Kingdom Preview (3): The Only Way Over
Intro –Confed Genrl Stonewall Jackson came to a river and instructed his engineers to plan and build a bridge. The wagon master began gathering all the rocks, logs and fence rails he could find to help. Next morning Jackson arose to find all the wagons and artillery were safely across. He asked, “Where are the engineers?” The wagon master replied, “They’re still in their tent drawing up plans for a bridge.” They were planning a way over that was already provided. And that’s what we want to look at today – how Jesus has already provided a bridge to God that we could not build in a million years.
This passage seems unworldly because it is. It is a preview of God’s kingdom. It is a necessary preview because Jesus has just announced that He, the Messiah, is heading to death in Jerusalem. So we saw first of all the
I. Purpose for the Preview – to encourage both the disciples and Jesus as well. Great suffering was required to secure the kingdom. Would it be worth it? Absolutely! answers the Transfiguration. True reality awaits!
II. Person of the Preview
A. Supremacy of His Person – supreme in His manhood, His make-up as God and His message of forgiveness. Jesus is the one person in all of history who cannot be ignored – whose life has relevance to every person.
B. Sufficiency of His Passion (His death)
Jesus, Moses and Elijah have been talking about Jesus’ coming “departure” in Jerusalem. The disciples were asleep part of the time, but as they awoke they quickly identified Moses and Elijah reflected in Jesus’ glory. All of this would have screamed “kingdom” to them. They knew Mal 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” Elijah is promised – and there he is! They have just recently affirmed their belief that Jesus is the Messiah. It is all coming together. The Messiah, Elijah, and even Moses here, all in a blaze of glory. What death has to do with it, they don’t know, but otherwise it all seems to be coming together!
Suddenly, Moses and Elijah are preparing to depart. But to Peter this is too good to let go. V. 33, “And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.” Ignorance never stopped Peter! What exactly he had in mind isn’t clear. Perhaps he’s seeing the potential to get the kingdom kicked off -- Jesus in charge and Rome out. He proposes 3 dwellings to get things moving, perhaps hoping to stop all this talk about Jesus suffering and dying. Peter is nothing if not an activist.
But he is meddling in forbidden territory. And He drastically short-changes Jesus, by offering equal housing to all 3! Great as those men are, they don’t begin to compare to Jesus. He’s also repeating a previous error. Peter had earlier taken issue when Jesus announced His coming death. Matt 16:22: “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.” Jesus rebukes Peter strongly, calling him Satan because that’s who generated the idea of bypassing the cross. But here’s Peter again saying, “Forget dying, man, let’s get on with the kingdom.” It’s a bit more subtle this time, but it’s another attempt to have the crown without the cross. Peter little understands redemption. The Father quickly ends Peter’s heresy: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” That indelibly established who was in charge, and whose Word counted.
Peter didn’t yet understand the absolute necessity of the cross to pay for his own sins. That’s the theme and subject of this whole event. V. 30: “And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” The subject was Jesus’ coming substitutionary death.
Note it’s a death that He is about to accomplish. That’s strange language. Who ever heard of death as an accomplishment?! Death happens to us – it’s not an accomplishment by us! But Jesus’ death was different. It had purpose. It accomplished redemption! It destroyed death – took away the fangs of death. It was not some tragic miscalculation. It had been prophesied for 100’s of years: Isa 53:5-6: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” Jesus says in John 10:17-18, “17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Peter later speaks of our salvation in I Pet 1:18-20: “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19) but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.” The idea of Jesus’ death did not originate with the Pharisees. It originated with God as the only means to redeem a fallen race. Jesus’ death was planned, prophesied, purposeful and pivotal. Without it – no redemption – not for Moses or Elijah or Peter or me or you. He wasn’t just going to Jerusalem to die. He was going to accomplish redemption – and that meant death, resurrection and ascension. His departure! Imagine how this visit from Moses and Elijah would have encouraged Jesus’ heart to this task.
