The Blind Man Calls Their Bluff

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 30, 2014, Lent IV

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

From the First Book of Samuel:
And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, an anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.

From the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians:
For once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Jesus heard that they had cast him out and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Our Lord performed miracles in order to meet human needs. But He also used those miracles as a “launching pad” for a message conveying spiritual truth. Finally, His miracles were His “credentials” to prove that He was indeed the Messiah. “The blind receive their sight” was one such messianic miracle (Matt. 11:5), and we see it demonstrated in our Gospel reading this morning. Jesus used this miracle as the basis for a short sermon on spiritual blindness (John 9:39-41).

I have read that somewhere in the world, someone goes blind every 5 seconds. A child goes blind every minute. The man in our Gospel reading was born blind; he had never seen the beauty of God’s creation or the faces of his loved ones. When Jesus arrived on the scene, everything changed, and the man was made to see. However, the greatest miracle was not the opening of his eyes but the opening of his heart to the Saviour. It cost him everything to confess Jesus as the Son of God, but he was willing to do it.

The easiest way to understand the message of our Gospel reading is to note the stages in this man’s growing understanding of who Jesus is.

About the only thing a blind man could do in that day was beg, and this is what this man was doing when Jesus passed by (John 9:8). No doubt there were many blind people who would have rejoiced to be healed, but Jesus selected this man. Apparently the man and his parents were well known in the community. It was on the Sabbath when Jesus healed the man (John 9:14), so that once again He was upsetting and deliberately challenging the religious leaders (John 5:9ff).

The disciples did not look at the man as an object of mercy but rather as a subject for a theological discussion. It is much easier to discuss an abstract like “sin” than it is to minister to a concrete need in the life of a person. The disciples were sure that the man’s congenital blindness was caused by sin, either his sin or his parents’, but Jesus disagreed with them.

In the final analysis, all physical problems are the result of our fall in Adam, for his disobedience brought sin and death into the world (Rom. 5:12ff). But afterward, to blame a specific disability on a specific sin committed by specific persons is certainly beyond any man’s ability or authority. Only God knows why babies are born with handicaps, and only God can turn those handicaps into something that will bring to the people and glory to His name.

Certainly both the man and his parents had at some time committed sin, but Jesus did not see their sin as the cause of the man’s blindness. Nor did He suggest that God deliberately made the man blind so that, years later, Jesus could perform a miracle.
The Scripture states: “Neither has this man sinned nor his parents. But that the works of God should be made manifest in him, I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day.” (John 9:4)

Our Lord’s method of healing was unique: He put clay on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash. Once Jesus healed two blind men by merely touching their eyes (Matt. 9:27-31), and He healed another blind man by putting spittle on his eyes (Mark 8:22-26). Though the healing power was the same, our Lord varied His methods ’lest people focus on the manner of healing and miss the message in the healing.

There are a least two reasons for our Lord’s use of the clay. For one thing, it was a picture of the Incarnation. God made the first man out of dust, and God sent His Son as a real Man. The second reason for the clay was irritation; it encouraged the man to believe and obey! If you have ever had an irritation in your eyes, you know how quickly you seek irrigation to cleanse it out! You might compare this “irritation” to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as He uses God’s Law to bring the lost sinner under judgment.

But this illumination now led to a problem in identification: was this really the blind beggar, and who caused him to see? Four times in this chapter people asked the blind man, “How were you healed?” First the neighbors asked the man, and then the Pharisees asked him. Not satisfied with his reply, the Pharisees then asked the man’s parents and then gave the son one final interrogation. All of this looked very official and efficient, but it was really a most evasive maneuver on the part of both the people and the leaders. The Pharisees wanted to get rid of the evidence, and the people were afraid to speak the truth!

They were all asking the wrong question! They should not have asked “How?” but “Who?” We want to understand the mechanics of a miracle instead of simply trusting the Saviour, who alone can perform the miracle.

When asked to describe his experience, the man simply told what had happened. All he knew about the person who had done the miracle was that He was “a man called Jesus.” He had not seen our Lord, of course; but he had heard His voice. Not only was the beggar ignorant of Jesus’ identity, but he did not know where Jesus had gone. At this point, the man has been healed, but he has not been saved. The light had dawned, but it would grow brighter until he saw the face of the Lord and worshiped Him.

Since the Pharisees were the custodians of the faith, it was right that the healed man be brought to them for investigation. The fact that they studied this miracle in such detail is only further proof that Jesus did indeed heal the man. Since the man was born blind, the miracle was even greater, for blindness caused by sickness or injury might suddenly go away. Our Lord’s miracles can bear careful scrutiny by His enemies.

But Jesus’ act of deliberately healing the man on the Sabbath Day caused the Pharisees great concern. It was illegal to work on the Sabbath; and by making the clay, applying the clay, and healing the man, Jesus had performed three unlawful “works.” The Pharisees should have been praising God for a miracle; instead, they sought evidence to prosecute Jesus.

The beggar was not intimidated by the threats of the Pharisees. When asked who he thought Jesus was, the man boldly said “He is a prophet!” The Jewish people would look on their prophets as men of God who could do wonderful things by the power of God.

The Pharisees then thought to interrogate the parents, so they asked them two questions: (1) “Is this your son?” and (2) “If he is, how does he now see?”

