A few weeks back my family went up to participate in the first big family reunion that I’ve ever been a part of. I saw cousins I hadn’t seen since I was about seven and I met several family members that I had never met before. And got to spend a good amount of time with my immediate family as well. The whole get together was for my great Aunt who I met for the first time, when I picked her up in L.A. to take her up to my parent’s house.
All-in-all it was a good time, and when there was a little family drama, I wasn’t around. But that’s the big stigma that family reunions have, right? When you get a bunch of people together, there’s bound to be some hurt feelings that come up. Some words that are shared that bring up pain and sores that haven’t been healed. But, from what I hear, that is common for some families and I was happy to not have to deal with it in my own family.
But there are a lot of reasons why that type of conflict happens, not just in our family lives, but in our work lives, in our down time, and any time we have contact with other human beings. Abuse, neglect, hurt feelings of having your sibling treated better than you were. But a lot of conflict comes from miscommunication that happens in our lives, because two people viewing a situation, view it in two different ways.
Two people come to a situation where they both see something and interpret it through the lens of their current understanding. Sometimes both people have an equal conclusion that can be made, and sometimes one person is right and one person is wrong. And the quicker we’re able to work through this miscommunication, the quicker we become wiser for future moments when communication falters.
That’s where we find ourselves today in the book of Mark. A moment where communication fails, because the parties involved are looking at a situation from two different points of view. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in the book of Mark, chapter 9, starting in verse 2.
Now, as we jump into Make 9 verse 2, let’s catch ourselves back up to where we are currently. Because I’ve been off for a month and have forgot things, so I know we need a refresher.
All we really need to be reminded of, is what happened in the several verses prior to where we’re at today. In theses previous verses, Jesus proposed a question to his disciples, “Who do you say I am.” We talked about how this question had three ramifications when we answer, as the disciples did, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior: The first was that people have to come to answer this question on their own. We can’t make people answer this question the way we want them to. We share who God is and what he has done for them, and we live it out in our own lives, but we can’t make them answer that question the way we would want them to. The second ramification was that God’s answer to a question might be different than our own. This ramification is one that we need to remember for today, because we’ll see how this is at the heart of what happens next. Finally, the last ramification was that everything we have or own is Jesus’. When we accept Jesus as Savior, every aspect of our lives become his, and we will spend the rest of our lives, giving him what he already owns of us.
Now in the last passage that we covered in chapter 8, where Jesus asked this question of his disciples, and Peter answered it correctly, we also saw something that Peter did that wasn’t right. When Jesus began to teach them about the suffering and death that he would have to go through, Peter rebuked him. That means that Peter told Jesus that Jesus' idea of Savior was wrong. Peter did that because he had it in his head that Jesus was there to overthrow the Roman government and set himself up as king. Which in turn gave us that second and third ramification. And Jesus’ counter rebuke of Peter, because God’s ideas are usually different than ours and everything we have is his. And Jesus was pointing this out to Peter.
So as we move into today’s passage, we will see that a bit of Peter’s idea of Jesus being a Savior that would overthrow the Romans is still in his head, even when he has this fantastic experience.
Let’s dive into chapter 9 of the book of Mark, starting in verse 2.
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 covered 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. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
Within this passage there are several things that we have seen before, the three men Jesus took with him to experience this event is one. We saw Jesus previously take these three men with him when he raised the little girl from the dead. Then there’s the voice from heaven, speaking in a similar way as we saw in Jesus’ baptism, way back at the beginning of Mark. But something has changed in the last two plus years that Peter has been with Jesus and we see how one event has led to another.
We begin this passage about a week after Peter makes his confession about Jesus being the Savior. Peter has had a week to process the ramifications, his rebuke of Jesus and the counter rebuke that Jesus had for him. As Peter is processing all of this, he is asked to go up a mountain with Jesus. Mountains are notorious places to encounter God, in fact the two men that meet with Jesus, Elijah and Moses, both had encounters with God on mountains.
Now, as their on the mountain top, something amazing happens. Jesus is transfigured, meaning a transformation, or a metamorphosis occurred. The idea behind this word is not simply that Jesus’ clothes were changed, but that his very nature had changed, or in reality, it had been revealed. We can look back and see that what Peter and the other disciples were seeing, was in fact who Jesus truly was. God come down to earth. They were seeing Jesus as Jesus truly was.
Then as this transfiguration was occurring, two more people of great note within Jewish history arrive, and in some way, which we’er not told, their names are revealed. Just the fact that these two are speaking directly to God, in and of itself, shows us who God is. And the relationship he has with his people. But then we get an interruption in verse 5, where Peter says this, “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.”
