Matthew 17:1-13 Part 8

Before we come to the “voice” from the cloud (verse five) and what was said to the apostles, I want to spend just a few more minutes speaking about the “glory” of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I don’t think there’s any more important issue for us, as believers, than “staying focused” on the one issue.  One writer recently put it as “remaining in the center.”  The inspired New Testament writers use many different analogies – one of which is mortifying the old man so that our minds might be locked on to the goal of remaining faithful.  Paul even uses the “race” analogy where we are seen as runners concentrating – centering – on that which is most important.

There’s nothing so fickle as the self-centered minds of human beings!  In the twinkling of an eye we will re-orient ourselves away from that which is most beneficial to us to something that is detrimental!  We’ll see something that looks good, and we’ll rush right off to it – regardless of the consequences – giving no thought at all to the single most important thing of all – the glory of Christ.!

While unbelievers will never see that their own self-serving, best interests would best be served by adoring and worshipping God’s Son, we, who profess to be believers, also turn our heads at the slightest distraction and run after whatever seems good in our own eyes!  We know, intellectually, that adoration of the glorious Christ and obedience to His Word is the very ground of our freedom and life and happiness; but there’s this terrible drive in us right now to investigate and interrogate ourselves to find out what our needs are, and to try to find out what all the other options are to meet those needs!

But, you see, to lose our center in the Person of Jesus Christ is to lose our freedom and happiness!  To lose our sense of the Glory of Christ is to enter into confusion and disorder!  To lose the sense of focus in the Creator/Savior/King of the world is to lose the most important ingredient of human experience!

You know why?  Because to lose our focus on Him is to become self-focused!  If the center is us, then everything becomes chaotic.  The Center is Christ; and the world is His field of work as the Creator/Savior/King.  And so the focus of our attention must be Him and His work – and to join with Him and His work!

But what happens when we just “turn off” that view of reality and begin to see everything with us as the center?  The result is that we begin to need the world, and society.  We begin to “display” ourselves to the world, and we need the world to satisfy our desires and our status.  How we relate to it becomes the most important thing – and especially how the world views us!  And, in the eyes of God, that is the very heart of idolatry from which flows every form of evil.  If the realm in which we operate centers in us as we relate to the world and how the world sees us, then we need it; and then we’ve lost our freedom and our happiness and our meaning!  But if the center is Christ and His work as Creator/Savior/King of the world, then life has meaning – and living is happiness and freedom.

And that is the fundamental definition of glory – to acknowledge Christ as the center.  He is Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end – and He is Life and Light.  With enlightened minds, His people turn themselves – their purposeless, bound, unhappy and chaotic lives – they turn their attention from the world and how they relate to it, and they re-focus their lives in the Person and work of the Creator/Savior/King of the world!  They reflect, as an image, the Light of the Savior – and He receives the honor and respect and esteem and admiration and value and exaltation!  You see, He is magnified when His work causes us to reflect His Light!

That was the meaning of Moses’ encounter with God at Sinai, that Moses then reflected the Glory and Light of God – in his face!  His image shone with the Light of God.  So the same is true of us.  As we turn our full attention from the world and our needs in society to Christ and His work as the center of everything, then we reflect that face-to-face glory – the chief end of our existence!  Our Westminster forefathers saw that clearly when they wrote the catechism – “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  If your attention is focused on your desire to relate to people and society and culture, then you reflect no glory and honor and respect to Christ.  On the other hand, if your attention has been turned to Christ and His work of Creator and Savior in this world, then you’re magnifying Him and giving Him praise and admiration and glory.  You’re reflecting His Light!

As the apostle Paul says in the third chapter of First Corinthians,


“Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.”


And, “For God, Who commanded the Light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”


The “Sun of Righteousness” and “the Day-Star” has arisen.  So, as Paul says, “if you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above….” (not centered on those things having to do with our relating to society and culture), but “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth….”  And then Paul goes on to explain that we participate in the appearance of His glory! (Colossians three)  And then comes a long exhortation on how we should live – with our minds centered in the glory of Christ rather than being centered in the world and how it satisfies our needs.

Now, this is why I said, at the beginning, that there’s no more important issue for us as believers than staying “focused” on the center – which is the glory of Christ.  Are we self-centered or Christ-centered?  And I assume, since we’re all baptized, communicant members of the covenant family, that we’re legitimate believers – participants in His glorious resurrection body!  So my expectation is that you will begin to understand, by His Spirit, the revelation of this event of His “transformation” to the form of Glory!  And that you will delight in it; and hunger and thirst after it; for it is “meat” and “nourishment” for His people.  The glorified Christ is the center of our faith!  This is the Gospel because of which believers mourn their sin; and because of which we crave to be filled with the Person of Christ; and because of which we long to participate in His work as Creator/Savior/King of the world!

