Read Mark 9:2–13.
As a 17-year old I spent 5 weeks in the King Range Mountains of northern California. Our job was to repair some of the trails on a ridge that looked out over the Pacific Ocean. Every morning we’d hike a couple miles to the top of the ridge. You’d start at the campsite where the water source was. Then switchback after switchback you’d make your way up.
As you got above the valley you’d finally be above the morning fog. Every morning the rising sun would shine down upon the cool water of the Pacific and produce this layer of fog that would wind through the valleys.
But we’d be above that fog, so we’d see the risen sun shine down on top of this layer of clouds. As the sun reflected on the clouds, it was blinding. The appearance was like a lake of fire with these islands of trees coming out of it.
Even as an unsaved 17-year old I knew this was glorious. This was stunning.
Being on top of that mountain and seeing that blinding glory affected me. It gave me a sense of something. A year-and-a-half later when I became a Christian, I finally understood what was really drawing me. It was the One who created that whole morning glory.
This morning we’ll focus on another group of teenagers on top of a mountain and seeing a blinding glory. And it will affect them. Permanently.
I say teenagers. Really it’s James and John who are likely teenagers here. Peter might be older.
“Introducing…Jesus.” Quick recap with a few passages:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)
10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10–11)
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15)
29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 31 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. (Mark 8:29–31)
So easy to get it wrong with Jesus. He combines things never combined before and never combined after. He is unique.
You never get to the point where you say, “Okay, I’ve got it!”
The Gospel of Mark.
This morning the cross will come into focus a little more.
This passage: He is God’s Son, God’s Revelation, and God’s Servant.
I hope the effect is that you are compelled to know him more and more.
Let’s revisit the scene. Six days after Peter’s confession near Caesarea Philippi (8:27–29). Six days after Jesus told them clearly for the first time that a cross was in his future.
It’s not the whole band of disciples, not even the Twelve. It’s the Three—“Peter and James and John.” Several times throughout the gospel Jesus pulls these three aside for special gatherings—healing of Jairus’ daughter, discussing the end times, Gethsemane, here.
Jesus takes them “up a high mountain” somewhere in that region. Given what has just happened in Caesarea Philippi with Peter’s confession, it seems like Mt. Hermon makes the most sense. Mt. Hermon is only a few miles outside the village.
And then Mark says Jesus was “transfigured.” The Greek is metamorphoō. He metamorphosed (metamorphōzed) right in front of them. The modern definition of the verb preserves what the Greek originally meant: “change or cause to change completely in form or nature” (Oxford English Dictionary).
His glory was revealed. Until that moment he had always appeared to his disciples as a typical man. Externally no different from you or me. But then God let his true glory become visible.
It’s the ultimate graphic novel moment. There you are at work next to the same guy you’ve been with for years. And then suddenly you look at him and you realize he’s got some incredible super powers. Except with Jesus…it’s real.
The gospel writers are sparing but try to capture the shock and awe:
The glory and purity of Jesus are before them in a stunning display. The visible glory is meant to capture something of the essential glory of Christ.
Not that a bright light is shining on him. He IS THE LIGHT.
And then he’s not alone. Two OT figures, Elijah and Moses, are with him, talking to him (Mark 9:4).
To us these might seem like unexpected visitors to such a scene. What is God communicating here?
We can start with WHERE they are. On a mountain, visited with glory, with the voice of God speaking from “a cloud overshadowing them” (Mark 9:7).
Mark’s Jewish readers would have instantly connected this to Moses on Mt. Sinai. When the Law was given.
Exodus 24 and 34:
Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar….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. (Exod 24:1, 16)
Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exod 34:30)
And Elijah? Elijah the prophet is known for two dramatic scenes that take place on top of mountains. On Mount Carmel he calls for all the 450 prophets of Baal, false prophets alive in his day. Elijah lays out a challenge. You build an altar, and I’ll build an altar. You call on your god, and I’ll call on mine. “The God who answers by fire, he is God” (1 Kgs 18:24).
The prophets call for fire and nothing happens. Elijah even mocks them and says, “Maybe your god is using the bathroom and is busy right now. Maybe he’s asleep” (1 Kgs 18:27).
