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28. And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
29. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.
30. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:
31. Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
32. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
33. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
34. While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
35. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
36. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
After the great miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus did some very serious teaching to His disciples. He first asked them pointed questions about His own identity, as far as people around were concerned. They began to say, “Some think you are Moses. Some think you are Elijah. Some think you are somebody else.” And He said, “Whom do you say that I am?” And we have that great confession of the apostle Peter that is written in such detail in the gospel of Matthew: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus commending him for that because He said, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto you. This was not something you figured out within yourself, but this came as a divine revelation from the Father.” And then on the heels of that great revelation and confession, Jesus also made a tremendous confession. The first of the so-called ‘Passion Predictions’ where Jesus said He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed and rise the third day. Three days He had to tell His disciples this and they still did not really believe Him or understand Him or comprehend Him fully on His mission at that point. He went on to teach them when they began to say, “No, that’s not what needs to be done,” and He said, “You, too, must deny yourself and take up your cross.”
In all that great interlude there where He teaches the disciples so many great lessons, it sets up what I want to talk about tonight in a special way. At a time when the disciples may be wondering what the future holds, at a time when Jesus Himself is giving forth the information that the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed. At a time like that, there is a great need for a divine demonstration and revelation of God’s perfect will in His life and in the life of the disciples. I think it comes at a very strategic moment in His ministry and in the lives of the disciples - this great event of the transfiguration. Jesus calls three men to go with Him into the mountain to pray. It is marvelous what happens when anybody prays. You can always expect the entrance to the supernatural when you go before God in prayer. Sometimes we start to pray almost routinely, not realizing that we are about to open the door into the divine and the supernatural and God is about ready to bring divine revelation and visitation upon us. But when Jesus prayed, it seemed to be far beyond anything that we could imagine because He had such a close, intimate relationship with the Father. As He prayed, He underwent a supernatural transformation. This is a marvelous thing. Supernatural visitation often comes in the time of prayer. Supernatural transformation often takes place in the time of prayer. Supernatural revelation often comes in the time of prayer. Why don’t you testify with me tonight? How many of you have had these kinds of experiences in the time of prayer? Would you just testify and say Amen. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Thank God for the anointing of the Holy Spirit in this place tonight. Oh, hallelujah!
It is a marvelous thing when you come before Him and all of a sudden you are praying beyond even your intentions. You are praying beyond yourself and beyond your knowledge. Suddenly, there is tremendous manifestation of His glorious presence and power. This is what happens. As He prays, suddenly He is transformed and changed. The Greek term that is used here literally means metamorphosis. Suddenly, he is undergoing a supernatural kind of change. His countenance is altered. It is like the bright sunshine in its full strength. His raiment is suddenly white and glistening because of the Shekinah, the glory of God has come down and enveloped Him. Here we see this tremendous transformation that would blind anyone’s eyes if you would look upon this scene of the brightness of the glory of God. I think one of the greatest studies in the entire Bible is this whole concept of the glory of God. I don’t think we quite know how to appreciate the glory of God when it comes in this great power. It is so seldom that we have witness to it. We see a moving of the Spirit, we are aware of the Holy presence. We are aware of the power in the Word of God. We are aware of the healing presence of the Lord. I’m talking about the kind of glory that would strike you down and you would fall on your face like every person who ever saw it. Like Isaiah in the temple, like Ezekiel again and again, like Saul on the road to Damascus and so many others who have been in the glory like John on the Isle of Patmos.
I remember years ago in a Camp Meeting in Louisiana, there was a young man playing the organ and singing. He said, “Oh, I just felt the Shekinah glory of God.” No such thing! If he had, he probably would have been knocked off that organ bench about 30’ and he would have been on his face. Not the Shekinah glory. He felt the moving of the Spirit, no doubt about that. But we’re talking about the glory of God descending upon Jesus Christ. The reason for it was He was about to have a divine conversation with some supernatural people who were coming to call upon Him. Because suddenly, there appeared with Him in this glory Moses and Elijah. We know them well. We know they have long gone on to glory, Elijah just being caught up like raptured and caught away, Moses dying and going on. This gives us some special insight into what it’s like on the other side when people leave this world and go into the presence of God. You say Elijah didn’t die. Well let me tell you this. You don’t get out of this world and in the presence of the supernatural glory of God without being changed from mortality. It would be like a star falling through space and just be burned up. You have to be clothes upon with supernatural power even to be in that kind of glory.
