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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:St. Albert Canadian Reformed Church
 St. Albert, Alberta
Title:See the Glory of Christ our Saviour!
Text:Luke 9:28-36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 104:1,8

Ps 81:4,5,6,7

Reading – Luke 9

Ps 114:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Luke 9:28-36

Hy 18:1,2,3

Hy 27:1,2,5,6,7,8


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in the Lord, I think we all have a picture in our minds of what Jesus was like during the time He was on earth. Many picture him as a gentle, soft-spoken man; with shoulder-length brown hair; a trim beard; and warm brown eyes. From childrens’ story Bibles, from television and movies, from paintings, over the years we form a mental picture of Jesus.

Now, it’s debatable whether picturing Jesus in this way is proper or not. He was a man, after all, with a body and personality. Yet if we picture what He looked like, at once a danger can arise: Is that Jesus in sandals and a white robe still seen for who He is? If we think of him merely as the nice man who said wise things and put children on his lap, have we begun to lose sight of how the Bible pictures our Lord?

For many people have thought well of Jesus, but have not worshiped him. Many have respected him, but have not loved him. Many have heard his wise words, but have not obeyed him. All such responses overlook the greatest part of his work, the chief purpose of his time on this earth. And if we have not seen Christ for who He really is, what will He say to us when He comes again?

Rather, we have to be filled with a true knowledge of Jesus Christ. We have to lay aside every wrong idea, and we have to see the Bible’s portrait of Jesus. And there we see, beyond any question, that Jesus Christ is glorious! He is majestic; He is awesome; He is Lord and King and God! This glory was seen many times in his life. We can think of his conception, his birth, and his miracles; we even hear his glory in his teaching. And we see Jesus’ glory most clearly on the Mount of Transfiguration. There, on that mountain top, his disciples caught just a glimpse of the incredible splendour of this humble man they followed. But what a glimpse it was!

The context of this event is important. The transfiguration takes place shortly after Peter made the first-ever confession of Christ, in 9:20. "Who do you say I am?" Jesus asked; and Peter replied, "The Christ of God." Jesus is the Christ – but contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean He’s going to kick out the Romans. No, says Christ, ‘[I] must suffer many things and be rejected… and [I] must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (vv 21-22). Now, this was deeply discouraging news for the disciples. Was dying the mission of Jesus? Would the promised Messiah finish with a whimper and not a bang?

Jesus knows his disciples need assurance. They need to see again who Christ is. And so that following event is very closely connected; Luke draws our attention to it: "About eight days after [this]… [Jesus] took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain" (v 28). There, on the mountain, Jesus would show them what He was all about. They would see his glory – a glory that banishes all discouragement, and melts away all indifference!

The disciples see the glory of Jesus the Christ on the mountain:

    1. his appearance and his companions
    2. his departure and his mission
    3. his Father and his authority

1. His appearance and his companions: Shortly after Peter’s confession Jesus takes three of his disciples – Peter, John, and James – and leads them up a mountain (v 28). Notice that He "takes" them: Jesus knew what was going to happen, and He wanted them to witness it.

The precise mountain they climbed is unknown. The "traditional" site of the Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor, is doubtful, as it isn’t much of a mountain; and in Jesus’ day it had a fortress on it. Some think then, that Mt. Hermon was the place of this event. Mount Hermon is close to Caesarea Philippi, where that confession of Peter took place. Mount Hermon is also pretty big as far as mountains in that land go: 9000 feet in height. Indeed, Matthew tells us that this event took place on a "high mountain" (Mt 17:1).

Jesus takes his disciples up to that solitary place to spend time in prayer. Luke tells us how Jesus often prays before important events in his ministry: before his baptism, before calling his disciples, even before Peter’s confession. Now Jesus prays again; and as He prays, He’s surely asking the Father to reveal his true glory, for the disciples to see it and to understand.

