Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Transfiguration of Jesus: What is the 'Mountain Top Experience' Christians talk about?

Have you ever had an experience in your life where you saw something beyond this world?

These experiences are rare. We live in a physical universe and we experience life in the physical universe. But, we know there are many things that go beyond what can be perceived by our five senses.

We know that the law of gravity is true, but we can’t see it. We can see the effects of it. We know that thoughts existence. But we can’t see them. We know that feelings, like love exist, but we can’t see them. We know things like atoms and electricity exist, as well as radiation and energy fields, but we can’t necessarily see them.

We also know, instinctively, that a spiritual universe exists. That it exists in the same place and time as we do right now. And that we interact with it through prayer and worship and other forms of Christian living.

There are rare moments though, in our lives, when we do see the spiritual reality around us.

These experiences are quite rare. But I’m sure there are times in your life when you remember sensing God’s presence. Or you saw an angel for a moment. Perhaps you saw something in a dream that you knew was from God. Maybe you’ve even had a vision from God, like the apostle Paul did, of heaven, or hell.

Many have seen these things. Brief glimpses into the spiritual realm.

And that’s what we’re going to be talking about. A moment in history when the spiritual realm broke into the physical universe and became visible to the naked eye for just a few moments. Experiences like that change your life forever.

In the Bible we see various individuals who had spiritual experiences. Some of them include Jacob, who had a dream of a a staircase leading into the sky, Isaiah who saw God and was terrified. Ezekiel, who saw an angel. Elijah, and Elisha, who saw angels. Daniel, who when he saw the son of man, collapsed in terror and lost all strength in his body.

Often these experiences are associated with fear and sorrow at the complete and utter holiness of God. To see even a part of God’s holiness, we are intensely aware of our sinfulness.

When Simon Peter saw the miracle of Jesus providing the catch of fish for him, he said to Jesus go away from me, I’m a sinful man.

But Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid.”

Just as was said to Daniel and Ezekiel and Isaiah, don’t be afraid.

I think if any of us saw the throne of God, we’d instantly lose a lot of our questions and struggles with faith.

So then why doesn’t God show himself to everyone? Because then there would be no free choice. You’d be compelled to believe. He wants people to freely choose him.

Today we’re talking about an event in history where Jesus is revealed to be supernatural, to be beyond this world, to be God in human form.

This is a shocking moment for the disciples, three of them, who are his inner circle. Only Peter, James, and John are invited for this moment. They are the closest followers. Only they may see this.

But we’re going to see how this event is deeply connected with the Old Testament, and other events where God meets with man. The whole Bible, it’s all connected, and we can’t understand the word properly unless we understand those connections.

This event in the life of Jesus is called by theologians “The transfiguration of Jesus.”

This is for me the center piece of the gospel of Mark. Last week, and this week, we’re seeing the very beating heart of who Jesus is. Last week we talked about the crucifixion, the carrying of the cross, the death to self, and Jesus predicting his own death.

Now we see the hope after such darkness, is new life, is resurrection life, is the fact that Jesus is alive. And this event foreshadows the fact that Jesus would resurrect three days after he died.

From Mark 9:2, “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.”

First, notice it says after six days. This is the number of days Moses waited, before the glory of God was revealed to him.

From Exodus 24:16, “...and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.”

Second, notice that they are following Jesus up a high mountain. Note that Moses met with God on mount Sinai. And Elijah met with God on mount Horeb. Both up high mountains.

Third, consider the Greek word for “transfigured.” It is the word Greek word “metamorphoō” met-am-or-fo'-o which means to be changed into another form.

Interesting note is that the Greek work “metamorphoō” is the same word used by the apostle Paul in describing the transformation the Holy Spirit does in the heart of the Christian.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed (G3339) by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

And in 2nd Cor 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed (G3339) into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

It says in verses 3-4: "His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus."

Here in this moment the disciples are seeing Jesus as he really is. When Jesus came on this rescue mission to be born into a human body, he would come in disguise, as a plain looking human. He was and is in fact the son of God, the Lord, but he had to come in disguise to achieve his mission.

They see for a moment that Jesus is more than a man. He is glowing, he is bright, he is shining with God’s glory.

