Doug Partin – The Christian Church – Oct. 2, 2016 We often make a lot of Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the long expected Messiah, the son of the living God.” And although Luke doesn’t record Jesus’ response to Him after making it, Matthew does. Jesus said that “Flesh and Blood did not reveal this to you by my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 16:17)
It is an important point to make. If left to our own abilities we would be able to discern that there is a God out there somewhere, for are told multiple times in the Bible that God has not left himself without a witness; but we wouldn’t know much about Him, if creation was all we had to go on; so I’m thankful that God himself has revealed much more about Himself to men like Peter.
Those God reveals himself too, like the prophets of old, haven’t always been well received; in fact, the Sadducees didn’t accept what they said as God’s word at all. They only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. But in general, most of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day, known as Pharisees, accepted that these men of old had spoken for God. They believed that the prophets and the writings were “God’s Word,” that they added to what God had revealed about Himself in the first five books, and I feel the same way.
There are occasions when God speaks directly to a person, as He did to Abraham and Moses and Elijah, but primarily He inspired men to speak to other on His behalf in other ways. The question is, how do you know when a person is speaking for God, and when they are just speaking for themselves? History is certainly full of people who say that God has spoken to them, and for that reason, we need to believe what they say. Muhammad claimed that God spoke to Him, as did Joseph Smith.
The apostle John clearly answered this question when he wrote, “Dear children, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:1–3).
Neither Muhammad nor Joseph Smith believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ; and that He was God’s one and only Son come in the flesh. They did not accept what the God of heaven revealed to men like Peter.
It was eight days after the prayer time in which Peter “made the great confession” that Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a Mountain to pray. There is some discussion as to which mountain this was, some say Mt. Heron other Mt. Tabor; none of the gospel writers identify it. Only that it was to a mountain that they slipped off to pray, which was not an unusual thing for Jesus to do, He was always slipping off to pray; but some unusual things did take place on this particular occasion.
Luke is the only gospel writer to indicate that the three disciples fell asleep while Jesus prayed, just as they would the night when Jesus was betrayed. And because they fell asleep they did not get to witness the transformation take place, but when they were awakened, they tried to describe what they saw.
Luke says that Jesus’ face became different, but doesn’t tell us in what way, but Matthew said that it shone like the sun and his clothing was as bright as day; Luke said that they were as bright as a flash of lightening. (17:2). Mark said that they were a dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them (9:3). One thing is clear, Jesus was the source of that light, for though He was fully man, He was also fully God; of whom John would say, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” It was this light that blinded Paul on the road to Damascus when He encountered the risen Lord.
The disciples saw two men talking with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. How they recognized them we are not told. Luke says that they simply appeared in the glory. Glory is a word we often use in Church. Doxa, in the Greek, it is the root word from which we get terms like doxology, which is a short hymn of praise to God.
Have you ever wondered what it means to give God all the Glory? The Greek word literally meant “brightness.” We can’t add to the kind of brightness that these disciples saw, but we can praise Him, we can point to Him as the source of all things. We can give Him the glory in that way.
There are a lot of suggestions as to why these two men appeared to talk with Jesus. Some say that Moses represents the Law and Elijah the prophets, so the fullness of the OT was present to give counsel. Others say that they both departed in mysterious ways, Moses was buried by God and his body was never found, and Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. They could confirm life beyond the grave. Others mention that both Moses and Elijah were rejected by those they were sent to save as would Jesus be rejected.
We are not told why these two, but we do know that they spoke of to Jesus of His departure, which was to take place in Jerusalem. The Greek word translated departure is exodus. Jesus would exit through a horrible death on a cross, He’d be buried for three days, then He would rise victorious, and ascend into heaven to take His place at the right hand of God.
Because of the term exodus that appears in this text, and is translated departure, some have seen a connection with the freedom given to the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. In Jesus’ exodus, all those held in slavery to sin would be set free and lead to the promised land of heaven. And just as Israel left Egypt in triumph, so Jesus left the Egypt of this world in triumph.
It was the nature of this exodus that Jesus had warned His disciples about when He spoke to them of taking up their own crosses eight days earlier. An unsettling truth that they did not want to think about; but here were Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus about it. He was going to leave this world behind, and who better to speak to Him of it than these two who had already experienced it.
Peter, James, and John had missed most of this meeting because they were, as I mentioned earlier, asleep, but they woke up in time to catch the gist of it. They were so overwhelmed by what they heard and saw that they wanted to commemorate this holy occasion by building three memorials. Luke notes that Peter didn’t really understand what he was suggesting. While Peter was going on about what a great thing it would be, they were all enveloped by a cloud. It was a frightening experience.
A cloud was evidence of God’s presence. It was in a cloud that God took possession of the tabernacle and the temple; but when the cloud was seen to do so, no one was able to enter it or they would die, not Moses, not the priests, no one. So I can understand why the disciples were afraid, but they need not have been afraid for they were with Jesus, and He is the one who will lead us into God’s presence.
Then out of the cloud that surrounded them, a voice proclaimed, “This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him!” In Matthew’s version we are told that the disciples fall to the ground at the sound of God’s voice, and then, just as suddenly as this strange occurrence began, it ended. The disciples were alone with Jesus – no Moses or Elijah, no cloud, no brightness, just Jesus as they knew Him best.
They were probably ready to do anything that Jesus would ask of them. They would listen, they would obey. And according to Matthew, Jesus told them, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” So they got up.
If only the crowds who had rejected the notion that Jesus was the Messiah could have been there on the mountain, then they would surely believe; but they were not, and Jesus, according to Matthew told these disciples “do not to tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”
No problem there. If they were to repeat what God had voiced, it would be considered blaspheme. What proof could they give? Their testimony would be rejected; they’d say that things like what they described simply don’t happen. What were they to do? For now, these three would do as told, they kept what happened on the mountain to themselves. They had been the only witnesses, but they would not tell their story until an even greater evidence of Jesus’ identity was revealed – His resurrection.
And when that would take place, these three would proclaim that they had witnessed an event that evidenced that Jesus really was God’s one and only Son.
That message has come down to us. We are told by Luke in this text that Jesus was more than a man, that He was God in the flesh. The disciples had seen the light, the brightness, the glory of God coming from Jesus. They had heard the words spoken by God himself.