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Sermon for February 19, 2023 – Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5013 | The Father is Pleased
Heber Ticas

Think back to a time in your childhood when your mother or father was pleased with something you did. Maybe it was when you accomplished something great. Perhaps you received an A in a difficult class at school or maybe you scored the winning goal for your little league team. How did it feel knowing that they were pleased with you? For a child, there is almost no better feeling in the world. 

Despite the challenges of online education during the pandemic, my son, Cristian, was able to graduate college with a degree in engineering. Even as far back as elementary school, he had been granted awards for his character and integrity. My heart swells with pride over all that he has achieved.

But even more than his achievements, I have always been pleased with Cristian’s demeanor, patience, and care for others. My love and admiration for him have never been dependent on what he has accomplished, but on who he is.

As a parent, you would shudder at the thought that your children might have received the message that there was a cost involved in earning your pleasure for them.

The gospel according to Matthew records one of the most remarkable events in the New Testament. The Transfiguration of Christ. What we witness is a special moment of great fatherly love. A moment where we see the prototype for all parental pleasure.

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
Matthew 17:1-6

The three disciples were understandably impressed and overcome with awe over the sight of Jesus’ transfiguration as well as the appearance of Moses and Elijah. But the Father wanted to communicate to them something far more important than the spectacle they had just witnessed.

The Father’s message to the disciples was about how he felt towards his Son. Not just that he was proud of him, but well pleased. This goes beyond a normal sense of pride where a parent says, Yep, that’s my boy or that’s my girl! The Father wanted the disciples to know what kind of love existed between him and his son. Moses was there representing the law, Elijah was there representing the prophets. One to tell you what to do and the other to inform you of what happens when you don’t do what you are supposed to do.

But they disappear, and only Jesus is left with the disciples. “Listen to him,” the Father tells us. “Follow the One in whom I am well pleased.” In other places we learn the Father is pleased with those who follow the Son and in whom the Son lives. That’s us.

We didn’t just die with Christ, but we rose with him and we are included in the Father’s love for him. Jesus tells us the Father loves us just as he loves him. What belongs to the Son also belongs to us. That includes the Father’s good pleasure.

May the Father’s great love for us take root in our hearts today and may we see ourselves as the beloved children in whom the Father takes great pleasure.

Mi nombre es Heber Ticas. Hablando de Vida.

Psalm 2:1-11 • Exodus 24:12-18 • 2 Peter 1:16-21 • Matthew 17:1-9

This week’s theme is on the mountaintop. The psalmist prophetically looks ahead to the time in which God would install Jesus as king on Mt. Zion. In Exodus, Moses is sent by God to the top of the mountain where he witnessed the glory of the Lord. In Matthew’s gospel, he records the transfiguration of Christ on Mt. Zion. And in 2 Peter, he confirms that he was present on the mountain with Christ during the transfiguration event.

The Transfiguration of Christ

Matthew 17:1-9 (NIV)

When was the last time you had a strong sense of anticipation? As a kid, I was so excited that I could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve because of the anticipation of unwrapping presents the next morning.

Maybe for you it was graduation, or buying your first car, or going on a much-needed vacation. Or how about your wedding day? For some, it may have been purchasing your first home.

When the event you were anticipating had finally arrived, was it all you hoped it would be? Or maybe it exceeded your wildest imaginations. That’s exactly how it went down for three of Jesus’ disciples in the story we will be looking at. These disciples had no way of knowing what was in store for them.

Today we’re going to look at the transfiguration story found in Matthew’s Gospel. We’re going to start by looking at the anticipation of the transfiguration. We will then account for its significance. Finally, we will end with accepting the transfiguration and our inclusion into it.

Read Matthew 17:1-9

In verse 1, we see Jesus bringing Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain with him. In our minds, this might not sound too significant, but to the Jewish mindset this was about to be a huge deal. On top of the mountain is where heaven meets earth, spatially, and spiritually. Here are just a few events in the history of Israel to explain the significance of Jesus taking them up on a mountain:

  • Abraham brings Isaac and meets God on Mt. Moriah.
  • God gave the 10 commandments to Moses on the mountain.
  • Isaiah prophesied about Mount Zion and a great feast.
  • Elijah hears from God on the mountain.
  • Jesus preaches his famous Sermon on the Mount.

For Peter, James, and John, this must have been like waiting for Christmas morning. You probably couldn’t stress hard enough that these disciples were full of anticipation. The mountaintop is where encounters with God take place, where business is conducted in the spiritual realm. The disciples were about to have their minds blown.

Let’s entertain a few questions regarding the transfiguration itself. Why did the transfiguration have to happen? And why did it involve Moses and Elijah? What was their purpose in being there?

Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, he is quite purposeful in showing how all the signs and wonders of Jesus overshadow Moses. Matthew is intentional in bringing this out over and over.

In Genesis 24, we see Moses on the mountain being accompanied by Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu – at least those were the only ones mentioned by name. And now, we have Jesus ascending the mountain being accompanied by three men as well. I don’t think the significance of this was lost on the disciples.

