Voting for God

Voting For God

Matthew 17.1-8

James C. Denison

I’ve been voting in presidential elections since 1976, and cannot ever remember one like this. A year ago, none of the candidates would have been expected to be here.

On the Democratic side we can vote for a man who was the offspring of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, raised by a single mother, now in his first term in the Senate. A year ago he trailed significantly in the polls. His running mate lost his wife in a tragic accident and nearly died of a brain aneurism, a year ago he dropped out of the presidential race.

On the Republican side we can vote for a man who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for nearly six years, suffering the effects of war wounds to this day. A year ago his campaign was nearly bankrupt and trailing in the polls. His running mate was unknown to national politics until ten days ago, and is a 44-year-old self-described “hockey mom.”

But if the candidates were speaking to us this morning, they would testify that their setbacks and challenges have molded and melded them, preparing them to lead our nation. On November 4 you will decide whose past has best prepared them for the future.

God has already cast his vote. He has made his choice, marked his ballot, and you won. He wants you to know that all you have experienced in your life to this day is but preparation for all he wants to do with your life now. On Summerset Sunday our congregation celebrates his blessings to our church family in recent months, and then we recommit ourselves to his call for the days ahead.

Now he wants you to do the same. He wants you to know that his call is worth your life, not just your Sunday mornings, that the biblical message is the true and only hope for our entire planet, the only way of salvation, the only answer to the deepest and most ultimate questions of life.

In addition, your Lord wants you to know that your past does not limit his future, that he has a plan to make your life more significant in his Kingdom than it has ever been. I can prove both assertions today from a single text. I can show you that God has cast his vote for you. Today you can return the favor.

How God prepared them

Travel with me to the Mount of Transfiguration, the most dramatic and shocking event in all of Jesus’ ministry prior to his resurrection. He walked on water, healed the sick, and raised the dead, but only here did he show his full heavenly glory to men. Only here, for this brief moment, did they see him as he truly was and is and ever shall be.

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

These three would be the most significant leaders of Jesus’ movement. Peter would be the first to preach the gospel at Pentecost and open the church to the Gentiles; James will become the first martyr among the apostles; John would give the world the Fourth Gospel, his three letters, and the Revelation.

Jesus wants to equip them for their roles in the future of God’s Kingdom on earth, so he “led them up a high mountain by themselves.” This was most likely Mt. Hermon, the tallest mountain in the region. It stands north of Galilee, in Gentile territory, but can be seen from the Dead Sea, more than 100 miles to the south.

He led them here so they could be “by themselves.” Jesus knew what they needed to know and experience if they were to fulfill his purpose for their lives and future. He knows what you need to know and experience as you fulfill his purpose for your life.

They needed proof of his divinity and the fact that he came to fulfill God’s Messianic promises and plan. So “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” (vs. 2-3).

“Transfigured” translates a word which means that his appearance changed but not his essence. He was the fully-divine Son of God clothed in human flesh, but for a moment he pulled back that veil to show them his true and full heavenly glory.

Then Moses appeared before them. Imagine this scene—the giver of their Law, the liberator of their people, the greatest leader their nation had ever known appears again, some 14 centuries after his death, to Galilean fishermen. With his coming they know that Jesus fulfills the Law in its entirety.

And they see Elijah, the first and greatest of their prophets. He had been caught up to God in a whirlwind some eight centuries earlier; now he appears again on earth with the One who fulfills every word of every revelation of the prophets of God.

Peter wants to stay right here, to pitch their tents and remain on the mountain, far from the terrors and tumult waiting below. But God was having none of it: “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (v. 5).

Just as a cloud of divine glory covered Mt. Sinai when God gave the Ten Commandments, and covered the completed Tabernacle and the completed Temple, so that cloud now overshadowed them. Through it God commanded these men, “Listen to him!” Literally in the Greek, “Hear you him!” He spoke it to Peter and to the others, and through them to us as well.

Understandably, “they fell facedown to the ground, terrified” (v. 6). But Jesus touched them and said literally, “Stop being afraid” (v. 7). And “when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus” (v. 8). Not Moses or Elijah. Not religious leaders, not rabbis or Pharisees or Sadducees or priests; not military conquerors or wealthy landowners or brilliant philosophers. Only Jesus.