Luke writes his gospel by putting together an account of things accomplished by Jesus. He gathers eyewitness testimony and investigates everything carefully from the beginning in consecutive order. His goal is that his readers will know the exact truth (Luke 1:1-4).
The focus of truth in chapters one through nine is Jesus’ identity. He provides testimony from many sources. A priest named Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, says Jesus is the horn of salvation in the house of David (1:69). His wife Elizabeth calls Jesus Lord even as Jesus is in the womb (1:43). Simeon says Jesus is a light of revelation to the Gentiles (2:32), and Anna, the prophetess proclaims Jesus is the redemption of Israel (2:38). John the Baptist says that Jesus is mightier than he (Luke 3:16) and that he is not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.
Luke includes the testimony of supernatural beings. The angel Gabriel declares Jesus the Son of the Most-High (1:32, 35), and His kingdom will have no end (1:33). Angels in Bethlehem announce to shepherds that Jesus is born as their Savior.
Demons declare Jesus to be the Holy One of God (4:34) and Son of the Most High God with the power to torment and cast them into the abyss (8:28).
Information about Jesus travels, and people begin seeking Him out, but there is confusion about His identity. The local king, Herod the Tetrarch, hears all that is done by Jesus, and he too is perplexed. He asks people about Jesus and everyone has a different answer. The multitude of people who witness the miracles of Jesus and hear His teaching think Jesus is a resurrected prophet.
Even the apostles are not sure what to think. For example, after Jesus rebukes the wind and waves of a fierce storm, they proclaim, “Who is this, that He commands the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” (8:25)
Finally, in chapter nine, Jesus asks His apostles directly, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answers correctly, saying, “The Christ of God.” (9:20)
Last week, we looked in detail about the other aspects of the transfiguration. This week, we will contemplate the words of God the Father. Luke brings this section on the identity of Jesus to a close with concluding with the testimony of God.
The Testimony of God
In verse 33, Luke writes that Peter, John, and James become fully awake and see the glory of Jesus and that He is talking with Moses and Elijah.
Peter says to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ eight days earlier but still calls Jesus, Master. He called Jesus Master in chapter five (5:5) when he tells Jesus he will once again let down his nets. This is the last time Peter calls Jesus, Master. The title is not fitting. It’s like calling Him a superintendent or teacher. Jesus is the Christ, which is much more than a teacher.
Also, Peter puts Jesus on equal footing with Moses and Elijah, saying they will build three tabernacles. Instead, Peter ought to ask Moses and Elijah to help build one tabernacle for Jesus.
As Peter is speaking, a cloud forms and overshadows the mountain. They become afraid. God speaks out of the cloud and says, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”
After God speaks, Moses and Elijah are no longer present, and Jesus stands alone. God makes three statements pointing to well-known Messianic prophecies.
Believe the testimony of God
Earlier in Luke’s gospel when heaven opens and a voice speaks. It happens when Jesus is baptized. Heaven is opened, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
At Jesus’ baptism, God speaks to Jesus. You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased. Here, at the transfiguration, God is speaking to the apostles. “This is My Son.”
God wants the apostles to believe three truths about the identity of Jesus, and each points to the prophetic Messianic Scripture. We are to believe these three truths as well.
The first statement, My Son, is a reference to Psalm 2, which is a Psalm proclaiming the Messiah will sit on David’s throne. It reads,
But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. (Psalm 2:6-7)
Jesus is the King God installs in Zion. He is God’s beloved Son. Jesus is the Messiah of Psalm 2. In time, with the help of God’s Spirit, the prophecy will become clear to the apostles.
What is really interesting is how the apostles will reference the Psalm in the early days of the church.
Psalm 2 begins by prophesying how the kings of the earth will take their stand against the Lord’s Anointed. After Peter and John’s release from jail by the Sanhedrin council, they return to their companions, and together, the church praises God. Turn to Acts 4:23-27. Listen to how they quote the first two verses of Psalm 2:
When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. nd when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our Father David Your servant, said, ‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? ‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ (Psalm 2:1-2) “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, (Acts 4:23-27)
The writer of Hebrews makes a case for the divinity of Christ by quoting Psalm 2. And, in the first sermon preached in Antioch, the Apostle Paul applies Psalm 2 to Jesus when he teaches at the synagogue.
Paul in Antioch: that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.’ (Acts 13:33)
Psalm 2 is an essential psalm for New Testament theology. It gains importance because God speaks it to the apostles.
Therefore: Give Homage to the Son
What should be our response? The way we apply this truth is to do what the Psalm teaches:
10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
11 Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
To do homage is to give Jesus the respect, honor, and reverence which is deserving to a King. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We do homage to the Son when we make Jesus Lord of our life. Those who refuse to bend their knee to Jesus as Lord will perish in His anger and wrath.
When reading Paul’s letters, it is helpful to see that after he shares truths about the gospel, he tells us how to live in response. When he talks about salvation, he uses the title, Christ, or Savior. But when Paul speaks of obedience, he uses the title, Lord. Listen to just a few examples from Colossians.
Col 3:17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Col 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Col 3:20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
Col 3:22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Col 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
Col 3:24 It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
We do homage to the King of Kings and Lord of lords when we live for Him and not for men. If we are to give honor and respect to Jesus, then we need to obey Him as Lord. He is King. We live in His kingdom, and we are to live by His kingdom laws.
Thankfully, His laws are not a burden but are for our good. Obeying Jesus is the joy of a Christian. When we encourage one another to obey Jesus, we are helping one another find joy in life.
