Christ’s Glory and Our Need to Remember It
By: Christopher Ortiz
Answered prayers are always encouraging to my faith. There is something amazing about presenting a need to the Lord and seeing Him pull through in some miraculous way. But how many times have we seen God answer our prayers, only to get anxious and worried all over again the next time we’re in a similar situation? We see the Lord guide us through a tough decision we need to make, only to fret and get worried the next time another decision comes up. The Lord provides for a financial need we have, but we get anxious when the next bill comes in the mail. I think most of us would be ashamed to admit how often we forget how good God has been to us and how he has glorified himself in our lives.
When Sarah and I realized we were going have to take off a week without pay in order to go on our honeymoon, we became a little anxious about how tight things were going to be once we got back. Now believe me when I say this, I was willing to make any sacrifice necessary to make sure we were going on a honeymoon. But the truth is we realized we were going to have to live on a tight budget to make sure we had enough money for the next month’s rent. So, we prayed about it, decided to rest on the Lord, and were ready to make any necessary adjustments. Well, before we began to drive down to Orange beach, Alabama for our honeymoon, we decided to stop by our house to drop off some gifts we had received. As Sarah was organizing them, I was looking through our mail and saw we got a card from some close friends. I opened the envelope, opened the card and saw they had sent us check for almost the exact amount for what our rent cost. Once again the Lord had glorified himself in our lives. Once again he proved himself to be our provider. But to my shame, not even a full month later, as were thinking about long term plans regarding finances, I began to feel anxious and worry all over again.
But isn’t it easy for us to forget how the Lord has glorified himself in our lives? Don’t we seem to forget the truths in scripture more often then we would like to admit? And when this happens, don’t we feel the need to remind ourselves of the promises we see in scripture? We feel a need to remember who God is and all the ways he has proven himself faithful. I believe we do this because deep down inside we all believe that Knowing who Christ is and remembering how he has glorified himself in our lives is foundational to our daily walk. When we remember the truths of his word and how we have seen his glory, we’re encouraged to walk in faith and obedience. Likewise, when we forget who Christ has shown himself to be in his word and in our lives, it’s easy for us stray from his path and sin against him.
We see a very similar theme in Matthew 17-18. In Ch. 17 we see how the Lord shows his glory to his disciples in an amazing way through his transfiguration on the mount. But as we continue to read Ch.17-18, we see that the disciples struggle to understand who Christ is as they forget the things he has taught them
I-We are given insight into Christ’s glory and our hope (17:1-13)
So our fist point comes from Matthew 17:1-13, where we are given insight into the Glory of Christ and our Hope. Here we see Jesus take Peter, James and John, his three intimate disciples up onto a mount. Some believe it’s mount Tabor, others thing it’s mount Hermon, but nevertheless, they go up this mountain to a place where they can be alone. Now what happens next is something that I think would be hard for any of us here to fathom. Jesus physically transfigures and allows the disciples to see him in his true glorious state. To see him in what I believe to be the form and body he had in Heaven, before he came to live among the disciples. We see in vs. 2 that His face didn’t reflect the glory of God like previous prophets had before, but that His face shined as bright as the sun with glory. He produced this light of glory and splendor Himself! Not only did his face begin shine but his clothes as well. It says here they became as bright as light. Jesus is Glorious. As we hear often, he is He is the God-Man.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how I would react to this. Haven’t we all wondered at one point how we’re going to react when we witness first hand the glory of Christ?
And to think these disciples were experiencing this very thing. Though they weren’t in heaven, they were seeing Christ in his glorious state. And if this wasn’t enough, Moses and Elijah show up and they all begin to chitchat! It’s an amazing site. Not a vision, not a parable, but this was happening right there before their eyes! And something that else that makes this even more amazing is what the presence of Moses and Elijah meant. Moses is seen to represent the law given by God to His people so that they were able to relate and interact with Him. Elijah represents all the prophets who spoke of the Son of Man, the redeemer and the king who was to come and live among his people in a new Earth and new Jerusalem forever.
