Saturday, February 18, 2017
Daily reading assignment: Matthew 17-19
I have been blessed with many “been there done that” opportunities over my lifetime: Skiing in Colorado; snowmobiling across the Continental Divide; cruises to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cozumel, and Alaska; a memorable train ride from Fairbanks through the Alaskan wilderness, past Denali (Mount McKinley) to Anchorage; missions trips to Scotland, England, Wales, Spain, France, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
Perhaps most memorable of all–the trip Sheilah and I took to Israel for our 10th anniversary at Hillsdale…the bus trip from Tel Aviv to Nazareth; walking through the ruins of ancient Caesarea and waking to the sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. I remember sitting on a grassy knoll with the Sea of Galilee as the backdrop and envisioning Jesus feeding the multitude; walking through the streets of Jerusalem and gazing at the hillside known as Golgotha where Christ was crucified; and looking into the empty tomb where, three days after He was buried, He rose from the dead! What a wonderful experience!
Matthew 17 marks a “Been There, Done That” life changing experience for three disciples, Peter, James and John. Those men never tired of sharing the vision of Christ’s Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36). Peter would write some 60 years later:
2 Peter 1:16-18 – “For we have not followed cunningly [clever] devised fables [stories], when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty [heavenly glory and power]. 17 For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.”
John would write in His Gospel: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The setting of the Transfiguration in Matthew 17 is approximately 6 months before Jesus us crucified. For three years the disciples followed Jesus, witnessing His healing miracles and listening as He explained the Messianic prophecies concerning Himself. The rising adulation of the adoring multitudes following Jesus was accompanied by a growing antagonism and contempt from Jewish religious leaders. Knowing His time with the disciples was growing short, Jesus began to speak plainly of His earthly mission:
Matthew 16:21 – “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
Ascending a high mountain to pray, Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus, but soon fell asleep (Luke 9:32) only to be suddenly awakened by the appearance of Christ veiled in His heavenly glory and accompanied by two heavenly visitors identified as Moses and Elias (Luke 9:29-32).
When Peter suggested the event be memorialized with three “tabernacles” (temporal earthly structures) dedicated to the Jesus, Moses and Elias (in effect giving no more honor to the Son of God than to the two men that appeared with Him), God the Father spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).
Hearing the voice of God from heaven, the disciples fell on their faces until Jesus “touched them” and comforted them with the words, “Arise, and be not afraid” (Matthew 17:7). Commanding them to “tell the vision to no man” (Matthew 17:9), the three kept the vision of Christ’s heavenly glory to themselves until Christ was crucified, raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven.
The Transfiguration of Christ convinced His inner circle that Jesus was the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. He was greater than the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. He was the Son of God and, in Peter’s words, they “were witnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
Friend, you may have had many “Been There, Done That” experiences, but the one upon which your eternity hangs is whether or not you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, crucified for your sins, buried and raised victorious from the grave. Can you answer “Been There, Done That” when asked, “Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior Redeemer?”
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith