“Listen to Him!”
Scripture: Mark 9: 2-10, February 14th, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Read Statement of Faith
“Hear now these words from the gospel of Mark, chapter nine, verses two thru ten.”
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.
“Having listened to this amazing writing regarding the transfiguration of Jesus, let us not let these dramatic words, blind us to their meaning in our all too real lives today!”
“Listen to Him!”
Transformation is the key to understanding today’s lesson. How we understand this will either open our spirits to the winds of change or close us up in terror as this astonishing event dredges up our fear of change. Let us begin by altering how we look at this event, being reminded how Jesus told the disciples to not speak of what happened until after his death and resurrection! When we look only at the brilliance of the dazzling white robe and the appearance of Elijah with Moses, we may miss the message entirely. It is kind of like hiking up a mountaintop with some friends and seeing a brilliant sunrise or sunset and not realizing that neither is the beginning nor the end, but rather a reminder of the splendor of God’s Creation; and God has just shared it with you and your companions! Our writer was seeking to reveal to us a special ‘mountaintop’ experience with we, the readers and listeners, a moment when together the disciples, Peter and James and John, became aware of Jesus’ place within the eternal kingdom of God! Of course, the realization is shared with us in ‘hindsight’ after they experience the harsh death of Jesus and then his heart stopping, breath taking resurrection and all that goes with it!
What we do with this information depends upon where we are in our personal journeys of faith. If you are new to the stories and accountings of Jesus, you may only see or hear the dramatic description of the event described to us this morning as your heart pounds with what it might mean to you personally. You may or may not be ready to take this opportunity to transform your doubts about the full implication contained within this story of the Jesus account. Yet, surely this writing will cause you to pause as your curiosity regarding the unknowable is peaked! Or perhaps you have read or listened to this mountaintop story so many times… it has lost its brilliance and you are just skeptical as to what worth it ‘might have’ in the face of all the human tragedies and situations which surround us in our all too real world! Wow! I hear you on that one! Yet, perhaps we did miss something as we have stopped truly listening to what is being shared with us. It is so very important to stay open to the mysteries of each piece of scripture we lift-up and examine. Perhaps we need to shift our attention away from the reading and seek to grasp the context of the writing and our hearing it on this day.
Our writer put this story onto parchment, writing down the words of this event which we have just listened to, perhaps thirty to forty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. If the account was written down sooner, we have no record of it and no way to confirm if there even was an earlier writing of the account. What we do know is that the disciples, the Apostles, and the followers of the ‘Way’ the Christian movement, they were being persecuted and needed to be very careful. Being a believer, a follower of Christ was dangerous! Consequently, the disciples shared their accountings of what Jesus said and did through verbally storytelling and somewhat removed from others. Perhaps over a meal or sitting around a campfire or while traveling throughout the region. Therefore, we can only surmise that they told this story because after Jesus was crucified and the accounts of his resurrection spread, they realized the importance of the event, in the context of the full story. Then the disciples lifted-up this event to reassure themselves and others that Jesus was central to the Jewish faith as this event places Moses, Elijah, and Jesus together. Let us not forget, they (the disciples) were all Jews, and they were seeking to bring other Jews into this movement that recognized Jesus as the Messiah. It was the Apostle Paul, not Peter, James and John, who brings the Christian story to we gentiles, we non-Jews.
So, what is the importance of the story? In the context of the writing, it was to reassure others, other Jews, that Jesus was one with the greats: Elijah and Moses. They did this, in an effort, to reassure them that Jesus truly was the one they were waiting for! But what about us? Well for starters we can feel reassured as well. Yet, we can take this further and look to the transformation aspect of this writing. This scripture is telling us that when in the presence of the Holy One, we can be transformed and changed. It was the three disciples whom witnessed this vision, this event, not we ourselves. To gain anything from our lesson we need to believe in their testimonies of that which occurred on the mountaintop, which Jesus displayed for them to see and witness in some mystical fashion! Have we not all, at one time or another, witnessed something awesome and even mystical which we have endeavored to share? Therefore, we just know in our hearts, our testimonies will make a difference to others in their faith journeys, or at the very least someone, will gain something from our sharing! Perhaps our sharing will change or alter how someone perceives who Jesus truly was, and continues to be, as well.
