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Messiah: More Than a Prophet
Matthew 17:1–8; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Deuteronomy 18:15
Matthew Lesson #094
September 20, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful to be here today to have the light of Your Word focused upon our thinking, focused upon our lives, challenging us in terms of our day to day walk by means of God the Holy Spirit.
It’s through Your Word that we come to understand who You are, who we are, Your perfect plan of salvation that crystallized in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that it is because of who He is as described in Scripture, that we know that we have eternal life when we believe in Him and Him alone for our salvation.
Now Father today as we study Your Word and as we come to this remarkable passage related to the deity and the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and His mission in the first advent to provide for our salvation, we pray that You will help us to understand this that we might have a greater, fuller, more accurate understanding of who the Lord Jesus Christ is.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me if you will to Matthew 17. We’re studying the first eight verses of the chapter. As I pointed out last time, this is an episode in the life of the Lord that gives us an understanding of who He is and focuses us, gives us a foretaste of the Lord in His glory, understanding that He is both fully God and fully man.
Now as we orient ourselves again to this particular section of Scripture, what we’re going to see is that Jesus has been identified rightly by Peter as the Messiah when Jesus said, “Who do men say that I am?” Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
This is a critical focal point. It started a little mini section here within this part of Matthew that is focusing on an understanding, a correct understanding, of who Jesus is and what His mission was at the first coming—understanding that the cross, the suffering Messiah Priest, was to precede the crown, the glorified Messiah.
So when Peter says this, he’s focusing on his understanding of the Messiah, that the Messiah was more than a prophet, that the Messiah was the Son of the Living God. That is a significant term that often is not understood today, and it roughly can be understood as an idiom of description.
It’s a Hebrew idiom. If you were to talk about somebody’s physical descent, of course you would talk about someone, for example, like Jesus—as the Son of Joseph. You might think of David as the son of Jesse. You might think of Elazar as the son of Moses.
But in many cases in the Scripture, the phrase “son of” doesn’t mean father to son as we normally think of it. It means someone who shares the characteristics, the attributes, the qualities of something else.
For example, someone who is foolish is described as the son of a fool. Someone who had committed murder would be described as the son of murder. Somebody who was corrupt, destructive, and evil was called the son of Belial.
So this is how we must understand two of the key titles with the Lord Jesus Christ—that He as the Son of God doesn’t mean that He derived His deity in some secondary sense from God, but that He is fully, totally God. He is undiminished deity.
When the title “Son of Man” is given to Jesus, it is emphasizing the fact that He is full and true humanity. He is the God-man.
Last time I took the time to look at Philippians 2:5–10, focusing on an understanding of what is described as the Hypostatic Union—that is the union of two natures into the one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now this is important to understand and why I’ve entitled this lesson “More Than a Prophet,” because when Peter says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that means that He’s more than a prophet.
Jesus goes on to say that, in terms of His expanding the understanding of Peter. He tells the disciples and begins to show them in Matthew 16:21 that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed and be raised on the third day.
It was something they really didn’t quite grasp yet, and they still didn’t grasp after this. Even when it came time for Jesus to go to the Cross, they didn’t quite comprehend what was going on.
It wasn’t until after the resurrection that they began to put things together.
So we move through this section with Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, which wasn’t new. They had, as I’ve pointed out, seen Jesus, understood He was the Messiah since almost the beginning.
Andrew, when he’s first introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist, ran to get his brother Peter, and said, “We have found the Messiah!” But as the last couple of years have gone by, their understanding and comprehension of what that meant became more and more focused.
The area where we’re talking about geographically is to the north of the Sea of Galilee. This area of Caesarea Philippi is where the conversation between Jesus and Peter took place at the end of Matthew 16.
Then we’re told at the beginning of Matthew 17, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured.”
So we raise the question as to just exactly where it was that this took place. I pointed out last time that there’s a traditional site, or there are actually two or three.
But the traditional site is Mount Hermon, which is the highest mountain in the northern part of Israel. It’s right on the border with Syria, and it has a height of 9,271 ft.