And then suddenly, v 29 tells us, "As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning." Jesus is being transfigured; that is, He is being transformed, radically changed, rendered in a different form. Jesus the carpenter’s son from Nazareth is being shown to be someone else! Luke doesn’t tell us how the appearance of his face changed, but Matthew does: "His face shone like the sun" (17:2). His face was radiant, and (Luke tells us) his clothes too, became bright – as bright as lightning (Lk 9:29).

It’s hard to imagine this scene. We’re used to seeing lightning flash for only a split second – and even then, the intensity of that light means we still see the flash for a while after it’s gone. Yet the clothes of Jesus were like a continual flash of lightning, burning in the disciples’ eyes. We’re also told not to look straight at the sun, yet here was Jesus, right in the presence of his disciples, with a face like that great ball of fire in the sky.

What was going on? Why this change, this transfiguration? Let’s focus on Jesus’ clothes. In the Bible, "clothing" says who a person really is. If you’re clothed in humility, that means you’re a humble person. If you’re clothed with deceit, you’re a liar. And if someone is clothed with glory, that means He is glorious!

This physical change was a revelation of the true character of Jesus Christ. He is a human being; He is the son of Joseph and Mary; He is from Nazareth; He is a man of sorrow – but He is also the awesome God of heaven! What the Psalmist sings in Ps 104 can well be applied to Christ: "O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty. [You wrap yourself] in light as with a garment" (vv 1-2).

And as if that marvelous physical appearance of Jesus wasn’t enough to dispel any doubts about him, Jesus is joined by some heavenly companions. "Two men, Moses and Elijah, [also] appeared in glorious splendor, talking with [him]" (v 31). More important Old Testament figures than these two would be hard to find! Here was the one who delivered God’s law to Israel (Moses), and here was the greatest of God’s prophets (Elijah). Now these pillars of the Old Testament stand with Christ on earth.

Neither of these men were strangers to the presence of God when they were on earth. In Ex 33-34, we can read about how Moses was allowed to catch a passing glimpse of the glory of God. And it was on a mountain, Mt. Sinai, that Moses communed with God. In 1 Kgs 19 also, we read of how the LORD appeared to Elijah in a gentle whisper – this, again, was on a mountain, Mt. Horeb. Moses and Elijah had been in God’s presence before, but only with great trembling and caution. God could only tell Moses his Name, and could only show him his back – even then, Moses’ face was later too radiant for others to see, for it reflected the overwhelming glory of God. Elijah too, had to cover his face even when he heard that gentle whisper of the LORD. Now they stand on a mountain again, again in the presence of God on earth – but this time they’re not overpowered!

In their times, these great men were the deliverers of the people of Israel. Moses had led Israel from the land of Egypt; Elijah had led them back to the ways of the LORD. Yet really, neither of them had finished the job. They were only human, after all, and limited. But now they stand with Christ, and He stands above them. For He will deliver the people of God, once and for all!

And that’s what Moses and Elijah themselves had always said. They couldn’t do the task; it had to be left to the Messiah. The Law and the Prophets of old always testified to Christ – that is, they always looked ahead, to the glorious one who was coming. Now finally this reality was seen on the mountain: In Christ, the old order was passing away; in Christ, all those promises were reaching fulfillment; through Christ, the God of heaven and earth was opening the way back into the presence of his glory!

When Jesus is transfigured in brilliance, and then is joined by none other than Moses and Elijah, the disciples suddenly shake off their sleep. It was probably nighttime when this event took place, and perhaps Jesus had been praying for some time. They had dozed off, but with a jolt they now see the glory of Jesus "and the two men standing with him" (v 32). In a sense, the sleep of the disciples is fitting, for at first they were ignorant to Christ’s mission – they didn’t understand what He was all about. But now they’re beginning to wake up to it. They stumbled over the news of his coming death, but now it’s starting to make a little sense. Now they too, see the true glory of their Master.