So here we have Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the prophets, both which pointed towards the coming of Christ for thousands of years, and the very Christ they looked forward to in hope in his glorious state, all standing here together before the disciples. If the disciples still continued to have doubts about whether Jesus was truly the Christ, if he was the Messiah, I’m pretty confident this sealed the deal. However, when we continue to read, we see that though the disciples have seen Jesus in this glorious state, they’re apparently still struggling to comprehend what it means.
We can see this when we read vs. 4 how and how Peter speaks for all of the disciples in saying that it’s good for them to be there, and that if Jesus doesn’t mind he can build him, Moses and Elijah a tent. Now the first time I read this in a commentary I thought to myself “This seems more like a compliment then the disciples misunderstanding what’s going on.” Can we really blame them? Who wouldn’t want such a glorious moment to last longer? But there seems to be more going on behind the offer Peter made.
In the book of Mark it says Peter said this out of fear, and in Luke it says that he said it because he really didn’t know what to say! But I believe Matthew omits the fear and confusion Peter felt when he said this because he is trying to highlight something else that was going on, and that is that Peter said it because him, James and John missed that though Moses, Elijah and Jesus were all standing there together, it is Jesus who is the Christ. They are not on an equal playing field. Jesus isn’t just another prophet sent from God to his people. Moses and Elijah lived in hope and in faith of Jesus coming to save his people. So instead of focusing and delighting in the glory of Christ, the disciples offered to make him a tent right beside two men who indeed knew very well that Christ doesn’t deserve a tent, but to be on His throne at the right hand of the Father, reigning in glory over the whole earth.
And it’s because of this misconception of Jesus that the Father speaks the words he does in vs. 5, there we read “He was still speaking (Referring to Peter) when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
The Father spoke to the disciples directly clarifying that it is Jesus who is His son, it is Jesus in whom he is well pleased and it is Jesus to whom they need to listen. He is separate from and above all the prophets and anyone else that has come before him or will ever come! There is no one like him. When they heard the Father’s voice they all fell to their knees in fear, and when they looked back up they saw Jesus alone. It’s as if Matthew is telling us that Jesus is the only one they are to look to from now on. The only one we need to look to.
Another reason I believe the disciples were struggling in comprehending the glory of Christ and what it should mean is because of what we see in vs. 9-10. Vs. 9 says “And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
To this the disciples respond with what is very loaded question in vs. 10 “And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” As D.A Carson points out, In asking this question the disciples were referring to the promise written in Mal 4:4-6, this is what it says: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Luke 1:17 can also shed some light on what this means. It says “and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” So when we read that the Lord will send his prophet Elijah, it’s not the literal, physical person of Elijah, but one who will prophesy about the Messiah with the same fervency and passion as Elijah. It then says that this Elijah will come before the day of the Lord which is before the Christ arrives, and that hearts will be turned and restoration will take place.
So with this understanding, we can see that what the disciples were really asking was “If hearts are going to be turned, everything restored and things made ready for the Christ… then why do you need to die? Why does pain and death need to continue if Elijah has already come? They cannot fathom a framework in which there is restoration, Christ himself is present, and yet death still has its way. So though the disciples have witnessed this very rare and momentous occasion, by the questions they posed we can see that they still don’t seem to understand what it all really meant. Though they witnessed Christ’s Glory and heard that he wasn’t only going to die, but resurrect as well, they still didn’t seem hopeful.
So what does it mean for us? How should understanding whom Christ is and witnessing his glory fill us with hope? Or are we doomed to think and feel the same way the disciples did? This is a question I’m sure we all have struggled with ourselves at some point; some may be asking this very question today. I think a part of the answer is accepting that we may never truly understand this side of heaven why the Lord permits sin and death to continue to touch us so closely. He is God and we are not, he is infinite and we aren’t. We may never understand his purpose in certain issues that directly affect us. But we do know that all things work for the good for those who love the Lord.