There’s another site that is a secondary tradition, and that is the site of Mount Tavor. Now that’s been anglicized to Tabor, but those of you who are shooting enthusiasts, there’s a new weapon that came out three or four years ago that’s an Israeli assault weapon called the Tavor. Same word. That’s what it’s named for. So if you hear about the Tavor, that’s how it’s pronounced. It’s not Tabor.
So this is what it looks like. It’s an unusually shaped mountain, and it’s not very far from Nazareth. It might be a bit of a hike, but it’s clearly doable to make it from the northern part of Israel at Galilee up by Mount Hermon and make it down here within six days.
Jesus takes these three men who are His key inner circle among the disciples up on the mountain. We’re not sure which one it was. And there He was transfigured.
This passage uses the word METAMORPHOO, which means to change form. It’s the same word that’s used of Christians—that we’re to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
This reflects a transformation right before their face and says that “His face shown like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light.”
It’s interesting that Luke (in the passage I read in the Scripture reading) omits this word. Mark uses the word, but Luke does not use the word, possibly because Luke is writing to a Gentile audience.
This word had certain connotations to pagan Gentiles that would have communicated something on the order of an epiphany. It described some things that related more to their pagan mythology.
So instead, Luke just says that He became as bright as a flash of lightning.
Mark adds something interesting to this as well. He says, “He became white like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” It doesn’t matter if you’re using Clorox or Borax or Tide, super-enhanced Tide or whatever, it doesn’t get as bright as the righteousness, the holiness of God.
When we see heavenly beings, whether they’re angels, they’re often portrayed as light and white, but so too we have with God.
In Matthew 28:3, we have a description of the angel, its “countenance was like lightning and clothing is white as snow”.
In Psalm 104:2 and Daniel 7:9, we have a description of God the Father as being white. Daniel 7:9 is a depiction of the Son of Man, the Messiah, coming before the throne of God the Father, called in this passage “the Ancient of Days.”
The Ancient of Days is described as one whose “garment was white as snow and the hair of his head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame and its wheels a burning fire.”
In Psalm 104:2, David says “O, Lord, You cover Yourself with light as with a garment.”
If you’re Jewish, and you have this understanding of the Old Testament, and you think of God as One who appears in a blinding light, then when Jesus appears like that, you recognize a family relationship, and immediately it connects you to the descriptions of God the Father.
This is the kind of thing that we see in Revelation 1:14 when Jesus appeared to John the Apostle on the Isle of Patmos.
John describes Him in quite striking terms and says that “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.”
What John is doing in this description in the way that Jesus revealed Himself to John, is intentionally designed to connect the Jesus who appears to John in Revelation 1 to God the Father, to make those connections indicating that Jesus is fully God. He has the full glory of the Father.
The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 1 that He is the effulgence, or the radiance, of His glory, of His essence.
Throughout the Scriptures we see this emphasis that Jesus Christ is fully God. He doesn’t have secondary or derivative deity.
When we look at Old Testament passages that predict the Messiah, there are two streams that we see:
The first stream emphasizes the fact that the Messiah who is to come will be a Divine Messiah.
We have passages such as Micah 5:2. These are important passages to use if you are ever witnessing especially to an unsaved Jew, emphasizing that the Messiah was not just a human figure, but a divine figure.
Micah 5:2 says the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. The One “whose goings forth were from old.”The Hebrew indicates the one whose goings forth was from eternity.
So the One who’s born in Bethlehem, the One who’s given birth to in Bethlehem, is not just a human being, which is indicated by the fact that He’s born, but also that He’s One who has been going forth from eternity.
He’s also eternal. He would have pre-existed that birth. He’s eternal, and only God is eternal.
Other passages, well known passages usually referred to at Christmas:
Isaiah 7:14 that the virgin would give birth and would call her son Emanuel, a word that means “God with us.”
A clear indication that this Child is born, the fact that He’s born, indicates His humanity. But He’s also called “God with us.” He’s identified as God.
Just two chapters later in Isaiah 9:6, the One who is born is identified by a series of titles, one of which is “a mighty God.”
