Jesus is here.

This is the good news.

“When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17 v 14-20)

There are so many different people in this encounter.

Peter, James and John are coming down the mountain with Jesus. Coming down the mountain is as important as going up. Do life. Be real. It isn’t just about mountain top wow experiences, it is about getting down on the dusty floor with children who are suffering. Is this where you are today?

The other disciples are in a dilemma. Something has gone wrong. “They could not”. For the first time we have it recorded that the disciples had failed to carry out the works of Christ. Do you feel disqualified because you have failed?

The crowd were watching. Bemused and amused at the kingdom upset! It seems every week the media promote the church as being deceived, liars, perverts, not relevant, prejudiced etc. All the time the world looks on without involving itself. Are you in the middle of this today?

A father in the crowd calls out similar to how a Father called out in the cloud moments before. “This is my son.” However his son is not the same. He is broken. Every father wants his son to be fixed. He could fix his toys but he cannot fix him. Is there someone you cannot fix today?

The son, only a boy, cannot understand what is wrong with him. He seems out of control at times. He doesn’t mean to do what he does but something takes hold and makes him embarrassed. The other children make fun of him. He is ashamed. Are you struggling today?

So which person are you?

Here is the good news. Jesus is here.

Life outside of the cloud and off the mountain

Never forget what happened to you in the cloud of God and the mountaintop experience. Don’t let it become a distant memory. Life off the mountain is only sustainable when you implement the change that took place there.

“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (Matthew 17 v 9-13)

The scene changes. They are coming down the mountain with Jesus.

The voice is no longer speaking. The cloud has gone. Elijah and Moses have gone. The transfiguration of Jesus has gone.

The divine is replaced with the human.

Peter had wanted to stay there forever on the mountain. But they learn that mountains are to come down from as much as to go up.

They come down to instructions from Jesus.

They return trying to understand once again what Jesus is meaning.

They have their questions trying to reconcile what they have always been taught by man with what Jesus is revealing. They use the scriptures of Malachi where it states Elijah will come first then the Messiah. They now know Jesus is the Messiah but why hasn’t Elijah come first?  Jesus reveals how John the Baptist was the Elijah of their generation.

They return to what they knew. They would soon team up with the others again.

But something has changed and it is them. They had been in the cloud. The cloud changes everything.

Your life may be described as having many questions, confusion, trying to understand the shape of it, how it is meant to be, what God is doing, this may be with you for your entire life. But remember, even though it is hard to describe, even if you are not meant to tell anyone, remember what you have experienced with God. Remember what happened on that mountain. You were in the cloud. It changed you. You came out of that different.

No one else except Jesus

Moses, Elijah, the transfigured Jesus, the cloud and the voice from heaven all led to falling facedown to the ground in fear. Then this happens:

“But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 17 v 7-8)

Are you falling down today under the weight of fear, confusion and uncertainty? Them falling down may be a result of worship but it could also be a response to what they simply could not understand, overwhelmed and way outside their comfort zone they hide their face from that what is confusing.

Then He comes, Jesus the Shepherd, with that gentle touch to say He is here with us, we don’t need to bury our head in the sand, we can look up; we can get up and not be afraid for He is with us.

They saw no one else except Jesus. He is all-sufficient. Moses and Elijah withdraw, Jesus remains.

It is not a question of whether you can face your fears but it is about whether you are facing Jesus. Does he have your focus today?

Facedown Fear

“I am more powerful than those authorities!” was a recent comment from a member of a Church to one of my Pastors. I reminded the Pastor that there is One more powerful than that member and He is listening!

I have countless people tell me how they are afraid of their superior, their boss or even their colleague.

On the mountain of transfiguration something happens that I believe changes the life of Peter, James and John forever. They hear the voice of God the Father and then:

“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.” (Matthew 17 v 6-8)

Can you imagine what that experience did for them, especially in the future? When you have fallen facedown to the ground terrified in the presence of a supernatural God then you can face anything! You can face being flogged and put in prison. You can face being crucified upside down as Peter was or dying by the sword as was James (according to Church tradition) or like John being thrown into boiling oil (according to Tertullian). You can get through any fear because you have experienced the ultimate fear of being in the presence of the ultimate Power.

