Sermon for Sunday, February 23rd, 2020, Quinquagesima Sunday
The Lessons: Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
The Text: Matthew 17:1-9
The Topic: Listen to God’s Beloved Son
The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south.”
Promptly a return message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”
The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south – I am the captain!”
Soon another message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north – I am seaman third class Jones.”
Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: “Alter your course 10 degrees south – I am a battleship.”
Then the reply came: “Alter your course 10 degrees north – I am a lighthouse.”
In the midst of our dark and foggy times, all sorts of voices are shouting orders into the night, telling us what to do, how to adjust our lives. Out of the darkness, one voice signals something quite opposite to the rest – something almost absurd. But the voice happens to be the Light of the World, and we ignore it at our peril.
– p. 309, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers and Writers from Craig Brian Larson and Leadership Journal. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Bakerbooks, 2002. Second Printing, 2008.
The Transfiguration holds before us the goal of all our spiritual journeys – to be conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ in his perfection and purity by loving and obeying Him.
MATTHEW 17:1-9: THE TRANSFIGURATION AND THE LESSON LEARNT
Six days after Jesus foretells his death and resurrection, he takes with him his three closest disciples, Peter, James and John, and leads them up an high mountain by themselves (Matthew 17:1). Perhaps the mention of six days was intended to allude to the covering of the mountain with the cloud of God’s glory for six days, to which reference is made in our First Lesson (Exodus 24:16), and God’s call to Moses to come up to him on the seventh day.
The purpose of the Transfiguration was to demonstrate to Peter, James and John, the nature, the identity, and the purity of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that from that time on, they might never doubt the deity of the Lord, nor question his perfect obedience to the Father, even when his ignominious death on a cross appeared to negate his divine identity.
What, then, did those three disciples see? They saw Jesus transformed in front of them, so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes appeared as white as the light (Mt. 17:2). This reminds us of St. John’s vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 1, in which the countenance of the Lord was like the sun shining at full strength (Rev. 1:16). In both visions, it is clear that the Lord Jesus Christ appears in his divinity, and in his absolute holiness and purity. Together with Jesus, and in conversation with him, the disciples saw Moses and Elijah, which was significant, because Elijah was taken up into heaven and never died, and Moses, though he died, it remained unknown exactly where God buried him (Deut. 34:6). Moses represented the Law of God, and Elijah, the Prophets, but both Moses and Elijah lived lives that were pleasing to God. Their association with Jesus in the vision of the Transfiguration shows, I believe, that the path of Jesus’ life was directed by God, and foretold in the prophetic writings as well as by Moses. In his life of absolute purity, holiness, and obedience, Jesus was walking according to God’s perfect will.
But Peter is so excited by this vision that he offers to make three tabernacles, one each for Moses, Elijah and Jesus, not realizing that he is seeing a vision. God answers Peter directly from a bright cloud overshadowing them (Matthew 17:5), telling him the truth he should have learnt from this vision: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5b, KJV). The effect of this voice is to terrify the disciples, so that they fall prostrate to the ground in fear and worship, after which Jesus touches them and tells them to rise and not be afraid. When they do so, they see no-one but Jesus alone.
The lesson Peter, James and John learnt was that Jesus Christ is God’s Beloved Son, and must be heard and obeyed.
The same Lord Jesus Christ who was transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James and John, is the Head of the Church, and the same lesson God brought home to those disciples on the mountain, he teaches us today, that because the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s Beloved Son, we must obey him!
It was because our Lord is perfectly obedient to God the Father, as well as because He is God’s Beloved Son, that all creation will be made subject to him, and confess him as Lord:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
(Philippians 2:5-11, KJV)
Are you following the Lord Jesus Christ daily by listening to him and obeying him?