But then Elijah calls out “LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,” and the LORD sends fire from heaven that instantly consumes both altars (1 Kgs 18:36–38). It says, “When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God” (1 Kgs 18:39). And then will all 450 prophets (1 Kgs 18:40).
But this was not a good time for true prophets in Israel. His reward for not backing down and being faithful to the true God was a death wish by the wicked Queen Jezebel (1 Kgs 19:1–3). He ran for his life and eventually found himself on top of another mountain, Mt. Sinai.
On Mt. Sinai Elijah has another encounter with the living God. God sends several dramatic signs—an earthquake, a fire, a strong wind. But the LORD is not in any of these signs. Then the Lord appears to him in “the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kgs 19:12).
And then there’s the last paragraph in our Old Testament. The final prophecy in the Major and Minor Prophets.
This is the last thing said before we turn the page and get to the Gospel of Matthew.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Mal 4:4–6)
In this last prophecy in our OT Moses the servant is identified with Mt. Sinai (Horeb) and with “the law.” And then there’s Elijah prophesied to come “before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”
Moses and “the law,” Elijah called “the prophet.” With Moses and Elijah you really have “the Law” and “the Prophets.” “The Law and the Prophets” is one of the ways the Bible speaks of the entire OT (Matt 5:17; 22:40; Rom 3:21).
There is much to say about this revelation of Christ. But one practical application is a simple one. Charles Spurgeon brought it out in a sermon on this event. He noticed that this revelation of Christ came to these three men as they were alone with Jesus and separated from others.
He made the point that if you want to know and see Jesus, you’ll be helped by times of solitude. He said those like him who live in London have to work to find that solitude. Those in the country have it in the normal flow of life.
That hasn’t changed. If you want to have fresh experience of the living Christ, you’ll be helped if you pull away from others and focus on him.
Get up early, stay up late, pull away at lunch, it doesn’t matter how you do it. Grab a Bible and spend time in prayer alone with Christ.
Point Two, The Beloved Son. So far the scene has been stunning. Now our heavenly Father will make an appearance. Mark 9:7.
God the Father speaks. He speaks from “the cloud” which had “overshadowed them.” He says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7).
In that Malachi 4 passage Moses is called “my servant” and Elijah is called “the prophet.” They served God faithfully in their day. But Jesus is something greater. He is God’s “beloved Son.” Not just a servant. Not just a prophet. But God’s “beloved Son.”
Moses and Elijah were great men but were just men. They had earthly parents and were sons of those parents in the typical way.
But Jesus is God’s “beloved Son.” Eternally the Son of God. There was no moment when he went from being something lesser to being the Son of God. He was eternally the Son of God. He has always been in relationship to God the Father as a Son to a Father. And the Father has always been in relationship to him as a Father to a Son.
His superiority over Moses and Elijah is infinite. The gap between them is too vast to measure, too enormous to quantify. He’s not a little bit greater or a little bit holier. He is perfect where they are imperfect. They possess righteousness only because they possess the very righteousness of Christ. They are accepted by God only because they are united with Christ. They are flashlights; he is the sun. They are sponges of water; he is the ocean.
Without Jesus and his unbreakable perfection even someone like a Moses or an Elijah would burn forever in the fires of hell.
There is no comparison between Jesus and these two towering figures of the OT. That’s why it’s so appropriate that the grand conclusion to this whole scene is the command, “Listen to him!”
Moses and Elijah on their best day could only speak revelation that was given to them from above. In themselves they had nothing to offer. But Jesus is the “beloved Son.” When he speaks, “Listen to him!” Because when he speaks, he speaks as God.
Jesus told Thomas, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). Not just a teacher of truth. Or a prophet who faithfully communicates truth. But Jesus said, “I AM the truth.” I am what you need to know. Knowing Jesus is knowing absolute truth. Knowing Jesus is knowing true truth.
Did this make an impression on Peter, James, and John? Yes!
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. 17 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,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Pet 1:16–18)
Peter writes this not long before he dies. Three decades after he had experienced the Transfiguration. The passage lets us know it was burned into his memory never to be erased.
