TRANSFIGURATION, A – March 2, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Exodus 24:1-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

 

Behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matt. 17)

 

I heard on the radio recently an advertisement for the movie about Jesus titled, “Son of God,” which is now in the theatres. The ad portrayed the movie to be a powerful presentation of the life and teachings of Jesus. He is heard saying to one of His disciples, “We will change the world.” But then, the ad ended with an announcer saying, “This movie may not be suitable for children under 13.”

 

Hmm… Jesus is not suitable for children? Well, He’s not. He’s not suitable for adults, either. Jesus is not a suit you can put on and wear as you wish and when you wish. You can’t have Him adjusted to make Him fit. You must wear Him as He is, or be naked, without any of Him. That’s the way it is with Jesus, the Son of God.

 

This is not what I think, the opinion of an aging conservative man who is growing increasingly out of touch with today’s world. This is the teaching of the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration, which is in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and is also referred to by Peter in his second letter. Jesus’ Transfiguration proclaims two things about Him:

 

  1. JESUS IS THE TRUE AND ONLY GOD.

     

    He is not simply a prophet, one of many spokesmen for God, as many people and many religions say.

  • A great teacher of God’s love, as Hinduism says.

  • Islam considers him to be a prophet who, like Mohammed, directed people to the one God.

  • Even many Jews consider him to be a prophet of Israel who was greatly misunderstood.

    Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain shows that He is far more than a prophet and teacher. Even considering Him the greatest prophet would fall far short. Compare His going up on the mountain with the account of Moses, Israel’s greatest prophet, going up the mountain. Moses is called up by God; Jesus goes up on His own initiative. Moses and those with him saw God’s glorious presence; Jesus shines Himself with the glory of God, and before the cloud of God’s glory appears. When God does appear – in a cloud of glory, as the God of Israel appeared in a fiery cloud on Mt. Sinai – He doesn’t call Jesus to Him to receive His instruction and pass it on to the people, as He did with Moses. No, God declares, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” God gives all things into His hands, thereby declaring Himself to be one with Jesus. Jesus is God!

     

    Being God, He cannot be ignored, or categorized as one – even one god – among many. We cannot wear Him when and how we wish. You cannot make adjustments to Him or His teaching to make Him suit you or anyone else. “Listen to Him!” is God’s command; and listen is what faith does. Faith in Jesus is listening to Him, believing and following His words no matter how difficult or contrary to our wisdom they are. Listening to Him is looking to and desiring Him alone as God, and confessing Him alone as God: your God. Jesus is the true and only God! But, what kind of God is He?

     

  1. JESUS IS THE CRUCIFIED GOD.

     

    This is also what His Transfiguration teaches us. And here, of course, is where the Son of God is not suitable for children under age 13. Parents should be careful about exposing them to the violent and bloody images of His arrest and subsequent beating and crucifixion. This is why the movie, “Son of God,” is rated PG-13.

     

    But, you know, it is not only children who need their parents’ guidance when considering Jesus’ crucifixion. We all need guidance, and from our heavenly Father. For, when the mighty Son of God is weak and pushed around and rejected and finally killed, this does not seem right. When He is weak in our lives and allows all kinds of hardships and problems to come upon us, this also does not seem right. It seems very wrong.

     

    Can you imagine how confusing it was for Peter, James and John to hear Jesus command them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” Raised from the dead? They had just seen Jesus shine with God’s glory; seen their greatest prophets appear and testify to Him; heard the almighty God Himself proclaim Jesus to be His beloved Son! How could He die? How could anything stand in His way? How could anything but glory be before Him… and them?

     

    God’s ways are not our ways; but they are always good. The Son of God had to be rejected and suffer and be crucified, and then rise again. The Gospel of Luke tells us that this, in fact, is what Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about on that mountaintop. His death was the purpose of His life. It is our greatest need. For, without blood – sacrificial blood, blood shed on your behalf to pay for the sins of which you are guilty – you cannot approach God or see God or be with God.

     

    This is very clear in Exodus 24. “Moses sent young men who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. He took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar… Then he took the blood [from the basins] and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’ ” Then, wearing blood-stained garments, the leaders of the people went up to God on His mountain, saw Him, and ate and drank with Him. They wore blood-stained garments because no one can see God, or even be comforted and blessed by His presence, while wearing his sins. Sin is hateful and repugnant to God. It is rebellion against Him and the rejection of Him. God must punish and consume it. The suffering and death it brings must be meted out upon it, upon the one who is guilty of it.

     

    Where was the blood when Peter, James and John went up on the mountain and saw Jesus revealed as God? It was in His veins, which would be pierced and opened for them on the cross. The blood was in the words of Moses and Elijah, who spoke with Him about His coming suffering and death. His blood covered them, and they saw God.

     

    Jesus is God, your crucified God who shed His blood so that your sins would be forgiven and you might have God’s blessing. You can and should look forward to seeing His glory one day in heaven, because none other than the very Son of God, He who is one with the Father, has paid for your sins! So, wear Him proudly as your crucified God and Savior. Gratefully take His crucified and risen body and blood into your mouths for the forgiveness of your every sin. Pay close attention to His prophetic word as “to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1). And, wear any rejections and sufferings for His name, along with the other trials and hardships that you must bear, as His way of teaching you and strengthening your faith. The Son of God will then most certainly help you and bless you; of this you can be sure. For, “the Lord God” – our Jesus! – “is a sun and shield; No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Ps. 84)