Tuesday, April 06, 2010



In Luke 9:28-36 we come to a most amazing scene: About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 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. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "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." (He did not know what he was saying.)

While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Talk about a wild ride! The disciples were on the adventure of their lives. Most likely the greatest shift of gears was in their thinking about what the kingdom was going to look like. They wanted a political agenda to deal with their oppressors, but Jesus was into setting up His invisible kingdom. He had just said that a few of the disciples would not die before seeing the kingdom of God.

He wasn't speaking of His second coming. He was speaking of this very incident of taking Peter, James and John up on the mountain with Him to reveal His glory to them. This is what Jesus is talking about. This was a very unique field trip for specialized training for the three. This was one of three times Jesus pulled the three-Peter, James and John-aside for something special. The other two were when Jesus went into Jairus' daughter's room to raise her from the dead and the other was when He invited these three to be with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus definitely was into training an inner circle of His disciples. If we are to learn the training methods of Jesus, we will also include the importance of training an inner circle of leaders according to their degree of readiness and willingness. This isn't about treating a certain few in a special way, but it's all about starting a fire of kingdom business that will most surely spread.

Jesus revealed Himself in all His glory and radiance in front of these three disciples. This is much like when Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai. The revelation of the presence of God was so radiant and powerful that Moses' face shone for awhile after coming down from the mount. This radiance makes a lasting impression upon John to the point of saying in John 1, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

Peter, James and John see on the face of Jesus what has been described as an "unapproachable light" during this event. It is called the transfiguration. Luke describes Jesus' clothing in a similar striking manner: "his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning" (9:29). How bright is a flash of lightning? Bright! One minute Jesus seems normal enough with a beard and dusty clothing from the walk. The next minute his face is shining like the sun and his clothing as bright as lightning! He is changed, transfigured in divine glory before their eyes. Moses and Elijah supernaturally show up and appear in some form of splendor and were talking with Jesus. They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem-literally His "exodus". I think this refers to the fact of Jesus' move toward Jerusalem bringing to a close what He has come to accomplish.

Moses representing the Law and Elijah representing the Prophets, are talking to the Messiah concerning what He is about to do to deliver His people. But because of what Jesus said in the prior paragraph about a few of His disciples actually seeing the kingdom of God with their eyes, I think this transfiguration is a revelation of the King in all His glory. And, where the King is, there is the Kingdom.

Peter immediately wants to erect three tabernacles-one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Peter was still cloudy (or sleepy) in his thinking about Jesus. Jesus is not the latest in a string of God's anointed prophets. They are not equal. Jesus is the God-Man. Jesus is God's Messiah. It's all about Him.

Then a voice booms out from heaven and basically tells Peter to stop babbling and listen to Jesus. As this happens, both Moses and Elijah disappear, leaving Jesus as the One. Though they don't understand what in the world Jesus is talking about when he predicts his sufferings and death, or what Moses and Elijah mean by Jesus' "exodus," they no longer question it. They have seen Jesus in his glory and heard the Father's voice. They no longer experience the doubting. Though in somewhat of a daze, they simply believe and trust Him.

They are so overwhelmed by seeing the revelation of the King and His Kingdom they are getting a little closer to getting it. Jesus is not only God's Messiah. He is the Son of God. You see, God is so awesome He is unknowable and therefore Jesus took on flesh so that we might relate to God. To know Jesus is to get to know the heart of God. So be diligent to spend more time hanging out with Jesus and the God of gods will become clearer and closer to you. Overlook Jesus and you miss out on God.



Immediately after Peter affirms Him as God's Messiah, Jesus reveals to them that He will suffer, be killed and resurrected-all at the hands of the religious leadership in Jerusalem.

Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

It's pretty obvious this revelation either went over their heads or they thought Jesus was speaking in hyperbole. In some ways it's understandable, because they are on a 'high' with all sorts of thoughts regarding the Messiahship of Jesus and what that could mean for them. No doubt, they had a nationalistic twist in their thinking and believed their newly discovered Messiah meant the Romans would be run out of power and they would be in.

Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? If any of you are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."

Jesus quickly moves to bolster their personal commitment to being His disciples. Knowing that there are going to be some rough days ahead in the next couple of weeks, Jesus challenges each disciple as an individual. The challenge is to deny oneself and take up your cross and follow Him. I like to interpret this as being a call to perseverance, that 'no matter what comes I will continue to follow Jesus'.

He further explains this by putting it in terms of saving and losing. "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for Jesus will save it." Now this is a kingdom contrast at its best. The kingdom of this world says to get all you can, promote yourself, lift yourself up and accumulate as much as you can in order to build up your position over everyone else. Jesus' kingdom has to do with losing your life in order to save it. Then Jesus says, "What good is it for you to gain the whole world while losing or forfeiting your very self?" He is saying that if you live your life in this way with a disregard for others and for God, then you are in fact in a losing position.

