Grace For The Journey
We are studying our way carefully, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke because we really want to understand this Gospel, not selectively lifting a verse here and a verse there, but studying through it, paragraph-by-paragraph, verse by verse. We come to a text today that is known as the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ appearance is transfigured so that the glory of God shines from within and that glory is seen by some of the twelve disciples.
We left off Monday at verse 26 and so we pick up at verse 27. Verse 27 is a hinge verse. It goes equally with what precedes it as it goes with what follows it. You remember what precedes it: Jesus is talking about following Him. He says, “Deny yourself, lose your life, take up your cross, and do not be ashamed of Me.” He ends in verse 26 with, “Whoever is ashamed of Me” … “of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory …” You see that phrase in verse 26, “when He comes in His own glory.” Then, in verse 27, Jesus speaks in anticipation of that coming glory. What Jesus says in verse 27 is that there are some of them, some of the twelve disciples, who will get a foretaste of that coming glory. He says in verse 27, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death (shall not die) till they see the kingdom of God,” till they catch a glimpse of the fullness of the kingdom of God, a preview of that coming glory, and this sets up this event known to us as the transfiguration.
Verse 32 says that while all this gloriously wonderful and deeply spiritual stuff is going on that “Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep!” That happens to some of us when spiritual things are going on. Others are experiencing the glory of God and we are so tired we are doing well just to stay awake. This actually happens more than once with the disciples. They will do this again in the Garden of Gethsemane, falling asleep while Jesus is praying.
Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; then the Bible tells us, “and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory.” I want us to look today about seeing the glory of Jesus Christ. Theology should lead to practical application, and I want to share with you from this text how we see Christ’s glory today, but first I want to go back through the verses and study them more closely. Let’s look together at verse 28 and we will walk back through this text.
Luke begins by telling us that about a week after Jesus taught about following Him that He takes these three guys of the 12: Peter, John, and James, and He takes them up on the mountain to pray. Nothing unusual about that; what is unusual, is what follows. Verse 29 tells us, “As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.”
Remember what happened to Moses when he went up on a mountain? He was up on the mountain and in the presence of God and when he came down from the mountain what did everybody notice was different about him? His face shone with the glory of God (Exodus 34:29-35). It was a reflected glory. It was also partial glory and it faded with time. What we are reading about in verse 29 is very different. The glory of God seen upon Moses shone from the outside. The glory of God seen upon Christ shines from the inside. Think of the moon; it reflects light; that is Moses. And think of the sun; it is light; that is Jesus. What we are seeing here is the intrinsic nature of God is shining from within the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Now there are two men who appear with Jesus. Who are they? Verse 30 says, “And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah.” I said in our last study that Jesus Christ is the point of our existence and the center of our universe. The Bible says in Colossians 1:16, “All things were made through Him and for Him.” All of the Bible points to Christ. Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets. The Law points to Christ. The prophets point to Christ. The work of Christ, namely His atoning death for the sins of man, is the culminating plan of God for our redemption. And this is precisely what Moses and Elijah are talking to Christ about. Verse 31 says, they “appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” That word “decease” is literally the Greek word “exodus.” It is interesting that Moses, who led the exodus of God’s people from the wilderness, is speaking to Christ Jesus of His exodus. Moses leads God’s people out of bondage to slavery. Jesus leads God’s people out of bondage to sin.
These verses encourage us about the recognition of our loved ones in heaven. I am sometimes asked, “Will we recognize one another in heaven?” Logically speaking we cannot imagine how we could not recognize our loved ones in heaven. It would be odd if we had less sense in heaven than we now have on earth. This passage is one of a few biblical texts that encourage us to know that, not only will we recognize loved ones, but we will know those we have never met! Peter has never met Moses and Elijah, but he seems to have no difficulty at all in knowing who they are. And there is also great encouragement in the security of this wonderful place called heaven. Moses had been there 1,500 years. Elijah had been there 900 years. They are safe and secure in heaven, the same place our loved ones in the Lord are at right now. And the same place you and I will go if we trust Christ as Lord and Savior. Our soul will live on in one of two locations, either hell for our sin, which is what we all deserve, or heaven if we have repented and surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.
