“This Is My Son Whom I Love. Listen to Him!”July 31st, 2011 • Posted in Mark, Messages/Sermons • 1,293 views
Mark Lesson 25 (2011)
“THIS IS MY SON, WHOM I LOVE. LISTEN TO HIM!”
“Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud; ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’”
In the previous passage, we learned that anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must learn to deny themselves and obey God’s will by taking up their own cross (8:34). Although it seems almost too costly to follow Jesus, the reward of discipleship is far greater than one can ever imagine. It’s like the saying, “No cross, no crown; no thorns, no throne; no pain, no gain.” In today’s passage, Jesus personally invites some of his close disciples to a high mountain and reveals to them the glory of his original image as the Son of God. Simon Peter was one of them. Later on he would recall this story in order to encourage the early Christian brothers and sisters who had been persecuted, being scattered throughout the world. He said in 2 Peter 1:16-18, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying ‘This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” The experience he had in the mountain had left in him an unforgettable image of Christ. It enabled him to overcome all kinds of difficulties and challenges in his life on earth. Most of all, he was transformed into a new person, the person whom God wanted him to be. Let’s think about why Jesus’ disciples needed to see this glorious image at this time and what this glorious image of Jesus Christ means to us today.
Look at verse 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.” Six days had passed since Jesus disclosed the very important information concerning what kind of Messiah he was going to be. They were greatly surprised to hear that Jesus, their master, was going to suffer, be rejected by the Jewish religious leaders and even be killed. Jesus also told them that the suffering would not only be his destiny but also be theirs (8:34-38). By this time, the majority of his followers realized that his teaching was not fun for them anymore. Six days passed. We don’t know what they had done during the six days. It was possible that Jesus had tried to help his disciples to understand and accept God’s will for the Messiah to suffer and die based on the Scriptures. Obviously, the disciples’ hearts were hardened, and they were not receptive of the way of suffering at all. In fact, they had been deeply disappointed so that no one really wanted to talk to anybody else. The disciples were stuck spiritually because they couldn’t see anything really good and desirable in following Jesus. We can understand their situation very well. Sometimes, we also feel stuck spiritually not because we don’t know that the way of cross is God’s way but because we are not really motivated to suffer. We sometime feel too discouraged. Understanding the situation of his disciples, Jesus decided to do something. He knew that they needed a real vision from heaven.
What did Jesus do for them? Jesus took only three of them, Peter, James and John, with him and led them up a high mountain. It’s interesting to see that it says “He led them.” It might indicate that the disciples were so reluctant in their discouragement that Jesus had to lead them up. This reminds us of what God did for Abraham when Abraham was deeply discouraged for not having an heir for himself even after following God’s promise for almost 10 years. At that time, Abraham’s heart was heavy and was filled with complaint. He said, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” In the middle of the night, God visited Abraham and took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be.” (Gen 15:5) When Abraham saw God’s vision, his faith was restored and made a big smile. Likewise, Jesus took these three disciples and led them up a high mountain in order to show them a real vision.
Before we get into what had happened on the mountain, it may be necessary to think about the reason that Jesus took only three disciples, Peter, James and John, with him. We know that it wasn’t the first time that Jesus took only these three with him. According to Mark 5:37, Jesus didn’t let anyone follow him except these three as he went to raise the dead daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. Obviously, these three were Jesus’ closest followers, the inner circle of the Twelve. It was possible that Jesus thought that these three were much better prepared to see what was going to happen on the mountain than the other ones were. Jesus chose these three so that later on they could help the rest of his disciples.
Now, let’s get back to the mountain. What happened on the mountain? Verse 2 says that they were all alone with Jesus on the mountain. It seems that there was nobody else on the mountain except Jesus and these three men. It was very quiet there. And it could be in the middle of the night that they were all alone with Jesus on the mountain. According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus prayed on the mountain. (Lk 9:28) While Jesus was praying, his disciple saw that Jesus’ appearance began to be transfigured right before them.
Look at verse 3. “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” It wasn’t only his clothes that had been changed. Both Matthew and Luke testify that the appearance of Jesus’ face changed and his face shone like the sun. (Mt 17:2; Lk 9:29) When we drive, sometimes direct sun light blinds us. It’s hard to look at sun light directly. Jesus’ face was shining like the sun. No wonder verse 3 says that his clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
In verse 2, Mark used the word “transfigured.” The translation of the word “transfigure” is the source of the word “metamorphosis.” The word “metamorphosis” means change; an outward change that comes from inside. Metamorphosis is a process in the world of nature; for instance, a change from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly. While Jesus was ministering to the people in Galilee, he appeared to be just an ordinary carpenter. According to the description of Isaiah, his mere appearance didn’t attract the people of his time. Maybe Jesus wasn’t really handsome or well built like a famous actor. (Isaiah 53:2) But while Jesus was on the mountain with his disciples, he was transfigured into a glorious image. And the transfigured image of Jesus is the original image of God (John 1:1).
Revelation 1:13-16 depicts his image more in detail. Although the image of God is beyond our description, the description in these verses might be the best description of God’s image in human words. “And among the lamp-stands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” These verses show that the transfigured Jesus is the original image of God who infinite, immortal, almighty, majestic, inconceivable, indestructible, incorruptible and uncontainable. Jesus is the eternal God, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (Rev 22:13) In fact, Jesus’ transfiguration was an awesome revelation of God to his disciples. And this is the glorious image of our Lord Jesus Christ when he returns to this world someday (9:1).
However, this transfiguration was just the beginning the conference on the mountain. In verses 4-7, we see that there were more participants in the conference, Moses and Elijah appeared. In fact, Jesus was endorsed by these two prominent prophets in Israel and by God the Father in heaven. The purpose of their appearances was to help the disciples to listen to Jesus’ words. Look at verse 4. “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” We don’t know why only Elijah and Moses appeared among all the prophets in Israel’s history. It may be because Moses represents law and Elijah prophet in the Old Testament. And when Elijah and Moses appeared before these disciples, the disciples were able to recognize them and hear them talking with Jesus. What were they talking about? Mark doesn’t record the content of their conversation. But Luke informs that they spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he was about to bring fulfillment at Jerusalem, the work of the suffering Messiah through his suffering, death and resurrection (Lk 9:31). It was a powerful endorsement based on the Scripture. In fact, Jesus could have been encouraged by their appearance and endorsement. Now with all these affirmations, the disciples should have realized their spiritual blindness and said, “Lord, we now understand and accept that God’s way is right. No cross, no crown; no pain, no gain; and no suffering, no glory!”
What was their response? Peter said something totally inappropriate. Look at verses 5 and 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.)” We are not sure what was in Peter’s mind in suggesting to build three shelters – one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Although he didn’t know what to say because he was frustrated, he might have thought that it was a wonderful chance for them to build the headquarters of the Messianic kingdom on the mountain along with Jesus and these two great prophets. His idea sounded fantastic, but it was political and humanistic. Jesus didn’t make any comment on Peter’s suggestion. Jesus didn’t rebuke Peter as he did not long ago, “Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (8:33)
But this time, God intervened into them directly. Look at verse 7. “Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” While Jesus’ face was still shining like the sun, they could see a cloud appearing and enveloping them. This kind of things was known to the Jews as the Shekinah Glory, which means “a divine visitation or dwelling of Jehovah God on this earth.” This happened to get the disciples’ full attention. And the voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” It was a strong endorsement of God for Jesus on behalf of these three disciples. And God directly said to the disciples, “Listen to him!” We remember that Jesus had been talking to his disciples about the importance of listening (4:9, 23-24). He even rebuked them by saying “Do you have