They answered the first question honestly: he was their son and he had been born blind. They answered the second question evasively: they did not know how he was healed or who healed him. They in essence, “passed the buck” by suggesting that the Pharisees ask the man himself. After all, he was of age!

Anxious to settle this matter, the Pharisees did call the man in; and this time, they put him under oath. “Give God the praise” is a form of Jewish “swearing in” at court (see Josh. 7:19). The Pharisees said, “We know that this Man is a sinner!” They were warning the witness that he had better cooperate with the court, or he might be excommunicated.
But the beggar was made of sturdier stuff than to be intimidated. He had experienced a miracle, and he was not afraid to tell them what had happened.

For the fourth time, the question is asked, “How did He open your eyes?” I can imagine this man was becoming quite impatient with the Pharisees, after all, he had been blind all his life, and there was so much he wanted to see. He didn’t want to be spending all this time in the synagogue court, looking at angry faces and answering the same questions!

We admire the boldness of the man in asking the Pharisees if they wanted to follow Jesus! The leaders were sure about Moses, but they were not sure about Jesus.

Again the religious leaders reviled the man and told him that he was born in sin. And then they officially excommunicated this man from the local synagogue. This meant this man was cut off from friends and family and looked on by the Jews as a “publican and sinner.” But Jesus came for the “outcasts” and never let them down.

The Good Shepherd always cares for His sheep. The Good Shepherd who came from the lineage of King David, himself a shepherd. Jesus knew that the man had been excommunicated, so He found him and revealed Himself to him. Remember, the man knew our Lord’s voice, but he had never seen His face.

The man now reached the climax of his knowledge of Jesus Christ and his faith in Him. It is not enough to believe that He is “a man called Jesus,” or even “a prophet” or “a man of God.” Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God” (1 John 5:1). The Apostle John wrote his Gospel to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, and to present to his readers the testimonies of people who met Jesus and affirmed that He is God’s Son. This blind beggar is one such witness.

Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God and the beggar believed and was saved (John 9:38). The blind man did not “see and believe”’ he heard and believed. Not only did he trust the Saviour, but he worshiped Him.

The reason for our Lord’s coming was salvation, but the result of His coming was condemnation of those who would not believe. The same sun that brings beauty out of the seeds also exposes the vermin hiding under the rocks. The religious leaders were blind and would not admit it; therefore, the light of truth only made them blinder. The beggar admitted his need, and he received both physical and spiritual sight. No one is so blind as he who will not see, the one who thinks he has “all truth” and there is nothing more for him to learn (John 9:28, 34).

Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). The only people who cannot see the light are blind people and those who refuse to look; those who make themselves blind. The beggar was physically and spiritual blind, yet both his eyes and his heart were opened. Why? Because he listened to the Word, believed it, obeyed, and experienced the grace of God.

In our Epistle reading, Paul was admonishing his readers to “walk as children of light.” To “walk as children of light” means to live before the eyes of God, not hiding anything. It also means revealing God’s light in our daily lives. By our character and conduct, we bring God’s light into a dark world. As God’s lights, we help others find their way to Christ.

Light reveals God; light produces fruit; and sight for the blind man revealed the power and glory of God and was a witness for Christ.

When you think of light, you think of waking up to a new day. That Easter morning, when Christ arose from the dead, was the dawning of a new day for the world. Christians are not sleeping in sin and death. We have been raised from the dead through faith in Him. The darkness of the graveyard is past, and we are now walking in the light of salvation. Salvation is the beginning of a new day, and we ought to live as those who belong to the light, not to the darkness.

The beggar was cast out of the synagogue but taken by the Good Shepherd and added to His flock! We never meet this healed beggar again, but surely the man followed Jesus closely and was among those who witnessed for Him.

He had the courage to stand up to the Pharisees, even though it cost him dearly. While being excommunicated from the synagogue was certainly a painful experience for him, he certainly found in his fellowship with Jesus Christ much more spiritual help and encouragement than he had before.

“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).

Let us pray:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in Him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen. †

Living Water

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 23, 2014, Lent III

Exodus 17:-1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

From the Book of Exodus:
Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it that the people may drink.”

From the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I am sure that all of us know the story told in our Gospel reading this morning. We have the Samaritan woman who gradually comes to belief in Jesus. She then spreads the word and many of her townsfolk come to Jesus because of her testimony. I suppose I could just sit down at this point, but I’m not going to let you off that easy.

The key to understanding the Book of John is to realize it is written on two levels simultaneously. Level one, is the level of facts, the natural, physical level. Level two, is the level of interpretation, the supernatural level, open only to believers. “Natural” man interprets reality, but not from and by the light of eternity.

This story is the drama of a person struggling to rise from the “things,” of this world to belief in Jesus. The story is meant to apply to everyone since all must come to recognize who it is who speaks when Jesus speaks through the details of our lives, that is, to recognize the divine voice within the human voices and ask for what we need, ask for what is called in the story ‘living water.”
As water is essential for life on the natural level, living water is essential for supernatural life. The story goes on to show how the woman’s receiving the living water benefited not only her but broadens to benefit, by her witness, an entire town, by her, beginning the same process in each of her neighbors.

Samaria was a region between Galilee and Judea. Before the Assyrians conquered the area in 722BC, these folks were Jewish, but the Assyrians mixed the population with foreign colonists that is, five different races, who subsequently intermarried with Jews. Henceforth, they were considered by “pure bloods,” to be only “half Jews,” thus not real Jews at all. That was problem one.

