Today is a Transfiguration Sunday and we are celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus. Yet – you might not have ever heard about that.
It isn’t a national holiday.
Nobody takes off of work.
There isn’t a Charlie Brown Transfiguration Special.
There isn’t a Transfiguration Sunday section of the Greeting Cards.
So, our goal today is simple: (1) understand what the Transfiguration is and (2) determine how it affects us. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. What is it?
First, we should define “transfiguration.” Because it isn’t a word that we use on a day to day basis. People don’t say things like “My Molly, you really have transfigured since yesterday!” If you did, Molly might respond by saying: “Take that back…you!”
The dictionary definition of transfiguration is this: “A complete change of appearance into a more beautiful or more spiritual state.”
The first thing I think of is the movie “She’s All That.” Remember that 90s movie with Freddie Prinze Jr? It’s about a guy who is challenged by his friends to turn the “geek” of the school into the prom queen. But…I don’t know how hard it is. Basically, all he does is have her take off her glasses and let her hair down and – voila – Prom Queen.
The transfiguration we are celebrating today is about whole lot more than letting your hair down and taking off your glasses.
It started out like a normal day. Jesus took a few of his disciples up a small mountain. He wanted to get some time for peace, quiet, restoration and prayer.
And when they get to the top, Jesus went over to the nearest rock.
Got down on his knees.
Propped up his elbows on the rock and immediately devoted himself to deep prayer.
The disciples follow suit.
They found their own rock.
They propped their own elbows up.
They began their prayers:
“Dear Lord, Thank you so much for your…ZZZZZZ.”
“Huh? I mean…thank you so much for the manamanamah.”
They were sleepy.
They were tired.
I imagine Peter enjoyed a pleasant dream of fishing on the Galilean Sea – and pictures himself holding up the prize-winning bass about 5 feet long.
A bright light.
It isn’t the camera flash of the Paparazzi photographing his fish.
The bright light isn’t coming from the dream world.
Peter opens his eyes and immediately is blinded.
Squinting cautiously, he tries again.
“It must be the sunset,” he thinks. “I must have been sleeping for a while.”
But Peter feels the warmth of the sun overhead.
That means the light isn’t coming from a sunup or sundown.
He squints harder.
It’s coming from the face of Jesus.
Like the sun.
But it’s not just his face! It was his clothing, too.
To be fair – Jesus wore a white tunic. That was common. But they had been out in a desert-like climate. Over time dirt affects pure whites. They start to yellow with some brown climbing up from the bottom of the tunic.
They hadn’t come up to do laundry.
And yet – Jesus’ clothes were a brilliant white.
A shining white.
A gleaming white.
Then, Peter’s eyes went to the right. Next to Jesus stood an older man with a long beard. I always picture him with two giant tablets of stone with what appears to be 10 commands written on them.
Peter thinks: “Wait. I know my Sunday School stories. That can be none other than Moses. The prophet God used to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt. But…wait…isn’t he…”
Before he could finish, another man…a bit younger looking.
‘Elijah and I are excited to be here!” Moses said. “It’s amazing really! I lived thousands of years ago – Elijah lived hundreds. But both of us were doing our work, preaching what we did, telling the people about the coming Messiah. And that Messiah is YOU Jesus! We are so excited to see your work in progress.”
Peter listened as they continued.
He listened as they spoke about God’s plan of salvation.
He listened as they spoke about Old Testament prophecy.
He listened as they spoke about God’s love for his people.
Until…he couldn’t handle it anymore!
I’m…I’m…Peter. I fish!
It’s amazing to see you here! That you took time out of heaven to join us.
And Jesus – you’re glowing and shimmering and doing an incredible miraculous thing!
You can do anything!
So…um…I know you’re visiting from heaven, but…how I can help your stay more comfortable?
I know! I can build a tent for you out of a few olive branches! It’ll be just like you’re at home…
Before anyone could answer, a cloud began developing.
A thick, dark cloud.
It enveloped Elijah.
It enveloped Moses.
It enveloped Jesus.
It enveloped the other disciples.
It enveloped Peter.
He could no longer see Jesus, but a faint, glowing light from where he had been standing.
Then, the fog did something else unusual.
“This is my Son, whom I have chosen. You must listen to him.” (Luke 9:35)
Peter fell to the ground.
This wasn’t fun and games ANYMORE!
He was in the presence of the Holy, All-powerful, Sin-hating and sin-punishing God of heaven and earth!
And…he, Peter, was a sinner.
Peter made himself as flat as he could to the ground.
Pretending that he was mud.
Because he felt like mud.
And he thought that if he blended in with the mud, God might just leave him.
Which would be better than being left a pile of smoke at the hands of God’s almighty wrath.
Things grew quiet.
The voice stopped speaking.
A bird cawed in the distance.
A hand gently patted Peter’s back.
“Peter, it’s okay. Get up.”
He looked up to see the warm smile of his Savior.
The cloud was gone.
The light was gone.
The prophets were gone.
It was only Jesus.
And Peter got up.
And Peter dusted himself off.
And Peter followed Jesus.
Nobody said anything about what they had seen.
Not James or John.
They just let things get…back…to normal?
II. Why is it Important?
This is the Transfiguration. Whether Peter knew the word or not, that’s what he saw.
And it’s not just “a transfiguration” because I don’t know that there ever is a more incredible, more divine, more fantastic change in one person’s appearance than THE face shining, tunic gleaming, heavenly people entertaining, cloud encompassing, divine voice speaking, Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior.
But why would God go to this trouble?
What message is He bringing to his disciples?
What message is He bringing to You?
A few things:
1) Jesus is Divine
Have you ever seen an episode of Scooby Doo before? At the end of the episode, after the kids in the Mystery Van have trapped the bad guy in some kind of comical, haphazard way – there’s the unmasking. Velma, the smartest of the group, walks over to the ghoul or goblin and grabs him by the scruff of their neck to reveal – it was the Janitor! (He would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids).
In the Transfiguration, Jesus unmasks. Not that He is wearing any kind of mask at all. But for the majority of his lifetime Jesus appears to be an everyday, ordinary a human.
He eats like humans do.
He sleeps like humans do.
He grows like humans do.
He does humans things like humans do.
He is 100% human.
But along the way, every once in a while, he also does things that ordinary humans can NOT do.
He speaks to a blind man’s eyes, and those are instantly able to see.
He walks on liquid water.
He tells storms to stop and they do.
He changes water into wine.
He raises the dead.
Think of these miracles like glimpses into the fact that Jesus is not just human – but something else spectacular.
Someone else spectacular.
At the Transfiguration?
The mask is off.
He’s not just a human being.
He’s also true GOD.
He is divine.
He is able to make his face glow, his clothing gleam, souls from heaven appear, a cloud to envelope and the simultaneous voice of the Father speak.
That’s even what the voice says! The voice says, “This is my Son.”