Luke uses a dramatic play on words here. See the word departure? It’s the Greek word ἔξοδος. Sound familiar? Luke meant it to. Moses led a physical exodus of Israel out Egypt, so Jesus is about to lead a spiritual exodus from bondage to sin. It’s why He came – “to seek and to save that which was lost.” By using εξοδoσ to speak of Jesus’ coming death, resurrection and ascension, Luke makes a purposeful connection between Moses leading Israel out of physical bondage in Egypt and Jesus leading believers out of spiritual bondage to sin. It’s a biblical pattern! Moses and Elijah pointed to something greater; Jesus is that something greater – our all-sufficient bridge to the Father. So let’s compare the exodus of Moses and that of Jesus.
1. Both were initiated by God – Israel got to Egypt in the first place ard 1800 BC when Joseph moved the whole clan there during a time of famine. But not long after Joseph died, Israel became slaves to the Egyptians for 400 years. That’s a long time. Moses’ feeble attempt to rescue them on his own was a complete failure. But 40 years later God called a very reluctant Moses and sent him with His power and authority as a Deliverer. Had God not taken the initiative, there would have been no exodus.
The human family is also in bondage – to sin and death. The Bible says in Rom 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.” We’re in bondage and don’t even want out. We pride ourselves that we “seek God” but what we seek is god in our image – a tame God. When we encounter the real God of the Bible who is a “consuming fire” of holiness (Heb 12:29), we run away as fast as we can. We cannot and would not even if we could seek God. Like the Israelites, had God not take the initiative in Christ, there would be no exodus for us from our sin and guilt.
Tim Keller in Reason for God tells of a woman in his congregation who once complained to a friend that she had prayed over and over, “God, help me find you,” but had gotten nowhere. A Xn friend suggested that she change the prayer to “God, come and find me. You’re the Good Shepherd; I am a lost sheep.” The woman told Keller, “The only reason I can tell you this story is – He did! God found me!” I wish, Beloved, you could hear the stories, some even from our own church, of how God has found people who were on the run. But when they tired of trying to find themselves in things, or pleasure, or addictions, or whatever and cried out to a God that they didn’t even believe in in some cases, God found them. God will find you too, if you are willing.
2. Both provide release by grace – Exod 3:7-8, “7 Then the LORD said [to Moses at burning bush], “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.” It’s all grace. I have come down! Not you have come up, but I have come down! Why have you come down, Lord? To deliver them. I’ve come to deliver. Moses’ message from God to Pharaoh was simple: “Let my people go.” 9 times in Exod 4-10. It takes 10 horrible plagues break Pharaoh’s hold. But in the end, God wins. He accomplished His purpose.
The exodus of Moses was amazing – freeing slaves from the most powerful nation on earth. But it pales in comparison to spiritual freedom accomplished by Jesus. Once more God came down -- this time becoming part of His own creation. And just as in Moses’ time, He came down to deliver. But this is no temporary deliverance from physical slavery. This is permanent deliverance from spiritual slavery. Jesus’ exodus breaks the chains that enslave us to the world, the flesh and the devil and restores us to fellowship with an infinitely holy God. And as God persisted until the task was done in Egypt, so Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, determined to accomplish His greater exodus
Now, please note, providing release is not the same as accepting release. God provided through Moses in Egypt the possibility of release. No one had to go, but they did. They stepped out in faith to accept the freedom God provided.
Unfortunately many refuse the deliverance provided by Jesus. Most people will not even admit they are in bondage. Most are like the guy pulled over by a cop who asked, “Didn’t you notice that you were going the wrong way on a one-way street?” The man answered, “No. I turned on from Maple and didn’t see one sign indicating this was a one-way street.” The officer replied, “That’s because you were going the wrong way down Maple as well!” That’s who we are outside of Christ. On one-way streets to destruction. On the broad way, going the wrong way. Rom 6:16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Right now, we are either slaves to sin or slaves to Christ. It feels like we’re free. But it’s an illusion. Even Bob Dylan knows we all serve somebody! We’re blind. Paul says in II Cor 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” The gospel that you are hearing this morning is intended by God to light you up, to reveal your enslavement. Deliverance is provided – but you have to accept it personally.
