Summary: Mountaintop experiences are great but the work of God takes place on the playing field and not in the stands.
December 9, 2005
Text: Mark 9:1-13
Subject: The Transfiguration
Title: Fire on the Mountain
Last week we went to the valley of the dry bones to see how it is to be in a spiritual desert and what needs to happen to get out of it. Today we are going to the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum to see what it is like on the mountaintop and find out why it is that we can’t stay there.
I have to tell you about these dreams that I continue to have. I think I have alluded to them before, but I continue to have dreams about being lifted off the ground. Sometimes I just seem to levitate above the earth other times I am flying and sometimes I am very far above the face of the earth. It seems that this it what the rapture will be like. It is exhilarating and when I wake from those dreams I have this sense that there is something really important going on in the spiritual realm. Maybe it is just the fact that I am crossing over into a new phase in my life. The prophet Joel said that young men shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams. Maybe I’m crossing over into that old phase of my life. Regardless of the meaning, there is something significant going on and I am enthralled by it.
Last week Ezekiel saw a vision. Now I’m dreaming dreams. Today we are going to see the story of three men who saw Jesus in His glorified state. The latter is much more desirable but in all three cases there is a lack of understanding as to the meaning.
Today we are going to look at mountaintop experiences to see how we are to respond to them.
I. TIME TO GET AWAY (1-4)
A. The Purpose of Retreat. How many of you have ever just been worn out from ministry? Ministry is hard work and it is work that has to be done. You know there are times when Charlotte and I know that we just have to get away for some time alone. We like to travel and we are able to in a limited fashion so from time to time we take a week or 10 days and go. Sometimes you just need to get away from everything in order to refresh yourself. That is the invitation that Jesus extends to Peter, James and John in the passage today. I love the way that the gospel of Mark reads. It is a gospel of action. It moves from one story to another and even if you spread it out over a period of three and a half years, it is apparent that Jesus and His disciples were busy people. So in the events immediately preceding this passage we see in chapter 7 verse 31 they were in Tyre and Sidon. Then they moved to Decapolis and the Sea of Galilee, then to Dalmanutha, Bethsaida, and Caesarea Philippi. Looking at the map insert in your bulletin you can see how far they traveled (by foot) and by reading the gospel you can see the number of people they ministered to. Folks ministry is work and when you see something wonderful happen in the spiritual realm it takes something out of you. I can tell you from personal experience that when we have awesome moves of God here in church, when it is over I am exhausted. I’ve said all that to say this, Jesus realized the need to get away so He invited Peter, James and John to go up on a high mountain with Him. The purpose is to take some time to be refreshed.
B. The Place of Retreat. That word retreat may have some negative connotations for some of you. Retreat means to backtrack, or give up ground that was taken. But even in a military sense, retreat is protecting the worn and weary so they can come back and fight another day. Now Jesus took them up on a high mountain. It required a lot of work just to get there. But He knew that it must be a place where there would be no distractions. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 6:6, “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” You know that when we go to get away for a while it is normally a time of rest and light recreation and refreshing. But there is a spiritual aspect involved also. I love to go on vacation and visit some small A/G church and just enjoy being in His presence with no expectations on me. I remember the struggling little church in Woodland Park, Colorado where we visited. The pastor was a young man and the congregation very small. We were able to go and just worship the Lord and enjoy the day. It was a blessing to us but even more, it was an encouragement to the pastor to have new faces in the congregation. We visited a church of about 100 in Williamsburg, VA on the morning they were installing a youth pastor. It was a turning point for that small church and an encouragement to us knowing that we would someday be making that same leap of faith. Wherever it is you go to get away, just enjoy the time with God.