The breaking news is that Russian troops have entered Russian separatist sections of Ukraine, purportedly as peace-keepers. Is this the beginning of a changing world order championed in a recent meeting between Russia and China? In the midst of divisions and uncertainty around us, what can we do? Where can we find assurance and hope?
The answer to the question, ‘What can we do?’ is pray! In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul the Apostle writes: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and for all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We often forget that Christians for three centuries were often persecuted under Roman rule. Indeed, Nero used them as scapegoats for the fire in Rome and put them through all kinds of barbarous cruelty including the lion’s den in the Roman arena. Christians had every reason to hate the state, and yet Paul calls on God’s people to respect the civil authorities for what they are: God’s provision in a fallen world for the good order and protection of society.
But there is a second question: ‘Where can we find assurance and hope?’
In Psalm 2:1-4 we read: Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’
How important it is to remember that whatever happens around us, the Lord continues to work out his purposes in our world. Despite the derision, opposition, or even the persecution we might experience from political leaders or those around us who embrace a secular progressive agenda, God will have the last word.
How can we be sure of this? Come with me to a surprising scene in Luke 9:28-36.
Luke begins, about eight days after… (9:28). He wants us to be in no doubt that, just as the previous conversations had occurred, so did the scene that was about to unfold. Jesus took three of his disciples with him, Peter, John and James when he went up on the mountain to pray (9:28). While Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white (9:29).
This was not a superficial event. In both Luke and Acts a reference to dazzling clothes usually signifies a supernatural or ‘other worldly’ glory. Two great prophets, Moses and Elijah, who were not transformed as Jesus was, were also present and spoke with him about what he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (9:31).
Prophets had been very much in the minds of Jesus and the disciples at that time. Indeed, eight days earlier Jesus had asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ and they had replied, ‘John the Baptist or Elijah, or one of the prophets.’ But when Jesus had pressed them for their own view, Peter had replied: “You are the Christ” (9:20).
But here on the mountain it was clear that Peter had not yet worked out what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ. Otherwise he and the other two would not have been asleep only to be awakened by the brilliant, supernatural light of Jesus and his visitors (9:32). Furthermore, as the visitors departed Peter said, “Master…; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah – not knowing what he said” (9:33).
Before he could utter another word, a cloud enveloped them all and they heard a voice, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (9:35). It was a scene and a voice the disciples would never forget. The glory which transfigured Jesus that day revealed him to be God incarnate.
He is the Son of Man of whom the prophet Daniel spoke, the one to whom would be given the kingdom, the power and the glory (Daniel 7:12-13). He is the man from heaven.
The main purpose of the event was for the three disciples. Yes, Jesus truly is the Christ: God the Father’s words confirmed what they had recently concluded. Furthermore. they needed to listen to him – as we need to do today.
The scene was a foretaste of the glory of God’s kingdom – a foretaste of Jesus’ messianic reign. Peter later wrote: ‘We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eye-witnesses of his majesty (2 Peter 1:16).
The event is very important for us. If Jesus had disappeared following his resurrection and his ascension, we would have no assurance of his enthronement in glory. The transfiguration is a preview of his power and majesty as he works out God’s purposes for his creation, moving world affairs to an end time when he will be seen in all his might, majesty, dominion and power – the supreme Lord over heaven and earth.
In the midst of the rumors of wars and the tumult of war, what should we be doing? Pray! Where is our hope for the future to be found? In the risen ascended Christ, the man from heaven.
A prayer for peace. God of the nations, whose kingdom rules over all, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad your peace in the hearts of all men and women and banish from them the spirit that makes for war; so that all races and people may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to your laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Preserve your people, Lord God, with your continual mercy, for without you we will fall because of our frailty; keep us always under your protection and lead us to everything that makes for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
© John G. Mason
(Note: Today’s Word is adapted from my Luke: The Unexpected God, 2nd Edition, Aquila: 2019)
You may want to listen to Keith & Kristyn Getty and Matt Papa’s Christ Our Hope in Life and Death.