Beyond the Grave


What does life look like beyond the grave?


Let’s examine our transformation now and its eternal result.


We will look at the transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9 and its application in transforming our lives today.
Matthew 17:1 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. 2 As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. 4 Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” 6 The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. 7 Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. 9 As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Matthew 17:1 The Numbers Game

Is church success about a large attendance? That can be a dangerous criterion. False prophets can draw large crowds (Luke 6:26; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matthew 7:13-14). Numbers alone prove nothing. Jesus rarely taught thousands, occasionally a hundred plus, most often a dozen or so and sometimes just three as we read in Matthew 17:1. Is quality time with a dozen and occasionally three key disciples a model for discipleship in churches? Is it a pastor’s job to spend equal time with a large group of individuals or intense time with a few? Is it then up to those few to care for the rest of the flock?

Matthew 17:2 Transformed Lives

In Matthew 17:2, we read that Jesus was transfigured or transformed (μετεμορφώθη, metemorphōthē) on a mount. This is the same word used in the letter to the Romans about us being “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Are we being inwardly “transformed” into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18)? Is transformation occurring in us? As Peter, James and John saw the transfiguration a transformation was happening to them. Moses’ face shone like the sun after being close to God. Will our lives also shine? Is a life that is close to God a shining light in a dark world that will soon shine forever?

Matthew 17:3 Preview of our Eternity

Was the story of Moses and Elijah talking with Christ on the mount in Matthew 17:3, a vision of the future or present reality? Both Moses and Elijah had prophesied the coming of the Messiah during their lives on earth. But, weren’t these men dead and buried, still awaiting a future resurrection? Such questions assume that there is time in a timeless eternity. Don’t our arguments about waiting for a future resurrection versus going to heaven after death fall silent when we realize that there is no time in eternity? Can we who live in a world restrained by time, really explain heaven, resurrection and eternal life in earthly terms?

Matthew 17:4 Peter’s Impetuosity

As Peter saw a vision of Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus, in Matthew 17:4 we see him acting impetuously, which was his personality. A tabernacle is a shelter, similar to what many Jews still make today in their backyards for the Feast of Tabernacles. They can be quickly made from branches and leaves. Was Peter asking, let me build some shelters from the hot sun and rain so you can stay awhile? Are we sometimes also impulsive with our opinions and suggestions? How often do we rush into decisions rashly and then later ask God to bless the decision that we have made without asking for divine guidance?

Matthew 17:5 Keep on Listening to Him

On the mount of transfiguration, we are not told what Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus, but we are told what God said in Matthew 17:5. A cloud covered them and God spoke from the cloud. He said these important and familiar words, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. The present imperative active voice of the original Greek can be translated as: “you [plural] keep on listening to him.” What about motivational preaching with homey philosophy? To “keep on listening to him,” shouldn’t we be in a church where his words are rehearsed in our hearing and his words are the focus?

Matthew 17:6-8 A Loving Touch

God’s voice frightens us mere mortals. As God spoke to Peter, James and John on the mount of transfiguration, we see in Matthew 17:6-8 that they were terrified and fell on the ground face down. Jesus set us the example of human touch. Sometimes all a person needs is a touch on the arm or a hug. It is a good thing to do. Even modern science knows the importance of a caring touch. Babies and animals can die without a loving touch. In a cold-blooded world that separates families because of heartless, draconian laws and destroys people because of heavy-handed cruelty, a touch of human kindness is particularly urgent.

Matthew 17:9 Tell No One

Some things are better off not being explained too early in life. After the encounter on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus instructed Peter, James and John in Matthew 17:9 not to tell anyone until after his resurrection. Like children who are not ready for solid food some people should only be fed milk (1 Corinthians 3:2). That’s also why Jesus spoke in parables, to disguise the truth among those who were not yet ready to receive it (Matthew 13:10-14). That’s not an insult, but a matter of spiritual growth. It is given to some to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to others it is not - yet.


Let’s look beyond our decaying, earthly existence to our metamorphosis into joyful, bright children of God. And let’s realize that that transformation has begun inside us and is taking place every day.

Giving and Loving


Did Jesus tell us to be as perfect as God? How is that possible?


Let us understand the measure of love God expects.

Sermon Plan

We will examine Matthew 5:38-48, an eye for an eye, insults, generosity, enemies, borrowers and God’s love.
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Matthew 5:38 Eye for Eye

How did Jesus explain an eye for an eye? Jesus addressed a law that many have applied in error, an eye for an eye, legally called lex talionis. A vindictive application might be trading tit for tat, escalating hostilities and hindering peace. A principle might be monetary compensation equal to an eye. Jesus taught a higher application of the the eye for an eye principle. As with many of Jesus’ teachings, this is very hard. Jesus suggested that if we have been responsible for injury to another, go above and beyond in compensation. Jesus wants us to go further than mere justice. He wants us to learn to create good will.

