Matthew 17:1–9 ESV

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”
8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

I want to begin by thanking God for the healing he’s given me this past week. I was speaking with Ashok the other day and saying that I do not recollect a time in these past 7 years (since we planted this church) when I’ve not been able to preach for 3 consecutive weeks because of health issues.

But I want to thank God for all the brothers who stepped up and blessed the church during this time.

And now that I’m back in front of the pulpit, I am convinced more than ever that we must heed the call of:

Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

• The devil is in the business of throwing weight and sin upon our path, and we are often so easily entangled. Our spiritual endurance is affected and the good race of faith suffers.

But this is not the decree for you, O Christian! For the Lord has spoken and written it in his holy word, that we are to cast aside the cares and worries, the pleasures and allures of this world, and instead look to the pleasures found in the glory of Christ, and we shall endure. Our joy will then be full and free of all anxiety and worry.

We are gathered here in the pursuit of pleasures forevermore.

• On the 1st of Jan, I preached a sermon on:

Matthew 16:24–25 ESV

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

• The Prince of Heaven came to bring us peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), good news of great joy (Luke 2:10). He is the right hand of God where there are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Jesus came not to steal your joy from you, but to steal you away from sorrow and death. He came to rapture you from the lies of this world and to give you treasures your eyes cannot imagine, for joy your hearts have never felt.

But the one thing that keeps you from seeing all that heavenly glory is the veil of this earthly glory. These temporal pleasures in the earth are obscuring the true and everlasting pleasures of heaven.

There is only one way to capture the magnificence of heaven, it is to cast aside everything that hinders, to deny ourselves. Beloved, there is something more pleasurable than money, than good health, than a timely pay check, than movies, than sex, than mother or brother or father or sister or wife or children. Something of infinitely more worth than our problems.

Romans 8:18 ESV

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

• Therefore, the denial of the self is the only path to gaining everything that is of worth and value in life, death and resurrection. O how I want us as a church this year to fight for such heavenly affections, to wrestle ourselves to the ground, where we fight temptation and sin by the power of the Spirit who reveals to us greater glories that are indeed worth dying for.

• Worldly loss is heavenly gain, and worldly gain is heavenly loss. Let us not desire anything that the Lord will not give for his glory and our good. May all our blessings on this earth be a foretaste and an aid that secures for us greater riches in the heavenly realm.

Matthew 6:19–21 ESV

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

• Jesus is after your heart. When he is asking you to deny yourself, to lay aside all the allures of this world, he intends to steal you heart away to incredible and unfathomable treasures of pleasure you cannot now begin to imagine.

• This is the foretaste of heaven, when we are gathered as a church, that God wants us to taste heaven unfold in our worship.

• The Westminster Confession dictates that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. It is this enjoyment that we focussed on at the very beginning of this year, and it is on that subject that I hope I will remain throughout this year and hopefully throughout my life.

• Now you see, beloved, at the beginning of this year, we are talking about denying our earthly pleasures for the sake of heavenly pleasures in Christ, and we have also decided as a church to put corporate prayer as a priority, and all hell breaks loose. Many of us are falling sick one after another, the corporate prayer sessions had to be postponed, the expositor preaching stalled, but I’m hear to tell you today that we will not be phased by any of these difficulties. We will not stop looking to Jesus, the finisher and perfecter of our faith. We will not stop fighting for eternal pleasures. We will wrestle sin, overcome suffering, fight for joy, settle for nothing short of Christ’s heavenly peace and pleasures forevermore.


Now, the passage before us today offers some incredible insights into a world we cannot see with our earthly eyes. The transfiguration of Jesus cannot be overlooked as some obvious miracle where something glorious happened. Rather, it is an insight into heaven intruding upon the earth.

The reason we must pay our closest attention to this event is because there is a fundamental problem that we as humans face when it comes to eternal pleasures. How exactly is knowing Jesus more pleasurable than earthly satisfaction? How is looking to Jesus more pleasurable than sex?

Philippians 3:8 ESV

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

How is knowing Christ of surpassing worth such that all things are loss in comparison? Do we count all things as rubbish because of knowing Christ?

