Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor’
© March 26 17, 2017 by Steve Mickelson
Based on Messages shared at BLCF on Sunday, August 17, 2014
Announcements and Call to Worship:
Opening Prayer: Matthew 6:9-14
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you
Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know; Choruses
Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Opening Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know
Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests
Let us pray…
Good morning and welcome, again, to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Sunday Praise and Worship service, in the heart of Toronto. An important part of a believer’s praise and worship is setting aside part of your day for prayer. In order to sense God’s presence, it is helpful to make that prayer time in the quiet of the day. Often that time is either early in the morning or late at night when it is quiet and free from distractions. At times of particular need or concern, for oneself or for others, is another good time to converse with the Lord through prayer. And of course, don’t forget to praise Him at times of victory and to thank Him for answered prayer.
For the Mickelson family, prayer time came at the end of the day, at the very least. Sophie and I started this tradition after we were married, and carried it on with our children. With the kids, the prayer would be a time to remember everyone in the family and to remember those in the extended family, as well as prayer concerns for our friends. Often, prayer time included reading from the Bible. I am happy to see that my eldest child, Athena, now married with three children of her own carries on the tradition of prayer before bed.
The Scriptures indicate that for Jesus, the preferred time for prayer was the evening, in a quiet place, such as a mountain top or in a garden. In this morning’s scripture, in Luke 9, we see that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray.
On one occasion, the Scriptures record that Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, John, and James, to pray on a mountain. It was on this mountain, which many scholars believe to be Mount Tabor, an event described in Luke 9:27-36, that the three disciples bore witness to something more than just the Lord at prayer:
Luke 9:27-36 (ESV)
27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Jesus brought along with him Peter, James, and John, where it is described in verse 32 that the three became “heavy with sleep”. The scriptures do not say why they started to become drowsy. You might speculate that it was from the exertion of climbing the mount. A similar thing happened to those who joined Jesus when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his crucifixion. I believe part of it may be the effect of being in God’s presence. Needless to say, the three awoke to see that Jesus’ appearance had changed: both his face and clothing were transfigured, and he seemed to be floating among the clouds. And Jesus was observed talking with Moses and Elijah.
Transfigured is an interesting word. It is the English translation from the Greek Scriptures of “metamorpho” meaning to transform, literally or figuratively, to metamorphose, or to change. It is a verb and therefore means to change into another form. Christ’s death and resurrection are often symbolized by the butterfly, which changes or metamorphoses in a chrysalis from a larva, then to a pupa, and then ending as a butterfly. These changes are similar to Christ began in human form before the crucifixion, then as the Resurrected Christ, and finally, as the Ascended Christ.
What a sight that must have been to behold! And then to actually hear the voice of God stating: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”
It is interesting to note that God appears to make this statement as a response to Peter’s impulsive suggestion that the three disciples should build three tents in honour of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. If you go back to verse 27, you will see that perhaps God’s words were spoken, not as a reaction to the comment by the disciple about building temples. More likely, God spoke in agreement with the statement made by Jesus, as we see recorded in John 9:27: “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
This is not the first time that the disciples struggled to comprehend the meaning and significance of a miracle of Jesus that they had just witnessed. For what they had observed was a glimpse of the glory of Heaven that Jesus alluded to in Luke 9, verse 27.
This miracle, like that where Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee, was another of the rare miracles in the Gospels, where Jesus was the object of the miracle.
Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration to be “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented the baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.
Another instance in the Scriptures of God speaking occurred just after Jesus was baptized, where the Father spoke from Heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.” For Jesus, this was his own personal Pentecost, where the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him.
The Transfiguration of Jesus is significant in that we have an account of the promise of Heaven and the Resurrected Life. By contrast Christ’s baptism, the Holy Spirit is observed afterward descending, “like a dove”, upon him. In this passage of Scripture recorded in Matthew 3:16-17, we have a presentation of the trinity of God, God’s voice in Heaven, Jesus the son’s baptism, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All three are distinct, and each being the presence of God.
There is a third account in the New Testament, where a voice speaks from Heaven, which occurs during the conversion of Paul, known formerly as Saul of Tarsus. That account is given in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, verses 1-7, when Saul of Tarsus hears the Son of God ask “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul, whose job was to arrest the followers of Christ, asks who is speaking? To which Jesus replies “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” indicating that an offense against a believer of Christ is considered to be an offense against Christ. Jesus then instructs him to “rise and enter the city” and that he would be told what to do.
The significance of this passage is how God convicts non-believers of faith, and how even the most stubborn of non-believers can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Paul sometimes referred to as the thirteenth Apostle, had his conversion after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is interesting that before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a member of the religious order which had Jesus put to death, and stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the followers of Christ.
Going back to Luke 9 and the Transfiguration, one may question why John, James, and Peter, were privy to this Heavenly vision of seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus regarding his impending departure in Jerusalem. By departure, we are talking about the crucifixion as the Chosen One.
Though Jesus died for our sins, to redeem believers, so that they may become righteous and be acceptable unto God. All of the disciples, save John, died violent deaths because of their beliefs and their sharing of the miracles that Jesus performed, the most important being his resurrection, his ascension, and his gifting of the Holy Spirit. James was put to death by a sword, by order of King Herod. Peter, being a Roman citizen was not crucified; instead, he was beheaded in Rome, at the order of Nero. John, the first of the twelve disciples to follow Jesus, and the last to die, did not die a violent death. The Apostle John did live long enough to see Jesus, as well as the eleven disciples, including his brother, James, die violently because of their beliefs.
