I truly do praise the Lord that each and every one of you chose to be in God’s house this morning. To think that God has allowed us to live in a land that allows us to worship Him freely. God has been so good to us, Amen? This morning, as we continue our journey through the life, death, and life of Jesus of Nazareth, we come to a high point in His ministry on earth. If you recall, we have seen some pretty low points in Jesus’ time on earth. About a month ago we saw how the devil harassed Him in the wilderness, tempting Jesus to sin against God the Father. And, as I’m sure you are well aware, we are going to see another very low point in the life of Christ in about three weeks. But this morning, we are going to see a true mountain-top experience in Jesus’ life on earth. Jesus, who clothed Himself with flesh just like mine and yours, decided at one point in His life to show His disciples what He was really like. As I’m sure you gathered from Justin’s Scripture reading, this morning we are going to look at the Transfiguration of our Lord, as recorded in Matthew seventeen. So please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter seventeen, and we are going to be reading verses one through nine. Again, Matthew seventeen, starting in verse one.
“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.’ While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.’ And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, ‘Arise, and be not afraid.’ And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of Man be risen again from the dead.’”
Let’s pray together.
This morning the title of my sermon is Jesus: The Glorified Lord. We are going to study this text verse by verse this morning, and through the text we are going to learn five lessons about the identity of Jesus Christ, and about how His identity affects every aspect of our lives. So let’s study God’s word.
Lesson #1: Jesus Christ is no Ordinary Human Being
While obviously this is a lesson that all of you probably learned a long time ago, let’s discover it anew from our text this morning. Let’s read verses one and two of our chapter again. “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.” So in the introduction of today’s story, we see that Jesus has chosen three of His twelve disciples to go up onto the mountain with Him. We do not know why He chose these specific three, but there are several times in the gospels when Peter, James, and John were given special access into Jesus’ ministry. So Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up onto a mountaintop. And up there on that mountain, Matthew records that Jesus was transfigured. While our English Bibles say “transfigured,” the Greek word literally means “metamorphic.” The closest natural parallel is of a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. But while that process takes weeks, Jesus is transformed in an instant. And sometimes when we think about something changing forms, we think of it becoming something that it was not before. But that’s not what we have here. Jesus is not changing into something new. No, He is being revealed for what He already was before the world began. Look at how the text describes our Lord. It was that His face shone like the sun, and His clothes were as white as the light. Hopefully this will ring a bell with some of you in our Wednesday night crowd. This is the same sort of language that John uses in the book of Revelation to describe Jesus when He comes to him in a vision. And in Matthew, Jesus turns into this absolutely radiant being, and the disciples are blown away by the appearance of their friend and teacher.
And so what does this truth tell us about the carpenter from Nazareth? There are many, many scholars, scientists, and religious leaders out there that would love to convince you that Jesus was nothing more than a good moral teacher. Even Thomas Jefferson, the writer of the Declaration of Independence, believed that Jesus was merely a good moral teacher. Mahatma Gandhi believed that Jesus was perhaps the best teacher that ever lived, yet He was just a teacher, not the Son of God. But what do we in the church say to that claim? While we could toss up many examples from the gospels about Jesus doing miracles, perhaps none is a better example than verse two of Matthew chapter seventeen. Our Savior, who no doubt was the best teacher to ever live, reveals Himself as so much more than just a good teacher. And so lesson number one, Jesus Christ is no ordinary human being.
Lesson #2: Jesus is the Summation of the Law and the Prophets
To understand this point of our text, we need to read verses three and four again. “And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.’” So Jesus, who is now shown with a small glimpse of His true glorious form, is joined by Moses and Elijah. You will notice if you are reading from the King James Version that it literally says Elias. This is because, over time, names changed. And in the seven or eight hundred years since the prophet Elijah had died, his name had undergone some slight variations. So the King James actually records the literal way it was said in Jesus’ day, but most other translations will say Elijah, since that is who the text is referring to. So all of that to say that Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah.
So the question becomes, “Why was Jesus joined by these two men?” Why didn’t Noah or Abraham or Enoch show up? Samuel, Adam, David, all of those men could have been there; but instead, Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah. Commentators have thrown out several good reasons why Jesus chose these two men to meet Him. For one, these two men are the two principal miracle workers of the Old Testament. God did the Ten Plagues through Moses, as well as parting the Red Sea. And in the wilderness, God provided food and water for the children of Israel through His servant Moses. And Elijah worked many miracles as well during his time as a prophet. And so the text could be pointing out that Jesus is a miracle worker just like Moses and Elijah. But there is also the point that Moses and Elijah were both prophets. And just like those two were prophets, Jesus is the chief of the prophets. But I don’t think that either of those two by themselves grasps the full implication of why Jesus was joined by these two men. Because in the Old Testament, Moses was treated as the figurehead for all of the laws of God. God spoke the law through Moses, and so since that time, Moses has been the representative of the law. And in the same way, Elijah is the figurehead for all of the prophets. And so when Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah, He was joined by the representatives of the law and the prophets. So what does that show us about who Jesus really is?
When Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah, it was God’s way of saying that Jesus has the full support of the law and the prophets. In fact, Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the law and the prophets. With absolutely no exaggeration, you can say that the entire Old Testament revolves around the future reality of Jesus Christ. And you may say, Brother Josh, what on earth do Adam and Eve have to do with Jesus? Well, I would say that Adam and Eve sinned against God, and set God’s plan into action to one day redeem mankind through who…Jesus! So when we read about our Lord on this mountain being joined by Moses and Elijah, there can be no doubt in our minds the importance that God is placing upon Christ. Because notice that the disciples were not blown away by the appearance of Moses and Elijah. They immediately noticed that Jesus’ face shone like the sun and His garments were as white as light, but they didn’t notice that about Moses and Elijah. There can be no doubt that Jesus was not just a great man like Moses and Elijah. Oh no, Jesus is far superior to these two men of old. So these two verses show us that Jesus is not only an extraordinary person, He is also the entire fulfillment of everything that happened in the Old Testament. I don’t know about you, but that fact simply blows my mind! Let’s move on to lesson number three.
Lesson #3: Jesus is Entirely Deserving of Our Obedience
Look now at verse five of our text. “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.’” And just when the disciples thought that this experience could not get any more amazing, God the Father makes an appearance in verse five. While Peter was still talking, a bright cloud appeared overhead, and God spoke from the cloud. And look what God says: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” And you may remember that this is not the first time that God has spoken through a cloud about Jesus. Right after Jesus’ baptism, God spoke out of a cloud saying “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” So as you can see, the only difference between the two statements is that this time, God adds three little words. Hear ye Him. In the Greek, the word for “hear” is much more powerful than our English word. In the Greek, the word means to not only hear with your ears, but to act on what you’ve heard. In this verse, God is not only telling us to hear what Jesus says with our ears, but to take what we’ve heard and do something about it! So in essence, God is telling us not only to hear the words of Christ, but to obey the words of Christ!
Have you ever wished that God would audibly answer a question that you have? I know that many times in my life, especially when I was younger, I would pray to God, asking Him to answer my question in a way that I would have no doubt that it was Him telling me. In other words, I wanted God to physically tell me what He wanted from me. But guess what: He has! In this verse, God physically tells the disciples, and us by extension, to obey the words of Jesus Christ. What does this mean for us today? It means that whenever we are facing a dilemma, and we really would like the Lord’s assistance in knowing what to do, we simply need to obey the words of Christ. Now I realize that the Bible does not deal with every scenario that we may face in the year 2011, but within the pages of this holy book are the principles and guidelines that we need in order to make all of the tough decisions that come our way. So is God going to literally speak to you tonight when you pray to Him? Probably not, but He has already spoken volumes to us through the pages of our Bibles.
On another note, verse five marks the peak of the transfiguration experience. Jesus Christ was first transformed into a glimpse of His heavenly glory. And then, if that weren’t enough, He was joined by Moses and Elijah, and shown to be the perfect fulfillment of all of the Old Testament. And even beyond that, God the Father spoke and told the disciples that He was well pleased with His Son, and that Jesus was entirely deserving of their complete obedience. So as you can tell, these first five verses have painted a picture of a King who is beyond anything that our minds can fathom. Jesus Christ is not only a defeater of temptation, a teacher of prayers, and a preacher of parables; He is also very God of very God, and He is entirely worthy of our awe and respect.
So if you get nothing else out of this morning’s message, I hope that you see how important Jesus Christ is, not only to history, but to our lives here this morning. All of history revolves around this carpenter from Nazareth, and we do Him a great injustice when we fail to obey His commands. So when Jesus tells us to do something in the gospels, or in the book of Revelation as we’re studying on Wednesday nights, His words are not merely the recommendations of a wise teacher. They are the outright commands of the God of the universe, and we ignore them at our peril. Jesus Christ is completely worthy of every ounce of our strength, and I pray that obeying His commands is the driving motivation of everything you do in life.
