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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Eyewitnesses of His Majesty
Text:Matthew 17:1-8; 1 Peter 1:16-0 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
How Blessed Is He Whose Trespass
Thy Love to Me, O Christ          
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name! 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Eyewitnesses of His Majesty”
Matthew 17:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16-21
Many television stations advertise their news as “Eyewitness news.”  They do so because it gives some credibility to the events they are covering. They are saying, “We are eyewitnesses to this news event. What we are telling you is true, because we saw it and here is the news footage of our eyewitness account.”
According to a reliable source, news stations started doing the “eyewitness” segments in April of 1959. But they were way behind. Around 2000 years ago already, Peter beat the newscasters at their own game. Reflecting on the events that are recorded in Matthew 17, Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:16: 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.”
To see the majesty of Jesus Christ, in all His glory, is the ultimate goal and greatest blessing any believer could ever have. Titus 2:13, 14 describes that experience as “the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” The Apostle Paul yearned to be with Christ to the point of writing, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil. 1:23, 24)
With Job every true believer must be able to exclaim:
 I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God;
 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!”
(Job 19:25-27)
And that ultimate goal and great blessing of seeing Christ in all His glory was given as a foreshadow to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. On that mountain they, were eyewitnesses to the glory of Jesus Christ, for as verse 2 records, There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Although seeing Christ in all His glory is the great anticipation of every true believer, it came as a shock to the disciples. They knew that Jesus is truly divine. They had witnessed His miracles many times, yet they also knew Him as a man like themselves in so many ways. They knew Him as someone who grew tired, experienced hunger, someone like us in every way except for sin. Also, although artists are fond of portraying him as a handsome man, Scripture does not. In Isaiah 53 He is described as homely, not handsome. Isaiah prophesied: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isa. 53:2b)
But now, what an amazing change transpired as Jesus was transfigured before them! In Mark’s account he writes: “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:3). His glory shone before the disciples similar to the way it would in the vision that John would later describe in Revelation 1. When John saw Jesus in all His glory he fell down before Him as a dead man until he heard these words of comfort from Jesus: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev. 1:17b-18)
It is worth noting that the glory of Christ is not a reflected glory. You recall that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after receiving the law from the LORD, his face shone with such radiance that the people of Israel were terrified. From then on, after Moses met with the Lord, he wore a veil to hide the radiancy of glory that was reflected from his face. The glory wasn’t from Moses. The glory was from God. It was reflected from the face of Moses much as the moon reflects the rays of the sun. But Moses in himself had no radiancy of glory, it was all reflected from the glory of meeting with God Himself. Not so with Jesus. When the disciples were eyewitnesses to the majesty of Christ, they saw Him as He truly is: all glorious, resplendent, not the man of sorrows, but the glorious King of righteousness!
The transfiguration of Jesus also shows us the love the Father has for the Son. Peter, James and John not only saw the glory of Jesus Christ in all His radiancy, but they also heard the voice of the Father. 2 Peter 1:17-18: “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, 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.” These words of Fatherly love are the same words spoken by the Father when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew 3:17. 
As we hear the Father express His love for His Son, we are also reminded of the great love the Father has for us. We can exclaim with the apostle John, in 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” It is only by grace, through saving faith in Christ alone, that we are adopted into the family of God and have the great privilege in sharing in the glory of Christ as we live and reign with Him forever.
All of us who are parents should be able to relate to the greatness of the sacrifice, not just on the part of the Son, but also the Father. He would witness the suffering of His only begotten Son. But amid the sorrow of suffering was also the joy that the Son was willing to suffer and die for the salvation of sinners.
And while the transfiguration was a great blessing to the three disciples who were eyewitnesses, it was also a great blessing to Jesus. Through the transfiguration Jesus was encouraged by His Father. The glory that was bestowed on Him on that mountain was a foretaste of the glory to come after His ascension into heaven. The cross would come before that ultimate glory, but the Mount of Transfiguration gave Jesus a foretaste of the glory He would have after conquering sin, Satan, and death itself through His suffering and death on the cross. In the many trials that lay ahead of Jesus, the Transfiguration reminded Him of the great glory that was His and would be His eternally as the Redeemer of His people.
The Law, the Prophets, and Christ
Through the transfiguration we also see the harmony of the law, the prophets, and Christ’s fulfillment of them. The statement of Jesus in Matthew 5:17 is well known. He said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Moses represented the law, which he received from the Lord on Mount Sinai. In a similar way, Elijah represented the prophets, as he served as a faithful prophet of the Lord at a time of apostasy and false religion. In a dramatic act of faith he challenged the priests of Baal to invoke their god to bring down fire from heaven and light the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. 
After their attempt failed, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord and arranged twelve rocks together to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. He made the people pour water on the sacrificed bull and the wood of the alter three times until the water ran down the alter and even filled the trench” (1 Kings 18:35). Then, after calling on the name of the Lord in prayer, fire came down from heaven and lit the sacrifice.
It was a glorious moment on Mount Carmel! But the glory of Moses and Elijah combined – indeed, the glory of the law and the glory of all the prophets combined – is nothing compared to the glory of Christ, who fulfilled both the law and the prophets.
