The big question for Luke in the last few chapters has been; ‘who is Jesus?’ But there is another question that we need to ask; why does it matter? What difference does it make?
If Jesus isn’t God’s Messiah, if Peter was wrong then the crowds are right and he’s just another prophet. Worth listening to but not worth denying yourself, carrying your cross and dying for. If he isn’t the Messiah then the resurrection is a fairy tale. If he isn’t the Messiah then the church and its message is a fraud. If Jesus isn’t God’s Messiah then there’s no salvation and we’re still under God’s judgement for our rebellion against him and we face a lost eternity.
This question is the most fundamentally important, the most potentially life changing, question we will ever have to face and answer. Luke in recording the conversation between Jesus and the disciples shows three things: 1. Jesus is the Messiah(20), 2. he must suffer, be rejected and die(22), and 3. he would rise and come in glory(26). Here in v28-36 God affirms that each of those statements are correct as they see Jesus glory(29), hear of his suffering and death(31) and hear God’s testimony that Jesus is the Messiah(35).
Peter has just made his confession that Jesus is “God’s Messiah”, but unexpectedly rather than being met by a well done they are told to keep quiet and that Jesus will be rejected, suffer and die, and that his life establishes the pattern of discipleship. You can imagine they were a bit bewildered.
But now they see the reality of Jesus authority and reign, they’re given a glimpse of the glory of the kingdom of God(27) and of the son as he takes them up on a mountain to pray(29). It is a splendour associated with God ruling in his throne room. It’s as if for a few moments the veil of his humanity, his incarnation, is lifted so they can see divine reality. Something that is helpful for us to focus on as we approach Christmas.
It’s like the moment at a wedding where the bride’s veil is lifted and everyone can see how beautiful she looks, how radiant and happy. Jesus veil is lifted and his glory is revealed and it provides reassurance and encouragement for the disciples, but it doesn’t stop there.
(30)Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. Why Moses and Elijah? They are significant figures in Israel’s history. Moses is the prophet and mediator between the people and God who leads Israel out of Egypt and slavery and to the mountain where God’s redeemed people are taught how to live in the light of their salvation. And Elijah in the New Testament is the prophet associated with the end times and God’s coming kingdom rule and reign.
Moses is a reminder of the past and Elijah a pointer to the future, and both these two figures come and talk to Jesus who is the fulfilment of all these things(31). What do they talk about? “his departure”, look at the footnotes it tells you that the word is exodus. The exodus is the great salvation event of the Old Testament as God redeemed his people through the blood of the Passover lamb and brought them out from slavery so that they could worship him.
How would Jesus bring about an exodus? Through what he is going to do at Jerusalem. It’s a link back to(22) it is what Jesus sets himself to do in (51)as he “resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. Jesus, the glorious Son, God’s Messiah by his rejection, suffering, death and resurrection will gather a blood bought and forgiven people to himself who will worship God.
It is the purpose of his veiling, his incarnation and as that veil is lifted they see the glory of the one who will secure for his people their exodus from sin and judgement and slavery to life lived as God's people in God's place delighting in his rule.
As if that wasn’t enough (34-35)God himself adds his testimony as to who Jesus is. The cloud is a sign of God’s presence throughout the Old Testament and it is from the cloud that God speaks “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
God authenticates Peter’s conclusion. Where have we heard those words before? God repeats his assertion at Jesus baptism that Jesus is his Son, and it is also a reference back to Psalm 2v7 and identifies Jesus as his Messianic King, who will inherit the nations and will judge, and is therefore to be served.
How else does God identify Jesus? “I have chosen…”. But chosen for what? It’s another loaded Old Testament term. In Isaiah 42 the servant of the Lord is identified as God’s
“ chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.”
It is the same servant who Isaiah 53 describes:
“He was despised and rejected by others,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…
…he was piereced for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities…”
Jesus is God’s Son, the chosen one, he is the one whom the Old Testament points to, who Moses and Elijah have been longing to see and who the future flows from. He is the pivotal moment in history. He is God’s Messiah and his rejection, suffering and death are part of God’s plan of salvation, the only way to gather a redeemed people who will worship God rightly. Jesus rejection and death are no accident, he is not the helpless victim of circumstance. This is God’s son willingly obeying the Father’s will, laying aside his glory for a little while to seek, save, redeem and gather a people to worship God.
The Right Response of the Disciple
How do the disciples respond? Peter wants to build 3 shelters, they are afraid, and finally they are quiet.
Luke tells us that Peter “did not know what he was saying.” In other words Peter didn’t know how to respond. I always find the disciples mistakes an encouragement, not in the way the world revels in the failure of others because it makes us look better. But just because I’m so like them, if I had the same experience I’d probably want to stay there or commemorate it too. In our culture we’d probably have asked for Moses and Elijah’s autograph, or whipped out our camera phone for a quick ‘selfie’ and post it on Facebook!
But God immediately breaks in and he tells the disciples how they ought to respond. God gives his testimony to the uniqueness of Christ; he alone is God’s Son and Saviour. He is greater than Moses and Elijah, revered characters in Israel’s history, he is unique, and he will do something they never could.
We must not think differently from God. Jesus is not one way among many of relating to God rightly. He is not just another prophet he alone is God’s Son and Saviour. It is not politically correct, it does not sit comfortably with our multicultural society but it is what God reveals to us. We must tell those of other faiths that Jesus is not just another prophet, he is not equal to Mohammed, or John Smith, or Guru Nanak. He alone saves.
Now that doesn’t mean we don’t respect other faiths, in Acts we see the gospels clash with Judaism, paganism and Emperor worship, and what marks out the disciples is the way they reason, explain, and dialogue with people. Yet they do so without compromising on the truth and uniqueness of Jesus Christ. People will not see the uniqueness of Christ unless the truth is presented to them in its uncompromising honesty but with his winsome love.
Secondly notice God’s application of this truth to Peter, James and John. What does he tell them to do? “listen to him.” To listen means to hear and act, to put his words into practice. It takes you back to the image of the two builders from Luke 6 one who builds on the sand and the other who builds on the rock. What is that story teaching, the need to listen careful and build your life on Jesus words. What is my life based on? Is it based on my hunches? Is it based on my logic? Or is it based on Jesus teaching?
Ch9-19 are teaching for the disciples, he teaches them about the cost of following him, about the disciples love for others, about their priorities, about how and what they pray for, about what not to love, about what the disciples concerns are, what they live for and so on. Will we listen? You will listen not just if you are here Sunday by Sunday but if you put his words into practice, if they will change you.
If we want to really listen to him, we will want to work this out, home groups help with that, it’s somewhere you can open up about your struggles to apply Jesus words to your life. If you haven’t been for a while why not resolve to go this morning and tell someone from your group you will be there.
Jesus is God’s Messiah, he is the one who by his suffering, death and resurrection brings lost people back to God with their sins forgiven so that they can live worshipping him. Worshipping him by listening to his words and putting them into action.