When a human says that about a person, he is generally referring to a different person.
A human fathers another human.
But when God calls Jesus his Son.
God fathers God.
But since God is eternal.
And God is one.
Jesus is not a lesser God.
But the one true God who always has been.
Maybe stop with the logic of the situation and look only at the miracle of the Transfiguration.
Jesus is God.
And if you have been spending your lifetime looking for God…
If you’ve practiced yoga and drank tea to get in touch with the Spirit…
If you’ve read books and studied world religions to find the ONE…
If you’ve done experiments and tried to identify the specific God…
There’s no need to look any father.
Jesus is God. And he came to earth with a purpose.
Which leads to our second main truth about the Transfiguration:
2) Jesus’ Main Purpose was Dying for You!
Because you would think that once God was up on that mountain surrounded by people in awe of Him, he would love it.
He would tell Peter to build him a throne.
He’d tell James and John to go get others.
He’d sit up on the mountain, gleaming brilliantly and waiting for people to come and worship Him.
Jesus returns to his human appearance.
He walks down the mountain.
He begins his journey to Jerusalem where he will eventually die on the cross.
The Transfiguration makes it clear! Jesus’ death wasn’t unstoppable.
If he wished….
…he could have dazzled so brightly that the crowd coming to arrest him would have been blinded.
…he could have called down from heaven every believer who’d passed and handed them a sword of fire to vanquish the soldiers who came to arrest him.
…he could have swallowed the crowd of people who were going to convict him in the courtroom and had the booming voice of the Father speak to his accusers: “This is my Son! Let Him Go.”
He could have prevented his death.
But He didn’t.
Because His death didn’t happen on accident! His death happened because it was His main purpose was saving you.
Think about it: God could have remained up in heaven.
God could have said “Ya’ll messed up this world with your sin and the only thing I’ll send is a few lightning bolts to destroy you.”
Instead, God said, “I will send…myself.
I will live perfectly when you can’t.
I will die innocently in your place.
I will rise triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sins!
I will save YOU!”
3) Our Salvation is CERTAIN
If I could underline, bold, italicize and put in 160-point font and still fit it on the Power Point slide, I would. Because that is only a smidgen of the confidence that we have of our forgiveness.
Jesus is not just some nice guy.
He isn’t just a well-meaning friend.
He isn’t just some person who says, “Let me know how I can help,” but when you mention a way to help says, “I’m playing golf that day.”
Jesus is God.
God always helps.
He always wins.
He always saves.
And since Jesus is God.
He saved you.
And it is absolutely, 100% certain.
No matter what you think.
No matter what others say: “You’ve done a lot of wrong.”
No matter what the devil says: “You aren’t worthy of being helped.”
No matter what you might think in your darkest hour: “I am not loveable.”
God’s voice is BIGGER.
God’s voice is LOUDER.
God’s voice comes from within the ethereal, divine cloud and says:
This is my Son, Jesus.
I chose Him.
He saved you.
You are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
1. Fear God, but Don’t Fear God
That might seem like an oxymoron. But it’s the tension that the disciples who were on the mountain had to live with.
Because when they were on top of that mountain, enveloped in the cloud, with the booming voice of God shaking the earth under their feet, they were terrified! They fell to the ground, hoping and pleading with God not to destroy them.
We need the same respect for our God.
When we gather to worship, it isn’t just to hang out with some people we like.
It isn’t just to sing some songs that we like.
It isn’t just to eat some cookies that we like.
It’s to come as sinners to worship the divine, Holy, Almighty God.
And yet…don’t be terrified.
Just like Jesus, who just revealed himself to be that divine Holy God, touched his disciples on the shoulder and gently said to them, “Follow me.”
God says the same to you.
You are forgiven.
You are at peace with God.
Come into his presence without fear.
Come without terror.
2. Listen to Him!
Do you know what Bible story comes right before this? About 8 days earlier, Jesus gathers all 12 of his disciples together and he tells them that he will very soon go to Jerusalem where he will be arrested, convicted, suffer and died.
And Peter’s response?
“ABSOLUTELY NOT! I won’t allow it. That’s a terrible idea Jesus, I have a better one.”
Fast forward eight days, to Jesus’ transfiguration, when the Father’s voice speaks to him: “This is my Son…LISTEN TO HIM!”
A few days later…when Jesus again gathers his disciples together and repeats: “We are going to Jerusalem where I will be arrested, convicted, suffer and die.”
Peter doesn’t fight him this time.
Do the same.
Even if you think you know better. Listen to Jesus.
Even if your friend tells you differently. Listen to Jesus.
Even if your society makes a sophisticated argument. Listen to Jesus.
Even if a university professor tells you they know better. Listen to Jesus.
Even if you feel differently than what Jesus is saying…Listen to Jesus.
Even if your own voice tells you: “You don’t matter. You are worthless. You aren’t valuable.” Listen to Jesus.
You do matter.
You are worthwhile.
You are valuable enough to die for.
Listen to Jesus.
3. Come Down the Mountain
Examine Peter’s only words on recorded on the mountain: “Let’s setup three tents – one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.” Part of the reason behind that statement, is that Peter is in love with what he is seeing. It’s so encouraging. It’s so obvious. It’s so uplifting. It is so certain that Jesus is God – that he doesn’t have any doubts at all. And rather than go back down that mountain to the world where people doubt, where people question, where people make fun, where Peter isn’t feeling so confident…Peter would prefer to stay on that mountain.
But he couldn’t.
Jesus had a mission to do.
Peter had a mission to do.
And you can’t either.
You have a mission to do.
Because while it’s nice to hang out together…
And it’s wonderful to be uplifted by God’s Word...
And Jesus tells us to spend time together in His Word…
Eventually we need to go.
We need to leave the mountain.
We need to leave these walls and go on our mission to Plant the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh.
Guys – this isn’t my idea.
This is God’s.
The face-shining, tunic-gleaming, cloud-encompassing, divine voice-speaking Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior.
Listen to Him.
Come down from the mountain.
Share His Word.
The Olympics are officially underway. One of my favorite parts is the behind the scenes documentaries that appear on the various athletes. They’re pretty exciting because you get to learn more about their background, their personality, and what drives them.
Like Mamee Birney. She’s a Short Track speed skater originally from Ghana, immigrated when she was 5 and now skating for the U.S. She’s one of the breakout stars of the Olympics and the very first black woman to qualify for the U.S. speedskating team. She’s intimidating. She’s bubbly. She’s excitable. She’s also 18 and just got her own cell phone for the very first time.
That’s fun. What’s nice about social media is that it connects us to these celebrities in an intimate way.
We really get to know them.
But what about Jesus?
Then disciples had followed him for 2 years.
They had seen amazing thing, heard amazing promises, and listened to amazing speeches.
But Jesus didn’t have an Instagram. How would they get to know the real Him?
