Summary: If we want to share in the glory above, we must follow Him into sufferings below. The glory on the mountain helps us deal with the garbage in the valley.
Coming Off the Mountain
February 4-5, 2017
Rev. Brian Bill
Beth and I are coming off a mountaintop experience as we just returned from a week in Virginia to see Jamie and Lydia, our son-in-law and daughter, who just happen to be the parents of our grandson Philip, or as he’s more affectionately known – Pip. Here are a few piptures…
It was wonderful to spend time with them for a few days and while we wish we could have stayed longer, we’re not meant to live on the mountaintop.
Deuteronomy 11:11 says: “But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys…” The Christian life has mountaintop experiences and excruciating valleys; faith and doubt; victories and defeats; triumphs and trials; praises and problems; joy and junk.
Last weekend we focused on the splendor and supremacy of Jesus as He was transfigured on top of the mountain. We learned that a glimpse of glory will keep us going. While Peter may have wanted to turn this experience into a prolonged camping trip, Jesus wants His followers to know that they can’t stay on the mountaintop. The air is too thin, there’s not much to eat and there’s work to be done in the valley. If we want to share in the glory above, we must follow Him into sufferings below. The glory on the mountain helps us deal with the garbage in the valley.
Almost 500 years ago a painter named Raphael captured these two truths when he showed the glory of the transfiguration in the top half of a painting and the suffering of people at the bottom. The two scenes are actually joined together as we will see in our passage today. Please turn to Mark 9.
The Situation in the Valley
As Peter, James and John are descending the mountain with Jesus, they’re involved in a theological discussion about Elijah. As they come back to the reality of sin, suffering, Satan and sickness, at least four things hit them.
1. Large crowds. They no doubt enjoyed their spiritual retreat away from the throngs of people but that all changes in verse 14: “And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them…” While the three were up on the mountain, the other nine were hip deep in need. When Christ shows up, the crowd crushes around Him in verse 15: “And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him.” To be “greatly amazed” means, “greatly alarmed and utterly astonished.”
2. Lots of conflict. Whenever you have lots of people, you have lots of problems. Someone has said, “Where there’s two or three gathered…there’s conflict.” Specifically, we read that the “scribes were arguing with them.” The scribes were religious experts and were disputing with the disciples because they couldn’t help a hurting boy. The word for “arguing” means, “to mock and confront.”
In verse 16, Jesus asks, “What are you arguing about with them?” I love how this question draws the attention away from the humiliated disciples and puts it on the holiness of Christ. In verse 18, we read that the disciples were not able to cast out a demon that was set on destroying a young boy: “So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” Those closest to Christ were powerless to help. I wonder if people look at Christ followers in a similar way today? When we’re faced with real needs and problems, do people wonder why the church is so impotent and out of touch?
Have you noticed that there’s some conflict going on in our country today? Followers of Jesus are called to live within a world that is out of whack…and to make a difference. We must be salt and light. That’s not easy to do, is it? I’m grieved by all the harsh rhetoric and inflamed attacks that have saturated social media and the air waves today. While that’s the way the world often responds, I long for Christians to have a different response, especially as it relates to our tone. We can disagree, but we can do so agreeably. I appreciated a post I read this week entitled, “Seven Ways to do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World” from pastor Kevin DeYoung. Here are three that stood out to me.
• Always defend your side, no matter what.
• Be quick to demonize opponents on the other side.
• Go public with your thoughts when you are most hurt and most angry.
I fear that there’s not only conflict in our country, but also in the church today. While we might have different views on politics, we are united in Christ, right? Right? If we really believe in the sanctity and dignity of all life, then let’s love our enemies and continue to minister to the marginalized and the most vulnerable in our world today…and respond lovingly toward those who see things differently than we do.