Pastor Sherry’s message for February 19, 2023
Scriptures: Ex 24:12-18; Ps 99; 2 Pet 1:16-21; Matt 17:1-9
Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the day the church remembers its brief experience of Jesus in all of His revealed glory.
Typically, when we think of truth being revealed, we tend to summon up images of dark deeds brought into the light: Another corrupt politician or businessman being exposed, or the famous case of the Wizard of Oz. Remember the scene in that classic movie where Dorothy, Toto (her dog), the Tin Man, the Lion, and the Scarecrow encounter the Great Wizard? His voice thunders and his face is projected larger-than-life on a giant screen. Dorothy and friends are terrified until the little dog pulls back the curtain. They see the true, ordinary man, who has used showbiz technology to promote himself as all powerful. In a famous line—now seen as humorous–he cries out, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Too late! His posturing has been exposed.
On the other hand, we also hear of wonderful revelations:
I remember seeing a video of a man who’d not seen color before get a pair of glasses that corrected for his color-blindness. He was able to experience the delight that color added to his previous dull gray or brown life. He appeared to be overwhelmed with joy. Or did you see the video of a baby girl with a severe hearing defect? A hospital in Cincinnati provided her a set of hearing aids that allowed her to hear her mother’s voice for the first time. Like the colorblind man, she reacted with great joy and wonder.
Our Scriptures today celebrate the joy and wonder of some particularly blessed humans when they visually beheld the God Behind the Curtain.
A. Let’s start with Peter (2nd Peter 1:16-21). Along with John and James, Peter was present at Jesus’ Transfiguration. He writes this letter in about 66AD, shortly before his crucifixion. One could say this was his farewell address. Just a few verses prior (vv.13-14), he refers to his earthly body as a tent, which Jesus has told him he… will soon put…aside.
As Peter prepares to die, he reassures his readers (including us) that Jesus’ transfiguration was a real event (v.16) We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
Peter saw Jesus in all His heavenly glory. He and the other two saw the True Divine Being behind the curtain of His human flesh. Peter heard the voice of the Father say to them (vv.17-18) This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Peter may have later let his all too human fear override this experience of Jesus, briefly; but in his heart of hearts, he knew the truth of what he had seen and heard.
B. Matthew was not present on the mountain, but he had lived with Peter, James, John (and Jesus), for 3 years and he believed the account the 3 friends revealed after Jesus’ resurrection. Just as Peter later testified, Jesus’ appearance was transformed in a dramatic and otherworldly way. He shone with a tremendously bright light which did not shine down upon Him, but rather emanated from within Him. They saw Him in all his heavenly glory. Later, in Revelation 22:16, Jesus will say of Himself I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. By this He meant He is descended from the lineage of King David, as prophesied, and He is the Divine Light that announces the new dawn.
The 3 apostles also beheld Him with two Old Testament “greats,” the prophets Moses, the Law-Giver, and Elijah, the one who challenged over 800 pagan priests–and who decisively demonstrated the power of God over their demonic gods. Neither one died and went to heaven in the usual way. Moses died as the people moved to enter the Promised Land. Scripture says that God buried him (Deuteronomy 34:6). Elijah exited this life in a blaze of glory in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11-12). It is Luke who tells us (9:31) the Father had sent these two Old Testament saints to confer with Jesus about His impending death, probably to comfort and to reassure Him; and to strengthen and encourage Him to withstand His coming ordeal.
C. Speaking of Moses, our Old Testament lesson, Exodus 24:12-18, features him and his leadership team dining with God. The Lord has just revealed to him the Law, including the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20-23:19). God tells Moses to write the Law down, then read it to the Israelites. Moses obediently does so. The Israelites vow (v.3) Everything the Lord has said we will do, promising obedience. (Yeah, sure, that’s wishful thinking. Their adherence to their vow lasted about 40 days!)
Then God has Moses erect an altar and 12 stone pillars to represent each of the 12 tribes. Young men are then pressed into service to corral sacrificial animals for sin and fellowship offerings. Moses, as directed, collects the blood of the sacrifices and places some on the corners of the altar. He is then directed by God to sprinkle the people with the rest. You may recall that no one can enter into God’s presence with sin on their soul. Sprinkling them with the blood of sacrificial animals symbolizes that the people’s sins are washed away or cleansed. As Moses says (v.8) This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words. (Notice how closely this resembles what we say in the Communion Service over the wine: This is My [Jesus’] blood of the New Covenant which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.)
Following this, Moses, his brother Aaron (the 1st high priest), Aaron’s two eldest sons, and 70 elders are all invited to have a meal with God.
This whole procedure is actually the template for our communion service, established by God the Father over 4,000 years ago. Think about it:
(1) God’s Word is read;
(2) God’s Word is preached or explained;
(3) The people respond, “Thanks be to God.”
(4) Jesus is the once and for all perfect sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 5:7-9), so we need not kill any bulls or lambs. His blood has atoned for our sins, so we are cleansed and can freely come into God’s presence. Communion, a spiritual and physical meal between God and human believers, is served. By the way, the Israelite leadership team did not see God the Father. He is Spirit and we know that no one can see Him. Instead, they dined with the pre-incarnate Jesus.
D. Do you think the leadership team knew they were standing on holy ground? Psalm 99 exhorts us to worship God with our praise. It reminds us that God is holy and totally “other” than us—supreme and exalted over all things, and worthy of our sincere devotion.
When the fleshly curtain of Jesus’ human body is pulled away, we shall see Him in all His divinity, all of His glory. He is the real deal! Some of you may have heard that a revival has broken out on the campus of Asbury University in Kentucky. In answer to our weekly prayers for revival and that God would reach our young people, students and guests from all over the world, have been praising God and worshipping Him, in the university chapel, since February 8th. God appears to be changing the lives of Gen Y’s and Z’s. Praise God! Let’s pray that the Lord brings many to Christ through this new move of the Holy Spirit. Let us, with them, worship the one true God who has revealed Himself from behind the curtain, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen!
©️2023 Rev. Pastor Sherry Adams