This Sunday

THIS SUNDAY in worship (8:00 and 10:30). This Sunday we look at the familiar story of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17. Bruce asks these questions: why did it happen? What was it important for the disciples to be there? Why were Moses and Elijah there? and What are we supposed to learn from this? Join us as we open up this significant moment in the life of Jesus.

YOUTH GROUPS AND AWANA have now wrapped for the summer. The High School youth will still try to meet when possible during the summer months.

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Last Week's Sermon

The Transfiguration


There are some experiences in life you will never forget. Some are good things: the birth of a child, a wedding day, a day when you received a special honor, your child’s graduation, a picturesque spot on a vacation. Some memories are not so positive: abusive behavior, the death of someone close to you, a car accident, bad news coming from the lips of a Doctor.

This morning we look at one of the most memorable moments in the life of Peter, James and John. They were witnesses to the Transfiguration of Jesus.

Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Luke’s account seems to indicate this happened later in the day becauae he says the disciples were tired. However, they became wide-awake very quickly. The word used for transformed or changed (depending on your version) is the word metamorphosis.  It is a word that describes the transformation that takes place when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

Luke says Jesus was praying (and apparently, the disciples were sleeping) when He was dramatically changed right before their eyes! His clothes were “white as white” or “whiter than white” one version says. We are also told His face shone like the sun. Imagine the terror, fascination, and awe that was part of this moment.

The Meeting on the Mountain

Moses and Elijah were two of the most prominent and faithful men of the Bible. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the prophets (the two main parts of the Old Testament). Luke says that they also were “glorious to see”.

Luke gives us a little insight into the conversation.

 And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.

If we do our detective work, we can guess that Jesus was seeking strength to face the cross and the wrath of the Father for the sake of mankind. Perhaps He was also fighting the voice of Satan whispering doubts and suggesting there was an easier way to accomplish His purpose.

Moses and Elijah came perhaps to remind Jesus that the Old Testament pointed to this moment. The cross was the fulfillment of the entire sacrificial system. It was the way of redemption God had promised.

How wonderfully this must have strengthened our Lord! I think it was a pretty wonderful meeting for Moses and Elijah as well. Here they were, encouraging the One whom they had longed for their entire time on earth.

Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah were about to leave when Peter spoke up offering to provide lodging for the three. (Wouldn’t you like to know how they knew this was Moses and Elijah?)

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Luke added that Peter didn’t know what to say. There is a principle here: generally, if you don’t know what to say, it is better to say nothing at all. James reminds us that it is good to be “quick to listen, and slow to speak.” This was a holy moment and it was best to be quiet. However, I know I have violated that rule many times and so have you. We should cut Peter some slack.

You can’t blame Peter for wanting this special moment to last a bit longer. We all hate for the time of spiritual exhilaration to end whether it is the end of camp, a conference, a great concert, or a stirring time of worship.

God the Father responded,

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

This is known as the “Shekinah Glory”. That isn’t important for you to know but some people use that phrase and I want you to know what it means. The Shekinah Glory was a physical manifestation of the presence of God. In the Exodus God presented himself as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. People knew God had come to Mount Sinai to talk to Moses because a cloud descended to the top of the mountain.

The disciples are terrified for a couple of reasons. First, anytime you see people in the Bible encounter the nearness of God they become acutely aware (in contrast to God’s holiness) of their sin. They knew how unworthy they were to be in His presence. Plus, all their life they had been taught the story of Moses and the words of God, “no one can see Him and live”. Seeing the cloud and hearing the voice of God must have made them fearful for their lives.

Jesus touched the disciples. It was a touch of grace and mercy. He tells them to stand up. It was time to go. It must have seemed to the disciples that the moment ended just as suddenly as it began.

 As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”

11 Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” 13 Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.

It is not surprising that the disciples were filled with questions as they came down the mountain. One of questions (quite naturally) had to do with the prophecy from Malachi about Elijah. Jesus explained that this prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist. There may have been other questions that the gospel writers did not record.

Why does Jesus tell the disciples that they should not tell anyone about their experience until the resurrection? One of the reasons is because people would think the disciples had gone crazy.

If you have ever had a brush with the Almighty you will tend not to talk a great deal about it because you know that people will look at you funny and think you have completely lost your mind. People were not ready to accept the kind of Messiah Jesus was yet. They were still looking for a political leader that would build an earthly Kingdom with Israel as the prominent piece in that Kingdom. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, people were able to rethink what they previously believed.

This experience had deep impact on these disciples. They obviously were not able to process all of it yet (since they were so surprised by the death and resurrection of Jesus). However, upon reflection at the beginning of His gospel John said “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Peter wrote (2 Peter 1:16): “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1: 16). I believe both references allude to the Transfiguration.

Wouldn’t you have loved to be part of this occasion? Wow! How wonderful it must have been!

There are still a couple of questions we would like to have answered. Why did the disciples record this? Because it was a powerful demonstration of Jesus’ deity. It stuck firmly in their minds, and they wanted to relay that same faith-building experience to their readers.

Why was it necessary for the disciples to be there? Because they needed that reminder of Jesus’ deity. They needed to remember who He was. These men faced persecution. James was the first of the twelve martyred for the faith. John was tortured and banished to an island for criminals. Peter, tradition says was crucified upside down. In times of intense threat and persecution their memory of the time on the mountain reassured them and gave them strength.

This leaves one more question: What are we supposed to learn from all of this? First and foremost, we too should learn that Jesus is worth following. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is more than good man or great teacher. He is more than a good model. Jesus is more than the head of a movement or religious organization. He is God in human form who came to earth to save us.

