Date: January 20, 2019 Audio: Transcript:
The last time the Miami Dolphins won the Super Bowl was in 1973 ….. 45 years ago. Don Shula was the Dolphin coach at that time, and he continued to lead the team through 1995. Each of those 22 years, Shula would show a video to the team at the start of the season featuring highlights of the Dolphins’ celebration after winning the 1973 Super Bowl. He said he wanted to help the team remember what their goal was by giving them “just a taste of glory.” A taste of glory…..
Friends, last week as we explored Luke 9:18-26, we focused on the fact that Jesus was God’s Messiah. Yet, rather than being the Conquering King, Jesus was the Suffering Messiah, and those who trust and follow Jesus are likely to suffer as well. Yet, in the end, Jesus promised it would all be worth it. He encourages his disciples, including us, to keep following him, no matter how tough it is, no matter how much opposition we face because it is the path that will one day lead to eternal life.
Yet, that path is not always easy. Sometimes in the midst of pain, frustration and disappointment, we lose sight of our destination; and we may be tempted to give up. At that point, it can be very helpful to get just a little taste of what’s ahead, a taste of glory that will keep us motivated.
Jesus knows the Twelve Disciples face a huge task of spreading the gospel that will involve formidable obstacles. Giving up could sometimes seem like a really good option. To help make sure that doesn’t happen, Jesus decides to give his friends a taste of glory.
Our text today is Luke 9:27-36 (page 867). Let’s pause and pray that the Lord would use his Word to perhaps help us get just a taste of that glory this morning.
As he finished talking to his disciples in verses 18-26, Jesus makes this statement:
Luke 9:27 – Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
On the surface, Jesus’ words seem a bit puzzling. Some think Jesus meant he would return to earth to establish his kingdom before all of The Twelve died. Since that didn’t happen, these folks claim Jesus was mistaken about the timing of his return.
Folks, any interpretation that involves Jesus being mistaken is really a non-starter. The simplest and best explanation is that Jesus is referring, not to his return, but to what happens eight days later and is described in our text this morning. This is an experience that helps confirm in their minds that following Jesus is, indeed, the right choice to make!
Luke 9:28 – About eight days after this conversation, he (Jesus) took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.
Luke doesn’t tell us exactly what mountain this is. About three or four possible sites have been suggested for the Mount of Transfiguration. Why Jesus chose these three men out of The Twelve has also been the subject of speculation.
Peter, John and James have apparently become part of Jesus’ inner circle. When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead back in chapter 8, these are the three he took with him into the house.
I don’t believe, however, that they earned this position, or that they were the three who raised their hands when Jesus asked for volunteers. I don’t think Jesus rewarded them with a trip up the mountain because they had gotten the highest score on the Apostle test.
Yes, Peter and John would be the primary leaders of the church, and James would be the first of The Twelve to be martyred. These roles and experiences were part of the path God had chosen for them and were based not on merit, but God’s grace. As Jesus tells the disciples in John 15 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
So this is what Peter, John and James see:
Luke 9:29 – As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
Changed could be translated “transfigured.” The disciples are catching a glimpse of the glory that belongs to Jesus as the eternal Son of God and the glory he will display when he one day returns as a Conquering King.
Luke 9:30-31 – Suddenly two men were talking with him – Moses and Elijah. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.
This is a time of encouragement for Jesus, as well as for the three disciples. So, was this Moses and Elijah in resurrected bodies? Or were their spirits somehow being made visible? Or what exactly was going on?
I’m not sure, and neither is anyone else. The bottom line is that it is, in some way, really Moses and Elijah. The topic of conversation between Jesus and the two greatest Old Testament prophets was his “departure.” In Jerusalem, Jesus will be crucified, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven.
Luke 9:32 – Peter and those with him were in a deep sleep, (NIV says “were very sleepy”) and when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who were standing with him.
The disciples had a habit of falling asleep at very unusual times, including here and in the Garden of Gethsemane. The bottom line is they eventually are wide awake and see Jesus in his glorified state, along with two of the greatest Old Testament heroes.
Luke 9:33 – As the two men were departing from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – not knowing what he was saying.
I am not sure how Peter knew the two men were Moses and Elijah. He obviously did not recognize them from any photos he had seen. My guess is that the Holy Spirit revealed their identity to him. The offer to set up the shelters may have been simply to honor the three men, or it could have been an attempt by Peter to prolong this experience because he didn’t want Moses and Elijah to leave.
Luke 9:34-35 – While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!”
There is no doubt in the disciples’ minds, or hopefully in our minds, as to whose voice this is. This is God the Father, using this opportunity to confirm, “Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. Yes, Jesus is the Messiah.”
