Complimenting Jesus Is Not Enough
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 17:4d (Holman) “. . .one for you, one for Moses, and one for
The Transfiguration, which I have long underestimated, was a watershed event for Peter, James, and John, for at least five reasons. One, it confirmed they were right to believe Heaven exists after this life. Moses and Elijah were alive! Someday we who are Christ-followers will leave Earth to enter Heaven.
Two, the Transfiguration taught them they would someday have a glorified body like Moses and Elijah’s. Our bodies will not rot in their graves forever (The worm that eats my sinful flesh will die of food poisoning.). We’ll exchange weak and worn vessels for beautiful healthy new bodies. Someday Ruth will no longer be the only person on the planet who thinks I’m handsome.
Three, the Transfiguration prepared Peter, James, and John for coming trials, which loomed dark on the horizon. Our trek to Heaven is difficult at times, but the prize is worth the struggles. All our troubles here pale into insignificance when weighed in light of the glory we will someday enjoy.
Four, the Transfiguration steadied them when tempted to think they had been wrong to give up all to follow Jesus. Moses and Elijah, who sacrificed to serve God, had no regrets on the Mount. We walk our steps with no regrets, no looking back. We chose our life and wouldn’t choose another path at any price.
Now Peter, James, and John would learn a fifth valuable lesson from the Transfiguration. They learned Jesus’ words and claims were not exaggerated.
He truly is God. This is, by the way, the reason we follow Him with no regrets. He is God. We’ll never find anyone greater to give our lives to and for.
At first glance, Peter’s desire to build three shrines seems commendable. But closer examination will betray two fatal flaws in his plan.
First, Peter seemed to be putting Jesus on the same level with Moses and Elijah. The Apostle may have thought he was complimenting Jesus, but will soon learn good thoughts and compliments are not adequate responses to Jesus.
Standing alone in history, He requires more than lip service. Beware if people talk of Jesus as being one of the greatest men who ever lived, or a great prophet. Any compliment putting Jesus on a par with others demeans Him.
Peter’s second mistake was in his implied desire to want to stay on the mountain with Jesus. Peter believed being on a mountain top reveling in Jesus would be infinitely better than having to go back down into the midst of human suffering and sin (17:15ff). Better to bask in the glow than to head to a cross.
Be grateful Jesus disagreed with Peter. To accept Peter’s plan, Jesus would have had to abandon our redemption. Thankfully, to Jesus, this was not a viable option. He had long before decided to suffer and die for us. He could have stayed on the Mount, relishing grandeur, but Jesus chose something worse for Himself that we might someday be able to choose something better for us.
Matt. 17:5a While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud covered them, . . .
A cloud was a familiar symbol of God’s presence, a common method whereby God manifested His obvious presence. Had a cloud not muted God’s light, people would have been fatally overcome due to its intolerable radiance.
God led Israel through the wilderness by day with a cloud, which had a heart of fire that glowed at night to guide Israel (EX 13:21). Thomas Jefferson wanted this image to be our national seal. A cloud containing God’s glory forbade Moses entering the Tabernacle (EX 40:35) and drove the priests from the Temple (I Kings 8:10-11). In Revelation (14:14), John saw Jesus on a cloud.
Last but not least, when our Lord Jesus ascended, He did not disappear into the wild blue yonder. Being God, He left Earth in the familiar symbol of Deity. He was received into a cloud (Acts 1:9), the evidence of God’s presence.
Matt. 17:5b “. . . and a voice from the cloud said:”
Atop this mount, on Jesus’ behalf, we have thus far had the testimony of Jesus being transformed, the testimony of Moses and Elijah, and the testimony of God’s presence in a cloud. Now the testimony of God’s voice will be added.
God had used this method to honor Moses. “The Lord said to Moses, I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear when I speak with you and will always believe you” (EX 19:9a). God had confirmed Moses’ ministry in the eyes of His followers, and now did the same for Jesus. By His voice, God conveyed the best news ever heralded from Heaven to Earth.
It is important to note, when the Father delivered one of the most significant announcements ever, He used wording from His own holy writings. Hear ye! Hear ye! God the Father, when He spoke with authority about His Son, quoted from the Bible. Learn a lesson. God loves the Bible. We should too. Read in it daily, all of it yearly. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Absorb it.
“This is My beloved Son” echoed a Messianic passage, Psalm 2:7, “I will declare the Lord’s decree: He said to Me, You are My Son.” “I take delight in Him” is from Isaiah 42:1, a prediction Christ will be a suffering Servant, “This is My Servant; I strengthen Him, this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him”
“Listen to Him!” recalls Deuteronomy 18:15, where Moses said Messiah would be God’s spokesman, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me (Moses) from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.”
By quoting Scripture, the Father highlighted the fact Jesus fulfilled Old Testament expectation. These divine Bible words deserve our careful attention.
Matt. 17:5c “This is My beloved . . .”
Whoa! Stop here a moment. Let this truth sink in. God the Creator, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, loves—a thought foreign to most religions. We Christ-followers revel in the fact God loves. He is not devoid of emotions.
God the Father loves His Son, and Whom God loves we had best love. The critical importance of this is seen in the same Psalm the Father had quoted here. In Psalm 2:7, the Father had said, “You are My Son.” In Psalm 2:12 He said, “Kiss the Son, or He will be angry, and you will perish in your rebellion.” Relationship is so important to the Father that to miss it is to miss Him entirely.
Matt. 17:5d “. . . Son.”
In our feeble attempts to express the Divine interaction, the concept of “Son” is the nearest human relationship we can muster to picture the divine relationship. Don’t stumble here. “Son” does not indicate a subordinate position. “Son” means co-eternal and co-equal with the Father. “Son” means having the same nature as Father. “Son” is thus as much God as the Father is.
Christ-followers are adopted children. Jesus is the only One begotten of the Father. I have two begotten children, son John and daughter Rebekah. Neither is subordinate to me or worth less than I am. We share DNA, nature, life essence. In the same way, the Son is not less than or inferior to the Father.
Matt. 17:5e “I take delight in Him.”
Three times God spoke from Heaven to state His approval of the Son. The first time was at Jesus’ baptism, as He began His public ministry (Matt. 3:17). The Father thus endorsed all of Jesus’ life prior to His public ministry.
The second time was here, in the middle of Jesus’ ministry. The religious leaders were criticizing His work, but God was happy with Him in every detail.
The third time happened near the end of Jesus’ public ministry (John 12:28). Everything Jesus did in His ministry pleased the Father, and everything Jesus would accomplish in the future due to His death would please the Father.
The Father endorsed all of Jesus’ life. Nothing the Son said or did ever displeased the Father, not in private or public, as a child, teen, or adult.
Have you endorsed the Son? Have you yielded to receive the salvation Jesus came to Earth to bring, in the way prescribed for us to receive it?