Making the Connection
Text: Mark 9: 1-13
Proposition: The wonder of Jesus is that He reflects perfectly the patterns and purposes of the Father which are higher than our thoughts, higher than our initial understandings.
Introduction: The wonder of Jesus is that He reflects perfectly the patterns and purposes of the Father which are higher than our thoughts, higher than our initial understandings. As a result it is difficult for us to sometimes connect the dots, to make the connection between one event and another. Let’s read the parallel accounts of a well known Bible event and then try to make the connections.To begin let’s read Matthew 17:1-13 and Luke 9:27-36.It was likely a Sabbath, the one that falls just before the Feast of Tabernacles in early fall, when Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus then began to plainly tell them that He was about to experience rejection and death in Jerusalem and to rise again the third day. Moments later Jesus experienced the rebuke of Peter as Satan used Peter to tempt Jesus to avoid the cross and sacrificial death that was purposed for Him by the Father. For the next six days we can only assume that Jesus continued to teach the disciples about the coming days in Jerusalem. So it is about a week later, Luke says it was about 8 days later, that Jesus, still in the region of Caesarea Philippi, takes three of His disciples up one of the steeper slopes of Mount Hermon to join Him in a time of unique prayer. It is only a speculation but they probably took most of the day doing the climb and arrived at the upper reaches sometime in the early evening. We are told the disciples joined Jesus in prayer but were soon heavy with sleep. Perhaps it was just at this moment when they noticed this blinding radiance rising up from within Jesus. As the light continued to build in intensity suddenly there appeared two men and they began to talk with Jesus. It became clear from the conversation that one of these was Elijah and the other was Moses. They spoke to Jesus about what was soon to occur in Jerusalem, they talked with Him about His death and resurrection and ascension, words that the disciples could hear but which made little sense. The wonder of the moments must have been incredible and then Moses and Elijah began to turn away and leave Jesus. Not wanting the moment to end and yet filled with awe, Peter calls to Jesus that perhaps he could make three booths or tabernacles for them. The irony that the Feast of the Tabernacles was soon to occur, a Feast that Moses had lived out and which was now fulfilled in Jesus as the tabernacle of God among men, is evident to us but not the disciples. Before Jesus answers there is suddenly a luminous cloud that envelops them all and a voice, likely the same voice that Moses heard on Mount Sinai, calls out to them, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.” The disciples were likely flat upon their faces as this occurs, it is not lost upon them that this is the voice of Almighty God. As the disciples lift their heads they see that the two men who had been next to Jesus are gone and Jesus Himself is no longer a brilliant light and luminous cloud that had enveloped them is gone. He comes to them, telling them not to be afraid and as they begin their decent in the early mornings light He cautions them to tell no one about what they have just heard and seen until after He had risen from the dead. So how do we connect the dots of these strange events, what is their significance and why does it occur at this moment? Now listen to this same account in Mark 9:1-13.
I. Connecting the Transfiguration to theTemptation. In the previous chapter when Jesus had for the first time openly told the disciples about His death and resurrection it was responded to by Peter taking Jesus aside to tell Him this was foolishness. The effect of Peter’s words were likely much harder for the Messiah to hear than they were for us to read. Did Peter say that they would fall apart if Jesus were to die, did Peter say that it would all have been for nothing if Jesus were to die? We don’t know the exact words but the effect was such that it hit Jesus with a force. It was a temptation to change the Father’s timing of the cross, to not trust that the Father was right in choosing this way, this moment. If that temptation had been entertained the next would have been to forsake the cross altogether. For these very dangerous thoughts Jesus rebukes Satan, rejecting this temptation. The Transfiguration of Jesus was connected to the temptation. It was a time when Jesus was encouraged on by the messengers of Moses and Elijah. It was a time when the radiant glory of God was revealed in Him and when the deep, affirming words of His Father expressed both pleasure in the Son and confirmed the words that Jesus was saying to the disciples. The Transfiguration was not like the feeding of the 5000 or the raising of Lazarus or the restoration of Mary. It was not just another miraculous event. It marked the turning point of the Messiah’s ministry from one of signs and proofs to resolutely setting His face to move towards the cross. Satan’s temptation had been overcome and the Messiah is strengthened for the next steps of the road to Calvary. The Temptation is connected to the Transfiguration.
II. Connecting the Transfiguration to the Forging of Faith in the Disciples. Matthew, Luke and Mark all record the details of the Transfiguration. John makes reference to it in his epistle of 1st John when he
says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled concerning the Word of life-…”. Peter makes it even clearer as he writes in 2 Peter 1:16-18, “…we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” But do you remember the words of Jesus to the three as they came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, “He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen till the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Then in the very next verse it says that the disciples questioned among themselves what the term, ‘rising from the dead’ meant. Why would the Messiah have to die if He was just going to rise again, was rising from the dead a type of parable or a figure of speech, was it the last resurrection He was speaking of? After the resurrection Peter and John would tell of this again and again. James, John’s brother would only have a short time to recount it before he was put to death. It forged the disciples faith, it was a connection to the glory of Christ that was best made once the others had seen the glory of the risen Christ. Some dots are connected sooner than others as God reveals His Son and calls for faith in Him. The Transfiguration emboldened the faith of the early church.
III. Connecting the Transfiguration to the Fulfillment of Prophecy. The appearance of Moses, the one who God used to deliver Israel from the slavery of Egypt, the one who God used to bring the light of the Law to Israel, the one who only saw the Promised land from afar, this Moses once a type of Christ is now beside the Christ. Moses had spoken of a Prophet that God would one day cause to be, a man from the nation of Israel who God would speak through… “and [I] will put My words into His mouth and he shall speak to them all that I command Him.” – Deuteronomy 18:15-19. And what of Elijah, the foremost of all the prophets, the one who sought to call Israel back from its spiritual desert. The same spirit of repentance and preparation that characterized Elijah was what leapt from the last days of the Old Covenant to the first days of the New. It was Elijah that the disciples discussed as they descended the Mount that early morning. They asked Jesus why the scribes said that Elijah must first appear before the Messiah can come. Jesus response to them was that Elijah would come and indeed had come in the way that John the Baptist worked, but more to the point why hadn’t the scribes read about the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. Why be so focused on Elijah whom the people mistreated and abused and yet miss the Word as it told of the Messiah coming and being treated exactly the same way. Psalm 22, Psalm 69, Psalm 118 and especially Isaiah 53 proclaimed it clearly. The Word of Scripture which could be summed up in the Law and the Prophets was ably represented by Moses and Elijah. All that they had pointed to was now being fulfilled in Jesus. Perhaps even more, the Transfiguration speaks to the future time when we who are alive today will see the kingdom of God present with power. The Transfiguration is a reminder of all that Prophecy has ever declared about the coming kingdom of God, about the Savior and about our presence with Him in the bright and blinding light of His glory.