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The Transfiguration

I want to talk to you about change.

Me Anxious

Inside Out-Movie

This past weekend at womens conference, we had our first ever ‘Tweens party’. – So this was for girls between the ages of 8 and 12. And so we got them all together and we watched part of the movie ‘Inside Out’ which is a great movie! It’s about this 11 year old girl trying to navigate her 5 basic emotions, and the 5 emotions are characters – joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust. And so it’s an interesting movie because you see these 5 characters work together and sometimes war against each other in this little girls mind.

Well I’ve pretty much always been a reasonably happy guy, but there have also been seasons of my life where I’ve struggled with being an anxious person. Where I’m playing out worst case scenarios in my head. I’ve gotten MUCH better at not letting myself get carried away in that, to where at this point in my life I can’t really say that I’m an anxious person anymore.

But there was a time!!!


4 years ago, I turned 30! And for those of you who don’t know, once you start getting into the 30 year old range, your doctor wants you to start doing bloodwork. If you don’t know that’s where they draw blood and then read all these different levels of stuff in your blood that can be indicative of all kinds of different issues that could be happening in your body. Well one time I got this blood work done, and this one liver value was like super high. So I went in and the doctor was like ‘What’s up with this David? Do you have hepatitis?’ And I was like ‘I don’t know, you tell me! You’re the doctor!’ So anyways, I go home and I did the CLASSIC mistake of getting on WebMD and trying to see what it could be. – So this one guy says that this level being high is a sign of a liver tumor. Other symptoms of a liver tumor it said was ‘fullness & back pain’. And so I’m like ‘Oh my God! Sometimes I’m full!!!’ And maybe my back hurts right now, I’m not sure. Maybe if I push it!’

It was nothing. The levels went back down and so the doctor said ‘oh well, no big deal. They’re fine now.’ But I had tortured myself!

My point is this: Sometimes we can see something about ourself. Maybe it’s our tendency to be anxious, or to be angry, or depressed. And we feel like that’s just who we are. And that there’s no way to change it.

Well Jesus has a different point of view on that.

Matthew 17:1-8

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. (Matthew 17:1)

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2)

Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (Matthew 17:3)

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:4)

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. (Matthew 17:6)

But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:7)

When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. (Matthew 17:8)


Jesus takes his 3 closest disciples – Peter, James and John up a high mountain.

Possibly : Mount Tabor (pic), Maybe hermon (pic). We’re not sure.

On this mountain, Jesus begins to pray.

And as he was praying, something amazing happened. He was ‘transformed’ – transfigured.

His appearance changed, and his body began to shine through his clothes, and his face was like the sun.

And now, there’s 2 more figures up there with Jesus: These 2 great figures of the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah.

Maybe ghosts – Moses had died 15 centuries before this. – Elijah didn’t die, but he left the earth on this fiery chariot thing.

I’m sure this was an overwhelming experience.

Peter – so amazed, and when he didn’t know what to do, he would talk. Bright idea: “This is so great! Maybe I should set up 3 shelters – One for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Please keep in mind: How Peter would have thought of these guys. These were the giants of the faith.

As he’s making this suggestion, a bright cloud comes and overshadows them. And from the cloud, a voice that said ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’

This is one of the only 3 times you see God the father speak audibly in the NT. And in each case he says essentially the same thing – “This is my son. I’m pleased with him. Listen to him.”

He speaks at Jesus’s baptism, the transfiguration, and the ascension.

In the Old Testament the father was constantly speaking.

Laws and rules, and punishments.

But in the New Testament, God the father has one thing to say: This is my son, I’m pleased with him. Listen to him.”

It’s like the wizard of oz, this great voice.

And when the 3 disciples heard this voice, they were like the cowardly lion and fall on their faces, terrified.

Jesus comes and touches them and says ‘Get up. Don’t be afraid.’

And when they looked up, they saw… Not Moses, not Elijah, but Jesus alone.

Peter never forgets.

Peter never forgets this. He writes in 2 Peter 1:16:

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)

He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1:17)

We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1:18)

The transfiguration is a turning point in the life of Jesus.

First 16 chapters – good.

