Mountaintop Experienc

February 14, 2021

by Pastor Joel Plisek  


Scripture Reading: Mark 9:2-9

Sometimes supernatural worlds seem very eerie and strange, don’t they?  Because of that there are some who simply ignore it and there are others who deny it altogether. One of the primary reasons is that it goes against our Western scientific sensibility.  Sensibility that tells us that we are not supposed to believe anything that is not scientific. 

You know there are all kinds of things that you and I cannot prove scientifically, but that does not mean that they are not real, and it does not mean that they are not true.  I want you to keep that in mind as we answer four questions about todays story.  One, who was there?  Two, what exactly occurred?  Three, how did the disciples respond?  And four, why did it happen?

Mark 9:2 says, “Six days later.” Six days after what?  Six days ago, he asked the disciples. “who do the people say that I am?”  Six days after he spoke about his plan and his purpose to suffer and to die and to rise again.  Six days after Peter took Jesus off to the side and rebuked him because he did not want a Messiah who was going to suffer and die, he wanted a Messiah that was going to rule and reign.  Six days after Jesus responded to Peter “get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  Six days after Jesus challenged all who would come after him to deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow him.  Six days that there are no new lessons.  No new insights for six days. 

Mark records six days later Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on top of a mountain.  Let us go to the first question, who was there?  Who was on top of that mountain?  Truth of that question is if we want to limit it to the earthly beings or if we want to open it up to everyone that was listed in the story.  From earth there are four people Peter, James, John, and Jesus.  But if we want to include everybody, we must include Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament, as they are up on the mountain speaking with Jesus. 

Why Moses and Elijah?  Moses was the great law giver who met with God on Mt. Sinai, setting the standard for people to live by.  Elijah on the other hand was the greatest of all prophets.  When he spoke for God, he spoke the very words of God. 

Please hear this, Jesus is personification and the fulfillment of both the law and the prophets.  His life is the standard by which you and I are called to live, and his words are the very words of God.  God sends these very two important figures in history, Moses and Elijah, to assure Jesus that he is the fulfillment that they foretold. 

While Jesus was talking, something happened to him.  He was glowing!  Matthew records that Jesus’ face shown like the sun.  Luke said his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white.  Mark said it was so white, whiter than one can bleach.  Something supernatural has happened here, right?  Matthew calls it a transfiguration.  Jesus’ face and his dusty old robe has been transfigured.  Transfigured means to change one’s form, to be transformed.  So, Jesus’ form is supernaturally transformed, but what does that mean? 

Luke 9:32 says “They saw his glory.”  Peter who was an eyewitness of that account later writes “we were eyewitnesses to his true majesty.” In other words, this earthly veil that Jesus had been wrapped in since his birth has now been removed by God the Father.

Why?  So that God the Father can reveal Jesus’ true glory and his true majesty.  God the Father is throwing Jesus a Reveal Party. Peter, James, and John have the honor of being guests at that party.

Now while all that is happening Moses and Elijah showed up in glorious splendor.  Now what are they talking about?  What is so important that God would send Moses and Elijah down from heaven to talk to Jesus?  Mark does not say, but Luke 9:31 tells us “…speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” How many of you have ever needed to be encouraged or affirmed to stay on track with that calling or with that purpose that God has given you?  I believe Moses and Elijah had been sent to give a word of encouragement regarding his departure, his calling, his purpose, the agenda of the cross. 

It is interesting that the word for departure in both Greek and English are exactly the same… it’s the word exodus.  The word exodus is always used to speak about how God led his people out of Egypt through the dessert, and into the Promise Land.  Moses and Elijah, the scripture says, came to talk to Jesus about his Exodus, about his journey to the cross, his departure from this world and how that journey and departure will ultimately result in glory that will open the door for all who believe.  To enter into the promise land where God’s abundant and eternal life flows milk and honey. 

Friends, I find it more than interesting that these two Old Testament characters play such a critical role in God’s salvation story.  I have come to talk to Jesus about his role in the very same story.  Now there are some who believe when we die as Christ’s followers, that God is going to show us all his salvation history.  Which means that you and I are going to see all the way back to days of Moses and the Exodus.  It means that we are going to be able to see the unfolding drama of salvation in the days of the prophets.  We are going to be able to see how Jesus’ journey to the cross reaches down through time to give life to all who believe. It means that you and I will see how our stories are wrapped into God’s great story of redemptive love. 