Problem two developed in the fifth century BC when the returned-from-exile Jews were trying to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem and the Samaritans gave them a hard time.

Problem three was the straw that broke the camel’s back. At the time of the Maccabean revolt in the second century BC, when the Jews rose up against the tyranny of Syria, the Samaritans sided with Syria. The rebel leader, John Hyrcanus, destroyed Schechem, the capital of Samaria, and their Temple on Mt. Gerizim which was built to rival the Jerusalem Temple, in retaliation for their treachery. There was so much bad blood between Samaritans and Jews that Jews would not pass through their country. They would go miles out of their way rather than be caught dead in Samaria. No self-respecting Jew would even talk to a Samaritan.

So Jesus and His disciples had left Judea on their way to Galilee. They decided to pass through Samaria. Jesus was weary, hungry, and thirsty so He stopped at Jacob’s well to rest while the disciples continued into town to buy food. At about 6 o’clock in the evening, a Samaritan woman came by to draw some water from the well. Jesus asked the woman for a drink. Now, this Samaritan woman thought it odd for a Jewish man to be talking to her, let alone, asking her for a drink of water. In fact, she told Jesus as much. Jesus responded, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The woman does not know who Jesus is, but she is interested enough, Jesus has gotten her attention and piqued her curiosity – enough that she stays with him. She points out that Jesus does not have a bucket to give her water; she is dealing with only the physical natural water. This well was sacred to her, besides having the best water in town. For Jesus to be offering something better was hard to believe. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” The water that Jesus was offering was inexhaustible, no bucket needed, leading to eternal life.

So the woman says to Jesus, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” It was this woman’s job to fetch the water. She could physically benefit from not having to do this chore. She was still on the human level, but getting closer to the spiritual level. However, even though this is a gift from God, it requires a change of life.

Next Jesus tells her to bring her husband. Now at first, one might think this is to bring others to Christ, but that’s not what’s happening here. He is pointing out that she has had five “husbands,” men whom she has lived with. He is bringing up her sins, her past, and gently informing her that she will have to change her lifestyle. First, she must resolve on her own to change, then the drinking of the living water will see to it, that she does. She must decide. Then, God will provide. That is the process.

Because of Jesus’ insight into her past, she figures that he must, at least, be a prophet; a spokesperson for God himself, giving the divine interpretation to her situation. However, she’s still does not know who Jesus is. The woman has deepened in her insight into who is addressing her. Already the “reward,” is emerging. She “sees,” with a different set of eyes than the physical. She is in the process of conversion.

She erroneously thinks that Jesus expects her to become a Jew and worship in Jerusalem the place and manner of worship being a major disagreement between Samaritans and Jews. The Samaritans’ “Messiah,” would be only a great teacher who would interpret for them what God wants, not a king like the Jews thought, and certainly, not a Suffering Servant or Lamb of God, like Isaiah taught. Well, it appears that she is willing to become a Jew and believe what the Jews believe, but Jesus, in the next exchange, will take her even further.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit; and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Thus the conversion shifts from talk about the physical place of worship to the manner, spirit, of worship. Neither the Temple of the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim nor the Temple of the Jews on Mt. Zion matter when it comes to true, spiritual worship. The Samaritan Temple has already been destroyed and the Jerusalem Temple’s destruction is soon to follow.

Even though the Jews for the most part ignored the prophecies of Isaiah, especially those concerning the Suffering Servant, the revelation was there. The Samaritans had a very meager notion of the Messiah or their equivalent of Messiah in their belief in the return of a Prophet-like-Moses. The incarnation could only take place and be understood in a Jewish setting, even if it transcends it. God’s promises were given to the Jews and through the Jews to the rest of the world.

The Father can only be worshiped as “Father,” through the Son and by those who have his “Spirit,” given at Baptism. Spirit and Truth spell out the meaning of “living water,” the Son’s revelation of the Father enlivened, made present and interpreted by the Spirit. Jesus then reveals to her that He is the Messiah!

At this point the disciples return and the woman takes leave of them and travels into town and witnesses to the townsfolk of Jesus. The process of conversion, repentance, change of heart, begins with believing someone’s testimony about what happened to him or her, testimony or witness about Christ. Then, the truth is confirmed in the believer’s own personal experience. Hearing about Jesus caused the townsfolk to go to Jesus and hear for themselves and come to know Jesus personally.

This process can happen in an instant or take a while, but faith from beginning to end and cannot be easily delineated. It is one and the same Lord throughout the process. The difference is on the human awareness side, not the Lord’s presence side. Jesus was using the woman as an example for the observing disciples as to how they are to approach their ministry. Their missionary work is not over until people reach personal faith in the Lord, and come to know the Lord and not simply about the Lord. Testimony and teaching only begin the process. All must grow, gradually, into an awareness of who Jesus is, the Savior of the world.

Only a Christian, one who has experienced “grace,” that is, experienced Jesus himself, would believe this outrageous story! A Samaritan woman, who had lived with five men off and on, no saint by anyone’s definition, who had a conversation with a Jew, an intruder into her neighborhood and, more, into her life, and she went and told people who knew her and would not be inclined to listen to her about the conversation and they not only believed her but changed their own lives as well. Now, that is GRACE!

