Summary: This expository sermon explores Peter's "great confession" and Jesus' transfiguration to place Christian spirituality into biblical perspective.
The Foundation of Christian Spirituality: Treasuring Christ Above All Things
S. H. Mathews
Background of the Text: Mark 8:27-30
27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, "Who do men say that I am?"
28So they answered, "John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets." 29He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ." 30Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.
A. These two stories are the turning point of Mark’s gospel; they transition from
the life of Christ to the death of Christ.
B. These two stories are an inclusio: bracketed by confessions of Christ as God’s Son; one from Peter in vs. 29, one from God in verse 7.
C. The crucial issue in these two stories is the crucial issue for Christian Spirituality: Jesus Christ as the Son of God
I. The First Story: Ascetic Spirituality- self denial- Mark 8:31-33
31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
A. This is the ascetic dimension of discipleship: denying self, flesh, sin.
B. This is God’s “No” in Christ. Jesus is teaching that following Christ means
saying no to all that is not of Christ.
C. The ability to say “No” is part of the image of God in humanity. Every animal God made is bound to follow its instinct. But humans have the ability to subjugate instinct to holiness.
D. “No” is a freedom word. “No” to the flesh and to the agendas of the world
sets us free to say “Yes” to Christ.
E. This asceticism is not life-denying abuse, but life-affirming, joy-producing discipline.
F. Self-denial is the spirituality of the road. The road takes us to the mountain.
II. The Second Story: Aesthetic Spirituality- the beauty of Christ
1 And He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power."
2 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
4And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"-- 6because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.
7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!"
8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. 9Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
A. This is the aesthetic dimension of spirituality: finding beauty in Christ, the
beautiful Son of God: the Lilly of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star
B. This is God’s “Yes” in Christ. Yes, we can know true beauty. Yes, we can
see glory. Yes, the holiness of God is white-hot, yet we are not consumed. Yes, the law and prophets have led us to the person of Christ. Yes, we are accepted in the beloved.
C. The ability to say “Yes” is part of the image of God in humanity. Only we can say “yes” to Christ.
D. “Yes” is a freedom word. In saying “yes” to Christ, we say “yes” to freedom,
to life, to beauty, to worth, to value, to holiness.
G. The beauty of holiness is the spirituality of the mountain. The mountain takes us to the glory of Christ, the revelation of the Word, and the voice of God.
Hear the words of John Piper:
“What follows from this, I have found, shocks most Christians, namely, that we should be blood-earnest—deadly serious—about being happy in God. We should pursue our joy with such a passion and a vehemence that, if we must, we would cut off our hand or gouge out our eye to have it. God being glorified in us hangs on our being satisfied in him. Which makes our being satisfied in him infinitely important. It becomes the animating vocation of our lives. We tremble at the horror of not rejoicing in God. We quake at the fearful lukewarmness of our hearts. We waken to the truth that it is a treacherous sin not to pursue that satisfaction in God with all our hearts. There is one final word for finding delight in the creation more than in the Creator: Treason. ”