Summary: When we think about the incident known as the transfiguration of Jesus, why it happened is more important than what happened.
I heard a story recently about a terrible fire in a chemical plant. Several area fire departments responded to the blaze, and quite a crowd from the entire area gathered at a distance to watch. The media was there in helicopters and satellite remote trucks. The president of the company was among the crowd, and he was frantic. He gathered together the chiefs of all the fire departments and explained to them that in the midst of the inferno was a safe that contained all the company’s super-sensitive documents including the top-secret formulas for all their best-selling products. He pledged to give a $500,000 donation to the fire department that brought the blaze under control and saved all the super-sensitive documents in the safe.
The chiefs rallied their firemen and women, pulled out all the stops attempting to bring the blaze under control, but it wasn’t happening. The fire continued to rage. After quite some time the crowd heard another siren in the distance that kept growing louder. Before long this old beat up, dilapidated 1930’s style fire engine filled with a bunch of men in their 60’s and 70’s came roaring through the crowd, right past all the other fire departments. The truck didn’t even slow down as it burst through the front door of the plant and right into the middle of the blazing inferno. Everyone, firefighters, media members and the crowd just gasped thinking about what these guys did. However, before long the fire was under control and this group of aged firefighters stumbled out the front of the plant coughing. Everyone cheered their heroic effort. They saved the safe. A few hours later in front of the gutted plant the president of the company handed the 82 year old chief a check for half a million dollars. In the press conference that followed, one reporter asked the chief what they planned to do with that incredible reward. He didn’t even hesitate. "These guys already told me they want to buy a new fire engine that has some brakes!"
I tell you that story for a couple of reasons. First of all, I thought it was funny. But more important, there is a lesson we need to learn in it. Every story, every situation, every incident has at least two levels to it. The first level is what happened, the facts of what occurred (Who, what, when, where and how). Though sometimes the bare facts are interesting if they are outrageous or off-beat, most often the bare facts of a scenario are that, pretty bare. What adds spice and interest to the facts of any situation is the motivation. It seems to me that why something happen is usually more interesting than what happened, even if what happened is a phenomenal event.
With that kind of thinking process, the Bible becomes very exciting reading to me. Events and situations that could seem like dusty old ancient history come alive with interest and intrigue when you look behind the scenes to the rest of the story. When you read what happened to Jesus and His disciples, it is always interesting to ask the question, "How come God allowed that to happen?" or "Why did God act like that?" Our passage for this morning is a prime example to consider as we think not just about what happened, but why.
What an incredible event! Imaging being one of those 3 apostles, seeing Jesus changed into a being brighter than the noonday sun. What would it have been like to be there to see Jesus chatting with Moses and Elijah, heroes of the faith from thousands of years in the past? Just the bare story of the transfiguration is incredible in and of itself. But what about the behind the scenes stuff? This morning I want us to think past what happened to the real meaning of the events. When you ask questions like "Why did this happen?" or "What is God teaching us through these events?" it really gets interesting. Through the incident recorded here in Matthew 17, it seems to me that God was teaching us at least three vital lessons.
1. He Is Teaching Us Important Theology.
In the church sometimes when you use the word theology, people’s eyes start to glaze over. They think you are going to start using big words like propitiation, sanctification or transfiguration or some other left field term that they have no clue about. But Christians talk about theology all the time. All the word theology means is "thinking about God." When you are a Christian, everything you do in life is based on your theological understanding. If you have bad theology, in other words if you think wrong things about God, it can make you believe wrong things, which can affect the way you live. On the other hand, good theology helps us view the world rightly, and ultimately guides us to live the lives God created us to live.