Up till this time, Jesus is preaching and teaching and performing miracles, and continuing to get more and more and more popular.

The first 16 chapters are almost totally good.

And it kinda culminates in this mystical, strange, beautiful event where light begins to seep out of his skin.

Crescendo – song.

It’s like the crescendo of the song.

Minor Key

But after this, the song changes.

It starts in his baptism and early ministry and things are going up, up, up, up,.

All the way up to the transfiguration, and you see his GLORY.

But then Jesus comes down from the mountain. And the soundtrack changes from a major key, to a minor key.

And Jesus begins to walk resolutely toward his own death.

And there’s a definite change in the tone of the book.

Fewer miracles, less casting out of demons, more controversy, people instead of coming to him are now beginning to leave him.

He’s having more and more opposition.

Finally he’ll arrive in Jerusalem, where he’ll be betrayed, condemned, and killed.

You can see this happen in verse 9.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

Jesus begins to talk frequently about his own death.

The western half of Christianity – protestants, catholics, tend to see this as a pretty minor episode. A little strange, a little wacky, but not that big of a deal.

The Incarnation turned into Christmas and the resurrection turned into Easter. But in the western world, we really don’t celebrate the transfiguration.

But the EASTERN half of Christianity – Eastern Orthodox Churches – make a huge deal about the transfiguration. It’s a Holy Day for them. They get a TON of theology from this one event. And I think in some ways, they’re right about this point.

1. The transfiguration shows us that Jesus is God.

We believe in the trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 3 in 1. So Jesus is not partially God, he’s all the way God.

Jesus – glorious divinity. — Seeps pores. The transfiguration shows us Jesus in his glorious divinity. Where his divinity seeps out of his pores and shines like the sun. If someone believes in the Bible, but denies the divinity of Jesus, they have to do a LOT of work when it comes to the transfiguration.

2. The transfiguration shows us how to treat the Old Testament.

It’s not super hard to decipher what Moses and Elijah represent in this story. Represent the law and the prophets.

  • Moses is the giver of the law.
  • Elijah is probably the most prominent of the prophets.

Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as ‘The Law and the Prophets’. So they’re like these two pillars that represent the Old Testament basically.

And why are they here?

They’re there to hand the baton to Jesus, basically.

They bow down to Jesus as the greater light, where they were just a small echo of the greatness that was to come in Jesus.

Law & prophets – moon & stars.

You could say it like this: The law and the prophets were the moon and stars in a dark night sky. Which is super helpful! When that’s the only light you have, it’s wonderful! It helps you get to where you need to go.

But when Jesus comes, that’s the rising of the sun.

And when the sun rises, the moon and the stars fade away. They’re still there, but you can’t hardly even see them the sun is so bright.

When the sun comes up, you don’t use the moon and the stars to guide you anymore.

Which shouldn’t surprise us Christians ‘Christ-ians’. Little Christs.

Here’s the point: Jesus is what God has to say.

You look at the world and you think: What would God say here? He would say this: Jesus is my son. Listen to him.

  • God looks like Moses, sometimes.
  • God looks like Elijah, sometimes.
  • God looks like Jesus all the time.

So if we were to come to some issue in the world and we say ‘Well Deuteronomy says we kill them. So I guess it’s ok to kill them.’

The résponse of the Christian is ‘Ok, what did Jesus say?’

B/C in him, we find God’s word to us.

3. The transfiguration shows us how real life change happens.

It’s long been debated in phycology how much a person has the ability to fundamentally change who they are.

An interesting example of this is Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’m sure most of you have heard the phrase that they strongly believe in which is this: “Once an Alcoholic, always an alcoholic.”

That’s why you can hear someone say ‘I’m an alcoholic’ even after they’ve been sober for 30 years.

We have seen the truth demonstrated again and again: “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.’’ Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are, in a short time as bad as ever. If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol. – Alcoholics Anonymous Official Literature

And I have incredible respect for Alcoholics Anonymous, and I’m sure they have plenty of biological reasons to believe this, and so that’s totally cool. But as Christians, we believe that God makes us into something new.

And that the old you passes away.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— (Romans 6:6)

because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:7)

Hate idea – People mess up – Defined. And I just hate the idea that people mess up, and do something stupid, or go down a bad path and then they have no choice but to be defined by that their entire lives.

“Once a cheater, always a cheater.” – Not if you’re a Christian.

Or something traumatic or painful happens in your life and you have no choice but to be defined by that. I just don’t want to live in that world.

Me & Jordan — Learn good & bad – parents. Me and Jordan were talking the other night about how when we grow up, we’re learning both good things and bad things from our parents. But it’s not usually till later in life that you learn what the bad habits and what the good habits are. And cleansing yourself for your parents bad habits is SUPER HARD.

But I just refuse to believe that we can’t change.

Jesus offers us real life change.

(Greek) Metamorphoō : to change into another form.

It’s where we get the word ‘metamorphosis’ which is what happens when a caterpillar is fundamentally changed from one thing into another – a butterfly.

But it starts on the inside.

In the transfiguration, there was an inner transformation in Jesus and what was inside of him, leaks out.

And in that tiny little idea is something so powerful, that if you can get it, can help you for the rest of your life.

And this is the idea: Real change ALWAYS starts on the inside.

In the Bible there’s this idea of fruit. The Bible essentially compares you to a tree, and the fruit that you produce.

And the Bible is constantly redirecting our attention not to the fruit we produce, but what kind of tree we are.

Me & Jordan — fig tree.

Me and Jordan in the first house we ever lived at, we had a fig tree.

And we would every once in awhile go out and eat a fig off the fig tree.

But hear me: No matter how hard that fig tree tried it was incapable of producing an apple. It’s never gonna happen.

  • No matter how much we peer pressured it into producing an apple.
  • No matter how much it hated itself, it was never going to produce an apple.

So it makes sense that the world would tell us that there’s no way to consistently change your fruit, it’s just the kind of tree you are.

You were raised in THIS kind of home, you had THIS kind of experience, you have THIS kind of personality. So you’re always going to produce THIS kind of fruit.

Well Jesus completely rejects this idea when he gives us the idea of ‘transfiguration’, ‘transformation’, metamorphosis.

Whereas in the world, a fig tree isn’t going to miraculously turn into an apple tree, but as a Christian, we believe that God fundamentally changes who we are.

And hear me, it’s a process.

But the trick is not to work really hard to produce a certain kind of fruit, but instead to let God change you from the inside-out.

And it’s your responsibility to participate in this process.

See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. (Luke 11:35)

Matthew 23:25-28

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matthew 23:25)

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matthew 23:26)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. (Matthew 23:27)

In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:28)

Commit to an ‘inside-out’ process.

Where you come and invite God in, not to how you’re acting, but to how you’re feeling and how you’re thinking.

And when you do something that you don’t want to do: Fly off the handle at your spouse, revert to an old stupid behavior, go back to that same old sin. Here’s what I want you to do.

1. Ask yourself this question: What is happening inside of me that is producing this?

For some of you, it’s just stupid thinking.

For some of you, it’s bad habits that you picked up.

2. Ask God to change you from the inside-out.

Me – googling bloodwork. Back to me being an anxious person who googles my own bloodwork. I didn’t need to just convince myself to stop googling stuff, although that’s not bad advice, but ultimately, I needed God to change something on that inside of me that had to do with not trusting him. And so now, I could google my bloodwork (still probably not the best idea) but it wouldn’t have the effect on me now, because I’m not that guy anymore.

Maybe for you – anger. Or maybe you struggle with anger. It’s a good idea for you to learn to just control your tongue and not lash out, that’s great. But really, the bigger issue is letting God change that part of you on the inside that always reverts to anger.

Here’s the big idea: The only way to bring about lasting change is to let God change you from the inside.

And the way that you do that is invite him in.

As take communion

So as we take communion tonight, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to invite him in.

As they pass the elements I want you to spend a minute with God and the two of you together, take a look at your heart, what’s going on in there? Is it healthy? Is it dark? Are there parts of you that the two of you need to work on together to fundamentally change the way that you see the world.

What are the areas in my heart that need to be transformed?


Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Cleanse me, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (SELECT passages from Psalm 51)