Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
It has been a pretty heavy ½ hour or so for the disciples.
• It began brightly with Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ.
• But then Jesus spoke very plainly about Him needing to suffer many things, be rejected, and be killed.
• Now granted, He did also say that He would rise again after three days, but they seem stuck on His mention of suffering and being killed.
• So Peter rebuked Jesus and then received his own stinging rebuke from Jesus.
• And then Jesus told them and the crowd that if they would follow Him, they also must be prepared to suffer and lose their lives for Him and give up everything for His sake.
• And as we have seen, this ran completely opposite to the triumphant expectations the disciples had for Jesus. This was turn-your-world-upside-down sort of talk.
We can sense, then, the GLOOM that would have pressed down on the disciples right now.
But that was nothing compared with the gloomy weight of responsibility that pressed down on Jesus. The disciples may have been confused and uncertain and perhaps even scared by all this talk; but there was absolute clarity and certainty and terror for Jesus who knew exactly what lay ahead of Him.
And if you have been with us over the last couple of weeks, there might well be a feeling of gloom in your heart also. For who of us can hear what Jesus has said about genuine discipleship and not feel the weight of what this requires of us, and perhaps guilt for our past failures, and a sense of inability in relation to our efforts in the future?
Well, A BRIGHT NOTE OF HOPE PIERCES THIS GLOOM. It begins as Jesus strengthens His disciples with what He says in v1 and it continues with the astonishing record of Jesus’ transfiguration. And as those called to deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him, we desperately need the encouragement in these words. Everything that is pictured here as Jesus’ glory breaks out is something that we must wrap our arms around so that it may strengthen us for times of suffering and persecution.
1. So Jesus first of all STRENGTHENS HIS DISCIPLES by saying to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
a. And this is no coded message that somehow needs to be unlocked. Jesus wanted to encourage the people by telling them that some of them would see the kingdom of God come with power in their lifetime.
b. Now, in the verse just prior to that one, Jesus talked about Him coming “in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” And If were to ask you what that refers to, you would rightly say that Jesus there talks about His Second Coming. So how is this possible? Well, what we need to understand is a concept called ALREADY; NOT YET.
i. Already; Not yet refers to the work of Jesus that is already a reality but not in its fullest and most complete way. Does Jesus Christ rule, as king, now? Already? Yes. But 1 Cor. 15 tells us that “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” Already; Not yet.
ii. And we see that today in reference to the kingdom of God coming with power. Ultimately, that has in view the Second Coming of Jesus. But because of what Jesus promises these disciples, we see that it begins in their lifetime.
iii. Now, if you look back to 8:31, Jesus explains its beginning. There He told the disciples that “the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected and be killed and after three days rise again.”
iv. And that last phrase is the key phrase. I referred to 1 COR. 15 a moment ago. There were some in Corinth, you see, who denied the resurrection. So Paul demonstrated the necessity of the resurrection as foundational for the gospel. He said, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
v. The resurrection of Jesus was THE demonstration of the power of God over sin and death. It is THE event that begins the breaking in of the kingdom of God on this planet which up till then had been enslaved to sin and death.
A. In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that believers might know “God’s incomparably great power. That power,” says Paul, “is the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”
c. So some of the crowd, and especially Jesus’ disciples, would see the kingdom of God coming with power as they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead, and then ascend into heaven, and then pour out the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and then work His resurrection power in their hearts and the hearts of others through the preaching of the gospel.
d. And this is the first part of the bright hope that pierces this gloom. If you believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you have seen the kingdom of God come with power. You have been “raised up,” as it says in Eph 2:6, “with Christ and seated … with Him in the heavenly realms.” And as you and I preach this gospel to others, it is not our power at work but the resurrection power of King Jesus!
But secondly, a bright note of hope pierces the gloom with the events recorded in vv2-13. And indeed, there is every reason for us to take this as the first installment, if you like, of what Jesus has just promised His disciples. Here on the mountain they will get a PREVIEW of the kingdom of God coming with power. And it is our privilege to enjoy this preview also from this record in Scripture as JESUS SHINES BEFORE THE DISCIPLES.