Matthew 5:39 Insults

What did Jesus say about responding to an insulting backhanded slap on the cheek? He said to turn the other cheek, not to retaliate but to humiliate ourselves by allowing further slaps. Even the business world understands that the best thing to do with a customer complaint is to allow them to vent without interruption, to get it off their chest. Give them time to calm down, and after having a hearing, many become a more satisfied customer. If even the carnal world understands how to win people, by respectfully giving them opportunity to fully complain, then how much more should we take insults in order to win peace for Christ.

Matthew 5:40 Generosity

What did Jesus say about losing the shirt off our backs in court? Perhaps we lost before we even got to court, by letting things go too far (1 Corinthians 6:7)? Did we fail to create peace? Were we at fault? Either way, Jesus told his disciples how to really win in heaven’s eyes. Give more than was asked for. Go way above the settlement price. If someone sues us for the shirt off our backs, let’s gift wrap our coat as well and give it away to the plaintiff. Does Jesus want us to be suckers who are easily taken advantage of, or does living generously really work?

Matthew 5:41 Enemies

Why did Jesus suggest that if a soldier from enemy occupation forces asks us for help carrying their equipment a mile, we should carry it two? In Roman occupied Palestine, there was a law that if a Roman soldier asked any Jew for help, they were required to come to their aid. Jesus alluded to just such a scenario where it was common for an enemy soldier to ask a Jew to carry arms for a distance. Jesus suggested helping out to double the distance asked. Jesus challenges us by teaching what is the exact opposite of our natural inclination. God is impartial and treats all people equally. Do we?

Matthew 5:42 Lending

Why did Jesus encourage his disciples to lend to the borrower and not turn him away? We have all lent something which was not returned. We become reluctant to lend again. Did Jesus mean that we are to keep lending until we have nothing left? That is how some criticize Jesus. He spoke of one borrower, not an unlimited number. Our natural inclination is not to lend at all or with very few exceptions for family or close friends. It is that extreme that Jesus challenged. He challenges us also to consider lending without discrimination. Of course there are boundaries and limitations, but perhaps we could lend to at least one.

Matthew 5:43-47 Loving our Enemies

Why did Jesus say to love our enemies? Isn’t the rule, love your neighbor? Jesus expanded it to include everyone. We love our friends but hate our foes. Now Jesus wants us to love even our enemies? Is that possible? How can that make any sense in a world of war and crime? We tend to follow the example of the good neighbors around us who treat their friends with respect and dignity, but Jesus challenged us to live above the standards of our neighborhood. We are to live by heavenly standards. Those standards are not defined by address, flag or national border, but by God who loves all peoples equally.

Matthew 5:48 Spiritual Maturity

How could Jesus expect us to become perfect? Should we be more nitpicky than the hypocritical Pharisees? The word perfect is better understood to mean mature or complete. It has nothing to do with nit-picky Christianity at all. Being obsessed with non-essentials is a mark of spiritual immaturity. Mature Christians are salty. They taste good. Mature Christians are a bright shining light. They are liberated from picky legalism. Mature Christians reconcile rather than harbor grudges. They preserve the sanctity of marriage. They are not pretentious, create good will and take insults without retribution. They are generous people who do not quibble and would treat an enemy the same as a friend.


It is impossible for us to live morally perfect lives, but we can grow in God’s love. Let’s start with our closest enemy.

Jesus Explains the Law


If we could read a commentary on the Old Testament from Jesus Christ how would that be? Well, we actually have that in the Sermon on the Mount.


Let’s see the intent of the law by its author, the One who is God with us.

Sermon Plan

Let’s examine Matthew 5:21-37, the laws on murder, adultery and bearing false witness and their real intent.
Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. 23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. 25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 31 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.
33 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Matthew 5:21-26 Murder