So we have a clear indication that the Messiah was to be fully God, not secondary—and I’ll make this clear as we go along—not just secondary or derivative deity.
The fact that He would be truly human is also indicated by a number of factors: The title “Son of Man,” that He’s to be a descendant of David, He’s called the “Son of David.”
Also these passages that I’ve just mentioned in Isaiah 7:15 and 9:6, these are passages that indicate that He is given birth to by a human mother, so He’s fully human.
I summarized it this way last time—for those of you who weren’t here, this will be kind of fast, but these slides are on the Internet.
1. First of all, the Scriptures indicate that there are two natures in Christ, two distinct substances. That’s why it’s called the “Hypostatic Union,” from the Greek word HUPOSTASIS, meaning substance.
One is human. One is divine. So He’s fully human, and He’s fully divine, and these two natures are combined in one Person.
2. Second point is although these two natures are united IN the Person of Christ, they remain distinct. They don’t merge or mix together.
Now what we learn is that Jesus, as the Second Person of the Godhead, is eternally God. When He entered into the human race, when He comes, in the process known as “the incarnation,” He adds humanity to His deity.
In that process, He willingly restricts the use of His divine attributes in order to accomplish the task that God has set before Him, which is to go to the Cross and to die for our sins.
There are times when His deity is on display:
When He changes the water into wine.
When He shouts, “Peace be still” and the waves quiet down.
When He is walking on the water, demonstrating His omnipotent characteristics.
But when Jesus is leading His everyday life, when He is facing the fact that He lives under ungodly authorities in the Roman Empire, when He’s having to deal with the religious authorities of the Jews, when He’s living in the Devil’s world, when He has to deal with temptation from the Devil in the wilderness—Jesus doesn’t handle those problems, those difficulties, those challenges, by relying on His own deity.
He handles them by relying upon the power that God’s given Him through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as a human being.
If Jesus handled all those problems by using His divine power, then there’s no example for us at all. But He handled it just as we would to set an example for us, so that He faced and handled those problems on the same resources that you and I have, and that is the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
We learned that there’s no transfer of the attributes of one nature to the other. There’s a fire wall, as it were, between His humanity and His deity, so that He can completely limit the use of His deity and only access it at times to demonstrate who He is as the Eternal Son of God.
It’s a personal union. He is a person, and this one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the One who does everything.
Sometimes people, in struggling to understand this, will say, “Well, Jesus did that out of His deity,” as if He’s two persons.
That’s not the best way to put it. The one Person performed the miracle. The miracle MAY indicate His deity.
He hungered, He thirsted, He wept. That indicates that He was human, but the one Person, the God-man hungered, wept, thirsted.
So there’s only one Person.
And that this union is eternal.
Millions of years from now, He will still be the God-man. That limitation has permanently attached itself to His deity. But in His deity, He is still eternal.
Now when you can figure that out, you let me know.
While they are on the mountain, Matthew tells us that two Old Testament prophets appeared to Jesus on the mountain, these two witnesses.
The Old Testament emphasizes that something must be validated, verified on the basis of two witnesses. So these two witnesses appeared.
Jesus has unveiled His glory, and He has revealed to them who He is as the future Messianic King, the King of Glory. They see His deity, and then it is attested to by Moses and Elijah who appear to them.
Now why these two? Why Moses and why Elijah?
What we see in this is something that I emphasize again and again—that the Bible is an integrated book.
Everything in the Bible fits together, and so often the way people approach the Bible is to read this little section or that little section in isolation from its immediate context or the overall context of the Scripture.
But the Bible, though it has 40 or more human authors, it has only one divine Author who is breathing out the Word of God through the writers of Scripture.
There is an integral unity within the Scripture. So anytime we read one part of the Scripture, we ought to ask “why is this here and what is being emphasized, and how does this relate to the rest of Scripture?” because it’s one integrated whole.
When we look at the fact that Moses and Elijah are appearing here, we should in a sense say, “Why didn’t Enoch show up?”
Enoch didn’t die in the Old Testament. Remember, Enoch walked with the Lord before the flood, and one day he’s walking off with the Lord and just kept right on going on into Heaven. He never died physically.
