Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sermon: Luke 9: 28-36 Listen To Him!

Who is Jesus? It’s a question that many people are asking. Who is Jesus, and what is he like? For many, while not interested in church or the gospel, there’s still an interest in Jesus. I’m not sure if you saw in the newspaper a few weeks back, but there was a survey conducted, and it reported that the dead person Britons would most like to meet was... Jesus! One third of the people polled picked him.

Now obviously, the bit about him being dead is confusing - after all, he’s alive, but it’s interesting that Jesus appears top of the poll. People are interested in Jesus, but it’s probably a Jesus of their imagination - one who is always nice and pleasant, a ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ who accepts you no matter what and never condemns sin, or excludes people...

People are asking who Jesus is. What is Jesus really like? If you scan back through Luke chapter 9, you’ll find the same question being asked several times. Look at verse 9. Herod, the local ruler has beheaded John the Baptist, but then he hears of Jesus, and he’s perplexed. ‘John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ Who is this Jesus? It’s the same question that Jesus asks of his disciples in verse 18. What do other people say about me? Who do they think I am? And then in verse 20, and what about you? ‘Who do you say that I am?’

Having watched all that Jesus has done - healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the storm, fed the five thousand - Peter gets it. ‘The Christ of God’ is his answer. Now, as the disciples have some understanding of who he really is, Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem, and in Luke 9:21-22 tells them that he must suffer many things, be rejected, killed, and raised on the third day. He then calls for his disciples to take up their cross to follow him.

Jesus is the Christ, but not as they can yet fully understand. In Matthew’s gospel, you remember Peter taking Jesus aside and trying to persuade him that this won’t happen to him? In order for the disciples to more clearly understand who Jesus is, and what he must go through, about a week later, we’re told, Jesus takes his inner circle, Peter and John and James up a mountain to pray.

As they pray (and I’m grateful that Luke includes the detail that the disciples fell asleep as they prayed), Jesus’ face is altered - as the other gospels helpfully add - his face shines like the sun, and his clothing becomes dazzling white. Jesus shines with the brightness of his unshielded glory. Up to now, the disciples had seen glimpses of his glory in his miracles and teaching, but here (when they awake) the three disciples see Jesus for who he really is, in his glory.

More than that, Jesus is joined by two others - Old Testament saints from long ago - Moses and Elijah, who also appear in glory. What are they doing there? Well, we’re told that they are talking with Jesus, and speaking of his departure, which he is to accomplish at Jerusalem. That word departure is more accurately ‘exodus’ - the exodus he is about to accomplish.

There are no prizes for guessing what this exodus is - just before, Jesus had spoken of his suffering, rejection and death - and it’s through this substitutionary death that he will free his people from a greater slavery than that of Moses and the people of Israel coming out of Egypt at Passover. Moses and Elijah, two great figures from the Old Testament are there to speak with Jesus and encourage him as he prepares for the cross.

The disciples see Jesus’ glory - as Peter writes in his second letter ‘we were eye-witnesses of his majesty’ (2 Peter 1:16). Peter, years later, recalls seeing the glory of Jesus unveiled, his face shining, and says ‘we were eye-witnesses of his majesty.’

Yet there’s more to it than that. As well as seeing his glory, they hear the voice from the cloud, the voice of God the Father. As well as eye-witnesses, they are ear-witnesses too! And what does the voice say? “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

Who is Jesus? ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One’ (or as the footnote suggests, ‘my Beloved’). Peter was right when he said that Jesus was the Christ, God affirms his verdict, but reveals Jesus to be more than just the Christ. Jesus is God’s Son - an Old Testament category where the King of Israel was said to be God’s Son, only Jesus is how much more to Son of God - he is also ‘God’s Chosen One’ - with the link to the prophecies of Isaiah about ‘my Servant’, the one who would suffer and die for the people.

Who is Jesus? As we come to the passage, and see what happened, we’re confronted with the overwhelming evidence that Jesus is who he says he is - the Son of God, ratified and affirmed by God the Father. Is this how we see Jesus? Do we recognise him as the Son of God, appeared in flesh and displaying his glory?

You see, we sometimes only ever think of Jesus as a man - a superman, maybe, but still just a man. He becomes our pal, our mate, someone to hang out with, who’s fun for a while. He can do some tricks and can help us out of sticky situations, but that’s it. Totally human, just one of us.

But Luke won’t let us accept this as the whole thing. Who is Jesus? The Son of God, full of glory, the one who will die for the sake of his people, God’s Chosen One, the Servant, the King. Have we lost sight of Jesus’ glory and otherness? Do you need to repent of thinking far less of Jesus than he deserves and demands? We can sometimes get lax over the summer, and drift - let’s refocus on Jesus as we begin the autumn term, and see the Lord Jesus Christ for who he really is. He demands our devotion and service, not just our admiration and some fuzzy feelings.

Seeing Jesus as he is, is the first thing, but it’s not the only thing that Luke tells us here. Precisely because Jesus is who he says he is, the Son of God, the Chosen One, a response is needed. It’s not just Jesus is God’s Son, now isn’t that nice to know, but keep on with how things are...

What does the voice say? “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Listen to him! Hear what he says and obey.

In the immediate context, the disciples were being told to hear and receive the word that Jesus had spoken about his imminent death on the cross. Over in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter tried to talk Jesus out of it. Here, even though he doesn’t quite know what he’s saying, he wants to build tents, booths, tabernacles for Jesus and Moses and Elijah - dwelling places for them to stay and to enjoy this experience of being with them.

He misses the point - Moses and Elijah are returning to glory, to heaven, and Jesus must go down the mountain and begin on the way to Jersualem, the way of the cross. Listen to him, when he declares that the cross is the way of God. For many today in the church, the cross is minimised or re-interpreted or explained away, rather than being celebrated as God’s rescue plan, his exodus to save sinners from hell! Listen to Jesus as he declares the salvation plan that he accomplishes.

More than that, Listen to Jesus, because the Old Testament bears witness to him. That’s why Moses and Elijah are with him on the mountain. Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah the prophets, together bear witness to the exodus, the salvation that Jesus will accomplish.

Remember later on, after the resurrection, Jesus walks with the two disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus? They have seen Jesus die, and don’t believe or understand the reports that he is alive, and trudge home. What is it Jesus says? ‘“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.’ (Luke 24:25-27).

The Old Testament is all about Jesus, and points to his death and resurrection and the salvation he offers. As Moses declared in Deuteronomy 18, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers - it is to him you shall listen.’ (Deut 18:15).

Further, Jesus supersedes the Old Testament - as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us: ‘Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son’ (Hebrews 1:1-2). Notice that the voice of God does not say ‘listen to me’ but listen to him - Jesus is the voice of God, the word of God, and what he says is what God says. Listen to him.

So how is your listening? Have you suffered some summer drift? Or perhaps you’ve never listened to Jesus before and don’t know how to begin. The Fellowship Groups are a good way to listen to Jesus as we study God’s word together. Or maybe you’ll start with Bible reading notes - speak to Clive. Or check out the bookstall.

As we see Jesus for who he is, so we will want to listen to him, and in listening to obey.

This sermon was preached in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 30th August 2009.

No comments:

Post a Comment