Matthew 17:4-8 shakes up the world of the prophets and the disciples. In this version of the story the two prophets do not get a briefing about Christ’s atoning sacrifice and I am loathe to try and harmonize the evangelists’ intentions. Luke alone (9:31) seems to have inquired about the conversation between the three and learned that the two prophets had been talking about (most certainly the meaning of) Christ’s death.
Who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
The narrative freezes any attempt to honour the prophets, even these two towering figures. It also denies the equality of Christ and the prophets.
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear all of you him.
Hear and Fear
Two things bring on the reverence due. The disciples are wrong about the prophets and wrong about Christ. They go from being excited about the prophets’ association with the Rabbi to sheer terror and to the stark reality that Yeshua is all there is.
And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
God knows the answer and you who teach others to stop doing whatever the law says we should never do should either say what God says or do what the law requires. Plead guilty.
“Guilty as charged” suffices
Now we know that what things whatsoever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19
I can guarantee you that my great, great, grandfather’s loins were rocking with protest against the slavemaster and his assertion of property rights. If you are wondering, I am a descendant of African people, a part of the waves of westward transported labour to America and the Caribbean.
Since the 17th century, European powers (Spain, Portugal, France, England, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany) have been exploiting their own poor and people in far-flung lands with various justifications.
I would have been a runner: running off the slaveowners property to entrust my life to God. They would have had to chain me 24/7 or kill me.
Running is good for the believer.
- When temptation seems to corner us we should run
- When persecution closes in on us we can run
- When Christ says follow me we should run
We live because Christ gave us life
We sing because Christ gave us a song
We conquer because Christ gave us the victory
We should run – live – for life’s sake and remember that our crown does not come from anyone overcoming sin. Even with laws in our hearts and near countless constant recitations of God’s will we come to God with contrition or prove that we are still lost, having no Spirit to help because we did not really believe that God forgives sin all the time and powers our life moment by moment.
Idols litter the landscape while the majesty of the Risen Lord gets a passing mention. No repeated claim attends the memorial of Christ’s death for all human sin. We belittle and denigrate the covenant by inserting our desire for a miracle.
The cross must be accepted as full and effective payment for sin, not for financial, physical or mental wellbeing. People do not have to claim anything when the Church celebrates the Lord’s supper. No one needs to apply for what is theirs by virtue of their once-for-all confession and faith in the once-for-all propitiation in the Blood of the Lamb?
People can add whatever they wish to their celebration of Christ but only at great risk of showing how much shipwreck is part of their beliefs. One pastor proclaims that no physical death will touch our families when we partake of the Lord’s supper. We ought to know what the Scriptures authorize and quit making it up as we go. Remember does not mean request.
The definitions of legalism have not
always been helpful. There is always a “but” in the
explanation usually to fill the perceived void that liberation from
death, sin, and law seemed to create. The pressure towards law is
immense and wicked. Jews who decided to follow the were rightly
assumed to have discarded the Law. Theologians, fully displaying
their cowardice and laziness, have applied the term antinomian to
anyone who dared to cling to life and not death. When we say we are
Christians we do not need to confess anything about Moses, prophets,
law, or Judaism, If you feel guilty about receiving Yeshua as God’s
Anointed you are a fly in the spider’s web of legalism, snared and
probably still dead.
had said so much that puts the law into a unattractive framework that
he asks the question that his readers were bound to ask.
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Rom. 7:7
Law is a hypocrite’s tool
- they believe in monogamy, but a
man can yabam his way to as
many wives as he has brothers who predecease their spouses
priests do the same work Sunday to Saturday and are guiltless
put patriarchal above the sabbath by performing circumcision
believe that gold and silver are currency for atonement
equate commandment keeping with righteousness even when it is clear
that no-one gets saved by doing so
insist that saved people must commit adultery – remarrying the
husband – the law – from whom they were set free by Christ
enrich themselves by devouring the money and property of God’s
priestly people often by robbery and murder
pretty sure that law does not figure in Messianic lordship. He did
not need it to save us and he does not need it to keep us safe and to
enable our growth. By the time Yeshua is into his first tour of
Israel the law and the prophets had been certified as weak,
ineffective, and without authority.
did Paul say? He said (ii) Jews were unfaithful/unbelieving even
though God entrusted the oracles to them (ii) Jews were convicted of
sin – did not keep the law (iii) Abraham was not in any position to
brag about his performance of duty but rather his faith (iv) People
(Romans or Jews) are not under law but under grace and (v) there was
no fruit but death from the things they cherished.
To be sure about what our behaviour should be the place to look is the Cross. To be sure about who is our authority the person to look to is Yeshua. To be sure about our identity we must believe and confess Yeshua’s death and resurrection.
Dreams and visions have enlightened and comforted humans, and even charted the path for families, and one might say the entire human race. At the end of Stephen’s cutting defence in his case before the Sanhedrin, he had a vision which consoled him, but his defence had unvelied a pattern of behaviour which I would like to call “kill the dreamer”.
Killing the dreamer was the consistent response of a stiffnecked and resistant people to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Dreams and visions can characterize the deeper levels of divine instruction which often come into conflict with the written instructions, hence the resistance of those who thought that the Law was the last word in divine intervention. Christians are called to dream: dream against the grain, swim upstream and in the face of contradiction and hopelessness. Stephen was a dreamer. He was appointed to take care of daily distribution of life’s necessities but he was granted to follow his master in accurate tteaching of the truth and dying for the cause.
Have you stopped dreaming?
The stories of the Old Testament are full of wandering and incomplete spirituality. The hope was that one day the journey would end and the knowledge of God and His guidance would be the joy and security of all, but we are left asking “What happened?”
Then there are predictions like Isaiah 40:1.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
This tender care is for everyone. I think shepherd and my mind cannot stray from the Lord and Saviour Anointed Yeshua.