You may accumulate the entire world, but lose your soul in the process. It's a matter of misreading what's important in life. I see it all the time. Men and women who are willing to sell their souls and marriage and family in order to "get it all", then live empty lives of quiet desperation and loneliness.

Then Jesus brings their attention back to the kingdom of God. He says that some of the disciples would see with their eyes the kingdom of God before they die. So, therefore hang on to the kingdom principles of giving yourself away so you can get yourself back in return. We'll see in the next paragraph what Jesus was talking about here.

You see, Jesus came to introduce the kingdom of God to the world. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you and is here right now." It is not a political kingdom, but a spiritual one. Our struggle is that we are constantly living between two kingdoms-the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God.

Your kingdom is what you have say over. So, the kingdom of God is what God has say over. Another way to look at it is that the kingdom is where the king is-where He rules! The kingdom is where what God wants done gets done. It's interesting to note the emphasis Jesus places on the kingdom-significantly more than the church. Jesus speaks of the kingdom in the Gospels around 32 times and mentions the church only twice and one of those references was referring to the universal church or kingdom.

NOTE the gospel of the kingdom is mentioned several times, but there is no gospel of the church. The kingdom is invisible and the church is visible. You go to church while the kingdom goes with you. You aren't told to seek the church, but you are to seek first the kingdom. The church may or may not grow, but the kingdom is continually growing. And the church may have God present, but the kingdom is God's presence in us.

So, let me ask you. Why is there such a massive emphasis among Christians on the church and the kingdom seems to be ignored or minimized? We seem to be at it again-majoring in what Jesus minors in and minoring in what Jesus sees as most important.



In Luke chapter 9:18-20 we come to a brief account of the interchange between Jesus and His disciples regarding the identity of Jesus. Up to this time Jesus was busy healing those who came to Him and teaching kingdom principles. This conversation came very close to the end of His mentoring time with these men. He had been with them for over 3 years and now the final exam was closing in.

We know from Matthew's and Mark's gospels that the setting for this interchange occurred at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus took His disciples away for a little retreat before going up to Jerusalem to face a most difficult time. This retreat was a time of preparation for Himself as well as for the disciples. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer and also disclosing bit by bit what they were all about to face. Let's listen in:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "God's Messiah."

NOTE the variety of answers to the question, "Who do the crowds say I am?" These answers are still present today. FIRST-John the Baptist. John was a very powerful teacher, so people viewed Jesus as a great teacher in the spirit of John.

SECOND-Elijah. Elijah was a most impressive prophet in the history of the Jewish people. So, they viewed Jesus in the same way-a prophet who has a word for today from God.

THIRD-one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life. Jesus must be a reincarnation of an ancient prophet who has come back to life.

NOTE Jesus is seen as a great teacher, a prophet or maybe a reincarnated one. This speaks to our many cultures today. Some see Jesus as a teacher, a prophet or a product of reincarnation.

Also NOTE that Jesus doesn't put these references down. I've come to realize that knowing Jesus is a progression-the more you hang out with Him, the more amazing and divine He becomes. This is a necessary progression that people must go through in order to embrace Jesus fully. I'm sure even within the band of the disciples they had come to know Jesus in the same way. Some connected Him with John the Baptist, others as a great prophet and still others wondering if Jesus was somehow reincarnated from an earlier time in history.

Then Jesus asks, "Who do you say I am?" Peter steps to the line and gives the answer Jesus was looking for-the revelation that Jesus had been sent by God as God's deliverer, God's Messiah. Jesus had performed the messianic acts and wonders that the prophets described the Messiah doing. Jesus had made the claims that the prophets said He would say. Now, it was time for His disciples to really get it. Jesus was God's Messiah.

Here's what's interesting to me. Even though Peter gave the right answer, still he hadn't embraced Jesus' identity for himself. In other words, it was still maybe a "factual" observation, but not yet of the heart and soul. Just as soon as Peter gave the proper answer, within a few days he was denying that he was a follower of this man, Jesus.

This goes to show that you cannot rest totally on your education or knowledge of the facts to transform your life. You must be dependent on the Spirit of God to make what you know alive in your heart. This is the Spirit of God's work on the inside. No amount of theology or belief systems can transform your heart. No church or charismatic cleric can transform your heart. It's only as you come to know Jesus that the Spirit of God does His work of illumination in your heart. Then and only then will you be given ears to hear and eyes to see.

What will you hear and what will you see? You will be able to hear and see Jesus and His kingdom working in and through you. As Jesus often says, "He that has ears to hear, let him hear."