Our experience in and of this world teaches us that things do not work this way. There is no earthly explanation for it, only acceptance of it. If something like what happened to the woman did not also happen to us this story would be classified as a “fairy tale.” But, it is true, true whether it happened just the way it is told or never really happened at all.

The process, the general steps describe every experience of conversion. Like the woman we are all called, addressed by the Lord, in the context of carrying out our daily duties, chores, tasks. The woman went to fetch water and came away with the water of life, “living water.” All she had to do is not run away, but stay there and listen. Listening to Jesus, the voice from the other side, from eternity, and caused her not merely to see herself as she really was, but to accept herself as she was accepted.

Jesus did not shame her with the truth about herself, saying, “You have had five husbands,” but none really.” He simply stated the facts non-judgmentally. In hearing her life read back to her by someone who accepted her, after all, she was both a woman and a Samaritan, yet this Jew treated her like a person, she could finally accept herself, ever while disapproving of her own behavior.

She could admit doing wrong and not be rejected. Because of that simple fact, that outrageous, unexpected, undeserved acceptance, she could change and be changed. Gradually, as she listened more, she deepened in her awareness of who was talking to her with such acceptance and love. His qualities were getting into her. Now, she could do the same thing and could say to people, “He told me everything I have done.”
And he still loved her. Could it be that there is a real person, just one, in this whole world who could accept a person, even while not approving of that person’s behavior? Yes, we can believe that. So, the townsfolk believed her, an act of grace itself! Then they went to see for themselves. They not only saw, they experienced the very same grace.

The Christian church works like this story. First, a person is changed by an encounter with Jesus, grace. Then that person tells the story, spreads the word, witnesses; testifies to that truth, not an abstract truth but a real event. Then, others, not all, believe the story; believe on the word of the teller. Then, they experience the same truth-event in their own lives and come to know on their own experience who did it, who continues to do it, Jesus, the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, who saves us from ourselves, our shame, our past.

The missionary work of the church is not completed until people reach personal faith in the Lord. There are stages to faith. It may take only a matter of minutes or take months or years. Christians grow ever sharper in their ability to perceive the divine meaning and dimension in the human, earthbound events, things and people they encounter in the daily living of their lives. It starts and ends with listening to Jesus, speaking to and through every moment, every experience. The Lord speaks to us in our “language,” all the while teaching us his language, a language that gives the true meaning to all things, people and events.

Conversion is a process, never-ending, of rooting deeper and deeper in the “soil” of God’s kingdom. Baptism is a process whereby one’s “roots” are constantly watered in order to grow and flourish. The “water,” grace, of Baptism cannot be contained within a well or a bucket, but needs to be shared with others through preaching, telling the story, and changing one’s life.

Everyone knows that water is essential for life. It also has other uses like cleansing, mixing with other things to liquefy them or dilute them, even for recreation. However, its essential use is for quenching thirst and sustaining life. It is not surprising that Jesus would use water as a metaphor for the life he offers us. Besides washing away our sins once and for all, the waters of Baptism cleanse our spiritual ears, preventing wax buildup and making us hard of hearing God’s word.

It’s very easy for us to concentrate on our earthly needs: air, water, light and food. To concentrate not only on our needs but also on our family’s needs. Some of these needs we take for granted; some we work hard and struggle to obtain. May God have patience with us, as we come to realize what is really important and receive His Living Water of eternal life!

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, pour out on us your living water. Have patience with us, as we struggle to understand your Word and your will. Help us to minimize the material things of this world and by faith, maximize on the spiritual. May the only thirst we have, be for You. We thank you and praise you, God, for all you have done for us. Embolden us with excitement and desire to be a witness for you. For you are the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Because of your sacrifice on the cross; grace freely given; you have given us a spring of living water welling up to eternal life. We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Amen. †

Be gone, Satan!

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 9, 2014 – Lent I

Genesis 2:15-17; Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

From Genesis, the First Book of Moses:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

From the St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:
Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I give you, if you will fall down and worship me: then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

About two months ago, we looked at Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. His baptism pictured His future baptism on the cross (Matt. 20:22) when all the “waves and billows” of God’s judgment would go over Him (Ps. 42:7). Thus, John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and also as the Lamb of God (John 1:29).

As Jesus came out of the water after His baptism, the Father spoke from Heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” God the Father made a declaration – a public declaration, that Jesus was His beloved Son. That is – the Son of God.

And now we go to today’s gospel reading, where the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness or desert to be tempted. Why? The reason is so that Jesus can be tested, or tempted, by the devil. In verse 2, we are told that Jesus has been in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, and during that time He was fasting – that is, not eating anything. Now if you had been fasting for 40 days and nights, how would you feel? The verse states the obvious – Jesus was hungry! And this is when Satan decides to tempt Jesus 3 times; at a time when Jesus was probably rather weak.

But before we look at those temptations, we should ask the question – why was Jesus tempted in the first place? Why did the Holy Spirit lead Him there to be tested? Well the Scriptures don’t tell us directly but it is not hard to deduce why.

From the high and holy experience of blessing at the Jordan, Jesus was led into the wilderness for testing. Jesus was not tempted so that the Father could learn anything about His Son, for the Father had already given Jesus His divine approval. Jesus was tempted so that every creature in heaven, on earth, or under the earth might know that Jesus Christ is the Conqueror. He exposed Satan and his tactics, and He defeated Satan. Because of His victory, we can have victory over the tempter.

