A New Perspective

Scripture: Luke 9:28-36

Title: A New Perspective

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • A new perspective
  • Who is Jesus?
  • Jesus revealed
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

Three preachers sat discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairman worked nearby. “Kneeling is definitely best,” claimed one preacher.

–         “No,” another contended. “I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven.”

–         “You’re both wrong,” the third insisted. “The most effective prayer position is lying face down on the floor.”

The repairman couldn’t contain himself any longer. “The best praying I ever did was hanging upside down from a telephone pole”.

The telephone repair guy put things in perspective for the three preachers

 

During the month of March we take a break from our sermon series on the life of Abraham to focus on the Tranzsend Prayer & Self Denial campaign

–         As already mentioned the overarching theme of this year’s Self Denial campaign is Made New – Jesus came to make all things new

–         Last week we heard how the newness that Jesus brings begins with the initiative of God’s Spirit

–         The headline for today’s message is A New Perspective

–         Understanding who Jesus is gives us perspective

 

Please turn with me to Luke chapter 9 – page 90 toward the back of your pew Bibles. This is Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus

–         As they witnessed the transfiguration Peter, James & John were given a whole new perspective on who Jesus really is

–         From Luke chapter 9, verses 28-36 we read…

About a week after he had said these things, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. 29 While he was praying, his face changed its appearance, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly two men were there talking with him. They were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in heavenly glory and talked with Jesus about the way in which he would soon fulfil God’s purpose by dying in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were sound asleep, but they woke up and saw Jesus’ glory and the two men who were standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, how good it is that we are here! We will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (He did not really know what he was saying.)

34 While he was still speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them with its shadow; and the disciples were afraid as the cloud came over them. 35 A voice said from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen—listen to him!”

36 When the voice stopped, there was Jesus all alone. The disciples kept quiet about all this and told no one at that time anything they had seen.

 

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

 

A new perspective:

We are talking this morning about a new perspective – but what is perspective?

 

Perspective is understanding how aspects of a subject relate to each other and to the whole

–         In other words, perspective is seeing things in proper proportion and as they really are

 

Let me give you a visual example to illustrate

–         Here we have a picture of what appears (at first glance) to be three people leaning against a wall – we think we have the right perspective on this…

 

But when we widen the frame of the photo and turn it around we see things in better perspective – more accurately

–         The three people we thought were leaning against the wall are in fact lying on the ground with their feet against the wall

–         Perspective is seeing things in proper proportion and as they really are

 

New perspective comes from new information, from new experiences

–         For example: learning how to read

–         Going to university

–         Leaving school and getting a job

–         Becoming a parent

–         Or travelling overseas and experiencing a different culture

–         All these things give us a new perspective on life

 

I remember being so excited the first time I put on prescription glasses because I was able to see leaves on trees

–         Up till that point in my life trees were just a blurry green smudge

–         Glasses helped me to see with clarity – a whole new perspective

 

It should be acknowledged that loss can also give us a new perspective – whether it’s losing your health or your job or a loved one or whatever

–         There’s a line in the Hall & Oats song, Rich Girl, from the 1970’s which says: It’s so easy to hurt others when you can’t feel pain

–         If you can’t feel pain then you can’t see things from the other person’s perspective

–         Suffering pain & loss have the potential to give us a new perspective, a new understanding, a new sensitivity toward others

 

New perspective comes from new information, from new experiences

–         Humility is the awareness that we may not have all the information and so our perspective might not be quite right

 

Douglas Adams tells a true story about humility & perspective. Douglas writes:

  • – It was April 1976, in Cambridge, UK. I was a bit early for the train so I got myself a newspaper to do the crossword, a cup of coffee and a packet of cookies. Then I went and sat down at a table.
  • – There was a guy sitting opposite me, perfectly ordinary-looking guy wearing a business suit & carrying a briefcase. It didn’t look like he was going to do anything weird.
  • – What he did was this: he suddenly leaned across, picked up the packet of cookies, tore it open, took one out, and ate it.
  • – Now this, I have to say, is the sort of thing the British are very bad at dealing with. There’s nothing in our background, upbringing, or education that teaches you how to deal with someone who in broad daylight has just stolen your cookies.