Today we are travelling along with the disciples to an intimate retreat on a mountain. Our goal is to witness an event that teaches us intimate details about who Jesus is and talk about what that means for being His disciples. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
Context wise – this lesson takes a huge leap forward in time from last week’s sermon. It’s about 2 years after those early chapters in Mark and lots of things have happened.
There are more disciples. The original 4 fishers of men have grown to be 12 including political activists, accountants, and others from throughout the land of Judea.
There have been many miracles. The disciples have seen Jesus make the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, storms stop, and bread multiply out of thin air. They have seen a host of incredible, miraculous things.
They have become very familiar with Jesus’ mercy. Because in spite of His divine miracles, Jesus has been reaching out to the non-divine. He has spent time with prostitutes, eaten dinner with tax collectors, and helped the dregs of society that most religious leaders would not have touched.
After seeing all of these things, the disciples knew they were following someone great. But on this particular day, they were going to get a chance to really know the man behind the powers. They were going on a Retreat – not to Disney World – not to Great Wolf Lodge – but to a quiet mountaintop. This was their chance to really understand more about their leader.
You can almost hear them practicing their questions:
Who are you really?
What are your hopes and dreams?
What’s your favorite color?
Jesus, what is it that makes you tick?
But as they made their way up to the top of the mountain – and Peter cleared his throat ready to finally ask some of those tougher, get-to-know-you questions -- Jesus was already answering those questions.
Just not with words.
It began with a glow…A white like glow emanating from Jesus’ clothing. It was a bit strange because there wasn’t a washing machine located on the top of this mountain -- and last they had checked Jesus’ tunic it was stained with the dirt that had rubbed against him from night after night of sleeping under the stars.
And certainly not glowing.
But not as strange as what they saw next. Jesus’ face was also glowing. It wasn’t a mask. It wasn’t a trick of the sun. He wasn’t shining a flashlight on his face. In fact, he hadn’t done anything differently than simply set foot on the mountain.
Yet, his face was bright. Bright–bright. Wish you were wearing sun glasses bright. It was a brilliant shining white light that was emanating from the face of Jesus in a way unlike anything they had ever seen.
But before the disciples could make any hypotheses as to why the luminescence of their leader, another mystery…Two men. (A couple of hermits? Mountain men?) appeared with Jesus.
The disciples listened more closely. They didn’t speak like mountain men. They spoke like men of God. They talked about what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah, about God’s promises about the Messiah in the Old Testament, about the next stages of Jesus’ plans for saving the people.
Who were these guys? They listened closely to what Jesus called them:
“Moses, it’s just like God prophesied through you. I am the prophet like you from among the Israelite brothers.”
“And Elijah, it’s just like God worked through you – I have done miracle after miracle – only at an even more impressive clip.”
Peter’s jaw dropped.
He turned to John and mouthed those names again:
If that’s who these two were, that would be amazing!
They were heroes of the Old Testament.
They were legends of God’s Word.
They were rock stars in the world of the Jewish faith.
They were also…dead. At least, they had been for hundreds of years.
Now about this time Peter had an idea. What was going on was breathtaking! Bodily luminescence? Material translucence? An encounter with two souls from heaven itself? This was worth sticking around for.
Ummm…Jesus. Ummm….so it looks like you are having a good time here. Me too. Really. Would you like me to set up a tent for each of you? I can use those big leaves from the fig tree over there. I’ll even set up some rocks as a bed. I’m sure that’ll be way more comfy than whatever beds there are in heaven…?
Before Peter’s could think better of his suggestion – things changed again. An ethereal fog began to drift in. Deeper than a fog a cloud! It slowly began enveloping the entire seen: Jesus. Moses. Elijah. The sycamore trees. The rocks. The disciples – until a white condensation covered everything with a white glow coming from where Jesus’ face previously had been.
And then? A voice.
Not Moses’ voice.
Not Elijah’s voice.
Not Jesus’ voice.
Not Isaiah’s voice or Jeremiah’s voice or the voice of Abraham himself.
This voice was too loud.
“This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”
Peter and the others fell to the grounds. Frightened.
Because without seeing where this voice came from.
Without seeing where the voice was looking.
Without seeing who was talking.
It was God.
It was God talking to them.
“You must listen to him.”
II. The Truth about Who You’re Following
If the disciples didn’t understand before who it was they were following, suddenly things became very clear. Amazing? Yes. Hard to believe? Absolutely. But as plain as the bright light coming from Jesus’ face – they were following God’s Son.
And since God begets God from eternity – meaning He’s always there and his begotten – his Son is always there too—they were hearing from God about God – namely Jesus!
Their leader was the divine God of heaven and earth itself.
Think about the proof:
1. Fabric Luminescence
This might be the smallest of the miracles, but still pretty amazing! Tunics didn’t get changed often and they were worn in a desert community. In addition, Jesus had just climbed up the mountain. To expect it to be bright white, Clorox bleached white at the top of the mountain was pretty incredible.
In fact, it’s amazing to see that kind of a bright white clarity out of the washing machine. Right? It’s why when they run those Oxy Clean commercials and they dunk the ketchup and grass stained white tie into the bowl of product (because who doesn’t wear a bright white tie while eating hot dogs), it’s amazing how clean the product makes the garment.
This happened to Jesus.
Without any product.
Without any washing machine.
This was amazing. This was God.
2. Facial Luminescence.
I think this one is the next step up. Because this is not something that anyone had ever noticed about Jesus before. Think about it: his face was shining to the point of it being challenging to look at him. Even if the sun was shining, I don’t think it’s ever reflected off of anyone’s face to the point of making it difficult to look at them.
Perhaps a bald man’s head might produce that effect – ish. But Jesus wasn’t bald. He was 32 years old.
And there was something else on his face that would have completely prevented his skin from reflecting the sun’s rays in any kind of way that would imitate a ‘glitter shimmer.’
Again – Jesus’ face shining like a light is absolutely was amazing.
This was God.
3. Talking with Dead Celebrities.
And I think we need to focus in on that “dead” aspect. Because as amazing as it is that Jesus knew these celebrities of Jewish culture – it was even more amazing that he was talking to them hundreds of years after they had died.
For instance, what’s more impressive --
Hey! I just took a selfie with Justin Timberlake?
or Hey! I just took a selfie with Elvis Presley?
I don’t care what your taste is in music, the second one is way more impressive, because Elvis has been long dead!
And that’s the same thing that disciples witnessed.
And the men appeared out of nowhere.
And the men disappeared out of nowhere.
This was amazing.
This was God.
4. The Voice from the Ethereal Cloud
Which – I understand that the cloud itself might be explained. Clouds sometimes hang around the mountains. Sometimes they even hang around the lowlands – we call that fog.
But what are the chance a thick cloud envelopes the entire scene at the exact moment that Jesus’ clothes are glowing, his face is glowing and he’s speaking with two long dead celebrities?
