AFTER THE FIREWORKS
The passage to which we come today is anticlimactic when compared to the events of the previous verses. The ministry of Jesus and the speculation that ensued was brought to a thundering crescendo when He asked His disciples, "Who am I?" It was Peter who rose to the forefront with his bold assertion, "You are the Christ of God."
As if to crown and affirm this proclamation, a week later the Lord was on a mountain with three of His disciples when heaven touched earth and the glory that was His burst forth in blinding whiteness. The voice from heaven called to them, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!"
What an experience! A true "Mountain-top" Experience. The trouble with a mountain-top experience is that eventually you have to come down off the mountain.
Have you ever had a mountain-top experience? Perhaps it was that special time when you heard the gospel and you said, "Thatís for me!" And you gave your life to the Lord. Or perhaps it was at a camp or a retreat when everything just came together.
Weíve had some mountaintop experiences in our family. For Paula it was the time we served on a short term mission trip to Mexico and we had opportunity to teach and to preach the gospel and to see the Lord move in a wonderful way.
For Sky, it was on a mission trip to Jamaica on a literal mountain where she saw heaven move and the earth shake and the powers of darkness fall.
I can think of several times that I've ascended to a spiritual mountain top and had that experience with the Lord. But then, you come back down off the mountain. The fireworks end. Monday morning comes and it's back to work as usual. And thatís what happened to the disciples, too.
And it came about on the next day, that when they had come down from the mountain, a great multitude met Him. (Luke 9:37).
I love the poster that says, "Itís hard to soar with the eagles when you have to work down here with the turkeys." That is how the disciples must have felt the next day. They had seen some incredible things on the previous day. But now they are back to work as usual.
A FATHERíS DESPERATION
And behold, a man from the multitude shouted out, saying, "Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy, and behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth, and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him. And I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not." (Luke 9:38-40).
A need arises. A man with a troubled son. It is his only son. The boy is demon-possessed. This is no passive experience. There are screams and convulsions and foam and tearing and it never seems to let up.
The father first brings him to the disciples. After all, they'd done this sort of thing before. They had cast out demons. And now they were even more experienced. But they failed. They tried to cast out this demon and he would not budge.
Can you imagine how they must have felt? At the outset of the request, there would have been a confident bravado. "Cast out a demon? Of course we can do that. Weíve had quite a bit of experience as of late in the demon removal business. Just call us the Ghostbusters." But that bravado is quickly replaced by a helpless frustration as their attempts fall flat in failure. Perhaps one after another of the disciples try, each giving it his best shot, but to no avail. The final blow is when Jesus comes on the scene. Instead of speaking words of encouragement, He delivers a stinging rebuke.
A FAITHLESS GENERATION
And Jesus answered and said, "O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you, and put up with you? Bring your son here." (Luke 9:41).
To whom is Jesus speaking? Who is this "faithless generation?" Is it the father? Is it the crowds? Is it the disciples? I believe it is all three. Each had experienced to a varying degree a failure of faith.
Can you hear the exasperation in the voice of Jesus? There is an important lesson here. It is that your unbelief exasperates the Lord in a way that nothing else does.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).
You cannot please God without faith. Not be being a good person. Not by church attendance. Not by anything that you do. And that tells me something of the nature of faith. Faith involves reliance upon someone other than yourself. Faith involves trusting in Christ instead of upon yourself.
You are involved in a spiritual battle and the battleground is your own soul. The issue of the day is what you will believe. Will you believe in the power of God?
A FANTASTIC CESSATION
And while he was still approaching, the demon dashed him to the ground, and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. (Luke 9:42).
At the approach of Jesus, the demonic activity became all the more frenzied, throwing the boy to the ground and inducing a series of convulsions. This was a continuing test of faith. The disciples had tried to heal the boy to no avail. No Jesus comes up and he seems to get worse instead of better.
But then Jesus speaks and there is power in His words. The power and authority of Jesus in casting out this demon is all the more striking in light of the recent failure of the disciples.
A FICKLE ADMIRATION
And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." (Luke 9:43-44).
The reaction of the crowd was one of amazement. And it was amazement in the right direction -- they were amazed at the greatness of God. You would think that this would bring words of delight to the lips of Jesus. Instead, He responds with a warning. The warning is an echo of the message that had been given on the previous day.
This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!
Let these words sink into your ears
It has been suggested that the phrase, Let these words sink into your ears, is a Hebraism taken and translated very literally into the Greek. This same Hebraism is found in Exodus 17:14 where the Lord has just given Israel a victory over the Amalekites. The Lord tells Moses, "Write this in a book as a memorial, and recite it to Joshua [literally, set it into the ear of Joshua], that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." In the same way that God had given a great victory to Israel over the Amalekites, so now God has given a great victory to His people over the powers of darkness. Just as Israel was to learn a lesson from this, so we are to also learn a lesson.
What is the lesson? It is the lesson of the cross. It is the lesson that Satan is going to be defeated, but the means of his defeat will come at a time and in a way that is unexpected by the people at large.
Defeat of the Amalekites
Defeat of Forces of Darkness
God brought about victory through Joshua
God brought about victory through Jesus.
This initial victory was accompanied by the promise of an eventual victory that would be perpetual (Exodus 17:14).
The victory of Jesus was accompanied by the promise of an eventual victory that would be eternal .
Though there was a promise of perpetual victory, the Israelites would continue to fight the Amalekites before seeing the final culmination of that promise.
Though Christ has won for us a great victory, we continue to struggle and resist the power of Satan before seeing His eventual defeat at the hands of our Lord.
