A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – Be Transformed by the Transfiguration

 

Six days after the events of chapter sixteen (the confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God – 16:13-20; Jesus rebuke of Peter – 16:21-23; Jesus call and description of discipleship – 16:24-27; and Jesus statement that the disciples would see Him coming in His kingdom – 16:28), Jesus took Peter, James and John up to a high mountain where they would experience His Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is important because it confirms what was said about Jesus in chapter sixteen. While Jesus is transfigured on the mountaintop, the disciples are in a very real way as well. The Transfiguration is a life changing, life impacting experience for those who grasp its significance.

 

Picture if you would a volcano that has erupted and the lava flowing down its slopes. The lava runs down affecting everything in its path. The Transfiguration is like just such a volcanic eruption, but in a good way. While lava carries with it a sense of unstoppable dread, the Transfiguration is like a lava of revelation light that flows down from the Mount of Transfiguration to impact everything around us.  The truths of the Transfiguration can have an unstoppable transforming impact on our lives. What are these truths? Let’s see.

 

Peter, James and John

 

Matthew 17:1 – “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;”  [1]

 

This was not the first or the last time Jesus would take these three disciples aside with Him. When Jesus raised Jarius’ daughter form the dead He took Peter, James and John with Him (Mark 5:37; Matthew 9:18-26). When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane He took Peter, James and John with Him (Matth4ew 26:37). Why Peter, James and John? Perhaps because they would all eventually encounter severe trials unto death in future ministry. Tradition tells us that James was sawn in two lengthwise, Peter was crucified upside down (because he didn’t feel worthy to be crucified right-side up like Jesus), and John was boiled in a cauldron of oil, miraculously survived and was then banished to the barren Isle of Patmos. For whatever reason Jesus chose to take these particular three disciples with Him, it seems clear that He was preparing them for ministry. Jesus always prepares us for the part He has for us in His ministry plans. Jesus is preparing you right now for the ministry He is calling you to do. That is how we should approach this portion of Scripture, like Jesus is going to use it to prepare us for ministry. You see God doesn’t just simply move us from point “A” to point “B” in our lives, He is totally efficient in that the journey from point “A” To point “B” prepares us, matures us, for His final purpose and destination. The journey is just as important as the destination. The means are just as important as the ends in god’s plan.

 

The traditional site of the Transfiguration is Mount Tabor located in the central portion of Israel but this is not likely the most likely spot of the Transfiguration. The “high mountain,” Jesus took the three with Him to was probably Mount Hermon. The Mount Hermon view is based on the fact that Caesarea Philippi is located at the base of Mount Hermon which is the tallest mountain in the area standing at approximately 9,000 feet in elevation. But where the Transfiguration took place is not nearly as important as the fact that it did take place and that it is a tremendously important aspect of Jesus’ ministry and life.

 

The Transfiguration

 

Matthew 17:2 – “and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”  [2]

 

The word “transfigured,” is translated from the Greek term METEMORPHOTHE which is a form of the Greek term METAMORPHOO (Strong’s #3339) which means, “to change, transform, transfigure.” The English word metamorphosis is derived from this same Greek term. Now when it states that Jesus was “transfigured,” it does not imply that something completely new was happening to Him. As we will see, Jesus was simply seen in a way the disciples hadn’t seen Him before. Jesus is in a glorified state from all eternity. Jesus, in His high priestly prayer said:

 

  • John 17:5 - “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”  [3]

 

Jesus put that glorified appearance aside when He was incarnated, (which does not diminish His deity in the least), as Paul is inspired to explain when he writes:

 

  • Philippians 2:5-11 – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”   [4]

 

Therefore, when the disciples saw Jesus in His transfigured state, they were seeing Him in His eternal glory.

 

In Luke’s gospel account it states that Jesus was transfigured while He was praying (Luke 9:29). The Transfiguration may have occurred at night since Luke also says the disciples were, “heavy with sleep” (Luke 9:32). If it occurred at night the contrast between His light and the world’s darkness would have been all the more explicit to the disciples. But what did the transfigured light mean? That Jesus was changed to “shine like the sun,” is significant. Light is a symbol of purity, revelation, truth, and life. We see this in the following passages.

 

  • John 1:1-14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  [5]

 

  • John 12:45 - “And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”  [6]

 

  • 1 John 1:5-7 –“ This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  [7]

 

What light was God trying to shine in the lives of the disciples on that mountain? Let’s study on.

