atheism
“Stop feeding your people junk.” (Only he didn’t use the word junk.)
It’s a battle out there. It’s a battle on the internet. A battle in the media. A battle in our own personal lives. A battle during life on this earth.
Unbelievers taunt. The world tempts. The devil causes doubts. The past haunts. Death creates fears.
Maybe it's starting to wear on you. You're only human. It's tiring to defend your faith. It's exhausting to fight temptation. It's energy zapping to live your faith in God in a godless world.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll examine the Battleground that 21st Century Christians live in and look to Scripture for guidance.
But before we go through our strategy, it is absolutely important to become familiar with who our leader is.
If we don’t trust him, we can’t trust his plan. We might start to think: “What’s the point!?! Why not join the world? Why not give up on religion? Why not give up on Sunday worship, turn off the SNOOZE and sleep in!?!”
This is why NFL teams don't hire little league soccer coaches and expect that they'll be experts.
It's why Fortune 500 companies don't hire assistant managers at Burger King.
It's why military Generals need a better resume than simply, "I won a game of Risk once."
We're talking about our spiritual leader. In a world, where the physical is heralded and the spiritual is despised, we need a good one.
A Christian has chosen to follow Jesus. But...what are his qualifications? How is he a better leader than Ghandi, Buddha, or Mohammed? Why should we put all of our faith in him and devoted our lives to following him?
I imagine that the disciples were asking the same questions.
Right before our text from Matthew 17 takes place, the local religious leaders had increased their pressure on this tiny group. They were constantly being challenged and carefully watched in hopes that a political case might be built against them. The end goal being that Jesus’ and his followers be stopped.
But it wasn’t just these human leaders that opposed them. There were dark spiritual forces that were engaged in this battle. Not that long ago, they had horrifically watched as demons possessed a man and vigorously opposed Jesus. It was downright frightening.
Through it all, there had been a calming force. Their leader, Jesus, was with them. He was powerful. He spoke with authority. He was protecting them. But that was about to change. Jesus had just explained to them, for the very first time, that he would go to Jerusalem, suffer, and die.
Do you suppose the disciples began to question themselves?
“Why are we following him again? This is getting less and less fun.”
“People have gone from being annoyed with me to hating me. I don’t like it. I know it would change, if I followed someone else.”
“Life isn’t as peaceful as it was back when I would simply spend the morning fishing.”
“He’s going to die. Will that put me in danger? I’m out!”
They came to a mountain. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up a hill. Perhaps they thought that on top of the hill they could have a heart to heart and get some answers. They needed to be reminded why they had followed Jesus in the first place. They needed to be told who he was.
Immediately, Jesus began to clue them in.
1.) Scripture tells us that his face began to shine. Literally, it says that it looked just like the sun.
Remember this is before the days of the flashlight and glow in the dark face paint. There isn’t any kind of trick going on here. In fact, verse 1 tells us that Jesus led Peter, James, and John…up the mountain by themselves.”
This means there weren’t any tricks going on. Jesus’ face was literally shining so brightly that the disciples would have needed to squint and shade their eyes. If they had a pair of Oakleys, they might have slipped them on.
This wasn’t normal. It was divine.
2.) Scripture also tells us Jesus clothing became as white as the light.
Again Jesus is not appearing in some hidden camera commercial for Jerusalem dry cleaning. This isn’t the point in history when Clorox bleach was invented. In fact, I don’t know that Oxyclean could do as good of a job making clothes that clean.
Sometimes there are those little brown stains that appear on socks or under shirts or even around the collar of a nice church shirt, that just don’t go away without some good scrubbing.
Jesus had been walking in the desert! Think he got some dirt on him? And yet now, without doing any wash at all, his clothes were as white as the light. Almost blinding with cleanliness.
This wasn’t normal. It was divine.
3.) Finally, Scripture describes in verse 3 that then there appeared before the disciples Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Now this isn’t like heading to Lake Lynn and coming across your buddy from art class who is jogging around the lake with his bulldog.
Moses had been dead for around 1500 years. Elijah went up to heaven 900 years ago.
And this isn’t anybody dressed up as Moss or Elijah waiting to play a trick on the disciples. Remember: They went up to the mountain by themselves. Jesus was talking with the heavenly world.
This wasn’t normal. It was divine.
Which leads us to put the clues together just as if we were reading an Encyclopedia Brown book:
Who could cause human skin to break out in radiant light?
Who could cause fabric to glow a majestically clean color?
Who holds the heavenly realm and interacts with its residents on a daily basis?
WHO ELSE BUT GOD HIMSELF?