The disciple’s individual faith may have wavered at one time or another, each disciple, save for Judas Iscariot, was put to death in a violent manner, because of the conviction of the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is Christ’s Gospel.
Further support to the notion is found in Luke 9 verse 27, “some standing here will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God” referring to Peter, James, and John, the three who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who later acknowledged having seen the Kingdom of Heaven.
For Peter, we read in 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV):
16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
It seems quite clear that Peter refers to the Transfiguration on the mount as a view of the majesty of the risen Christ and the voice of God in Heaven.
With John, we read another acknowledgment of glory in the Transfiguration:
John 1:14 (ESV)
14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Most scholars of the Bible agree that in the vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that Moses represents the Laws or the Sacred Scriptures of God, as Moses had authored five of the book of the Old Testament, and he delivered God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people. Elijah represents the Prophets of God. Jesus represents both the authority of God, and fulfillment of both the Word and the Prophets.
The account of Jesus’ baptism records the presence of the Trinity of God. The Trinity is observed again in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus, the son, was observed with Moses and Elijah. God’s presence is found when His words were heard. And the cloud that appears represents the presence of the Holy Spirit.
You may ask: Why were Peter, James, and John were selected to witness Jesus’ Transfiguration? Many scholars view that while Moses and Elijah represent God’s Faith in the Prophets and the Laws that preceded Jesus. The three disciples represent aspects of God’s Faith after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension: Peter represents the Faith of the Church, James represents Hope of love (i.e. loving one’s neighbor as oneself), and John represents the application of Charity in the good works of man. Together, we have a symbolic representation of the Trinity the faith in the Holy Spirit, the Hope through the Salvation of Christ, and the Charity of God our Father in heaven who provided a means that we might be sanctified in spite of our sinful nature.
As often occurs in the Gospel accounts, the apostles while witnessing a miracle of Jesus, lose track of its significance. You may recall in a previous message about the miracle where Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, following the feeding of the multitude, also known as the “Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes”. The disciples had yet to conclude that this supernatural miracle not only proved that Jesus had the power of God, but that Christ was God.
Only after Jesus easily walked across a stormy sea, against which the disciples had struggled for hours, did he perform the miracle whereby Peter with Jesus trod water, so long as he had his eyes fixed on Jesus. When Peter does take his gaze from Jesus and looks upon the sea, he sinks. Jesus performs yet another miracle by raising Peter out of the water: “Oh ye of little faith!”
Eventually, Jesus boards the boat containing the disciples and calms the stormy weather, and transports the boat, according to John’s Gospel, instantaneously across the water. It takes a series of supernatural miracles before the twelve finally acknowledge that Jesus is truly the son of God.
Like the people of Israel who kept losing the faith, while being led from Pharaoh’s Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land, the disciples kept forgetting who they were following. Perhaps this was the real purpose of the excursion that Jesus made with Peter, John, and James on Mount Tabor: to remind the disciples that they were following the Son of God. In one account of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the three disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen until three days after His crucifixion.
As believers in the Gospel, what can you and I take home from the message of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor? There are four key points to today’s lesson:
First, we have hope, through our faith, just as Jesus was transfigured into another form in Heaven, we, too, will be resurrected to heave, by faith in the resurrected Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Second, just like the disciples, in spite of lapses in judgment and though we may continue to sin, if we continue to confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, God has a place for us in Heaven. “Though we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sin.”
And third, in spite of our inequities, Christ does not give up on us. As many times as it takes, he will patiently take us to the holy places, to remind us that “He will never leave or forsake us!”
Finally, as was observed earlier in today’s message, as Christ was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, and then be reborn, in spirit and transfigured into a new, that on this earth, as believers we may be transfigured through faith in the Word and the promise of the salvation of the lamb, Jesus. We, too, may have the same vision that what we do on this world in the name of Jesus has the promise and power to transfigure us into a creature that is Holy and Sanctified. However, since Jesus has already died and arisen on the third day, there is no expectation of death’s darkness and silence, but an expectation that we may share the promise of having a new body, transfigured by faith in the fulfillment of Word, now made flesh in Jesus our Savior.
The Scriptures, through the disciples’ accounts of their observation of the Transfiguration of Jesus, give believers a glimpse of the glorious afterlife we may expect to see when we are resurrected on the day Christ returns in his glory. This will be a day when we will sing, along with the angels of Heaven praises of hallelujah to the glory of the Lord.
The Day that Jesus returns in all of his glory will be a day of judgment; a day of deliverance; a day of our transfiguration.
Until that glorious day that we, as resurrected, transfigured believers are united with the Lord, we are commissioned by our faith to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus that he died to make us holy and believing the truth of his message will set others free.
Let me finish today’s message by reading from Transfigured by Jay C. Treat, as a prayer (found on the back of today’s Bulletin):
(Dear God in Heaven)
We went up the mountain with Jesus,
but quite unprepared for surprise.
We never expected to see him
transform right in front of our eyes!
His face was as bright as the sunlight;
his clothes were as bright as the skies.
He talked with Elijah and Moses,
who stood right in front of our eyes.
We thought we could build them three temples:
one shrine for the giver of laws,
and one for Elijah the prophet,
and one for this master of ours.
A bright cloud then covered the mountain.
A Voice echoed deep from within,
Said, “This is my son, my beloved one!
He pleases me! Listen to him!”
We came down the mountain with Jesus,
now ready for any surprise.
We’re ready to listen and follow
and change right in front of his eyes
(In name of Jesus we pray – AMEN)
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #522: Battle Hymn of The Republic
Benediction – (Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.