I’m guessing – it’s not so much coincidence anymore.
And then – the VOICE!!! And remember – this is long before microphones.
It’s long before mini speakers.
It’s long before drones flying in noise from above.
This is nothing short of amazing.
This is nothing short of God.
Which is the point! The point of this account is pretty simple.
JESUS IS GOD!
You want to learn more about his character, his likes? His dislikes?
He’s the eternal God.
He dwells in the holiness of heaven itself.
He hates evil.
He loves good.
He is God eternal, immortal, invisible, all powerful from eternal himself.
III. WHAT NOW?
And this is key.
Because it leads to 3 very important truths about following Jesus.
1. Listen to Him
This is exactly what God’s voice said. “This is my Son; listen to him.”
That’s interesting. Because in a lot of groups/clubs there is a certain level of dialogue when it comes to action. For instance, the “Legion of Professional PEZ Collectors” will take votes to determine where they would like to host their next rally. What city will they be in? What type of PEZ themed candies will they eat? What hotel will they use?
People discuss plans.
Not with God.
When you’re in a group with God, the all-powerful, all wise, all eternal being gets the final say.
I bring that up because oftentimes we don’t treat God like that.
We get to discuss…– “Jesus, I get it. You think that’s sinful. I don’t. We live in a modern era after all. You’re going to have to compromise with me.”
TRUTH: If you think you can discuss, negotiate or compromise with God, then who are you treating as God?
That’s not wise. Because you can’t make your face glow.
You can’t make your clothes gleam.
You’ve never met Elijah.
You don’t know what Moses looked like.
A cloud has never enveloped you on your birthday to claim you as his perfect child.
And you can’t save yourself to heaven.
You aren’t God.
So…listen to the one who is.
Listen to Jesus.
2. Reconsider Jesus’ next Mountain
Because the very next mountain that Jesus comes to after this Transfiguration, isn’t so glorious looking.
It’s a mountain called the place of the skull.
A mountain where crucifixions occurred.
A mountain called Calvary.
There aren’t a few special friends; but thousands in angry opposition!
There isn’t a shining brilliance emanating from his face; but blood. And sweat…and more blood.
There aren’t two returned to life prophets; but two dying criminals.
There isn’t the voice of God himself; but the bitter silence of the Father turning his back on him.
It sure doesn’t look glorious.
…when you remember who Jesus is.
When you remember that’s God himself.
When you remember that is Eternal Holy God, entering mortality and suffering death and pain for me!
Calvary becomes beautiful.
More glorious than the mount of transfiguration.
Because it means you’re forgiven.
It means you’re His.
it means you are loved.
And it means you’ve gotta get down from the Mountain.
3. Get Down from the Mountain
Because I understand why Peter wanted to set up the tents. When he was on that mountain, it was obvious! Jesus is the Savior. Jesus is the true God. Jesus is worth following.
And sometimes in church, the same thing is obvious. We hear these stories. We learn God’s Word. We become convinced “Yes! Jesus is the Savior. Jesus is the true God. Jesus is worth following!” When you’re here, you might feel excited, pumped up, and convinced of that truth. It sure beats being out there in the world with coworkers who call you an idiot, social media that ridicules your faith, and friends are make you have doubts.
It’s nice to stay on the mountain.
But you can’t.
Jesus didn’t stay. Jesus had to get down that mountain. He still had to complete his mission. He had to suffer and die to accomplish our salvation.
And the disciples didn’t stay. They had to get down that mountain. They had to learn God’s Word deeply. They had to begin their ministry in sharing this message of God’s grace.
And you can’t stay either.
If you think discipleship is only thing that happens within these walls, you’re wrong.
Discipleship continues out there in the world.
We have people to tell.
We have people to tell that the one we follow is the TRUE God.
We have people to #GatherToTheGarden!
Here’s the thing – you’ve had a behind the scenes look at whom Jesus really is. Just like you might get excited to share a good interview about an Olympic hero, please share this truth about Jesus your Eternal Hero.
He is true God.
He is your savior.
He is the one you’re following. Amen.
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
God’s word that I would like to take time to study with you today comes from the book of Exodus in chapter 34. And before we begin, allow me a moment to read through it with you:
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the LORD’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.
Now, I would love to take the time to pull back and give you the long version of our context here, of how we came to the point of this reading, but I think most of you want to be home before dinner time. Exodus is a great read, I suggest picking it up when you get home if you’re unfamiliar with it, but there’s really no way I can do the previous 33 chapters justice right now.
Suffice to say at this point, Moses is returning from the mountaintop to bring the laws to God’s people. This is his second trip. The last time he tried this, the people gave him up for dead after he was gone a few weeks, they abandoned God and turned to worshipping a golden calf. But not this time. And this time, Moses, unaware, had a face that shone with the glory of the Lord he had seen. The shining glory was not his own, it was a reflection, an after-effect of what he had seen. He had been in the presence of God Almighty and that showed to the Israelites when he returned. We have no frame of reference to even imagine what it was like, but we can certainly say it was a divine glory that these people were not used to seeing. So, what did they think of this? Were there lines outside Moses’ tent to go in and see it? Did the people come up to congratulate him, “Wow Moses, that’s so cool to see something like that!” No. They were afraid to even come near him.
Should that surprise us? No, it shouldn’t. Find one instance in the Bible, one time in recorded history where God’s glory shone to human beings, even in a limited capacity, and the person or people in question did not cower in fear. From God walking in the garden after the fall to find Adam and Eve, to the angel visitors who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, to the disciples we read about at the mount of transfiguration, being confronted with the shining glory of God himself makes us afraid. Why? You may say, well it’s supernatural, we’re not used to it, naturally we’re afraid of the unknown. But there’s more to it than that. That doesn’t account for the kind of terror we read about when people see the glory of God. Why such fear?
I’m going to answer that question, but first let me turn this around. Because once you understand it, it’s actually not so amazing that people confronted with God are so afraid. What’s amazing is that people aren’t that terrified all the time. What do I mean? Let me explain to you a little bit about how our God has wired us. You see, God has stamped our hearts with his law, by nature he has placed in all of us a (somewhat) reliable standard of what is right and what is wrong. And when we do wrong, that voice inside us lets us know. That voice speaks up and stings us with the guilt of what we did and more to the point, fear of the consequences. The conscience is a terrifying thing.
Because we can’t live up to it. It is always there accusing us of something new we did wrong today or something we should have done that we ignored because it was convenient. Lost my temper on the freeway again. That same sinful indulgence I swore I’d never do again, did it again today. The perfectly reasonable excuse I made to get out of helping someone in need. It’s always there, every time, telling us we don’t measure up. We can’t keep it quiet because we can’t be good enough. If you don’t believe me, really listen to it for a day. Just a day. You can’t keep it quiet by what you do.