In verse 32. Peter, James, and John awake to see Christ’s glory and the two with Him. In verse 33, as Moses and Elijah are parting from Christ, Peter speaks up. Nobody asked Peter for his opinion! He just speaks up as is his custom, his mouth always running before his brain finishes processing thoughts. He speaks up in verse 33 and says, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke adds at the end of verse 33 that Peter did not realize what he was saying: “not knowing what he said.”
Luke’s statement, that Peter didn’t know what he was saying, indicates that his suggestion was not a good idea.
Moses and Elijah are not to be placed
On equal footing with the Lord Jesus.
Moses and Elijah do not deserve
Equal honor with Christ.
Moses and Elijah point to Christ.
This truth is stressed in the Father’s voice from heaven as read in verse 34, “While (Peter) was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them (or enveloped them); and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.”
This heavenly cloud envelopes all of them and the disciples are fearful. They are fearful because in the Old Testament the Bible frequently uses a cloud to represent the glory of God (Exodus 13:21). To be near the cloud was to be near God and He is holy, and we are not. So, they are fearful. They no doubt were increasingly fearful when they heard the voice of God. Verse 35 says, “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!’” That sounds a bit like what we heard the Father say at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:22). Remember the greater context here . . .
The question, “Who is this Jesus?”
Asked by the disciples
When Jesus calmed the sea (Luke 8:20)
And asked by Herod
When he sought to see Him (Luke 9:9)
And answered by Peter in
His confession (Luke 9:20)
Is now answered by the Father
In the transfiguration, verse 35,
“This is My beloved Son.”
The Heavenly Father says, “Hear Him.” The Law and the Prophets were not an end in themselves. They existed for the purpose of pointing to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27).
Jesus interprets and fulfills
The Law and the Prophets.
This truth is stressed again in the way the event here ends in verse 36, “When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found – how? – alone.” Moses and Elijah appear. They talk to Christ about His supreme, sacrificial death on the cross, a plan of God, a divine purpose of God, and then they disappear from the scene. It is as if their appearance says . . .
We have done our job.
You are now doing Yours.
We are decreasing.
You are increasing.
We have pointed to You
And from now on
It is all You, Jesus.
They are gone and the Bible tells us, “Jesus was found alone.”
Salvation does not come by Jesus plus.
Jesus plus the Old Testament Law.
Jesus plus works or Jesus plus anything.
It is Jesus alone. Saved by grace alone,
Through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.,
That gives God glory alone!
We have made application throughout our journey through these verses, but let’s take a few moments now to bring a laser-focus on this matter of seeing Christ’s glory. If we ask the question, “How do we see Christ’s glory today?” this text suggests at least three things.
First . . .
I. We See Christ’s Glory Through Prayer.
It is not insignificant that prayer precedes Christ’s transfiguration. Verses 28 and 29 say that Jesus and these three disciples went up on the mountain to pray. Verse 29, “As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered.” The glory follows prayer. Prayer precedes glory. Peter, John, and James entered into this witnessing of Christ’s glory through prayer.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus prays for when He goes off somewhere to pray?
- He really has few needs.
As God, He is self-sufficient. The Son of God submits to the Father and asks the Father for some things, but He really has few needs, there are few things for which He asks.
- He never once confesses any sin.
He is sinless. He never once confesses sin or expresses remorse.
If Jesus Christ followed our example and in prayer, He would be finished within 5 seconds because there would be nothing for Him to say! We pray, “Oh, God! Have disobeyed, displeased, and dishonored You again. I am so sorry. I cannot believe I have done sinned again. God, help me. Keep me from this temptation, keep me from saying things I should not say, thinking things I should not think, behaving in ways I should not behave.” If Jesus followed that model, He would be like – Silence. Nothing to say. No sin to confess. We ask for stuff all the time. For Jesus it would be like, (Silence; “I have nowhere to lay my head and I am cool with that; Your will be done.)”
What is Jesus saying in prayer? I am not sure. I marvel at the thought of the three Persons of the Trinity communing with one another! That blows away my mind just trying to understand that. What does that look like? Father, Son, Spirit all talking to one another.
