Please open your Bible app on your cell phone or turn in your Bible to Matthew 17:1-8. Let us stand as we read God’s Word together:
1 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 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!” 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.
It’s but once in a while when the Spirit of God directs me in a more academic and theological approach to my preaching, and this morning is such an occasion. So, throw out any notion of having a “Hallmark moment” this morning and put your thinking caps as we delve into what at first, second, or even third read can be a confusing passage for many of us.
A ship was in a serious storm and in grave distress. The passengers were alarmed. One of them finally, against orders, went up to the deck and made his way to the pilot house.
The pilot was at the wheel, but, seeing the man was greatly frightened; he gave him a reassuring smile. Returning to the other passengers the man said. “I have seen the face of the pilot, he smiled. All is well.”
“I have seen the face of the pilot, he smiled. All is well.” can be the phrase on which the story of the transfiguration is based. (http://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendly.asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=143949)
We see Jesus in a “new light” if you will, in this passage, and we can conclude that based on what we see, that all is well!
Matthew, Mark, and Luke (which are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because they are similar in wording and chronology—See Mark 9:2ff and Luke 9:28ff) all record this major event where Jesus is changed or transfigured before Peter, James, and John and John refers to it in His writings. Players in this story also include appearances by Moses and Elijah, and God the Father who speaks from heaven. I don’t know that there is another Scripture that so boldly shows that Jesus is the Connector or Bridge between heaven and earth.
The first thing I’d like to point out in this passage is that Jesus is the King of Glory. This is the only time we see in Scripture that Jesus revealed His glory in this way while He was on the earth. The idea that He was transfigured means that a kind of metamorphosis took place. That which was in Him, that which was His glory, was made visible in that moment.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. . .” That glory was on display at the Transfiguration.
The event made a profound impression in that moment on Peter, James, and John. For many years later, John penned these words in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John had been an eyewitness to the glory of God in Jesus Christ and in His Gospel, he emphasized the deity of Jesus and the glory of His person (John 2:11; 7:39; 11:4; 12:23; 13:31-32; 20:31).
Jesus had laid aside His glory when He came to earth. Listen to Jesus praying to the Father in John 17:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” And here, if for a brief moment, He resumed his identity as the King of Glory in front of Peter, James, and John.
Just a chapter before our main text in Matthew 17, Jesus asked the disciples what people had been saying about who He was. Then He asked them point blank, “Who do you say that I am,” and Peter confessed with boldness, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This transfiguration experience where God revealed Jesus’ glory seems to be a way of giving added understanding to the disciples about what Peter had declared. What does it mean that Jesus is the Christ? This encounter showed Peter, James, and John that it in part meant that Jesus is the King of Glory.
Psalm 24:7-10 asks the question about Jesus as the King of Glory: 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty– he is the King of glory.”
Who is this King of Glory? The Transfiguration answers this question as we see Jesus displayed in great light. His face was ablaze like the sun, and His clothes were whiter than any white the disciples had ever seen. Jesus is the King of Glory because He is the Light of the World. That which He declared about Himself was now on display. Light impacts darkness by dispelling it. No one else could make such a sweeping statement that they were the light, dispelling the darkness for the whole world.
Who Jesus really was, was beyond the human man the disciples had walked with. Jesus gave understanding to them and us about the immensity of His mission on that mountain. He was God come to earth. He was the Light, piercing the darkness. He was the invasion of Deity to the human experience and need. He was the God who willingly left His glory in heaven and cloaked Himself in flesh in order that God and salvation could be accessible to us; so that we could approach God.
He is the King of Glory secondly because He is Supreme. Who was it that showed up on this mountain with Jesus? Moses and Elijah, right? Moses received the Law and gave it to God’s people. Elijah was a great prophet. Their attendance at this mountaintop event signaled to the disciples that Jesus was greater than the Law and the Prophets.
