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Matthew 17:1-8

HOW TO RECOGNIZE A GOOD PLACE

Intro: This is one of the most precious passages in the Bible. Here the Lord Jesus gives His disciples a snapshot of the coming kingdom. It is helpful to understand what is happening in these verses, if you take the time to look backward into chapter 16. There, Jesus has just told His men that He is on the way to the cross to die for their sins, Matt. 16:19. He is rebuked by Peter, but goes on to tell the disciples that not only will He die on the cross, but He will return to this earth in glory someday. Then, Jesus makes a very strange statement. In Matt. 16:28, He tells the disciples that some of them will not die before they “see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.

After six days,” Jesus takes Peter, James and John into a “high mountain,” Mark 9:2. There, Jesus was “transfigured in their presence. Those three men were allowed to witness a little bit of what we will see a whole lot of in heaven. They were given an honor that none of them ever got over as long as they lived. You will notice that the very first word of verse 1 is “and.” This ties the events of chapter 17 back to those of chapter 16. What we see here then, is a small picture of the glory Jesus will have when He comes in power to reign over the earth.

By the way, I thank God today that I know Who Jesus is! I am glad that I do not have any trouble believing in His virgin birth, His vicarious death or His victorious resurrection. I am also glad that I have been given faith to believe in His visible return some glorious day!

But, this morning, I do not want to preach on the prophetic aspect of this passage. I want to draw our attention to what Peter says in verse 4, “Lord, it is good for us to be here! When Peter saw all that was happening around him, he didn’t understand all that was happening, but he knew enough to know that he was in a good place!

As you and I travel through this life, we find ourselves in all kinds of places. Some are okay and some are definitely not okay. There are valley times and mountaintop times and times that fall everywhere between the two extremes. Today, I want to try and help you out a little bit on your journey toward glory. I want to help you know a good place in life when you see it. I believe you can be in a good place and not even recognize it! You might be in the valley, but that valley might just be a good place! You might be in a time of physical pain, emotional trouble, financial turmoil, or any of 10,000 other kinds of trials, but you still might be in a good place. I would like for us to examine this passage together for a moments today. I want to show you How To Recognize A Good Place.

You know you are in a good place when:

I. v. 1-2 YOU CAN EXAMINE HIS GLORY

A. A Special People Verse 1 tells us that Jesus only took three of His men with Him. These three were Peter, James and John. It would appear that these men were the Lord’s “inner circle.” In fact, this is not the only time Jesus selected these men for a time of special ministry. It was these three men that were with Jesus when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, Mark 5:37. These three were also with Jesus when He “went a little deeper into Gethsemane to pray, Mark 14:33.

While it is true that God “has no respect of persons,” Rom. 2:11, it is also true that some people are closer to Him than are others. This does not mean that He loves some more than He loves others. It does mean that some people are more responsive to His love than others. In reality, you are as close to God as you want to be, James 4:8!

By the way, those who are open to all that God has for them are more likely to see Him move in glory and power than those who tend to stay farther away from the Lord. I don’t know about you, but I want to be as close to Him as John was at the Last Supper. He was close enough to Jesus to lay his head over on His breast and could no doubt feel the breath of God on his head. He was close enough to talk to Jesus and close enough to hear Jesus speak to Him, John 13:23-26. John was able to get in on a few divine secrets because he made the effort of get close to Jesus! Why don’t you stop hanging back and get close to Him today? You can, if you will!

B. A Special Place We are told that these three men are on the mountain top with Jesus. In verse 1 it is called a “high mountain.” Later, when Peter wrote about what he had seen that day referred to it as a “holy mount,” 2 Pet. 1:16-18. For Peter, that high place became a holy place. Even John referred to this event in his later years in 1 John 1:1-3. Peter wanted to settle down and stay right there, verse 4.

After this event, these men came down off that mountain with Jesus. When they arrived back in the valley, they were hit square in the face with the pressures and burdens of life, Ill. Matt. 17:14-27. They have to deal with a demonic spirit and they have to pay their taxes. But, they carried the events of the mountain within their hearts, Mark 9:10.

