- Matthew 17: 1-11
Today in our message we will look specifically at Matthew 17:5 at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration which says:
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
For generations the people of Israel had been waiting for their Messiah, the king that had been promised to them by the prophets of old. Matthew begins his Gospel by showing how Jesus Christ was a descendent of David. But Matthew goes on to show that God did not send Jesus to be an earthly king, but a heavenly king. His kingdom would be greater than David’s because it would never end. Even at Jesus’ birth, many recognised him as a king. Herod, the ruler of the time of his birth, as well as Satan, were afraid of Jesus kingship and tried to stop him. But others like the shepherds, and the wise men worshipped him and brought royal gifts. This is important for us as well. We must recognise Jesus for who he really is and worship him as the king of our lives.
Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, with its directions for living in His kingdom. He also told many parables about the difference between his kingdom and the kingdoms on earth. Forgiveness, peace, and putting others first are some of the characteristics that makes one great in the future kingdom of God. And to be great in God’s kingdom, we must live by God’s standards right now. The purpose of why Jesus came to earth is to show us how to live as faithful subjects in His kingdom.
The glorified King
About a week after Jesus plainly told His disciples that He would suffer, be killed, and be raised to life (Luke 9:22), He took Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. This was the turning point in Jesus’ instruction to his disciples. From then on he began teaching clearly and specifically what they could expect, so they would not be surprised when it happened. He explained that He would not now be the conquering Messiah because he first had to suffer, die and rise again. But one day he would return in great glory to set up His eternal kingdom.
While praying, His personal appearance was changed into a glorified form, and His clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus about His death that would soon take place. How the disciples knew the prophets is immaterial. The point is that they did recognise them, and they knew them at once. It is amazing that although they were in that peculiar state of half-waking and half-sleeping, their senses were able to grasp and retain all the points of the picture before them.
Peter, not knowing what he was saying and being very fearful, offered to put up three shelters for them. This is undoubtedly a reference to the booths that were used to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Israelites dwelt in booths for 7 days (Lev. 23:34–42). Peter was expressing a wish to stay in that place. The glory of the phenomenon was too much for the disciples—they became dazed by its brilliance. Peter voiced the opinion of the others when he cried out: Lord, it is good for us to be in this place. He desired at once to build three tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Moses, one for Elijah, that they might continue there in glory. The underlying thought may have been that it would be so much more pleasant to stay here, where the glory of heaven had been brought down to them, than to go to Jerusalem and have Jesus enter upon the way of suffering.
When a cloud enveloped them, a voice said, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” The cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had disappeared, and Jesus was alone with His disciples who were still very much afraid. Jesus warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after His resurrection. The three accounts of this event are found in Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36.
Undoubtedly, the purpose of the transfiguration of Christ into at least a part of His heavenly glory was so that the “inner circle” of His disciples could gain a greater understanding of who Jesus was. Christ underwent a dramatic change in appearance in order that the disciples could behold Him in His glory. The disciples, who had only known Him in His human body, now had a greater realization of the deity of Christ, though they could not fully comprehend it. That gave them the reassurance they needed after hearing the shocking news of His coming death.
The King fulfilled the Law and the Prophets
Symbolically, the appearance of Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets. But God’s voice from heaven – “Listen to Him!” – clearly showed that the Law and the Prophets must give way to Jesus. The One who is the new and living way is replacing the old – He is the fulfilment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament.
Also, in His glorified form they saw a preview of His coming glorification and enthronement as King of kings and Lord of lords. While Peter was still filled with the ecstasy of the scene, a cloud of light, surrounded them. As at other times a dark cloud will obscure the light, so here the intense brightness of the cloud of glory hindered their vision; human eyes are not strong enough to endure the light from the throne of heaven.
During their wilderness wanderings the Israelites followed the cloud provided by God as their guide which rested over the tabernacle. Here was the cloud of the New Testament covering both High Priest and altar of the New Covenant, (Exodus 40:24). The disciples had at least, up to that moment, been able to observe a few things, though their vision had not been very clear, but at this climax they are overcome. For the voice of the Father uttered almost the same words as at the baptism of Jesus: This is My Son, the Beloved One, in whom is My delight.
It was a most solemn affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, destined to sink into their hearts and minds forever. Him they should hear, to Him, and His Word, they should render unquestioned obedience. The time of the reign of the Law, as represented in Moses, and the time of mere prophecy, as represented in Elijah, was past; grace and truth, the Gospel, the Gospel glory, have come with Jesus Christ. No need to look for further visions and revelations; we have the Word of Jesus, the Word of salvation.
The glorious King
The disciples never forgot what happened that day on the mountain and no doubt this was intended. John wrote in his gospel, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14).
