Mt. Hermon: The God Who Is Jesus
MOUNT HERMON: THE GOD WHO IS JESUS
Luke 9:28-36 (ESV)
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.
29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.
30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.
34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Today everyone who knows God through Jesus Christ should recognize that this is an awesome privilege and blessing. Do you know why? It is because all throughout the Bible, it is plainly taught that the only way we can really know God is by Him taking the initiative to reveal Himself to us. One of the passages that teaches this truth is Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV):
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Notice, back in the Old Testament, God disclosed Himself through the prophets. So, from the time of Moses until the prophet Malachi, God revealed to them not only His will (His purposes and plans); He also helped them understand His ways (personality). While in the New Testament, the main instrument for revelation is Jesus Christ. Of course, Jesus is the best source of knowledge about God because He is God in human form. Listen, the fact is that there was no way a finite human being would be capable of knowing the infinite God.
This truth in a way is connected with what we have been studying together for the past several Sundays. The only difference is that we have been looking at locations and occasions in the Bible where God has revealed Himself. From Mount Moriah, Mount Sinai, Mount Carmel, and Mount Eremos, the Lord kept revealing something about Himself to His people. And we should not take these revelations for granted because if God did not do it, we would end up being miserable.
This could be seen in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Remember after the rich man died and he found himself in hell. Then, he saw Lazarus being comforted in heaven, so he spoke to Abraham and made a request. Listen to their conversation:
Luke 16:23-29 (ESV)
23 [A]nd in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’
The part in the conversation that we should not miss is the last section. After the rich man had realized that as far as he was concerned, there was no more hope because there is absolutely no more possibility of changing his destiny since there is a great chasm between hell and paradise (v.26). He, then, asked Abraham to just send Lazarus to his father’s house because he still had five brothers living there, and he did want them to go to where he was. But, watch how Abraham responded in verse 29 - ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ In other words, his brothers have received sufficient revelations about God and how to get to know Him. If they decide to ignore what He has revealed to them, then, there is no hope for them to escape hell.
As we come to our fifth sermon on our theme, we will find the Lord Jesus bringing Peter, James, and John to Mount Hermon in order to show them a glimpse of His glory. This event was certainly a life-changing experience for them. The question is: What are the crucial revelations about Jesus Christ that we can take from this passage? Let’s cover the story and highlight at least three key areas of truth:
I THE IDENTITY OF JESUS
Who is Jesus? Since the time He entered the world, there has been a lot of debate about His identity. During His earthly ministry, no one seems to figure out who He was. He showed up on the scene healing diseases, casting out demons, hanging out with the outcasts, and challenging the religious authorities of the day. If that was not enough, He actually claimed to be the Son of God.
In fact, prior to Jesus taking Peter, James, and John to Mount Hermon, there were two incidents where this claim was the major issue:
King Herod asked about His identity:
Right on the same chapter, we will find King Herod wrestling about His identity.
Luke 9:7-9 (ESV)
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen.
9 Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.
With the growing popularity of Jesus because of all the miraculous works He was doing, King Herod asked about who He was. As you can read, no one has a concrete answer except the possibility that He was the reincarnation of John the Baptist or Elijah or another deceased prophet. Of course, since it was him who ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, King Herod was fearful about the idea that John came back to life to get back at him.
The crowds were also confused:
The question on Jesus’ identity was not only confusing to King Herod, but it also bothered the crowds around Him. If you read verses 17-20, you would find Jesus turning to the disciples, right after He fed around five thousand people, and asking them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Luke 9:17-20 (ESV)
17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”
20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
When the disciples were asked what the crowds were saying about His identity, they simply had re-echoed what King Herod heard about Jesus – John the Baptist, Elijah, or another deceased prophet.
However, you will find Jesus also turned to the disciples and asked them in verse 20, “But who do you say that I am?” And the profound response came from Peter, “The Christ of God.”
As far as the identity question coming from Jesus Himself, it is essential for us to recognize at least two basic truths:
That it mattered to Jesus how He was being perceived by the people around Him.
That His true personality, like His being God, is veiled when He walked on earth.
These are exactly the two reasons why there was a need to bring Peter, James, and John to Mount Hermon. So, Jesus can allow them to have a deeper knowledge of Him. To remove any doubt about Him, Jesus had to do this.