Elijah didn’t die physically. Remember, the Lord sent a fiery chariot that took him directly to Heaven.
Now nobody witnessed Moses’ death. He went up on Mount Nebo, but we’re told that there was a fight between Michael and Lucifer for his body, so he did die up there. He didn’t just get translated directly into Heaven like Enoch or Elijah.
So why not someone else? Why not Samuel? Why not David? Why these two? There are a couple of reasons for why these two.
The first is, let’s just look at Moses. Moses is the Law giver. Moses was more than a Law giver. He’s more than their deliverer who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. He is also a prophet. He was a unique prophet indicated by Deuteronomy 15:18–19 where in addressing the Israelites before they went into the land he said, “There will come a prophet after me. One that is like me.”
Now he was unique in a number of ways, and the grammar of that passage actually indicates that he’s talking about a specific individual. It is understood in the New Testament, as we’ll see, to be a Messianic prophecy in talking about the Messiah as this unique prophet. This is how they understood this.
They say Moses and Elijah had appeared to Him, and often these were associated.
In John 1:21, John the Baptist had been baptizing down by the Jordan, and the religious leaders in Jerusalem found out. According to their procedures, if anybody seemed to indicate that they were the Messiah or have anything special happening, any special miracles or anything, then they would go and investigate, so they would send out an initial investigative team.
They went out to ask John who he was. First of all they said, “Are you Elijah?” Reason they mention Elijah, and the reason Elijah is mentioned and appears on the Mount of Transfiguration, is because Malachi fore said that Elijah would appear as a forerunner to the Messiah—that he would appear before the kingdom.
So they say, “Well, are you Elijah?” And then he said, “No, I’m not.”They said, “Are you the Prophet?”
See, they understood that Deuteronomy 18:15 was talking about a unique prophet. It wasn’t fulfilled by Joshua or Samuel or Nathan or Gad or Isaiah or Jeremiah or any other prophet in the Old Testament.
This prophet from Deuteronomy 18:15 was a reference to the Messiah.
So they understood enough about the Old Testament to recognize that they were looking for this unique prophet, and that’s the Messiah. Of course, John said he wasn’t that prophet.
Later in John 6:14 as Jesus had been ministering, and as He performed the miracles of the distribution of the bread, these men “when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said ‘Truly this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ ”
So again they understand Deuteronomy 18:15 is talking about the Messiah as a unique prophet.
In John 7:40, the crowd, also having heard, said, “Truly this is the prophet.”
In other words, the Old Testament saints knew that they were looking for this unique prophet, and they were saved because they believed that God would send this prophet, the Messiah.
There was more content to their understanding of the Gospel in the Old Testament than just simply that God would save them. They understood that God would save them through a specific individual who would provide redemption for their sins, and this was the Messianic prophet.
Passages in the New Testament like Acts 3:22, 23 where Peter is speaking and says, “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ ”
And in Acts 7:37, Stephen, as he is speaking to the religious leaders and confronting them just before they got mad at him and stoned him, said, “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’ ”
So Peter and Stephen are both identifying this prophet as Jesus.
This is the reason Moses shows up. Moses stands for that. Moses also stands for the first section of the Old Testament known as the Law.
Now Elijah is mentioned, as I said earlier, because Elijah is often associated with the second section of the Old Testament, the Prophets.
There are three divisions in the Hebrew Bible:
The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings—the Torah, the Nevi’im and the Ketuvim. Often it was just simply referred to as the Law and the Prophets, and that would cover the entirety of the Old Testament.
Elijah is one of the foremost prophets. He founded the school of Prophets, and He is the one about whom Malachi prophesied that he would appear before the coming of the great day of the Lord.
But as we look at Scripture again and again, we see this reference to Moses and the prophets, Elijah.
In Luke 24:27 when Jesus is talking to the men on the road to Emmaus, He goes through Moses and the Prophets, that is the Old Testament—to show how all the Scripture prophesied concerning Him.
In John 1:45 when Jesus is first appearing on the scene after He’s been baptized by John the Baptist, Phillip witnessed that, and he went to find Nathanael, and He said to Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
In other words, he’s identifying Jesus as the Messiah.