Though the crowd was exhibiting an amazement and a wonderment at the greatness of God, it would not be too long before that same crowd was clamoring for the death of Jesus.
A FAILED INTERPRETATION
But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they might not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. (Luke 9:45).
The disciples didnít get it. They were not certain of what Jesus was speaking. And instead of asking, they kept quite. Have you ever done that? Perhaps you were sitting in a Bible study and something was taught and it went right over your head. Did you raise your hand and speak out and admit that you were lost? Or did peer pressure get the better of you?
It had not been a good day for the disciples. First they failed to cast out the demon. Then they failed to understand the words of Jesus. And finally they failed to admit that they did not understand.
What do you do when you come down off the mountain and the first thing you face is your own failure?
Sometimes it is taught that you can do something to get the fireworks back. Follow these 12 steps and send me $50.00 and you will partake of that experience again. It isnít so. You weren't meant to live on the mountain.
Jesus didnít say, "Okay, this isn't going too well so let's go back up the mountain." Instead, He said, "There's another mountain ahead and it's got a cross on it" (Matthew 17:22-23).
You were never called to live on a mountain. You were called to carry a cross. And yet, I want to suggest to you that there is strength that you can bring from the mountain. There are some things that you can do that will help after you have come back down. There are some principles that will carry you after the fireworks.
1. PRINCIPLE #1: Remember the Reality of the PAST.
Peter was one of those who stood on the Mount of Transfiguration. Years later, he wrote about the importance of remembering.
For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having FORGOTTEN his purification from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:9).
Peterís focus is that there is a reality which we dare not forget.
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His 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 hear this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18).
Peter says, "Look guys, we didn't make this up. Christianity isn't just a nice philosophy of love that we put together. God really came down and said that Jesus was His Son."
Donít miss this! Christianity is not merely a philosophy or a set of good teachings. Christianity is a historical religion.
Have you ever noticed that the Apostlesí Creed doesn't say a thing about how you ought to live? When we affirm the Apostlesí Creed, we are reciting a listing of historical events. Take away those events and there is not Christianity.
We must never loose sight of that fact. The world likes to say, "It doesn't matter if Jonah was really swallowed by a whale or if Moses really parted the Red Sea or if Jesus really got up from a tomb and walked around. The important thing is that you teach love and kindness." No! No! NO!!!
Christianity without the historical events of the Scriptures is not Christianity. If God lied about those things, then He might lie about other things, too.
But God HASN'T lied. He is the God of truth. And when you are tempted to doubt him, you go back and remember the reality of the past.
2. PRINCIPLE #2: Be diligent in your walk in the PRESENT.
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. (2 Peter 1:10).
Live for today! Don't worry about how you failed in the past - you can't change it. But you CAN make a difference TODAY.
One of the dangers of Christianity is that, as we look back to the cross and, as we look forward to the Second Coming, that we ignore the present. Have you ever stopped to look at all the riches of heaven that are yours right NOW?
Our problem is that we don't stop to look at what we already have. Did you hear about the man who was in the path of an oncoming flood and a police car came by and the police told him, "You had better come with us, we are evacuating everyone from the path of this flood." But he refused to go, claiming that the Lord would save him.
A bit later, a rescue boat came by. The waters had risen to the manís porch and the rescuers called out, "Get into the boat and we will save you." He called back, "Iím waiting for the Lord to save me!"
An hour passed and a helicopter came by. The waters had risen even further and now the man was on his roof. The rescuers dropped a rope ladder down and called out, "Climb up the ladder to safety." He called back, "Iím waiting for the Lord to save me!" The helicopter continued on its search but when it returned, the manís house had been swept away.
He got up to heaven and he stood before St Peter and said, "Iím really happy to be here and Iím not complaining or anything, but I canít help but wonder why the Lord didnít save me?" Peter answered, "What do you mean? He sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter."
We strive to return to the mountain and the experience which we once had there, all the while neglecting the still, small voice that was with us all along.
Here is the point. The God of the mountaintop isn't only on the mountaintop. He is here today. And you can speak to Him today.
3. PRINCIPLE #3: Look to the Lord in the FUTURE.
For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:11).
A number of years ago we went camping up into the mountains of North Carolina. My idea of camping is a Howard Johnsons with S/C and color TV. But I was over-ruled. And so, we got this big tent and we camped out for nearly three weeks.
One night, as we were on our way to North Carolina, we stopped for a night in a national park in South Carolina. We were tired and it was dark and we set about putting up the tent.
As Paula set about driving the stakes into the ground for the tend, I called out, "Don't drive them in too deeply, we're leaving in the morning." Are you driving your stakes too deeply? This world is temporary, but all too often we live as though it is permanent.
Now I know that we Christians are often accused of only living for the future - of looking for pie in the sky by and by. But that is not the significant question. The real question ought to be whether there really IS any pie in the sky by and by.
We've been invited to a supper. It is a marriage supper of the Lamb of God. We're the bride. And we're sending out wedding invitations.
You see, the mountaintop experience was only a preview of things to come. Whatever special experience you ever had with the Lord in the past will not compare to what lies ahead. The best is yet to come. This brings us to a final principle. It is the PRINCIPLE OF THE PREVIEW.
When you go to the movies, you will often first see a Preview of Coming Attractions. They will show you short clips of a coming movie which you might want to see. It is designed to motivate you to come back and see the whole thing. That's our job! We have been called to be a preview of a coming attraction. Jesus is coming. He is the Producer, Director, Author, and Star. But in the meantime, all people see is us.