Summary: The Transfiguration dramatatically demonstrated that Jesus is more than a simple Rabbi. To the disciples still struggling to figure out who He is, it a powerful revelation of Jesus' divinity.
Today we begin our journey to the cross, to that one Event that divided history in half, to the one Event that tore the veil between God and humanity.
This one Event is specifically why you are here today and why, if you have faith today in Jesus Christ, your life is completely different than if would have been otherwise. The cross is why we have triumphant hope.
It is what has brought us together as a community. It is why we can be born-again, why we have a living relationship with the living God.
And this year we wanted to mark the journey to the cross by looking at the events that led up to Good Friday, the day Jesus died for our sins.
So we’re calling the Sundays leading up to Easter Sunday: “Journeying with Jesus”, and, in good Church at the Mission form, we’re going to look at the events leading to the cross out-of-sequence.
In a few weeks our youth will be leading the entire worship service on the theme of Jesus’ 40-days in the desert. That is where Jesus is tempted by Satan to abandon His calling, to abandon His journey to the cross for the purpose of self-interest. Please pray for the youth as they prepare the worship and the message for that day, on March 14th.
Today we’re going to look at the second step in Jesus’ journey to the cross, and that is the Transfiguration.
We need to place the Transfiguration in its proper context. Let’s zoom through the gospel of Matthew: By around chapter 16, a number of critical things have happened.
Jesus has given his revolutionary, radical manifesto for Kingdom living that we know as the Beatitudes; He has taught us the principals of the Kingdom in Matthew chapters 5-7. He has healed a leper, healed a gentile Centurion’s servant.
He has cast demons out of people. He’s taught his disciples extensively about how they were to conduct their lives and ministries after He was no longer with them. Jesus has challenged the Pharisee’s and other religious leaders rather gently at first about what it really means to serve God. He’s taught parable after parable of the Kingdom.
He has endured the murder of his cousin John the Baptist at the hand of Herod. He’s fed 5000 + and then 4000+ with a few loaves and fishes.
He has ramped up his conversations with the religious leaders because, as He said, they had been breaking God’s commands for the sake of their traditions. He begins to call the Pharisees hypocrites and blind guides whose worship of God was in vain, their teachings nothing but human rules.
He has specifically warned His disciples about the teachings of the Pharisees, pretty much completely discrediting them as leaders leading people astray.
Numerous miracles have been performed by Jesus. People in general have developed a huge interest in Jesus as a result of all these things we’ve touched on. And Jesus knows this. He knows.
And so he asks His disciples: “Who do people say I am?” The disciples have had their ear to the ground so they know the buzz about Jesus: “"Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Then Jesus asks Peter in chapter 16: “Who do you say I am?” Peter has his own insights that he’s gotten not from the crowds, not from popular understandings, but from his own experience of Jesus and from what God has revealed to him.
“"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."”, says Peter. Peter gets Jesus. Peter GETS Jesus. But in the next breath, after Jesus has predicted His own murder, Peter, in deep sorrow for what Jesus has said, Peter is rebuked by Jesus for being human-focused rather than focusing on God’s purposes.
Finally, right before our passage today, Jesus has just said: v24-25”"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it”.
So now Jesus is with His disciples on the way to Jerusalem, on the way to the cross. Clearly, there’s confusion about who He is. He has spoken so radically and with such authority and with all kinds of miracles accompanying His teaching.
It’s KIND OF obvious that Jesus is pretty special. When you include things Jesus says both in Matthew and in the other gospel accounts, He has made strong claims to be God. He has made it clear that He and the Father are one. He has proven His divinity by His miracles.
There shouldn’t be much confusion, especially for the disciples, as to Who Jesus is, but there is. A lot of confusion. And even for the three among the disciples who are closest to Jesus, for Peter and for James and for John, they’re a little befuddled. Who wouldn’t be?