THE TRANSFIGURATION

LUKE 9:27-36

Almost every event in the life of Jesus is portrayed in early Christian art except this one. If you look through the art museums of the world, you will find tremendous paintings of the resurrection, the crucifixion, the walking on the water. But until the 16th century, no art form depicted the event which is described in this chapter.

In the 16th century, Raphael began a work on this event. However, before he completed it, his brush was stilled in death. There is something so holy about this event, so majestic, so grand, that it is difficult to portray.

 

A KINGDOM PROMISE

"But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:27).

It all started when Jesus told His disciples that they would see the coming of the kingdom of God. Some of them might have thought, "Yeah, right! You mean after 2000 years at the Second Coming." But Jesus said, "No, it will happen in your lifetime. Indeed, some of you who are standing here will see it."

This tells me something about the Transfiguration. It is a manifestation of the kingdom of God and its arrival upon planet earth. All too often when Christians speak of the kingdom of God, they think of something that is going to come in the future. But in this passage we see something different. The kingdom came 2000 years ago. And it came with power.

 

KINGDOM COMPANIONS

And some eight days after these sayings, it came about that He took along Peter and John and James, and went up to the mountain to pray. (Luke 9:28).

When it came time to manifest His heavenly glory, Jesus picked out three of His disciples. This was in keeping with the Old Testament Law that mandated that any legal proceedings were to be established in the presence of two or three witnesses. Why did Jesus pick these three men?

These three men are going to be with Jesus during the Gethsemane experience. They will be the pillars of the church.

But perhaps there is another reason why Jesus took these men. Perhaps He needed someone to be with Him. He is getting ready to go to Jerusalem to die. The time is drawing closer. It will be the most awful time of His life. And He needs a friend.

Being a Christian doesn't mean that you can go it alone. Jesus needed friends and He knows that we need a friend, too. And that is why He has given us the CHURCH.

 

A KINGDOM APPEARANCE

And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. (Luke 9:29).

Four people climbing a mountain. We arenít told which mountain it was. There were several in northern Galilee from which to choose. Perhaps it was Mount Hermon, whose snow-capped peak rises to a height of 10,000 feet above sea level. Or it might have been Mount Tabor, the traditional location of the Mount of Transfiguration which lies on the western edge of the Valley of Jezreel. It doesnít really matter which mountain it was. What matters is what happened when they got to the top.

Can you imagine it? The trip has been long. The hour is late. They reach a level place on the slope and they sit down. They are tired. Their muscles hurt.

Three of them talk softly among themselves. The fourth sits still. His conversation is with the Lord. He speaks to His Father. And out of the quietness, His Father answers. The face of Jesus became different. His clothing began to glow with an incredible gleaming whiteness. This was a spectacular event. From another dimension, a light comes. It begins to grow in intensity. Jesus explodes with glory. A roaring radiance pours forth from Him. He becomes as He was before He came. For one, brief shining moment the veil of His humanity is lifted and the brilliance splashes out. He is home again.

And in that glorious homecoming, there are suddenly two other figures. They are the two most famous of the prophets of the Old Testament.

 

KINGDOM WITNESSES

And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30).

 

Why the appearance of these two prophets? Because under Old Testament Law, the truth of a matter must always be established by witnesses. And a single witness was not enough. There must be at least two. And so, the two greatest possible witnesses are sent to testify of this little Galilean rabbi.

Moses was the great Lawgiver. Elijah was the great prophet. The Law and the Prophets - and they both bear witness of Jesus.

Did you ever stop to think that Moses finally made it into the promised land? It only took him an extra 1400 years.

 

PETERíS IRRELEVANT SUGGESTION

Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.

And it came about, as these were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah" -- not realizing what he was saying. (Luke 9:32-33).

Donít you just love Peter? The most solemn and wondrous and unique and holy occasion in the history of planet earth has just taken place and he has to put in his two cents worth.

"Lord, it's a good thing we happened to be here!"

"No one else would have believed this!"

"Those other disciples at the bottom of the hill wouldn't have had a clue what to do with such a revelation, but I'VE got a plan!"

"Weíll build a couple of three tabernacles and weíll start our own church. We can call it Mount of Transfiguration Tabernacle. We can feed multitudes and You can take turns preaching with Moses and Elijah."

Peter is just getting started when suddenly there is an interruption. It doesn't come from the other two disciples. It doesnít even come from Jesus. It comes from the Father Himself.

And while he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:34-35).

God interrupts Peter. He says, "Peter, shut up and listen!" He says the same thing to us sometimes. Sometimes He says, "Slow down! Be still! Listen to Me!" That is what the Sabbath is all about. Once every seven days we are to slow down and be still and listen for a still, small voice and the soft sound of sandaled feet.

Have you heard Him today? Are you listening to Him now? Or is your mind on other matters? Is your attention divided?

