If I invite you to come to Jesus Christ, I’m not simply using the word “Christ” there as a surname. It’s a title. And in that title there is power, strength, and hope. Jesus is “the Christ” aka “the Messiah.”
He’s anointed by God – appointed to be king, by God. In these verses we get a glimpse of what it means for Jesus to be king, both in what he has done and will do for anyone who comes to him for help.
For most of us, our understanding of who Jesus really is is far too small, too limited. But if you get a glimpse of him – just an inkling – you’ll want more and more of him, and less and less of everything else.
Our reading had two sections. First:
Listen to Jesus (28-36)
I may have mentioned this before(!), but whenever something significant happens in Luke’s gospel or Acts, we find either Jesus praying or his church praying.
Read Luke 9:28.
- Jesus is the model of prayer for you.
- Some people wonder why we should pray if God knows what he’s going to do anyway. “He’s sovereign.”
- The very fact that Jesus spent time in prayer ought to drive you to prayer.
- The fact that God binds his sovereignty to your prayers really ought to get you praying.
- Our prayer meetings should be bursting at the seams, and you should struggle to get a word of prayer in…
Just in case you missed the fact that Jesus was praying, Luke says it again for you: Read Luke 9:29.
- In the Old Testament, Moses went up into God’s presence at Mt Sinai. When he came down, his face shone for a while, and then faded.
- Moses’ face had shone with a reflected glory from God.
- But not Jesus. His glorious shining came from within – he is glorious in and of himself!
The event is known as the Mount of Transfiguration because Jesus was transfigured (changed) before his disciples.
Moses & Elijah
Now, read Luke 9:30.
Moses and Elijah are big names in the Old Testament. Under Moses, God rescued his people Israel from slavery in Egypt:
- In Exodus, we read about how they sacrificed Passover lambs as God brought judgment on Egypt.
- Israel passed through the Red Sea in safety.
- God gathered them at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. He called them his special possession and made a covenant.
- He would bless and protect them all the days they were obedient to him and under his laws, all in the covenant.
- God himself appeared in cloud above the mountain – a terrifying sight! But a glorious one!
We read about the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings, and in chapters 18 and 19 he’s at the top of two mountains: First Carmel, then Sinai.
- At Carmel, God clearly demonstrated his power and call to repentance to Israel. But the nation still rejected God.
- So God summoned Elijah hundred of miles south, to Mount Sinai where the covenant had been made.
- There, in a formal manner, the covenant with northern Israel was ended and judgment pronounced. A sad day.
So Moses and Elijah are key representatives of the Old Covenant (Old Testament): One at the start, one at the end (for northern Israel), both meeting with God at Mt Sinai. Also, Moses and Elijah are both mentioned in Malachi 4, the last chapter of the Old Testament. There they’re in the context of the coming Day of the Lord and the coming Messiah.
So, what’s the significance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus?
- At the very least, they represent the OT law and prophets.
- They also suggest the beginning and end of the Old Covenant (certainly for northern Israel).
- And they’re connected with the coming Messiah (Mal 4).
Moses, Elijah, and Jesus
Now we know who they are, why exactly did they meet with Jesus on top of this mountain? Read Luke 9:31. They were speaking of his departure – literally, his “exodus.” Jesus’ departure / exodus was about to happen in Jerusalem. At the very least, that’s his death and resurrection. We can probably include his ascension to heaven in that too.
At the first Exodus, Moses met with God on top of a mountain. God gathered his people under the Old Covenant. But now, on this mountain, we hear of a new exodus.
- This time, Jesus is the passover lamb.
- The death and resurrection of Jesus paves the way for you to pass through into life with him.
- God’s people will be gathered around Jesus, under a New Covenant (New Testament) in his name.
- Sealed with the blood of the New Covenant: Jesus’ blood.
Why did Jesus need to discuss all that with Moses and Elijah? For the benefit of the three disciples he’d taken with him.
The disciples see!
It seems likely this happened at night: Read Luke 9:32.
But now imagine: They’re fully awake, “they saw his glory” and recognise Moses and Elijah!
- It’s a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping moment in their lives.
- But Moses and Elijah start to walk away!
- You want it to last forever! Like your wedding day, or a perfect sunset, or a kind touch. Stay!
Read Luke 9:33.
He didn’t know what he was saying – he was suggesting that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were some kind of equals. He didn’t realise that Jesus was eclipsing them. And this is the big lesson for the disciples: Who Jesus really is.
Read Luke 9:34.
A cloud! Like at Mt Sinai, or the Tabernacle, or the appearance of God in Ezekiel 1, or Daniel 7, or…
They were afraid because God’s presence was there, and that is utterly terrifying. And they hear the voice of God! Read Luke 9:35.
It’s the voice of the Father, who said something very similar at Jesus’ baptism. Now: God is one, and he is in three persons:
- God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- They are co-equal, and each is wholly God.
- The Father is. The Son is eternally generated from the Father and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son.
