The Transfiguration is about as mysterious a text as you’ll find in the Gospel. That makes preparing a children’s sermon on Matthew 17:1-19 pretty challenging. How do you help kids find something useful in a story that their parents probably find baffling?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. And of course you can feel free to use it if you want to!
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 17:1-9
You probably remember the story of when Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. They couldn’t find a room to rent, so they stayed in a barn. Mary was pregnant and her baby was born — Jesus. So Mary wrapped the baby Jesus up in blankets and let him sleep in the feeding trough used by the animals.
I wonder if you remember the story that took place before that. Nine months before Christmas, the Angel Gabriel visited Mary in her home town of Nazareth. The Angel Gabriel gave Mary a very surprising message: Mary was going to have a baby, named “Jesus.” And even more surprising: God was going to be the baby’s father.
So that is who grew up in Mary and Joseph’s house. Jesus’ mother was Mary, and so he was truly human — just like you and me. But Jesus’ father was God, so he was also truly God.
Now imagine if Jesus was one of the kids in your neighborhood. When you looked at him, what would you see?
You would be looking at someone who is truly human and truly God — but your eyes would only notice that he looked like any ordinary human person.
All his life, everywhere he went, the fact that Jesus was truly God was kind of hidden.
People could look at what Jesus did. They might think about it and say
Only God could heal those sick people! Only God could feed 5000 people with just a few loaves of bread! Maybe Jesus really is God!
But he looked like an ordinary man. They couldn’t see that he was God with just their eyes.
People could listen to what Jesus said. They might think about it and say
Only God could say such wise things! Only God could teach about the kingdom of heaven like he really knew about it. Maybe Jesus really is God!
But he looked like an ordinary man. They couldn’t see that Jesus was God with just their eyes.
One day, after people started to follow Jesus, Jesus took three of his friends for a hike. Peter, and James, and John went with Jesus up a mountain trail.
Once they had hiked up way beyond where anyone else could see, Jesus did something quite surprising.
Peter, James, and John already knew that Jesus was truly human.
That day, Jesus showed his friends that he was also truly God.
The way the Bible tells the story is that Jesus face shone with light, as bright as the sun. And it says Jesus clothes shone with bright light too.
And then, just in case Peter, James, and John still didn’t understand, the voice of God spoke from the clouds:
This is my Son! I really love him! You should listen to him!
They had seen with their eyes that Jesus shone with the light of God.
And now a voice from heaven told them that Jesus was God’s own Son.
You and I don’t get to see Jesus quite so clearly. We only see him in paintings. We can’t look at him as even a human being. We certainly don’t get to see him transformed, glowing with the light of God.
But we can do what God’s voice from heaven said: We can love Jesus, and listen to Jesus.
- I wonder how we might listen to Jesus today?
- I wonder what we would hear Jesus saying if we were to read all the Gospel stories about him?
- I wonder what we would hear Jesus saying if we were to spend time talking to him in prayer?
- I wonder what kinds of surprises Jesus might give us if we really listened?
My online prayer class for Lent is open for new registrations from now through Ash Wednesday. We’ll try on three great traditions of prayer as I explore them in my award-winning book Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers. It’s a great way to focus on your prayer life and make Lent the time of renewal it is intended to be. Click the button to get the full scoop!