 

In the end I did what any red-blooded Englishman would do: I ignored it, pretended to read my newspaper and had a sip of coffee

  • – After a while I took out a cookie for myself. I thought, That settled him. But it hadn’t because a moment or two later he did it again. He took another cookie.
  • – Having not mentioned it the first time, it was somehow even harder to raise the subject the second time around.
  • – We went through the whole packet like this. When I say the whole packet, I mean there were only about eight cookies, but it felt like a lifetime. He took one, I took one, he took one, I took one.
  • – Finally, when we got to the end, he stood up, we exchanged meaningful looks, then he walked away, and I breathed a sigh of relief

 

A moment or two later the train was coming in, so I tossed back the rest of my coffee, got to my feet, picked up the newspaper, and underneath the paper were my cookies.

  • – [I had been indignant because I thought he was stealing my cookies when in fact I had been stealing his]

 

Douglas Adams finishes his story by saying…

  • – “So next time you are convinced that you know everything and that you are right, make sure you check under the newspaper first. You might just be missing something important”

 

Who is Jesus?

There are many different things that can inform our perspective but ultimately, the biggest game changer is understanding who Jesus is

–         We might think we know enough about Jesus but really we don’t know what we don’t know. So the question is: Who is Jesus?

 

In Luke chapter 8 (after Jesus had calmed a storm) the disciples asked each other in amazement, ‘Who is this man?’

 

Then a little bit later (in Luke 9) when Herod heard about all the miraculous things that Jesus was doing he also asked, ‘Who is this man?’

 

And a few verses after that Jesus asks his disciples, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’

–         To which the disciples replied, ‘Some say you are John the Baptist, others that you are Elijah, while others say that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’

–         ‘What about you?’ Jesus asked them. ‘Who do you say I am?’

–         And Peter answered, ‘You are God’s Messiah’

 

‘Messiah’ is a Hebrew word which literally means ‘Anointed One’

–         In Old Testament times, when God wanted to choose someone to carry out a special role or task (like being a king) He would have the chosen one anointed with olive oil

–         For example God told the prophet Samuel to anoint David as king of Israel. This identified David as the Messiah – God’s chosen king

 

Peter got it right when he said that Jesus is the Messiah but there was more to it than this

–         Peter didn’t quite understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was

–         Most Jews of his day thought Jesus would be a king like David – a king who would conquer his political enemies and be victorious in battle

–         But God was doing something new with Jesus

–         Jesus was the kind of Messiah who would suffer much, be rejected and die before being raised to life on the third day

–         Jesus’ victory would not be a military victory

–         Jesus’ victory would be a victory over sin & death

–         And it would look more like defeat, at least at first

 

Jesus tried to tell his disciples this but they didn’t seem to listen or understand

–         The reality of what Jesus was saying washed over them

–         Sometimes we listen selectively

–         We only hear what we want to hear – the nice bits – the comforting bits

–         And we are deaf to the things that we don’t like or can’t understand

 

Jesus revealed:

And that brings us to our reading this morning – the transfiguration of Jesus

–         About 8 days after Peter had confessed that Jesus is the Messiah

–         Also 8 days after Jesus had predicted his own death and resurrection

–         The Lord takes Peter, James & John up a mountain to pray

For some of us prayer may feel like a waste of time

–         We’ve got lots to do and we just want to get on and do it

–         But prayer is very important for refreshing our perspective

–         The problem with just getting on and doing it (without taking time to pray) is that we risk losing our perspective

–         We risk forgetting why we are doing what we are doing and we fall into the trap of thinking we are doing it alone