In John 5:46 Jesus said to the Pharisees, “If you believed Moses,” so Moses and Elijah are the individuals who represent the totality of what was taught about the Messiah in the Old Testament.
Now as we think about this, look at the parallel passage in Luke.
Luke adds a few details about Moses and Elijah that are not mentioned by Matthew or Mark.
What happens apparently in terms of what the chronology up there is, is that Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to the top of the mountain.
Then Jesus reveals who He is in the transfiguration
Then Moses and Elijah appear, and they are having a conversation with Jesus.
Now that’s left out of Matthew and Mark, but Luke tells us that they’re having a conversation, and that they “appeared in glory and spoke of His decease.” Now that’s really not the best word to translate it—probably departure, but that could include His death—“spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
Then “Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep.” So they seemed kind of drowsy with the whole scenario. This indicates they’re in a vision state, perhaps. “And when they were fully awake, they saw His glory.”
Some people think that the words “they were heavy with sleep,” means that they were in this vision trance. I’m not sure that’s right. I don’t see this kind of an ecstatic thing going on in the Scripture.
The clause “when they were fully awake” is when they see what’s going on. This is like the situation in the Garden of Gethsemane. They seem to be under a certain amount of emotional pressure. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but I know sometimes when I have been under adversity, I just get real sleepy. You just want to go to sleep.
I think that’s what’s happened with them. They’re under this totally different scenario there, and because of the way their emotions and make up are, they just have a hard time staying awake. We see this a couple of times in their life.
Now the word that is translated “decease” is the word EXODOS from the compound of EX, meaning “out or from” and the word HODOS, which means “a path or a way.”
It literally means “a departure.” It’s used a few times to refer to a departure from this life, so it has that sense of death.
One place that it does that—hold your place here in Matthew and turn with me to 2 Peter 1. Those of you who’ve been coming on Thursday nights, you just have to go one book past 1 Peter and you’re there—and this is a fascinating little passage first of all because Peter is using this same word, and it indicates physical death.
Look at 2 Peter 1:13–15. Peter says, “Yes I think it is right as long as I am in this tent”—referring to his physical body—“to stir you up by reminding you.”
You see, part of the role of the pastor is to challenge people, to motivate them to get into the Word and to obey the Word, to study the Word and to obey it, not just get so busy in life that the Word of God becomes left behind.
So he says that I’m stirring you up “by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.”
He’s referring there to the death of the Lord and then His resurrection body.
Then he says in verse 15, “Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.”
That’s the New King James version, but in context, that’s what he means by his departure. He means by his physical death. So the word can clearly have that sense.
What’s interesting is, let’s read the next three verses. See, he just uses this word that’s not used that much of death in the Scripture. It’s only used about four or five times in the New Testament anyway.
Then he goes right on in verse 16 to talk about what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration.
He says, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
Now when did that happen? That happened on the Mount of Transfiguration.
That happens in Matthew 17 and Luke 9 and Mark 9.
We “were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ ”—that’s Matthew 17, the Mount of Transfiguration—“And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
So this made an impact on Peter, and he refers back to it in 2 Peter 1.
There’s this conversation that goes on between Elijah and Moses and Jesus. Wouldn’t you like to know the whole conversation?
It seems to be a discussion related to His fulfillment of His mission to go to the cross because they’re talking about His death. They’re talking about the fact that He will die.
Again this message that Jesus had given to the disciples in Matthew 16:21, that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things and be killed, which didn’t find a receptive audience among the disciples, is a message that they are confirming.
Again Peter and James and John, at least Peter, doesn’t really quite warm up to that message. It’s not something he wants to hear.
But this is necessary because the mission of Jesus at the First Advent was to pay for our sins. He was to come, He was to die as our substitute.
He was depicted through various examples and types and shadows in the Old Testament as the One who would do this. He was the perfect sacrifice as depicted by the lamb.
John the Baptist said He was “the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world”.