And so because we know all things work for our good, that he is the Christ who has saved us, and because we to have previewed His glory, we can be filled with hope. We may not have seen Jesus transfigured but we have seen his glory. We can see how He is glorious through His Word… We’ve seen Him glorify himself in our own lives! Some of us may only need to look into the mirror and remember what we used to see 3, 5, 10 years ago… maybe 20 or 30 years ago for others here. And I’m not referring to our wrinkles, but how God has transformed our lives. Praise God for what He has done in our lives. For how he died and reconciled us to the Father when we were still dead in our sins. Praise God that for so many of us, he has turned bitterness into joy, anxiety into peace and lust into love. Praise God that we can see His glory in how he has blessed and ministered to many of us right here in this church. We have witnessed him heal family members who have been sick, relationships between husbands and wives and between fathers and sons. The mere fact that he has saved any one of us is a reminder that he is good, merciful and glorious beyond our comprehension.
But even knowing this, I think some may still ask “Why?” “Why should I be strengthened and encouraged because I got to see a glimpse of God’s glory? I’ve also gotten plenty of glimpses of death, pain and heartbreak. I’ve seen glory but I’ve also seen much evil and wickedness.” “Why should I be hopeful? Though at times we may feel like this, I believe we can still be hopeful because If Christ is glorious, is being glorified, and will receive all glory for all of eternity, it means that the end of tears, pain and death is coming and that true and complete restoration is certain. It means that the day is coming when sickness will be done away with; these imperfect, smelly, sinful bodies will no longer be a temptation to sin against our Lord, but instead we’ll have glorified bodies that will forever remind us of His grace and mercy. So though we may continue to see pain, tears and death that constantly remind us of our sin and this earths need for the gospel, let every glimpse of his glory be a reminder that we shall live forever in his presence sharing in his glory ourselves.
So as we continue to reflect on our glorious Christ and how our perspective on life should change because of what we have witnessed, lets be encouraged by these words from scripture: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” and “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” and finally “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Praise God that as he continues to glorify himself in us, and among us, he allows us to witness his work; and if we are in Christ, he even allows us to partake in it. Though we may not understand why He does all he does, let’s rest and take comfort in what we do know, that Jesus is sovereignly in control and that because he is glorious, we do have hope.
II We are given insight into the disciples sinfulness and forgetfulness
After we are given a glimpse into the glory of Christ, next we can see that we are given insight into the disciple’s sinfulness and forgetfulness. Right after the transfiguration, we encounter example after example in the text of the disciples falling short in different ways. Now some of us may be thinking, “Well, should we hold the other 9 disciples to the same standard? They didn’t get to see Jesus transfigured like the other 3 did?
But if we were to have read Matthew up until this point, we would see that all of the disciples have witnessed Jesus do many miraculous things. They all witnessed the feeding of the five thousand, they all were all sent out by Jesus himself and performed miracles in his name. Not to mention that they all were present when Jesus confirmed with his own lips that he is the Christ.
So at this point in the text, it’s safe to say that all the disciples, not just the three that were with him on the mount, had witnessed his glory in one way or another and have been exposed to His teaching. But in spite of this, we see different ways they continued to struggle with sin as they forgot something he has taught them.
-In vs. 14-20 we get a peek into their desire to be in control. Now I know none of us here ever struggle with this but just bear with me as we work through these next few verses. That was a joke. In these vs. we see the other 9 disciples couldn’t heal a demon-possessed boy. When Jesus rebukes the disciples for not being able to heal this boy, he says they had little faith. In the NIV those present are also described as being un-believing and “perverse”. Don Carson points out how a little faith can move mountains, so it wasn’t so much that their faith was little, as much as it was poor; ineffectual. Doesn’t this make sense? Jesus clearly says that a little faith like a mustard seed can in fact move a mountain. So their problem was that their faith was ineffectual. Carson also points out that they were called perverse because their lack of faith to heal this boy didn’t stem from a lack of knowledge in who Christ is, but an active refusal to depend on Him. I believe he’s right in that they couldn’t heal in this instance because they were treating the power they received from Jesus as it was magic; something they can control and use at will- independent of God. The disciples weren’t depending on the Lord through a life of faith and prayer. Though they were somewhat aware of their need for Jesus, and even had faith though it sometimes was poor, in this instance, because of their sinful self-sufficiency, their faith was ineffectual and so they failed.
