Sunday 11th February 2018
Mark Chapter 9 verses 2 – 9
Maggie Cogan - Reader
You may have noticed an underlying theme of mountains and hills running through the gospel reading and our gradual hymn and it certainly reflects my love of hills and mountains. There is a walk that Tom and I love to do and it is called the Westerdale Walk. High up on the North York Moors-- a hard 13 ½ mile walk. But at about the half way point, there is a marvellous view of the valleys stretching out below. It seems to be a point where the heavens join the earth and with no-one about- a place to sit on a rock for a quiet reflection on the beauty of Gods’ creation.
We often sing that God’s bountiful care streams from the hills and descends to the plain; we sing about looking down from lofty mountain grandeur and being lifted in praise to God - and we so often speak of lifting our eyes to the hills and being reminded that our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. When I read the gospel story about what happened on a mountain when Jesus took his closest disciples with him and was transfigured before them, it was a very down to earth description of something heavenly and extraordinary.
Mountains are places where we are privileged to see new and wonderful sights and yet also are more vulnerable to the elements. I am struck by how they are places where people are prompted to awe and wonder about God’s power and love.
In the gospel story, the disciples shared this extraordinary experience with Jesus. It left them terrified and searching for words, but then they came down the mountain, back to ordinary life and realised, as in the words of the hymn, that God’s care descends to the plain as well. Had we read on in the story we would have heard how they immediately got caught up in human need – Jesus was called on to heal a boy whose father was in despair at his suffering. It is a reminder that we cannot stay up mountains for ever having sublime experiences, we have to get on with ordinary life, serving God in whatever way presents itself.
If we added up all the things that go on at St Gregory’s, not only the input at services but all the other things that go on behind the scenes and I’m sure you can name numerous things that involve all of you. Just getting on with what needs to be done.
Consider what Jesus had just shared with His disciples. He had revealed that He would be betrayed and die at the hands of sinful men. Jesus had offered hope through His assurance of his resurrection
We all face difficult seasons in life, times when we are at a loss and unsure of our next move. There are even struggles so intense that the very foundations of our faith can be challenged. In those times of uncertainty and despair, Jesus always provides a word of assurance and hope
Jesus had just spoken of His coming death and the need for them to bear their cross and follow Him. He followed those sobering words with a promise of some of them seeing the kingdom of God come in power before they died. No doubt this brought great comfort and assurance to the bewildered disciples.
Along with Matthew and Luke, Mark records the glorious transfiguration of Jesus before the disciples.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him upon a high mountain. There were twelve disciples following Jesus, but only these three were chosen to make the trip. These men are part of what has been described as the “inner circle.” On several occasions, Jesus allowed only these three disciples to be a part of particular activities. They alone were allowed in when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, and these three would be called to go a little further with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
This does not imply that Jesus loved these more than the other disciples, but it is evident that they enjoyed a closeness with the Lord that the others did not. I am glad my relationship with the Lord is not dependent on the desire or dedication of others.
The disciples were lead unto a high mountain with Him. While the text doesn’t say, most agree Jesus went unto Mount Hermon, located about twelve miles north of Caesarea-Philippi. Mount Hermon has an elevation of over 9,000 feet. Can you imagine the glory of God being revealed on such a prominent peak in Israel? His glory shines brighter than the sun and surely would have been noticed by those with a vantage point of Mount Hermon.
While looking at this passage I was reminded of the significance of mountains in Scripture. Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai. Elijah enjoyed victory on Mount Carmel. Jesus was transfigured on Mount Hermon and crucified on Mount Calvary. He ascended from the Mount of Olives and will return there as He comes again to establish His kingdom. There is something special about mountains in the Bible.
God had plans for these men in the coming months and years. They would be instrumental in the birth of the church and the preaching of the Gospel. These disciples’ faith would soon be tested like never before. There are times when He allows us a glimpse into the deeper spiritual matters to encourage and strengthen our faith. The Lord knows what we need and exactly how to equip us for the task ahead.
The disciples and Jesus were met by Elijah and Moses on the mountain. This was not an illusion; these men stood with them on the mountain, literally talking to Jesus. Luke reveals that Elijah and Moses talked with Jesus regarding His death. They were discussing the cross looming in Jesus’ future and His impending death to redeem humanity from sin.
Much can be gleaned from these two men talking with Jesus. Moses represents the Law of God and Elijah was the first of the mighty prophets. At this moment the New Testament was unwritten. These men picture the entirety of Scripture pointing to and culminating in Christ. We know that Moses died and Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire. The sainted dead will be included in the number around the throne, as well as the believers who are alive when Jesus returns.
Peter said it would be good to make three tabernacles. Seeing those men with Jesus, Peter wanted to stay on top of the mountain. It is encouraging to note that Peter knew who Moses and Elijah were, and that he also recognized a good place when he saw one. Peter spoke before he thought, as he had done many times before. He wanted to build three tabernacles on the mountain – one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. We don’t know exactly what Peter meant, but we will soon learn such an idea was not pleasing to the Lord.
Peter felt as if he had to say something, but he really didn’t know what to say. These men were afraid, being in the glorious presence of the Lord, along with Moses and Elijah, men who had been gone from earth for hundreds of years.
I’m sure we would have been afraid, but there is a lesson we can, and should learn. When we are unsure what to say, it is better to say nothing at all. It has been said, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought foolish, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” We don’t always have to say something. Sometimes it is better to silently contemplate the truths of God rather than always trying to offer an explanation.
Following Peter’s unsolicited response, another unusual event happened. A cloud came over the mountain and the voice of God spoke in their presence. The Father affirmed that Jesus was His Son, and admonished Peter and the others to hear Him gladly. This was not about Moses and Elijah. This was about Jesus being recognized as the Christ. He would soon give His life on the cross for our sin.
Jesus again stood alone with His disciples. They began this journey with Jesus, and they would return from the mountain with Him alone. No doubt this was done to emphasize the fact that Jesus was enough. While it was exciting to see Moses and Elijah, they were not there for the disciples’ benefit. If these men had Jesus, they had all they needed. He alone would bear their sin and provide for their redemption. He alone was worthy of their worship and devotion.
This truth needs to be emphasized today. If we have Jesus, we have all we need. He alone secured our salvation. We are resting in His finished work, not in our merit, our works, or the abilities of another. Jesus wanted these men to see Him for who He was. They would need the reminder of His glory as they faced difficulties in the future. They needed to learn that Christ alone was enough. If they had Him, they had all they needed.
We too need those reminders from time to time as we walk with him. Like Peter we tend to get side-tracked at times, placing emphasis on others when we should be resting in the Christ. He alone is our source of salvation, strength, and hope.
Deborah Ann Belkom – wrote this poem:
God’s given me faith,
that’s mountain moveable
and it’s up to me . . .
to use all available.
He’s given me power,
that is incredible
and it’s up to me . . .
to do the impossible.
He’s given me strength,
that is invisible
and it’s up to me . . .
to believe in miracles.
He’s given me trust,
that is inconceivable
and it’s up to me . .
to do the unbelievable.
God’s given me faith,
that’s mountain moveable
so that I would believe. . .
with Him all is doable!
Are we resting in Christ today? Amen