–         Prayer is a way of looking under the newspaper – it has the power to restore our perspective

 

While Jesus is praying the disciples are heavy with sleep

–         Then Jesus’ face changes in appearance and his clothes become dazzling white – he is transfigured

–         The Biblical scholar, Joel Green, explains: “In Old Testament and Jewish tradition, one’s countenance [their face] is a mirror of one’s heart and a manifestation of one’s relationship with God” [1]

–         So in ancient Jewish thought your face essentially reveals what’s going on inside, indicating the quality of your relationship with God

–         A bit like we might say today, ‘The eyes are the windows of the soul’

–         Basically Jesus’ inner being, his true heavenly identity, is being revealed to the three disciples

–         It’s sort of like Jesus has been in disguise but his disguise is removed for a little bit and his true heavenly glory is revealed

The disciples are wide awake now and they see Moses & Elijah talking with Jesus about his departure – his exodus – his death on the cross

–         This scene (the transfiguration) does not compare with anything in our own experience – it is shrouded in mystery

–         We can’t be sure but it seems the disciples were being shown a window (or a glimpse) into eternity

–         Eternity (like Jesus) provides the ultimate perspective

 

I’m reading a book by Laurie Guy at the moment and in it Laurie retells the true story of the Australian, Arthur Stace [2]

–         Arthur Stace had a pretty tough childhood

–         He never learned to read or write properly and grew up on the streets. He got involved in petty crime and became a ward of the state because his parents didn’t take very good care of him

–         He served in France during World War One and turned into an alcoholic

–         Then in the 1930s Arthur discovered who Jesus is and found a new perspective on life

–         He converted to Christ, gave up the drink and turned his life around

 

After hearing the evangelist John Ridley tell a congregation in Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle that he wished he could ‘shout eternity through the streets of Sydney’ Arthur Stace was inspired!

 

He became gripped with the word ‘eternity’, secretly writing it over 500,000 times in chalk on the pavements of Sydney (at least 50 times a day for 33 years)

–         Arthur was giving people a new perspective – lifting their focus out of the here and now to think about their lives in the light of eternity

–         Can you imagine people in the 1930’s, during the great depression, facing hard times and seeing that word ‘eternity’ on the streets – a message of hope that this life is not all there is

 

He died in 1967 but his legacy still lives on in the Australian imagination

–         When the lights lit the Sydney Harbour Bridge to mark the new millennium they emblazoned Arthur Stace’s word: ‘Eternity’

 

The disciples had caught a glimpse of who Jesus really is from an eternal perspective but they don’t yet understand – it takes time for this new information to sink in

–         Moses & Elijah start to leave but Peter wants them to stay

–         He wants to build shelters for them

–         Maybe Peter has the feast of tabernacles in mind

–         Or maybe he just wants to capture the moment – to preserve it

–         But he is missing the point – he does not know what he is saying

 

While Peter was speaking a cloud appears and envelopes them – the disciples feel afraid

–         The cloud + fear is a clear sign that this is a manifestation of the presence of God Almighty

 

A voice from the cloud says three things to endorse Jesus…

–         ‘This is my Son,

–         my chosen;

–         listen to him.’

Seeing by itself is not enough

–         The disciples also need to hear the divine voice in order to make sense of what they are seeing

–         Jesus is not John the Baptist or Elijah or some other prophet from the past come back to life, as the crowds thought

–         Peter was right – Jesus is the Messiah – the one chosen by God

–         But he is not like any Messiah the Jews have ever known before

–         For Jesus is the Son of God

–         Jesus is divine – He is quite literally from heaven

–         This might seem old hat to us 2000 years later but it was a completely new perspective for the disciples at that point in time

 

The voice from the cloud also refers to Jesus as ‘my chosen

–         ‘My chosen’ is a reference to the servant of the Lord, described in Isaiah 42: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice…; a bruised reed he will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

  