I can just see Peter dictating this story to Mark, and Mark responding with, why would you say that to Jesus? And Peter telling him, I didn’t know what else to say. Hence the reason why we get the little commentary by Mark in verse 6, “(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)”
Now, there are several things that we can see from what Peter says that give us a clue into Peter’s mindset about Jesus. See, even though Jesus had taught Peter that he would have to suffer and die and even though Jesus had to rebuke Peter because of Peter’s focus on Jesus having to build an earthly kingdom. We see that Peter still has yet to grasp who Jesus is really is.
Look at the title Peter addresses Jesus with, Rabbi. Lord would be a more fitting title in the circumstance since Peter is see Jesus in his divine glory. And we know that Lord would take the place of Rabbi, in Peter’s mind, after Jesus’ rose from the grace. Then look at the action Peter wants to take, putting up three shelters. These three shelters are three monuments to the three people that he is seeing. As the Hebrew people had done throughout their history to honor people. But by wanting to make three shelters, Peter was putting Jesus on the same level of Elijah and Moses, even though Jesus has clearly shown he is greater than both.
The mindset that we see from Peter here, is the same mindset he had back when he rebuked Jesus. Even though Peter correctly answered Jesus’ question about who he is, the idea of Savior Peter had, was not the correct one. But instead of Jesus rebuking Peter for a second time, we’re told that a voice came from a cloud speaks.
Now the first time we read of a voice like this speaking, it was way back in chapter 1 at Jesus’ baptism. The voice had spoken directly to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Now we have that same voice speaking, but this time it’s not directed towards Jesus, but the disciples. Here’s what it says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
In that one sentence the disciples get revelation. It is revealed to them that this truly is the Son of God. No more room for doubting that. And then they get both a command and a rebuke wrapped up in one, “Listen to him!”
In response to Peter trying to make Jesus into who he thinks he should be, his line of thinking is rebuked. “Listen to him!” In other words, don’t trust your own ideas about God, listen and apply what God himself says.
I like how after this, “Listen to him!”, rebuke and command, they are left with only themselves and Jesus. As if to say, you only need Jesus and nothing else.
But, does this sink into the disciple’s head? Apparently not, because instead of asking Jesus about the transfiguration of himself and pursuing deeper things about who Jesus is, they ask about Elijah. Now, I don’t want to give them to much gruff for this, but really, they didn’t have a better question?
But notice something in Jesus’ response to the question about Elijah. “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?
Jesus is still trying to refocus on the more pressing matter. The matter of Jesus’ suffering and death. Why? Because they still haven’t accepted that Jesus is that Savior. They still, even after a week of reflection and then after the whole transfigure event, still are not asking the right questions to get to the deeper things of God.
And we have this same tendency as well. We have our own idea of God, or a pressing situation in our life, and we tend to look to God to answer the question we have. The question that is weighing on our mind. And instead of getting to the deeper things of God, we get stuck spinning our wheels in the same trenches, and wondering why we’re not feeling, or hearing from God. And the reason is simple, we’re asking the wrong questions, and focusing in the wrong areas.
Whereas God wants us to ask the questions that get us closer to him. God wants us to pursue him in a way that reveals his transforming work in our lives.
What’s interesting about the term transfiguration here in Mark and the other Gospels that have this event, is the fact that the same word is used in 2 Corinthians 3:18 where Paul writes, “18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
In order for us to experience the continual transforming work of Jesus in our own lives, we must begin to seek the things that God wants us to seek after. To ask the questions that God desires us to us.
What does that look like? Instead of asking, “Why am I going through this suffering?”, we can ask, “God, how can I show people who you are through suffering?” Instead of asking God to give me more money, we can ask, “How can I trust God more as I wait for his provision?”
We tend to seek after God by focusing on our own situation, and looking for answers to the questions we have. But what if, what if instead started looking for the questions that God wants to answer in our lives, the answers that will not only be more beneficial for us in the long run, but will also bring him more glory, so that others may know him?
This week my challenge to you is simple, what question are you asking of God right now that focus’ more on you, than on bringing him glory? Are you asking God for some physical need? What if your asking turns from taking you away from it, to allowing God to use it?
One question, that’s what I am asking of you to seek God for. One question that moves your eyes off of yourself, and onto him.
And when we begin to do this, we will see greater transformation in our lives, and we will stand on the mountain with God having a conversation about the deeper things of him.
Now may God lead you into the questions that draw you closer to him. Amen.