- And each is God, and all are God, and God is one.
The Father’s voice
On that mountain, Peter James and John heard the voice of the Father.
- “This is my Son” – the eternal Son of God, divine creator. He is the Messiah king over all the world (Psalm 2:7).
- “The chosen one” – the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 42:1, the Messiah who would die for his people’s sins.
- “Listen to him” – to Jesus, founder and focus of the new covenant people of God, greater than Moses and Elijah.
Read Luke 9:36.
When all else is stripped away, there’s Jesus. His glory might be veiled from sight, but he’s there anyway. Jesus is all.
So, what’s this all about?
Why the transfiguration? Who cares?
The time link (8 days) links it with Peter’s identification of Jesus as the Messiah, God’s chosen anointed king.
- Jesus is the Messiah; he is the eternal Son of God.
- He is chosen to be the Suffering Servant – the one who will die to take the punishment you deserve.
- And he will achieve your salvation as he leads your exodus at Jerusalem, in his death and resurrection.
You’re also given a glimpse of Jesus’ resurrected, ascended glory – as he is now, right now this minute, in heaven!
- To glimpse it is to want it more and more!
- If Jesus isn’t the joy of heaven in your mind then you haven’t understood what heaven is: Cultivate a passion and appetite for Jesus himself!
- As you do that, you will find here an encouragement to take up your cross daily, to deny your self to be like him.
- The things of this life just don’t compare with being with him: He’s easier to follow when you glimpse his strength and glory today. Follow him!
And, if you’ve been listening to the Father, you’ll know to listen to the son: “Listen to him!”
- Listen to Jesus as he invites you (now) to salvation.
- Listen to Jesus, your king, in obedience to his kingdom life.
- As you listen to Jesus, you will find strength, hope, and encouragement.
- And you will bring him glory, and find him to be treasure.
And you can. Because even though he is the Lord of Glory, you can come to him today:
Come to Jesus (37-43)
If the transfiguration happened at night (they fell asleep), the next thing we read of is in the morning: Read Luke 9:37.
- We can experience all sorts of wonderful things in our Christian lives – the highs of baptisms, beautiful singing, helpful sermons, a precious moment in the Lord – but not every day is like that.
- Normal life isn’t like that (not in this life).
So the cloud is gone, and the crowds are back.
Read Luke 9:38-40.
- No glory, no splendour, no voice from heaven or Old Testament greats to see.
- Just broken, needy people.
- Very much the world we live in. In fact, compared with the transfiguration, we’re more familiar with the sad desperation of this father and son.
Now: Jesus had given his disciples power and authority to heal the sick and drive out demons: So what’s gone wrong here? Maybe he only gave that power and authority for a short time, but it seems they’ve at least tried – and failed. Whatever the reason the disciples failed, Jesus is frustrated.
Read Luke 9:41.
- Notice that the “you” in “how long will I be with you and put up with you” is plural – he’s speaking general frustration with the whole generation, not picking on the dad.
- Jesus says the generation of Israel around him are “unbelieving and perverse.”
- Moses had described his own generation with much the same words in Deuteronomy 32:5,20.
- Every generation from the opening of the Old Covenant (with Moses) to its very end (with Jesus’ death & resurrection / exodus) was the same.
- Jesus, Son of God, was expressing his grief, frustration, disappointment at generation after generation of people who had all the blessings of God among them, but remained in rebellion and unbelief.
“How long?” – he knew exactly. In that question, he was actually pointing once again to his exodus: Through which he brought a new covenant, a new world-wide people in his own name: Christians.
- Jesus is the only hope for all humanity, the only answer to its unbelief and perversion.
I was chatting with a lady last week and she made the point that the world is a mess (we can all see that) but that we’re actually all to blame, really.
- You, me, all of us contribute to the inequality and injustice of the world.
- Sweatshop clothes manufacturers give us cheap clothing; workers on tea plantations are abused while we enjoy our cuppa; people die of cold in their own homes while energy suppliers make obscene profits.
- Jesus looks around at generation after generation and calls each one “unbelieving and perverse”.
Jesus is the answer
And yet Jesus himself is the answer. However bad the broad situation, any one person can always come to him. You can. Read Luke 9:42-43a.
While Jesus has broad grief and frustration at our disobedient, unbelieving and perverse generation, he will always welcome an individual who calls to him for help.
You can come to Jesus for help. He invites you, and will help you. At the first exodus, God called a people to himself. In Jesus, the second exodus (as it were), God calls you.
He calls you out of a culture of unbelief and perversion, calls you out of your sin and rebellion. Those things separate you from God and would lead you to hell. But Jesus, Son of God, came into the world to save you. Repent of your sin, that would keep you way.
Turn from your sin to Jesus, asking for forgiveness of sin. Cry out to him for help.
Listen to him (Messiah, Son of God). For salvation; in obedience. Come to him:
- He desires it of you.
- Jesus will welcome you.
- He will forgive your sin, and restore your heart.