It’s true, they weren’t cured of their spiritual sleepiness in one night. We know how they slept again in the Garden of Gethsemane, even as Jesus agonized in prayer over his looming death. They slept, because they still didn’t understand! And let’s make no mistake: It can take a while for us also to realize what Jesus is all about. We might even close our eyes to him, and we might sleep in ignorance of his true glory, but we cannot do so for long. For He appeared to bring us salvation!

2. His departure and his mission: As the radiant Jesus stood there with Moses and Elijah, they talked with one another. Literally, they "carried on a conversation." And they weren’t just talking about whatever came to mind, they had a very specific topic under discussion: "They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem" (v 31).

Jesus was going to depart – Jesus was going to die. Remember, this is what Jesus had just declared to his disciples, after that monumental confession: "The Son of Man must suffer many things… and he must be killed" (9:22). Those three disciples on the mountain could now hear it: Jesus wasn’t just being pessimistic, dying was his mission. Even the venerable Moses and Elijah knew all about it! For centuries the law had foreshadowed Christ’s death with all those sacrifices of blood. For centuries the prophets had proclaimed the coming death of Christ with prophecies like Is 53. "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter" (v 7).

From the Law and Prophets it was clear: Jesus was going to die a bloody, painful death. So why does Luke put it so gently, so euphemistically? "They spoke about his departure." It doesn’t sound like they’re talking about his pending execution on the cross, but about when his flight was leaving Jerusalem International. Yet there’s an interesting Greek word that Luke uses here; the Greek word translated as "departure" is exodus. What were Moses, Elijah and Jesus discussing? "They were speaking about [Jesus’] exodus."

That man right beside Christ had led an exodus too. As we said, Moses led the people out of slavery, through the desert – an exodus. But again, he hadn’t been able to finish the job. Joshua stepped in to bring the people on the last leg of their exodus, into the Promised Land. Yet we know even Joshua couldn’t grant true rest to the people of God. Now is the time for a new Joshua, now is the time for Jesus, the Christ.

He would go to Jerusalem, and He would bring the exodus to its conclusion! At Jerusalem, Jesus would lead God’s people from their true slavery, and He would bring them into the true land of promise. But to do it, He’d have to die. The road of exodus was well-marked by the prophets and law; as Isaiah had said, "He was pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities" (Is 53:5). The road of exodus was well-marked in the Old Testament, but now Jesus actually had to take that road, a road never taken before, a road that lead straight to Gethsemane and to the cross. His bright face would be made dark with grief and pain. His shining clothes would be ripped away and He’d hang there in shame.

Yes, that tame-sounding "departure" was his gory but glorious mission. By his death He would show the captives the way home. With the cross He would mark where the journey had to go. If we want to escape the clutches (not of Rome, but) of sin, we have to follow him! If we want to flee the plague of death, we have to be sprinkled with his blood! If we want to get to the Promised Land, we have to fall in line behind Jesus, our Joshua!

After their conversation with the Lord, Moses and Elijah begin to leave. Perhaps they started to ascend back into heaven. Peter sees this and quickly calls out, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (v 33). Peter wants to prolong this amazing experience; he wants these three to stay a little longer, to camp out on that holy mountain.

And Peter’s idea wasn’t that farfetched. In the Old Testament, God did dwell on earth in a humble tent, in a tabernacle. Peter thought it was only fitting that Jesus and the great Moses and Elijah do the same, even if it was just for a while.

The Gospel-writer Luke judges Peter’s suggestion with the clarity of hindsight. He says as an aside: "[Peter] did not know what he was saying" (v 33). And Luke is right. Peter still didn’t understand. Peter didn’t understand, and he wouldn’t understand, until Christ was crucified, risen and ascended. That’s why Jesus can’t stay in a tent; He has to keep moving, and He has to finish his task. Some verses later, in v 51, Luke tells us, "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Jesus went there resolutely: No time to sit back, no time to camp, no time to waste. The exodus is starting soon!

