He spoke those words intentionally. You see, this son-in-law attended church for the entire 70+ years of his life. He believed Jesus is the Son of God. He believed Jesus died on the cross. He believed Jesus rose from the dead. Yet, his church reinforced the idea that the only way to approach God is to do more good in order to outweigh the bad. (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c2a4.htm; see Paragraphs 1459-1460) So, this gentleman was telling me that the only way his mother-in-law could enter heaven is if she did more good than bad. Which then begs the question: If Jesus does not make you ‘good’ before God, then why does he come at all?
That is a very important question to keep in mind because you (and I) encounter it on a daily basis. If you struggle with guilt, you are confronting that question. If you feel God loves you because of your character, you are confronting that question. If you think bad things happen because you anger God, you are confronting that question. If Jesus does not make you ‘good’ before God, then why does he come at all?
Luke centers our attentions on the work Jesus is born to do. On this mountain Jesus transfigures, he changes appearance so that you can be sure that he is your Savior— which means, you do not need to be your own savior. Let’s Follow Jesus into Jerusalem! Only he fulfills the law of Moses and God chooses him to be our Savior.
Peter, James, and John recognize this. In fact, Jesus asks them, “Who do you say I am?” and Peter answers, “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:20). Jesus’ disciples clearly confess, they admit that their great Rabbi, Jesus, is the person God promised the world.
Surprised they would say such a thing? Or, are you kind of nodding your head, saying, “Of course they believe Jesus is the Savior”? Understand, the disciples identify Jesus as ‘the Messiah,’ but they still struggle grasping the significance of those words. For example, Peter announces: “You are the Christ!” Jesus says, “You are right! Since I am the Christ, I have a mission to complete… [I] must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and [I] must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Peter blurts out, “Never, Lord!” (Matthew 16:13-15, 21-23). Peter, James, and John still pursue what they want in a ‘Messiah.’ They want a God-sent servant to (1) rally the Jews together, (2) chase out the Roman overlords, (3) establish Israel as an independent state, and (4) usher in a reign of power, prosperity, and peace. Jesus prepares for his final journey into Jerusalem and the disciples can only think about earthly fame. They exchange the eternal for the temporal. Even worse, if you crave the temporal, then you claim no spiritual need. You see no need for Jesus.
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Jesus transfigures, literally changes appearance. For 33-years Jesus contains his awesome form as God inside. Yes, you saw glimpses of his power: turning water into wine (John 2:1-12), driving out demons (Mark 1:21-28), driving fish into nets (Luke 5:1-11). Yet, all you saw is a glimpse of his unlimited power. Now you witness his glory on full display. Sunbeams do not illuminate his face; Jesus’ face beams light. Jesus’ clothing does not reflect light; his clothes radiate light. Just like the sun shoots glowing rays through a cloudy sky, so also Jesus removes his earthly appearance and glistens as he does in heaven.
Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. Why these two? Well, Moses is the great Law-Receiver and Elijah, the great Law-Proclaimer. God carved his Ten Commandments into the hearts of all people and later chiseled them onto two tablets of stone (Romans 2:14-15; Exodus 20:1-17). Our consciences can mislead us, so we can read what God expects of us. The prophet Elijah even preaches God’s expectations. You can hear the standard of living God wants from you.
Look at both men and you realize one chief problem: God’s law cannot save you. Each commandment only exposes broken obedience, failure to do what is right, failure to measure up to God. Even Moses and Elijah know that. Moses brings the Commandments, but disobeys and died. Elijah preaches the commands, but still whines: “God, what’s the use?” Yet, they know Jesus obeys. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.
That is the reason for this magnificent scene. Jesus lets loose his identity as God so that you can see no smudge of sin tainting his pure appearance, no secret shame found balled up inside. God the Father even shines this radiant spotlight on this very fact. We can nod our heads saying, “Yes, this is true! Jesus is perfect, I am not. Jesus covers me with his perfection. Jesus makes me right with God.” But then, when you get sick, you wonder: “Am I sick because of my filthy thoughts? Is God getting revenge on me?” You go to a funeral, you point at the person in the casket and say, “He was a good man.” What does that mean? That because you consider him ‘good,’ he must be in heaven? This is how a person is saved? Or, our emotions can toss us into despair; you tremble: “Will I really go to heaven? I do not feel saved.” What? Do your inner emotions save you? If you ‘feel’ Jesus, you are saved? If you do not ‘feel’ Jesus, then you are not saved?