The answer to all your anxiety and fear of man is found facedown to the ground in the presence of an awesome God. That may sound way too simplistic and I don’t mean to minimise the medical help that people obviously need. But the fact is there is very little time spent there, on the ground, having an experience of a pure and Holy God.

Once you know who you belong to then every other power is less. It isn’t that you become rude or unruly and not submitted to authority. But it means that a) you are free from the fear of it and b) you will not fall into the sin of Uzziah thinking you are more important than you actually are.

You won’t stay there for long, there is no need, just one moment is enough to change you forever. The King will touch you … but that’s for tomorrow.

Stop speaking …

“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17 v 5)

Peter loved to speak!

He has stepped forward again as a leader and a spokesmen for this smaller group of disciples to say something in this spectacular and extraordinary event. Speaking is often desiring to take control of the situation. “Someone say something!” is often what people are thinking. Peter will always respond to this, there doesn’t ever seem to be any silences with him. In fact no one could accuse Peter of not being bold. He even interrupted a conversation: “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus …” (v3-4) That takes courage! Or stupidity! Moses and Elijah had both had visions of the glory of God on a mountain both had ascensions to heaven in some form (Jewish tradition says Moses was taken like Elijah directly to heaven). Their appearing demonstrates that Jesus is superior as the Son of God. I think if I was there I would have been saying, “Peter for goodness sake, shut up, we want to listen to what they are talking about!” or would I be like Peter? Who would you be? James and John? Or Peter?

Interestingly, James, John, Moses, Elijah and not even Jesus tells Peter to shut up. The Message makes us smile with its description, “While he was going on like this, babbling …” The voice of the Father steps in and using the same words as was said over His Son at His baptism, says ‘Listen to Him!’

Today maybe we should shut up. Maybe we should resist the pressure to fill the silence with our wisdom and ‘words from the Lord’ and our opinions. Perhaps we should just listen today.

This is not the time for containment

In the UK we are stepping out today on what is called ‘Freedom Day’. I am not sure what this is going to mean as we step put from certain restrictions. But I do know many of us are cautiously making small steps to do so.

However, the gospel for every person, the experience of God, the outpouring of His Spirit, this day of mission, this cannot ever be cautious. We must make the most of every opportunity. This is not the time for enjoying our own experience of God. No. This is the time for movement.

“Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 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.” (Matthew 17 v 3-4)

Peter wanted to prolong what God was wanting to conclude.

Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, had been speaking to Jesus about his suffering and death (according to Luke) and now they began to leave.

Peter doesn’t know what he is saying. He hasn’t understood the whole experience.

But Peter did understand more than perhaps we do.

The Transfiguration took place many believe during Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. This festival celebrates all that God did for His people during the wilderness years. During this week long ceremony the Jews live in temporary shelters or booths. Attached to the feast are 2 further ceremonies, the water and the illumination. The water ceremony celebrating God’s provision in the wilderness and the illumination ceremony focuses on His presence as a pillar of fire by night. Sukkoth celebrates what will be the last great prophetic event when the Messiah comes to earth and establishes His kingdom in God’s land. They are on the mountain with Sukkoth in their minds. So when Peter suggested building the 3 shelters he was declaring: “I get it! THIS IS IT!”

The message came back which is still the same today, the kingdom is here but it is to come.

Peter wanted more on the mountain. God wanted more down the mountain.

Your life is off the mountain. That is where God is sending you.

We haven’t arrived yet! Don’t contain what you know. Others are waiting to hear.

Let your kingdom come

“After six days 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.” (Matthew 17 v 1-2)

The transfiguration! And the disciples have stepped into the vision of Daniel:

“Thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened… 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, 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.” (Daniel 7:9-14)

The disciples were not seeing some sneak preview into the future state of heaven, they were seeing the uncloaking of earth’s present. This Kingdom, this light, this glory, was who they had been following but it was now uncloaked, for a while, to give them the confidence to go forward unto death. Isaiah has come to pass, “Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

May the Church carry the Glory of the Lord and may this Glorious Light shine brightly to every person. May we remove our apathy. Let us be less concerned about programmes than His Presence. Let us stop talking the meaningless and the trivial. Let us talk the gospel, the glory, Jesus! May the world see a transfigured Church, may they see the Kingdom of God. May all the rules and regulations and all the prophetic desires be simply found in the Son of Man, in Jesus. As we lift up Jesus, as we declare Him then may the world hear a clear call to listen and to follow Him.

