The Glory of the King
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Dear brothers and sisters, boys and girls, friends and family of Calvary—I appreciate you may be watching together with your family, or friends, or alone. May we know the mystical union we have with Christ our Lord and with each other – though we are quite physically separate these days.
Let’s see how we may get a glimpse of the glory of the King today.
Do you remember that Christmas story about the shepherds? “There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8-9). Shepherds doing their job, minding their own business, not anticipating a thing. But then the next verse goes, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
Ingrid taught on the glory of the Lord last December 8. I love how she described God’s glory, “The glory of God is who He really is. The glory of God is at the very least the combined magnitude of all God’s attributes put together.”
Have you ever seen the glory of the Lord shine around you? Have you ever been overwhelmed by His beauty? Have you ever had your breath taken away by the extreme excellence of His wonder?
I love how Francis Chan says, “We worship a God we cannot exaggerate.” We cannot exaggerate His beauty, we cannot overstate His wonder, His glory. In fact, in most cases, when we are confronted with His glory—we are rather speechless than we are verbose.
Glorifying God is not about inflating, or improving, or expanding Him for God is already superabundant and overflowing with life. We become beggars for words and actions that resonate with honouring the One we worship but One we cannot exaggerate.
It fascinates me that every time—every time—God shows up in His glory people are terrified.
I will ask you again, when did you last see the glory of the Lord shine around you? When have you been overwhelmed by His beauty? Can you remember when you had your breath taken-away by the extreme excellence of His wonder?
Chances are you’ve had foretastes: a glimpse of glory here, a sighting of God’s beauty there, and these have not quite been explainable—they have left you bewildered, or overwhelmed, maybe even terrified.
I often talk about the first time I met Jesus in a bell tower at a summer camp when I was 13 years old, but there’s been many, many more times I have experienced the glory of God: often during my quiet times with God, often in worship of Jesus with you. Without wanting to distract you during, there are times I will gasp, cry, and be overwhelmed by something beautiful He is revealing to me.
Today we continue in our series, “Matthew: An Invitation to the Kingdom” to see a glimpse of the Glory of the King. In this passage in Matthew 17 we will see that the revelation of the glory of Jesus is all it takes for us to be a people who listen to Jesus, listen for Jesus, and listen with Jesus.
The revelation of His glory makes it possible for us to listen to Him over and against all the other voices, social messaging, and noisy currents of our day. In fact, without the revelation of His glory, we are in danger of getting swept up into the most immediate or loudest messages we hear.
I want to pick things up from the passage Enoch taught last week where we heard the Revelation of the King. Jesus is revealed as Messiah, Son of the Living God” (16:16). In Matthew 16:21 we find, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Here is another major shift in Jesus’ ministry, we’ve seen a few (let’s review):
- After Jesus was baptized – He begins to preach “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4).
- After He went through all the towns and villages – Jesus calls us to pray for and to be ready to be cast out into the harvest fields (Matthew 9) and He begins with 12 Apostles.
- After Jesus is confronted by Pharisees asking for yet “another miraculous sign” (Matthew 12) – Jesus begins to teach in parables.
- Now, after the revelation that Jesus is “the Messiah, Son of the Living God” – Jesus begins to explain something He’s never said before: “He must suffer many things; He must be killed; and on the third day He must be raised to life.”
It is in light of this revelation that we enter our passage today. At the end of Matthew 16 (27-28), Jesus tells his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory [… ] Some of you who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
I want you to notice a few things:
- “Coming in His Father’s glory” is related to or in some way describes what Jesus means when He says He is “coming in His kingdom”. In other words, His Kingdom is glorious for it reflects or expresses the glory of His Father.
- You have probably already noticed that Jesus calls himself the Son of Man—as He does here—and this is based on the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
When Jesus says, “The Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory […] Some of you who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom […]” we wonder when will He come in His Father’s glory.
It doesn’t take long to find the answer since in the very next chapter, Matthew 17:1, we read, “Six days after [revealing that He would come in His glory] Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
What is going on here? By now we know there’s been hundreds of followers, there are 12 Apostles, and from this group, there are three closest to Jesus: Peter, James, and John. Great. A fisherman like Peter who tends to jump to conclusions before thinking, and two brothers—James and John—who’s nicknames were “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).
But in this moment we see Jesus’ trust, His entrusting, His vulnerability, and His own need for friendship, to be able to share the deepest secrets He could share. These three would be the same three Jesus invites into the Garden of Gethsemane, when He asks them to watch and pray with Him before He would be arrested and crucified. Jesus takes these three closest friends up a high mountain in the area and He is going to reveal a secret, a secret He wants to keep secret for little longer but He has to share it with someone.
Can you imagine? Talk about your “mountain top” experience. If you’ve ever climbed to a top of a mountain chances are you are taken in by the amazing scene all around you. Not so here. These three were transfixed on the transfiguration.
What is transfiguration? The word “transfigured” [metamorphomai] occurs only four times in the New Testament. Some of you children may recognize this as the root for our English word “metamorphosis” to describe the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, or a nymph to a dragonfly. Though we can study it and know the stages of a butterfly we are no less amazed that this happens.
You may be more familiar with how this word is used in Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed, or, squeezed into the mould of this word, but be “transformed” by the renewing of your minds.
