Text: Mark 9:2-13
Title: An Extraordinary Experience
Theme: An extraordinary experience leads to an ordinary act of obedience
8/15 marked the 60 th anniversary of Japanese surrender in WW2. The surviving crew members of Enola Gay, the B29 bomber that dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima, lived to tell what happened on 8/6, 60 years ago. The surviving Hiroshima residents lived to tell the longest day in their memory.
Do you remember where you were on 1/28/86 when you first heard the news that space shuttle Challenger exploded upon lift off? Or where were you on 2/1/03, 9am when space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over the sky of Texas ? Or 7:45am CT on 9/11/01?
These are some of the defining moments in a nation's history. In our personal lives there are defining moments that we remember and treasure. Some of us remember the day when us first came to the States. The date and setting when we became Christians, or that special encounter with the Holy Spirit.
The passage we read this morning is about a defining moment in the lives of Jesus' three disciples: Peter, James and John. It is about how Jesus changed his appearance before them and they lived to tell about this many years later.
We want to take a closer look at what happened and then what it means to us today. We'll do this by following the 3 W's of basic Bible study: Where, When and What.
I. Some basic observations of the event.
Where did it happen? The event took place on a mountain. The scripture does not tell us which mountain, but most probably it is Mt. Hermon .
When did it happen? In Luke 9:32, we learn that the disciples “…were heavy with sleep.” And there in 9:37, “On the next day….” It appears that this event might have occurred in the middle of the night.
What happened? Jesus took Peter, John and James up the mountain to pray. While he was praying, he was changed in his appearance and “his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could beach them.” Vs.3. Imagine, it is in the middle of the night. On that dark mountain, Jesus revealed his glory in an unmistakable way. This is the glory he temporarily concealed when he became man and lived among men. This is the glory the world will see when he returns to earth again. This is the glory that will be revealed in its fullest in eternity.
Later, John wrote in John 1:14, “ 14 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 ” Peter recalled this event in 2 Pet 1:16-18, “ 16 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. ” On that mountain, the 3 disciples had a defining moment, an extraordinary encounter with Jesus Christ.
It is this glory that we sang of: Majesty, Holy, Holy, Holy. …
Not only was Jesus changed, but Moses and Elijah also appeared and spoke with him. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the prophets. It is important to know that Jesus is greater than both of them. He is the one that will complete the law, and the greatest of all prophets.
What was the content of their conversation? Mark hinted in vs.9,10; but Luke told us it was about his departure, Luke 9:31 “ Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem . ”. It is about how Jesus would depart from this world. You see, both Moses and Elijah departed from this world in a very special way. Moses went up the mountain and died there; but his burial site was never found. Elijah was taken up into heaven in chariots. How about Jesus' departure? He would die, resurrect from death and then ascend into heaven. But it is more than just departure. The Greek word translated departure is ‘exodus'. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt , the land of slavery; so would Jesus lead his people out of sins bondage and God's wrath, and enter into His kingdom. Therefore this departure is about Jesus'' redeeming his people. When he died, he took away our sins and the wrath of God on us. His resurrection confirms that he has the power to forgive sins and give us a new life. His ascension is a promise and affirmation that he will come again into this world.
This departure, exodus is what we sang about: Lord I lift you on high.
When Peter and the other two disciples were awakened by this brightness in the middle of night, they were terrified. As usual, Peter was the first one to open his mouth and said, Mark 9:5, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one Elijah.” Then, Mark commented that Peter didn't know what he was talking about because he was terrified.
After Peter's statement, 9:7-8, “ 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. ” And then the next day, as they went down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what they saw and heard until after his resurrection. The disciples couldn't really understand this.
So, this is what happened on the mountain. What does it mean to us 2k years later?
1. Jesus is the glorious son of God.
Up to now, Mark in his writing has been trying to tell us that Jesus, through healing of the sick, feeding the 5K, overcoming the natural forces, clearly demonstrated he was the son of God, the promised Messiah. Now in an unmistakable way, by revealing his glory, it was further confirmation of Jesus' deity. He is not just a miracle worker. There were other miracle workers in Jesus'' days. But this Jesus, is the son of God, he is God in all its glory. He is God.
When we see Jesus in his full glory, it will certainly affect our relationship with him. How so? When we see his power in healing and feeding, it is natural for us to ask him to do the same in our lives. Yes, he will and can do miracles in our lives. Isn't it true the fact that we are here worshipping God, is itself a miracle? It is something that we would not have imagined several years or just a few months ago. However if this is all we seek, then we're treating him as our almighty servant. A quick glance of many of our prayer requests suggest that we want him to be that mighty servant, giving us what we want. But when we see his glory, our response is to bow down and worship him. When I see his glory, I'll recognize that I am his servant and I am here to serve him.