Luke 9:36 – After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They kept silent, and at that time told no one what they had seen.
Why didn’t they talk about it? Maybe they thought a report of this experience would be too fantastic for others to believe, and they didn’t want to be ridiculed. Perhaps the common misunderstanding that Messiah was a political/military figure meant they had to be discreet about Jesus’ true identity. Or maybe this was a genuine, but personal experience which just wasn’t something to talk about with others.
In the sermons of Peter and John recorded for us in Acts, there is no mention of the transfiguration, even as they tell others about Jesus’ death and resurrection. I am certain this experience had a significant impact on Peter, John and James, but it is not something they would broadcast to the world.
How are these three men impacted?
First, their belief and confession that Jesus was God’s Messiah was strengthened and confirmed.
In our text last week, we saw Peter give a very clear confession of his faith in Jesus as God’s Messiah. Before going up the mountain, these men had seen Jesus do some amazing things. They knew he was not just another religious teacher. Yet, when they come down from that mountain, they are even more certain he is God’s Messiah.
Knowing by experience is always more certain than knowing in theory. People may know that -30° F is a cold temperature, but people in Minnesota tend to know that better than people in Florida!
Second, when Peter, John and James experience a taste of glory and catch a glimpse of Jesus as King, their appetite for his kingdom is increased.
Whatever happens, whatever they have to go through as followers of Jesus, they are convinced it will be worth it in the end. Their desire to be part of the kingdom has grown. That day, rather than seeing Jesus, the Suffering Messiah who had come to die for his people, the one with whom they had traveled with many months, Peter, John and James now see Jesus, the Conquering Messiah who will one day reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, forever and ever.
I suspect when these men saw the Royal Jesus, they felt like Lucy did when she saw the Great Lion Aslan after he had come back from the dead. “He was oh so terrible, but so beautiful all at the same time.”
The three disciples saw a Jesus who gave them hope. Though the wicked often seem to prosper, though the forces of evil seem to be strong, though there is plenty of pain in their own lives, though it often seems much easier to just forget about Jesus and go with the flow, this glimpse of the Royal Jesus says, “No! Whatever it costs to follow Jesus, it is worth it!”
When dark days come, they could hang in there because of this taste of glory. Because no matter how dark and thick the clouds, the Son (S-O-N) still shines with all his brilliance!
Now, some of you may be thinking: “Pastor Dan, this all sounds great, but it didn’t work out that way. When the dark days came, when Jesus was arrested, Peter denies he even knows Jesus and John and James flee and go into hiding with the rest of the disciples. They seemed to have lost sight of the Royal Jesus.”
Folks, that is true. And it is a reminder of how fragile our faith can be. No matter what type of spiritual experience we have, doubt and despair can quickly seep into our lives.
Yet, I am convinced the disciples, led by Peter and John never lost hope, even after Jesus was crucified. Oh, they were confused, troubled and afraid. Some, like Peter, were remorseful. Yet, when the women bring the news that Jesus’ tomb is empty, it is Peter and John who run to the grave.
Indeed, the experience of Peter, John and James on the Mount of Transfiguration would soon be overshadowed by their encounter with the resurrected Jesus, the risen Lord. Yet, I believe their glimpse of the King, their taste of glory that day would continue to bring them encouragement. It was one of the experiences that gave them a deep conviction throughout the rest of their lives and ministries that it was worth it to follow Jesus, no matter how rough the path might seem.
OK, so how do we as Christians in 21st century northern Minnesota benefit from this account? What is God saying to us today through this portion of his Word?
Friends, I believe he is asking us a question: Are we, as his followers, getting a taste of glory, a glimpse of his kingdom? What encouragement does the Lord provide that enables us, you and me, to keep going, to keep following Jesus because we are confident it is going to be worth it? How does he give us this taste of glory?
Well, I do believe some people get a taste of God’s glory when they encounter him in a direct way. This is usually through a vision or dream, maybe an audible voice. Some of you have had an experience like that and found it very encouraging. Now, I don’t think this happens very often. This is not the normal way God reveals himself to people, but if he chooses to do so, that is his prerogative.
That is the key – God is the one who initiates these encounters, and it is unwise to seek this type of experience. I would also mention this: If someone tells me God spoke to him/her in an audible voice, I have no reason to disbelieve that person. Yet, nothing requires me to believe the person either. If there was a message from the Lord, it was for that individual, not for me.
There are, however, three more common, ordinary ways the Lord gives us a taste of glory, things which we should experience much more regularly:
#1 We sometimes get a taste of glory when we read the Bible.
