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Mark 9:2-9 (2)

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The Transfiguration

Mark 9:2–13 ESV
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
A high mountain. Traditionally, it’s been said that this was Mount Tabor. But, Tabor at 1843 feet is not a “high mountain” as scripture says. Mount Hermon, which is over 9000 feet high is a more probable place.
Mark has been recording events in Caesara Philippi, and Mount Hermon is near this area.
Jesus takes his disciples up this high mountain. There, on this high mountain, Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. Interestingly, it is in high places where Elijah and Moses did many amazing things. And their appearance in this story should not come as a shock.
Mark tells us it was six days later. Six days after his prediction that some standing there would see the Kingdom of God coming with power before they died. This event occurred on the seventh day after the prediction, reflecting fulfilment of Christ’s words and that God had a special revelation that he was making in this moment.
It reflected or was reminiscent of God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus 24.15-16.
Exodus 24:15–16 ESV
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
Here, on this mountain, God is revealing something very, very important. There are several questions we should examine before we get to what God is revealing. But before we get to the questions, consider this:
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not, is a fool ... shun him.
 He who knows not and knows that he knows not, is ignorant ... teach him.
 He who knows and knows not that he knows, is asleep ... wake him.
 He who knows and knows that he knows, is a wise man ... follow him.
I share that to say, what was Peter thinking? Look at what he says!
In many respects, Peter represents the first three of these. There was no way for Peter to fully understand what was going on. It is revealed in his statement, “Let’s build three booths for each of you.” He didn’t have a clear understanding of what he had just witnessed.
Here was Moses. Here was Elijah. Two of the great prophets of Israel’s past. Both of them had disappeared from view rather than dying in the ordinary way. Legends were told about both of them. They were apparently spared proper death, and now here they are in relatively normalcy with Jesus shining with a brilliant light.
What could it mean? Peter, frankly, whatever he had in mind… he didn’t get it right. Mark tells us he was jibberjabbering because of his fright.
So, what could this possibly mean?
Jesus was completing the work of Elijah and Moses. His work was to completely fulfil what they had begun. Jesus was going to not only continue- but to bring to its completion the work that Moses and Elijah had begun.
Problem is, these disciples didn’t believe that even before they had this experience. And that’s precisely the point.
Down there in Caesara Philippi, Jesus had just spoken to them about something they could never imagine- his own death.
Look at Mark 8:31-38
Mark 8:31–38 ESV
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Sometimes, at the foot of the mountain that God wants us to climb, all we see are the clouds. Did you ever think of that? When there appears the impossible or the unthinkable… that that “impossible” or that “unthinkable” is all we can see- and that’s usually the clouds.
But there’s an interesting point to be made here today. Throughout the old testament and here in the passage today- God’s in the clouds and he longs to see us at the top of the mountain. He wants to meet us there, to give us a brighter, more fuller understanding of what He is up to.
Peter could not imagine, could not fathom- what God was talking about.
Jesus would suffer? He would be rejected? He would be killed by the religious aristocracy? It was really an unthinkable thought.
And what was Jesus talking about raising again in three days? What was that about? All Jews believed in a “general resurrection”. Yes, one day there would be a resurrection in Jewish thinking. But the notion that there would be a singular specific resurrection for this teacher, Jesus? A bit far fetched if you ask Peter.
And those things became the clouds for Peter. He couldn’t see the top of Mount Tabor- how could he ever understand or view the top of Mount Hermon. Comparatively, that’s the difference between what Peter could comprehend and what Christ was telling him was going to happen. He couldn’t see clearly, and so God chose to reveal it in a new way.
Six days past. Six days in which those disciples thought about, digested, discussed, and even forgot what Jesus had said to them. We really don’t know what went on in their heads for that time. But time ticked by, and now Jesus says, “Come up to the mountain and see.” He takes Peter, James, and John.
And as they get to the top of the mountain, Jesus is transfigured before them. Transfigured. Changed. He glowed, he shined, the glory of God was fully present in that instant.
The word used in this place for “transformed” is metamorphoo. It means to change into another form. It is only used here and in 3 other locations in the new testament. Matthew uses the same term when he recounts this story. But Paul uses it twice. Describing the Christian’s progress into the image of Christ- he uses it to explain how our moral likeness should begin to look like Jesus
Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Why was Jesus changed , “transformed”?
A cloud descended on them. And in the middle of that cloud the transfiguration takes place. Moses and Elijah appear. God was revealing something he wanted them to understand.
Whenever a cloud appeared in Moses’ time, 2 things were happening. First, you were being ushered into the abode or dwellingplace of God. Secondly, God spoke from the cloud.
Exodus 16:10 ESV
And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
Exodus 19:9 ESV
And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord,
Exodus 24:15–18 ESV
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Leviticus 16:2 ESV
and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.
Numbers 11:25 ESV
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.