How will this ever happen?

“he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray” It is the connection between the earth and heaven. Prayer.

Let your kingdom come.

Take a break, do nothing, think.

There are days when nothing gets reported and that may well be divinely ordained so as to give time for what has been said to shape our lives.

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” (Matthew 17 v 1)

Matthew and Mark say it was the sixth day after the announcement of his death and resurrection, Luke says it was the 8th day. It depends on how you count. So count Monday to Monday and you either have eight days or six days depending on whether you count the first and last day. Similarly the time frame between the death and resurrection of Jesus is counted as three days.

So for around 1 week there isn’t anything recorded of what was taking place for Jesus and his disciples. He had told them the hallmarks of discipleship and spoke of his Passion and then nothing.

So, perhaps it was ordained for them to simply, “Disciples, think on that for a while.”

It is good to take time to do nothing new so that what you have heard, read or experienced can shape your life.

Vision enables you to carry your cross.

Yesterday in thinking on the title, ‘Son of Man’ I wrote of the revelation that Daniel saw. What he saw carried him through the darkest of times.

What Daniel saw, Jesus carried in his heart and mind. When he used the title Son of Man he was thinking of Daniel. In Matthew 26:64 as he was going through his trials and facing his death, “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God” he is quoting this vision Daniel had.

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16 v 28)

What are you seeing?

Some have said that when Jesus said some would not taste death he was referring to the end of the world. Others that he was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, or Pentecost. Matthew along with Luke and Mark place the transfiguration immediately after the first declaration by Jesus of his death and resurrection. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to think that ‘some’ (Peter, John and James) would not have to wait till they die to see everything, they would see the kingdom of God in this life and that is what Jesus was saying.

Peter would write about his experience later: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)

‘We were eyewitness of his majesty …’ they saw the kingdom of God on the face and body of Jesus. They were enveloped by the presence of God as the Law and the Prophets surrounded the Son of Man and they hear the perfect Word of God, the Torah of love. It was here on an ordinary mountain which became sacred that they experienced the Kingdom which would sustain them through the darkest of days as they laid their lives down for Christ. Within only a few years, James would be brutally killed by Herod for preaching the gospel. But he had seen the Kingdom.

We must have fresh encounters of God to carry the cross. This is what will sustain us.

Shaped by the cross is possible because of another world

Behind the Church is the reason for our existence. Empowered by a new kingdom, a divine power that enables the passion for the lost and the least, the mystery of the miraculous coming from another world led by Jesus who is not meek and mild, a spiritual leader, a guru, or a man who walked this earth but One who carries titles that no one on earth can carry, one of which is the Son of Man.

Jesus has told us that without the cross there is no discipleship. But as cross-carrying disciples there will come a day when we will receive our reward. It will all be worth it in the end. Whether that is at the end of our life or when the Son of Man comes in glory we will all give an account for this life, how we have loved God and loved others.

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16 v 27)

This title, ‘Son of Man’ is powerfully important to the reader of the gospel and so for us.

Six hundred years before God walked this earth as a man, Babylon is rising as a super power and begins expanding its empire. The city of Jerusalem is taken and that’s how the book of Daniel opens: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.”

This is devastation. This is humiliation. That the people of God should be overtaken and overruled by the people of the world.

In 7:13-14 Daniel (a student of Jeremiah taken into exile) has a vision: “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 worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Daniel so often seen isolated, standing for God in the midst of a wicked society sees an army. Thousands upon thousands ministering to HIM. Ten thousand times ten thousand standing before HIM.

As a disciple, laying your life down in a broken world, difficult that this may be, do not be ashamed of Jesus! Hold on to the Son of Man, to God. For you are not alone. Ultimate victory is not only God’s it is ours too, so continue to carry that cross.

Whatever besieges you, even if your very life is taken from you, the Son of Man is waiting for you and will reward you for carrying the cross. You belong to another world.