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A Heavenly Trailer

Date: Oct. 20, 2019

Author: Bob Henkins

Mark 9:2-13

Key Verse: Mark 

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Who here likes sneak peeks? Did you know that the final trailer of much anticipated conclusion of the Star Wars saga (started 42 years ago) “The Rise of Skywalker” drops tomorrow? Who doesn’t like seeing an early trailer? These days people are so thirsty for entertainment content people dissect every detail of trailers to try and figure out plotlines and character arcs. What might be even better would be to get an exclusive preview of the “The Rise of Skywalker” only available to you and your closest friends. That’s kind of what Peter, James and John get in this passage. As the disciples go up a mountain with Jesus, they get a chance to see him in a completely different light than they are used to.

Last week’s passage was a turning point in Mark’s account of the gospel. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah (v29), but he doesn’t really understand what he’s just said. Even so, Jesus commands them not to tell anyone because they’ve still only have half of the message. And then in verse 31, Jesus begins “…to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by people.” He told them that after three days he would rise again. Well, his disciples didn’t want to hear about that, especially Peter. So he spoke up objecting to Jesus’ suffering and dying. These were difficult things for the disciples to understand. They may have felt confused and depressed by all that Jesus was trying to tell them. They couldn’t grasp it because they were thinking in human terms and he was trying to get them to understand were spiritual things. Then in view of eternity, Jesus said “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”” That may have blown them away. Not only was Jesus talking about his death, some of them might not die before they see God’s kingdom come? Their heads must have been swimming with all these things swirling around inside. What they didn’t realize at the moment, but they would later, was that Jesus’ whole ministry was like a trailer or preview of the kingdom of God with many cut scenes of heaven and the transfiguration was going to be the stinger, the big reveal. Where they get to see God’s power and glory flash in an instant, like a flash of lightning.

Our passage starts today in verses 2-3. “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. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” This event takes place six days after Peter called Jesus the Messiah. Out of the twelve disciples and crowds that followed Jesus, only Peter, James, and John were chosen to be witnesses of the events that follow. We’re not exactly sure of why they were chosen, maybe it was because in light of the previous passage, Jesus wanted to help Peter, James and John understand what it meant to be the Messiah, so Jesus takes them up the mountain. This was to prepare them for his upcoming death. They would need to remember his glory in order to carry on. Or maybe it was because they had been more receptive to spiritual truth than the others. These three had been with Jesus in the earlier miracle of raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead. (Mk 5:37) As a result these three are sometimes referred to as Jesus’ inner circle of the disciples.

It’s interesting that Mark simply says that Jesus was transfigured before them (v3). Kind of under stated. But it was anything but understated. Jesus’ appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them. White was an unusual color in ancient Palestine because it got dirty so easily to be of practical use. Thus, its mention here signifies something unusual. White is considered the color of purity. Matthew’s gospel says that the light didn’t just shine UPON Jesus, like a sun ray, but it came from WITHIN him. Jesus’ face shined like the sun, so that it HE WAS GLORIFIED – not just His CLOTHES. Jesus indicated this when he said, “I AM the light of the world (Jn 8:12).

The word translated “transfigured” is also found in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 referring to moral transformations, however in Mark and Matthew parallel account, it refers to a physical transformation. Its root is the source of the English word “metamorphosis,” which is used to describe such things as the change of organic matter into rock, or a tadpole into a frog, or a caterpillar into a butterfly. It is to show a radical change, a complete transformation. Jesus’ appearance was temporarily changed from that of an ordinary human being into his divine form with all of his glory.

And then all of a sudden Elijah and Moses appear. Verse 4 says, “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” Moses lived roughly 2000 years before Jesus and Elijah about 700 years before him. The appearance of Moses and Elijah represent the coming together of the Law and the Prophets. For each of these sections of the Old Testament Scriptures had prophesied about the coming of the Messiah and now, here at the moment was their fulfillment. Their appearance to Jesus suggests that the law and the prophets bear witness to him and that he is the fulfillment of the ancient Scriptures.

It’s interesting that both Moses and Elijah are associated with mountains, Moses with Mt. Sinai (Ex 19) and Elijah with Mt. Horeb (1 Kgs 19). And both men underwent transformations. When Moses went up the mountain he was in the presence of God getting the Ten Commandments, when he came down, his face glowed because he was reflecting God’s glory (Ex 34:29–35). This  kind of freaked people out so he had to wear a vale. Moses was like the moon reflecting the sun’s light, whereas Jesus is like the sun generating that light. (Rev 21:23,22:5) And Elijah he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kgs 2:11). And that chariot of fire reveals the power of God. So, through Moses and Elijah we see the glory and power of God. (Elijah and Moses were in deep conversation with Jesus about his upcoming suffering and death.)