 

The Seven Truths of the Transfiguration

 

There are seven truths that we can glean from the events surrounding the Transfiguration of Jesus recorded in Matthew 17. There are seven truths that pour forth down the Mount of Transfiguration to enrich every aspect of our lives. There are seven truths of the Transfiguration that turn the light on within us. Indeed, if taken to heart, these seven truths of the Transfiguration can transform and transfigure us. What are these transfiguring truths? Let’s see.

 

First, Jesus, the Son of Man, Succeeded Where Adam the First Man Failed.

 

Matthew 16:28 – “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”   [8]

 

Some liberal scholars have interpreted this verse as referring to the 2nd Coming of Jesus and since the disciples He spoke these words to died before Jesus’ 2nd Coming then Jesus is depicted as wrong and therefore fallible. But a little further study confirms that Jesus didn’t have His 2nd Coming in mind here.

 

It should be noted that the chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles were not inspired. When the Biblical writers wrote their letters there were no chapters and verses. Chapters and verses were added by Stephen Langton in 1228 A.D. as a study aid. Interestingly, if we look at Marks’ s parallel account he includes Jesus words of Matthew 16:28 in the opening verse of Mark 9 where the Transfiguration is recorded.

 

That this verse refers to the Transfiguration is also supported by Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:16-21 where he relates the Transfiguration to “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” just as in Matthew 16:28 Jesus says that the disciples would not die before they, “see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” 

 

  • 2 Peter 1:16-21 – “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  [9]

These verses offer to us insight into how Peter and the other apostles viewed the Transfiguration. They viewed Jesus transfiguration as a glorification (2 Peter 1:17). They viewed it as having a confirming effect on their message, and in particular, the confession by Peter that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God made just six days before (2 Peter 2:18-19; Matthew 16:16). They viewed the Transfiguration as “light that shines in a dark place,” and a dawning day and morning star that rises in one’s heart (2 Peter 1:19). Not everyone has the light of Jesus shinning in his or her hearts. People without Christ are living in darkness and need the light of Jesus to show them the way to eternal life. The Transfiguration took the gospel message out of the realm of opinion and put it into the realm of definite and sure revelation from God (2 Peter 1:20). The transfigurement of Jesus and the audible word from the Father in heaven removed the gospel message out of the realm of mere human opinion into the realm of inspired revelation from God. There are as many opinions about things as there are people. Opinions are based on, “the will of man,” (2 Peter 1:21) and not worth that much. Some people rely on human tradition as a supplement to the 66 inspired books of the Word of God, but to do so is to delve into the realm of human opinion. Opinion and tradition that are not backed up by the Word of God or worse, go against God’s Word, are weak and like building on sand (see Matthew 7:24-27; Colossians 2:8-10). The flip side of this is found in the actions of the Jesus Seminar, (a group of 70 or so liberal scholars who meet once a year for about a week to determine by vote which portions of the gospels were actually from Jesus and which were not) who view the gospel accounts as apostolic opinion inserted into the mouth of Jesus. Such a view has resulted in such ridiculous assertions as that the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that is authentically from Jesus are the words, “Our Father.” The Jesus Seminar only views a very small percentage of the gospels as coming from Jesus and the vast majority of the text as coming from others who put words into Jesus’ mouth according to their opinion.  Now if the Scripture were simply a matter of opinion, the Jesus Seminar would be entitled to their opinion. But statements backed up by the facts of eyewitness accounts, such as the gospels, the New Testament and the Old Testament, are far more than mere opinion, they are weighty and reliable records. This is especially true when we factor in the preponderance of manuscript, archeological, and prophetic evidence. The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and inerrant, it is totally reliable and authentically God’s Word.  The Transfiguration, (God’s spoken affirmation of His Son Jesus Christ), is therefore a confirmation of God’s truth.

 

The Transfiguration Turns on the light

 

But of even greater significance in Matthew 16:28 is the term “see,” used by Jesus. The word “see” is translated form the Greek term IDOSIN which is a form of the Greek word EIDO (Strong’s #1492). This word has a number of related meanings such as, “physical sight” (Matthew 2:2,9; John 1:47; Acts 3:3); “to perceive; to realize; understand” (Matthew 2:16; Mark 7:2); or “to experience” (Luke 2:26; 1 Peter 3:10). Furthermore, the grammatical form of the Greek term IDOSIN (2nd Aorist/Active/Subjunctive) indicates the possibility of the disciples perceiving, realizing or understanding something. Therefore, the sense of Jesus words in Matthew 16:28 are that the disciples would be given an opportunity to perceive, understand, realize, learn something in particular about Jesus before they died .In effect what Jesus is saying is that before the disciples die, He will turn on the light in them that reveals who He is.  The Transfiguration turns on the light. Now just what can be learned from the Transfiguration? What is the truth to be perceived in this great event?  What light is turned on?