So here is Moses and Elijah. If you’ll allow me to run wild with my imagination a little bit, it may have been that on this day that Elijah went by and said, “Moses, would you like to take a little ride in my chariot?” You know Elijah liked chariots of fire! “You never got over to the promised land. Would you like to go down there today and just take a look around?” and Moses said “Yeah, I’d like to go with you,” and away they went. Suddenly they appeared, Moses finally made it to the promised land. Isn’t that wonderful? And they started talking to Jesus. Luke is the only gospel writer who gives us an inside track on understanding what they talked about. Let’s look at this divine conversation for a minute. They spake of His decease that He should accomplish in Jerusalem. I want you to mark that word ‘decease’. In the NIV, I think it reads His departure. That gets closer to the meaning. It really comes from the word ‘exodun’ from which we get the word ‘exodus’ and what they are going to talk about is the exodus that Jesus is going to accomplish at Jerusalem. They are going to discuss His death, burial, resurrection and departure out of this world – His ascension. They are going to talk about the whole thing. They just discussed every aspect of the whole redemption plan. They would compare it, no doubt. Moses would be able, especially, to compare it to that first exodus and the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt and all the miracles and all the things that took place and the blood of the lambs sprinkled. You could almost hear Moses outlining things and encouraging Jesus and saying “We understood all about this redemption from way back there.” Elijah could say “Yes, and we prophesied and we talked about these things.” And here the law and the prophets in the person of Moses and Elijah talking about all that had been promised and all that had been prophesied and all that they look forward to. So they discussed it and said “Now you must go on. You must accomplish this redemption. We have looked forward to it in faith and now the provision has been made from eternity and now it must be fulfilled because You must go.” And so it was in a kind of perhaps encouragement for our Lord that they talked to Him and they spoke about it. His death, His resurrection, His ascension. “Just think, Jesus, what all you will accomplish when You shed Your blood. No more sheep and lambs and bulls and nothing like that ever to be shed again. As a matter of fact, when You shed Your blood and You give up the ghost, the whole system of the Jewish system and the temple is going to go out of business because the Lord is going to rip open the veil and that will be the last time any priest will need to go in behind that veil to offer up the blood of lambs or whatever for the sins of this world.” They could say to Him, “And You will conquer death and all the saints that have gone on before who are now awaiting the call, they will hear Your voice. Because when You rise from the dead, the saints will rise with You. Some of them will walk around Jerusalem awhile and be seen of people in Jerusalem.”
I don’t know what all they said. I’m asking permission tonight to just sort of use my imagination, but they discussed it – His exodus, His departure. They could speak of His ascension. Just wait til You ascend. Elijah could say “Yeah, I know what that’s like. Walking along all of a sudden and then whoosh! A chariot of fire comes sweeping down and just picks you up and off you go! I know what that’s like.” So they talked and they spoke of His exodus, His decease, His departure and all that it would accomplish in Jerusalem.
Well about that time these three disciples really got their eyes open from sleep. They gave witness to His glory. Now this would be some encouragement to the disciples because Jesus had just told them the Son of Man must go into Jerusalem and suffer many things and He would be killed and their hearts are heavy. Now they see Him as the glorified Messiah, what He would look like. I know the Scripture tells us that eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard what God has prepared for them that love Him. But, it says it has been revealed to us by His Spirit. Every now and then the Lord reaches down and He turns the wick up high and lets the glory shine forth and the grace of God revealed to us something of what the future is. Even Paul would say that receiving the Holy Spirit itself is the absolute guarantee of what is to come. In Ephesians when he uses all those great words in that first chapter that talks about adoption, redemption, being selected and chosen, all those adoptive terms, accepted in the beloved, then given an inheritance, coming into an inheritance, then talking about receiving the Holy Spirit of promise and he says “This is the down payment, the guarantee, the earnest (like earnest money), this is the guarantee, the down payment of your inheritance.” If you want to know what your full inheritance is like, think about what the baptism of the Holy Ghost is like in this present world and that is a foretaste and guarantee of what is yet to come. Hallelujah! That’s the reason people need to be filled with the Spirit because they go around all the time witnessing what their future is and what their inheritance is and what it is like. Oh, praise God! One touch of the Holy Spirit can do more for you in just a minute or two than a lot of figuring and working can do for you in days and days.
Do you ever have doubts about the future or your inheritance or who you are? Just worship God until there is a freedom of the Holy Spirit to work in your life and I tell you it won’t be long until the doubts will be gone. What a picture of what God’s future is like! What the glory is like!