But that is it – it is communion. Prayer is preeminently communing with God. Prayer is entering into the presence of God. Prayer precedes glory. When you enter into God’s presence, you really need not say much at all. Of course, there are times you ask for things. When His disciples asked Jesus for pointers on prayer, Jesus taught them to praise God for Who He is and what He has done, to ask for their daily bread and to pray for protection, to pray for forgiveness, etc. (Luke 11:2-4). Do not overlook the fact that we are to enter into our prayer time acknowledging the holiness of God and marveling before the weight of His glory.
The glory of God is hard to define, but it is inherently the weight and significance of God. To see Christ’s glory is to feel the weight and significance of Who He is. When I commune with God through prayer, I am intentionally thinking about the character of God. When I do this, I am energized by His power and His presence. One reason so many of us feel no power from God is because we take no time to praise God. We do not sense His power and presence because we do not get away somewhere regularly and close our eyes and encounter His power and presence. Do that this week. See Christ’s glory through prayer. See how it changes you and makes you a more energized worker, a nicer supervisor, a better student, a stronger Christian. See Christ’s glory through prayer.
Secondly . . .
II. We See Christ’s Glory With People.
We have just learned about getting alone with God in prayer, but the Christian life is not to be lived in exclusion of all other people. The Christian life is deeply relational. Jesus chooses the twelve. From the twelve He often selects a smaller group. He had previously taken Peter, John, and James with Him when He healed the daughter of Jairus back in chapter 8 and now He takes these three with Him up on the mountain. There may be a host of reasons why Jesus selects these three in particular, but we see how important people are to us in the living out of our Christian faith. Jesus is making disciples and He commissions us to make disciples, too. We are all to be in the disciple-making business. This occurs most profoundly in one-on-one occasions as well as in small group settings.
This is one of the reasons we stress the importance of joining a Bible Study class. There are things you learn in a small group Bible Study that you cannot learn in corporate worship. You have the benefit of other people in the group from whom you hear and to whom you speak. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a unique background and set of skills and vocational abilities. You learn so much when you get into a small group.
Stay faithful to your small group Bible Study class. Teacher, continue to grow your class. Train others up to start their own small group so that they, too, can use their teaching gifts and begin another group in which others will benefit from sharing with one another.
We see Christ’s glory through prayer; we see Christ’s glory with people;
Thirdly . . .
III. We See Christ’s Glory By Personal Encounter.
This truth builds on the culminating force of this event as the voice of the Heavenly Father says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Moses and the Prophets point to Jesus Christ. He is the reason for our existence. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6). This is stressed in the disappearing of Moses and Elijah and Jesus’ being “found alone.”
His is the reason for our existence.
We come to know Him by personal encounter. It is not enough to know about Jesus, to simply know of Him in an intellectual sense. We must also know Him in a deeply personal sense – We must know Him with both head and heart.
I heard Tim Keller talk about this distinction recently. He said he has a brother-in-law, and this brother-in-law would never wear his seat belt. Tim would get behind the wheel to drive and his brother-in-law would get in, but he would never buckle up. Tim would tell him to put on his seatbelt, talking about the safety of it and everything, but the guy just refused to wear one. Some months later, Tim visited him and they were going somewhere and Tim’s brother-in-law got in the car and buckled up! Tim was taken back and said, “What is going on with you? Why are you suddenly the poster boy for auto safety?!” His brother-in-law said that a friend of his had gotten in an accident and he had just visited him recently in the hospital. He saw the 120 stitches in his head and now he puts on his seatbelt.
If you think about it, his brother-in-law didn’t suddenly receive some new information about auto safety. He already knew the facts, but what he had known to be true with his head he was now acting upon with his heart. This was now a personal, experiential truth for him. Knowing Christ is like this. We see Christ’s glory by personal encounter. Most of people have all the information they need to surrender to Christ as Lord of their lives. They know who He is. But they are not saved merely on the basis of factual information. We see His glory when we come to Him by personal encounter. We believe with our head and our heart. God says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Have you? Have you had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ?
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”