 

The Transfiguration Shines Light On The Son of Man

 

The light Jesus promised to shed about Himself begins in Matthew 16:28 where Jesus refers to Himself as, “The Son of Man.” Jesus is referred to some 88 times as the “Son of Man” in the New Testament. In fact, “Son of Man,” is the most frequent way Jesus referred to Himself. Why is that? First notice that Jesus is not a son of man, or just another man amongst many men. Jesus is THE Son of Man. Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” because “the Son of Man” refers to the mission of Jesus. Jesus came as the perfect representative Man to succeed where the first man Adam failed. Adam failed in the face of temptation and sinned (Genesis 3). Jesus was tempted and did not sin (Matthew 4:1-11).

 

The light with which Jesus glowed at His Transfiguration was a revelation and confirmation that He was the perfect sinless Son of Man and therefore, the perfect and acceptable sacrifice to go to the cross on behalf of all men. That Jesus was sinless is attested to by the following verses:

 

·         2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [10]

 

  • 1 Peter 1:15-19 – “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 17And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”   [11]

 

  • 1 Peter 2:21-25 – “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22“Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;23who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”  [12]

 

We are sinful, Jesus was and is, and ever shall be, sinless. John in his first epistle states:

 

  • 1 John 3:5 – “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”  [13]

 

Jesus came to take away our sins and He did it by withstanding temptation and remaining sinless. The apostle Paul elaborates further on this when he is inspired to write:

 

  • Romans 5:12-21 – “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. 20Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  [14]

 

When Adam sinned he infected the entire world with sin in that the sin nature would be past on to all future generations, from Cain and Abel onward (Romans 5:12). This verse flies in the face of those who deny the presence of original sin in people such as those in Islam. David wrote that we are shaped in iniquity and our sinful natures are traceable to our first parents, Adam and Eve (see Psalm 51:5). Paul then goes into a parenthetical statement explaining that sin predates the Law but sin before the Law is not imputed (Romans 5:13). Paul substantiates the presence of pre-Law sin by stating, “death reigned” (Romans 5:14).  He then goes on to contrast the “free gift” of salvation with the “offense” of Adam’s sin. Adam’s single sin led to death entering into the human lineage, while the grace of God is made available to humanity through the gracious cross of Christ (Romans 5:15).  Judgment came through Adam’s sin, justification through Jesus (Romans 5:16,18). The gracious gospel gift of Jesus is superior, “much more,” than the effect Adam’s sin had on humanity (Romans 5:17). Adam’s disobedience led to impending judgment upon all humanity, the possibility of righteousness came through Jesus (Romans 5:19). God gave the Law to expose the presence of sin in humanity clearly, (and reveal our need of a Savior in order to lead us to Christ – see Galatians 3:10-13, 19-25) but where sin was exposed in all its vile abundance, God’s grace abounded even more through Jesus Christ through whom we have the opportunity to be made righteous, forgiven for our sins, and eternal life (Romans 5:20-21). Earlier in Romans Paul states that we are justified and have peace with God when we put faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior (Romans 5:1-5). Only Jesus could solve the sin problem because where Adam was tempted and sinned, Jesus was tempted and did not sin, as stated above.

 

The Transfiguration shines the spotlight on Jesus as the perfect representative man who succeeded where the first man Adam failed.

 

Second, Jesus Was The Superior Fulfillment of the Law and Prophets.

 

Matthew 17:3-4 – “And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  [15]

 

Peter knew it was good for he and the two other disciples to be up on that mountain with Jesus. Now even Moses and Elijah showed up. The Spirit must have informed Peter of the identity of Moses and Elijah, much the same as He had informed Peter of who Jesus was (Matthew 16:16-17). But why Moses and Elijah? Probably because Moses is closely associated with the Law of God and Elijah is the most prominent representative prophetic figure. By Moses and Elijah showing up here we are given a picture of the Law and the prophets of the Old Testament leading us to Jesus. In the Emmaus road encounter between the risen Jesus and two disciples Jesus warms the hearts of the disciples by explaining how the Law and prophets pointed to Him. It states:

 

  • Luke 24:13-27 – “Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. 17And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” 18Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” 19And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20“and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22“Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23“When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24“And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” 25Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26“Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.  [16]

 

The Transfiguration confirms that Jesus is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament who fulfilled over 300 prophesies.