These disciples may have some trials and some troubles, and even some failures after this. But one day, John would write and say, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. We have handled it with our hands. We have seen it with our eyes. We know about Him and we have seen His glory.” Yes, they saw it on the mount of transfiguration. They got their eyes open. They saw His glory. They saw the two men. Simon Peter just got beside himself. He often did that like a lot of other people. But then, a cloud came over them. A cloud of the glorious presence of the Almighty. The Lord God Almighty says “I will visit this scene.” And He has to be covered with a cloud because He cannot shine forth the fullness of His glory in the face of these disciples. Here’s one of those great paradoxes of Scripture and of our spiritual pilgrimage, and that is sometimes God has to shroud us almost in darkness to be able to communicate with us with the revelation He wants us to receive.
It hit me in a new way thinking about this cloud overshadowing this group. Then out of the cloud comes a voice that says “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him.” It is no time for wild speculation. It is no time for wild imagination, Simon Peter. It is no time to jump the gun with suggestions. It is a time to be enfolded in the cloud of God’s glory and hear His voice because you are in the presence of divinity, supernatural power. Hallelujah! There is no time in your life as solemn as when you know you are in His presence. There is no time in your life when you feel the holiness of God anymore than when you are shrouded in His divine presence. Glory to Jesus.
This is my beloved Son. Divine affirmation. Jesus received it a number of times at the baptism with John when He was obedient in the example He was setting and identifying with what was going on and what God was doing in this world and the heavens were opened and the voice spoke and the heavenly dove came down resting upon Jesus and anointing Him. Here on the mount of transfiguration, here is that voice speaking again in affirmation and saying “Hear Him. Hear Him. Pay attention to what He is saying. Don’t pay any attention to the suggestions of anybody else who doesn’t really know what He is talking about.” And then it came again toward the end of His ministry. John records it in chapter 12. When Jesus prayed and said “Father, the hour is come that the Son of Man may be glorified.” And what will I say? Save me from this hour? And the obvious answer is “No, it is for this hour came forth I into the world.” And then the voice of divine affirmation came. “This is my beloved Son.” Some people just thought an angel may have spoken. Some thought it thundered. You see, some people are totally out of tune and out of touch with the presence of God and with the voice of God when He speaks. Oh, hallelujah!
But I am thankful for people who live in harmony with the Word of God and who live in harmony with the Holy Spirit and they understand the Father’s voice when He speaks words of affirmation and revelation and instruction. So the cloud overshadowed them and out of the cloud came the divine voice.
What does this story mean to us? I think it means much the same as it means to Jesus, but in particular, His disciples. It means to us a wonderful word of encouragement that even in the midst of setting His face toward Jerusalem knowing that He is going to be arrested and mistreated and He will suffer many things. Yet He goes in triumph and in victory and in power, knowing that the glory that is beyond it that shall be revealed is so far superior to any suffering that He may have to bear in this world until He does it gladly and voluntarily. I think it would encourage the disciples in the same way and Simon Peter would finally learn that lesson well because if you read his first letter and you analyze it around the word suffering, pasko – to suffer. He mentions it 14 times. Seven times in reference to the sufferings of Christ, and seven times in reference to the sufferings of Christians. He identifies with what Jesus has told them before this transfiguration. Some of those sufferings would be voluntary and would show an example. Some would be vicarious in behalf of others and would be redemptive. But some of these sufferings would be victorious and triumphant! Hallelujah! They are learning that lesson now when the voice speaks and says “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.” So solemn, so sacred was that event that when the cloud lifted, they saw Jesus standing alone. Elijah had gone. Moses had gone. The cloud had gone. It was so solemn and so glorious the Bible says in verse 36 “…they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.” So solemn, so sacred until they couldn’t go running and spreading it at that time. That would be for another time.
What does the transfiguration mean to us? It means a display of supernatural power and glory that gives us insight into the world of God’s glory and what it’s like on the other side. It gives us words of encouragement that even though we go through suffering, when we do it in the name of the Lord for His glory, then the glory comes. It is a word of encouragement that sometimes God brings His cloud over us in order to speak to us and bring to us revelation. They will need it because they will go from this event down in the valley where there is struggle and there is demonic activity that they will face and they will need the remembrance of the height of glory on the mount of transfiguration.
I want to tell you that God comes to our lives right where we are and gives us an insight into His glorious supernatural power that whatever valley we may go into afterward, we can know full well that He, in His Almighty power and glory, is with us and we need not fear.
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