God makes a second statement and identifies Jesus as His Chosen One. The apostles will recognize the reference to the Servant Songs in Isaiah which speak of the suffering Messiah (Isaiah 42:1),
1 “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
The five Servant Songs written in Isaiah, speak of how Jesus brings justice as King. We are most familiar with the Servant Song, which begins in Isaiah 52 and continues through Isaiah 53.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
God must be just. It is His character. God must punish sin if He is going to be just. Jesus brings justice before the judgment seat of God.
The Apostle Paul explains how Jesus brings justice in his letter to the Romans. He writes that Jesus is our propitiation. Jesus satisfies the just wrath of God because we have sinned against God. (God must be just and punish sin. Jesus satisfies the punishment.) God demonstrates His righteous judgment by making certain sin is punished. This way, God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)
When we believe that we are sheep who have gone astray, we each go our own way. But God causes our iniquity (our sin) to fall on Jesus. We are justified by faith. Jesus is the suffering Messiah who takes the punishment for our sins.
After Pentecost, as they build the church, the apostles quote Isaiah to help people know Jesus takes our punishment.
Therefore: Covenant with Jesus
The Servant Song of Isaiah 42 gives us our application.
6 “I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,
7 To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. (Isaiah 42:6-7)
When we put our faith in Jesus, we believe Him to be a covenant from God. God calls all people everywhere to find forgiveness of sins through the New Covenant. On the night He was betrayed, during the Last Supper, Jesus held up the cup and said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
When we put our faith in the New Covenant Jesus offers, our blind eyes are open. We no longer live in spiritual darkness, but we see the light. We are free from the captivity of sin, and we walk out of prison. Who the Son sets free is free, indeed.
Have you made a covenant with God through Jesus?
The final declaration from God to the apostles is a command. God tells the apostles to “listen to Him.” It is a reference to Moses’ prophecy about the Messiah in the book of Deuteronomy.
It reads, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15)
Ever since Moses spoke these words, the Israelites look for a Prophet who is like Moses.
As we examine the life of Jesus and examine all the prophets in the history of Israel, we see that Jesus (and only Jesus) fits the description of being like unto Moses. Here are ways that Jesus is like Moses.
- Moses is a mediator between people and God. Jesus is our mediator;
- Moses delivers God’s people from captivity. Jesus delivers us from the dungeon of sin.
- Moses leads God’s people to Zion. Jesus makes way for us to live in the New Zion.
- Moses does many spectacular miracles. Jesus performs more miracles of greater variety and incredible magnitude.
- Moses has a close and familiar communion with God. Jesus is a man of prayer and is continually living in communion with His Father.
- Lastly, Moses delivers a covenant to God’s people. Jesus is the New Covenant.
Moses’ prophecy is fulfilled 1500 years later and expressly applied by both Peter and Stephen (Acts 7:37) as they witness to the Jews in Jerusalem.
Listen to Peter, in his first sermon, as he references this Deuteronomy on the day of Pentecost that Jesus is the Christ.
“Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ (Acts 3:22-23)
Peter goes on to say,
For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways. (Acts 3:26)
Notice how Peter also references Jesus as God’s servant, which is an allusion to Isaiah 53.
Therefore: Listen to Jesus
How then ought we respond? We are to respond as Peter encourages his listeners on the Day of Pentecost. We are to listen to Jesus.
Listen to what Jesus tells Nicodemus,
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)
Jesus says if we believe in Him, we will not perish, but we receive eternal life. If we do not believe, we do not have life. Jesus echoes the words of Moses. Those who do not listen to Him will perish in their sins (shall be utterly destroyed).
God quotes three Messianic scriptures so the apostles will know Jesus is the Messiah. We can know Jesus is the Messiah because God the Father says so!
The Messiah Prayerfully goes to Jerusalem
Jesus is God and Jesus is a man. We see the humanity of Jesus with the frequency of His prayer.
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:16)
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)
Luke tells us that during the baptism of Jesus, that while He is praying, heaven is opened, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
Jesus knows He is the Messiah who will suffer. The reason Jesus goes up the mountain with Peter, John, and James is to pray. In the passage describing the Transfiguration, Luke again writes, “while He was praying,” the appearance of His face changed, and the transfiguration took place. Luke intentionally links Jesus’ prayer and transfiguration.
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus. Imagine praying during our baptism and being told, “You are My beloved Son.” And now, praying and the transfiguration takes place. We do not go out on a limb if we say on both occasions, the Father is encouraging His beloved Son.
As He is being baptized, God verbally verifies to Jesus that He is the Messiah. On the mount of transfiguration, the Father allows Jesus to taste His glory. Luke’s mention of Jesus praying is important.
The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus went to the cross and endured His suffering, death, and shame, for the joy set before Him. The joy set before Jesus is that He will sit down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
The transfiguration allows Jesus to experience His glory. And the experience will serve to motivate Him. Moses and Elijah affirm Jesus in His mission to Jerusalem. Having proven the identity of Christ, Luke’s focus becomes the journey Jesus takes to the cross. Notice the references Luke makes in the upcoming section.
When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51)
But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50)
And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem (Luke 13:22)
While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. (Luke 17:11
Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. (Luke 18:31)
The reason to think about these things is we can know just how determined Jesus is to save our souls. He believes God's word and has faith. And, He is committed to us. He is our Husband, who willingly and with much determination, lays down His life for us, His bride.
Rejoice in Christ, God’s Son, Chosen One, and Prophet, who delivers us and leads us to Zion.