Here’s the point, if you really know the Lord, there will be some mountain top times with Him. There will be times when His presence is real and His glory is clear to see. When you are in one of those times, enjoy it for all it is worth, because you will soon be back in the valley. But, the experiences of the mountain top will sustain you through many long and difficult valleys!

C. A Special Presentation The Bible tells us in verse 2 that Jesus was “transfigured.” This word is translated from the same word that gives us “metamorphosis.” Nearly anyone who has ever taken biology knows what metamorphosis is. This is a compound word; “meta,” which means “to change,” and “morph,” which means “form.” Therefore, a metamorphosis is a “change of form or appearance.

This term is used to refer to what happens to transform a caterpillar into a butterfly. That ugly caterpillar encloses itself within a cocoon and goes through a metamorphosis. It goes in a worm and comes out a butterfly. It goes in having to crawl; it comes out able to fly! It goes in a thing that is ugly and despised and it reappears as a thing of wonderful beauty.

This is what happened to the Lord Jesus on that mountain top that day. Up until that moment, He had appeared to be just another Jew Who did some pretty remarkable things, Isa. 53:2-3. But, on that mountain, the glory that was concealed inside His human body burst forth! You see, this was not the first time Jesus had experienced a metamorphosis. The first time was when He was placed within the womb of a virgin named Mary and was born into this world. You do know that Jesus existed before Bethlehem don’t you? In fact, He is eternal! He has always been! When He was born in Bethlehem, He merely concealed His heavenly fame within and earthly frame, Phil. 2:5-8. Well, on that mountain top that day, the glory on the inside was visible on the outside and Peter decided that seeing Jesus in His glory was a good thing!

Every now and then as we pass through this life, we are privileged to catch a glimpse of His glory. I have never seen His back parts like Moses did, Ex. 33:23. I have never heard Him speak in an audible voice like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah and others did. I have never been within the veil in the Holy of Holies and been enveloped in His glory cloud. But, I have seen a time or two when Heaven brushed up next to the earth and things got a little foggy! There have been times when He pulled back the veil and let me catch just a little glimpse of Him in His glory! When that happens, it is a good place to be! 

You know you are in a good place when:

II. v. 3-5 YOU CAN EXALT HIS GREATNESS

A. The Heavenly Visitors We are told that when Jesus was transfigured, He was visited by two famous Old Testament characters: Moses and Elijah. The appearance of these two men is a marvelous miracle, which has many lessons to teach you and me. For instance, Moses had been dead over 1,500 years when this event took place, but here he is! He is moving, talking and recognizable. He is very much alive. This just serves to remind us that the redeemed who die do not go to the grave to wait for the resurrection, but they pass on to glory to be with the Lord, 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23.

Another thought is this: Moses died on a mountain in the embrace of God. God conducted his funeral and carried his spirit home to glory. Moses represents those believers who die in faith. Elijah did not die, but was carried off to heaven on a chariot of fire. He represents those saints of God who will one day be gathered up in the Rapture and taken to glory.

What were these two famous men doing when they met Jesus on that mountain? Luke 9:31 tells us that they were talking with Jesus about His “decease.” They were discussing His upcoming death on the cross. How would like to have heard that conversation? (Ill. What you might have heard if you have been there that day.) By the way, the word “decease means exodus.” These three were talking about the day when Jesus would make His exodus out of this human life.

You see, Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets. The Law and every sacrifice prescribed in it pointed ahead to Jesus, the perfect fulfillment of the Law. The Prophets spoke of One Who was to come as a perfect sacrifice and redeemer. The bottom line here is that Moses and Elijah came to exalt the greatness of Jesus and to reveal to the disciples that He was Who He claimed to be!

B. The Heavenly Voice When this happens, Peter, James and John are fast asleep, Luke 9:32. When they woke up and saw what was going on, Peter, as usual just had to say something! Mark 9:6 says that “they wist not what to say. Peter had the same problem that many of us have. Every time he opened his mouth it was just to change feet. He put his mouth in motion before he got his brain in gear.  

(Ill. Just for the record, there are times when it is better to say nothing than something! Just to talk for the sake of talking is dangerous at best, especially when we stop to remember that we will give account of all our idle words, Matt. 12:36.) 