Is all anger sin? Jesus was angry when he turned over the money-changers’ tables (Matthew 21:12-13) and he was angry with the Pharisees for their hard hearts (Mark 3:1-5). There is an anger without sin (Ephesians 4:26-27). The anger of mourning or for the injustice of the world is not necessarily sinful. We do need to be careful with our anger (Proverbs 15:18), because anger at people can cause us to sin. It is the root of murder. Jesus showed that although most of us may have never actually committed murder in the letter, we are guilty of breaking the spirit of the law in any unrighteous anger.
How do we tell the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger? - by what comes out of our mouths. Words of hate for others, that murder the reputation of another are not godly. Hate words are excuses for treating people with prejudice, paying so-called “little people” poorly, giving grossly excessive salaries to so-called “big people.” Jesus condemned this way of dealing with fellow human beings. It is such an offense that it could be charged in heaven’s court. Jesus is serious about this and those who use such words are in danger of hell. We are called to live the opposite of this kind of verbal abuse, by valuing human life.
What is the spirit of murder? Obeying just the letter of the law “thou shalt not murder” misses its purpose, love. We may have never killed in the letter. When calling others nobodies or stupid, we deceive ourselves that we are not criminals. Jesus explained that such insults put us in the same category as murderers. He encouraged us to operate in a totally opposite way. First, to reconcile with our enemies if possible. When that is not possible, we ought to at least find some kind of agreement quickly, lest the whole matter go to an unjust court and we lose everything.  The opposite of murder is reconcile or settle.

Matthew 5:27-32 Adultery

What did Jesus teach about “thou shalt not commit adultery?” The problem with the letter of any law is that it gives excuse to use loopholes as long as the specific forbidden act is not done. Jesus addressed the principle using the example of a lustful look. As anger can lead to murder, lust can lead to adultery. Both begin in our hearts. Jesus challenged us to see the thought as essentially the same as the act. As with murder, there is a positive alternative. Jesus shocked everyone by suggesting self-mutilation. Such self-harm is sin. So, Jesus was exaggerating to make a point. We must take drastic steps to avoid adultery.
Is all divorce a sin? Jesus gave the exception as “porneia.” Louw-Nida defines that as sexual immorality of any kind. The Friberg Lexicon defines it as every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse. Jesus’ position on divorce is stricter than western culture, but does provide freedom for the sexually-wronged marriage partner. His description was broad enough that the sin could be something either during or even before a marriage took place. In 1 Corinthians 7:14-15, Paul explained that if an unbelieving spouse walks out, the believing spouse is free from the marriage. There are arguably other exceptions, but the general principle is: easy divorce is not God’s way.

Matthew 5:33-37 Bearing False Witness

The Old Testament forbade bearing false witness, including making an oath and not fulfilling it. Jesus encouraged not to swear fake oaths, but to just say yes or no. Swearing by external things is artificial and does not guarantee fulfillment of an obligation. Using this form of leverage supposedly makes a person more believable. It emphasizes how we humans are too often unreliable and untruthful. By invoking heaven or earth, we delude ourselves that this veneer of honesty can change liars into truth-tellers and covenant breakers into contract keepers. We Christians do not need to engage in such self-deceptive swearing. We simply need to be truthful as best as we can.
Are pledges, covenants, vows or oaths in court Christian? God confirmed His promises by an oath (Hebrews 6:16-18), Jesus answered a question stated as an oath (Matthew 26:63-64), and Paul called upon God as his witness that he was telling the truth (2 Corinthians 1:23) and not a lie (Galatians 1:20). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not say “swear not at all” period. He preached against swearing an oath too lightly. People do not take oaths seriously. Jesus did not condemn sincere oaths, but frivolous and deceptive ones. Rather than making oaths to cover up perjury or insincerity, simply answer yes or no.


Jesus showed if we claim not to have murdered but were angry or insulting, we failed. If we claim to be faithful spouses, but have lusted at any time, we failed. If we claim to tell the truth, but have ever broken a promise, we failed. The Sermon on the Mount should teach us we have all failed. Only Jesus was faultless. That’s why we need a Savior.

Is the Law Still Valid?


In the sermon on the mount Jesus called us salt and light, then condemned whoever sets aside the least of God’s commands. Does that mean that Christians should put to death idolaters, Sabbath breakers, adulterers and those who dishonor their parents, sacrifice animals, be circumcised, rest farmland every seventh year, observe the new moons, build leafy huts for the feast of tabernacles, pay wages daily and use no leaven at Easter?


Let’s learn that we already are salt and light, and what our relationship to the old law is.


Let’s examine Matthew 5:13-20, salt, light and the law.
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Matthew 5:13 Salt versus Salt

Can salt lose its saltiness? Bible critics could reveal their ignorance of history by assuming that it means the same thing by salt as we do. We define table salt as sodium chloride. However, what Jesus meant by salt cannot be explained in our cultural terms. It was probably a mixture of calcium sulfate and our table salt. Calcium sulfate is gypsum and used to make plaster of Paris. This mixture could lose the salt component and thus its “saltiness.” All this reveals a very important step in studying the Bible: get our definitions right. Careful research rather than jumping to hasty conclusions helps us understand the Bible so much better.