Just as the first Adam met Satan, so the Last Adam met the enemy (1 Cor. 15:45). Adam met Satan in a beautiful Garden, but Jesus met him in a terrible wilderness. Adam had everything he needed, but Jesus was hungry after forty days of fasting. Adam lost the battle and plunged humanity into sin and death. But Jesus won the battle and went on to defeat Satan in more battles, culminating in His final victory on the cross (John 12:31).

Our Lord’s experience of temptation prepared Him to be our sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 2:16-18). It is important to note that Jesus faced the enemy as man, not as the Son of God. His first word was, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” We must not think that Jesus used His divine powers to overcome the enemy, because that is just what the enemy wanted Him to do! Jesus used the spiritual resources that are available to us today: the power of the Holy Spirit of God (Matt. 4:1), and the power of the Word of God (“It is written”). Jesus had nothing in His nature that would give Satan a foothold (John 14:30), but His temptations were real just the same. Temptation involves the will, and Jesus came to do the Father’s will (Heb. 10:1-9).

St. Paul reminds us in our Epistle reading from Romans that sin came into the world through one man, that is, through Adam. Adam was given dominion over the old creation, he sinned, and he lost his kingdom. Because of Adam’s sin, all mankind is under condemnation and death. Christ came as the King over a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). By His obedience on the cross, He brought in righteousness and justification. Christ not only undid all the damage that Adam’s sin affected, but He accomplished “much more” by making us the very sons of God.

The first temptation of Jesus involved the love of God and the will of God. “Since you are Gods beloved Son, why doesn’t Your Father feed you? Why does He put you into this terrible wilderness?” This temptation sounded like Satan’s words to Eve in Genesis 3! It is a subtle suggestion that our Father does not love us.

But there was another suggestion: “Use your divine powers to meet your own needs.” When we put our physical needs ahead of our spiritual needs, we sin. When we allow circumstances to dictate our actions, instead of following God’s will, we sin. Jesus could have turned the stones into bread, but He would have been exercising His powers independent of the Father; and He came to obey the Father (John 5:30; 6:38).

The Lord quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to defeat Satan. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3). This quote referred to Moses speaking to the Israelites just before they entered the Promised Land, after their 40 year journey through the desert. And he reminded them that during that journey, that they had survived on manna. That is – food that God gave them directly from heaven. Feeding on and obeying God’s Word is more important that consuming physical food. In fact, it is our food (John 4:32-34).

The second temptation was even more subtle. This time Satan also used the Word of God. “So you intend to live by the Scriptures,” he implied. “Then let me quote you a verse of Scripture and see if you will obey it!” Satan took the Lord Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, probably 500 feet above the Kidron Valley. Satan then quoted from Psalm 91:11-12 where God promised to care for His own. “If you really believe the Scriptures, then jump! Let’s see if the Father cares for you!”

Note carefully our Lord’s reply: “It is written AGAIN” (Matt. 4:7). We must never divorce on part of Scripture from another, but we must always “compare spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13). We can prove almost anything by the Bible if we isolate texts from the contexts and turn them into pretexts. Satan had cleverly omitted the phrase “in all thy ways” when he quoted from Psalm 91. When the child of God is in the will of God, the Father will protect him. He watches over those who are “in His ways.”

Jesus replied with Deuteronomy 6:16: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” We tempt God when we put ourselves into circumstances that force Him to work miracles on our behalf. The diabetic who refuses to take insulin and argues, “Jesus will take care of me,” may be tempting the Lord. We tempt God when we try to force Him to contradict His own Word. It is important for us as believers to read all Scripture, and study all God has to say, for all of it is profitable for daily life (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

The third temptation that Satan offered Jesus was a shortcut to His kingdom. Jesus knew that He would suffer and die before He entered into His glory (Luke 24:26). If He bowed down and worshiped Satan just once, He could enjoy all the glory without enduring the suffering. Satan has always wanted to be God (Isa. 14:12-14). Worshiping the creature instead of the Creator is the lie that rules our world today (Rom. 1:24-25).

There are no shortcuts to the will of God. If we want to share in the glory, we must also share in the suffering (1 Peter 5:10). As the prince of this world, Satan could offer these kingdoms to Christ (John 12:31; 14:30). But Jesus did not need Satan’s offer. The Father had already promised Jesus the kingdom! “Ask of me, and I shall give Thee the heathen [nations] for Thine inheritance” (Ps. 2:8). You find the same promise in Psalm 22:22-31, and this is the psalm of the cross. Our Lord replied with Deuteronomy 6:13: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.” Satan had said nothing about service, but Jesus knew that whatever we worship, we will serve. Worship and service must go together.

Satan slithered away, a defeated foe; but he did not cease to tempt Jesus. We could translate Luke 4:13, “And when the devil had ended every possible kind of temptation, he stood off from Him until a suitable season.” Through Peter, Satan again tempted Jesus to abandon the cross (Matt. 16:21-23); and through the crowd that had been fed, Satan tempted Jesus to an “easy kingdom” (John 6:15). One victory never guarantees freedom from further temptation. If anything, each victory we experience only makes Satan try harder.

