Friday 4 August 2023

 M A T T H E W  17, V 1-13

The story of the Transfiguration.

This is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. It is called the Transfiguration story,        because the clothes of Jesus changed and became so bright, glittering a dazzling white. It comes just after Jesus had been asking His Apostles who they thought He was, and received Peter’s great confession, and after He had told them He was on the way to the Cross to die and then be raised.

In Jewish history, the luminous robe of Jesus stood for the shekinah, the glory of Almighty God.

Jesus wanted to be on the mountain top, and took with Him on the journey three Apostles with whom He appeared to have a special relationship, namely Peter, James and John; these three Apostles were also with Jesus when He raised Jairus’ daughter, and in His agony in the garden. The mountain was thought to be Mount Hermon, one so high it could be seen from many miles away.  The climb must have been strenuous, for Luke tells us they were feeling sleepy and tired.

Jesus was going up the mountain that He might receive God’s confirmation, that it was the intention for Him to go to the Cross.  Jesus we find always was anxious to consult with God at His every step.  Here is a lesson and good advice for us.

It may be asked,  why it was necessary to go up a  mountain to pray. If you have ever been to Scottish Highlands, and gone up the mountains to the top of the Cairngorms, you will realize how close you feel to God. You can there gaze down on scenery unsurpassed in any other country, and see one of God’s most glorious creations.  You can feel close to God on a mountain top, away from the ordinary things of life.

Mountains figure conspicuously in the Bible.  It was on Mount Sinai that Moses received the Commandments; Mount Horeb that God spoke to Elijah.  

Jesus we are told was transfigured on this Mountain, meaning His appearance changed, and he met there those two great figures of the Bible,  and in the history of Israel; Moses was the greatest law giver, and Elijah the supreme prophet, through whom God spoke. They discussed the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, and   advised Jesus to go on.

 People are puzzled as to how God speaks to men, and they scoff at such talk.  I believe a lot of what is claimed to be from God is self -manipulated.  I once visited a Theological Collegewhere ordinands were completing their training, and I was surprised to hear how God had told so many to go to the South of England; I am sure God really does care for the North as well.

God speaks to us in several ways.  Sometimes it is through a preacher.  I had a lady who came to Church very infrequently, and one time she said I always seemed to be getting at her.  I told her that as I prepared beforehand and never knew when she was coming, it may be that someone higher than me was getting at her.

Many people were converted by one of the posters containing Scriptural messages placed by the London City Mission in the Tube Stations.  Sometime God speaks through our conscience, or when we pray about something and an answer comes into our mind, not always perhaps the answer we want, although probably for your ultimate good. If you have something worrying you, ask God to help you, telling  Him your problem, then wait for an answer.

When Peter realised what was happening, he offered to build three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  He was struck with awe, and wanted to prolong the experience, and offered to build three tabernacles. Jesus rebuked him, for he was in error in that he was equating Jesus with Moses and Elijah. 

We all like to feel we are on top of the world,  both figuratively and actually, but most of us live their lives more realistically on the level, or down in a valley.

This can happen at worship. When Billy Graham came to England, thousands went to hear him and came away on a spiritual mountain.  They had heard the world’s greatest and most successful preacher, massed choirs singing glorious hymns; then the following Sunday went to Church and realised they had come down to earth with a shattering bump.  Instances were quoted of Vicars mocking Billy and wanting their old staid services, some Bishops even wanted to stop him coming.  Even now, Church leaders are anxious to change Scripture to meet cultural desires.

The lesson of the Transfiguration, is that we must always let God speak to us and follow His Word; He has a plan for all our lives.  When we turn to Him, we too can reach a mountain top, but also we can close our minds to Him and lie in the valley.

This passage tells of Moses, who had died many years before, as did Elijah, yet there they are alive but in glory.  This should indicate to us that when our last breath is breathed in this life, there is another to come, another world beyond the grave.

There is much mysterious about the future, things we cannot understand, but let us be sure God has all planned, and Jesus is taking care of those who have gone to be with Him, as He will with us. 

You may say you cannot believe this story, be careful you do not confuse the unimaginable with the unbelievable. This story is told by Matthew, Mark and Luke.

This story gives a vision of the glory, which Christ will appear when He returns, The Apostles were being encouraged by seeing what will happen when Jesus comes in majesty with His disciples. We are told of the sunlit face, and the very white cloak portraying Jesus as King.

We are being told of the coming glory of the Lord. In the present world we are surrounded by sin, unbelief and rejection, and there is little to be proud of or suggest change, but we are not to doubt that Jesus and His followers have a future we cannot envisage.  It has not only been promised, but the Apostles with Jesus on the mountain were giving evidence.

 In addition, Peter in his second Letter, spoke of this event saying the  Apostles saw this splendid majesty, which Jesus will appear having received honour and glory from God the Father.

Peter tells they heard the voice say. 'This is my dearly loved Son who brings me great joy'. John also writes in a Letter, that the Apostles saw His glory.

We are told of the appearance of Moses and Elijah, with Jesus in bodily form.  Moses died four hundred and eighty years earlier, and Elijah died two hundred years after Moses, yet both were talking with Jesus.

Most of us wonder, especially as we grow older, what happens when we die.  We wonder if we will meet again those we loved and lost.

Now, having studied the Transfiguration story we have the clearest evidence the dead will rise. This should inspire all who follow Jesus as Lord and Saviour, those who truly accept that Jesus died for them, will be called to life again.

I am constantly amazed, that men and women can actually watch television and emulate what they see, being unable to separate fiction and fact.  The same people will deny any biblical drama, and when God shows us what He can do, it is cynically rejected.

God is a god of the living, and those we have lost, are living as surely  as    when we are living ourselves. I  live for the day when I will meet my dear wife again, and have every confidence it will happen.

There is much you may find hard to understand about in this story. There was mystery to the Apostles,on whom it was a great impact, and it may have that on us.  For Peter, it was a beacon on the ocean of faith years later. when the Church was debating what it meant to be faithful, and he remembered this event.

The Church has faced many challenges, by people who wanted to adapt their own views. Times have not changed, in fact they have got much worse as our woke leaders with all their ideology, would play around to include equality and diversity into the story.

Peter pointed to Christ, and we should not let ourselves be taken over by clever arguments  All Christians should let the Bible be our guiding light. We are given the abiding  witness of Jesus, who has promised to be with us through our lives.

May God bless His Holy Word to us and His Holy Name be praised.

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