When Peter does speak, he wants to build three booths or lean-tos on that mountain. He wants to build one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. On the surface, this seems fine, but when Peter’s statement is examined it is clear that he is placing Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. When this happens, a seventh Person shows up on the mountain! When God hears His Son being compared to Moses and Elijah, God reminds everyone on the mountain that Jesus is far greater than Moses and the Law; that He is far greater than Elijah and the Prophets. In truth, He is the fulfillment of both and He alone is worthy of praise, glory and worship! When Jesus came out of the private years at His baptism, God was heard to express His pleasure in Jesus, Matt. 3:17. Here, in the midst of the public ministry of Jesus, God again declares His pleasure in His Son. I wonder if there was a time in Heaven, when Jesus returned with the blood of His cross as the perfect offering for sin, and God said for the third time, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased? 

(Note: You are in a good location in your life when you have arrived at the place where nothing and no one but Jesus has your attention. You see, far too many are worshiping the Bible, the church, the doctrines, and their religion. What has your worship today? Who or what do you exalt? If it is anything but Jesus then you have some changes that need to be made in your life!

However, when you come to the place in your life where you find yourself worshiping Jesus and finding ways to glorify Him, you have arrived at a good place. This thing is all about Him and His glory! God help us to get so caught up in His glory that nothing else matters to us!)

 

You know you are in a good place when:

III. v. 6-8 YOU CAN EXPERIENCE HIS GRACE

A. The Grace Of His Peace When these men heard the voice of God and realized the scope of what was happening on that mountain top, they fell down in fear before the Lord. Jesus, as was His custom, walked over to them, touched them and spoke peace to them.

Friend, you are in a good place in life when you can feel the Master’s touch! Whether He touches you through peace in the heart, or whether you can hear that still small voice from time to time, it is a great day when you are a partaker of the grace and peace of the Lord.

Thank God for those times when His touch becomes real! It can drive away the icy fingers of fear and replace them with the warmth of His peace, Phil. 4:6-7. His touch can sever the tendrils of doubt that wrap themselves around the soul from time to time. His touch can unlock the bars of worry and liberate the troubled soul! Thank God for grace sufficient for me in every need of life, 2 Cor. 12:9. you know you are in a good place when Jesus blesses you with the grace of His priceless, matchless, incomprehensible peace. It is too glorious for words!

B. The Grace Of His Presence When the disciples looked up, everyone by Jesus was gone! Moses wasn’t there and Elijah wasn’t there, but Jesus was still there, just as He had been before all the excitement started. For a short time, Jesus had become lost in all that excitement, now He is the center of attention once again. They had His presence, and after all they had seen I am sure He was more precious to them than ever!

As we move through the valleys and over the mountains of life, there is one constant that we can always count on. Regardless of what else changes in life, Jesus Christ will never change, Heb. 13:8, and He will never leave, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20. He will always be there! Thank God for the times in life when Jesus has manifested His presence in your life and mine! You know you are in a good place when Jesus comes by and lets you experience the grace of His presence!

(Ill. Since that is true, we must be careful about getting caught up in trying to keep the Law. We must be careful about getting lost in the future events of prophecy. We need to be very careful that Jesus doesn’t become just another part of our lives. We need to be sure that we are ever in a place where we can sense His presence and where He is the centerpiece of life. What has your attention today?)

 

Conc: Peter missed a few things along the way, but he got one thing right: they were in a good place! Are you in that “good place today? Here is how to tell:

1. Are you in a place where you can Examine His Glory?

2. Are you in a place where you can Exalt His Greatness?

3. Are you in a place where you can Experience His Grace?

If the answer to each of these questions is “Yes,” then you are in a good place in your life. But, if you are missing out on even on of these great blessings, I challenge you to get yourself to Jesus today and get the help you need to get in a good place today.

You may be lost. If so, you can be saved today. You may be out of God’s will. If so, you can come home today. If there are burdens, they can be lifted. If there are needs, they can be met. The solution to all your issues lies in you getting to Him today. If He is calling, then you come!

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