Matthew 17:1-9


“To live in the past and future is easy.  

To live in the present is like threading a needle.”

-Eugene Peterson, Reserved Thunder, quoting Walker Percy 

Late one afternoon a five-year-old boy climbed an oak tree in his family’s yard.  As he scrambled up close to the top, he looked down…and panicked!  He grabbed the nearest branch and hugged it for dear life.  He was so paralyzed with fear he could not move back down.  He just held on for dear life.   For at least 30 minutes.  Finally a fire truck arrived and a rescuer climbed up to the boy.  He said, “Don’t look down.  Just look at my face.”  AS the boy’s eyes focused on the face of his rescuer, he was able to relax.  His rescuer was able to take him from his perch and carrying him safely back to the ground.  

When we are paralyzed by fear—of the future or the unknown; when we wallow in the past; when we are frozen in our problems of greed or bitterness or worry, we need to allow God’s Spirit to redirect our gaze and look at Jesus, and listen to Him through His Word once again.  We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  The story of the transfiguration helps us do just that.  

The Transfiguration is a special vision, a divine revelation and as such a significant account in the New Testament.  

Both Peter and John allude to it in their writings—2 Peter 1:16-21 and John 1:14.   They were there.  They are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ unveiled glory.

There are several points of significance that we might connect with the Transfiguration.  

  • It parallels Moses’ experience on Mt. Sinai from our Old Testament reading where he spends six days waiting and then is engulfed in a dense cloud from which God speaks.  
  • The words God spoke, “This is My Son, whom I love.  With Him I am well please”  are the same words spoken at Jesus’ baptism.  It seems that Jesus’ identity and mission are being clearly focused on; Jesus is God’s “Anointed One” our Messiah, the Savior of the world.
  • Moses’ & Elijah’s appearance embodies the Old Testament Law and Prophets.  Luke tells us the three, Jesus, Moses and Elijah talk of Jesus’ approaching death in Jerusalem.  The clear message here seems to be that the Old Testament points to Christ and its prophecies regarding the promised Messiah are fulfilled in and through Christ Jesus.  This is emphasized by the cloud enveloping Jesus, Moses and Elijah along with the disciples and God’s voice booming from the cloud repeating the words spoken at Jesus’ baptism: 

“This is My Son, the Beloved; with Him I am well pleased” and then the added command:  LISTEN TO HIM!

The witness of the New Testament writings clearly affirm Jesus as God’s Son, our Redeemer, the Savior of the world. 

Peter’s response is probably not that different from what you and I might have done.  He wanted to DO SOMETHING.  He was so taken back, so impressed (let alone so groggy with sleep) that he wanted to do something for God.  The building of three booths (or tabernacles) seems to reflect the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness where they lived in tents and worshipped around the tabernacle of God’s presence. 

God’s instruction to Peter, James and John applies to us today.

“This is My Son…Listen to Him.”  After God spoke the disciples see only Jesus (Moses & Elijah are gone).  He touches & comforts them.  

Jesus instructed the disciples not to tell anyone until after the resurrection.  

The application for us—

Christian worship is when we focus on Christ, His Person; and on the cross, His suffering and death on our behalf.  Transformational worship takes us to Golgotha and Calvary, the empty tomb and Pentecost.  

Sometimes we think we have to do something, but it is our focus on Christ—on what He has done—that changes and transforms us.  

Christian worship is when we get ourselves out of the way.  

Christian worship is when we surrender our own agendas and demands at the cross and allow God’s Spirit to focus us on Christ.  Christian worship is when we hear Jesus speaking to us through the Word, when we hear the Spirit breathed words breathing God’s breath and  New Life in us.  

Christian worship under the cross and at the empty tomb are the best preparation for being able to tell others about the great things God has done for us in Christ.  No wonder Jesus said to wait until after He had been raised from the dead.  When we have experienced the reality of the crucified and risen Savior in our own lives, then we can speak from personal experience.  

God give us that clarity of focus in our worship this morning.  God give us that clearness of proclamation as we share the reality of God’s love for us in Christ by how we live and speak our Spirit empowered faith.  

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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