Equipped for a mission-focused
Journey With Jesus

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

Video unavailable (video not checked).

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

CLICK HERE to listen to the whole podcast.

If you get a chance to rate and review the show, that helps a lot. And invite your fellow preachers and Bible lovers to join us!

Follow us on Spotify, Google Podcast, and Apple Podcast.

Program Transcript

Not Today, Satan w/ Dishon Mills W3


Let’s transition on to our third passage of the month. It’s Matthew 17:1-9. It’s a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Transfiguration Sunday on February the 19th.

And it reads:

1Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.”

So Dishon, we’ve arrived at Transfiguration Sunday, and I’ve heard some theologians call it one of the “Big 6” of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. And that includes his birth, his baptism, transfiguration, death, resurrection, and of course, the ascension.

And since this is significant, and as we’ve already pointed to in this podcast, it’s no magic trick. He’s revealing himself. What should preachers and teachers see and proclaim from this passage?

Dishon: There’s a lot. There’s a lot. Yeah. I love this passage. I’m going to tell you some of the things I’ve learned so far, and I’m still trying to uncover more and more useful information for how to live from this passage.

So basically, the surface answer I would give you is that the transfiguration declares the divinity of Christ. So, we who follow Jesus, believe Jesus is 100% God and 100% human at the same time. That he is able to hold those natures together perfectly. And in this moment, on this mountain, his divine nature seems to come a bit more to the foreground.

What does that mean? I don’t even really know, right? He’s 100% God, 100% human. But in this moment, it seemed that the divine nature was more easily perceived by those around him. They could see it more clearly and feel evidence of it. So, in this extraordinary moment, Jesus reveals completely that he’s not just Messiah—because the Hebrew scriptures foretold that Messiah would come.

But it wasn’t necessarily spelled out clearly that Messiah was God. Jesus in this moment and other moments too, makes it incredibly clear that yes, he’s not only Messiah, but he’s also God. And I think when we start to dig into the passage, one of the most extraordinary facts about it is that Peter, James, and John were invited to be present. And that’s something that I think says a lot about who God is.

Some theologians have said that God does not wish to be God apart from us. And it seems that Jesus wanted the disciples there to participate in what is arguably a very intimate, divine moment. It is a divine moment, and it was meant to be witnessed, but it seems very intimate. It seems like Peter, James and John are watching this beautiful moment that Jesus is experiencing.

So, in this passage, we see the supremacy of Jesus. We see that Jesus is God. And we also see unfortunately, the human tendency to make him less than he is in Peter’s response, which I’m not trying to throw stones at Peter. I don’t know if I would be saying anything. I think I would run off that mountain if I started to see Jesus shining brighter than the sun. I might.

But we see in this moment, that Jesus reveals himself as God, and immediately human beings are making him less than what he is, like God could be contained in a tabernacle! And he’s wanting to build one for Elijah and Moses too, as if they’re on the same playing field, that they’re anywhere close in comparison to Jesus.

And there’s a lot to unpack. We have Jesus’ divinity. We have his desire to have us participate. We have us not responding well and trying to make Jesus less than he is. But we also see him drawing near and not condemning Peter, James, and John for their inability to see him for who he is.

Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack there. This is a very rich passage.

Anthony: It is, and you’ve already pointed to this to some degree, but let’s scratch that itch a little bit more. We see in the transfiguration, this intimate divine moment, as you said. It’s an example of a theophany. A theophany being a visible manifestation of God.

And in that way, Jesus is a walking, talking theophany, right? Because he is our visible manifestation of God. But in terms of this particular episode on a mountain, what is the significance of the theophany, including the voice that speaks to the Son?

Dishon: Sure. So according to ancient Hebrew cosmology—that’s a fancy word, just how they saw the world, how it came to be, how it’s all interconnected. They saw heaven as this rounded canopy that exists above a kind of flat disc-shaped earth. And there’s different heavens, but in the ultimate third heaven, that’s where God is. And mountains were like pillars on the earth. They held up heaven.

So, to go up on a mountain was thought to be the place where you would go to be in closer proximity to God, you go up to the mountain. Those are holy places, right? The Ten Commandments—given on a mountain, right? Even Jerusalem itself was built on a hill as a raised area, right? So, there’s this imagery throughout all Scripture that mountains are places where you go to get closer to God.

I wish I didn’t have to say this, but hopefully we no longer believe in a flat earth. We don’t believe that this is how things were, and Jesus certainly knew that this is how things were. But he also was in the Jewish society. And many times, when he wanted to pray, he would go up on a mountain.

