Matthew 17:1-13 (NIV) After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
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.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
I have spoken on this passage before.
Which means, I was not as keen to speak on it again. But with prayer I felt like, though it might be more difficult to speak on this again, I would do my best.
Some of the things I will say are things I have said before. Please forgive me for this.
The setting of this event after chapter 16 which includes the comment on the yeast of the Pharisees (meaning the teaching). As well as Peter declaring that Jesus is truly the Messiah, as well as Jesus rebutting Peter for rebuking him.
It is a tricky road sometimes dealing with those we love. How much do we allow a grandchild to keep hitting us in innocent play which becomes too painful as the blows get harder, at some point the grandchild must be taught not to do that.
Jesus reveals the true pain of the future during which he will be killed as a criminal, but then rise again. Peter cannot accept that future and tries to rebuke Jesus.
Jesus returns with the difficult but true words, get behind me Satan.
And the reality is that Satan does present opposition especially when we are on the right track. In this case he approaches Jesus through his loved disciple Peter, who he convinces to fear the necessary suffering death and resurrection of his Lord.
And may I briefly speak on the yeast of the Pharisees.
As far as my mind allows, that is the only place that the teaching of the Pharisees is directly addressed as a general thing. Yes, Jesus corrects various points in their teaching pointing out their hypocrisy, but here he is talking about their teaching in general, and like yeast, this teaching will affect individuals and then whole congregations.
How do we recognize this yeast today?
My quick answer is that anything that highlights the human role in our salvation and benefit to humanity and passes over the great grace of forgiveness, is yeast to be wary of.
Even recently I listened to and was moved by a sermon on following God, but a small point of not expecting God to answer us if we have bad areas in our lives, in the end triggered pride and then stress. And in the end unsettled me rather than helped me in my walk.
Let’s be careful; of this yeast. Both as teachers and as listeners.
So, we get to chapter 17 and here, 6 days later, I’m not sure what the significance of that time lapse is, but Jesus takes only 3 of his disciples up a mountain.
Why only 3?
Why not all?
Remember there had been arguments among them as to who was the greatest.
Would this add fuel to that argument?
Or were these the 3 that most needed to experience this event?
Right now, in Asbury University, in Kentucky, a chapel service has become a nonstop worship prayer and gathering event, some might call a revival, with many young people experiencing the presence of God. God has decided to bless this group of people in this way. He knows who needs what, and when.
It seems genuine to me.
Jesus knows what he is up to, and that is one thing I am coming to more quickly as I get older. I don’t need to know the “why” of Jesus actions; he knows best. He really is in tune with his Father, and is prayerfully fully-filled of the Holy Spirit, and really is spot-on in his day-to-day and moment-to-moment decisions. He is not hesitating, or second-guessing. And like us ( as people of faith, the gift ), he is joyfully and confidently walking in faith and trust, and purpose.
He knows what is ahead (the cross), and does not become sullen as a result, instead he celebrates every event.
So with Peter, James and John he climbs the mountain.
And once there, at the top, and if we look at the Luke account, after some prayer time, Jesus is suddenly transfigured.
Changed, shape-shifted, the description is "dazzling white clothes and shining face".
This is, in my opinion, a more dazzling transformation than when he was resurrected. There is no similar description of the resurrected Jesus. To Mary, he looked like the gardener.
And as soon as he is transformed, there appear two giants of faith, long passed, but now alive and speaking with Jesus. Moses, and Elijah. How these two men, long passed are able to now be present, only God knows, but here they are.
Moses was the one to whom God gave the ten commandments to, and Elijah was the great prophet who brought back to life the widow's son, and also destroyed the prophets of baal on mount Carmel.
1 Kings 17:21-24 (ESV) Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again.” 22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”
1 Kings 18:20-21 (ESV) So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
These 2 great prophets are here speaking with Jesus, and as I said once before, Peter, James and John might have been awestruck being in the presence of Moses and Elijah, but Moses and Elijah would have been awestruck being in the presence of Jesus.
Who would we consider the greater?
The Sunday school answer is of course Jesus. Which is correct (it is right to name him in every situation). But let me refer to Hebrews and to James
Hebrews 3:1-6 (NIV) 1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
James 5:17 (ISV) Elijah was a person just like us, and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and rain never came to the land for three years and six months.
Clearly the bible tells us that Jesus is greater than Moses. And Jesus states it himself
Matthew 12:6 (ESV) I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
Matt 12:42(ESV) e ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Greater than Jacob etc.
Greater than Abraham.
So, Moses and Elijah are blessed to be in the presence of Jesus, and I want to say to you brothers and sisters, one day soon, you and I too will be blessed to be in the presence of Jesus.
So as Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus, and from Luke’s account they are discussing his departure, Peter finds a point where he feels able to maybe interrupt and suggest to Jesus that it is a great idea that he had taken himself and the other 2 disciples up with him, because now they can build a tent for Moses, and for Elijah, and for Jesus.
Well, he must have been there for some reason.
Maybe Peter is trying to interpret what Jesus had said to Peter about being the rock on which he would build his church???
Though I want to point out that the rock was Peter’s faith and the church is not a building.
Actually, Jesus is the rock.
So, after Peter imposes his suggestion of his purpose in this whole strange event, a bright cloud envelops them all and a voice, which is clearly the voice of God the Father speaks.
(Peter later refers to this event in his second letter which we read earlier.)