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus had said that he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. Therefore, the presence of these two heroes is a beautiful picture of the validation of Christ’s ministry. Moses and Elijah pointed to him. In fact, Moses said something very interesting in Deuteronomy 18:15 – “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him that you shall listen…” We will see that God the Father says the same thing about Jesus in our Transfiguration passage.
The Law and the Prophets were never intended to be the all in all for the sin problem. They were to point people to Jesus. They were to ready people for something greater. The prophets didn’t provide salvation. The Law couldn’t provide salvation. The Law offered a way to deal with the sin problem through animal sacrifices, but those bloody sacrifices had to be repeated. It was just a temporary fix. The curse of sin was an ongoing problem. Jesus, became not only our sin, but took the curse of sin on Himself as well which meant He removed it from us!
Galatians 3:13 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Luke 9:30-31 tell us about the nature of the conversation Moses, Elijah, and Jesus were having. It says, “Two men, Moses and Elijah,appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”
Only the King of Glory could pull off being the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Only the King of Glory could take on the curse of sin for the whole world. Only the King of Glory could endure the road to the cross and stay alive, sane, and on His mission (even forgiving people from the cross) until God’s time came for Him to take His last breath. We can get tempted to cuss someone or get even with someone just over someone cutting us off in traffic, and the King of Glory was forgiving people from the cross in a bloodied, beaten, bruised, half-dead almost breathless state. Only the King of Glory could be placed in a borrowed tomb and rise from the dead on the third day to purchase our freedom from eternal death and the curse of sin forever. And this is the nature of the conversation that took place while Peter, James, and John listened in.
Now the fact that Moses and Elijah, who had once lived on earth, now appeared with Jesus added further understanding to the disciples about Jesus as the King of Glory. This encounter would have confirmed what they had learned and known in their heads but now saw with their eyes. There is life after this life! Jesus is the King of Glory because He is King over death. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus who was and it Jesus is the “Resurrection and the Life.”
Don’t you think Peter, James and John, when the going got tough, when they were being persecuted for their faith, when James was being put to death by the sword, when John was in prison, when according to historical tradition, Peter was being crucified upside down don’t you think they remembered that their King of Glory was Lord over death? Don’t you think they gained courage and strength from having witnessed the reality that those who die in the Lord go on to live with Him?
Jesus said to John in Revelation 1:17-18 “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” When John heard those words and started to write them down, his mind would have gone back to the mountain, back to what he witnessed. He would have recalled that Moses and Elijah who had left the earthly experience were now “alive” in a different sense and were having a conversation with Jesus about His mission.
Interesting too, it is that Luke gives us a detail about Moses and Elijah’s appearance that Matthew and Mark leave out. Luke says Moses and Elijah appeared in “glorious splendor.” They were already in some way, experiencing Jesus’ glory.
Romans 8:17-18 says, “17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Back to Revelation 1:17-18 “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Before Moses and Elijah, Jesus was. Before anything, Jesus was. He was with the Father in the beginning. He has always been and always will be! He is the King of Glory.
Since we live on this side of the resurrection, we know Christ succeeded in His mission. He is the King of Glory because He is the Living One!
He is the King of Glory because He reigns forever and forever! Presidents and emperors and kings come and go, but Jesus is eternally the King of Glory.
He is the King of Glory because He is the Locksmith Supreme. He has every key, including the keys to hell and death and He can release anyone from anything, including the curse of death.
And we know the disciples who witnessed all of this were so enthralled with the glory of the Lord and with all that they were witnessing that Peter said, “Let’s make this last as long as possible and camp out here. I’ll put up some tents.”
As Peter is talking, a cloud descends, just like a cloud would descend in the Old Testament when the glory of God appeared. (Moses-Exodus 40 and Solomon I Kings 8) Those Old Testament clouds prevented people from entering the places of worship, but here in the Transfiguration account, the cloud enveloped them all.