 

Jesus is superior to the Law and prophets in that He is the aim of them. Jesus is the culmination of what the Law and prophets existed to proclaim. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law:

 

·         Matthew 5:17-20 –“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  [17]

 

The writer of Hebrews captured this truth when he was inspired to write:

 

·         Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”   [18]

 

Jesus is not only superior to the Law and prophets; He is the fulfillment of them. Jesus completes God’s revelation. In fact, Jesus is the fullness of God, to see Him is to see the Father. Read what the Bible says in this regard:

 

·         John 10:30 – “I and My Father are one.” [19]

 

·         John 14:7,9 – “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” 8Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”  [20]

 

  • Colossians 1:15-20 – “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”  [21]

 

Jesus is the full revelation of God, He is God.

 

Third, Jesus is The Beloved Son of God and We Need To Listen to Him.

 

Matthew 17:5-6 – “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.”  [22]

 

The Father had confirmed His approval on Jesus in the beginning of His ministry when He was obediently baptized by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:17). Now towards the climax of Jesus ministry He again asserts His love for and approval of Jesus. By God the Father stating that He was pleased with Jesus showed that Jesus’ ministry was acceptable to Him as the soon to be sacrifice for the sins of humankind on the cross.

 

“Hear Him!”

 

The word, “hear,” in the text is translated from the Greek term AKOUO (Strong’s #191) and means, “to perceive by the ear what is announced in one’s presence.” [23] While Jesus spoke of a visual perception and understanding in Matthew 16:28, the Father speaks of a perception of hearing. Furthermore, the grammatical form of this term (Present/Active/Imperative) is imperative and, “expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding.”  [24] The authority here is the Father in heaven. Therefore, the Father from heaven is commanding in full authority the disciples to “Listen up, listen to My Son Jesus!” This is a statement of strong authority, a command, a mandatory statement by God to the hearers and to us the readers.

 

When God uses an exclamation point saying, “Hear Him!” we had better hear Him. To hear Him is to obey Him. Read what the writer of Hebrews was inspired to write:

 

  • Hebrews 2:1-3 – “ Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” [25]

 

  • Hebrews 5:9 – “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,”  [26]

 

  • Hebrews 12:25-29 – “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29For our God is a consuming fire.” [27]

 

When God speaks, we need to listen. When God shouts, we’d be fools not to listen.

 

Receiving the Transcendent light of God

 

As Hebrews 12 states, there is s shaking that God does and He often uses His light to do it. Sometimes people need to be shaken up to be wakened up from the spiritual darkness. Even after we are saved, God is willing to shake us like an apple tree to rid us of the birds of sin that are perched in our branches. The following account from the book of Acts is an example of just such a shaking by God.

 

There was a man who had a seeming vendetta against believers. He sought to rip the church apart with his own bare hands. He would go from house church to house church dragging off men and women who were Christians and throwing them in prison (Acts 8:3). He didn’t care if his work broke up families. But a funny thing happened to this man while he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). On his way to Damascus on another murderous mission to bind up the people of “the Way” (Acts 9:2), he saw the light. The account of this conversion is found in the book of Acts chapter 9 where it states:

 

·         Acts 9:3-9 – “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”   [28]

 

Sometimes God will knock you down with His transcendent light, if that’s what it takes. God is willing to shake us to awake us. That’s what was needed with Saul, soon to become Paul. Paul started out breathing murderous threats against the church, against Jesus. But God had a different plan for Paul. God shone His incredible light in the darkness of Saul’s heart and transformed him into a disciple, an apostle who wrote 14 of the 27 New Testament letters and was used mightily to spread the gospel to the Gentile world (see Acts 9:15; also verses 10-31).

 

No nut is too hard for God to crack. If God can use His light to save the likes of Saul, He can save anyone. Unfortunately, some who are knocked down by the light persist in their rebellion against God. Those who rebel against God's light remain in their sin. This is what John (who saw the Transfiguration) was inspired to teach when He said:

 

  • John 1:4-13 – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  [29]

 

The phrase, “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13), refers to the work of God in salvation. He shines the light by grace on sinful humans and He is the One who saves. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29). [30] The sinner needs only accept the gift, “receive” the gift offered by God, the gift of salvation from and forgiveness of sin.