We were discussing this very question as part of the pastoral internship last week, and I was pointing out that gratitude is not a strong enough emotion that can accomplish that kind of devotion. If Jesus is most valuable because of what he did for you on the cross, can the power of that gratitude you feel overcome sin? Yes, indeed it can, but the language of such gratitude will be one of moral allegiance and not thirsting pleasure. There is gratitude without a doubt, but there is more than mere gratitude.

Paul, here, does not say that he has suffered the loss of all things or count them as rubbish for his own sake, but for the sake of Christ.

Isaiah 6:5 ESV

5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Luke 5:8 ESV

8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

When men like Peter and Isaiah saw Jesus, they cursed themselves for the sake of the glory of Christ. This is not gratitude speaking but an immediate and completely satisfying pleasure in beholding God for who he is, and not what he does for you. Their desire and pleasure in beholding God pushed them to self denial and self cursing.

Beloved, knowing Christ is more pleasurable than sex or money or anything that you are satisfied by on this earth. Infinitely more pleasurable. It is not a moral understanding alone that makes us deny earthly pleasures and turn to Christ. We don’t submit to God merely because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the most pleasurable and soul satisfying thing to do. They are greater pleasures that defeat lesser pleasures.

But is knowing Christ your greatest pleasure?

The event of the transfiguration is one of the many unveiled insights into the pleasures of knowing Christ.

Matthew 17:1 ESV

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

• Such a time reference to six days is a rare occurrence in the Gospels, and Matthew probably includes that here to connect this incident to the flow of what happened previously with Peter’s commendation by Jesus and then Jesus’ rebuke of him.

Now that the disciples know who Jesus is, and have some understanding of what it means to follow him, and this event of the transfiguration is his intention to prepare Peter and the other apostles for the crisis that is about to come.

• Jesus takes Peter, James and John. Theologians refer to these three as Jesus’ inner circle. Jesus prepare these three men among the 12 as key leaders. These three were present during some special events like the raising of Jarius’ daughter (Luke 8:49-56), Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-38), and the transfiguration.

• Now, I want to spend some time talking about why Jesus chose these three men and did not take the rest with him. But not this sermon. We will get to it in the following weeks.

Matthew 17:2–3 ESV

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

• The word transfigured means to be transformed in physical appearance such that the transformation remains true to the inner reality. Jesus is not becoming someone else, he is unveiling who he truly is. The word here metamorphoó, is the root word from which we get the English word metamorphosis. It is a profound transformation but the same substance.

• I want us now, for a moment, look at:

Romans 8:18–25 ESV

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Paul, when talking about that heavenly glory, said that the many and difficult sufferings of this present time are not worthy of comparison. That is not mere gratitude speaking. That is spiritual insight, a glimpse into heavenly treasures and eternal pleasures of glory. It is not the suppression of desire because of a high moral compass, but an abandon of fleshly desires for eternal desires.

Now, all creation is eagerly waiting to be restored. There has been a subjecting to futility, because of the corruption of sin. We all crave for redemption and wait for it with patience.

• I want you to think about a world with no such corruption. A world where there is no pain or suffering, only peace and plenty, basking in the radiance of the eternal Son.

• In this event of transfiguration, Jesus transcends the corruptible vision of this world and unveils his glory. If any man thinks that when Jesus put aside the glorious dignity of his heavenly divinity in coming down to earth, that he abandoned his divinity, this event is meant to be a colossal slap on the theological face. In an instant, he unveiled himself.

• And this glory is a glimpse of the eternal pleasure of knowing God.

• Moses and Elijah appeared and were speaking to Jesus. The two of the greatest prophets known to the Jewish people met Jesus upon that mountain.

• Moses sought the glory of God, and his face shone so bright when he met with God in the tent of meeting that he had to veil his face (Exodus 33-34).

• Elijah on the mountain.

1 Kings 19:9–13 ESV

9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

• Both Moses and Elijah were no strangers to the face they saw on this mountain-top. Here stood the source of the radiance that made Moses’ face shine and the voice that instructed Elijah in a whisper.

• And Peter the chosen, but the sinner and denier, the occasional mouthpiece of Satan, the flesh still ripe in him, approached the glory of Jesus countenance without fear.