This event is the sign of the New Age in which we “dead people” are resurrected to Life!  The glorified Christ is the sign that “Light” has come into the world and all things are created anew!  His glorification is the sign that all the old “shadows” are done away with; and that the “Glory-Cloud/Throne-Room of God has come to tabernacle with us!  His transformation to Glory is where our minds ought to be “centered”, for the Word of God – the “voice” of God – was made flesh; and He suffered and died at the hands of men – in our flesh; and he descended into the realm of the dead; and He came out of there and ascended to the “Throne-Room/Holy of Holies in the Glory-Cloud where He was declared the Son of God with all Power in Heaven and Earth!  And, “behold, all things are made new!”

This passage is the “center” of all eschatological expectations in history!  And the “voice” from the Glory-Cloud is the confirmation that all anticipation, or hope, should be focused upon this One!  The “voice” of God through the Law and the Prophets had declared, in no uncertain terms, that the Glory of God would dwell with men; that the tabernacle of God was now wide open for the nations of the New Creation to come in to the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies; that He would be their God and they would be His people, and He would write His Law in their hearts and be the “Light” of the entire New Creation! 


“For behold I create…” says Isaiah sixty-five, seventeen, “for behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.  But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create:  for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy….”


The “voice” from the Glory-Cloud confirmed that a “New Age” was about to come into being, and the old was about to be decreated.  In the fullness of the time the glorious Creator/Savior/King of the world had come; and, shortly, His Glory would shine in the darkness as He came with a shout to destroy the adulterer and claim His bride!

As Peter (with James and John) stood there talking to Jesus about building three tabernacles, the Radiant Cloud overshadowed them; and a voice out of the Cloud said,


“This is My Son the beloved One in Whom I did delight; Hear Him.”


The “voice” from the Glory-Cloud confirms that this is Christ (The Anointed One) in Whom all Revelation reaches its fullness!  And henceforth, The Son is the witness to the Father.  He is the Revelation!  In John five, twenty-five he says,


“Truly, Truly I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the “voice” of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.”


He is the Glory of, and the express image of, the Father.  And those who


“hear His voice, and believe on Him Who sent Him, have everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”


The “voice” from the Cloud “certifies” and “ratifies” that this Jesus is the Christ Whose Light the world will see, and Whose “voice” men will hear.  The Law and the Prophets bore witness of Him by the Voice of God; and now He bears witness that He is the Light sent by The Father; and His Words will Reveal the Father.

The Jews don’t know Him and they don’t hear His voice, and they will be blown away from the threshing floor in the wind!  But God has spoken eschatologically by His Son.  And the great “today” has dawned upon all the nations of the earth.  The “Voice” – the “Word” of God – has spoken from the “High Mountain” of Israel that the Revelation through Moses and the Prophets is now heard in the voice of His Son.  And later on the very Voice of Jesus will be heard in the apostolic preaching of His disciples!

It’s also interesting to note that, in the first chapter of the Revelation of St. John, the apostle hears a great “Voice” as of a trumpet.  It is the Risen and Glorified Jesus Christ Himself, saying,


“I Am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last….  I Am He that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I Am alive for evermore….” 


“Behold I come quickly.”


And we know that the transcendent Glory of God came in the Glory-Cloud to take vengeance upon the apostate nation of Israel.  And, now, the Spirit of Christ tabernacles with His people; and we hear His voice in the preaching of His Gospel.

And now let’s go back and look at the words which were spoken from the Glory-Cloud to confirm that Jesus was the fullness of the Revelation of God. 


This is My Son the Beloved One in Whom I did delight; Hear Him.”


Immediately our minds are turned to the words of God to Abraham when God told him, “take your son, your only one whom you love…” and sacrifice him!  In the covenant promises of God, which were spoken to Abraham, here is the prophecy of the Beloved, Only Son of God Who would be sacrificed for the sin of the world – in order that the promise to Abraham of many nations would come to pass.

And the words from the Glory-Cloud upon the “High Mountain” of Israel confirm that the fullness of that prophecy to Abraham was Jesus Christ.  And He would, indeed, shortly be that bloody sacrifice so that the kingdoms of the world would become the Kingdom of our Lord.

Secondly, the “voice” from the Glory-Cloud/Throne-Room of God reminds us of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter eighteen, verse fifteen.  He is reiterating the Law of God which He heard at Sinai, and he says this:


“The Lord thy God will raise up unto you a Prophet from the midst of you, of your brethren, like unto me; You shall hear Him!  According to all that you desire of the Lord your God in Horeb (Sinai) in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of Yahveh my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I not die!’  And the Lord said unto me, ‘They have well spoken that which they have spoken.  I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto you, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.  And it shall come to pass, whosoever will not hear My words which He shall speak in My Name, I will require it of him….’”

And the words from the Glory-Cloud said “this is The One; Hear Him.”  The greater Moses.  The One sent from God Who speaks His Words.  And the people will not ever hear, again, the terrible thundering of the voice of God – and the fire of God – from the Glory-Cloud; for the Voice of God is the Person of Christ Who dwells among us and tabernacles with us.