1. Very soon after Jesus’ announcement in v1, He takes Peter, James, and John up an unnamed MOUNTAIN.
a. And just as we have noted that the word ‘desert’ or ‘remote place’ is a ‘neon sign’ alerting us to put our OT hearing aids in, so the mention of ‘a mountain’ should do the same.
i. Boys and girls, where were the 10 Commandments given to Israel? Mt. Sinai.
ii. Moses saw God on Mt. Sinai.
iii. Elijah scored his great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.
iv. Elijah saw God on Mt. Horeb.
v. And here we are up a mountain once more! What shall happen this time?
2. Well, we are told that Jesus “was transfigured before them.” And the Greek word translated as ‘TRANSFIGURED’ is the word from which we get the word ‘metamorphosis.” And metamorphosis describes what happens when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, or an ugly duckling becomes a beautiful swan. It is used in Romans 12:2 and 2 Cor 3:18 to describe what happens to the believer who becomes more like Christ.
a. But in the case of what happens here to Christ it something more mysterious and glorious than we can even begin to understand. Mark says, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”
i. In John’s REVELATION of Jesus, He speaks of seeing Jesus in vision as the Son of Man: “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”
b. Jesus has just told the disciples what must soon happen to Him. For six days the weight of this knowledge has been pressing down on Him. But mercifully, the Father gives Jesus a foretaste of the glory that awaits Him beyond the cross. \
i. PHILIPPIANS 2 speaks of Jesus having to “humble Himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” But it continues, “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
ii. What a great encouragement this moment must have been for Jesus! And what a great encouragement this is for you and me who must also take up our cross and follow Jesus.
A. Last week I asked you what you would do if an ISIS MILITANT were holding a blade to your throat saying, Deny Jesus and live, cling to Jesus and die!
B. And the very next day we learned that 21 Egyptian Christians had lost their lives in exactly that circumstance.
1) Milad Makeen Zaky, Abanub Ayad Atiya, Maged Solamain Shehata, Yusuf Shukry Yunan, Kirollos Shokry Fawzy, Bishoy Astfanus Kamel and his brother, Somaily Astafanus Kamel, and 14 others, husbands, sons, fathers, are martyrs for Christ.
2) But, as Jesus just said in 8:35, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
3) The souls of these 21 are now with Jesus and their bodies will one day rise from the dead, as resurrected and glorious bodies, and be reunited with their souls to live with the Lord Jesus in His perfect and complete kingdom, forever!
3. Well, as if the transfiguration of Jesus was not enough, next we are told that “there appeared before them ELIJAH AND MOSES, who were talking with Jesus.”
a. In ch. 8:38, Jesus talks about the Son of Man coming “in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” And the word angel is a transliteration of the Greek, angellos. And angellos literally means a messenger, an envoy, one who is sent. We read from Malachi 3 and 4 earlier where the same word is used to describe he who would come to prepare the way for Jesus. So the prophets also were angellos – messengers. So it could be that Moses and Elijah standing here now with Jesus in His transfiguration is the first part of the fulfillment of what Jesus promised the disciples in 9:1. Jesus is here the Son of Man who is seen in His Father’s glory with the holy messengers. And this is a foretaste of His greater coming!
b. But if that is too much of a stretch, Jesus Himself and others often refer to the OT as the LAW AND THE PROPHETS.
i. Well, the one who best represents the law is Moses, and the one who best represents the prophets is Elijah.
ii. The one founded Israel’s worship of the Lord, and one restored Israel’s worship of the Lord.
iii. But one commentator notes also that Moses died but Elijah did not; Elijah was carried straight up to heaven in a chariot of fire. So perhaps they also represent all those that die on earth and all those who will still be alive when Christ comes again.
