Transfigured - 3/3/2019


Matthew 17: 1-13

Recently, I misplaced my good pen that Karen had given me and I was looking for
it everywhere. … I looked in drawers, … I looked under mail and magazines on
the dining table, … behind, around and under, … I looked on the floor … but it
was nowhere to be found, … then miraculously it was there!; … I was holding it
between my teeth the whole time.
That is the way that life often is. … We miss stuff that has been there the whole
time. … It’s like when I was single and my future bride worked with my best
friend … but I never really saw her when I would go by to visit Al or take him to
lunch. … Then one day, … Al set us up on a blind date. … She had been there the
whole time … but now I actually saw her in my world … and just below God, …
she has been my world ever since.
That is the story of the Transfiguration. … Jesus showed His disciples a part of the
world that had been there all along … but it had not really been a part of their
world. … They were bewildered, … astonished … and trembling with fear when
they saw and understood that Heaven was already here … in their world …
and that Jesus was the King of Heaven.
As I began to think about the story of the transfiguration, … I realized that there is
a connection between this event and Moses going up to receive the law on Mt.
Sinai. … The transfiguration was about a new covenant God was making with the
human family.
Moses went up Mt. Sinai to speak with God and receive the laws of God.
Exodus 24:15-16 : … “When Moses went up the mountain, the cloud covered
it.  16  The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six
days. On the seventh day He called to Moses from the cloud.”  …
So Matthew is tying the transfiguration to what happened with Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Jesus is the new Moses. … Moses came down the mountain with a covenant
written on stone. … Jesus comes down the mountain with a new covenant to be
written on flesh; … in the human heart.
Both Moses and Jesus are surrounded by a cloud which represented the presence of
God. … It was the Shekina; … a cloud of glory that made both of them shine like
the sun.
Again Matthew makes a connection to the Old Testament as he reports that Moses
appeared to Jesus … and along with Moses, Elijah the prophet appears.

Moses represents the Old Testament Law and Elijah represents the Old Testament
Prophets. … Jesus is not divorced from the Old Testament … but inseparably
linked to it. … He does not discard the Old Covenant … but transforms it and
builds upon it … but what’s interesting is that at the transfiguration, … although
God affirms Jesus as His “beloved Son” … and “takes delight in Him”, then
impresses them with His words: … “Listen to Him”, … says nothing to or about
Moses or Elijah.
Peter, James and John are overcome with fear. … They did not know what to do or
say, … so Peter blurts out: … “Lord, it’s good for us to be here! If You want, I will
make  three tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for
Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4) … but he is interrupted by the voice from the cloud of
glory saying; … “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to
Him!” (Matthew 17:5)
Peter is impetuous and doesn’t realize what he is saying. … Jesus is not among
equals (as important as Moses and Elijah are). … Three tents would not have been
appropriate, … because Jesus is not on par with Moses as another law-giver …
and neither is He one of the prophets like Elijah. …
He is different; … completely different. … He is the Son of God.
He is without equal!
The story of the Transfiguration actually starts in the previous chapter. …
It reads: … “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His
disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14  And they said, “Some
say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15  “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” 16  Simon Peter
answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” 17  And Jesus
responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not
reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. 18  And I also say to you that you are
Peter,  and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not
overpower it.” (Matthew 16:13-18)
Jesus is not another John the Baptist, … he is not Elijah, Jeremiah or another one
of the prophets; … He is unique, … without equal … and especially, … in our
world today, … we need to understand that Jesus is not just another religious
leader; … He stands alone. … There is no one with whom He can be compared.
Singer Sheryl Crow said in a New York Post interview: … “I believe in God. I
believe in Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and all those that were enlightened.

