The Lord's Day Morning
February 14, 2010
“The New Exodus”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. Let us worship Him.
Our Lord and our God we bow before You. We acknowledge you as the Creator of everything and the Ruler of the whole universe, but especially this day we come to You as the God of grace, for it's only by Your grace that we dare enter into Your presence and call out to You, “Abba, Father.” For because of our sins we deserve to be far from You. We deserve to be cast out and condemned, judged and found lacking. And yet in the greatness of Your own love, You sent Your Son, Your only Son, the Beloved, the only Begotten, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for us in our place to pay the penalty that was due for our sin, to redeem us from the pit, to buy us back from destruction, to spare us from a just punishment. And so You have invited all who rest and trust on Him alone for salvation as He is offered for the Gospel that all who trust in Him to come to You and find in You forgiveness and acceptance and joy with fullness evermore. And so we come today by the Gospel, by His blood, by His cross, in His name, and we call on You and we ask that You would come and meet with us and that You would receive the words of our mouths and the meditations of our heart as acceptable in Your sight, that You would speak to us from Your Scriptures read, that You would speak to us by Your Scriptures as we pray them and sing them and as we hear them proclaimed, and in all this that our souls would be wrought with grace and that You would be glorified. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 9 as we continue to work our way through the gospel of Luke together. Last week we were in a passage in which Jesus made a stunning and stirring call to self denial and we said that self denial is very much at the heart of Biblical Christianity as we looked at verses 23 to 27. This week we're going to be looking together at verses 28 to 36 at an enormously important passage in the gospel of Luke.
I want to remind you that we've said on several occasions that when Luke wants to draw your attention to an important event, he often points out the Jesus goes off by Himself to pray. And if you look at verse 28, what happens at the beginning of this passage? Jesus goes off by Himself with His inner circle of three disciples up to a mountain — we're not told the mountain. There have been various guesses as to which mountain this is. Some have said Mount Tabor, some Hermon, we don't know — but to a mountain somewhere presumably near Caesarea-Philippi and there He goes and He pray. And this is Luke, among other things, recording for you accurately and historically what happened but he's also drawing attention to the fact that something really important is about to happen because Jesus is praying.
And then I'd like to remind you that throughout the ninth chapter of Luke, Luke has desired to draw our attention to the question of, “Who is Jesus?” and he's done this in various ways. Look back for instance at verses 7 to 9 in Luke chapter 9. There, Herod the wicked king, asks the question, “Who is He? Who is this? Who is Jesus?” and he gets various answers from the populace. Then again at Caesarea-Philippi in Luke 9 verses 18 to 22 Jesus raises the question with His disciples and He says to them, “Who are people saying that I am? What are people saying about Me? Who do they say that I am?” And so the twelve disciples begin to tell Jesus who people are saying that He is. And then Jesus asks them directly, “Who do you think I am?” I want to know what your opinion is. I want to know what you really believe. Who do you really think that I am?”
And of course at that point Peter, as the representative of the rest of the Apostles, blurts out, “You are the Christ of God,” or as the other gospel accounts say more fully, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And in this question, “Who is He?” and “Who do you say that I am?” Luke is drawing your attention to the person of Jesus. Well in the passage that we are about to read in verse 35 someone else rings in on the question of “Who is Jesus?” and you’d better pay close attention to who it is who says who Jesus is in verse 35. So be on the lookout for all those things as we prepare to hear God's Word. Let's pray before we do.
Father, this is Your Word. We ask that You would open our eyes to behold wonderful things in it. We pray that by Your Holy Spirit we would see the Lord Jesus Christ and respond to Him in faith. We ask it in His name. Amen.
This is God's Word:
“Now about eight days after these sayings He took with Him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with Him. Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with Him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.
And as the men were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah’ — not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’ And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.”
Amen. Thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Os Guinness is an astute social critic and observer of Americans. He is British by birth but he has lived in America for much of his adult life. I know that many of you have read his scintillating books. He loves America and he loves Americans, but because he's British he has a particular eye for some of our idiosyncrasies and some of the tendencies we may not be aware of ourselves. The frog doesn't always know when he's boiling in the kettle, and Guinness, loving us as he does, often incisively tells us things about ourselves that we may not appreciate. Not too long ago he wrote this about especially secular America: “We have too much to live with and too little to live for. Everything is permitted and nothing is important.”
I think if you’re like me, you recognize that there's more than just a little bit of truth about that to the culture that we inhabit. And we feel it ourselves. We have so much to live with and sometimes very little to live for. We have unimaginable freedoms and we like to exercise those freedoms, but there’re not many things that are so important to us that we're willing to lay those freedoms down and deny ourselves and live for something bigger.
Well, I think Luke is pressing a similar question and issue on us today. He's just talked about Jesus’ call to self denial and now he's asking you this question — “Is the Jesus you worship big enough to overshadow everything in life? Is the Jesus you worship big enough to live for? Is the Jesus you worship more important than anyone or anything? Is the Jesus you worship big enough to inspire a self denial of the things and the ones that are more precious to you? How big is your Jesus?”