And John? About 50 years after the Transfiguration happened he wrote this:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
“We have seen his glory.” That image never left the apostle John.
That reminds us there are some encounters with Christ that never leave us. They’re always a part of us. They change us.
What is the takeaway for us?
God the Father makes it clear. “Listen to him!”
His words are like no other words, because he is like no other person. “Listen to him!”
But the glory of the Bible is that Jesus doesn’t just speak when we read the stories that quote his words. He speaks through all of it.
That’s one of the things meant by the apostle John in the opening of his gospel when he calls Jesus “the Word” (John 1:1–4).
Read Mark 9:9–13.
When the scene returns to normal, Jesus isn’t finished. There is more to say. Jesus’ teaching has a familiar feel to it.
At the end of chapter 8 there’s the great confession of Peter, “You are the Christ!” But then immediately Jesus speaks of his crucifixion (Mark 8:28–31).
Now they’ve seen his glory! Their eyes were blinded by the revelation they’ve just seen. They’ve been told by God the Father that above Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the Prophet is God’s “Beloved Son! Listen to him!”
And once again Jesus will introduce his suffering. On the trip down the mountain he brings in the rest of the story.
Jesus keeps explaining what’s going to happen, because Jesus doesn’t fit our categories.
But also as “suffering many things and being treated with contempt” (Mark 9:12).
Jesus here is bringing out another OT figure the disciples needed to grapple with.
The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted…..3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isa 52:13; 53:3–5)
This is someone “suffering many things and…treated with contempt.” And yet, as the prophecy unfolds, we realize it was “for our transgressions…for our iniquities…brought us peace…we are healed.”
“We esteemed him not” (53:3) but the result was our “peace.”
This passage teaches us something really important. Jesus’ suffering at the hands of wicked people was because he was taking OUR PUNISHMENT.
Why will he suffer? Why will he die? Because of “our transgressions,” “our iniquities.”
He’ll receive “the chastisement,” but we’ll get the “peace.” He’ll receive the “wounds,” but we’ll be “healed.”
But Isaiah’s Suffering Servant would “rise from the dead” (Mark 9:10). He would “rise from the dead” and then experience the accolades fit for God’s “Beloved Son.”
Isaiah 53 promises that the Suffering Servant would be rewarded properly for his substitutionary sacrifice (Isa 53:12).
Peter, James, and John didn’t have it all put together at this point. But soon they will. Soon all three of them would spend their lives preaching this Christ. This Christ who is the Glorious One, the Beloved Son, the Suffering Servant.
Jesus the Glorious One, the Beloved Son, the Suffering Servant.
Some things as we close.
First, now is the time to talk about this Christ, this Jesus. He told the disciples, “Tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9). Then he would say to preach the gospel to all nations (Matt 28:19–20). This is the time for “telling others what you’ve seen.” “The Son of Man has risen from the dead,” Tell it!
Over the last 9 ½ months we’ve encouraged people to tell us when they have “Gospel Conversations.” Our goal was 200 by the end of August. We’re at about 50 right now, but I know not everyone has filled out the form. You can do it on the Church Center app.
In those conversations are people talking to neighbors, co-workers, roommates, classmates, parents, even strangers in a grocery store. Well done!
Tuesday Talks. Just Asking. 6 basic questions, “Who is Jesus?”, “Who is God?”, “What is the Bible?”, “What is the Gospel?” These will be 25-minute messages with time for discussion afterwards. Idea of these is a next step.
Second, this passage is an invitation to pull away and get to know Jesus. At the heart of the good news we offer to the world is the opportunity to have a relationship with the Glorious One, the Beloved Son, the Suffering Servant.
Becoming a Christian isn’t an invitation to join a political party. Or dress a certain way. Or eat certain foods. Or adopt 12 rules for life—and then 12 more rules for life. At the heart of it is knowing Christ Jesus the Lord.
When you come to know him it will absolutely affect your politics, your dress, your eating, your morality. But those things are all secondary. At the heart of it is knowing Christ Jesus the Lord.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Phil 3:7–8)
Third, of all the voices in your life, make sure Jesus is the loudest and clearest. Listen to the word of God the Father, “This is my Beloved Son; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).
We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.
10am on Sundays
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