I wouldn’t say necessarily that I’m a strict Christian. I’m not sure I believe in
Sheryl Crow is where many people are today; … they believe in everything …
and nothing. … They are not sure they believe in the Kingdom of God.
They believe in this and that … but at some point, … one is going to have to
land on both feet and have them go in the same direction.
In order to be aware of the kingdom of God around us, … we have to believe in the
Kingdom of God … and the One who is the King of that Kingdom.
What is interesting … is that Matthew says when the disciples looked up after
falling to the ground and cowering in fear, “… they saw no one except Him—Jesus
Moses was gone, … Elijah was gone … and Jesus stood alone.
No one is like Him.
No one can compare with Him.
He is one of a kind; … He alone is the unique and universal Savior of the world;
… The transfiguration answers the question: … “Who is Jesus?”.
The law and the prophets had served their purpose … and Jesus came to fulfill all
that they had said.
Jesus thought that the kingdom of God was so important that it should be our
highest priority. … He said; … “But seek first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33).
The point of the transfiguration is to not only point to Jesus … but to point to the
reality of the Kingdom of God. … It helps us to see that the Kingdom of God is not
out there somewhere … but right next to us. … It is what people often miss, even
though they may have been looking for it, … like I was looking for my pen.
It is something that has been there all along. … Peter wanted to mark the spot and
make it sacred. … He wanted to set up three shelters, … actually the original
language says “tents” or “tabernacles”; … places of worship.
He wanted to mark the spot as sacred, … not realizing that there are not just a few
spots which are sacred. … The whole world is sacred. … It belongs to God.
He has created it all … and inhabits it all.
When we go home today, … look at the ground your house is sitting on. …
It is holy ground. … Try this: …Take off your shoes. … It is holy ground because
God is there. … Some of us know that because we met Him in our home before we
came here today.

Once, … having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would
come, … Jesus replied, … “The kingdom of God is not coming with something
observable;  21  no one will say, ‘Look here!’ or ‘There!’ For you see, the kingdom of
God is among you.”  (Luke 17:20-21)
We are so used to thinking about Heaven being a place to go when we die.
We think of it as being way out there somewhere … but Jesus was showing that
Heaven is all around us … and within us. … It is not something for when we die,
… it is something for when we live . … The Kingdom of God is not for the future,
… God invites us to live in the Kingdom now, …in the present.
The Kingdom of God is not out there in a distant place and in the future, … it is
right here right now. … The Kingdom of God is not just for Church, … it is for our
home and our place of work. … It is for you … and in you, … wherever you go.
Dallas Willard (an American philosopher also known for his writings on Christian
spiritual formation) … puts it this way: … “The Gospel is not about getting into
Heaven when we die, it is getting into Heaven before we die.”
We get to participate in the life of God and take on His image and character before
we die.
The people of ancient times, … used to talk about the “thin places”.
The thin places are when the Kingdom of God rubs up against the kingdom of the
world and breaks into our world … or should I say; … breaks into our
consciousness. … It has been here all along; … we just did not have eyes to see it.
In the Bible, … the thin places would be situations like God talking to Adam and
Eve in the garden, … God speaking to Moses in the burning bush, … Steven
seeing the Heavens open as he was being stoned, … Jesus healing people and
rising from the dead.
These were the times when the veil separating the kingdom of this world …
and the Kingdom of God were so thin, … that they merged … and the Kingdom of
God became visible.
That is what happened at the transfiguration. … Peter, James and John had their
eyes opened to see that the Kingdom was not a future event … but a present
reality. … When we walk from this place today, … we will be surrounded by the
Kingdom of God. … Whether we see it or feel it is beside the point; … it is there!
Our part is to be aware of it. … Our part is to live in that reality … and actively
participate in the life of God … as it surrounds us and is within us.

In one of my classes at Jarvis Christian College, … another ministerial candidate
spoke these words: … “The Christian faith is not just about looking forward to an
eternity in Heaven, … it is about living a Jesus-led life that brings a bit of Heaven
on earth.”
Charleston based lawyer, …David Yarborough tells the story from one of Max
Lucado’s books of a lady who had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the
turn of the century, … was quite wealthy … but also very frugal.
The people were surprised when she decided to be among the first to have
electricity in her home. … Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader
appeared at her door. … He asked if her electricity was working well and she
assured him it was. … “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he
said. … “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. … Are you using your power?”
“Certainly,” she answered. … “ Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my
lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”
Yarborough goes on to say, … “She tapped into the power but did not use it.
Her house is connected, but not altered. … Don’t we make the same mistake?
We, too — with our souls saved but our hearts unchanged — are connected but not
altered. … Trusting Christ for salvation … but resisting transformation.
We occasionally flip the switch, … but most of the time we settle for shadows.”
We don’t want to be like those who were unaware and missed the kingdom of God;
… we want to be those who not only see it and recognize it … but those who plug
into its power; … the transforming and renewing power … as it lives in us …
and is turned on every day.