Now Luke gives a very emphatic answer to that question as to the real Jesus in this passage and there are two things in particular that he draws our attention to.
I. Who is Jesus?
First of all he draws our attention to who Jesus is. And he draws our attention to the matter of who Jesus is in a quite amazing way. Look how he compounds this testimony to the identity of Jesus beginning in verse 29. The first thing that he does in this passage is he draws attention to Jesus as he is praying and he says this — “The appearance of His face was altered and His clothing became dazzling white.” Now in this passage Luke is about to introduce you to two people you couldn't have found someone more important than in the whole history of Israel. They’re about to show up in the next verse.
But Luke is telling you the focus of this passage is not going to be those two people. The focus of this passage is Jesus. It's Jesus whose facial appearance is altered and whose clothing becomes dazzling white. The other gospel writers say that His face “shown like the sun.” It's very clear who the focus of this passage is. However great these two personages are who are going to show up in a few moments, they’re not the focus of this passage. The great focus of the passage is Jesus.
And then he shows the greatness of Jesus in verses 30 and 31, because who shows up to talk with Him but Moses and Elijah. Moses, the greatest prophet that ever existed in the history of Israel — the lawgiver; the prophet of whom God says “no one will rise like him again”; a prophet who saw the glory of the Lord. And then Elijah who had been carried up in a whirlwind — the great defender of the monarchy of God in Israel and one that every good Bible-believing Hebrew looked to be the forerunner of the coming Messiah. And there they are.
But look at what they’re doing. They’re talking with Jesus and they’re talking about what He's going to do. “There were two men talking with Him, Moses and Elijah, and they spoke of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” This is not the scene of Jesus in Jerusalem at the feet of the elders asking them questions. He's not saying, “Oh Moses, would you tell Me about the glory days? Tell me about the days when you led the people of Israel out of bondage, out of the house of Egypt and across the Red Sea and through the wilderness and almost to the Promised Land.” This is not Jesus talking about their accomplishments. He's not talking about Elijah's accomplishments. They’re talking with Him about His accomplishments. It's clear who's the greatest here.
J. C. Ryle says it something like this — “Moses and Elijah were the King's servants, but Jesus was the King's Son. Moses and Elijah were planets, but Jesus is the sun. They were witnesses, but He is the truth.” This is Luke's way of drawing your attention to the glory of who Jesus is — even Moses and Elijah are transfixed by His glory and focused on His ministry and speaking with Him not of their accomplishments but of His accomplishments.
And then again Luke draws attention to the person of Jesus in verse 32 when he says “Peter and James and John, they’re sleeping.” Jesus is praying; they’re sleeping — does that sound familiar to you? But when they wake up — don't you love that phrase? — “they saw His glory.” There's a wonderful book about the revivals of religion that occurred in Scotland called, They Saw His Glory. When Peter and James and John wake up they see the glory of the Lord.
Now you know that in the Old Testament one of the phrases, one of the euphemisms for God is, “The glory,” because no man can see God and live. Very often you hear Moses asking this — he's on a mountain in the Old Testament and what does he say to the Lord? “Show me Your glory.” Now here we are and Luke knows you’re good Bible students and He's got Moses here who once on a mountain asked to see God's glory and here's Moses and here's Jesus and here's Peter and James and John waking up and what do they see? Glory. Who's glory? His glory. Who's His? Jesus. It's Luke's way of drawing attention to the person of Jesus Christ.
And then here's the climax. You see it in verse 35 — “a cloud comes and overshadows them.” And in the Old Testament what is a cloud so often a symbol of? The presence of God; the presence of God with Israel. Protecting and guiding them in the wilderness was a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. When God spoke to His people He often spoke out of the cloud with thunder and lightening and Jesus pictures His coming again on clouds. It's a symbol of the powerful presence of God and this cloud overshadows the mountain and these men tremble and then a voice speaks. And the voice speaks and says, “This is My Son, My Chosen One.” Herod had asked, “Who is He?” The disciples had said, “They say this about You.” And then in response to Jesus’ question they had said, “You are the Christ.” Now God Himself says, “This is My Son. This is the Chosen One.”
You see what Luke is saying? He's saying this One is worth living and dying for. This One is worth losing everything for. This One is worth denying yourself for because there is no one like Him and there is no one equal to Him and there's no one greater than Him and He is greater than everyone else. This One, this Jesus, is the Chosen Messiah. God's own lips have spoken it. He is the Son of God. He is more important than anything. He is more important than everything. He's big enough, He's important enough to overshadow everything in your life.
I was talking to a friend not long ago who had made a choice earlier in life for which he now has profound regret because he thinks he made the wrong decision. And he really tried to make the right decision, but he thinks he made the wrong decision. And he thinks he made that wrong decision because there was something that was so important to him then that he didn't choose to do what he ought to have chosen. And he said to me, “What could have been so important to me that I made that decision?” That's a searching question, isn't it? And I'm sure there are some of you with regrets like that here today.