So the picture of that sacrificial lamb from the Passover was a picture of a lamb that was “sinless,” without spot or blemish. There was no fault found in the lamb, and that qualified the lamb to be a sacrifice.
Just as Jesus was examined and there was no sin found in Him, so too He would then be qualified to go to the Cross.
What this is emphasizing is that His death was absolutely necessary and required to go to the Cross.
So Elijah and Moses are talking to Him about the completion of the plan of salvation. In the Old Testament, they were saved on credit. They were saved by believing the promise that the sin would be paid for, but it wasn’t paid for until Jesus died on the Cross. They were saved, but on the basis of a promise of a future redemption.
When that was accomplished (remember, in the Old Testament they didn’t go directly to Heaven—they went to Paradise), when Jesus paid the penalty for sin, in those three days between His death and His resurrection, He announced the accomplishment of the payment for sin in Hades—that is in Paradise.
Scripture says He took captivity captive—that is, He took those who were the Old Testament saints, and He took Paradise to Heaven.
It was only after He had finished paying the penalty on the Cross that they were saved.
So they’re having this discussion, and Peter and James and John are listening in, but they don’t catch everything. They saw His glory. They saw the two men with Him. And Peter’s just impressed with the persons that are there.
He’s also impressed with the fact that this is really good. We’re with the Lord. He’s glorified. This is a great environment. “Let’s just stay here, Lord. Let’s not go back into the Devil’s world. Let’s not climb back down the mountain. Let’s not worry about dealing with all the things. And the last thing that we need to deal with is the fact that You’re going to get arrested, and You’re going to die. We don’t want that to happen.”
He says, “Let’s just stay here.” He says, “Lord it is good to be here. Let’s not go anywhere else.” It’s good to be here, and we’ll stay here, and that way we don’t have to deal with anything else.
In fact, I will build three tabernacles—basically, it would be like a lean-to—some little shelter—and we can just stay here and not go back into the world.
The word that he uses that is translated “tabernacle” is the Greek word SKENE, which is originally a Hebrew word, and it’s one of those words I like to go to like “amen.”
You find a cognate of “amen” in almost every language in the world, which does seem to suggest that maybe the original language was an early form of Hebrew.
Same thing with SKENE. SKENE, in the Hebrew form, is Shekinah, which is the word we use when we talk about the glory of the Lord, the Shekinah Glory.
But the word “Shekinah,” means to dwell, to abide. So the glory of God, when it abided in the tabernacle, was called the Shekinah Glory.
You find cognates of that word in a lot of different languages. You find it in Russian. You find it in Greek. You find it in many different other languages.
So he says, “Let me make three dwelling places for you: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Now what’s the problem? The problem is that Peter is speaking out of turn, and he’s equating Jesus with two prophets. He’s treating Jesus as if He’s just another prophet like Moses and Elijah.
So God the Father is going to immediately interrupt him, and say, “This is my Son with whom I’m well pleased. Listen to Him.”
We’ll get to that in just a minute, but there’s a correction there: “Peter, keep your mouth shut for a little while and pay attention. Listen to my Son.”
So the Lord is correcting him, but I want to stop a minute and talk about this, because this is a common mistake—that people want to treat Jesus like another prophet.
This is one of the errors of Islam. It’s terribly politically incorrect to say anything negative about Islam. Who would have figured that out 15 years ago after 9/11—that we would be in a place where if somebody says something negative about Islam that they would get in trouble?
It’s terrible because if you can’t say anything today negative about Islam, well, I hope that doesn’t bother you because I’m going to say something about Islam this morning.
In Islam, they want to portray Jesus as another prophet. He’s just another prophet. In fact, in Islam, you have to understand, Jesus can’t be God because Allah is a unitarian deity. He is a singularity. There’s no multiplicity of person in Allah.
In the Qur’an, Jesus is actually mentioned more that Mohammed, and He’s considered to be a prophet in the line of the prophets, although that’s not stated anywhere in the Qur’an either. That’s in some of their other books.
They clearly reject the Christian view of Jesus as the eternal Second Person of the Trinity. So they can’t be saved because they don’t have a Savior to pay for their sins, and they’re all trying to work their way to Heaven.