And not only that, suddenly, two men appear with Jesus, Elijah and Moses.

Why Elijah and Moses? Elijah was the greatest of the prophets, Moses represented the old testament law, and Jesus is fulfilling all of it, the whole old testament, is being fulfilled in Christ. The law, and the prophets, Jesus came to fulfill. As it is written.

At this moment Peter starts rambling. They were all so afraid, he didn’t know what to say, but felt he should probably say something. 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.)"

Next, we see an event called a theophany, which is an appearance of God in the Bible.

In verses 7-8: "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 like the tent of meeting in the time of Moses, a cloud would descend over the tent of meeting, and God would commune with Moses, and talk with him.

The voice of God comes forth, and says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Jesus is my son. I love Jesus. Listen to Jesus.

Pretty simple, pretty straight forward, listen carefully to Jesus

God the Father, the God of Moses, the God of Elijah, comes and gives his official stamp of approval on Jesus in this moment.

We sometimes hear Christians talking about mountain top experiences with God. There are times in my life where God has made something very clear to me. He has changed the course of my life. He has called me to a new place or a new mission. He has delivered me from something. He has healed me of something.

That is a mountain top experience. It’s an encounter with God. We come into contact with God in some way, not necessarily a giant flashy event where we see God or hear God’s voice, but, it’s fundamentally this: a moment when we encounter God in some way.

That is the mountain top experience many of us seek in our lives time and again when we need it.

Do you need a mountain top experience with God in your life right now? Seek after the Lord. He calls us to those moments, but in His timing, not our own.

They are often short moments. Just a brief word. A nudge. A sense from God. A scripture repeated to you. A breakthrough. A new hope. A new refreshing. A feeling. A dream. A blessed conversation you had with a close friend.

To have connection with God though, takes getting along with God. It takes going off somewhere alone and sitting with God, talking to God, and seeking His response. Many will do this by doing something in nature. Climbing a mountain. Hiking long trails. Bike riding. Sitting in a beautiful place and praying. Sitting somewhere and reading the Bible for hours. Don’t be afraid to seek those experiences with God. God wants to communicate with us. But we need to seek Him out to have that.

Next in verses 9-10. “9 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.”

A mountain top experience is very often something meant for you only. You had this experience with God, and it’s for you. Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about this experience, until after he has died and risen from the dead.

And here I think we get the hidden meaning of the transfiguration. Jesus had said in chapter 8, I’m going to be crucified. It’s explained as the way of the cross, the way of death.

But here we get a secret of what’s coming, Jesus would not stay dead. He would rise from the dead. He would live again. Just as in the transfiguration Jesus glows with the glory of God, so Jesus would resurrect, and have a new resurrection body. Jesus would rise from the dead.

Lastly in our scripture today, the disciples ask Jesus a question, in verse 11: And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

And the Lord replied in this way, verses 12-13:

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? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

The teachers of the law knew prophecy indicated that Elijah would come to make the way for the messiah straight.

Jesus explains that this was John the Baptist, who came baptizing in the wilderness, getting people ready for Jesus to come on the scene later.

And John the Baptist was mistreated, and then arrested, and later put to death by Herod as we saw in previous chapters of the gospel of mark.

So in conclusion today, we see the great mountain top experience for the disciples, as Jesus was transformed into his true nature, a being of bright light, talking with Moses and Elijah, and then God the Father himself came forth declaring Jesus to be His son.

We find emphasized this simple point: The messiah must rise from the dead to be the true messiah. Jesus told his disciples well ahead of time, I will bodily rise from the dead 3 days after they kill me.

If not, then I was just a liar. But, if it really happens like that, then you’ll know that I’m really the son of God.

We don’t serve a dead Jesus today. Why would we? That wouldn’t make any sense. We serve a Living God, a living savior, a living Jesus Christ. How could he answer our prayers if he was still dead? How could he save people today? He is alive. He did in fact rise from the dead. And he showed himself to many witnesses after rising, to prove to them, see I’m alive, I’m not a ghost, I’m God, and I’m alive, and I’m the savior you need, to forgive you of your sins and give you new life. Only Jesus can do that.