But let me flip that question around. Luke is saying to you, “What could possibly be so important to you that it's more important than anything in life? What could possibly be so important to you that it overshadows everything else? What could possibly be so important to you that you’d be willing to deny yourself anything?” And Luke is saying there is only one answer to that question — Jesus. There's only one equal to that kind of self-denial. There's only one worth living for and dying for. There's only one who's big enough to overshadow everything in life. Luke is saying that it's Jesus.
II. What did Jesus do?
But Luke is also drawing attention to what Jesus did. Not only “Who is Jesus?” but “What did Jesus do?” and he uses a funny word to summarize what Jesus did. It's the word, “departure.” Did you notice it? Look with me in verse 31. Moses and Elijah are having a conversation with Him and what are they talking with Him about? “They spoke of His departure which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.”
Now I want you to see three things about this.
First of all, there's a little play on words going on here. When Luke speaks of Jesus’ departure he's talking about His death. Jesus was about to die in Jerusalem and this is a way of speaking about His death. We even use this kind of language. Sometimes when we speak of a loved one or someone known to us dying, we say, “He passed. She passed.” Sometimes we’ll even use this language of departure. We’ll speak of someone who is “dear departed.” They've left us. They’re not with us anymore. They've departed. And so the focus here is on Jesus’ death and the language is departure.
This shouldn't surprise us. The gospel writers and constantly drawing our attention to Jesus’ death and that's because they’re not just writing biographies of Jesus. If you were writing a biography of George Washington you wouldn't spend one-third of your words on the last week of his life. The reason is George Washington did not die for the sins of the world. Jesus did. And so, the gospel writers will spend anywhere from a third to a half of their space, of their words, on the last week of Jesus’ life. Why? Because they want to draw attention to His death; to its significance.
If Moses and Elijah were transfixed by the subject of Jesus’ death, we ought to be transfixed by the subject of Jesus’ death. We ought to be locked in on it asking, “Lord, what are we to learn about this death?” And Luke wants you to know this — it's by His death that He accomplishes your liberation. It's by His death that He slips the chains of your bondage to sin and to misery. It's by His death that He pardons you of your sins and your iniquity and brings you out from under the just judgment of God. That's why Moses and Elijah are locked in, talking with Him about His death.
And there's another thing I want you to see about His death here because this departure is spoken of in the most interesting way. It's a death — listen — which He was about to “accomplish” at Jerusalem. We do not often speak about accomplishing something in our deaths. I mean, death is something that happens to us, right? We don't happen to death. We don't accomplish something by our death but He did, because “no one,” He said, “no one takes My life from Me. I lay it down.” He was no mere victim, friends. He chose to die. He accomplished something in His death.
It was by His death that He accomplished redemption. Isn't that interesting language? “They spoke of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Jesus’ death was the stratagem of the love and the grace of God planned for us in eternity past whereby our sins would be pardoned and He chose to die for us and He accomplished something in His death — the salvation of men and women and boys and girls from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, all who trust in Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel. A multitude that no man can number — and He accomplished that in His death.
But there's still a play on words for you not to miss here because the word behind departure is the Greek phrase, ten exodon and you don't have to know Greek to recognize the word that I just said. Ten exodon — they were talking about the exodus that He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Now think about this friends — Moses is on this mountain and he's talking with Jesus and they’re talking about the exodus that Jesus is about to accomplish in Jerusalem.
In other words, though Moses led a great exodus of the children of Israel out of sin and bondage out of the house of slavery in Egypt, Jesus led a greater exodus in Jerusalem in His death. This is what Moses and Elijah are talking with Him about, the exodus that He is going to lead, the exodus that liberates us from sin and misery. And do you see what Luke is saying? He's saying this Jesus is big enough to overshadow all of life. He's big enough to matter more than everything. He's big enough for you to give up anything, anyone for, because of who He is and what He's done.
And here's the question you have to face today — Is your Jesus big enough? Is the Jesus you worship big enough to overshadow everything else in your life? Luke is saying the real Jesus is, the Jesus revealed in the Scripture — absolutely He is — He's worth living for, He's worth dying for, He's worth denying yourself anything for, but is your Jesus big enough? If He isn't, it's not this Jesus.
If your Jesus isn't big enough to live for and die for, isn't big enough to overshadow everything else in life, He's not the Jesus of the Scriptures. He's not the real Jesus. Luke says there's no question to the answer about the real Jesus. Yes, He's big enough, but who do you worship and who do you love? You've made a Jesus from your own imagination and you've whittled Him down. You've whittled Him down to size. And in the great crisis of life, in your losses and crosses, he's just not big enough. Well if so my friends, he's not this Jesus because this Jesus is big enough. This is the Jesus that makes the hymn writer say, “Why should cross and trial grieve me? What ere my God ordains is right.” Is that how you feel when cross and trial grieve you, when the ones that you treasure most are taken from you? Do you think, “Jesus, You’re big enough. You’re worth enough. You’re enough to live for, even without him, even without her, You’re enough to live for.” Luke is saying if you’ll worship the real Jesus, He's big enough for anything.
Lord God, thank You for Jesus. Help us to see just how big He is and to believe Him and to trust Him and to love Him and to praise Him. This we ask in His own name. Amen.
The One who is so big that He is able to give you back more than you could ever possibly give up for Him says, “Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.