Lesson #4: With Jesus, We Do Not Need to be Afraid
Let’s look at verses six through eight of our text again. “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, ‘Arise, and be not afraid.’ And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.” As soon as the disciples heard the voice of God the Father, they fell down on their faces, trembling with fear. If you remember, this is the same reaction that John had in the book of Revelation when he saw Jesus in a vision. I do not know how I would react if God spoke up right here in our services, but I imagine I would do the same thing as the disciples did in this verse. And frankly, they had good reason to be terrified. The almighty God just spoke to them, and it makes sense that they were afraid. But what did Jesus do when He saw their fearful reaction? He walked up to them, touched them, and told them to not be afraid. And then when the disciples opened their eyes, it was just Jesus, back in His normal body. In the moment of their greatest fear, Jesus told them to not be afraid.
And I think that this simple statement from Christ tells us two things about our relationship with Him. The first thing it tells us is that Christ is in control of our surroundings, and we truly do have no need to fear. For three years, Jesus was preparing His disciples for a time when He was going to be gone, and they were going to take up His mission in a very hostile environment. And in this verse, Jesus tells His three closest disciples to not fear. While Jesus was specifically telling them to not fear the voice of the Lord, He was also telling them that they did not have to fear anything, so long as they stayed close to Him. But the second thing that Christ’s statement tells us is by far the most important. Christ told the disciples that they did not have to fear the voice of the Lord. But you know what, if Jesus took three random people up on the mountain that day with Him, and they were not followers of Christ, then Jesus Christ would not have told them to not be afraid. Oh no, He probably would have told them that they weren’t afraid enough! But a lesson that the disciples were slowly learning is that they were now at peace with God, and they no longer needed to fear their Creator. And really, the two things that Jesus taught us in that statement work very well together. You see, it is because we are at peace with God that we have no need to be afraid of anything else. President Roosevelt once said that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But for Christians, the only thing we have to fear is dishonoring the God who saved us. When you are walking with Jesus Christ, you do not have to be afraid of the world, and you do not even have to be afraid of the voice of God, because we are no longer enemies with God. No, we have become His dear children. So lesson number four is that with Jesus, we do not need to be afraid.
Lesson #5: Jesus, the King of Everything, Suffered For Us
Look now at the final verse of our passage, verse nine. “And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of Man be risen again from the dead.’” With the miracle of the Transfiguration now over, Jesus and His three disciples journeyed back down the mountain. And on the way down, Jesus told them to not tell anybody about what they had just seen. But then Jesus told them that they could tell people, after Jesus had died and risen from the grave. Imagine what thoughts and emotions must have raced through the disciples’ heads right then. First off, Jesus told them that they couldn’t tell anyone. They just saw the most spectacular event to ever happen on planet earth, and they had to keep quiet about it! They couldn’t even tell the other disciples what they had seen; and for Peter, that included his brother Andrew.
But then, Jesus trumps even that statement by telling them that they could tell it after He had risen from the dead. While Jesus had told the disciples once before that He would have to die, they realized anew that their Teacher was soon going to be killed. Now of course, death was not the end for Jesus. But that does not change the fact that Jesus was going to suffer an excruciating amount of pain. And I’m sure that it was hard for the disciples to fathom that the same Jesus who had just shown them a glimpse of His true power and glory was about to be humiliated on the cross. The very Son of God, who was the culmination of all of Jewish history, was about to be murdered by the very people He came to save. The One of whom God the Father said He was well pleased was about to be spit upon by a crowd of people. And little did the disciples know, that the One that told them that they did not need to be afraid of God, was about to pay the price of their sins, so that they would never have to be afraid of God again.
And as we draw this sermon to a close…
I hope that you have grasped a small image this morning of who Jesus Christ truly is. In the first week of our series, I shared some quotes from some skeptics about how Jesus was nothing more than a good teacher. But as the Bible has so clearly shown us this morning, Jesus of Nazareth was no ordinary man. No, He was the One who made the stars in the sky, and He is the One that all of the law and the prophets looked forward to. And because of His divine authority, He is completely worthy of every ounce of our respect. But this heavenly King does not speak down words of condemnation, as He very well could. No, He speaks words of peace to our souls, not because we are good, but because He took our place on the cross of Calvary.
And if you are here this morning, and you have never trusted in Christ as your Lord, please do not wait any longer. While Jesus Christ has paid the price of your sin, He does require you to pledge your allegiance to Him. There is a very vast gulf between heaven and hell, and the only way to bridge that gulf is through the forgiveness that Jesus freely offers us. You can be at peace with the God that made you, but you cannot do it apart from Christ. So I strongly urge you to make the commitment to follow Christ, right there in your pew. And if you would like to know more about what it means to be a believer, I invite you to talk to me or any one or our members after the service.
Let us pray.
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