This same thing occurs in Mormonism. In fact, yesterday, I had an e-mail from someone asking me a question, gave me a long e-mail that was a copy off of a Mormon site dealing with the Person of Jesus. You have to understand what you’re looking at and think your way through this, but Mormons want to claim that Jesus is the Son of God.
Now Muslims won’t say that, but Mormons will say, “We believe Jesus is the Son of God. He was born of a virgin,” all of these other things.
It sounds good, but it’s what they’re not saying, and you have to remember what they’re not saying.
For them, Son of God doesn’t mean He is equal to God and has eternal deity. Remember, Jesus is generated, or given birth to, by God the Father.
There are a lot of deities in Mormonism. One of their little sayings is, “As you are, God was. As God is, you will be.” In other words, we can all become gods.
God the Father in Mormonism once was a human, and then He was elevated to deity. He had two sons. He was married, many wives.
He gave birth to two sons. What were their names? Jesus and Lucifer!
So the Jesus in Mormonism is not the Jesus of the Bible at all. He has derivative deity. This is like what you have in Jehovah’s Witnesses or the ancient heresy of Arianism.
You can’t say Jesus is just a prophet because the Bible doesn’t say that. When it talks about Him as a prophet, He’s this unique Prophet that is mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15.
This is what Peter is recognizing in his statement in Matthew 16, “You are the Messiah.” The Messiah is equated to the Son of the Living God. That means He is eternal. He is full undiminished deity.
The concept of the Messiah was that He’s a prophet, and He is undiminished deity. So He is unique and He is distinct.
While Peter’s talking, when he says, “Lord, let me build you three lean-tos, and we can just stay up here, he is immediately interrupted by God the Father: “While he was speaking behold a bright cloud overshadowed them.”
Many times in the Scripture you see clouds associated with the presence of God. You go back to the tabernacle when the Shekinah, when the presence of God, inhabited the Holy of Holies, a cloud descended upon the Holy of Holies.
Same thing occurred in the temple when the Israelites were taken through the wilderness. It’s through a pillar of cloud by day and fire at night.
So this cloud is associated with the presence of God.
This bright cloud overshadows him, and suddenly a voice came out of the clouds saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
There are three things that are said here in this passage:
“This is My beloved Son,” and that comes from Psalm 2:7.
“In whom I am well pleased,” and that’s a quote from Isaiah 42:1.
And “Listen to Him” is a quote from Deuteronomy 18:15 and following, the passage I’ve been referring to.
So let’s look at these very briefly.
If you have time, turn in your Bibles quickly to Psalm 2. This is a Messianic psalm. The whole psalm is Messianic. It’s prophetic. It refers to what will take place at the end of the campaign of Armageddon. It is describing the final victory of the Messiah over the kings of the earth.
In the first part of this Psalm, you have a conversation that takes place between God and His Messiah.
The setup: the setting is, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing”in verse 1. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord”—that’s God the Father—“and His Anointed”—that’s God the Son—the Messiah.
What the kings of the earth are saying is, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.”
Notice God’s totally politically incorrect response. It is politically incorrect to laugh or scoff or show scorn for someone else’s religion in our modern PC world.
But God is not bound by PC. God laughs. He shows scorn for them.
“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure.” And He says, “I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.”
Then in verse 7 He says, “I will declare the decree”—this is the Messiah now speaking. (It’s God the Father in verse 6, and it’s the Son in verse 7, you might want to mark that in your margins) “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ ”
This has been picked up by New Testament writers and applied to the resurrection. The crucifixion was one of the most horrific executions in the ancient world for rebels and criminals. No Jewish religious leader could ever think that the Messiah could ever go through such an ignominious death.
Basically what happens is that in Acts 13, in Romans 1:4, we are told that the resurrection is God’s stamp of approval on Jesus. And with the resurrection, He is declared by God’s power to be the Son of God.
He’s always been the Son of God, but He is declared with power to have always been the Son of God at the resurrection.
So Jesus, when the Father says, “Behold My Son. This is My Son,” He is quoting from Psalm 2:7.