And Elijah, who was also present with Christ at His transformation, experienced exactly the same thing as Moses did – on the same mountain.  Elijah fled from Jezebel to Horeb, Mt. Sinai!  And there he went through the same experience of the Glory-Cloud of God.  The rumbling earthquake and the wind and the fire from God; and the mountain shook and rocks broke – all signifying the mighty, destructive Power of God toward all that opposed Him – including Israel!  But what happened next is the prophecy of the coming Christ Who is with His people.  The text of that Scripture says that God was not in the fire and the wind and the earthquake – but, then, Elijah heard the faint, rustling tone of the wind, the Breath of the Spirit of God – the prophecy of the Spirit of Christ with His people!

Now, thirdly, the “Voice” from the Glory-Cloud reminds us of Psalm two, seven:


“I will declare the decree:  The Lord hath said unto me, ‘You are My Son; Today have I brought You forth.’” 


Psalm two is the prophetic image of the coming gathering-of-the-nations against God’s Anointed King.  Yet God laughs at them, for He has set His King on His Holy Hill – Zion!  And the declaration has gone out of the Mouth of God that His King, the Son, has been brought forth.

And the “Voice” from the Cloud confirms that Jesus Christ is the One Who has already been declared the heir to all the nations and the uttermost parts of the earth.  This is His Son – brought forth to receive the inheritance, so promised in Psalm two.

And, lastly, the words of the “Voice” from the Cloud remind us, immediately, of Isaiah chapter forty-two, beginning at verse one: 


“Behold My Servant, Whom I uphold; My Elect in Whom My soul delights.  I have put My Spirit upon Him.  He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.  He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street….  I the Lord have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a Light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison – them that sit in darkness out of the prison house….”


Now God “delights” in His Beloved, eternally-begotten Son.  He is the Word made flesh Who does not return unto Him “void”; Who perfectly obeyed the Will of the Father; Who accomplished all for which the Father sent Him; and Who perfectly reveals the Father.  He is the “Voice” of God Who writes the Law in the hearts of His people and Who dwells with them – and Who is their God; and they are His people.

And you’ll notice that, in every case, the context of the Scriptures to which the “Voice” from the Cloud refers (Psalm two; Genesis twenty-two; Isaiah forty-two; and Deuteronomy eighteen), is the coming of the Son of God in judgment upon Israel for refusing to hear the “Voice” of God, and the “going forth” of Christ to the Gentile nations!  “This is My Son the Beloved in Whom My soul delights; Hear Him!”

Abraham was promised the seed of many nations by the sacrifice of God’s Son; Moses promised that God would go to the Gentiles if Israel disobeyed the Law and wouldn’t hear the promised Prophet of God; at the assembly of the nations against God’s King, the Only Begotten Son was promised an inheritance which consisted of the “uttermost parts of the earth”; and Isaiah prophesied a new, elect Israel in God’s chosen servant – the Gentile nations!

And finally, let’s see that the Glory-Cloud confirmation of Jesus as the “Anointed One” of God includes the same language as that at Jesus’ baptism! 


“This is My Beloved Son in Whom I did delight.” 


In the receiving of the covenant sign, Jesus received to Himself acceptance and rejection – for God’s is a covenant of both acceptance and rejection; not only the rejection of the old covenant people and the acceptance of the nations of the world, but the acceptance and rejection of Christ Himself.

Surely Jesus was accepted of His Father, for His soul “delighted” in Him.  But was He rejected?  He most assuredly was.  In the sign of baptism Jesus accepted the rejection of the covenant in order to “fulfill all righteousness”.  He was the Light of the world, but the darkness knew Him not; He was despised and rejected of men; and God turned His face from Christ on the cross – vile person that He was – for all the depravity, and sin, and iniquity of God’s elect people was heaped upon Him.  And He became sin for us.  And God turned the fury of His wrath – due to us individually – upon Him; and He became God-forsaken.  He was judged, rejected and condemned to death in our place.  So, in the sign of baptism, Jesus submitted to the judgment of the God of the Covenant in the waters of baptism.  And in doing so offered Himself up to the curse of the covenant (covenant rejection), and He consecrated Himself unto His sacrificial death in the judicial ordeal of the cross.  As He Himself would later say, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”

But just as with His baptism, His transformation is accompanied with the confirmation by “Voice” – that this One is the fullness of the Law and the Prophets, the Light of the nations and the Savior of the world.  And His glorious Person must be the “center” and “focus” of life.  But when that focus is not on Him and His work in the world, but, rather, on the world and your relationship to it, then you must fearfully question your citizenship in the Kingdom!  For the Law and the Prophets promised the Law of God in your hearts, and the Spirit of Christ tabernacling with you, and an understanding of the “Voice” of Christ in the preaching of His Gospel.  These are the confirmations of your citizenship!  The unfettered, non-rebellious submission to God’s Law; tabernacling with Jesus Christ as the “center” of life; and hearing and understanding of the “Voice” of Christ in the preaching of His Gospel.