Today is Transfiguration Sunday, one of the most amazing events in all of human history. It’s the account where Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, and John. Just before our passage, Peter confesses Jesus as Messiah. Jesus has some things to say about discipleship, then (again) we come across one of the most amazing events in all of history – the Transfiguration.
Let’s go thru the passage, and see what God has to offer this morning, Matthew 17:1-2: 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.
There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. The Greek word is metamorpho, which means, “to be changed in form, to be transformed.” It’s where we get our word metamorphosis.
His clothes become dazzling white – the Greek is the same word to describe the golden glare of sunlight. Truly, this is an awesome event.
Let’s put ourselves in the disciples’ place:
- You have been traveling, living, and working with Jesus for about three years
- You have seen the miracles
- You have seen him cast out demons
- You have seen him heal folks
- You have seen him feed 5,000, then 4,000
- You have seen him walk on water
- You have heard the parables.
Peter has just confessed Jesus as Messiah, but then Jesus declares that he must be handed over to the authorities and killed. Not only that, Jesus calls himself the Son of Man! If all this is not confusing enough, what happens next?
Six days later, he asks you to go up on a mountain with him, and what happens? He begins to shine like the sun! His clothes too! How many are still standing?
Verses 3-4: 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.”
In his gospel, Mark explains Peter’s actions – he tells us, “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.”
How many are terrified? Some scholars have ridiculed Peter’s words: “Why, how foolish! Why would he need to build three shelters! What was he thinking!”
I always find it fascinating when academics, sitting at their desks, comment on the behavior of the disciples. To be honest, if I been there, Matthew would have written, “After Jim regained consciousness…”
Some have even suggested this event was made up to make Jesus that much more impressive. If this was fiction, do you think the authors would have Peter, the future leader of the Jerusalem Church, saying what he said? Certainly they would have him saying something more profound.
Verses 5-6: While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered 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.
“…and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
What do we think of this? Remember, six days earlier, we have been told for the first time, by Jesus himself, he would be turned over to the authorities and be killed.
Gee, that’s not exactly the sort of Messiah I had in mind. How about you? Again, put yourself in the place of these men. “Killed? Absolutely not!”
Verses 7-9: 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. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
“Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
This is another instance of what is called “the Messianic Secret.” Scholars have debated this topic for over 100 years. After Peter confesses Christ as the Messiah, Jesus tells his disciples not to tell anyone.
After the healings, after the miracles, after Peter’s confession, and after the Transfiguration, Jesus tells his disciples not to say anything. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Who here would have kept silent? Why not tell everyone what we have seen? Jesus and his clothes were shining like the sun! Not only that, he was talking to Moses and Elijah! And out of this cloud came a voice, and it was God himself!
Again, let’s go back 2,000 years, and imagine you have just seen this event with your own eyes. If we are honest, this is the Messiah we have been looking for, right? This guy shines like the sun! He speaks with Moses and Elijah! God calls him his Son! That’s the Messiah for me, right?
NO – NO – NO – As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
And what has to take place before this Son of Man is raised from the dead? He has to die, right?
The Son of Man has to die for the sins of the whole world! God has to give his only Son over to death – and why?
John 3:16-17: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
OF COURSE we know that Jesus is God, and we know that he is sitting on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. We know he shines like the sun! We know he will come again on the clouds of heaven!
But why is this so great for us? Because of the account of the Transfiguration? Not really…
Jesus told these three terrified men not to say anything until after the Resurrection, WHEN the true meaning of his earthly glory would become clear to them…
The true meaning of the earthly glory of Jesus can only be fully realized and understood…
Only, only, only in the context of the Cross.
My brothers and sisters, only in the context of the cross does any of this become truly amazing and glorious. Only because of the suffering and excruciating death of God himself, the Beloved Son does this become truly awesome. Only when Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” does this phenomenal event truly have any meaning. Only because of the cross do we have any reason to live at all.
Some final questions:
Did Jesus “transfigure” himself? NO
Did Jesus make himself shine like the sun? NO
Was it Jesus’ voice that came out of the cloud? NO
After his death, after he was buried in the tomb three days, did Jesus raise himself from the dead? No, Jesus was dead.
That’s right, it was Jesus’ Father who raised him from the dead.
My friends, how do you suppose YOU came to Christ?
Did YOU reach to heaven and touch God?
Did you somehow FIND God on your own?
Obviously, everyone of us was at one point lost and hopeless – did we somehow find directions out of our “lost-ness” and find out way out?
No, God reached down and saved you and me.
So, let me ask you – which Messiah is it?
Is it the one who does a multitude of impressive things, like healing folks, raising people from the dead, turning water into wine, feeding thousands from nothing?
Is it the one who glows like the sun, talks with Moses and Elijah?
Is it the one whom God calls his Son?
This Messiah is one who is very attractive, and is easy to follow – I ean, who wouldn’t be attracted to such a tremendous person?
Or, it your Messiah the one who died for you and me?
Which Messiah is your Messiah?
My friends, have you been given the gospel, the Good News?
If it has been GIVEN to you (and I know it has), have you RECEIVED the Good News?
Just as God transfigured his only-begotten Son, has God transformed you?
Have you changed?
Have you accepted the promise of eternal life?
My brothers and sisters, if there is anyone here this morning who has not been transformed by Christ, I invite you…