At the end of the last temptation, Jesus commanded “Be gone, Satan!” After Jesus Christ had defeated Satan, He was ready to begin His ministry. No man has the right to call others to obey who has not obeyed himself. Our Lord proved Himself to be the perfect King whose sovereignty is worthy of our respect and obedience.

The devil left Jesus. Jesus had been tempted 3 times. He’d been tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger. He’d been tempted to test God’s care for Him by jumping off the top of the temple. And He’d been tempted to gain all the kingdoms of the world by worshiping Satan. And unlike our ancestors, unlike Adam and Eve who failed, unlike the Israelites in the desert who failed, and unlike us who fail each day when we succumb to sin, Jesus did not fail. He passed the test. He was the perfect sinless one, who demonstrated in this temptation, that He was indeed the perfect Son of God, and the only human who was sinless, and therefore that He is qualified to stand on our behalf, and to represent us before the judgment seat of God and to stand in our place in something we could not do: that is, to withstand the temptations of Satan, and not sin.

Friends, where does our heart lie? Where do our priorities lie? May our heart’s desire be every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, as it was for Jesus as He claimed victory over Satan with God’s Word. Worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone and feed on His Word – the Bible; read it, study it, and obey it – all of it. So that when life’s temptations come our way, we can say: “Be gone Satan!”

Let us pray:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!

Treasures in Heaven

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 5, 2013 – Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 51:1-17, II Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

From the book of the Prophet Isaiah:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”

From St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians:
We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

“Remember oh man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday. The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness and are a sign of humility. Lent is a penitential season marked by prayer, fasting, and abstinence. This fasting and abstinence is not simply a form of penance, however, it is also a call for us to take stock of our spiritual lives.

So who are you, and why are you here? Why have you come here this evening for the Ash Wednesday service? And why have so many people decided not to come? One reason for coming is that I am a child of God, and as one way to live out my faith, I have come to be reminded of my mortality.

My life is consumed by so much of what is not important, and I have come to hear once more the invitation to discover, through faith, my relationship with the Creator, which is my greatest treasure.

Our gospel reading tonight states, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So many things come to mind when I think of what Jesus is saying in these verses. Are you earthly-minded or heavenly-minded? Are you investing in the future eternity to come, or are you investing in the here and now? Are you enthralled with the temporary versus the permanent? Now obviously all of these are asking the same thing, but it is very important that we fully grasp this thought. Jesus uses three examples to show how the things we deem most important are only temporary. He uses the moth, rust, and the thief.

The Moth: We all know that when moths get into our clothes, they eat holes right through them. The moth is a tiny little butterfly-looking animal that doesn’t appear harmful at all. But it will destroy the most expensive, elaborate fabric you could ever own.

Rust: We live in New England where the roads are salted in the winter, and the effect of that salt on cars is brutal. You could have the nicest car in the world, but eventually, because of the snow and slush and all the salt that gets on the outside of your car, it eventually rusts. Rust destroys, as moths do, the property and riches we work so hard to obtain.

The Thief: With money and riches comes great fear of someone taking them, so mankind does all in his power to protect what he has. He puts walls around his house so no one can get in. He has security guards guarding them at all times and hidden safes for his rare jewels. What does the thief do? He breaks in and takes what the wealthy man has, and he will do anything to get it.

What do you deem as valuable, because what you deem as valuable shows you where your heart is? Maybe it is money and wealth; maybe it is power and the desire to be recognized as a leader. Maybe it is popularity and acceptance through nice clothes, a home, or a 60” flat screen TV. Maybe it is your family and how you have raised great kids. Here, Jesus is calling us to change our minds from temporary to the eternal, from the things that are passing by to the things that are permanent. You never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer! The expression is true: you can’t take it with you! These material things are only temporary.
What are these eternal treasures Jesus is talking about? First Peter 1:3-6 states:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.

What an awesome thing to know that as believers our inheritance is waiting for us, that as children of God, we will inherit eternity! Being with Christ, that is our reward! Those who strive to store up treasures here on earth will be disappointed because those treasures will only pass away. The greatest of these treasures is that we can enter eternity fully pardoned and set free from the bondage of sin because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

We are accustomed to dividing life into the “spiritual” and the “material”; but Jesus made no such division. In many of His parables, He made it clear that a right attitude toward wealth is a mark of true spirituality. If we have a true righteousness of Christ in our lives, then we will have a proper attitude toward material wealth.

Nowhere did Jesus magnify poverty or criticize the legitimate getting of wealth. God made all things, including food, clothing, and precious metals. God has declared that all things He has made are good (Gen. 1:31). God knows that we need certain things in order to live (Matt. 6:32). In fact, He has given us “richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). It is not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.

If the heart loves material things, and puts earthly gain above heavenly investments, then the result can only be a tragic loss. The treasures of earth may be used for God. But if we gather material things for ourselves, we will lose them; and we will lose our hearts with them.

The time is now. In our epistle reading tonight, from 2 Corinthians 5, beginning at verse 20… St. Paul addresses us with authority. “We implore you on Christ’s behalf…” He is addressing us in Christ’s stead, as an apostle. Looking down in Chapter 6, verse 2, he says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” This is the day. We cannot have back yesterday; we don’t have tomorrow. What is so pressing? That we “Be reconciled to God.” God has given us the opportunity of salvation through Jesus: “God has made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing – grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.”
God calls us to “return” to Him, for we were once wholly His. We are His covenant people; He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand. We are dear to God, and He earnestly desires our restoration. The Lord is your God! He has called us into covenant relationship with Himself.