Matthew 5:14 What are We?

Jesus said his disciples are the salt of the earth and are the light of the world. This was encouragement to be what they already were. We too are the salt that gives the world a good taste and the light that brightens this dark planet. When we are not, our communities suffer. Salt preserves. When we fail to live up to our calling, our world rots from the inside out and is not preserved. Light helps us see. When we fail to rise up and be the light of the world, others cannot see God in us. Let’s wake up and be who God says we are. Let’s be ourselves.

Matthew 5:15 Covert Christians

Have you ever heard of covert Christians who hide their faith? Some Christians are closet Christians and it contradicts what Jesus taught. He told his disciples that they were a city on a hill that cannot be hid. The followers of Jesus Christ are a light that is meant to be seen, not hidden away in secret. What exactly of Christ’s disciples must be seen? Is it our fancy buildings, our church music, our fancy clothing, our wonderful arguments or something else? Jesus specifically mentioned that we are to let our good deeds be seen, not to show off, as he later explained, but so that others may glorify God.

Matthew 5:16 Evangelism of Good Works

Jesus encouraged his disciples to do good. Christianity is more than worshiping, singing, and hearing sermons about Jesus. It includes doing good things. Do-nothing Christianity is incomplete and weak. Believing alone is not enough. Worship is only a start. Jesus said to go do. What are good works - obedience to the law or helping our neighbor? Jesus’ description is not limited to either of these conditions. It can mean being honest in our business dealings, using appropriate and inoffensive language, being commendable in our charity, honorable in the way we speak of others and praiseworthy in our community life. One of the most effective forms of evangelism is doing good deeds.

Matthew 5:17 Jesus & the Law

Old Testament law is explained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He did not say that obedience to the law is no longer required because of faith, but will explain how some of those laws should be applied. Jesus did not divide his explanation into arbitrary ceremonial, civil and moral laws? Like Paul, he spoke of the law as a unit, and that he did not come to abolish but to fulfill. Until heaven and earth disappear, the law applies. How can our righteousness be greater than that of devout believers, followers of the Hebrew Scriptures? We begin to understand the spirit of the law (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

Matthew 5:18 Letter or Spirit?

How literal was Jesus’ approach to the Old Testament law? Was he persnickety, insisting that not one smallest pen-stroke of the law would disappear as long as heaven and earth exist? Is the law now even more binding? Did he break the law against collecting food on the Sabbath or was he obedient to a higher principle? He often showed how the spirit surpasses the letter of the law. The rest of the New Testament carries that discussion further and perhaps the most poignant example is the law of circumcision, whereby a literal interpretation is no longer relevant for the Christian, but a higher spiritual interpretation, a circumcision of the heart.

Matthew 5:19 Jesus and the Ten Commandments

Did Jesus demand we obey the Ten Commandments? The word commandments does not mean the Ten Commandments alone. It means all God’s commandments. Deuteronomy expands the Ten Commandments with many more commandments. Nobody keeps the Ten Commandments in the letter, not even those who practice the original Sabbath day. If they did, they would put to death idolaters, Sabbath breakers, adulterers and those who dishonor their parents as the letter of the law demands. Jesus explained how we keep the spirit of the law in the Sermon on the Mount. Christians fulfill the law in spirit not the letter. The letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Jesus Introduces the Spirit of the Law

Deuteronomy expounds the Ten Commandments (#1 6-11; #2 12; #3 13:1-14:21; #4 14:22-16:17; #5 16:18-18:22; #6 19-21; #7 22:1-23:14; #8 23:15-24:7; #9 24:8-16; #10 24:17-26:15).1 Do Christians keep both the letter and the spirit? No, the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). The only option left is keeping the law in spirit. For example, circumcision is no longer required in the flesh for Christians, but in the heart (Romans 2:29); there remains a Sabbath rest in Jesus for eternity (Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4) and love fulfills the whole law (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14).
1Hill, Andrew E. & Walton, John H. A Survey of the Old Testament. Zondervan Publishing House. 1991. 58.
We Christians fulfill the law via Jesus’ law of love. We don’t need to put to death idolaters, Sabbath breakers, adulterers, homosexuals and those who dishonor their parents. We don’t need to sacrifice animals, get circumcised, observe the new moons, build leafy huts for the feast of tabernacles, pay wages daily or use no leaven at Easter. The law can teach us, but it is the shadow of things to come. The cross is the reality. Love fulfills the law, all of it.