Moses and Elijah have come down from heaven because they understand the critical role that Jesus plays in God’s salvation history.  And so, they come and give him a word, a word of encouragement regarding his Exodus.  “Jesus, stay with the plan.  Stay on track.  Finish the race.”

Where are his disciples while all this is going on?  They are tired.  They just climbed a mountain.  It is probably dark, and they are sleepy, but then they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men who were standing with Jesus.  As Peter, James and John see this, they start to bask in this.  They realize that this is a unique moment in time and history, and they are a part of it, the kingdom of God has come down and they see it, they are basking in it.  Until Peter sees that two of these supernatural beings are getting ready to leave. 

When he does, he turns to Jesus and says “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5).  The word Peter uses here, “dwelling,” is actually tabernacle.  A tabernacle was the dwelling that was used during the Exodus for the purpose of housing the glory of God. 

So as Peter sees God’s glorious splendor in each one of these three guys, in Jesus, in Moses, and Elijah, he wants to build three tabernacles, why?  To house the glory of God. 

Mark 9:6 tells us “He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.”  It is just like Peter, classic Peter, he doesn’t know what he’s saying.  But catch this, he does know what he wants, he wants this moment to last forever.  We have all been there; we have all had those moments in our lives that are called Mountaintop Experiences that we want to last forever.  But hear this, what Peter does not realize yet is not about having a Mountaintop Experience.  This is not about holding on to the moment, this is about the master, this is about Jesus.  This is about answering the question that Jesus asked six days before, who do you say I am?  Is Jesus just another great spiritual leader or is he something else, something more? Who do you say he is?

Now I want to introduce you to the last person who is up on the mountain, God the Father.  Do you know why He is there?  He is there to answer one question, who do you say who Jesus is?  That is why He is there.  To make sure that even Peter can’t miss the answer, God the Father set’s the stage for His arrival with a cloud.  God speaks “This is My Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  Now on the surface those are three powerful and affirming statements.  Parents when we publicly and verbally affirmed our children it makes a difference in their lives. 

Well, Jesus is facing death.  His disciples are questioning whether he is truly the Messiah.  God the Father comes down in a cloud to them, to tell them this is my Son, My chosen one. Listen to Him.  With that, the cloud lifts, the Father is gone, and Moses and Elijah have disappeared.  Now the only one left for the disciples to listen to, to follow, to abide with is Jesus the Christ; the fulfillment of all that God the Father had foretold. 

Now in closing I want to answer this question, why did it happen?  Think about this, why did Jesus pull aside three of his nearest and dearest disciples to go up on a mountain to experience something that he would never focus on his ministry and that his disciples would never talk about until after he was gone?  What was the purpose of the Transfiguration?  I believe the Transfiguration had a threefold purpose, one for Christ, one for his disciples of the day, and one for disciples in the future. 

First, I believe it happened to bring reassurance to Jesus about the Father’s plan for the cross.  Friends, please do not underestimate the burden that the cross was to Jesus on a daily basis, because God the Father does not.  It is why God the Father sends Moses and Elijah to reassure Jesus that there is no better plan, stay on track, do not give up, keep pursuing your departure at Jerusalem, just as God the Father has sent you to do.  There is an enduring principle here that we all can learn from; God’s plan is always best.  It is always best, even when it leads to suffering, pain, or death.  God’s plan is always best. 

Second, I believe this is to remind the disciples in Jesus’ day that Jesus was indeed God’s chosen one, the Messiah. The suffering, pain, and even death will not take place if the person being followed is not worthy of those followers.  Those disciples needed to be reminded that Jesus was worthy, that he is the chosen one, the Messiah, the one who became flesh and dwelt among them. 

Thirdly, I believe this happened so that if you and I began to stumble in our faith, if we ever began to question who Jesus really is, or what he had to say then God the Father wanted to leave no doubt in our minds, “this is my Son, the Beloved; listen to Him.” Amen.