There are times when we need a vivid reminder. When the tragedy and corruption of life in this world begin to squeeze the life out of us we need some reminder that God is still on the throne. When we fail miserably and wonder if Jesus can save us, we can look to the Transfiguration, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus and know that He is Lord beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Is this the Jesus you’ve come to worship today? Do you understand who He actually is? Do you see it not just in your head but also in your very soul? We need to sit before this account and let it penetrate deep. You see, if we get this

  • We will be eager to listen to Him
  • We will be quick to obey
  • We will not lose heart when the circumstances of life try to swallow us up
  • We will not be afraid of death.
  • We will eagerly and passionately tell others about Him
  • We will shake our head in wonder that the God who created all there is could care so much for us.

I think there are some additional lessons we can draw from the text. We see the importance and the wonder of prayer. It is doubly hard to be obedient when everyone else is calling you in a different direction. The best way to resist this is through prayer.

Jesus knew what the Father wanted Him to do. But there were all kinds of voices telling him there were other ways/better ways to go. Since Jesus was fully human He had to resist the voices of compromise and the whispers of Satan. He had to stand strong when the disciples urged Him to take a different course. He had to hang in there when His body was being punished and His friends deserted Him. The only way Jesus was able to do this was through His time of prayer.

Prayer is where we meet God in a special way. We may not see visions or meet Heavenly beings. But . . . in the time of quiet prayer God’s Spirit has the chance to quiet our soul and calm our hearts. In the time of prayer, the Lord reminds us of how great He really is. When we pray God helps us to see through the fog of our circumstances and reminds us of His truth. He helps us to see what really matters and which way we should go.

I think one of the reasons we struggle with prayer is because this is where the front line of the battle is. Satan knows if he can keep us from prayer, He can keep us from power. If he can lead us to turn worship into a concert and remove the times of quiet resting in God’s presence, he can keep us from the true source of power. If he can keep us reading, studying and serving but never praying, he can weaken our commitment even as we are patting ourselves on the back for all our knowledge. How many times do we see Jesus take time to pray in the gospels? If Jesus needed to pray, so do we.

We are also reminded that the Old Testament and New Testament go together. As Jesus stood there with Moses and Elijah we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was proclaimed in the Old Testament. We love to read about Jesus but we must not neglect the foundation on which the gospel is built.

I like to read biographies. However, I sometimes find the early chapter tedious. These are when we learn about the person’s parents, their youth, and their family. I picked up the book because I wanted to learn more about the things they did. For example, when I read a Presidential Memoir I want to know the back story behind some of the events in history of which the President was involved. In other words, I want to get to the “good stuff”.

However, a good biographer knows that we cannot understand what someone does until we see who they are. Our past makes and molds us. We will better understand the decisions a person makes, when we know the experiences and scars of their past.

The Old Testament is like the early chapters of a biography. The Old Testament is the foundation on which the New Testament stands. The work of Jesus can only be fully understood with the background of the Old Testament.

I know the Old Testament is sometimes difficult to read. However, it is well worth the effort. Even though you will not pick up every detail or understand every nuance, everything you do learn will enrich your understanding of the gospel and what it means to be a child of God.

There are many who completely discard the Old Testament. It is a foolish thing to do. ALL Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. James Boice reminds us that when Peter wrote about seeing the manifestation of Christ’s glory he followed that with these words,

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

This means that Peter’s experience on the mountain was an important one; he bears testimony to it. But he adds that there is something “more certain” even than this: the testimony of Scripture to which we must pay the most deliberate and rapt attention. He is saying that the Bible is more certain even than a voice from heaven, which, in this case, they did not doubt even for a moment was God’s.

I do not know any truth of the Bible that is more relevant for believers in our day, since we live in an age when people appeal to their experience as the only sure measure of anything, not realizing that our experiences can be wrong or misleading.

We hear people justifying all types of unbiblical teaching or behavior by words such as, “God told me this is all right” or “I feel at peace with what I’m doing.” But here is Peter—a prominent apostle of the Lord, a man who had a visual experience of Christ’s transfiguration as well as having heard an audible word of God from heaven, experiences confirmed as true by the other apostles who were with him at the time—speaking of God’s revelation in the Bible as being “more certain” even than his exceptional experience. He does it to remind us that we must evaluate our experiences by the Bible’s teaching, rather than the other way around.

The Transfiguration should remind us that the Old Testament is not just history . . . it is the Word of God that will instruct and strengthen us.

One final lesson. This one comes from the words Peter spoke about building tents for everyone. We all want to hold on to the mountaintop experiences, but life is lived in the valley. You can’t blame Peter for wanting to make this moment last longer.

We wish everyday could be like the experience of camp, or a Bible conference or even a moving time of worship. We wish it was always like the powerful concert. But we are wrong to spend our lives pursuing mountain top experiences. They are great but they are rare in the life of a disciple. Most of our living takes place in the valley, in the daily grind, and in our everyday decisions and encounters.

We make a mistake when our goal in worship is always to produce an experience or a “High”.  The more we seek experiences, the more we become focused on us instead of on the Lord.  This is why it troubles me when I hear Christians evaluate their worship in terms of how it made them feel. When worship becomes about what we GET from the experience it becomes man-focused and therefore isn’t really worship at all! True worship is God-focused. It is about surrendering anew to His greatness. It is a time when we honor God for what He has done. It is about giving Him praise. We do this as much with times of quiet reflection and surrender as we do with vibrant singing.

The message for us is that we should welcome the great experiences of life. They are a precious gift from God. However, we must not fixate on these experiences or seek them or seek to create them! Our task is to seek God! We do this through prayer, reflection on His Word, and by opening our hearts to His direction in everything we say and do. And when we do so, you may sense His presence in a way that is so captivating it will change you forever.


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