 

The Bible tells us that God makes every effort to win the lost. There is a beautiful illustration of this in the Old Testament. Amnon, one of David’s sons, had forced himself sexually upon Tamar, a daughter of David. David did not deal with the situation adequately and his son Absalom took matters into his own hands and murdered Amnon in retribution. Absalom then fled and a rift between he and his father David was set in place. Joab, David’s right hand man, then diplomatically sent a messenger to speak with David about reconciling with his son (2 Samuel 12-14). In the course of the conversation with David, the following words are spoken: 

 

·         2 Samuel 14:14b – “Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.” [31]

 

David was exhorted to follow the example of God Who makes every effort to shine His light of salvation into the lives of the lost. Light is pervasive in nature and the gracious light of God’s truth in His Son Jesus Christ spreads to the entire world. All one needs do to be saved is, let God turn on the light of salvation. Open the shades to the window of your heart and let God’s light shine in.

 

Fourth, Jesus Is Transcendent Yet Touchable

 

Matthew 17:7-13 – “But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” 8When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” 10And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12“But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”  [32]

 

Jesus was exalted and glorified as the perfect sinless Man, He was shinning as the sun, but yet, He touched and was touchable (17:7). Jesus is transcendent yet touchable. Jesus is the focus of our attention (17:8), but He is not a glory seeker. In fact He repeatedly instructed his disciples and others to not tell people about Him (Matthew 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; and 17:9). Even though the disciples had just seen Jesus transfigured, they felt comfortable and welcome to ask Him to explain things to them.

 

The disciples asked Jesus about John the Baptist. The scribes rightly interpreted the Bible that Elijah would precede the coming of Messiah as stated in Malachi 4:5. Jesus taught them that John the Baptist was Elijah in some way. But John the Baptist said he was not Elijah when asked (John 1:21). How can this apparent contradiction be solved? Pastor Chuck Smith makes the following clarifying remarks about this issue:

 

When John the Baptist began his ministry, there was a question as to whom he was claiming to be. He was baptizing down at the Jordan River and hundreds of people were coming to be baptized and to hear him. And the Pharisees came out from Jerusalem to inquire, Who are you? By what authority are you doing these things? And they said, Are you the Messiah? He said no. They said, Are you Elijah? He said no. Then who are you? I’m the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But he denied being Elijah. Now the angels said he would go in the spirit and in the power of Elijah. When they said, Are you Elijah? He said no; no in the sense that he isn’t the complete fulfillment of that prophecy of Micah. And Jesus is here affirming Elijah shall first come. However, He has really already come but they did to him what they would, they put him to death even as they’re going to put Me to death. So even as Jesus is coming again to establish God’s kingdom upon the earth, before He comes again, Elijah will appear. This Old Testament prophet will appear and will minister to turn the hearts of the people back to God.[33]

 

John the Baptist came as a type of Elijah to prepare the way for Messiah Jesus. Elijah will come again during the Tribulation period and will evangelize the Jews during this prophetic period (see Revelation 11).

 

But besides this explanation, the Bible tells us that Jesus is approachable and empathetic to people. The Bible states:

 

  • Hebrews 4:14-16 – “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  [34]

 

Jesus empathizes with our weaknesses. He came and experienced them first hand. He was tempted, but did not sin. Jesus is awesomely exalted, but He is nevertheless approachable.

 

Fifth, Jesus Has Complete Power Over Satan and His Minions.

 

Matthew 17:14-21 – “And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16“So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21“However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”  [35]

 

There are a few things to take note of here. First, notice that as soon as they stepped down from the mountain they were confronted by a satanically induced problem. Satan will try to rob you of the effects of your time alone with the Lord on the mountaintop (17:14). We need to guard against being surprised or blindsided by the enemy when we return from retreats or times alone with the Lord. If Satan can’t interrupt your quiet time with God, he’ll try to blast its glorious effect out of your memory as soon as he can.

 

Second, even though the disciples below could not help the man and his demon-possessed boy, he did not give up, he was persistent (17:15-16). When we hit a roadblock we need to be persistently seeking God’s help like this father did for his son.

 

Third, Jesus has complete power over Satan and his minions (17:18). Jesus had no problem healing the boy possessed by a demon. Jesus is us is greater than any one else who comes against us (1 John 4:4; James 4:7; Romans 16:20).  

 

Fourth, it’s not the size of your faith that counts; it is that your faith is growing (17:19-20). Jesus points out the problem as “unbelief.” He uses a mustard send to illustrate His point. The point is not so much that a little bit of faith can do great things, it is more that, like a seed, faith that grows is effective.