3. His Father and his authority: Jesus gives no answer to Peter’s request to set up shelters. The answer of the next event was plain enough: "While [Peter] was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped [the disciples], and they were afraid as they entered the cloud" (v 34). With good reason the disciples are afraid – this cloud on the mountain didn’t tell of coming rain, it told of the presence of God! For the disciples knew their Old Testament: It was in a cloud that God appeared in the tabernacle (Lev 16:2); it was God’s cloud which filled the temple that Solomon built (2 Chron 5:13). Once again the disciples were being powerfully shown just who this Jesus was!

And what they heard next confirmed it once more. "A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him’" (v 35). This voice could belong to none other than God the Father. Here the Father reveals the Son; He places his seal of approval on Jesus, and He confirms his calling. Jesus isn’t just the son of Mary and Joseph; He isn’t even just a son of David; He is the Son of the Most High God!

"He is my Son, and I have chosen him." This is an echo what was said already at his baptism: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased" (Mt 3:17). And what’s more, this declaration is another echo of the prophets; in Is 42:1, God declares about the Messiah: "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight." On the mountain, the Father says very plainly: Jesus is the one who was promised; Jesus is the one who will do it; He is the answer, and there is no other! Fellowship with God can only be restored through this one man who is also God.

And so, after all this, we might even expect that final word which comes from the Father. In light of that picture of Jesus on the mountain top, painted so vividly by Luke – Jesus’ radiant glory, the testimony to Jesus by the Law and Prophets, the cloud of God’s presence, the seal of approval from heaven – yes, in light of all this, that final statement from the Father comes as little surprise: "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him" (v 35). For what else could we do? What other response could we possibly have? "Here is your Saviour; here is your deliverer; here is your God: Listen to him!"

This is a call for the disciples – and this is an urgent call for us – to wake up from our slumber, and to change our opinion of the Lord. We can’t be sentimental about him. We can’t be indifferent in his presence. We must realize who the Saviour is, what He has done, and what He demands! He claims our obedience. Yes, He wants our life. The Father has given him as the only way, and so the Father tells us that we have to listen to him!

On that note, this incredible event on the mountain draws to a close. "When the voice had spoken, [the disciples] found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen" (vv 34-36). Matthew informs us that the disciples didn’t share this experience with anyone because Jesus told them not to (17:9). They had to keep it secret – at least for now. And they had to do so for the same reason Jesus often instructed people not to draw attention to him: Jesus wants true believers. He wants people to follow him not because of spectacular displays of special effects, He desires faith based on what He says.

For only those who believe Jesus because of his word will faithfully follow. Only those who believe He is God, even without seeing his divine majesty first hand – only these will submit to the things He commands. "Listen to him." And that’s always the response that God wants. It’s not enough to know that Jesus is the Christ; it’s not even enough to be familiar with the Bible and what it says. We have to listen.

We see this need for active response also in the passage before our text. After Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, and after Jesus told them what He was going to do, Jesus drove home to his disciples what they now had to do: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (vv 23-24). Again, to join Christ on his exodus from sin and death, we have to line up behind him, ready to die.

Those who do not confess, those who do not follow, and those who do not listen, are gravely warned. For Christ declares just before his glorious transfiguration, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father" (v 26). Even the sleepy disciples could see this connection – on the mountain they were given a preview of Christ’s kingdom. Now what would they do? Would they confess? Would they listen? Or would they deny and be ashamed? Yes, also if we are ashamed of Christ, we’ll have every reason to tremble the next time Christ comes in all his shining light!

For what was seen on the Mount of Transfiguration was a glimpse of the real character of Christ. With that glimpse, every false impression and hollow portrait of Jesus falls away. Jesus is God! He is Lord! He is clothed in heavenly majesty, and Jesus will soon come again in even far greater splendour!

And so we have to listen. Not just hearing his Word, but listening – obeying, submitting, denying ourselves – in humble adoration of our Lord. Who He is, we must worship. What He says, we must do. For Jesus came from heaven to earth, to bring us out of captivity, and to take us to our glorious home. Let us follow him there, that we may forever stand beside him in glory, our awesome Saviour and God! Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2006, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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