At the time when John (The Baptist) was telling people to “prepare the way for the Lord” (Matt 3:3), Jesus was already in the world, He had become a part of the physical world as true man, He was subject to the usual laws governing man and his relation to the universe. But in spite of the fact that He was in the world and had created the world, the people of the world did not know Him, and did not acknowledge Him. The people did not recognize their own Creator, because the world is totally estranged from God. The entire world consists of people in need of redemption, and yet the majority insists upon being counted with those that are lost because they will not acknowledge and accept Him. This is explained in John 1:15 which says;
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ “
Unto His own He came, to His own property, to the vineyard which His Father had planted, to the chosen people of the Old Testament. But those that belonged to Him, the men and women of His own race, that had received so many evidences of His grace and goodness, did not receive Him, and were far from welcoming Him. The great mass of them rejected Him and His salvation. “The rulers in the children of Israel and the greater population, would not acknowledge Him as the Messiah, much less accept Him because He did not come as the conquering king they had envisioned. Though John The Baptist went before Him and testified of Him, and though He Himself very soon came forward, and preached with power, and did miracles, in order that He would be recognised by His miracles, and preaching, but it was all to no avail. For the world crucified Him and this would not have happened if they had recognised Him for what He was.” (Popular Commentary of the Bible, The – – New Testament Volume 1.)
But there were a few true Israelites, who received Him as the promised Messiah, and therefore believed in Him for their salvation. To those who have accepted the Word of the Cross He gives the great privilege or right to become the sons of God by adoption, (Galatians 4:4-5). He works faith in their hearts. They enter into the right, and proper relationship with Him, and they accept Him as their Father.
This process of becoming children of God is different to the process of physical birth. The children of God are produced in a wonderful way, unlike that of natural procreation and birth. In nature children are formed out of blood and body substances of human flesh and by an act of the will of man. But this birth does not make a person a child of God. The children of God are born out of God. He is their true Father; to Him alone and to no human, earthly agency, power, or will do they owe their spiritual birth and existence. Regeneration is the work of God, and it is His work all alone.
By their receiving and believing this testimony concerning Christ, as it was proclaimed by John, this marvellous change has taken place in the Christians. God has thereby made them partakers of the divine nature. Faith, which the believer receives in Christ, is wrought by God through the Word. Thus the believers have the manner and nature of their heavenly Father: a new spiritual, divine life is found in them. And though they are not born out of the essence of the Father, like the only-begotten Son, yet by adoption they have all the rights of children. They are heirs, with Christ, with the promise of eternal salvation, (Romans 8:17).
Peter also wrote,
“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. For He received honour 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.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).
The apostle states to which event he was referring. For He received from God the Father honour and glory when he heard the voice of God say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” That was the culminating incident in the happening on the Mount of Transfiguration, (also referred to in Matthew 17:1-9: Mark 9:2-8). Jesus, the poor, despised Prophet of Nazareth, who had come into His own and His own did not receive Him, was spoken about with honour and glory from His heavenly Father Himself. And all this happened while the three disciples, Peter, James, and John, were still lying upon the ground, almost stupefied by the miraculous brightness which surrounded them from heaven. They nevertheless could hear plainly the words which came down out of the cloud, the voice of God Himself, acknowledging Jesus as His true Son, His beloved Son, upon whom His good pleasure rested in full measure. Concerning this Peter testifies: “And this voice, borne from heaven, we heard when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
Although the mountain was not in itself holy, this wonderful manifestation of the splendid glory of God, sanctified and hallowed it for the time being. What Peter means to emphasize in this connection is, that the three apostles, to whom was granted such a wonderful manifestation of the glory of God, were reliable witnesses, and therefore their Gospel could and should be accepted without question as the truth of the Lord. This is one of the reasons why we also accept the Gospel as recorded by the apostles as the truth, because God would hardly have revealed Himself in such a manner to men that were hypocrites and swindlers.
Those who witnessed the transfiguration bore witness to it to the other disciples and to countless millions down through the centuries.
Jesus himself also said in Matthew 18:16;
But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’
No doubt this is also the reason why Jesus took three disciples with him that day, in order that they would bear witness to the truth.
Obeying the King
What are you going to believe?
A person is a slave to whatever controls him or her. Many believe that freedom means doing anything we want. I heard a lady being interviewed on TV the one day saying that she felt that religion “was outdated”. If we refuse to follow God, we will follow our own sinful desires and become enslaved to what our bodies want. If we submit our lives to Christ, He will free us from the slavery of sin. Christ frees us to serve Him, a freedom that results in our ultimate good.
Jesus was born of a woman, he was human, he was born a Jew and he was subject to God’s law and fulfilled it perfectly. Thus Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because, although he was fully human, he never sinned. His death bought freedom for us who were enslaved to sin so that we could be adopted into God’s family.
So when God says in Matthew 17:5 (NKJV);
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
What are you going to do?
Are you going to believe and listen to the Word as we are instructed by God himself?
Are you waiting for God’s timing in your life?
Do you trust his judgments and trust that he has your best interests in mind?
Do you believe that as a Christian you are saved by grace through faith and that you are adopted into God’s family with its promise of eternal life?
Or do you believe that religion and God is outdated and that you are in control of your own life and destiny?
I hope that you are all like Joshua who said “…for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
We must recognise Jesus for who he really is and worship him as the king of our lives.
Is Jesus the one that you love?
Do you listen to Him?
Sermon preached by Elder Bob Chopping on Sunday 21 January 2018