Mark 9:2-9__Massage by Pastor Jim

Perhaps some of you are wondering if I’m going to preach about love today since it is Valentines Day.

While that is true, in the historical Christian calendar today is Transfiguration Sunday.

It is the day when churches around the world once again look at the event that took place on a mountain top with only three disciples present; Peter, James and John.

The transfiguration was a sign from God that revealed who Jesus was.

This year, as I have once again returned to this passage I am reminded of the significance of words.

Words are important.

They can carry great weight and bring forth all kinds of consequences.

Just this past week we saw the chairman of the Japan Olympic Committee brought down by his own careless words.

In America people are following the impeachment proceedings in which the former president is being accused of using words that resulted in violence.

Words are important.

For my wife and me, perhaps the most important words we ever spoke in our relationship were the simple words; “I do”, at our wedding ceremony.

Those words were a promise; a promise that we have kept for close to 38 years and one that we hope to keep for many more years.

And then there are the words which we have spoken carelessly or thoughtlessly.

Words that we wish we could take back, but can’t.

In today’s passage we see a classic example of insignificant or meaningless words.

The disciples were witness to this incredible scene on the mountain top and had absolutely no idea what to make of it.

Peter always seemed to be the first to speak, and this day was no exception.
READ v.5

And unfortunately, the words he spoke were pretty much meaningless.

He didn’t know what to say so he just blurted them out…

Scripture makes it clear that his words were not the right words for that moment in a couple of ways.

First of all, we know that because Jesus completely ignores his words.

There is no response; no reply; nothing.

He just got ignored.

Secondly, the writer adds a word of commentary telling us what was going on.
READ v.6

He simply didn’t know what to say so he just blurted out something.

In hindsight I think we can say that Peter’s biggest problem here was his failure to recognize that this was not a time for speaking, but rather a time to be quiet, look and listen.

Other words that were spoken during this event were the words of Elijah and Moses.

It says they were speaking with Jesus.
READ v.4

Unfortunately, we don’t have any record of that conversation.

But I think it is safe to assume that neither of them were speaking inconsequential words like Peter did.

I doubt very much that this conversation was some sort of idle chit-chat.

No, I’m pretty sure that whatever they said, it was important.

Perhaps they were praising God.

Perhaps they were realizing that Jesus was the one for whom they and all of Israel had waited.

Perhaps they were asking Jesus to tell them more about God’s plan.

We don’t know, but I’m pretty sure their words were important and deeply meaningful words.

And then we come to the most important words of the entire event.
READ v.7

This is God speaking.

Do these words sound familiar to you?

Perhaps so, because we’ve read very similar words back in the first chapter of Mark, when Jesus was baptized.
READ 1:11

While these two instances of God speaking about Jesus are similar, there are some very significant differences.

First, at Jesus’ baptism the words were directed to Jesus himself.

This is evident from the grammar. “You are my son”.

In today’s passage the words are directed to others. “This is my son”.

And we know that these words were meant for the disciples because they were the only ones there.

It says in v.8 that by the time they heard this voice Elijah and Moses were gone.

So these words were clearly meant for the disciples.

Secondly, God’s words at the transfiguration include a command to the disciples.

“Listen to him”!

Fortunately, this event and the words spoken by God have been recorded in scripture so we can hear them.

And since we too are disciples of Jesus, we need to receive these words as being spoken to us as well.

God is telling us to listen to Jesus because he is God’s son and he is loved by God.

A command from God to us; “Listen to Jesus!”

READ v.9
Jesus tells the disciples to remain silent about the transfiguration until after his resurrection.

There are actually numerous passages in the gospels where Jesus does something and then tells people to remain silent about it.

In chapter 8 Jesus asks the disciples who people are saying he is and then he puts the question to them.

Who do you say I am.

Once again, Peter is the first to speak saying, “You are the Messiah”.

That was a good answer and yet Jesus told the disciples to remain silent about that as well. (8:30)

It seems strange doesn’t it.

Because these were significant events!

Identifying Jesus as the messiah and then seeing that identity confirmed by God in the presence of Moses and Elijah are key events that help us figure out who Jesus is and what he means.

Nevertheless, Jesus tells the disciples to remain silent until after he is raised from the dead.

If you think about it, if there had been no resurrection, we probably wouldn’t even have the records of these events in the first place.

But perhaps more to the point, understanding and believing those aspects of Jesus takes time.

It isn’t easy to just accept that Jesus was the messiah; the son of God.

What does this mean for us?

When we try to introduce people to Jesus we tend to start with the theological stuff.

Son of God, sin, forgiveness, cross, reconciliation, atonement etc.

But Jesus himself was clearly more interested in focusing on the immediate stuff.

Healing sick people, feeding hungry people, drawing near to those who were disenfranchised and restoring their place in the community…

These were the things to which he dedicated most of his time.

And little by little as the disciples witnessed those signs, he sought to open their eyes to the deeper truths.

But for starters, it was enough for people to seek Jesus, to hear Jesus, and to follow Jesus.

In the church we tend to make the threshold pretty high.

Before we are willing to recognize anyone as a follower of Jesus we insist that they have what we consider a correct and fairly deep understanding of who he is.

So we have baptism preparation classes, baptism vows, membership vows, etc.

But not Jesus!

In fact he tells the disciples, whose understanding of his identity was still limited at best, to remain quiet!

Don’t tell anyone about me.

Don’t try to describe what you saw at the transfiguration or what you heard.

No, the time will come but for now just follow me!

Perhaps we need to take this to heart in the church.

Jesus told them to remain silent until he was raised from the dead.

In other words, don’t expect people to understand or believe the theological details until they have seen the resurrected Christ.

Asking people to believe that Jesus is the son of God or that he was born of a virgin, or that he was without sin, or that he is part of the trinity can be a really hard sell.

But that’s OK.

Jesus didn’t expect people to be able to get over the hurdles of disbelief right away.

I have come to believe that when people have an encounter with the living Christ, everything changes.

In other words, when they have an experience where it is clear that Jesus is living and working in their lives, then the disbelief tends to fade away rather quickly.

After all, the resurrection is the hardest thing to believe.

So if you or I have an encounter with the living Christ, something that shows us that Jesus really is alive, then everything else tends to fall into place.

In the meantime, Jesus seems to have been telling the disciples to just remain silent and follow him.

And so they go down the mountain together.

They have heard the command from God to listen to Jesus.

But this isn’t the end; no in fact it is just the beginning.

Why do you think they were going down the mountain?

To listen to Jesus? Yes, but that’s not all.

The disciples were going down the mountain with Jesus to go to work.

To work alongside Jesus in building the kingdom.

And that is the task to which we also are called.

Perhaps there are parts of Christian theology that you find hard to understand.

Perhaps you are worried that those for whom you are praying don’t have a clear understanding of who Jesus is.

But that’s OK.

For now, what’s important is that we listen to Jesus, that we follow Jesus, and that we carry on the work that Jesus began.