We will also be called to fasting and self-denial. In fasting, we seek to loosen the shackles with which our bodies bind us. We learn to submit our bodies to our reason. I confess, I really don’t like to fast, because I see how much my passions rule my behavior. Fasting brings to the surface what you are usually able to conceal underneath a contented stomach. Learn from what you find when you fast, seek to improve what you see. Self-denial is extremely necessary today. We want instant gratification, instant satisfaction, instant everything. There are many things that seek to distract us from where our focus should be: on God. Take time this Lent to remove some of the clutter from your life, and from your house.

Last, we will be called upon to read and meditate upon Scripture. This is how we learn to hear God’s voice. So, instead of giving something up for Lent, try adding something to your daily life. Spend time in the Word. Don’t rush through from one verse to the last verse. Make it a goal to digest God’s Word better, to become better nourished. Which do you think God would prefer; giving up chocolate or reading His Word for Lent?

Don’t be overwhelmed. God wants to work with you. He may guide you through a period of fasting or He may guide you to mediate on His Word; perhaps both. God shows us how necessary a humble heart is. He has given us His Son as most excellent teacher, guide, example, and Savior.

This is the day to humbly seek God, because He wants us, you and me, to seek Him; and so we must remove whatever blocks us from reaching Him. Let us walk in the way of the Cross, in the footsteps of Jesus.

What does it mean to lay up treasures in heaven? It means to use all that we have for the glory of God. It means to “hang loose” when it comes to the material things of life. It also means measuring life by the true riches of the kingdom and not by the false riches of this world.

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting of our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


The King in His Glory

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 2, 2014 – Epiphany VIII

Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

From the Second Book of Moses, Exodus:
Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

From the Second Letter of St. Peter:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

How many remember the TV series called “Touched by an Angel”? Touched by an Angel was an American drama series that premiered on CBS on September 21, 1994 and concluded on April 23, 2003 after nine seasons. The series stared Roma Downey, as an angel named Monica, and Della Reese, as her supervisor, named Tess. Throughout the series, Monica is tasked with bringing guidance and messages from God to various people who are at a crossroads in their lives. They are later joined in the series by Andrew, played by actor John Dye, as the angel of death. As an aside, Roma Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett have produced the new movie out entitled, “Son of God.”

We all knew it wasn’t real; it was fantasy, but it was a nice family program. It taught good values, morals and right from wrong. Quite often at the end of a show, one of these “angels” would reveal their true identity to the person or persons they were helping. At that moment, they were transformed or transfigured. Their clothing turned all white and there was a glow about them. At this point, they would deliver a message from God. And where did they get this idea of heavenly glow from; this transfiguration from? From scripture: from the Transfiguration of Christ.
Our Gospel reading today begins with a glorious scene on a mountaintop, and ends with Peter catching fish in order to pay his taxes. What a contrast, but I am getting ahead of myself. Yet, Jesus Christ the King is the theme of the entire chapter of Matthew 17.

Matthew and Mark state that the Transfiguration took place “six days later,” while Luke says “some eight days after” (Luke 9:28). There is no contradiction; Luke’s statement is the Jewish equivalent of “about a week later.” During that week, the disciples must have pondered and discussed what Jesus meant by His death and resurrection. No doubt they were also wondering what would happen to the Old Testament promises about the kingdom. If Jesus were going to build a church, what would happen to the promised kingdom?

Scripture does not name the place where this Transfiguration miracle took place. It was probably on Mount Hermon, which is close to Caesarea Philippi.

The Transfiguration revealed four aspects of the glory of Jesus Christ the King. As far as the record is concerned, this is the only time Jesus revealed His glory in this way while He was on the earth. The Greek word for transfigured gives us our English word “metamorphosis.” A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside. When a caterpillar builds a cocoon and later emerges as a butterfly, it is due to the process of metamorphosis. Our Lord’s glory was not reflected but radiated from within. There was a change on the outside that came from within as He allowed His essential glory to shine forth (Heb. 1:3).

Certainly this event would strengthen the faith of the disciples, particularly Peter who had so recently confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. Had Peter made his confession after the Transfiguration, it would not have been so meaningful. Peter believed, confessed his faith, and then received assurance and confirmation. Peter saw the Son in His glory, and he heard the Father speak from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). First we put our faith in Christ and confess Him, and then He gives us wonderful confirmation.

Many years later, John recalled this event as the Spirit guided him to write: “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In John’s Gospel, John emphasized the deity of Christ and the glory of His person (John 2:11; 7:39).

Jesus Christ laid aside His glory when He came to earth (John 17:5). Because of His finished work on the cross, He has received back His glory and now shares it with us (John 17:22, 24). However, we do not have to wait for heaven to share in this “transfiguration glory.” When we surrender ourselves to God, He will “transfigure” our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). As we yield to the Spirit of God, He changes or transfigures us “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). As we look into the Word of God, we see the Son of God and are transfigured by the Spirit of God into the glory of God.