So let’s be clear. The disciples as they followed Jesus were not just following some guy with some nice ideas about how to change the world. They weren’t just entrusting their livelihood to a good politician. They weren’t just being spiritually cared for by a Seminarian . They weren’t just putting their lives in danger for a good friend.
They were following God himself!
Take a moment to consider what that means for you.
Either way consider: How do those who oppose Jesus compare? Scientists are just people. Bloggers are only humans. Atheistic politicians. They are just people too!
The Jesus you follow? He is the divine, world creating, spirit world controlling, all cleansing, totally pure and all powerful God of heaven and earth himself!
Looking at Jesus’ divinity, Peter was impressed. All the fears, worries, and anxieties of following Jesus simply faded into the background as he gazed at his Savior. In verse 4, “Peter said to Jesus, “Lord it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Ever feel that way about church? It’s a sanctuary. A place away from all the negativity that comes with being Christian. An oasis where traditional values are still preached. A place where the pastor doesn’t try to present ‘scientific’ documentation that God doesn’t exist. A place where you aren’t persecuted for your belief in God. A place where Pastor's goal isn't to get you to renounce your Christian upbringing. A place where your sins aren’t used to judge you, ridicule you, call you a hypocrite, and get you into trouble.
A place where you are encouraged. Inspired. Forgiven.
A place where you gaze at God’s glory in peace.
Who wouldn’t we want to be in a place like that?! Certainly, church is an awesome thing. And Peter was right, It is good for us to be here! But as the story continues, God teaches us a valuable lesson.
Listen to what happens while Peter is still speaking those words, “A bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Again. This is no joke! There isn’t anyone dumping dry ice into the air and moving it across the top of the mountain with a portable fan. This isn’t the set for a rap music video. This is the glory of the LORD! A cloud of brightness very similar to the pillar of cloud that guided the Israelites during the day for 40 years in the desert appears and envelopes them!
In that cloud, God the Father speaks, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Then, God gives instructions. "Listen to him!”
Think of what that meant for the disciples. “Listen to what he has told you. Know that he will die for the people. Listen to the truth that he will rise again." Then, listen to his directive to “Go and He must go to Jerusalem and die. There will be hardships. Then, you will continue to spread this message.”
Think about what that means to us. Jesus words to us are very similar: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (i.e. “Tell your neighbor about Jesus.” “Explain to your husband the reason you go to church.” “Invite your co workers to visit church with you.”)
In other words, God is telling us that we can’t stay on our spiritual mountain.
WE MUST GO INTO THE WORLD!
That can be scary. No one likes to be called a bigot, a fool, or a moron. No one likes to be threatened. No one likes to be hated.
It certainly scared the disciples. Instead of saluting the voice of God himself, the disciples do what humans do when they are faced with the divine Word of the Lord. “They fell facedown to the ground, terrified.”
Faced with two options – obeying God and suffering at the hands of men or agreeing with men and disobeying the Almighty God. They were frightened.
I’m guessing you’ve felt that same fear.
That’s why what Jesus does next is so important. He doesn't berate them for their fear. Look at verse 7. “Jesus came and touched them."
Note that this isn’t a divine slap of God’s wrath like the disciples deserved. It was gentle. It was loving.
That is how God works! When we are terrified from our sins, from persecution, from temptation, from fear, he reaches out to us. He really reaches. With both arms stretched out as far as he can. He touches us with his love. On the cross, the actions say, “I love you. You are forgiven. Trust in me – God himself crucified for you!”
If you have lived your life against him up to this point, know this: He gave his life for you. Through these words, I pray, God touches you. "Believe: I love you. You are forgiven. I, God himself, have been crucified for you!"
Then Jesus gives gentle encouragement to his disciples, “Get up!” This is the same gentle encouragement he gives to us. Get up. I have work for you to do. But I will be with you. I will hold you.
Again, we know this to be true, there are people all over North Raleigh that need to hear about God crucified for them. They are right in our neighborhood.
I know, we’ve grown as a congregation in the past months, but we cannot be satisfied to simply let our church work be nothing more than “gather on Sunday, make each other feel good, and then go hide in our homes until next Sunday.”
God has a directive for us! Get up. Let that directive speak to you. Get up! Gethsemane! Get up! Get off of the mountain. You have work to do!
If that work is daunting to you, listen to the divine directive of comfort from Jesus. “Don’t be afraid.”
Yes, I know it is scary outside these walls. There are people who disagree with us. People who ridicule us. People who openly mock and scorn us.
But none of these people are God. God is on your side. God is the one enlisting you. God is the one that will lead you into battle! You have no reason to fear.
Brothers and sisters, as we leave here today and go out into the world. As we enter the battleground. Remember who your leader is. Remember he is God himself! Then, listen to your marching orders:
Get up. Get off your mountain. Share Jesus.