For our purposes today II Corinthians 3:15-18 is a very interesting correlation. In this section Paul is explaining that we are not like Moses who had to veil his face because of the radiance of his face that shone for having been with God (Exodus 34:29). Instead, Paul writes,“[…] Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, ‘the veil is taken away’ (Ex 34:34)… [now] We, who with unveiled faces all reflect God’s glory, are being transformed/transfigured into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes form the Lord, who is Spirit.”
Brothers and Sisters, this is what we are after, this is what we would rather look like. Being a people who “are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes form the Lord, who is Spirit.”
In other words, as we grow in friendship with Jesus we begin to look more like Him. We are “transformed into what He looks like” with ever-increasing glory. While Jesus was being transformed in glory before Peter, James, and John, it says, “Jesus face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
This captures my imagination. Just think: remember when Moses encountered God for the first time in the Burning Bush (Exodus 3)? I believe Jesus was talking to him there. Well now it is Jesus meeting with Moses again—and Elijah—in this new burning bush encounter, so to speak, a glorious encounter where they are as bright as the sun and as white as the light.
How would you have responded? In Matthew 17:4 we pick up the story to find Peter’s response: “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.’ While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them [not a storm cloud], and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'”
God is saying, “Peter… Moses and Elijah are not to be worshipped… My Son is! Listen to Him.” Just like God’s affirmation of His Son in Matthew 3:17 when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, we hear the words we cannot hear too much: “This is my Child, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Then God the Father adds the word we cannot obey too much: “Listen to Him. Jesus is not Moses or Elijah—Jesus is Lord. Jesus is my Son.”
“When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”
At the Voice of God Jesus’ friends fell to the ground, terrified.
Don’t you love how Jesus comes and “touches” them? How He touches us? How we need to be touched; touched by our friends and family, touched by Jesus, touched in a time of COVID. How we need the same encouragement: “Get up; don’t be afraid.” May we hear this word for the season we are in. “Calvary get up… don’t be afraid.”
Some 23 years ago at a time of deep darkness in my life I went to a Sunday evening meeting at a church I knew. In a way I went to be unknown, and maybe to hear God’s voice from a different source. During the prayer and worship the pastor came up behind me and touched me, he put his hand on my shoulders and said, “I sense you just need to hear, ‘I have not overlooked you’.” I crumpled in a bowl of tears, and here I am again, needing to hear, “Get up; don’t be afraid; I haven’t overlooked you; I am with you, and will be with you to the end of the age.”
God says, “This is My Son. Listen to Him.” This is in the imperative voice; that is, this is given as a command, not a suggestion. “Listen to My Son.”
Today we saw a glimpse of the Glory of the King. This glimpse is all we need to be a people who listen to Jesus, listen for Jesus, and listen with Jesus.
The revelation of His glory makes it possible for us to listen to Him over and against all the other voices, social messaging, and noisy currents of our day. In fact, without the revelation of His glory we are in danger of getting swept up into the most immediate or loudest messages we hear.
How shall we listen? Eugene Peterson writes about an event in Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. It’s the story of Captain Ahab wanting vengeance against the whale that took his leg in an earlier whaling disaster. “Melville describes a turbulent scene in which the whale boat scuds across the frothing ocean in pursuit of the great, white whale, named Moby Dick. The sailors are labouring fiercely, ever muscle taut, all attention and energy concentrated on the task. In the boat, however, there is one person who does nothing. He doesn’t hold an oar; he doesn’t perspire; he doesn’t shout. He is languid in the crash and the cursing.” (The Contemplative Pastor, p. 24)
This person is the harpooner; quiet and poised; waiting. Then Melville writes this sentence: “To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet from idleness, not out of toil.”
We continually hear the echo of this in Scripture like Psalm 46:10, “be still and know that I am God – I will be exalted among the nations”, or Isaiah 30:15, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
How shall we listen? We start to listen from resting in Christ, by finding our regular Sabbath in the person of Jesus as often as we can. There are no short cuts, no snakes and ladders around it, just the long arc of a spiritual journey with Jesus. We listen for the daily, ordinary, revelations of Jesus as we wait to listen to Him – for Him, and with Him.
What shall we Listen to? I said earlier: The revelation of Jesus’ glory makes it possible for us to listen to Him, over and against all the other voices, social messaging, and noisy currents of our day.
We live in noisy times, and who can compete with the media of our day, unless we see the revelation of the glory of the King?
Joyce Huggett writes a beautiful little book about “the joy of listening to God”: “In all our listening, the most penetrating word we shall ever hear is God’s written Word, the Bible, that sword that slips into the inner recesses of our being, challenging us, changing us, and renewing our minds. The Bible is the touchstone of all our other listening. What is more, it has a power all its own.” (The Joy of Listening to God: Hearing the Many Ways God Speaks to Us, p.147)
What shall we listen to? Dear children, listen to Jesus, for Jesus, and with Jesus in the Word, the Bible. Start there; alone and with others; start from idleness not toil. Start with Jesus.
Even today, especially today, I believe Jesus wants to show you the glory of His Father—the glory of His Kingdom—that we would listen to Him.
As a family or a gathering of friends, may I nudge you to discuss these questions:
When did you last see the glory of the Lord shine around you?
When have you been overwhelmed by His beauty?
Can you remember when you had your breath taken away by the extreme excellence of His wonder?
Let us Pray.
Lord Jesus we come to You to hear You, to get a revelation from You, to listen for You. Don’t let us down Lord, especially at this time. Let us see your glory, that we would be a people who listen to You, for You, and with You.