 

Fifth, Jesus tells the disciples that “prayer and fasting” are needed in such cases (17:21). The point to note here is that they weren’t ready for the task at hand; they couldn’t stop and fast on the spot. Fasting and praying is something that needs to be ongoing. They weren’t ready for the task because they didn’t have an ongoing faith. Prayer connects us to God; fasting disconnects us from ourselves. These are two things the disciple should practice on a regular basis.

 

Sixth, Jesus Was Transfigured To Go To The Cross.

 

Matthew 17:22-23 – “Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, 23“and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.”  [36]

 

Jesus repeatedly spoke of His mission to go to the cross (Matthew 16:21; 17:12,22-23; 20:17-19, 28: 26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:12, 30-32; 10:32-34). Jesus never lost sight of His mission. The reason He was transfigured was to show He was an acceptable representative sacrificial man. Now the disciples were sorrowful about this repeated statement by Jesus because they only looked at it in terms of what they thought they would lose, that is, Jesus. But by going to the cross the disciples would gain Jesus in a far deeper and fulfilling way than ever before, Jesus would be their Savior. They didn’t quite grasp that truth as yet, but they eventually would.

 

Jesus came to save the world, to defeat Satan and give life to those lost in sin. Read this in the following verses:

 

  • Matthew 9:12-13 – “When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [37]

 

  • 1 Timothy 1:15-17 – “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  [38]

 

  • Hebrews 2:14-15 – “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”   [39]

 

  • 1 John 3:8 – “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”   [40]

 

Jesus never lost sight of His mission. Jesus had the cross ever before Him. He clearly and repeatedly made the point to His disciples that He MUST  go to the cross to accomplish His mission and purpose. The cross is the key to shinning God’s transfiguring light of salvation on the lost world.

 

Seventh, Jesus Is Not So Transcendent That He is Not Concerned With Practical Things

 

 Matthew 17:24-27 – “When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27“Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”  [41]

 

This account is unique to Matthew’s gospel. Perhaps God inspired Matthew the ex-tax collector to include this account. We see here how Jesus is interested in the practical everyday needs of life. Jesus had just been transfigured, yet He didn’t see Himself as aloof to the more benign events of life. Furthermore, we see how Jesus uses an everyday need to communicate a higher truth. Jesus points out to Peter that, “The sons are free.” In so doing Jesus is making a statement about grace. The sons of the kingdom of God are free in that salvation is by God’s free gift of grace in Jesus, not by payment of any works we do.

 

Conclusion

 

There is another area of Scripture where the term METAMORPHOO occurs. In Romans 12 it states:

 

·         Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  [42]

 

The word “transformed” in this passage is translated from the Greek term METAMORPHOO (Strong’s #3339). It is Gods’ objective in our lives to transform us. Into what would God transform us? Into the likeness of His beloved Son Jesus. Earlier in Romans Paul is inspired to write:

 

·         Romans 8:29 – “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  [43]

 

How can this transformation take place? First realize it is God who works in us (Philippians 2:13). Then realize the revealed truths of the Transfiguration that we have studied. The Spirit will take those truths and transform you into the likeness of Jesus. All you need do is receive the transcendent transfiguring light of God into your heart.

 

Clovis Chapman was a pioneer aviator and one of the first men to attempt a solo flight around the world. Clovis began his journey in the Midwest and made a brief stop in California. Shortly after taking off to resume his journey, he noticed a gnawing sound in the plane. Now these were the days when planes were held together with thin skin and rope cables-like cables. Listening intently Clovis came to realize that the gnawing he heard was the sound of rats in the cockpit gnawing at the control cables. Now these were the days before automatic pilots too so Clovis knew he was in quite a fix. If the rats kept gnawing at the cables, he’d loose control of the plane and his trip would be doomed.

 

Then Clovis Chapman had an idea. He pulled back on the throttle lifting the nose of the plan into the air and began ascending on high. He rose to 5,000 feet, then 10,000 feet. At 12,000 feet he listened and heard nothing. The gnawing had stopped. You see Clovis had remembered that rodents need a high proportion of oxygen so he took the plane up where the air was thin and the rats died.

 

That’s what we have to do when we’re being gnawed at by the rats of sin. We need to take our plane up to the mountain of Christ’s Transfiguration and let the rats die. The enemy can’t survive in the praise and worship of Transfiguration. Disciple, be transformed by Christ’s Transfiguration.

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[24]Tense Voice Mood, (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship) 1994.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33] Chuck Smith, Word For Today audiotape #8016 (Word For Today, Box 8000, Costa Mesa, CA 92628)

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.