Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Have you ever had a perspective changer? I mean, have you ever thought one way about something for so long until something happened that made you have a change of perspective? Made you think about something a little differently? It happens all the time in our world. A kid can go through high school or college having all sorts of fun and little thought about the future until graduation day comes and he has a perspective change, “Oh, now I have to start settling down and get a job, etc.” Someone can live a certain way and hear the doctor tell him again and again, “You need to start taking care of yourself,” but never change. Then the doctor says, “If you don’t change, then you’ll be lying a casket in 3 months!” All of sudden there’s a perspective change: eating healthy and exercise are a good things! And you can probably think of your own examples in your own life. Well, today in our text we see how God gave the disciples and us a perspective change.
Try to put yourself in the disciples’ shoes for a bit, in fact, put yourself in the shoes of one of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples: Peter, James, John. You’ve been following Jesus for about 2 ½ years now. You’ve heard Him teach and preach incredible things, fascinating things about God. You’ve also witnessed Him do amazing miracles like feeding 5,000 people, healing the sick, driving out demons, and as we heard last week, walk right through an angry crowd. Everything Jesus has said and done has led you to the conviction, just like Peter said, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. But then there’s also these several times when Jesus told them that He would be betrayed, rejected, suffer, die, and on the third day be raised to life. But this never really sank in to the disciples heads so that even though they were told about it, they weren’t really ready when it happened. Well, one of these times when Jesus told the disciples about His impending suffering, death, and rising was just before our text. In fact our text says, “About eight days after Jesus said this.” Then comes this extraordinary event meant to be a perspective changer for the disciples. Something they could look back to in order to change their perspective when the going got tough.
Jesus took His three closer disciples with Him on top of a mountain to pray. Now perhaps this happened during the night because we’re told that the disciples were “very sleepy”, “burdened with sleep.” But as Jesus was praying His face changed (it shone like the sun Matthew says), His clothes became bright like lightning (dazzling white, as Mark puts it). Then Moses and Elijah, who had lived on earth 1400 and 900 years earlier, also appeared in glorious splendor and were talking with Jesus! They were talking with him about His departure, His death and resurrection in Jerusalem, no doubt how everything in the OT was fulfilled in Him. When the disciples wake up seeing this seen, they’re amazed. Peter knows this is an awesome thing and he wants to capture the moment so he said, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But Jesus didn’t respond to him. Instead a cloud came and enveloped them, the disciples were afraid and didn’t know what was going on. Then God the Father spoke, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” More than anything what does God want? He wants His people to listen to His chosen Son, listen to His words, the very words the disciples failed to grasp! Then they found Jesus alone and ready to go back down the mountain.
So what does this have to do with us? Jesus’ transfiguration give us a helpful perspective change in 3 areas: delights, discouragements, and death.
Perspective changer number 1: Dealing with earthly delights. God doesn’t want us to get too attached or too comfortable in our lives here on earth. Peter recognized that he was in a glorious situation. He had Jesus, Moses, and Elijah right there! This is a moment that he wanted to preserve, so he offered to build some shelters for them so they would stick around. But notice what Jesus did…nothing. He didn’t respond to Peter. Peter wanted a heaven on earth so-to-speak, but that isn’t what Jesus came for. Moses and Elijah disappeared. Jesus descended that mountain to go into suffering. God doesn’t want us to get too comfortable here with the things of this world, with our creature comforts. Why? Not only are the things of this world fleeting and temporary, but they can also distract us from what is most important: God and His Word. Let’s not get too caught up with trying to find a “heaven on earth.” Let us be ready to leave all, forsake all things, even our very lives for the sake of following our Savior!
Perspective changer number 2: Dealing with discouragements. Jesus’ disciples were about to follow Him down the mountain of transfiguration into the valley of suffering and death. After this event Jesus would make His last and final journey to Jerusalem where He would not just be betrayed, mocked, and suffer physically, but far greater than that he would take upon Himself the full wrath of God for the sins of the world. It would be tempting for the disciples to get discouraged, to be afraid, to doubt God, to wonder what’s going on, to become depressed. How could this happen? They would be tempted to fight back, to flee in fright, and to fasten doors for the fear of the Jews. But need they? Did God not give them a perspective changer here? Jesus was not just some ordinary human they were following, but rather, Jesus was God’s own Son, Jesus has all glory and all majesty all the time!
And this is a perspective changer for you and me too! Jesus has promised that just like He descended the mount of transfiguration and would go through much suffering and would die on the cross that anyone who would come after him must also deny themselves take up their cross and follow Him. But that’s not easy, is it? As soon as something goes against us, as soon as something goes wrong in our lives, as soon as something doesn’t turn out the way that we planned, what thoughts enter our mind? Is our prayer to God, “Oh, Lord, I know this is not what I planned, but may your will be done. I firmly trust in your grace and love to work all things out for my eternal good, instead of leaning on my own understanding I trust in you. I will serve you with my whole heart no matter what my circumstance will be.” Is that our prayer when things aren’t going right? Or are we more apt to question God? “What in the world is going on, Lord? Why is this happening? Are you really in control? I mean, it sure doesn’t seem to be! You’re not doing what I want to be done! Do you really care about me? God, after all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me? Come on!” Hmm. Jesus said, “Deny yourself.” Don’t lean on your own reasoning or your own understanding, but trust in him no matter what. And think about it, if the disciples had only taken to heart this scene on the mountain of transfiguration oh how their perspective would have changed for the upcoming days! Instead with trusting hearts they would think, “This is the very Son of God, who has all glory in heaven and on earth, this is God himself, whatever He does or allows to be done to Him will be for the best! This is God! Even if He dies, He’s able to rise from the dead!” That’s a perspective changer!
And this perspective changer wasn’t just for the disciples, it was meant also for us, so God had it recorded in his holy word. God wants us to know without a doubt that Jesus is the true God. He has all the glory and majesty as God Himself. That changes our perspective as we consider the next six weeks of Lent. As we go into Lent we’re going to see Jesus go through intense sufferings, suffering the wrath of God for the sins of the world. And yet, what does this moment on Transfiguration Mountain teach us? That this isn’t just a man, this is God Himself! The only way Lent could happen is if Jesus chose to do it, He’s God! What depth of love that God himself would lower Himself to suffer and die for YOUR sins! The fact that Jesus is God Himself as He suffers and dies shows you that God must love you more than you will ever know! And if God went to such great lengths to suffer and die for you, will he not also be with you every day? Will he not also take care of your needs? Will he not also watch over you, protect you, work things out for your good? Absolutely!
Perspective changer number 3: Dealing with death. Who was Jesus talking to? Moses and Elijah. Where were they? Not dead, but alive! They were in heaven. We aren’t told they were afraid at seeing Jesus in glory, in fact, we’re told that they were shining in glory too! Why? All because of what Jesus was about to do on the cross, the very topic that they were discussing with Jesus before it even happened. You see, the death of loved ones or even our own death is a reality that each one of us must face. But even death is something that God changes our perspective on. The fact that Moses and Elijah, both true believers and in God in the Savior, appeared with Jesus shows that they are alive and well and already for a long time enjoying the eternal glory of heaven! Our loved ones who die in the faith are right now enjoying eternal glory and we will see them again!
So as we go about our life we’ll deal with things like delights and discouragements and death, but having seen what happened on this Mount of Transfiguration, God’s given us a glorious change of perspective. Amen.