So, why aren’t we terrified all the time? How do people live with this terrifying voice inside them? We ignore it, we distract it, we turn away from listening to it just so we can have a moment’s peace where we’re not afraid of it. We’ve gotten really good at doing this over the centuries. We hum little rhymes of needless distractions, we focus on petty and inane things and pretend it’s not there, or worst of all we take up the morality of our culture and use that to sand the edges off it so it until it’s just a dull prod instead of a sharp sting.
Does that help? Yes, but no. The pain of the conscience exists for a reason and ignoring it is very dangerous. Like physical pain exists to warn us that something is wrong with our body, the conscience is there to warn us that something is wrong with our soul. Drowning out the conscience, ignoring it, that’s like taking painkillers to deal with a gunshot. It might make you comfy, but it’s not going to end well. Ignoring the conscience doesn’t change what it’s trying to tell us. It doesn’t change the fact that we are not good enough and we deserve punishment from God for it. The conscience is not there to be ignored, it’s there to convince you of that truth. You are not good enough. I hate to be a downer, but that is a fact. Ignoring or refusing it doesn’t change it. In fact, the sooner we accept that truth, the sooner there is hope for us. Because when we give up on ourselves, that’s when we go to find a solution elsewhere, outside ourselves. The conscience exists to convince you that you need God to save you.
But because we’re so good at ignoring our conscience, God sometimes has to stir it back up so we listen. Nothing does that quite like the literal glory of God in your sight. There’s a truth you can’t deny. Here’s holiness and perfection and wisdom and power and compared to what I am – well that’s an eye opener that can only leave you terrified. But we need that before there can be hope.
Do you see why, out of love for us, God might have to put the literal “fear of God” in us? If we don’t think we need him, if we think we can make it on our own, that’s dangerous. And so because he loves you, God will take steps to reignite that fear of him, he will make you afraid of him – not because he likes seeing you cower before his might! – he will make you afraid so that he can come at take that fear away.
So God comes to us and reminds us of who he is, and who we are. God, who only ever gives of himself to us. Who only has ever given to us what is best for us. God who has always shown you perfect love, always modeled to you perfect love. Nothing in your life has happened without God saying, “This exists because it is best for you, because I love you.” This God is the one we have torn at in our selfishness. This God is the one we’ve shouted at in anger because he didn’t do what we want. This God is the one we’ve ignored because it suited our interest and comfort that particular day. This God is the one we’ve had the ridiculous audacity to defiantly yell at him that he is doing it wrong and that we know better than him.
Back up a second and look at that shining glory again – who is it again you’re acting like this towards? God almighty who called the universe into being with mere words. God who brought you to life, gave you a soul and made you who you are. God who directs the events of this world every day. God who has the power to stop armies with a word and bring down nations with a thought. Who can open the earth to swallow whole those who defy him or choose to bring the dead to life. This God, with infinite power, with no authority over him, this God is the one you’ve defied and angered. It’s terrifying to look at this truth, but necessary. This fear of God is the beginning of hope. It seems counter-intuitive, I know, but the more fully we see our God’s true glory and holiness, the more fully we understand just how utterly we fail – the better off we are. Because once we’ve given up on ourselves, then we’re ready to be saved.
Aaron and the other leaders were afraid at Sinai… but that’s not all we get from God’s shining glory. What about the other mountain we read about today? Is that the reaction the disciples had on the mount of Transfiguration? Well, yes – but what did Jesus say right after? “Do not be afraid.” Fear was not the purpose of this trip. Jesus went up on the mountain with his closest disciples and gave them a glimpse behind the curtain of his humanity so they would have a truth to hold onto in the dark days ahead. This event was given to them by Jesus to be a comfort. They saw who he really was. They saw his glory and power. Soon it wouldn’t look like that anymore. Soon he would be arrested. He would be brutally beaten. He would be executed. It would look bad. But guys, put two and two together! The sheer power and glory radiating from this mountaintop – these things that happened – surely the God who revealed himself on the mountain could stop them any time. If these things happened, then it had to be because this is what Jesus wanted. He chose this dark end because of what it would do for you.
I want you to understand this – it was about you. He had you in mind as he endured and as he died. He didn’t save you just because you came with the package. He didn’t say to himself, “Well, I might as well do this, it’ll take care of everyone at once and be done with it.” If it was just you, only you, if you were the only sinner in all of history who needed him, he still would have done it. Because it was the only way to rescue you from yourself. Your crimes deserve death. His death for you frees you. The holiness and power of God should terrify you by nature, but we know that power and perfection stood up for us. And that very holiness that covers you now, that ensures you don’t ever need to be afraid of God again. His holiness does not stand against you, it is given to you by faith, and it is yours to wear freely. You are forgiven. The conscience exists to remind us of this fatal wound in our soul. Jesus has healed it, by his death. Completely in him, the conscience does not hold any fear for us again.
The shining glory of the Lord does this all for us. It needs to terrify us so we give up on ourselves and turn to him. And that same God with the same shining perfection and power freely gives us this truth, “I’ve got it covered,” he says. “What you did wrong, I fixed. I forgive you, and I grant you eternal life with me.” That voice is almighty and perfect. It does not lie. It does not make mistakes. There’s peace in that glory that we could never have on our own.
Of course, you and I don’t see the Lord’s glory face to face much these days, do we? But does that really change anything? Perhaps the Lord doesn’t physically appear in his glory so much anymore as he did to Moses or the disciples. But he still shines. He shines through his Word. Our Bibles, the scriptures are still our connection to him. What an amazing blessing we have, to have that glory on hand wherever we go. To be able to look into the face of that glory and remember just how badly we need him and how he in turn has filled that need perfectly. Make no mistake, in a very real way we still see our God face to face when we study his Word. And what’s more, we still reflect his glory into the world just as Moses did. The longer and more often we are exposed to him in the Scriptures regularly, the brighter that glory will shine by the Holy Spirit’s power. And that reflected glory will have an effect on the people around us.
You shine the reflected glory of God no differently than Moses when you reflect God’s Word in your life. Whenever choose his way over your way. When we don’t follow the crowd at work or home just because it’s easier. When we respond with love and forgiveness to those who try to hurt us, even when they don’t want it. When we try to help those who hate us. When we say “yes” for our God, even when the whole world is telling us that “no” is the right answer. Powered by our God, our godly words and actions shine the glory of the Lord at the world to remind them to be afraid. The glory we reflect stirs up in them the reminder that they don’t measure up and they need help. By shining the love of God at them, we want them to know the truth. They need a savior. And once they understand the need, we have that same Savior to offer them.
