The Transfiguration

Today we are going to continue in the series for the month, called Encounters with Jesus. This message begins with one of the more spectacular events in the life of Jesus, and involves three of his closest men. Then, what follows the transfiguration story is of particular interest because hopefully we will identify with this man who had a son with an unclean spirit. So turn to Mark chapter 9 where we can find a little background to our encounter with Jesus.

ASCENDING the Mountain – Mark 9:1-2a

  1. The Prophecy – Mark 9:1 – Some would not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God, after it has come with power. This would be a reference to the next event which was the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. It was sort of a mini-kingdom vision of Jesus in his glorified state.
  2. The People – Mark 9:2a – Six days later, Jesus selects his three closest men, Peter, James and John to accompany him up to a high mountain. This was likely NOT Mt. Hermon, which has a snowy peak that rises 9,232 feet, and is the highest point in the Promised Land. Perhaps it was one of the foothills surrounding Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made his great confession of Jesus’ identity, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” This transfiguration event evidently made a huge impact on Peter and John, since they refer to the transfiguration in their writings (John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:16-18)

ON the Mountain – Mark 9:2b-8 – he was transfigured before them; so what did they see?

  1. The Apparel of the Savior – Mark 9:2b-3 – When Jesus was born on this earth, his glory was veiled or hidden. At that time he came in humiliation, he was a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief. But He will one day return in glory and no one will mistake Him then. He will be visibly the King of kings and Lord of lords. THIS transfiguration event was a foretaste of things to come.
  2. The Appearance by Elijah and Moses  – Mark 9:4
    1. Elijah is mentioned in Malachi 4:5-6 in connection with the future coming of Christ. I believe THIS is why people in the gospels asked John the Baptist if he were Elijah (John 1:21).
    2. Moses was the lawgiver and liberator of the Hebrew people, while Elijah was the first of the great prophets. The presence of these two men, representing the Law and the Prophets, confirmed the reality that Jesus is the Messiah of Peter’s confession.  We read about Peter’s confession in Mathew 16:16 (You are the Christ, the Son of the living God) which is then followed but the Transfiguration story in Matthew 17.
  3. The Assumption by Peter– Mark 9:5-6
    1. The Title – Mark 9:5 – We often have the same story in different gospels, but there are slight variations in what we read. The synoptic Gospels use three different words for Peter’s addressing of Jesus. Rabbi (Mark 9:5), Master (Luke 9:33), and Lord (Matthew 17:4) are separate Greek translations of whatever Hebrew or Aramaic word Peter used to address Jesus on the mount. Mark’s emphasis is on Jesus’ respected position among the disciples as their leader, so he used the term Rabbi.
    2. The Tents – Mark 9:5 – Three tabernacles (or booths) suggests that he wanted to STAY on the mountain and continue to enjoy this mountaintop experience. But this experience was not to be savored, but to prepare him to carry his cross and live out his faith in the day-to-day world, down in the valleys of life.
    3. The Terror – Mark 9:6 – As you know, Peter often blurted out words without thinking them through. Here, he likely was putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah when Christ is clearly in a class by himself. “Let’s make three tents” likely all the tents would be the same kind. THAT is something that should bother us as well. How often do we say that Jesus is our “buddy” or use some other term of familiar endearment to describe him? We must always remember that Jesus is the Creator of this universe, and the Sacrifice that was made in order to bring our salvation. He is much more than a causal relationship; Peter might have forgotten the awe and wonder of who Jesus really was.
    4. The Truth – what can we learn from this event? How about this… How many times do we have some wonderful spiritual experience and our desire is to stay here and never leave? Perhaps the worship was great, the music was wonderful, the retreat was insightful, the conference was uplifting. When we leave the event to go back down the mountain, we can’t wait for the time when we will have another powerful experience to keep us sustained in life. How about THIS for a lesson? Don’t desire to remain on the mountain in memory of a past vision. While we encounter God through our worship experiences here, Jesus needs us to be active in THIS world, OUTSIDE the church walls. Jesus does not intend for us to stay on the mountain, so don’t seek to build a tabernacle or tent so you can stay there. Mountaintop experiences are great, but we belong elsewhere, and I’ll get to THAT in a moment.
  4. The Approval by the Father– Mark 9:7-8
    1. Peter speaks, at an inappropriate time, and a cloud forms. The cloud may have been the shekinah (or glory) cloud which stayed in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple in OT times. It was the visible expression of God’s presence. The text indicates the very same thing, the Father shows up; his presence is right there on the mountain.
    2. The Father speaks, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him!” It was as if God was telling Peter to “shut up and stop speaking, THIS is my beloved Son, listen to HIM.” He is NOT just one of the boys along with Moses and Elijah, he is MY SON. So for us, when we come into the presence of God, we should NOT be the ones with all the words. Don’t just blurt out something in an awkward moment of silence, but listen.
    3. Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that the voice of God the Father was heard audibly three times during the life of Christ? The other two occasions were at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11) and during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:28).

DESCENDING the Mountain – Mark 9:9-10

  1. The Command – Mark 9:9 – On the way down the mountain, Jesus gives the three disciples specific instructions to NOT tell anyone about what they have seen until after his resurrection from the dead.
  2. The Confusion – Mark 9:10 – I love this next verse, that they seized upon the statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean!

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