2. Jesus'' glory is closely associated with his suffering.
When you are honored at a birthday or graduation party, people say nice things about you. They talk about the great things you have accomplished. If they can't think of any, they'll say, William is a great guy, right? But what did Moses and Elijah talk to Jesus about? It was about his death, resurrection and ascension. Resurrection and ascension are ok, but suffering and death? Isn't this the wrong time and place to discuss such unbecoming subjects? Lets talk about something positive and joyous. You see, we want glory without suffering. We want the mountain top experience without the dark valley. But here it clearly shows us a biblical principle: suffering and glory cannot be separated. Before glory, there is suffering. I want to quote a portion of this Puritan's prayer:
“Let me learn by paradox that the way up down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to posses all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision….”
Some of you may be going through some dark valley experience. You have lost a job, in a difficult job situation, or your life is in a mess. But remember the biblical perspective: without suffering, there is no glory. Without pain, there is no crown. At the very beginning of Mark, we studied about Jesus' path. His path, his way is one that leads to the cross. It is a path of suffering, rejection, pain and death on the cross. Yet at the end of this path is his exaltation and glory.
3. The extraordinary experience calls for a simple obedience to Jesus Christ.
When Peter saw what happened before his own eyes, what did he say? Let's build 3 tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. What was Peter trying to do? He wanted to capture that particular moment, that extraordinary experience and immortalize it. So that later he could point to people saying, “Look, this is where Jesus revealed his glory.” If the tents were built, at least for several or hundreds of years, people can point to it and say, this is THE PLACE. Someone may even come up with a touring business.
Don't we do this also? We regularly commemorate and celebrate our wedding anniversary or the birthday of loved ones. We still have Sean's first pair of tennis shoes. We also bronzed the other children's first pair of shoes. Some of us remember the date, time and place of our conversion or that very special encounter with the Holy Spirit. We can certainly identify with what Peter was saying.
However, what followed this? Mark 9:.7,8 “ 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.” Did God say, this is my beloved son; so remember this event? No, listen to him. And then they saw Jesus only. Listen to him. What an anti-climax to this experience. They have just seen the glory of Jesus. And the closing word from God was: listen to him. Listen to what he has to say to you.
Years later, Peter wrote, 2Peter 1:16-19, “ 16 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. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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,..” Peter was saying, that we had that mountain top experience, we saw with our own eyes Jesus' glory and majesty. It was an extraordinary experience, once in a life time experience. But there is something more sure, more certain, that is the prophetic words. After this incident on the mountain, we'll notice that Mark in following chapters began to record more of Jesus'' teachings.
What does it mean to us? Yes, experience is important, we must never underestimate it. But the scripture is telling us the Word is equally important if not more so. In our Christian walk, we are to seek Jesus and listen to him alone. There are many voices around us. There is the voice promising us of emotional and spiritual high if we'd only follow certain procedures. Our life will be victorious if we exercise positive thinking. These voices bring confusion and bondage into our lives. Amid all these voices, listen to Jesus. He has spoken to us in words we can understand. He is the Word. His apostles' words are his words, and they are recorded in the scriptures. His words are authoritative and without error. His words are to be the standard both for our faith and our conduct. His words bring true freedom to our lives.
If we are to listen to him, it means that we are to read his word regularly. Not just once or twice a week, but on a daily basis. One individual shared recently that she had been disciplining herself that without first reading the Bible, there will be no TV. Another Chinese minister once said, NO Bible, No breakfast. Besides reading his word individually, we also need to study his word with other believers. On an average Sunday, we have about 400 or more individuals coming to our worship service. Yet our Sunday school attendance is only about 100. I want to encourage you to make an effort to attend the new semester's Sunday school classes. This means that you may have to change your life style by going to bed early on Saturday night so you can come early to attend the Sunday school class. I understand that this semester, in both the mandarin and Cantonese sections, there will be subjects that we are offering for the first time. So be a part of this community where we listen to Jesus, to Jesus' words alone.
If you were to ask me about God's work in my life, I would immediately think of how God called me into full time ministry. It was a pivotal, defining moment in life. I was asked to share about it for sometime after those events. Then I got tired of talking about it. I felt like I was trying to freeze those moments and constantly live in the past. Can you imagine a person talk about his past over and over again? How about God's work now?
Peter, James and John had an extraordinary experience on that mountain. It was once a life time experience. Peter wanted to immortalize that event. But instead, God told them to listen to Jesus, his beloved son, in whom he is well pleased. Listen to his Words. Listen to the Words he spoke through the prophets and the apostles. Listen to him alone.
Spiritual experiences, those special pivotal moments with God, are very important. But there is more to this. We must listen to the words spoken by the one who gave us such experiences. You know why? When we read his words, when we listen to him, his spirit will also work in us, changing us from one degree of his likeness to another degree. When we listen to him, his spirit will work in us and continue to bring about the miracle of changing us. So instead of being fixated on one miracle, or those defining moments in the past, we are being brought into his presence and experience his power daily.
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