II THE ILLUMINATION OF JESUS
Going back to our main text, beginning in verse 29 to verse 34, we will see how the appearance of Jesus Christ began to change. While He was praying, His face and His clothes started glowing with a very bright radiance. Please notice that the illumination of Jesus was not coming from the outside like a spotlight being focused on Him; the brightness was coming within. It is literally like looking directly to the bright sun. One of the gospel authors commented that Peter, James, and John became scared of what they saw. But it was also so special because they had a glimpse of Christ’s deity and glory beyond the cross. They also had the privilege of looking at how Jesus will appear when He establishes His coming Kingdom.
Added to this extraordinary sight was the appearance of Moses and Elijah in their glorified condition, having a conversation with Jesus Christ. There was no need to formally introduce these personalities to the three disciples, proving that in heaven, everyone will know everyone without nametags or badges. With our glorified minds, this will be possible. Added to these glorious sights, Peter, James, and John had the privilege of listening to the conversation that Jesus was having with Moses and Elijah as stated in verse 31 – “who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
The topic was referred directly as “his departure.” Of course, in relation to Jesus Christ, this departure is Jesus’ “exodus” (the Greek word for departure), that is, his journey to the cross that would lead to the deliverance of God’s people, every bit as much as Moses’ bringing the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage did. By the way, the appearance of Moses was to highlight the period of the law, while the appearance of Elijah was to highlight the period of the prophets. Both cover the entire Old Testament times. I believe, you will have a better appreciation regarding these appearances when you read the words of Jesus Christ to his disciples after His resurrection:
Luke 24:44-47 (ESV)
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Again, all the Old Testament Scriptures revolved around Jesus Christ and His redemptive work for us. No wonder this truth was the main subject matter in their conversation.
Then, after a short while, Moses and Elijah would soon disappear. And the response of Peter was important because what he said was something that anyone of us would have said if we were there with Jesus - “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (v.33). Obviously, he wanted to hold on to the moment and continue celebrating the presence of great men – Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. However, this was not the purpose of their appearance. The point is that God has revealed the glory of His Son, and He also showed that there is none greater than Him—not even the lawgiver, Moses, or the great prophet Elijah. Jesus has no rival. As one commentator has stated:
“The primary purpose of Moses and Elijah was to salute their divine Successor, and then leave Him alone in His unchallenged supremacy, the sole object of His disciples’ veneration.”
Allow me to highlight the phrase “unchallenged supremacy.” This must be what we receive from the Mount of Transfiguration. It is Jesus alone who should command our worship and devotion.
III THE IMPERATIVE ABOUT JESUS
The last but not the least, before this moment would end, this significant revelation of Jesus Christ will be concluded with a direct affirmation and command coming from the Father – “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him’” (v. 35).
If you examine these words, especially the direct command to listen to Him, what should be our take on this? Well, the solid confirmation coming from God regarding the person of Jesus Christ must be followed by the right attitude towards Him. Whether we like or not, OUR PERCEPTION OF JESUS CHRIST WILL HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT ON OUR LEVEL OF DEVOTION TO HIM.
Prior to the Mount Hermon experience, Jesus has made his terms to His disciples very clear. Listen to these verses:
Luke 9:23-27 (ESV)
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
In here, Jesus made some strong demands in following Him:
“[L]et him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (v.23)
“[W]hoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (v.24)
“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (v.26)
Evidently, if you are not fully convinced that Jesus is the One who He says He is, then, you will always be holding back. You will never be full-hearted in your devotion to Him. Peter, James, and John will have to make a decision to what level would they be willing to follow Christ. With this revelation, I guarantee you, it would produce a deeper commitment from them.
Recently, I was reading an article from the Baptist Press regarding the growing persecutions of Christians in other countries. It says that there are 143 countries where Christians are persecuted. What is really convicting to know is that despite the difficult conditions of these believers, they continued to follow the Lord. Are you aware of what they are going through in these countries? Many of them were being arrested, imprisoned, and their families tortured in-front of them; their women are being raped, houses and church building burned, and their source of livelihood is taken away from them; and yet they have remained in their commitments to serve the Lord and openly share Him to others. I am convinced that the only reason why they are able to do these things for Him is because they see Him as the True Living God who deserves their love and life. I believe that we all need to share in this level of faith towards Him. So, how do you see Jesus? Do you see Him as someone who deserves your love and devotion? We need to determine this once and for all because it will impact our devotion to Him.