In Ch. 18: 1,21 we see how the disciples failed to have a biblical perspective. By the questions that are posed in vs. 1 and 21 of chapter 18, it seems that they have forgotten so much of what Christ has taught them. In 18:1 we see that the disciples are still preoccupied with their own status and well-being and have forgotten the importance of being meek. Jesus had just predicted his death, but instead of thinking about how they can encourage him or minister to him, they’re too busy being focused on who among them is going to be the greatest. They have forgotten what Christ had been trying to teach them with His own life ministry, namely- that they are to pursue humility and lovingly minister to others. And in vs. 21 we see how Peter seemed to have missed the point Jesus was making about forgiveness. Peter asks Jesus if forgiving his brother seven times is enough. In Judaism, it’s expected to extend forgiveness three times to a person, so in Peter asking if seven times is enough, he’s actually thinking he’s a pretty forgiving guy and that he’s going above and beyond what is expected of him. But as we can see, he is immediately corrected by Jesus who says we are to forgive seventy seven times. Now that’s seventy-seven and not seventy-eight right? No, that was just a way of saying that we shouldn’t even try to keep count. But are to forgive as many times as needed. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus explained how only the poor in Spirit will enter the kingdom of heaven. In Matt 11:23 He taught the disciples that His father hides spiritual truths from the wise and yet reveals them to those like Children. So between seeking their own greatness or thinking they are self righteous in offering to forgive another person 7 times, they obviously aren’t applying the lessons they have been taught. So did their errors stem from a lack of knowledge or insight? No, they didn’t. Their errors stemmed from a lack of humility, forgetfulness and a continual struggle with sin.
And our last example is from vs. 24-27. There we see how a tax collector asked Peter if his master paid the temple tax or not. Peter quickly says yes, most likely trying to prove that Jesus didn’t think He was better than anyone. Nothings seem to be wrong with this right? Well, actually, in Peter bluntly telling the tax collectors that Jesus does pay the temple tax, he was actually communicating a diminished understanding of who Christ is. We see this in Jesus’s rebuke to him in vs. 25-27 “And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Before Peter said a word, Jesus is clarifying who He really is. I do believe Jesus knew Peter’s intentions were good, which is why we don’t see more of a harsh rebuke. But nevertheless, Jesus makes sure to clarify that he is the Son of God and that those who are children of the king indeed shouldn’t have to pay a temple tax. Knowing this, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for Peter to say, “Well, He shouldn’t have to pay the temple tax, but I’ll ask him?” But it was too late, Peter’s lack of understanding had already been exposed and even caused him to miscommunicate who Jesus was to the tax collector.
At this point some of us may be thinking “Why do they seem to keep making these silly mistakes even after they have seen first hand the glory and power of Jesus” some of us may also be thinking “If the disciples were capable of messing up so much having seen so closely the glory and power of Jesus, then I have no hope of living a life marked by godliness.” I think an article I recently read can help put this into perspective.
Rue Ferguson from a town outside of Corpus Cristi, Texas remembered seeing a painting hanging behind his grandfather’s office when he was a young child. After they passed away he remembered seeing that same painting in a closet in his parents home for many years. His father thought it was a fake so he left it in that closet for 30 years collecting dust. In the 1980’s his father decided to have it restored and authenticated. Turns out it was an original. Now, Rue doesn’t explain why, but he father never had it appraised, he just kept it locked away. But In May of last year when his mother died she gave Rue the painting and he locked in a safe still unaware of what it was worth. Then in January of this year he heard the antique roadshow was going to be in Corpus Christi and decided to take it. There he found out that this painting that had been in his family for over 80 years was an extremely rare Diego Rivera worth anywhere between $800,000 and $1,000,000.
Now I know this may not be a perfect illustration but I do believe something similar was at the heart of why the disciples continued to struggle with sin and forgetfulness as they walked with Christ. They knew he was authentic, that Christ was the real deal. They even had faith in him though sometimes it was a poor faith; but for different sinful reasons, there were times when they weren’t able to neither see nor value Christ for who he truly was. They failed to understand that the teacher they had been following up until this point was worthy of them kneeling at his feet day in and day out. They failed to see the truth of what we read in Col 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together”.