The third thing the voice from the cloud says is: listen to him

–         This is both a command and another reference from the Old Testament

–         In Deuteronomy 18 Moses predicted Jesus’ coming when he said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall listen to him

 

We are to listen to Jesus because he shows us how to interpret the Law and the prophets (as represented by Moses & Elijah)

–         Understanding who Jesus really is gives us perspective on the Bible

 

We are to listen to Jesus because he comes to confront evil and set people free from slavery to sin & death

–         Like Moses confronted Pharaoh and set Israel free from slavery in Egypt

–         Like Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and set Israel free from the futility of paganism

–         Understanding who Jesus really is gives us perspective on right & wrong

 

We are to listen to Jesus because he tells us the way of the Messiah is the way of the cross – for if anyone wants to follow Jesus, he (or she) must deny themselves and take up their cross daily

–         Understanding who Jesus really is gives us perspective on the difficulties we face in our own lives

 

We are to listen to Jesus because, as God’s Son, he shows us what God is like and what God wants

–         Understanding who Jesus really is gives us perspective on God

 

Most people of Jesus’ day thought he was just a prophet or a great moral teacher but Jesus is so much more than that

–         In his book ‘Mere Christianity’ C.S. Lewis writes…

 

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say.

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Conclusion:

Luke’s account of the Transfiguration finishes by telling us the disciples kept quiet about all this, and told no one at that time anything they had seen

–         This was the best response in the context

–         Whenever we are given a new perspective we need time to be silent and reflect on it – to take it in and allow the new information to do its work in adjusting our old perspective

 

We are in the season of Lent – when Christians traditionally take time to be still and reflect on who Jesus really is

–         Lent is a time for perspective prayer

 

Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, we (like the disciples) have an inadequate understanding of who Jesus is

–         For example, we might think of Jesus like a first aid kit – someone we only turn to in an emergency

–         And while it is okay to turn to Jesus in a crisis there is more to him than that – he wants to be involved in our whole life

 

Or we may think of Jesus like a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine – someone who gives us comfort when we are down

–         Again there’s nothing wrong in looking to Jesus for comfort but by the same token, he doesn’t exist primarily for our comfort

 

Maybe you think of Jesus like a kind older brother – someone you feel close to, someone who looks after you, someone you aspire to be like one day

–         That’s wonderful, what a beautiful relationship you have with him,

–         But the gospels also show us a side to Jesus which is less cozy, more demanding

–         Jesus is our brother, yes, but he is also our Lord & God. Can we obey Him?

 

Perhaps your perception of Jesus is not cozy at all – perhaps he is more like a distant dead relative in a black & white photo on your wall, you pass by him every day without really noticing he’s there or even knowing who he was

–         That’s sad. The gospel perspective is that Jesus is alive and he wants to share life with us – he wants to know us and he wants us to know him

–         Understanding who Jesus really is gives us perspective

 

I encourage you this week to find time to contemplate who Jesus is to you personally

–         And ask yourself ‘how does that fit with who the gospel tells us Jesus is?’

 

Questions for discussion or reflection:

1.)    What stands out for you in reading this Scripture and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    What is perspective?

3.)    Can you recall an experience in your own life that gave you new perspective?

–         What happened and how did your perspective change?

4.)    Can you think of a time when praying has restored your perspective?

5.)    Discuss / reflect on the three things God says from the cloud to endorse Jesus: “This is my Son, my chosen. Listen to Him.”

6.)    How do you think of (or picture) Jesus? Who is He to you personally?

–         How does your picture of Jesus fit with what the gospels tell us about Jesus?

7.)    Take some time to reflect on that word ‘eternity’. What are you in touch with?

 

https://soundcloud.com/tawabaptist/11-march-2018-a-new-perspective

 

[1] Joel Green, NICNT, ‘The Gospel of Luke, page 380.

[2] Laurie Guy, ‘Unlocking Revelation’, page 23.

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