Day Twenty-four: Thursday, July 9th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 17:1-27
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“No one except Jesus”
“They fell facedown to the ground, terrified.” The “they” are Peter, James, and John. What terrified them is one of the most stunning and dramatic displays of glory in all the bible. After taking these three disciples with him up a high mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. Matthew tells us, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Jesus was transfigured right before their eyes. The disciples caught a glimpse of his heavenly glory. We need the transfiguration. God took the incarnation so seriously he sent Jesus as a real human being. God truly became one of us. Remember how dismissive the people of his hometown had been? “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (Matthew 13:54-58) In his hometown we are told they took offense at him.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, we see who Jesus really is. This carpenter’s son was the Son of another. On the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father in heaven speaks. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The transfiguration involves more than bright lights. The pillars of faith stand side by side with Jesus. Moses (The Law) and Elijah (The Prophets) are right there with him. Disciples, even one who just six days before made the dramatic declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” fall down in fear when they catch even a glimpse of the true identity of Jesus.
The scene fades. The lights dim. Moses and Elijah disappear. And there is no one there except Jesus. Peter remembered that moment in vivid detail. Long after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter wrote of that day, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (II Peter 1:16-18)
This is a teachable moment. This is a teachable moment that builds on the teachable moment that occurred just six days before. In Matthew 16 Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. In chapter 17 God declares, “This is my Beloved son…” Eyes are opened. Hearts are moved. Glory is revealed. Divine identity is revealed. These things all work together to create a teachable moment.
What does Jesus teach in these teachable moments?
- In chapter 16 we read, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…” (Matthew 16:21 ff)
- In chapter 17 we read, “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead….In the same way (John the Baptist suffered) the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’” (Matthew 17:9-12)
- And later in chapter 17, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (17:22,23)
We have the incredible honor and privilege of walking with Jesus up the Mount of Transfiguration. We will see the stunning display of bright light. We will hear God’s voice heaping praise on Jesus. The glory of the Lord will be revealed. Then the scene fades. The lights dim. Moses and Elijah disappear. And there is no one there except Jesus. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus. We cannot take our eyes off Jesus. And now he moves down this mountain…on his way to another mountain…to a hill called Calvary. On Calvary there will also be no one except Jesus, the Beloved Son of God, who will give his life for the salvation of this world…for the salvation of you…for the salvation of me. “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God should die for me?” (Charles Wesley, “And Can it Be?”)
“The transfiguration does not intend to transport the faithful into a transhistorical realm, where
Jesus is lit up from the inside and having discourse with famous figures long since dead! Rather, it intends to confess that these untutored, down-to-earth men and women who left everything and followed Jesus, hardly knowing why—these same persons, later, knew that they had been drawn to him because, for all his obvious humanity, something radiated from him that spoke of
ineffable and eternal truth. Some of them remembered now, when he had left them, one incident in particular when this radiance seemed to manifest itself almost… visibly…what (the transfiguration) affirms about the early church’s foundational belief about Jesus is namely,
that he was not just another exceptional human being, prophet, or great teacher and example for all, but the decisive representation of the Divine, the source and judge of life.” (Douglas John Hall, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 1, pages 454 and 456)