Peter was so afraid he didn’t not know what to say. Take a look at his response in verses 5-6.  “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.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)” Peter was so stunned he blurted out without thinking. His lack of understanding is seen further in his desire to erect three “shelters”. This seems so odd, but the transfiguration may have taken place in the early fall around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles may have been a reason why Peter wanted to build the shelters. (Lev 23:39–43; Hos 12:9; Zech 14:16–19) The association of this event with the feast would signify the coming of the messianic age, so this made Peter think the end had come. (looks back to v9:1) The kingdom did in fact draw near with the appearance of Jesus, but at that time it was not fully established yet. To have erected shelters as Peter wanted, would have put Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. It would have prolonged or even made permanent the situation. To do so, however, would have detoured Jesus from the cross. Although the transfiguration gave a preview of Jesus’ future glory, but according to God’s plan the cross had to precede glory. Mark wanted to emphasize that suffering was also a necessity in the case of Jesus’ disciples.

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.” Just then a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. This event happened so quickly and then it was gone, and the disciples were like, “did that really just happen?” Verse 7 is like God’s testimony about Jesus. Similar to what God said at Jesus’ baptism.

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.” It quickly becomes apparent that the disciples didn’t understand the significance of the transfiguration. Therefore, verse 9 is the key to understanding Jesus’ command of silence. Until Jesus had died and had been raised, his true identity and significance could not be known. He could not be proclaimed until then. Just as people pondered whether John was the Christ (Lk 3:15), so, according to Mark, Jesus intended that during his lifetime they should ponder whether he was the Christ. The “messianic secret” was not the invention of Mark but the intention of Jesus. “They obeyed his command, but among themselves they started discussing the matter” The disciples were confused after what they just saw, Jesus was so glorious how could he die?

Still the disciples had a question about Elijah. Take a look at verses 11-13. “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.”” The people didn’t understand what it meant to be with God. Many Jews of the time believed that Elijah would precede the Messiah, though perhaps the expectation was for Elijah to appear before the general resurrection. Jesus’ disciples may even have wondered how he could be the Messiah in the absence of any return by Elijah.

In conclusion, a couple of weeks ago, we saw how when Jesus healed a deaf and mute man, he let out a deep sigh, because mankind was not supposed to be put through this turmoil. But because of our sin, we have been walking through the valley of death, fearing evil and enduring pain and suffering and it grieves God’s heart. But in this passage, we get to see a glimpse of what our future is going to be like. A trailer is designed to make you anticipate what is to come. So that you can get a picture of the real thing. I titled this message, “A Heavenly Trailer” because Peter, James and John got a sneak peek at the true identity of Jesus. Like looking through the crack of an open door and seeing glory beyond their wildest imagination. According to the Bible, while Jesus was on earth, he was nothing special to look at. (Isa 53) There was nothing to attract our attention. He wasn’t tall like Shaquille O’Neil or handsome like Brad Pitt, or rich like Bill Gates, but Peter, James and John got a very special privilege to see Jesus’ heavenly glory that went beyond anything they or anyone else on earth had ever seen. The disciples were so OVERWHELMED by what they saw they were terrified.

The disciples were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ divine nature, his power and his authority. Peter remembered this event, “16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but WE WERE EYEWITNESSES of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1) John was the one who survived the longest and told of SEEING JESUS’ GLORY, he said, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen HIS GLORY, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) The disciples wrote down their testimony for us so that we MAY KNOW that Jesus is the Messiah. “30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20) The disciples not only SAW it with their own eyes but EXPERIENCED it. As Christians, we need to have a personal experience with Jesus. We need to be changed from the inside out. Then by knowing Jesus’ true identity we can overcome all of life’s troubles and failures.

At the transfiguration for the first time the disciples get to see Jesus as God’s son in his glory and majesty, in his power. Indeed, God’s kingdom had come in power. John gives a similar description of Jesus “dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” (Rev. 1) This was just a momentary manifestation of his glory and the power of the kingdom to come. The transfiguration is an anticipation and guarantee of the second coming of Christ.

This is all well and good but what does it mean for us? This is also our destiny. We will join with Jesus in the kingdom of God and celebrate at his wedding. (Rev 19) Saint Paul also gave us hope about our future as he talked about what our bodies will be like when we get to heaven. He said, “42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Cor 15) We will not have to worry about getting old, getting sick, our bodies will not break down, heaven will be completely different than earth.

If the transfiguration is like a teaser, then Revelation is like a trailer. A teaser is short compared to a trailer, and a trailer is short compared to the movie. One of these three, John would go on to get a glimpse of what heaven looks like. And he was awestruck describing it this way, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,.…the Holy City, …shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal….the wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.” (Rev 21) By that description, what a beautiful place heaven will be. The city will sparkle and shine in glory. Also, Jesus is the center piece of the kingdom of God, there will be no need for the sun because Jesus is the source of light.

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