And now we have Moses, again, but this time he is accompanying Jesus. What Moses represents is the law, with all its regulations and commands, along with its extensive list of all the things you should and should not do.

Likewise, we also have Elijah, who hears from God on the top of a mountain as well. But this time he is also accompanying Jesus. Elijah is representing the prophets, with all the consequences for all that you were instructed to do but didn’t.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:4-5)

From here on, this event becomes even more epic. Peter’s excited suggestion that they build tents for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, wasn’t all that unusual. But God the Father had a different idea. He interrupted Peter and told him to listen to Jesus.

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. (Matthew 17:6-8)

The disciples were so afraid, that Jesus had to assure them that everything was going to be OK. And when they finally looked up, the only one left standing there with them was Jesus.

Why did Moses and Elijah disappear? The focus wasn’t on them, and God wanted the disciples to see this. Jesus stood between the law and the prophets. He fulfilled everything in the law. And yet he also took all the punishment for us according to what was written by the prophets. Jesus gave the perfect response for humanity towards God. And yet he also gave God’s perfect response to humanity.

Jesus now reigns supreme and is our rightful Lord. He alone is qualified to rule his kingdom with grace and truth. Our problem is that we’ve gotten the idea that we must somehow transfigure ourselves.

Peter suggesting they build tents for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus showed he had not yet grasped that Jesus alone was sufficient. The ways of Moses and the Law, and the ways of Elijah and the prophets, were also the ways of fear and self-effort. It is only through trusting in the work of Christ that we can experience abundant life.

Just one chapter before this one, Matthew records Jesus making this incredible statement:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24)

Much later in Peter’s life, he would write about this transfiguration event:

But we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the father when the voice came to him saying, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

The transfiguration shows Jesus in his full glory, completely fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. Seeing Jesus for all that he is causes us to realize our utter lostness without him. He is perfect and gives us his perfection. He is righteous and gives us his righteousness. We do not have and cannot attain perfection or righteousness apart from Christ.

It’s interesting that in Peter’s epistle, he fails to mention the fact that God the Father basically told Peter to be quiet and to not try to make plans for God. Sometimes the best thing we can do is also be quiet and trust. Sometimes the best response to the glory of God when we see it is just to stay in the moment. Take it in. Contemplate on it. Meditate on it.

Take a few extra moments in prayer to listen, to contemplate, to meditate. It’s important to reflect on how God has saved each one of us, how he has brought us through trials, how he has come through in times of need. And yes, how he has transfigured us as well.

The danger for each of us is in the forgetting. The forgetting that Christ alone is our sufficiency. Sometimes we want to take our old, crucified selves, and put the things we trusted in back on display by declaring ourselves better than others, more faithful, more giving, more spiritual, etc.

We place ourselves on very shaky ground when we try to use ourselves as the barometer for all things right and acceptable. Like Peter, we try to erect tents for Moses and Elijah when only Jesus is necessary for life and godliness.

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:6-7)

Matthew tells us that the disciples were scared out of their wits. Jesus had to pick them up, dust them off, and let them know that all is well. Sometimes the voice of God can be scary. Where is he taking me? Can he be trusted? I don’t know that I can do what he might ask? But the voice of God is always the voice that is in our best interest despite whether we think it is at the time, he will always prove himself faithful.

It’s through the transfiguration, through seeing the true character and nature of God, that we become open to living out of his guidance and his strength. It’s his posture towards us that causes us to lose our fear of the unknown and embrace the mystery that is the loving actions of God.

When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. (Matthew 17:8)

Read that again. This is the purpose of this passage of scripture – focus on Jesus alone. The transfiguration shows us that Jesus is our only hope. Our hope and our salvation is not in the Law and the Prophets. Our best intentions or efforts will never be enough. The systems of laws with all its expectations nor the proclamations and judgments of the prophets is enough. All has been fulfilled in Christ. He has accomplished everything on our behalf.

The Bible says, “As he is so we are in this world” (1 John 4:17). We have been included in the life of Father, Son, and Spirit, enjoying all the benefits that comes from that relationship. We have been transfigured with Christ and one day we will receive the promise of a full and final transfiguration. The former ways of this world will disappear, and as we find ourselves bowing before him, the only thing left standing will be Christ.

Not Today, Satan w/ Dishon Mills W3

February 19 – Transfiguration Sunday
Matthew 17:1-9, “Filled With Awe”

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Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Name a time when your parents delighted in you or when you delighted in your children.
  • Why do you think that the Father told the disciples that he was well-pleased with Jesus.
  • Do you believe that God is pleased with you? Why or why not?

From the Sermon

  • How are we to participate in the transformation? What significance does this event have for us?
  • How have we lost our sense of anticipation that God wants to do something in our midst?
  • Give examples of what it means to trust in Christ for our sufficiency and not in ourselves.
  • What do you think this event did for the disciples that were present? What do you think they took away from this event?

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