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Matthew 17:1-3 - Alive!


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“…Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him” (Matthew 17:1-3)

Moses and Elijah were two very interesting men. Both of them, of course, are long gone from this earth. They lived at different times, thousands of years ago; men of differing appearance and backgrounds, but united with each other and with us through faith in the Lord. Moses lived to be 120, and Elijah was no spring chicken either, but each of them remained, mentally and physically, in the prime of life, and we are reminded that God makes the old become new. Moses simply—died—whereas Elijah left the earth in a dramatic manner, traveling in what was described as a “chariot of fire” (2 Kings 2:11). They were gone from earth, gone from humanity, and though their departures were as different as their lives were—Moses was buried by the Lord in an unknown place (Deuteronomy 34:5-6) and Elijah seems to have flown directly into eternal life, yet both found what was later described by Paul the Apostle in this way: “to be absent from the body (is) to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). They are alive!

In today’s Scripture, here was Jesus, taking three of His disciples with Him on a laborious climb up a “high mountain.” Peter, along with the brothers, James and John, were plodding upward, not knowing what to expect, when suddenly the physical body taken by Jesus at His entry into this world, was remarkably changed. Matthew, in writing about this startling event, used a Greek word that best describes Jesus as “changed into another form.” He became so different that they could not continue staring at Him because “His face shone like the sun.” Physical eyes cannot endure the wonder, the holiness of Almighty God. They wanted to stare, but quickly looked away from the amazing sight of the Lord in His glorious appearance.

And they weren’t alone anymore because “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him,” that is, talking with Jesus. It became clear who these beings were because of the conversation they were having with the Lord Jesus Christ—they undoubtedly called Him "Lord," which He was and is, and in replying to them, He addressed them by their names: “Moses and Elijah.” Peter and James and John would have been astonished to see Jesus in His true form, and they would have gasped when they realized they were also in the presence of Moses and Elijah. These were notable men dead for centuries—and they were also unmistakably—alive!

What is this “life” we all talk about and value so much? We move through life in our bodies, and as long as we keep moving around, we and others think about us—“He (or she) is alive!” But are we? Really alive, that is… Is this heart that beats and the blood which flows—if everything is working like it’s supposed to, do we have the LIFE God our Creator intends for us?

It’s the time of Good Friday and Easter for many in the world, a time to recall that our Savior, the One who died and paid the price for our sins—He died, but is very much alive! His was a horrible death, not only as to His physical body, but even worse, He bore our sins. And this One who saved us from our sins and then died—is risen from the dead! As God’s holy angel told the women who had come to the tomb, intending to anoint the dead body of Jesus, “He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6). He is alive!

Can you imagine the awful suffering He endured for us? I think none of us can. “He (that is, God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We reasonably shrink away from contemplating His physical suffering because, physical beings that we are, we think that devastating injury to our bodies which may or may not result in death, is the worst that can happen. But it’s not. We are prisoners, bound by the physical universe and by our sins, beings who long for, but cannot imagine what it would be like to be completely without sin. The pure One who was without sin, died for our sins, but then rose from the dead, clean and alive once more. He is alive.

Our Lord is quantitatively and qualitatively MORE than we are. Our thoughts drift where they should not go. Our actions in the past have damaged us and so did the actions of our ancestors. We are sinners, descended from sinners, ruined in heart, mind, body and soul. He was not like that. He was and is—innocent. He sought nothing on earth except to help those He came to serve. He did nothing wrong, and then we in humanity, perceiving Him correctly as the perfect mirror, who, in His innocence reflects our awfulness back to us—we killed Him. Our representatives, Roman and Jew alike, killed the King of glory.

In John 11, we find Lazarus, the human friend of Jesus, who died, was in a tomb of his own, and then was brought back to life by a word from Jesus Christ, God the Son. It is not recorded in Scripture, but the physical body of Lazarus would, perhaps a few years from that moment in time, have died once more. By now, the atoms of his body are scattered dust in the ground. While he was in the grave the first time, Jesus said of that incident, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Lazarus is twice dead, but also ALIVE because he made the blessed choice of BELIEVING in Jesus Christ.

The disciples of Jesus were surprised by the many amazing words and actions spoken and performed by the Lord during the three years He walked with them on earth. All of those disciples are now dead. Lazarus is dead. Moses and Elijah, the men in our Scripture for today, are dead—yet they talked animatedly with Jesus, hundreds of years after they were gone from this physical existence—unmistakably ALIVE. Just as Jesus said: “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

I’m sorry to be the one who tells you this, but you are going to die. A death sentence came upon you the moment you were conceived, the process leading to death began, and you have been dying ever since. It was true for those in Scripture and it is true for us all. Moses, Elijah, Lazarus, Peter, James and John—they’re all gone—their physical bodies that is… but each of them believed in the Lord and they are alive! Do you wish to never die? Do you want to meet Moses and Elijah and listen to them like the disciples did? Do you want to meet the Lord? Then pray right now:

Dear Lord, I believe; I confess that I am a sinner like those who came before me. I am damaged, Lord, but I trust in You and I am Yours. I believe, I trust, I place my faith in Jesus Christ, God the Son. Thank You Lord. I am Yours. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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