How did He fulfill them? He did so by His perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. That is what He and Moses and Elijah were speaking about on the Mount of Transfiguration. Luke explains it this way in in a parallel account in Luke 9:30-31: “Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”  His “departure” – literally “exodus” in the Greek – refers to the cross, and also to the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus. It is by faith in Him alone that we are saved from our sin.
In Moses we have the law represented. But the law cannot save.  It reveals our sin, and in the words of Galatians 3:24 is a tutor to lead us to Christ as the Holy Spirit convicts us. But the law itself cannot save us. Only Christ can save us, and He does save all who by His grace and Spirit’s power have true saving faith in Him alone.  
Elijah represented the prophets. They were inspired by God to write the prophecies that foretold the coming of Jesus. The focus of the Old Testament is on Christ, just as the focus of the New Testament is on Christ. But the prophecies themselves, apart from the Holy Spirit’s work, cannot save. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, in John 5:39-40, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Salvation from sin and eternal life in heaven can only be found in Christ. He perfectly kept the law, every jot and title, every iota, and every nuance. And He credits His perfect record of righteous obedience to the account of all who have saving faith in Him. He also fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning sacrifices for sin. He became our ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) as He shed His blood to propitiate – to cover and make atonement – for your sins and mine, if by grace we are trusting in Him alone for salvation.
As Paul wrote to the Romans, But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe...” (Rom. 3:21-22).
Or in the words of Colossians 2:13-15: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (ESV)
As such, the law, the prophets, and the gospel of Jesus Christ all harmonize. But the glory of the gospel of Christ far exceeds that of the law and the prophets. As Paul told the Corinthians, in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11: “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!"
Our Response
From Matthew 17 we see how Peter responded at the time of the transfiguration. He offered to make shelters, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  It was him speaking before thinking, which we all do from time to time. But instead of criticizing Peter, we should ask ourselves, “How do we respond?” 
The account of the transfiguration, especially as Peter describes it in 2 Peter 1, teaches us that we must listen to and obey God’s Word, the Holy Bible, recognizing its authenticity. In Matthew 17:5 God the Father specifically says, concerning His Son, “Listen to Him.”  He is the ultimate Prophet, the Word who became flesh and dwelled among us. Unfortunately, few people, especially today, want to listen to Jesus and accept the teaching of the Bible concerning Him.
When I’m driving, I usually listen to Christian programming. But sometimes I push the radio buttons and hear what the world is listening to. The other week, driving and scanning the stations, I came across a song that has in its lyrics these words promoting “equality” for gay and lesbian “marriages” and disdain for the word of God:
The right wing conservatives think it's a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go…
...we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago… (Same Love; Macklemore and Ryan Lewis)
But for the Apostle Peter, there is no paraphrase. Peter echoes the words of his heavenly Father who says, “Listen to him,” that is, listen to Jesus, and pay attention to the Book which focuses on Him. In verse 19 Peter writes: Pay attention to it” – the Bible – as to a light shining in a dark place until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your heart.” (2 Pet. 1:19)
He is speaking about the reality of the second coming when Jesus returns in all His glory to judge humanity, both “the living and the dead.” At that time, when “the Day dawns and the Morning Star” appears, all those who have spurned the Word of God and have not repented and believed in Jesus will be filled with terrifying regret and eternal remorse.
The apostle John described a vision he had of that great Day – the return of the Morning Star – the Lord – in all His glory. He described in Revelation 6:15, 16 how people hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”
Peter underscored the importance of paying attention to the word of God as he stressed that we must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Those verses, from 1 Peter 1:20, 21, fit in with the well-known passage on the inspiration of Scripture found in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...”
The Bible is a book like no other book.  It is a lamp for our feet, a light for our path. It is a cleansing agent; as Jesus pointed out in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” The Bible is the tool that the Holy Spirit uses as He sanctifies us, which is what Jesus prays for as He prays for us, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Those are a few reasons why Peter, as an eyewitness to the glory of Christ, stresses our need to heed the command of God given on the Mount of Transfiguration: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
In your life and mine, by God’s grace and indwelling Spirit, may we listen to Him who is the Word become flesh, who suffered, died, and rose again for our salvation. May we listen to Him and heed His Word so that we live to the praise of His glorious grace in this life, even as we look forward with joy to “the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Amen!
sermon outline:
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. -  2 Peter 1:16
                            “Eyewitnesses of His Majesty”
                             Matthew 17:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16-21
I.  The transfiguration of Jesus reveals:
     1) His glory (Matthew 17:2; 2 Peter 1:16)
     2) The love the Father has for His Son (Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17)
     3) The harmony of the law, the prophets, and Christ’s fulfillment of
          them (Matthew 5:17, 17:3; Romans 3:21; 2 Peter 1:19-21)
II. Our response:
     1) Listen to and obey God’s Word (Matthew 17:5d), recognizing
         its authenticity (2 Peter 2:16-18, 20-21)
     2) Pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, for the  
         Day will dawn when Jesus, the Morning Star, returns (2 Pet. 1:19)
     3) Understand that the Bible was written as men spoke from God as
          they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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