In these words, God is apparently very brief and to the point.
Is this how God always speaks?
If we are ever fortunate enough to hear a direct and personal word from God, I think it will be brief.
But also unforgettable.
When we hear God’s voice, what he tells us is unforgettable.
And here is what he says. He says three things
1. This is my Son, whom I love
2. I am very pleased with him
3. Listen to him.
Of course, he is talking about Jesus
What can we gather form these 3 words
To be the Son of God means to be of the same nature as God the Father, and we have here a revelation of the trinity. The trinity being the word we use to encapsulate the three-personhood one-God understanding of our Christian God; Father, Son and Spirit.
Jesus is fully man, yet he is also fully God and here, God the Father states that Jesus is his son, is the Son. That makes him God. I don’t think this was understood at that point by the three disciples, but I still wish to mention this point. Still on that point, what we believe as Christians, is that, unlike us, Jesus is not a creation of God. We are all created beings descendants of Adam, Jesus is not dependant on Adams heritage, though in choosing to become man he is truly human. Which is what the word incarnate indicates.
He became incarnate, a man, at one point in history, but was always the son of God.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.
Not only is Jesus God’s son, but God the Father, loves him.
Love is such a widely used term, with wide meanings depending on it’s context.
We’ve all experienced love and we all express love in one form or other.
But God’s love is not necessarily the same as our love.
I want to make 2 points here.
Firstly that the love of God is fully other person centered. Which is to say it is not selfish love, or not manipulative love. But it is transforming. 1 Corinthians 13 describes God’s love.
I have been taught the Greek word "Agape", which is one of the more important words used in the new testament for love. When 1 John says that God is love, the word is “agape”.
The other Greek word is eros. And that word implies contractual love. In other words, I will love you as long as you do such and such. (And there is also the word philios, which is brotherly love, or family love.)
There is a big difference between a contract and a covenant. That is a whole sermon, but I want to highlight the fact that marriage, in the Christian sense, is not a contract, but a covenant.
Human love is most often the contractual type, wanting something in return, or trying to manipulate a situation or a relationship.
As a church we must do our best to guard against this and recognize it when it rises up.
Cults are full of manipulative love. Churches should be presenting agape love, which means we do what we do out of love and gratitude towards God and accept the outcome, accept it when people choose to come or go, and celebrate each situation, knowing God has his hand in every situation. That is not to say we don’t stand up for righteousness or godliness, and certainly we teach the truth.
2. I am very pleased with him.
God derives pleasure from his son. Everything about Jesus is in harmony with the Joy, pleasure, purpose and perfect plan of God our Father.
Do we derive pleasure from our children and grandchildren?
What gives us the most pleasure from our children?
When they show their love to us?
When they obey us?
When they walk in faith?
When they endure through difficult times?
When they achieve important goals?
For some parents, watching their children do bad things actually pleases them.
Not for Christians.
But in Gods case, everything that Jesus does, pleases God the father.
Which means if we truly wish to follow God, we must follow Jesus.
If we want to know what pleases God, we look to Jesus.
But we cannot do other than trust Jesus to lead and guide us.
We cannot repeat Jesus action, it is once and for all.
True repentance, in my opinion, is following Jesus
3. Listen to him.
How do we listen to Jesus?
What we hear at Church
What our parents tell us, what our children tell us. What godly people tell us
In our prayer time,
In the quiet urges of the Holy Spirit
In the loud urges of the Holy Spirit
Not in our bodily urges.
Though sometimes even our bodies try to point us in the right direction (don’t kick against the spines) (NIV) It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
So, God our Father tells the three disciples and Moses and Elijah, (if they are still there) to listen to Jesus.
Doesn’t matter what the Pharisees say, or what Moses says, or what Buddha, or Mohamed or Confucious, or Elon Musk, or Stephen Hawkins or Joe Romeo or anyone else says, it is what Jesus says that counts. It is Jesus who we listen to.
And when you hear his voice, listen.
At that point, when the 3 disciples heard the voice of God they fell face down on their knees, terrified.
Why were they terrified?
They had just seen Jesus transfigured, Moses, Elijah alive and speaking with Jesus, and they were not terrified, but the bright cloud of Glory and the voice of God was terrifying.
I think they understood the seriousness of seeing and hearing God. And knew that their lives were in danger.
The Bible states that you cannot see the face of God and live;
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (exodus 33)
So, they were terrified.
But suddenly the cloud lifted and there was only Jesus, the disciples are still crouched over and cowering I believe, but Jesus came and touched them.
The touch of Jesus strengthens us, saves us, heals us, and transforms us.
Jesus, at this point could have been basking in the experience, but no, he was interested in, and concerned for his three ordinary followers, Peter, John and James.
This shows the heart of Jesus, our Lord.
In Isaiah and in Hebrews we read about Jesus before his father.
What does he say?
Here am I and the children you have given me.
Isaiah 8:18 (NIV) Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
Hebrews 2:13 (NIV) And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again he says,
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
And what of the post resurrection Jesus in the Gospel of John.
John 20:17-18 (NIV) Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
So Jesus is all for obeying his Father and completing the work that his father gave him, but completely consistent with this is his complete heart for his disciples, his followers, his weak and stumbling disciples. Jesus is all for us.
For God so Loved (Agape) the world (us) that he gave his one and only begotten son (Jesus) so that whoever believes in him (us) should not perish but have everlasting life.