Friends, we will live mortified of God if we take our eyes off of Jesus. If you try to convince yourself with your feelings or actions or character that you will enter heaven, you will never find assurance. What you are really doing is pushing away your need for Jesus.
Let’s Follow Jesus into Jerusalem! Only he fulfills the law of Moses. When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law— God’s law, God’s commandments (Galatians 4:4). God takes those two stone tablets and sets them on Jesus and Jesus carries out every single command. Just to think, Jesus does not obey in order to gain praise for himself. Rather, he obeys because it gives. (1) It gives respect to God. (2) It gives you (and me) life.
This brilliant mountain scene will soon darken. Evil men will spit rejection. Calloused hearts will pound nails into flesh. Death will swallow up innocent life. Yet, God wants you to remember this transfiguration scene. Because the man you see on the cross is still God’s promised Son. And he will burst out of the tomb on Easter’s rising dawn. And he will shine once again, still without sin and without our sin!
Let’s Follow Jesus into Jerusalem because Jesus fulfills the law of Moses. He does what God desires— and does it for us! That means this transfiguration scene is ours. You will see Jesus in dazzling glory: hair white as snow, eyes blazing like fire, feet like glowing bronze, face shining (Revelation 1:14-16). You will stand there without fear because Jesus has removed our stain of sin and secret shame, leaving us shining in his radiant brilliance. We can be sure because God chooses him to be our Savior.
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Do you think Peter, James, and John understand now? God the Father wraps himself in a cloud and wraps around them. Then he identifies something special about Jesus: This person is the Son of God. Has God clouded around you? Has he said: “You are my son?” No. He points us sinners to Jesus. He even says, “I have chosen him. I elected him to be your Savior.” Not me. Not you. Not Moses or Elijah. But Jesus. You can be sure Jesus is enough because he is the one God sent; God approves of his life.
So, listen to him! Listen to Jesus call himself God. Listen to his pardon. Listen to his promise of life in heaven. Starting Wednesday and the six weeks following, you have this privilege to listen. Yes, a privilege— because the Holy Spirit called you out of unbelief and into faith. On Wednesdays, you see the separation your (and my) sin deserved. You see the price paid to set you free. And in case you think you have Jesus’ Passion memorized, then think again. See Law-Giver Moses and Law-Preacher Elijah leave because Jesus satisfied them! They can leave your life. so, the next time Satan replays the regrets of your youth and whispers: “How can God forgive you for that?” point to Jesus. The next time you worry God will not heal you, point to Jesus. The next time you fear God’s Word lacks power to changes hearts today, point to Jesus. The next time you wonder if you will really go to heaven, point to Jesus. When you point to Jesus, you are pointing at God’s Son— and God is pleased with him. If God is pleased with him and Jesus is pleased with you, then it means God is pleased with you. God chooses him to be the Savior. And that, my friends, brings real peace.
You (and I) encounter feelings of unworthiness on a daily basis. A churched-man at funeral remains convinced that you must do more ‘good’ to outweigh your bad. Let’s bring it closer to home. During Lent, people tend to ‘give up’ certain items. Maybe it’s chocolate or Mountain Dew. Maybe it is Television or Facebook. (For me, I’m giving up sleep because of my newborn daughter ). What can happen is that as you ‘give something up,’ it becomes something you do to earn God’s favor. You glean credit for yourself. You brag about your strength to lay aside unhealthy food. You appreciate cutting screen time. (Even fish Fridays was meant for a sacrifice— but now we deep fry the buggers for flavor!) The point of ‘giving something up’ serves to remind us of Jesus giving up his life for us. It is not us doing something for him.
Luke centers our attentions on the work Jesus is born to do. On this mountain Jesus transfigures, he changes appearance so that you can be sure that he is your Savior— which means, you do not need to be your own savior. Let’s Follow Jesus into Jerusalem! He comes to make you ‘good before God.’ You can be sure of that. Only he fulfills the law of Moses and God chooses him to be our Savior.