3. Both required a substitutionary payment – Deliverance isn’t free. We think because lightning doesn’t strike when we mess up, we’ve gotten away with it. Another illusion. Eventually, every sin, big or small, will be accounted and paid for. That’s what God was teaching in Moses’ exodus.
With every plague, Pharaoh promised release, but reneged when the danger was past. On the tenth time, God lowered the boom – a plague that had tragic and lasting effect. Exod 11:4-5: “4 So Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle.” From the moment God issued this command, every firstborn in Egypt was under a death sentence –Egyptians and Israelites alike. All were equally under the death sentence. Israel was just as much under the wrath of God against sin as were the Egyptians. God is no respecter of persons when it comes to sin. Family heritage, ethnic background, being American instead of Muslim makes no difference. We are equally condemned.
But in Exod 12, God makes a special provision. It has nothing to do with being good. Deliverance is blood-bought by faith. They are to kill a lamb and sprinkle the blood on a doorpost of the house. It’s a messy salvation, is it not? But then sin is a messy business. Put the blood on the doorpost as an act of faith. That is all that distinguishes believers from unbelievers – faith in God’s provision. But that is all it takes. Exod 12:12, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” God passes thru everywhere, seeing everyone, but He only passes over when He sees the blood. God’s patience is at an end. All must now give account. He will only pass over those who have substituted a lamb for the firstborn. Salvation by substitute. Exod 11:14, “This day [Passover] shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations.” So for the next 1400 plus years that is exactly what happens. Passover is celebrated in recognition of the mercy and grace of God in delivering the people from Egypt and sparing their firstborn based on a substitute sacrifice.
Now, 1400 years later, Moses, Elijah and Jesus discuss the new exodus. This year Passover will be different. The people will sacrifice, but just outside the walls of Jerusalem, the ultimate sacrifice will take place. That toward which all the other sacrifices pointed will actually happen. In Jesus’ exodus there is only one sacrificial lamb; it is Him. It must be. Heb 10:4 reminds, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” They were only symbolic. But what the blood of bulls and goats could never do, the precious blood of Jesus did once for all. Rom 6:10, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all.” Heb 7:27, “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Heb 9:12, “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Just as in Moses time, God came down, and God delivered.
Steve Chalke and his emergent friends who say the substitutionary atonement makes God a “cosmic child abuser” lie. Substitutionary atonement is the red thread that runs all the way thru the Bible. You can’t have the one without the other.
4. Both releases are obtained by faith – For the Passover to take effect, the blood had to be applied. It wasn’t enough that the lamb died, the blood had to be sprinkled on the doorpost in faith. And so for us as well, it is not enough that Jesus has died. His blood must be applied personally to each heart who will be delivered by Him. We must invite Him in. Most will not do so, but God promises, “to all who [do] receive him, who believed in his name, he [gives] the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Deliverance is for those who apply the blood of the God who came down.
Conc – When I started college I had a job in the engineering department of Rockwell International – an aerospace company. Because of the nature of the work, a Secret clearance was required. And entrance into the facility was by showing a badge and ID card indicating you belonged. Well after I’d been there for a year or so, I said to another guy, “I bet I can get in without showing my ID.” He said I couldn’t so I asked him to meet me in the parking lot he next morning. I followed him in closely, flashing my driver’s license to the guard instead of my ID card. The guy thought I was lucky, so I told him I thought I could do it 30 days in a row – which I did. Very secure facility. Probably couldn’t do that today.
But the point is, the kingdom of God has no such security breaches. There it’s not the ID card you have, but the one you enter with. It much be Jesus. He is the only way over. He’s done everything that needs to be done to achieve our salvation. It is only for us to accept what He has done.
I love a song that James Montgomery Boice wrote: “Since grace is the source of the life that is mine -- and faith is a gift from on high. I’ll boast in my Savior, all merit decline,/ and glorify God ‘til I die.” Let’s pray.