Listen!

So here they are, the 6 of them. Peter, James, and JOhn. Christ, Moses and Elijah. And Christ is talking with Moses and Elijah. And what’s being said? Then the voice of God indeed speaks from the cloud. and what is the message? “Listen”.
The fullest sense of the word, “Listen”, is what God intends. Be obedient to him. Obedient listening means that what he says we will do. What He has revealed we will live by. No matter what, no matter why. Obedience to what He says is or paramount importance.
James 1:22–24 ESV
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
The last time I preached, we were in the book of Deuteronomy 18. In Deuteronomy 18:15, the following was said,
Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—
This prophecy is reflected here at the transfiguration. It identifies Jesus as the new and final mediator of God’s rule in its present and future form.
Peter would look back on the transfiguration and recognize its importance later in life.
2 Peter 1:16–19 ESV
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
it wasn't an immediate recognition for Peter. He had to get through the crucifixion and the resurrection for all of this to sink in. Notice, 2 Peter wasn’t written until long after the crucifixion, the resurrection, the day of Pentecost… it took awhile for Peter to process all of this.
Which is why Jesus says, “Don’t tell anyone all of this until after the resurrection.” It wasn’t secret… it was just that the events wouldn’t make sense without the resurrection. Stay with me for a moment.
Notice that as soon as God stops speaking, Moses and Elijah disappear. Their work was over, they are supersede now. Jesus is now God’s authorized agent- ruler and spokesman. And He’s the one that’s staying with the disciples and He’s the one they should pay attention to and He’s the one to watch what he does next.
Moses interceded for Israel several times on their way out of Egypt. The golden calf, the complaining for food… he interceded for them. Elijah offered sacrifices up on Gilgal for the people. He interceded for them. But what would Jesus do next? How would he intercede?
We need to go back to that previous conversation Jesus had. Mark 8:31-33
Mark 8:31–33 ESV
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
You see, Jesus’ intercession was not going to be simply a prayer… it was not going to be a calf or doves. He was going to intercede by offering himself. What he was going to do was far more than Moses or Elijah ever could have. He was going to offer himself.
And frankly, people don’t like that. Peter didn’t want to hear it. He argued with Jesus over it. Was it that he loved Jesus that much? Probably not. We know that by his denial and disappearance when these things finally begin to take place. No, Peter didn’t love jesus that much… Peter loved Peter that much. So he selfishly wanted what he wanted.
Peter wanted what we want. He wanted to do it himself, to take care of his own business. Peter wanted to believe that he didn’t need an intermediator, he could live good enough and die good enough to not have someone else pay his price. So Peter argues with Jesus about this. And you and I do too.
If you “listen” to Jesus, as God said in the cloud, then you’ve got to be obedient to Jesus. Obedient to his death. Obedient to His word. And here is where we stumble. Some pieces of that word, we just don’t want to hear. It cramps our style, it hems us in… it’s hard to deal with.
And so with Peter, we argue. Scripture says that Peter rebuked Jesus. Pretty strong word.
Jesus’ words are stronger. “GEt Thee behind me , Satan.” Yeah. Satan. How’d you like to have Jesus peg you with that one?
You see, when we argue or discount what Christ has already said to us, we aren’t listening. We’re adjusting. WE aren’t being transformed, we are conforming where we can. We aren’t being obedient, in fact we are being disobedient and we need to own up to it. We need to admit that our will is out of line with his and recognize that we’re trying to do it ourselves.
Why is it so hard to listen to Jesus? To truly be obedient to Jesus? It’s because he asks hard things of us… we think.
Hebrews 5:8 ESV
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
How often do you learn that you should’ve listened to Christ because of what you’ve suffered? Seriously. How many times has your disobedience brought you suffering in relationships, in all areas of your life?
When we disobey, when we don’t listen, usually we suffer. We choose disobedience and we suffer.
It’s the exact opposite of that with Jesus. Jesus chose obedience and he suffered.
Think about in the garden, “not my will, but thy will be done. Take this cup from me.”
Philippians 2 says, “he became obedient unto death, even death upon a cross.”
Why did Jesus choose to obey and suffer? Love. He loved us that much. Why do we choose not to obey and suffer? because we love ourselves, that much.
Peter, James and John needed the transfiguration. They needed it to get them through to the book of Acts, beyond the resurrection. You and I look back through the resurrection… they didn’t have that, even though Christ told them… they couldn’t fathom it. So the glory contained in this moment would be a foreshadowing of what was to come, of what the crucifixion and resurrection would be. The glory of Christ revealed.

The glory of God becomes a fog without the resurrection.

The climax of the story is what makes the rest of the story make sense. The resurrection.

When you can’t see through the fog, listen closely. God’s already revealed Himself, just listen. (obey).

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