4. But whatever the case, Moses and Elijah talk with Jesus. This is a BREATHTAKING MOMENT. (LOUDLY AND AWKWARDLY) “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters– one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” If ever someone ‘spoiled the moment,’ that’s what Peter does in v5! We are told that “he did not know what to say because he was terrified.” But being Peter he just had to say something. Foot in mouth disease strikes again!
a. Now we can’t be sure about Peter’s motivation in suggesting this. Perhaps he thought that by doing this they could short-cut all that Jesus had said about suffering and being killed? But this is very much a backward step for Peter. It is not Christ, anymore, but Rabbi – teacher. And rather than call for a throne for Jesus, he suggests three shelters or three tents for y’all – you three OT prophets.
5. But while Peter is making his ‘brilliant’ suggestion, “a CLOUD appeared and enveloped them.” And if our OT hearing aids were ringing at the mention of a mountain, they ought to be going berserk at the mention of a “cloud”! As the people of Israel went out of Egypt, they were led by a pillar of cloud by day that guided them the Promised Land. God spoke to the people of Israel from a cloud that settled over Mt. Sinai. “The glory cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day.” “The cloud of the glory of the Lord filled the temple built by Solomon.”
a. Now, the glory cloud of the Lord had departed from the temple some 600 years ago and had not been seen since. But now, this cloud returns and descends over Jesus and a voice from within says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him.” The Father magnifies His Son. The father makes it plain that Jesus is the Promised One. “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him.”
i. And THE DISCIPLES did listen to Jesus, eventually. Once they had seen the resurrected Jesus, they listened to Him as they recalled this event and all that He had said. Please turn with me to to 2 PETER 1:16.
A. Peter says there, “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.”
B. Cleary, for Peter, what he saw that day was an amazing experience. But look at what he says next, referring to the Christians he wrote to, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
C. And then he goes on to talk about the Scriptures being the very word of God. As wonderful as Peter’s experience on that day was, he reminds believers that in the Word of God they have something that is steadfast, firm, anchored, secure, reliable, and trustworthy.
D. Believer, the book that you hold in your hands is better than what Peter saw happen to Jesus on that mountain top! Read this book; listen to Jesus. As it says in v19, “You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place.”
E. The fullness of the kingdom of God coming with power is still to come. But that it is yours now, in Jesus Christ, and what that means for the joys and struggles of each day, and the hope for eternity it gives you is all made plain in here.
F. Read this book; Listen to Him.
6. Well finally, as they come down from the mountain, the disciples are just confused. Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about this until He has risen, but they can’t make sense of any of this. So they have this conversation about ELIJAH.
a. From Matthew’s Gospel we learn that Jesus had already taught that John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come. But now these three disciples have seen Elijah. But then he left. And the current and very popular view of the day was that Elijah himself would come and free Israel from the yoke of Roman rule so that Messiah could come and rule in peace. But Jesus is talking about suffering and dying and John the Baptist suffered and died. So they are totally lost.
i. What Jesus wants them to see then is that the OT has in view a suffering and dying Messiah. We have seen that from passages like Isaiah 53. The one who comes to prepare the way for messiah then, must be one who suffers and dies. And that is exactly what happened to John the Baptist. And so, the Elijah spoken of in Malachi 4 is John the Baptist. Thus, everything is ready now for Jesus to do what He came to do.
And what Jesus came to do, as we have seen, is to suffer and die and then rise again and be glorified. So as His disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. He demands your all!
But, having done that, like Him, you shall rise again and be glorified!
It is a great power that raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him in the heavenly places. And believer, that power is at work in you, today!
• People will laugh at you for not working on or playing sport on Sundays.
• People will mock you for believing in a six-day creation.
• People will tell you to shove your Jesus talk where the sun don’t shine.
• People will blaspheme even more when you tell them that taking the Lord’s name in vain is offensive and sinful.
• And you may lose your life for Jesus’ sake as the 21 did this past week.
But you are a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom now, and you shall enjoy the fullness of that kingdom when He comes again! This is the bright note of hope that pierces the gloom. Amen.