Summary: The Transfiguration of Christ was the greatest “mountaintop experience” in history. Interestingly, Mark presents the story like a deeply moving movie: There’s a preview, the main attraction and after-movie conversation. This sermon examines the Transfiguration.
#37 The Greatest “Mountaintop Experience” Ever!
February 14, 2021
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TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 9:1.
Illus. – Most movies are throwaway entertainment. You watch them, and they’re either funny or just dumb, but when the movie’s over, you don’t think about it or ponder it except to quote some inane line in the movie.
But some movies are extremely moving or deeply disturbing in some way.
• You start to get a glimpse of its import when you watch a compelling preview and you think, I think I would like to find out what that’s about.
• So you go to the movie or stream it, and it’s awesome or emotionally wrenching or troubling in some way.
• Then afterwards you can’t get the movie off your mind. It may challenge long-held ideas you’ve so that you might feel jarred or even confused by it. You discuss it with your family or friends.
Such movies transcend mere entertainment and become a true experience.
Today we’re going to look at the mountain-top experience of all time: the transfiguration. Interestingly, Mark presents the story of the transfiguration like a thought-provoking movie.
• First, he gives a preview of what’s going to happen. – Jesus hints at something ahead for a handful of the disciples.
• Then the main event happens. – It’s spellbinding, dazzling and terrifying all at once.
• Then the witnesses of the event are so jarred by its implications that they discuss it afterwards with one another and with the star of the movie, Jesus Himself.
So let’s go to the movies this morning as we examine the transfiguration in Mark 9:1-13.
I. FIRST, IN VERSE 1 WE HAVE THE PREVIEW. – “And he said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.’”
Jesus said there were some in their midst who would not die until they had seen the kingdom of God come with power. Several interpretations have been proposed what Jesus was talking about: such as that it’s a prophecy of the Second Coming; or that it points to Christ’s resurrection and ascension after his death; or that it’s talking about the Holy Spirit being given at Pentecost; or that it refers to the spread of Christianity in its early years.
The most obvious and most common view of Bible scholars is that Jesus was referring to the transfiguration which was to occur just six days later. I agree with that view: Seeing this verse as a “preview,” of the transfiguration best fits the context—it’s described in following verses—and the fact that Jesus said only some of the disciples would witness the kingdom in power is an important clue.
In chapter 8:31 Jesus had given the disciples shocking news: that He “must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and by the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Then He said that to follow Him meant suffering and cross-bearing for THEM too. This was really bad news for them, and they must have been very discouraged. They had signed up for following a conquering Messiah, but this suffering and death and resurrection stuff…not so much. So Jesus gave them good news that something really cool would happen to some of them.
II. IN VERSES 2-8 WE HAVE THE MAIN ATTRACTION.
Verses 2-3 say, “And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. 3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
The transfiguration was a singular event in history and has no counterpart in any religious literature in the world, Jewish or otherwise, although elements of it are found in Old Testament theophanies—times when God presented Himself to humans in tangible form, as in the burning bush or as a cloud or a human.
Jesus singled out Peter, James and John to witness the transfiguration, fulfilling the prophecy in verse 1 that only “some” would witness the kingdom of God in power before they died.
The Gospel writers say Jesus took them to a “high mountain,”—probably Mt. Hermon, which is around 9,200 feet high and is covered in snow all year long. God and humans often encountered one another on mountains in the Bible. It was on Mount Sinai that Moses witnessed a theophany of God as fire and smoke and a noise like a loud horn and an earthquake, and then the voice of God, which was to be followed by the Ten Commandments. It was on a mountain that Elijah received a vision of the glory of God and God spoke with him there.