I remember Brett once saying, “Dad, I pray and talk to God, but he never talks back to me.” I responded, “Oh yes, he does. Every time you read the Bible, God is speaking to you.”
Incidentally, it is no surprise that kids don’t realize that because many adults don’t either. As we read God’s words and prayerfully ponder what he says, there will be times when we get a taste of glory.
Any portion of Scripture we read can be a source of encouragement as we are reminded that if we are trusting in Jesus, God is our loving Father and he will never leave or forsake us.
Yet, even more powerful words of encouragement are found in the Bible’s descriptions of God’s Kingdom, of heaven. That is especially true of the book of Revelation. Sometimes, people get so bogged down trying to figure out symbols or an order of events that they miss the main purpose of the book. What is that? To encourage Christians to hang in there, even when life is difficult, even when persecution comes because some day, Jesus is going to win! He will be the Conquering King, and everything will be worth it!
Friends, when we start to feel overwhelmed by the trials and tragedies of life, there is not much better therapy than to sit down and read the last two chapters of Revelation (21 and 22) and be reminded of our eternal home where:
Luke 21:4 – God will wipe every tear from their (our) eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. Because all these things are gone forever.
Friends, that is a taste of glory!
#2 We sometimes get a taste of glory when we participate in corporate worship.
This can happen in private, individual worship, but gathering with other believers in Jesus is inherently a more powerful experience. Now, I want to be clear: I am not talking about merely an emotional experience. Unfortunately, much of what happens in some churches is emotional hype. Frequently, people get excited about the worship experience without really being excited about God.
However, when corporate worship focuses on the Lord; when the songs, prayers and Scripture readings focus not on our experience, but on who God is, what he is like and what he has done for us; when we get a clearer picture of who God truly is, then friends, we often get a taste of glory!
Folks, the reality is that our view of God is always fuzzy. That is all our human minds are capable of. Yet, frequently our view is fuzzier than it needs to be. Often, we get preoccupied with various concerns of life and we kind of put God on the back burner.
Corporate worship is intended to bring us before the face of God, where our attention is redirected and focused to where it should be – upon Jesus, the one who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Some of us know a song that says:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace
Now, I kind of think that song makes it sound a little too easy. There are many things that keep us from looking fully at the Lord Jesus; but when by God’s grace we are able to do that, it is indeed a taste of glory!
#3 We sometimes get a taste of glory when we experience God’s gifts in this life.
Last week, we talked about how following Jesus, being his disciple, involves self-denial or sacrifice. There will be certain things in life that we want, but will not be able to have if we choose to be faithful to the Lord.
For example, if you are generous in sharing your money with the poor and supporting missionaries and our church, you may not be able to accumulate enough money to buy the big house or new car you want.
The promise God gives is in the end, when we are in heaven with the Lord, we will discover that any sacrifice we have made on earth has been a great investment for eternity.
Yet, sometimes God, as a loving Father, gives us a taste of the joys that are ahead. The old, “We are marching to Zion (Zion means heaven) says:
The hills of Zion yield
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heavenly fields
Or walk the golden streets
In other words, the Lord often gives us a taste of glory. Think for a moment about what you consider the most important blessings in your life. It might be the dream house you built a couple of years ago or maybe it is the fact you are 80 years old and have never had a significant health issue. Or perhaps you have just been promoted at work and now have what you consider your dream job. Or maybe the biggest blessings are the people in your life – your family and friends. I know that is probably at the top of my list – so many wonderful people are part of my life.
Now, sometimes hard work or good decisions on your part are, indeed, part of the reason why we experience these blessings. Yet, the bottom line (1 Corinthians 4:7) is we have nothing that we did not receive from the Lord. Every good part of life we enjoy is a gift for which we should be grateful.
And we should also remember that these gifts are just the beginning. These blessings are just a shadow of what God has in store for us as his children.
1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT – No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
In other words, however good you think heaven will be, it is going to be better. Thus, the good things in your life right now are a taste of glory!
Friends, I have never had an experience like Peter, John and James that day on the Mount of Transfiguration. But when, through the Bible, God clearly reveals to me who he is, I have a taste of glory.
Often when I am here on Sunday mornings and join you in singing the wonderful songs which focus on the Lord and what he has done for us, I have a taste of glory.
When I go to bed at night and think of the blessings I enjoyed that day and recognize they are gifts from our loving heavenly Father, I have a taste of glory.
Friends, may the Lord give each of us tastes of glory which will make us long and look forward to that day when we will truly be home in the presence of God.
May this taste keep us going on the days that are not real fun and on the days when things are pretty tough because we know it will be far better some day. And oh friends, what a day that will be…..