Hear Him (Matthew 17:1-9)
A few months ago, I posted an audio sermon online. I can’t remember which sermon it was, but a lady who had known me my whole life listened and made a comment on Facebook. Her comment was that listening to me preach was just like listening to my dad preach. I find sometimes that I remind myself a lot of Dad when I’m preaching–sometimes it’s a hand gesture, sometimes it’s the way I phrase my words, and sometimes it’s just the way I pause. There is nothing conscious about it on my part; it just happens.
I’m finding the older I get, I remind myself more and more of my parents in a lot of ways. Sometimes the boys will do something and I’ll fuss and my mother comes out of my mouth. Sometimes I’m sitting in my chair at home, and I’ll notice that I will have my hands in exactly the same position Dad does when he’s sitting in his easy chair.
I’m sure the same thing has happened to you, hasn’t it? You’re correcting a child and your mother comes out your mouth, and you say exactly what you said you’d never say to a child. You watch your spouse walk across the room, and his or her gait is precisely how a parent once walked. I say that because my mom calls my dad by his father’s name because he walks just like he did. Maybe you like the same foods your parents did . . . maybe you phrase your words as they did . . . maybe you decorate your house the way they did. I guarantee you that in some way you are almost identical to a parent, whether you want to admit it or not.
In Scripture, we find folks who were just like mom and dad. Abraham twice lied about Sarah’s identity; Isaac told the same exact lie about Rebekah. Think about Omri and Ahab. “Omri did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all who were before him” (1 Ki 16:25). “Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him” (1 Ki 16:30).
You know this principle works positively, too. How many of you are faithful this morning, not just because Mom and Dad taught you to be, but because you saw faithfulness in the way they lived their lives? How many of you tried to implement different parenting strategies your parents used in raising you because they were so wise?
In a positive way, this principle works with God the Father and God the Son. “Jesus Christ is the representation of the glory of God.” That’s Bible. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). Jesus is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb 1:3).
It’s one thing to read those words as prose, and it’s another thing altogether to see them in action. Our text this morning allows us, through the eyes of faith, to see that truth in action. We wish–the best that we can–to go up the mountain with Jesus and three of His closest disciples to see the Lord transfigured and to learn that “Jesus Christ is the representation of the glory of God.”
Text (Matthew 17:1-9)
This passage is seeking to demonstrate to a Jewish audience that Jesus really is the Son of God, that He is the representation of God’s glory. In painting this picture, Matthew draws purposeful parallels with God’s manifestation of His glory to Moses back in Exodus 24. Matthew seems to say, “Just as Moses saw God’s glory then, the disciples see God’s glory in the Person of Jesus Christ.”
“After six days.” God’s glory covered Mt. Sinai for six days (Ex 24:16). This seems to be the first allusion back to Exodus 24.Jesus takes with Him His inner circle–Peter, James, and John. What is about to happen needs to be witnessed, because the world needs to know. Granted, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. But, they will tell the world, for the world needs to see God’s glory manifested in Jesus.
Jesus was “transfigured” before them. The Greek word is the one from which we get the English “metamorphosis.” There are only three other occurrences of this word in the New Testament.
- The term occurs at Mark 9:2 where Mark recounts the Transfiguration.
- “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).
- We “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18).
The idea obviously is that Jesus’ appearance drastically changed. I personally believe that Jesus is here transfigured with the glory He would have after the Resurrection.
His face shone as the sun, and His clothes became as white as light. You remember that Moses, after he had talked with God, had a face that shone; Moses even had to wear a veil because the people were afraid of him (Ex 34:29-35). Like other heavenly beings, Jesus is described here as having white garments.
Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus. There are some really interesting things taking place in that:
- First, this seems to say that life continues after the grave. Moses has long been dead, and Elijah was translated to Paradise. Yet, they come and converse with Jesus.
- Second, Moses seems to represent the Law and Elijah the prophets, so you have the two main leaders of the two major divisions of the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, speaking with Jesus.
- Third, both Moses and Elijah heard from God at Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:15-16; 1 Ki 19:9), and God is about to speak to the disciples on this mountain.
This is one of those times where Peter opens his mouth and inserts his whole body.
He offers to build three tabernacles for the Lord, for Moses, and for Elijah. It’s really difficult to know what was going through Peter’s mind. But, his mention of “tabernacles” again reminds us of the Old Testament and how Moses’ face would shine when he was in God’s presence in the Tabernacle.
While Peter is still speaking. . . . the fact that Peter is interrupted seems to suggest that what Peter has to say isn’t all that important. One more important than he has far more important things to say.
A bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice came from that cloud. . . . When the LORD revealed His glory to Moses, He descended in a cloud and spoke from that cloud (Ex 34:5-7).The voice declares, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” “Beloved” was often used of only sons in the days of Jesus. God wants the apostles to hear Jesus. That message should come in loud and clear . . . The two major representatives of the Old Testament have been conversing with Jesus . . . God says, “No more–You now listen to My Son!” Hebrews 1:1-2.
The disciples are like their predecessors who become fearful in the presence of the divine . . . whether an angel or a representation of God. Jesus calms their fears.
The disciples are to tell no one what they had witnessed until Jesus had been raised from the dead. Why would the Lord not want people to know this?
- One: The world doesn’t understand who Jesus is and they’re just not ready for this truth.
- Two: Because the world isn’t ready to know who Jesus is, finding out who He is could have sped up His death and prevented a great deal of teaching and good work.
“Jesus Christ is the representation of the glory of God.” How does that truth impact our daily lives? This is a “believing text.” In other words, there are a couple things you and I need to believe because “Jesus Christ is the representation of the glory of God.”
If you want to see God, go to Jesus.
Jesus, of course, is God in the flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9). As we look at how Jesus acted during His earthly ministry, we see how God would act were He in the flesh: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
Therefore, when we wonder what God would do or how God would act, we can go to Jesus to find the answer. How would God deal with enemies? Look at how Jesus dealt with those who put Him on the cross. Want to know how God would deal with someone caught in adultery? Look at how Jesus dealt with the woman the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him. Want to know how God would teach a soul searching for truth? Look at how Jesus dealt with the Samaritan woman at the well. Want to know how God would deal with the greedy who exploit the vulnerable? Look at how Jesus dealt with the moneychangers in the Temple.
If you want to know the truth of God, go to Jesus.
That is what the divine voice declares in this morning’s text. That is what the author of Hebrews says: Hebrews 1:1-2. That is true because Jesus never spoke on His own authority: John 12:49-50.
How do we hear Jesus today? We go to Scripture, for Scripture contains the very authority of Jesus. God gave Jesus all authority: Matthew 28:18. Jesus gave some of that authority to the apostles; Jesus says, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (Jn 16:13). I’ve heard people act as though what Peter and Paul say isn’t quite on par with what Jesus says. I’ve heard people say, “This is in red letters. . . .” or “This is just what Paul says. . . .” Jesus declares that what the apostles would say would be as authoritative as what He would say.
The apostles have taken that authority Jesus gave them and recorded the words of Scripture. “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37). “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13).
Thus, when we wonder what the will of God is, we go to the New Testament in Jesus’ blood to find the answer. You want to know the will of God on homosexuality? You don’t go to some TV pundit or federal judge; you go to the New Testament of Christ. You want to know the will of God about the church? You don’t go to any preacher–including me–you go to the New Testament of Christ. You want to know how God expects you to treat your neighbor? You don’t see how folks treat you, you go to the New Testament of Christ.
Have you gone to the New Testament in Jesus’ blood to have your sins forgiven? Do you need to come to Jesus this morning and claim His blood as the answer for your sin this morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.