God gets Peterís attention. He does this by overshadowing Peter with a cloud. This wasnít any old cloud. This cloud was special.

In the Older Testament, Exodus 16:10 says how the whole congregation of the sons of Israel "looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the CLOUD."

And the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I shall come to you in a THICK CLOUD, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe in you forever" (Exodus 19:9).

And it came about when the priests came from the holy place, that the CLOUD filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10-11).

Why was there a cloud? Because mortal man cannot look upon the glory of God without being destroyed. The cloud was for their protection. The cloud was to keep them alive. The cloud was so that they might hear the voice of the Lord and live through the experience. Because there was an important message given to them that day - a message that has been entrusted to us. What is this message?

"This is My beloved Son!" You are impressed by prophets and visions and clouds and bright lights. And God says, "Youíre being impressed by the wrong things!" Moses is impressive. And Elijah is impressive. And a bright cloud overshadowing a high mountain is impressive. But if that is all you see here, then you've missed the most impressive thing of all.

Youíve missed the fact that God became a fetus and was born to a Hebrew peasant girl. Youíve missed the fact that the splendor of heaven was poured into a human body. Youíve missed the One who was older than time and greater than death. Youíve missed the Son of God.

Peter speaks of building tabernacles. God says, "Iíve already prepared a tabernacle and His name is Jesus!" That is what the Bible says in John 1:14 - "And the Word became flesh and TABERNACLED among us..."

By the way, if you go to Israel today and climb Mount Tabor, the traditional location of the Transfiguration, when you get to the top you will find three shrines - three MEMORIALS.

Religion has missed the lesson of this passage. Jesus is not just a good man or a godly teacher or a miracle worker or even a prophet. You cannot even compare Him to such lofty prophets as Moses and Elijah, for they are mere men. He is the unique Son of God.

And this brings us to the reason for this entire event. Why did it take place? What is the significance of the transfiguration? Why is it recorded in three out of four of the gospel accounts?

Here is the reason. It is because the transfiguration underlines and proves the confession made by Peter the week before. Do you remember Peterís confession? Jesus had asked, "Who do people say that I am?" The disciples had checked their latest copy of the Gallup Poll and cited the responses...

52% - John the Baptists

41% - Elijah

7% - Other

Then Jesus asked, "But who do YOU say that I am?" And Peter replied, "You are the Christ."

Since that time, a week has passed. And I would bet that during that time Peter has asked himself, "Why did I say that? Am I really certain that He is the Messiah?" And so, he and these other two disciples are given the testimony of two witnesses and the very voice of God as EVIDENCE that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Many years later, Peter would look back on this event as the evidence for the claims of Jesus.

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of Him majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" - and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18).

This was not a vision or a dream. This was not merely a philosophical stance. Something happened in history. Heaven reached down and touched the earth. God came near. And nothing will ever again be the same.

 

A SILENCED REPORT

And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen. (Luke 9:36).

Only three of the disciples witnessed the Transfiguration. But they did not tell the other disciples what they had seen. They realized that they had stood on holy ground, but they did not yet understand the full implications of what they had seen.

There are several lessons that we ought to learn from this passage:

  1. The Transfiguration teaches that the Cross and the Crown are a part of One Unified Plan.
  2. Some people seem to get the impression that Jesus came to offer a physical kingdom and only went to the cross as a result of the rejection of the people. But the plan of God always included both the cross as well as the crown. It always included a suffering Savior who would at the same time be the victorious King.

  3. The Transfiguration teaches that Jesus is indeed the Christ of God.
  4. It serves as Godís affirmation of Peterís confession of faith given in the preceding paragraph. When Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am," Peter answered, "You are the Christ of God." And now in the transfiguration, God says, "YES!!!!"

    People had wondered whether Jesus might really be Elijah or some other prophet. This event shows that He is a unique person, not to be identified with any of those people.

  5. The Transfiguration teaches us that the Kingdom is both Now and Not Yet. This passage started out with a promise from Jesus that some of these disciples would see the coming Kingdom.
  6. "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:27).

    It is not by accident that all three Synoptic Gospels record this promise immediately prior to their relating of the Transfiguration. That event is the fulfillment of this promise.

    There is a wonderful truth here. It is that the Kingdom is both in the here and now and that it is also in the future.

    Kingdom Here Now

    Kingdom Coming in the Future

    "...the kingdom of God has come near" (Luke 10:11).

    Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ĎLook, here it is!í or, ĎThere it is!í For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:20-21).

    And while they were listening to these things, He went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. (Luke 19:11).

    "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." Luke 22:18).

  7. The Transfiguration teaches us that because Jesus is the Messiah of God and not merely another prophet, we must Listen to Him.

If you come to this event and see only Moses and Elijah, then you have missed the real significance of this event. It is about Jesus. It is that you might come to the point of recognizing His true identity and believing in Him.

 

 

 

 


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