The presence of Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration was significant. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the prophets. All of the Law and Prophets point to Christ and are fulfilled in Christ (Luke 24:27; Heb. 1:1). Not one word of the Old Testament Scriptures will be unfulfilled. The promised kingdom would be established (Luke 1:32, 33, 68-77). Just as the three disciples saw Jesus glorified on earth, so God’s people would see Him in His glorious kingdom on earth (Rev. 19:11-20; 6).

The Transfiguration also had a special significance for Jesus Christ, who was nearing Calvary. It was the Father’s way of strengthening His Son for that terrible ordeal of being the sacrifice for the sins of the world. The Law and the Prophets (Moses and Elijah) pointed to His ministry, and now He would fulfill those Scriptures. The Father spoke from heaven and assured the Son of His love and approval. The Transfiguration was proof that suffering leads to glory when we are in the will of God.

Peter received this message and never forgot it. “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty…And so we have the prophetic word made more sure” (2 Peter 1:12ff). The experience Peter had on the mount only fortified his faith in the Old Testament prophecies. The important thing is not seeing wonderful sights, but hearing God’s Word. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matt. 17:5)

All who are born again belong to the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). This is a spiritual kingdom that is separate from the material things of this world (Rom. 14:17). But one day, when Jesus returns to this earth, there will be a glorious kingdom for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-7) with Jesus Christ reigning as King. Those who have trusted Him shall reign on the earth with Him (Rev. 5:10).

The disciples had to learn that suffering and glory go together. Peter had opposed Jesus going to Jerusalem to die, so Jesus had to teach him that, apart from His suffering and death, there could be no glory.

Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus about His “exodus” that He would accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Jesus did not consider His death on the cross a defeat; rather, it was an “exodus” – He would deliver His people from bondage the way Moses delivered Israel from Egypt! His suffering and death would not be an accident, but an accomplishment. Peter used the word exodus in describing his own impending death (2 Peter 1:15). For the believer, death is not a one-way street into oblivion. It is an exodus – a release – from the bondage of this life into the glorious liberty of the life in heaven.

Because Jesus died and paid the price, we have been redeemed – purchased and set free. Remember the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection, they had hoped that Jesus would set the nation free from Roman bondage (Luke 24:21). What He died to accomplish was not political freedom, but spiritual freedom: freedom from the world system (Gal. 1:4); freedom from a vain and empty life (1 Peter 1:18); and freedom from iniquity (Titus 2:14). Our redemption in Christ is final and permanent.

Peter could not understand why the Son of God would submit to evil men and willingly suffer. The Transfiguration was God’s way of teaching Peter that Jesus is glorified when we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. The world’s philosophy is “Save yourself!” but the Christian’s philosophy is “Yield yourself to God!” As Jesus stood there in glory, Jesus proved to the three disciples that surrender always leads to glory. First the suffering, then the glory; first the cross, then the crown.

Each of the three disciples would have a need for this important truth. James would be the first of the disciples to die (Acts 12:1-2). John would be the last of the disciples to die, but he would go through severe persecution on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). Peter would experience many occasions of suffering and would, in the end, give his life for Christ (John 21:15-19; 2 Peter 1:12).

Peter opposed the cross when Jesus first mentioned His death (Matt. 16:22ff). In the Garden, he used his sword to defend Jesus (John 18:10). In fact, even on the Mount of Transfiguration Peter tried to tell Jesus what to do. He wanted to build three booths or tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah so that all of them could remain there and enjoy the glory! But the Father interrupted Peter and gave other directions: “Hear Him!” The Father will not permit His beloved Son to be put on the same level as Moses and Elijah. “Jesus only” (Matt. 17:8) is God’s pattern.

In the Second Letter of Peter, Peter wrote a summary of what he saw and heard on the Mount of Transfiguration. He saw Jesus Christ robed in majestic glory, and therefore witnessed a demonstration of the “power and coming” of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ came to earth at Bethlehem, he did not display His glory openly. To be sure, He revealed his glory in His miracles (John 2:11), but even this was primarily for the sake of His disciples. His face did not shine, nor did He have a halo over His head. “

As Jesus and His disciples came down from the mountaintop, He cautioned them not to reveal what they had seen, not even to the other nine disciples. But the three men were still perplexed. They had been taught that Elijah would come first to prepare for the establishment of the kingdom. Was the presence of Elijah on the mountain the fulfillment of this prophecy? (Mal. 4:5-6)

Jesus gave a twofold answer to their question. Yes, Elijah would come as Malachi promised. But spiritually speaking, Elijah already came in the person of John the Baptist. The nation permitted John to be killed, and would ask for Jesus to be slain. Yet God’s program would be fulfilled in spite of the deeds of sinful leaders.

You and I were not eyewitnesses of the Transfiguration. Peter was there, and he faithfully recorded his experience for us in the letter that he wrote, inspired by the Spirit of God. Experiences are subjective, but the Word of God is objective. Experiences may be interpreted in different ways by different participants. What we remember about our experiences can be unconsciously distorted, but the Word of God remains the same and abides forever.

Men die, but the Word lives. Experiences fade, but the Word remains. The world grows darker, but the prophetic light shines brighter. The believer who builds his life on the Word of God and who looks for the coming of the Savior is not likely to be led astray by false teachers. He will be taught by the Spirit and grounded on the sure Word of God. May we all use this time of Lent, to surrender ourselves to God, and share in this “transfiguration glory.”

Let us pray:
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed His glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into His likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!