In Isaiah 42:1, in the middle of the Messianic prophetic section of Isaiah, focusing on the servant of God as the Messiah, God says, “Behold My Servant whom I uphold, My Choice One.”
This is that Hebrew word Bachiyr, which means choice; a choice one. It doesn’t mean a “chosen one” because God isn’t choosing Jesus from among many. It’s about the quality of Who He is—that the Father delights in Him because of Who He is.
So the Father says, “He’s my Choice One.” And when the Father says, “This is my son with whom I am well pleased,” He’s connecting Psalm 2:7 to Isaiah 42:1.
The last line comes from the end of Deuteronomy 18:15. This is Moses’ prediction that, “The Lord Your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren—Listen to Him—Him you shall hear.”
So when the Father speaks, that’s the one thing He didn’t say in Matthew 3. In Matthew 3 at Jesus’ baptism, He said, what? “This is My Son with whom I am well pleased.”
He adds “Listen to Him” here. It’s a quote from Deuteronomy 18:15 and ties all of these things together for us, showing that Jesus is more than just a prophet. He is the Messianic Son of God who has come to redeem us from our sins.
Then what happens as they hear the sound of God’s voice? They immediately fall on their faces. This typically happens in Scripture.
Isaiah fell on his face and said, “Oh, woe is me, a man of unclean lips” when he’s brought before the throne of God in Isaiah 6.
Jeremiah, Daniel, Zachariah, all fall on their face when they are presented with a theophany of God.
John the apostle on the Isle of Patmos falls on his face when Jesus appeared to him.
This is what happens to the disciples. When unrighteous men are confronted with the holiness of God, they do the same thing that Adam and Eve did. They want to run in fear.
What does God do? He reaches out for us in grace.
This is exactly what happens with Jesus in Matthew 17:7. “Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise and do not be afraid.’ ”
It’s interesting, the first thing that’s said in the Gospel of Luke is when Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, goes in to serve in the Holy of Holies, and the angel Gabriel is there. Zachariah is just struck with fear, being in the presence of a holy angel, and the first thing that Gabriel said is, “Don’t be afraid.”
That’s the grace of God. When Jesus came at the First Advent, He didn’t come to judge, according to John 3:17, He came in order to pay for our sins. He did not come to condemn us, but to pay for our sins. That’s the grace of God.
That’s the emphasis today in the Gospel—the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, that by faith alone in Christ alone, we can have salvation.
But one day is coming when Jesus is going to come clothed in white light, in the garb of a judge.
That’s the depiction in Revelation 1:16. He will come to destroy the armies of the earth and to establish a rule of iron. At that point there will be judgment.
So the issue today is to be prepared for that, and the only way to be prepared for that is to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior.
The episode ends in verse 8, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”
We’ll come back next time and look at verse 9, because I think it connects us and gives us a transition into the next little section. We’ll look at that as we come to understand how this all fits with Jesus training the disciples and preparing them for His death.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to come together to study Your Word this morning and to reflect upon Your provision of a perfect Savior, that this plan was established in eternity past, and that it was promised and prophesied throughout the Old Testament. And it came to fulfillment in precise detail as we see in the Gospel of Matthew and the other Gospels—that Jesus is the Eternal Second Person of the Trinity, entered into human history by adding humanity to His deity, so that He could be fully human, and as true humanity, could die on the Cross as our substitute, pay our penalty. He had to become a man, a human being to die for human beings.
Father, we pray if there’s anyone here, anyone listening who’s unsure of their salvation or uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would take this opportunity to make that both sure and certain.
Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins. He paid the penalty so that you would not have to. All that is necessary, the Scripture says, is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
It’s not based on works, it’s not based on effort, it’s not based on ritual, it’s not based on morality. It’s based on one and only one thing: Trust in Jesus Christ and the fact that we’re saved not on the basis of our righteousness, but on His righteousness that is given to us freely on the basis of faith in Him.
Now Father, challenge us with what we studied today. May we come to a fuller and greater appreciation of Who our wonderful Lord is, that we may be able to explain Him more accurately to those around us.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen."