2018 02 11 Gordon Green The Transfiguration

2018 02 11 Gordon Green The Transfiguration
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Last UpdatedFebruary 12, 2018

Apologies for the poor recording. sermon summary click on title. for ppt click on here on summary page


The Transfiguration

What is the transfiguration all about? What does it mean? We don’t often talk about the transfiguration but more so Christmas and Easter. But this was big

Redhill. 11 February 2018. Presented by Gordon Green

Matthew 17: 1-8

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain. Luke writes that as Jesus “was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” This light from another dimension entered Jesus and glowed. His appearance changed and he shone and even Jesus’ clothes were transformed. Mark 9:3 describes it this way; “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” Jesus imploded with glory. For just a moment, he was transformed. A roaring radiance poured out of him. Jesus becomes as he was before he came.

Up until now these disciples did not seem to fully grasp who Jesus was. But as Jesus changed, they began to understand that there was more to Jesus than they had realized.


Then, another shocking surprise: The great towering figures of Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared in glorious splendour. They were aflame with eternal robes and they stood talking to Jesus. This must have been an overwhelming experience. Then, as Moses and Elijah were leaving Jesus, “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.” Why did Peter want to build these three shelters? Perhaps to the Jews  Moses and Elijah were the most venerated prophets. They were famous people. Perhaps he felt they were all equal - 3 great men. But it seems he didn’t quite understand who Jesus was totally.


But suddenly while Peter was still talking a bright cloud appeared and covered them and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The disciples were terrified and fell facedown to the ground. But Jesus came and touched them “Get up” he said “don’t be afraid”. When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. For Peter, James and John the scene was bizarre. They were overwhelmed. Dazzling white clouds, a voice from the sky, living images from the past. Peter never forgot this encounter (2 Peter 1:16-18).


What is the transfiguration all about? What does it mean? We don’t often talk about the transfiguration but more so Christmas and Easter. But this was big. There are many aspects from this strange story that could be discussed but let’s focus on one aspect. Why were Moses and Elijah there? We need to understand that: Moses represented the Law. He was the Law giver. Israel’s lawgiver. The Law was even called the Law of Moses. The first five books of the Hebrew scriptures were sometimes referred to as The Law. Elijah was seen as the greatest prophet and represented all the prophets. So you have the Law and the Prophets. Often the Old Testament is called The Law and the Prophets. But why were Moses and Elijah on the mountain? Why do you have these two people who represented the Old Testament on the mountain?

You see the Old Testament pointed to Jesus - the Law pointed to Jesus as did the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets pointed to something beyond themselves that would come – the Messiah – God’s anointed king who would be the one who would actually reign over this new society. And now on the mountain they would point to Jesus for the last time. On the mountain things were handed over. The Law could say we have been pointing to the Messiah for centuries but now the Messiah has come. The Prophets could say we have been preparing a people, doing our work but now Messiah has come. The baton was being handed over to the Messiah. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” You see the Law and the Prophets were trying to do something they couldn’t quite do. They were moving in that direction. They initiated but were not able to fulfil. This was an extremely important moment. So the transfiguration was where the Old Testament hands the project over to Jesus Christ.   Moses himself foretold the coming of “a prophet like me,” warning Israel, “you must listen to him” (Deut 18:15). The prophets spoke repeatedly and gave prophecies of someone who would come and change the world. It was as if Elijah was saying “I’ve done my work, now I hand over to Jesus Christ.” In the transfiguration the Old Testament becomes the New Testament.


So you see the transfiguration distinguished Jesus from Moses and Elijah. The transfiguration emphasized the pre-eminence, superiority, supremacy of Jesus and his word over Moses, author of the Law, and over Elijah, who symbolized the Prophets. Thus, Jesus is preeminent over scripture, which exists to testify concerning him. We can say the voice elevated Jesus above the Old Testament – the Law and the Prophets. The voice was saying, in effect, “Don’t put Moses and Elijah in the same category as Jesus; he is my beloved son! Don’t compare their words to his; listen to him!” “The Old Testament was not equal to Jesus so don’t put up these three tabernacles but listen to Jesus.”

With this strong declaration, the disciples would, as eyewitnesses, have realized more clearly that Jesus was not just another teacher or servant of God - he was far more than that - and what he said and did had far greater weight. When Peter said he wanted to make a tabernacle for the law, prophets and Jesus Christ that’s when the voice from heaven thundered – “No!” “Don’t mix it all up. Pay attention to my son.” When they opened their eyes Moses and Elijah were gone. Only Jesus remained. They only saw Jesus. One major purpose of Moses and the prophets was to bear witness to Jesus. Yes, Moses and Elijah were sent by God but their ultimate, primary purpose was to bear witness to Jesus.


The story of the woman caught in adultery is well known. The religious teachers brought her to Jesus. “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” You know what happened. Jesus said he didn’t condemn her and said to her “Go and sin no more.” The Law of Moses said stone the adulteress but God said; “Listen to my Son.” Jesus says no. Jesus says I desire mercy not sacrifice.  I don’t stone women. I don’t want that anymore. There is a change. When the disciples were rejected by the people in the Samaritan village they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”(NKJV). Hundreds of years before that Elijah had called fire down to burn his enemies three times. So they cited the Old Testament. They wanted to be like Elijah. Jesus said love your enemies. That was a change!  That was different!  The Law said stone them. Jesus said forgive them. Elijah said burn them, Jesus said love them. So if we try to use Moses, Elijah, David or anyone from the Old Testament as role models, examples etc we are talking about the stars and the moon. We are trying to build another tabernacle. Listen to him!


Does that mean we don’t read the Old Testament anymore?  Not at all. We continue to read it because it points us to Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon once illustrated this: “From every town, village, and little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London… and so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. Your business is, when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now, what is the road to Christ?’” Spurgeon’s point was that no matter what passage in Scripture, it will most definitely point the reader to Christ. Every time you open Scripture, look for the road that leads to Jesus. Even Jesus promised that all Scripture bears witness about Him (John 5:39). Scripture is: Not your textbook to be a better you. Not a story book of many heroes. Not a pep talk to do better. The Scripture is all about Jesus. Jesus is everywhere in the Old Testament. So we don’t build three tabernacles. We don’t give the Old Testament the same authority we give Jesus Christ. The voice says listen to him. So Jesus transcended any rabbi, teacher, prophet, or messiah of their imaginations. The Father, Son and Spirit had made their point, and the great event ended.


Something further to think about:  Peter is another prominent person in this story. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the prophets – is it possible that Peter represented the Church?  It is very possible. Just a few days before the transfiguration Jesus revealed to Peter his identity and role and said to him “You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church.” It is not difficult to believe that Jesus was identifying Peter as the leader of the church. And so at the transfiguration Peter (the Church) sees Jesus in all his glory and realises he is God. Just as the Law and the Prophets in the past continually pointed to Jesus so Peter was given the responsibility of doing something similar going forwards. Not that he would preach about a Messiah to come but that he has come (1Peter 1:10-12) - and that’s where the Church would focus. Which tells us a lot about where our focus should be today in our lives and in our preaching and teaching! Jesus is the centre of the centre.


By this annual reminder of the Transfiguration, we grow in our understanding of who Jesus is. It is in knowing Jesus that we can understand the full intent and message of the Law and the Prophets.


Matthew 17 (niv)


17 after six days jesus took with him peter, james and john the brother of james, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. there he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. just then there appeared before them moses and elijah, talking with jesus.

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.”

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!”

when the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. but jesus came and touched them. “get up,” he said. “don’t be afraid.” when they looked up, they saw no one except jesus.

He would later write:

16 for we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 for when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the majestic glory, “this is my beloved son,[a] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

The Father, Son and Spirit, through a small, specially-selected audience, using the Son of God and son of Man, Jesus Christ, gave humanity a peek into the splendour, majesty, power and glory that they possess. Words alone were inadequate, so Peter, James and John were given a visual exhibit for a moment. If, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the impact this vision had in the lives of these three men. Although what was visibly and audibly displayed was only a peek, it was enough to give them insight into what eyes otherwise had not seen nor had ears heard.


One thought on “2018 02 11 Gordon Green The Transfiguration”

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