Transformations and, change, can be exciting and wonderful events or occasions in one’s life. Yet, even as the disciples responded to the mountaintop event with enthusiasm, Jesus “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” /Mark 9:6/ Jesus perceived that his disciples were actually – terrified! Just because we or someone we are talking with respond to events with enthusiasm, this does not mean that they are truly expressing how they are really feeling. We all know this as most of us have done so more than once! We often speak of change enthusiastically, yet understandably we do not really want to give up the way we have been doing it in the past. Change comes to us in many fashions. Sometimes it is a choice, like choosing to give up chocolate for a period of time, like for Lent. Other times it is something totally out of our control. Take for instance our current mode of worship. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic we were forced to rethink and ultimately reconsider how we conduct our worship services. In this sense we have transformed into who we are and how we conduct ourselves. And for a great many, if not most, we have had to adjust to where and ultimately – when we worship! These changes have been disruptive and have forced us to do things which we did not do in the past. Things like wearing masks, nor any hugging, kissing or even shaking hands. Many of us long for the ways of the past to be reinitiated. Perhaps many aspects of how it once was will come back into being. Each Sunday, as we gather to worship in this altered state, we are changing. And it will never be like it use to be, no matter how hard we wiggle and squirm to turn the clock back.
The disciples were trying to capture for us that their mountaintop experience altered how they saw Jesus. And as the events that followed were traumatic, Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution, altering how they understood who he was. Surely, the stories of Jesus appearances after his death, ultimately his resurrection, helped them understand more clearly the event, the occasion when they dramatically saw Jesus transformed in the presence of Elijah and Moses! As they recalled the event, unquestionably, they became more aware of how being in Jesus’ presence had transformed their lives as well! Change in this manner will offer us a greater awareness of Christ being in the midst of our lives, especially in our all too full and weighted down lives! Only in hindsight did the early disciples realize just how blessed they were while Jesus was with them. Prayerfully they had listened to all that Jesus endeavored to teach them, as they were compelled to transform from their roles as students, their apprenticeship period was over. They needed to move from being the recipients of Jesus’ teachings and compassion… to the teachers who were charged to care for the people of God – while spreading all aspects of Jesus teachings bringing new hope to the hopeless while the faith of the faithful!
We hear in verse seven, a voice which the disciples witnessed coming forth seemly from heaven itself! “Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” /Mark 9:7/ Their testimony is not far removed from accountings often heard from many who have felt they were in the presence of God, even in modern times. The essence of the message is that we ought to listen to Jesus, listen to the ‘Word’ of God! Can you just imagine what life might be like if everyone truly listened or at least took note of and to the words of Christ – as recorded in scripture? Or for that matter, just imagine if we all obeyed the Ten Commandments as Moses brought them forth from his journey up Mount Sinai? When we listen, it is important to clarify to what aspect of a reading we are truly listening to. There are certainly numerous things which we can systematically lift-up from holy scripture, things which would or could alter many aspects of how we humans respond to the challenges of life. Can you bring to mind one or two of these? Will you take a moment to consider doing one or two things differently that might bring your own lives more in line with those we speak of? Consider it.
It can be said, across the board, that most American’s believe things ought to change. The sticking point is that we are conflicted as to which things need to change and how we are to get these changes implemented! Over our finite lifetimes, we each need to quantify and clarify what things we can change. Then, consider how they will change our own lives and those around us. We might want to do our reflections before we begin, and it may be wise to see if we can get at least one other person to agree with our thoughts before we begin. Then take the actions needed to implement the change! Our willingness to testify to the truth of our faith through the inspired writings of the scriptures can change and transform lives! Let us endeavor to be part of the spread of the truth of the Christian movement. Let us not allow our trepidations to slow down the ancient tradition of sharing the old old story of Jesus and his love. We need more love in our societies and our lives. Let us be transformed, standing with others who stand upon the mountaintops which God has created for us!