The world as they knew it was being held together by Christ. And they completely missed it.
Now, I want to clarify that this isn’t a disciple bashing session where we see how much they failed so we can think we kind of great, it’s not that at all. Haven’t we all seen this forgetful and sinful attitude in our own lives at times? See, I believe these moments in which the disciples struggled were written down so we can learn from their errors and be vigilant in our own lives, lest we sin in the same way. Though some of us know Christ as our Savior, if we aren’t careful sin and forgetfulness can numb our hearts and cause us to lose sight of who He really is and our need to obey Him. Haven’t we all struggled with the desire to be in control, doubting God’s sovereignty or just choosing to think we’re self-sufficient? Don’t we also need to renew our minds with the truths we see in scripture on a daily basis so we don’t stray off into sin? And aren’t we constantly tempted like the disciples, to think about how to advance our own agenda and seek our own best interest, instead of seeking out humility and how to serve others? Let’s learn from our own mistakes and from theirs as well. As we read these verses, let’s be reminded that we have these same tendencies and that we need to strive to remain faithful in our walk with Christ. Knowing Christ more as we abide in Him is an ongoing process, but by his grace we can live in a way that honors him.
III. This leads us to the final point here in Matthew 17-18 , and it’s that we are given insight into how to live with a correct understanding of whom Christ is. Insight into what that should like on a day-to-day basis. Though I believe eternity isn’t long enough for us to fully comprehend how awesome and great our God is, as we do come to know Him and experiment His grace more and more every day, we should be moved to love him and obey him.
- In vs. 7-9, we see we are to take extreme measures in our fight against sin. In these vs. we are called to show no mercy to sin. And if the battle with sin becomes harder we don’t back down, we do what we have to step up our game.
We can’t bring a knife to a gunfight. If our battle against sin is like WW3, we’re not going to show up with sticks and stones, no, we want to live! We want to make it out alive. We’re going to make sure we have every modern weapon at our disposal so we can win. We need to do whatever it takes in our battle against sin.
Now Christ isn’t teaching self mutilation, were not to literally cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes, but we do need to take our fight against sin to the extreme if necessary. So whatever sin you are struggling with, make sure you are doing whatever it takes to beat it. As we come to love and know Christ more intimately, we should naturally begin to take our battle with sin much more seriously.
- Next we see in vs. 10-14 that we are to grow in love for our brothers. As we grow more mature in Christ, we should strive to love and encourage each other all the more. We are to do this by being sure to not lead anyone into sin, or by running hard after those who seem to be straying from the faith, loving them and encouraging them to persevere.
Understanding who Christ is and living in accord with our knowledge of Him is imperative to our daily walk and relationship with the Lord. But, how exactly do we come to have a better understanding of who Christ is? I know he’s glorious, I know it’s important to value him above all things, but how can I grow in my knowledge of him?
I believe it starts with humility. Jesus says in Matthew 18:3-4 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” We cannot will ourselves to know the Lord more. We should simply start with humbling ourselves before Him and acknowledge our need of Him, ask him to open our eyes and soften our hearts to his word and his voice. And as he does because he desires to do so, by his grace and with faith, lets believe what he shows us about himself and live in accord to it.
Brothers and sisters, our hearts are prone to wander and so sadly, it’s so easy for us to forget how great and powerful our God is. How much he has forgiven us, how he has provided for us in everyway, and the glory that awaits us because what Christ has done. I pray that those of us in Christ continue to seek his face in prayer and seek to know him more through His word. And as we learn more and more every day how glorious our Christ is, let’s believe him and walk in accord with whom our God has revealed himself to be. Whom those of us in Christ know him to be; our Redeemer, our Savior, the one and only true God of the universe.
But if you are not in Christ, you may know of him, but you do not know him intimately. But believe me when I say with the authority of Scripture; He does know you. He created you in God’s image and he is very aware you choose to persist in your sin instead of repenting and opening up your heart to him. I plead with you, repent today. Repent of your sins, place your faith in Christ who died for your sins, all of our sins, and rose from the dead so that those of us who repent can know Him for who He truly is and delight ourselves in His glory forever. Let’s pray.