Brothers and Sisters, I want you to understand the importance of the task God asks of you in your life here. A life lived for Christ isn’t only a nice thing to do for God as a thank you to his love. It’s not only something you do to make your life better, knowing his ways are best. A life lived for Christ is the most pivotal way that we can shine with the reflected glory of our Lord into the world. Through those words and actions we reach out to try to save everyone around us. Start at the source of his glory. Soak it in through his Word. Take every opportunity to connect with the God you are not good enough for but the God who has made you good by his mercy and power. Look to the glory he reveals to you, and reflect that glory into your lives. Amen.
It came down to a coin flip.
Did you hear? People were so confused about who to vote in the Iowa caucus that certain districts decided their vote via coin flip. The same completely random device that decides whether I should have ham or turkey was used to decide who the next leader of the free world would be.
I can understand why they did this. The political landscape is confusing right now. It's confusing enough that people on the Democratic side voted within .1% of the lead candidates. On the Republican side, there is still a crowd of people left to vote for. The inundation of information has certainly fogged my brain. Vote for this guy because this. Don’t for this guy because this. Vote for this guy and you're this. Vote for that guy and you're that.
As confusing as the political landscape is, religion can seem just as confusing. The same inundation of information is readily available on the internet. Information that says Jesus is the Savior; next to websites that say Buddha spoke the truth; besides articles that say Allah is God; scoffed at in the comment section by a scientist who links to an article “proving” that the world evolved billions of years ago without any god at all.
They all seem like nice people.
They all make interesting points.
There plenty of people believing all of them.
How then do you cut through the confusion and get to a moment of clarity? How do you figure out what's right?
Listen to whichever answer makes you feel good?
Ask that know-it-all at work?
Close your eyes and point?
Or maybe now is where we flip the coin?
Today Jesus will help you out as we take a look at the final sermon in our series: Jesus’ First and only Transfiguration. His goal is to clear away the clutter and make it very clear to us who your Savior is.
I. The First Century Confusion
Check out Mark 9:28-36. That’s about halfway through the book of Mark (and about halfway through Jesus’ ministry). At the time, there was a hubbub surrounding Jesus. People came from far and wide to see him. They had heard of his miracles. They had heard of his wise teachings. They had even heard rumors that he might be the Messiah. Amazing if it were true, but blasphemy if it wasn’t.
People were confused --- Who was this Jesus?
Simon felt the same way. To be fair – he had a moment of clarity a few days ago. Jesus had asked all of them, “Who you think that I am?” Peter had tensed up. He had looked around to see who was listening. He had taken a deep breath.
“You are the Christ; the Son of the Living God!”
Jesus’ reply made him smile. “Blessed are you…This has been revealed to you by God!”
Peter was pretty proud. He had gotten it. Lots of other people didn’t get it, but he did. He was impressed with himself. The other disciples were impressed with him. Jesus was even so impressed with him – he had changed his name to Peter – which means “rock,” as in “That was a solid rock of a confession of truth.”
But then Jesus started talking about something strange. He mentioned that he would go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, arrested, falsely tried, sentenced to death, and crucified.
Peter was quick to speak up. “Never Lord! That’s a terrible idea. It won’t happen because I won’t let it.”
Peter stood there. Arms at his side. Anticipating the adulation of the Lord that was undoubtedly on his way. “Well done Peter. You’re so smart Peter. I’m going to change your name to Super Peter – Defender of All Things God."
But he didn’t get that nickname:
Get behind me Satan! You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of humans.
Peter sat down faster than he stood up. He stared at his sandals.
That was embarrassing. But it didn’t make any sense? If Jesus was the Messiah, why didn’t he want to ride into Jerusalem and conquer? Why wasn’t he building up an army of soldiers? Why did he did he want to go to Jerusalem and die? That was an awful plan for a Messiah to have.
Maybe…he wasn’t the Messiah.
II. The Transfiguration Cuts through Confusion
These kinds of thoughts had been swirling in his head for days. As he stood at the top of a mountain, he yawned – one of those three seconds yawns. Here’s something that wasn’t confusing. It had been a long journey to top. He was mentally exhausted and physically drained. Jesus was over saying a prayer.
Shutting his eyes for a few moments wasn’t a bad idea.
Then…a light. A bright light.
At first, it seemed like a part of some strange dream, but then his eyelids felt the unmistakable coolness of the evening air. He looked over at his disciples friends. Their eyes met his and they nodded in astonishment.
He was definitely awake.
The light wasn’t coming from a dream. It was coming from Jesus’ own face. It was bright – like the sun – like staring up to the sun on a morning day. He had to glance down and blink a few times.
When he looked up again, he noticed that Jesus' clothing was different too. It was a brilliant white. Not just any white. Peter had a white robe that was stained brown from the sand and had that fish guts stain on the back which his wife had scrubbed repeatedly to try and get it out. That was white–ish.
But the clothing on Jesus – it was whiter than white. It was whiter than the bleachiest, bleach white. It was whiter than humanly possible. It shined too. Like lightning.
Is that what had happened? Had Jesus been struck by lightning?
No. No, he was still standing. He was fine. In fact, he was talking to two others men. Peter listened carefully. Jesus called one “Moses” and the other “Elijah.” Peter looked at John and mouthed the words, “Are you serious?” These two were legends in the Jewish world.
Moses had been responsible for the first five books of the Bible. He had led the Israelites out of Egypt. God had split the Red Sea through Him and given the Ten Commandments to him.
Elijah had been a prophet of God during the time of rampant apostasy in Israel. He had opposed the false prophets of Baal in a fiery showdown. He had been fed by ravens. He raised the dead. He had heard the whisper of God with his own ears.
Elijah & Moses. Before his very eyes. It was amazing. It was incredible. It was…impossible.
Moses and Elijah had both been dead for thousands of years.
But as he watched their conversation unfold before his very eyes and as his two friends witnessed the same things besides him (and as he confirmed that electricity with the power to pull off such a swoon wouldn’t be invented for another 1800 years), Peter realized something.
This was real. It was real… real. It was real and it was one of the most incredible things He had ever seen in his life. His faith was surging. “Lord!” he shouted, “It is good for us to be here. Let me set up three shelters. One for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
As his words hung in the air, they were enveloped by a cloud. A thick cloud. A cloud that covered up Jesus. A cloud that covered up Moses and Elijah. A cloud that covered up Peter himself.
Then…he heard a voice. A booming voice. “This is my Son; whom I love. Listen to Him.”
With that, the cloud subsided. Moses was gone. Elijah was gone. The blinding light was gone. Only Jesus remained.
But something was different. While Jesus had changed back, something had changed within Peter. He could see clearly – not just because there was no longer any cloud or blinding light. Peter could see clearly that Jesus was the Messiah.
Do you remember your first Transfiguration?
Does your mom tell you, “Honey, you’re face was so cute. It was shining just like the sun.” Does your Grandpa hike up his shorts and say, “I remember the booming voice of God just like it was yesterday.” Do you have a few photographs that are nothing more than a brilliant white light with the faintest trace of your facial outline? (At least, you think).