And then we hear the voice of God the Father, not unlike at Jesus’ baptism, declare, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. (Matt. 17:5) However, God went on to add to this declaration when He said, “Listen to Him.” God was announcing to Peter, James and John, that Jesus was not only the Son of God, but He was God. He was the Revelation of the Divine Word. Colossians 1:19 says, 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” They see and hear it more clearly than they ever have before. Jesus is God. “Listen to Him,” meant OBEY HIM!
The glory of God now fully revealed to them in the person of Jesus Christ elicited a response from them. They were terrified. They fell down in fear. Does anyone here this morning know that an encounter with the glory of God can knock you off your feet? Jesus spoke reassuringly to them, and told them to get up. And then perhaps one of the most pivotal verses of the entire New Testament is seen in Matthew 17: 8 “When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”
And that my friends, is the point. “Let me see, Jesus only! Only He can satisfy!” “Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus, to reach out and touch Him and say that we love Him! Open our ears, Lord, and help us to listen. Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus.” Peter, James, and John had been with Him. They had witnessed His works. They had hung around Him for a long time up to this point. They had talked with Him, but they hadn’t yet “seen” Him in all of His glory until this moment. The transfigured appearance of Jesus, the appearance of people who had lived hundreds of years ago, the cloud descending and enveloping them, the voice of the Father . . . it all brought them to a place where they could clearly see Jesus. Can you see Jesus this morning? Do you want to see Jesus this morning?
Jesus is the whole focal point of God’s redemptive plan. He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6) No one else was transfigured in this passage. No one else was endorsed by the Father. Jesus stands out! He stands above all. He stands alone as Supreme! In Christ alone I place my trust and find my glory in the power of the cross! Jesus is the King of Glory because He is God! We are to listen to Him by obeying Him, following in His footsteps!
Even though those three disciples failed Jesus in some ways, in their heart of hearts, they determined to “listen to Him” by following Him even though it let them into horrific circumstances at times. Peter wrote in II Peter 1:16-18 “16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”
Peter wrote those words on the heels of writing words of warning and encouragement to make sure the believers stayed true to the faith. He had seen what the glory looked like. He had seen what a glorious existence looked like. He had witnessed there was indeed life after death, and he determined in his heart that he wasn’t going to miss it! Jesus doesn’t want any of us to miss it. Have you decided not to miss it this morning?
In John 17:24, Jesus prayed that you and I would see His glory. That is, He wants us to see Him fully, not briefly as in this passage, but forever. John had a revelation of heaven and he recounted it in Revelation 21. Listen to these verses beginning with verse 22: “22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
What that means is only those who are saved, who ask Jesus to forgive their sins through the blood He shed on the cross, will get to have that glorious mountaintop experience forever.
Jesus had invited Peter, James and John as His special guests to the Mount of Transfiguration. Just as Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus’ glory by invitation, so too are we invited to as well. No wonder Peter wanted to set up tents and camp in the presence of the King of Glory as He was revealed. Who wouldn’t have wanted to have stayed there? Who wouldn’t want to stay in the place John describes as heaven?
Just as the cloud fully enveloped those who were there, Jesus wants to fully envelope you; body, mind, and spirit. He wants to deposit His glory inside of you. II Cor. 4:6-7 tells us, 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, and a walk with Christ is a walk of increasing glory. II Cor. 3:18 “18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” You know what that means? Like Peter, those of us who have truly experienced transformation by the new birth and who are walking with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, we want more and more of the glory experience of being up close and personal with Jesus. It means life with Jesus gets better and better every day.
Some of you need to open yourself up to the possibility of seeing Jesus differently today. Some of you need to let Him deposit His glory into your hearts by accepting His invitation for salvation. Some of you need to adjust your worship, your witness, and your daily walk to reflect that you are living for the One who is the King of Glory. Whatever you need to do in order to respond to the King of Glory, I invite you to come after we pray.
If you made a decision to accept Christ as Savior today, I invite you to Text “next” to 96362. There you will find video lessons about how you can grow in Christ and can even subscribe for them to be sent to your phone. If you are a believer but would like to gain a better knowledge of the basics of Christianity, these lessons would benefit you as well.