Sunday Sermon 9.00am service February 19th – What on earth were they doing on that mountain?

2 Corinthians 4:3-6   New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Mark 9:2-9  New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

The Transfiguration

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Message

What on earth were they doing on that mountain?

Great question. It’s  a fast-moving narrative in Mark’s gospel. And things are hotting up. Peter has just reached his high –recognising Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. And His low – when he tries to stop Jesus and is told that he is doing the devil’s work (get behind me Satan).

They’re trying to get their heads around what Jesus has told them – that he will be killed.

And Jesus takes them up a mountain – perhaps to put things into perspective:

  • He would not be a failed revolutionary
  • He would not be a has-been political leader done in by the Romans
  • He was not mad.

He was God’s man. God’s son. And so on the mountain the three closest friends of Jesus are able to see things from the long term point of view – from God’s camera angle if you like.

He gets their attention one way or another. He is meta-morphed if you like! Changed. Transfigured.

His clothes are mentioned for some reason – in the washing powder advert kind of language:

His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.

Whiter than white! Matthew in his gospel says they were white as the light. Luke writes they were brighter than a flash of lightening. I think you get the picture!

It’s what’s on the inside that was really transfigured – perhaps the clothes were overheating. Who knows. His face is the focus of Matthew and Luke – described as shining “like the sun” and being changed in appearance.

And they see dead people. Hmm.

I saw dead people once. I always enjoy telling this story to young people – because I was on drugs at the time. Perfectly legal – medicine given after surgery! Dead people I had known walked through the walls. It was not nice really. A hallucination from the drug of course.

These two fall into a unique category of course. Elijah hadn’t really died. He went to heaven – no not in a chariot of fire – but in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:9-11) And they expected him to return. And of course he had returned by then. If you can solve that one see me afterwards with your answer.

Moses had died – but it seemed that he might be available as well as – well his funeral was a curious affair (Deut 34:4-7).

More than that Jesus has this conversation with Elijah and Moses – these two represent the prophets and the Law of the bible of the day. They sum or symbolise up the most important parts of God’s revelation to the world over centuries.

And there is Jesus – the one who is the greatest prophet speaking God’s word – who is in fact God’s Word (The Logos of John 1) – and who fulfils all the Law and the prophets.

One has to feel for Peter, James and John. At least we can be sure that they were silenced for a while – Peter not making any more rash promises and James and John not haggling over positions of power. (The sons of thunder seem to have become sons of silence).

How important were these wannabe Christian leaders in the face of Moses, Elijah and Jesus?

But they are not silent for long. Like some of us who always have something to say! (Remember James 1:19!)

Even the glory revealed to them could not stop Peter from offering a solution or creating a plan:

 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

This is the glory of God revealed. On a mountain – where these kinds of revelations happened usually.

This is holiness and glory. The high that we love! Here is power.

Let’s capture the moment – not on video or on Utube or Twitter – but let’s do the thing that God’s people were good at – build booths. Camp out. Hang out here with these greats and take it all in!

Mark of course tries to excuse Peter – we have these words in brackets:  (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) But even he (Mark) may have missed the connection. Listen to this writer:

Peter, contrary to popular portrayal, makes the connection that is too obscure for us to make. According to some Jewish expectation and as stated in the book of Zechariah the prophet (see 14:16-21), God would usher in the new age, the “Day of the Lord,” during the Feast of Booths. This God-commanded festival kept by Jews for centuries, was considered a possible time for God’s taking control of God’s creation and beginning the age of shalom. So Peter’s question about building booths is neither laughable nor mistaken. Peter is clear that the end times are coming and the Feast of Booths was upon them. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus need not construct their own booths for the celebration.

So there was a new thing happening here. Reminds me of a favourite passage of mine from Isaiah – which happens to be one of the Lectionary readings for today in the set we are using in the second service:

Isa 43:18  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Isa 43:19  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

How would they know that Jesus’ death would begin this new thing? How kind of him to include them in this mountain top experience! What a stunning revelation! Why not stay on high? Enjoy the high!

And when they come down they have this animated conversation I am sure. Look at verses 9 and 10:

 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Verse 7 is the key:  7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Would that we would also listen to His voice!

It’s a word for the projects people – those of you who are great at doing – and not good at being. One would think that we were human doings rather than human beings. This is a word for the men who like being in control by DOING things.

Get under the cloud – a symbol of the presence of God – be enveloped by the presence of God – and listen to the beloved Son! STOP AND LISTEN!

Like Mary and Martha – in case you think I am discriminating against the men here.

Don’t let chores crowd Jesus out of your life. Sit at his feet. Listen as He speaks.

And may we experience a touch of his glory at Communion today as we do this. As we let him speak into our lives.

Amen.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on February 18, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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