Probably not. I don’t remember my first Transfiguration because I didn’t have a Transfiguration. You don’t remember your Transfiguration because you didn’t have a Transfiguration.
Neither did Buddha. Neither did Joseph Smith. Neither did Mohammed. Neither did Charles Darwin.
Jesus’ Transfiguration is one of a kind. It proves that He is one of a kind. It makes it clear that He is the Savior.
Jesus said this, “Believe me when I say that I in the Father and the Father is in me; at least believe me based on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” Transfiguration fits right up there at the top! A brilliant shining face? Whiter than white clothes? Talking to two guys who have been in heaven for thousands of years?
Do you remember the Spin Doctors? They sang the song, "One, two, princes kneel before you. That's what I said, now, Princes, Princes who adore you." Do you remember them? No? I once met their bass guitarist and their roadie. That’s the extent of famous people I’ve met.
Jesus is rubbing shoulders with Moses and Elijah! Years after they were dead. This is incredible! Then, the voice. The booming voice of God Almighty. A voice that had been heard before --- in the Garden of Eden – “I will send someone to crush the devil’s head;” – on Mt. Sinai – “Here are commands, if you break them you will need a Savior.” – at Jesus’ Baptism – “Here is that Savior. It’s my Son. Jesus.”
Listen to God.
Your Savior is Jesus!
Forgiveness comes from Jesus.
Heaven comes from Jesus.
There is no one else. Only him. PERIOD.
III. A Clear Directive
Listen to God and listen to his clear directive at the end. “Listen to Him.”
There is a lot of application here. There are a lot of questions in the world that have a lot of different answers depending on who it is you talk to:
Is homosexuality a sin?
Should I live with my boyfriend before marriage?
Should I really be giving money to the church?
Should I even be going to church?
Is salvation really by grace or should I get to work on doing good things?
What are good things?
Is every religion really just the same religion which all end up leading to heaven anyways!?!
When you’re looking for the answer, it doesn’t have to be confusing! Don’t listen to Facebook. Don’t listen to Twitter. Don’t listen to Instagram, Wikipedia, or your College professor with his fancy, hipster goatee.
Listen to Jesus.
It doesn’t have to be confusing! It can become confusing when we make it confusing. We do that when, like Peter, we don’t like the answer.
Think about it. He had already identified Jesus as the Messiah prior to the Transfiguration. But it was after He called Jesus the Messiah that he turned around and told his confessed Messiah that his plan – to die on the cross – was foolish! He didn’t like it so he wasn’t going to listen to him.
But on the mountain – it was abundantly clear that Jesus was the Messiah – he, Peter, was not. He needed to listen to Jesus, not the other way around.
Can I tell you something? Jesus is smarter than you. Please don’t be hurt by that. (He’s smarter than me too.) I’m not just talking about Math facts and science facts. I’m not just talking about Jeopardy trivia either. (Although I’m sure Jesus would be buzzing in answers before Alex Trebek even asked the questions.)
Jesus is smarter than you when it comes to what’s bad for you. He’s smarter when it comes to what’s good for you. He says sin is bad for you. He, your Savior, is good for you.
Listen to Him.
AND THANK GOD that Jesus didn't listen to Peter. If he would have, we would still be in our sins. (Even as believers.) We would be destined for eternal damnation in hell. Our lives would be one fatalistic train ticket to destruction.
But Jesus didn't listen. He went to Jerusalem. He held out his hands to be arrested. He listened to his death sentence. He waited as nails were driven into his hands. He died.
He died and completed God's perfect Messiah plan for salvation. He saved you from sin. He saved you from from death. He saved you from the devil.
LISTEN TO HIM!
But that wasn’t it. Jesus didn’t stop there. He went to the next phase in the plan. The phase that Peter had totally ignored when he rebuked Jesus. Take a look at it:
On the third Day, I will rise again from the dead.
Yeah, I’m listening to that guy.
BOTTOM LINE: Don’t let your eternity come down to a coin flip. God has made a clear to you. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the Truth. Jesus is the Life.
Listen to Him. Listen to your Messiah. Amen.
“You’re the Christ! The Son of the Living God!” (Mt. 16:16)
The others stood around in shock. Yes. They had been thinking the same thing. The voice at his Baptism. The urgency in his preaching. The casting out of the demons. The healing of the sick. Jesus. was not an ordinary teacher, but none of them were bold like Peter to make that statement.
Jesus stood up. They looked on with anticipation and tension. Had Peter just spoken blasphemy?
But Jesus warmly smiled. “Blessed are you…this has been revealed to you by God!” (Mt. 16:17)
Then, Jesus sat down. He began to explain to all of this what this meant. He explained that he needed to head to go Jerusalem. While he was there, he would be arrested, he would suffer at the hands of the chief priests and teachers of the law, and then he would be crucified. He, the Son of God, would die.
Peter spoke again: “Never! You won’t die. You’re God’s Son. I won’t let it happen.” Surely, the other disciples nodded in approval. They just discovered and understood this awesome truth. They didn’t want to forfeit it away. Surely, Jesus would understand.
But Jesus got angry.
“Away from me Satan,” he said to Peter, “You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (16:14)
Interesting isn’t it? The disciples had just identified Jesus as God. Then, they question his judgment. Had they already forgotten?
8 days later Jesus give them proof that he is God. Proof they wouldn’t forget.
I. On the Mountain
Mark 9 say this: Jesus led them up a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them
Back when I was shopping for an engagement ring for Julianna – it turns out -- there are many things about diamonds that I just did not know. They come in 8 different shapes, clarity can have many imperfections or even be FLAWLESS with ZERO imperfections. I learned that a carat is a weight, not simply a vegetable, and that each diamond has a different color. (They aren’t just diamond colored.)
There are lots of things to look for in a diamond! But perhaps the best thing to look for in a diamond is the “WOW” factor. Look for something that will take the breath of away of the one who takes your breath away.
When Jesus was transfigured, He took away his disciple’s breath – he did it in an otherworldly way. He declard himself as God.
It started with his clothes. Verse six says that, “his clothes became dazzling white.” That’s a pretty awesome Greek word. It means “shimmering’ and “shiny.” Elsa and Anna would be jealous!
But his clothes weren’t just white. They were “whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” Whiter than White out white. Whiter than Clorox white. Whiter than OxiClean white. Whiter than Sherwin Williams’ Absolute White or Pure White.
Ask yourself: Who alone can invent a new color? One long before the 64 pack of Crayola crayons? And never duplicated in today’s modern art? Why not the one who created color and the eyes that see color?
Jesus is God.
Matthew’s account tells us that Jesus’ face shone like he sun. Have you ever had that problem? Woke up in the morning only to be blinded by the radiance of your own face? I’ve had a zit here or there, but a blinding, otherworldly radiance of light?