For this incredible theophany, as you said, this incredible manifestation of God, it took place on this mountain because mountains, again, represent the places where humans go to get closer to God. And I think the scene is even further enhanced that on this mountain, Jesus encounters Moses and Elijah, who Moses could be said to represent the law, and Elijah could be said to represent the prophet.

So, by having this transfiguration take place on a mountain and having Moses and Elijah there, Jesus is revealed as God and not just any old god. He’s the God of the Old Testament because both Moses and Elijah deferred to him.

And when the voice spoke from the cloud, when the Father thundered and said, this is my beloved son, he didn’t say, listen to him as well as Moses and Elijah. He said, no, listen to him. So, Jesus is revealed as God. The God of the Old Testament, the Creator God. He is depicted as supreme and above all. Yet the disciples were able to witness him and not be destroyed. And I could say a bit more about that, but very rich imagery being invoked here.

Anthony: Very much so. And you talked about the three, Peter, James, and John, not being destroyed. There are, I think, many misconceptions about God the Father, and it’s one of the primary reasons the Word became flesh—to reveal the true heart of God.

And one of the things that we see Jesus saying over and over to his disciples is, don’t be afraid, because they are afraid. They’re in awe of this God being revealed. So, let’s talk about that. These words, don’t be afraid, showing up again and again when people realize they are in the presence of the divine.

On some level, the response appears to be completely warranted, to be afraid. Yet the question must be asked, Dishon, why are they afraid in the first place when they’re in the presence of a loving God?

Dishon: Yes. We often talk about there is a mystery to divinity. There is only so much about God that we can understand because he’s so great. He’s so wonderful. He’s so far beyond what our minds can conceive, that there’s a mystery to him.

There’s also a mystery to sin, where there is depravity and corruption that we can’t fully wrap our minds around. We can’t fully understand how deep and how bad evil could be. And from the beginning we’ve had this problem.

So, Adam and Eve, they had this incredible relationship with God. Everything was cool. They encounter a snake. Things take a turn; they sin. And in their first encounter with God after sinning, they immediately become afraid of a being that they never had any reason to fear before. So, in that moment, into humanity was introduced a diseased spiritual imagination, also a diseased social imagination. Their relationship with each was corrupted. Their relationship with creation was corrupted, but most importantly they came down with a diseased spiritual imagination that made them see God unclearly, that made them see God as something that needed to be feared.

And so, we continue to this day to see through the lens of our human corruption. We see him as one of us—if we follow Christ, we see him as one of us. But a lot of times we don’t see him correctly. We don’t see him in the right way. We see him as being capable of our uncontrolled wrath, of our pettiness, of our jealousy.

Jesus is one of us, but not in that way. He doesn’t react to things like we do. He doesn’t behave as we do. So, when the disciples see true divinity, they become afraid, like Adam and Eve. Like I said, I don’t know all the reasons why, but I think it has something to do with our self-focus and thinking that we are our own god.

And then when we come face-to-face with true power, we immediately fear because we think God is going to wield power like we would wield power, God is going to use his omnipotence like we would use our omnipotence. And we become very small and insignificant and that scares us. I don’t know. It could be. It could be other things too, but that’s what I think.

And however, what is beautiful in this is that Jesus is the one that says, don’t be afraid. He says, yes, I am Almighty God. Yes. I’m the Creator. Yes, I have power that you cannot even imagine. But you know me. You have seen me; you have been with me.

And he goes over to Peter and touches him. He draws near. He constrained their experience of him so the shining, all that was gone. And he constrained their experience of him to be able to better relate to them. He didn’t chastise them and berate them, but he stepped into their imagination and said, no, you know me.

So, fear is not one of the tools that he uses to get us to behave in a certain way. Christians use it a lot, unfortunately. And my first introduction to the gospel was fear-based. Pray this prayer or else you’re going to hell. Pray this prayer or you’d be kicked out of the kingdom of God, right? Pray this, do this. It was very, very fear based.

But Jesus immediately wants to banish fear because he does not want that to be in the midst of his relationship with his disciples, with his followers. So, he constrains himself to the extent of how they experience him, in order to relate to them and say, don’t be afraid. You’ve seen me. You know me. I’m here with you.

What a beautiful image of our God.

Anthony: Lord, heal our fallen spiritual imagination.

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?

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2024 Grace Communion International

GCI Equipper Privacy Policy