Try as I might I can’t get it to happen. The only ones who can do so with CGI animation on IMAX theater movie screens – not on skin and bones.
Ask yourself: Who alone can cause skin to light up like the sun? Perhaps it is the one who created skin and sun?
Jesus is God.
Next a few friends join Jesus. Verse 4 says, “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” Which, at first glance, seems amazing in the fact that these two weren’t there before and now they suddenly appeared. A vaporation!?!
It wasn’t just any vaporation. These two men were very famous -- It would be like having dinner with President Obama and Michael Jordan. These were two very famous men. Moses had delivered the law that they read in their synagogues and posted on their doorways. He had given the Ten Commandments. Elijah was a very fiery prophets. He had defeated hundreds of prophets of Baal with the help of the Lord.
Moses stood for the Law and Elijah for Prophecy. What kind of money would it have taken to get these two there?
But the miracle is greater than just surprising the disciples with the appearance of two very famous men. Because Moses and Elijah were both hundreds of years old. Neither had been alive for hundreds of years. They had been in heaven.
Ask yourself: Who can have conversations with those in heaven? Who can take people out of heaven? Isn’t it the one who owns the gates of heaven Himself?
Jesus is God!
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud – not from a loudspeaker, not from a microphone, not from a megaphone. It wasn’t even their friend Thomas hiding in the bushes, cupping his hands, and doing his best God voice.
This was the voice of the Father. Listen to what he says: “This is my Son, whom I love.” Which if you have been carefully following this sermon series is the exact same thing the Father’s voice from heaven spoke at Jesus’ Baptism. Jesus was his Son. He loved Jesus.
This is a big deal. It means Jesus was still succeeding in his mission. He still pleased the Father in every aspect of his life. He was still holy in his living. He still didn’t have any sin. He still had never done anything – not even a smidgens of something – that would make his Father say, “I am no longer proud of you.”
Remember God is Holy! If Jesus would have sinned, he would not have been proud. He would have condemned Jesus.
The fact that He still speaks so glowingly means that Jesus had lived up to God the Father’s standards. He had lived perfectly.
Ask yourself: How could Jesus do that if he was born a sinful human being like the rest of us? How could He live a holy life, if He wasn’t in fact holy himself? And how could He be Holy unless Jesus was…
Jesus is GOD HIMSELF!!!
We’re halfway through the sermon. What’s the application for you? What are you to learn? Jesus is God himself. He is not just a good teacher. He’s not just a shifty salesman. He’s not a good magician. He’s no myth. He’s no bedtime story. He’s no comic book hero. He’s no politician, money maker, or rebel rouser.
He is the Divine Lord of Heaven and earth and…he should…be listened to. He should be listened to where his words have been recorded for him to speak to our hearts:
II. …In His Word
Pay careful attention to what the voice of the Father from the cloud says next. He says, “This is my Son; whom I love. Listen to him!”
Do you think it made Peter tremble just a tad? A week earlier he had rebuked Jesus. “No, what you are saying is wrong. You will not be arrested. You will not die. You will not be a sacrifice.” At the time – that seemed like a good idea. Like he was stopping his friend from having a very bad idea.
Now in the presence of the blinding heavenly light, surrounded by men from heaven, and listening to the booming voice of the Divine Father – maybe – Peter was wishing he had been quiet.
He should have listened.
What about you? Do you listen to God? Or do you like to have knee jerk, Peter like reactions?
· Jesus, I hear you, but I think I know more about my life than you do.
· Jesus, you think that’s a sin? Haven’t you been on Twitter recently? Our society thinks it’s ok now.
· Jesus, I understand you’re point –as Lord of heaven and all, but I gotta make my own decisions.
· Jesus, thanks for the advice. I’ll take it into consideration.
Careful. If you ignore Jesus’ words, then you ignore his authority. If you ignore Jesus’ authority, then you ignore God’s authority. If you ignore God’s authority, then…well…BAD IDEA.
And if you ignore God’s Words in favor of doing what you want, then who are you really listening to? Who are you giving authority? Who are you setting up as God? Whether it’s subconscious or consciously aren’t you making yourself and your ideas into the ideas of God himself?!?
GUEST WHAT: The Transfiguration is not about the revelation that you are God. But it is about the revelation that JESUS IS GOD. Heed the Father’s advice. Listen to Him!
If you have ever ignored God, if you have ever rejected the Bible, if you have ever refused to listen to what Jesus says in Scripture, then maybe you feel like Peter, James, and John. Perhaps you feel like falling to your knees, face first, and pleading with God -- HAVE MERCY!
You need to listen to what Jesus would do shortly after this Mt. of Transfiguration. It’s what he had told his disciples he would do and what Peter had rejected: Mark 8: 32 -- Then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed…
Don’t look at this from the perspective of the suffering human being that the world saw in those first Lenten days. Instead, look deeper. Look at Him from the Mount! See that this is the Holy One – God Himself suffering for you. It his plan. It is his good plan. It is His Divine God plan for saving you. He would suffer for all of the times you have not listened to God.
Amazing isn’t it? God, whom you needed to listen to (and haven’t listened to), listened to you. He heard you cry for mercy from eternity. He heard your cry for help. He stepped out of his Heavenly throne to answer your call to save you.
But it was more than just a death. Take a look at the tagline at the end of verse 32 after three days Jesus would rise again.
Impossible, right? How could Jesus do that?
How about the same reason that he could turn his clothes heavenly white, shine his face like the sun, talk with two heavenly souls, and have the Father speak pleasure with his holy living?
JESUS IS GOD!
This is exactly what happened. Death couldn’t hold Jesus, because it couldn’t hold God. Death couldn’t hold Jesus, because Jesus was God and nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37)
So…Listen to Jesus! Even when it seems impossible.
When he says, “Take heart. You’re forgiven.” Listen to him, He’s God.
When he says, “Peace be with you.” Listen to Him, He’s God.
When He says, “I know theplans I have for you.” Listen to him. He’s God. (Jr. 29:11)
When He says, “I’m always with you.” Listen to Him. He’s God. (Mt. 28:21)
When he says, “Whoever believes in me, will not perish, but have eternal life.” Listen to him. He’s God.
When he says, “I have a room in heaven for you.” Listen to him. He’s God.
Once you hear him speaking on the impossible, listen to him in the more mundane things of day to day life.
Listen to him when he tells you to abandon your sin. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to hear his Word. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to be baptized. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to sing his praise. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to pray. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to gather at church. He’s God.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
This may have been the most difficult thing for the disciples to listen to. Think about what they had just seen. Think of the glory they had just seen.
But nowhere is it recorded that they told anyone about this until after he had risen from the dead. As hard as it was to do, they remembered who it was that was speaking to them. God himself.
Whatever God is asking you to do. Whatever God is asking you to believe. May you be like the disciples. Remember who it is that is asking you. See that Jesus is God.
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.