Transfiguration: Jesus’ birth, his death & resurrection.

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Scripture: Mark 9:1-10, 14-41 


Buddy Jordan: "If you’ll turn with me to Mark 9 verse 2; and after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves, and he was transfigured before them and his garments became glistening intensely white there no fuller on earth could bleach them. There appeared to them a Elijah with Moses and they were talking to Jesus, and Peter said to Jesus, “Master it is well that we are here let us make three booths; one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah,” for he did not know what to say for they were exceedingly afraid."

"A cloud overshadowed them and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved son listen to him,” and suddenly looking around they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. As they were coming down the mountain he charged them to tell no one what they had seen until the son of man should have risen from the dead, so they kept the matter to themselves questioning what the rising from the dead meant."

"Fourteen; and when they came to the disciples they saw a great crowd about them and Scribes arguing with them, and immediately all the crowd when they saw him were greatly amazed and run up to him and greeted him. He asked them, “What were you discussing with him,” and one of the crowd answered him, “Teacher I brought my son to you for he has a dumb spirit and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down and he foams and grunts his teeth and he becomes rigid, and I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were not able.” He answered them, “Oh faithless generation how long I’m I to be with you, how long I’m I to bear with you, bring him to me."

"They brought the boy to him and when the spirit saw him immediately it convulsed the boy and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth, and Jesus asked his father, “How long has he had this,” and he said, “From childhood and it has often cast him into the fire and into the water to destroy him but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of child cried out and said, “I believe help my unbelief.” When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together he rebuked the unclean spirit saying to it, “You dumb and deaf spirit I command you come out of him and never enter him again."

"After crying out and convulsing him terribly it came out and the boy was like a corpse so that most of them said, “He is dead,” but Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and he arose, and when he had entered the house his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out,” and he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” They went on from there and passed through Galilee and he would not have anyone know it for he was teaching his disciples saying to them, “The son of man will be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him, and when he is killed after three days he will rise.” They did not understand the saying and they were afraid to ask."

"They came to Capernaum and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way,” but they were silent for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest and he sat down and called the twelve and he said to them, “If anyone would be last he must be last of all and servant of all.” He took a child and he put him in the midst of them and taking him in his arms he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me and whoever receives me receives not me but him who sent me."

"John said to him, “Teacher we saw a man casting out demons in your name and we forbade him because he was not following us,” but Jesus said, “Do not forbid him for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me, for he that is not against us is for us. For truly I say to you whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward,” the word of the Lord."

Audience: "Thanks be to God.

Dr. Dan Foster: "Mark 9 is the second of the great chapters for the New Testament; I’ll send what next week is at by Marty’s email. I didn’t get back into town until last night and I had a hard enough time trying to get this lesson together much less saying what the next chapter is going to be. Mark 9 has as its central feature the transfiguration of Jesus but it contains multi factorial lessons, it’s really pregnant with lessons for the faith. All three of the synoptic Gospels contain the story immediately after Peter’s confession about the transfiguration and they differ slightly, but really not very much."

"As we said last week there are people who don’t believe this actually happened as an event, the disciples clearly interpreted as an event, they put a time schedule on it, it’s six days after the sayings of Peter. Although in Luke, Luke says that the disciples were heavy with sleep when the transfiguration begun but they woke up and saw everything that happened. If you don’t believe that God can do miracles then you are not going to believe anything that sounds supernatural or miraculous, I do not hold that view, I believe that whatever God wants to do he does and as a consequence I will interpret this as I always do in terms of what it was meant to be. Although in passing if this turned out to be vision it’s a very instructive vision anyway, God has used visions all though the Bible to get truth but I’m presuming that this event was as it’s written."

"The first thing I want to say is if the transfiguration is the most significant event between Jesus’ birth and his death and resurrection. The transfiguration is the most important event in the entire New Testament between Jesus’ birth and his death and resurrection. There are five important insights in the transfiguration story itself that are instructive for us and I want to go over those in sequence. Here is the way it read let me read it again as buddy said, after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves. Luke adds that the purpose as usual that Jesus took them up where he would pray, that’s a slight addition in Luke. He says it was about eight days that this happened about a week after that, so they went up on the mountain."

"First and foremost the transfiguration is a crucial importance, is the main event because it comes immediately after Jesus’ first announcement of his coming death. He announces his passion and immediately afterwards the transfiguration occurs, it’s as though God says, “Listen disciples don’t make a category error here.” A category error is to describe one thing in terms of another, a classic example from a book called Dilemmas is that if somebody was asked a foreigner from Mars or something were asked to describe a university and went to a university and came back and said, “Well it’s a funny place, ever hour people get to move from building to building and on Saturdays they sit in a crowd in a big bowl and yell all day it’s a football thing,” that’s a category error. A university is a community of scholars not a place where only football takes place."

"The category error here would be to consider Jesus to be a mere human; a lovely and prophetic human but a human himself because he is going to be taken and murdered and the most disgusting way. God seems to say in the transfiguration, “Listen don’t make a category error here,” and to make it sure that they did not the transfiguration takes place, the glorification of Jesus on the mountain on this high place. He is revealed in this event in his pre-incarnational and his post-crucifixional glory. He is in the human form now, but what happens in the transfiguration is that he is glorified, he is shown to these three disciples in his pre-incarnational glory and his post-crucifixional glory so that they would not forget, he was just not a very great prophetic human. He was transformed before them and his garment became glistening intensely white there is no fuller, there is no bleach on earth could make them."

"Matthew adds that his face shone like the sun and Luke said that his face was altered, so the glorification was not just in his clothes it was on his very being, on this face. The New International Version says that his face was like lightening, so intense was the glorification there. The shining glorification is not all to the lesson here, because out of the cloud comes the voice of God re-speaking the baptismal statement, “This is my beloved son.” There is a duo glorification here; a visual one and a spoken glorification about Jesus. The transfiguration was a reminder that even though he would become the suffering servant his hidden reality was the glory of the God head itself. That is the first important thing about the transfiguration. It’s been said of Christians that high hours, shining hours what Maslow used to call peak experiences should be held on to that they would say that this experience should be held on to when they have to face the grief of his death, it was a high hour. I’ll come back to that a little bit later."

"Now the next two lessons from the transfiguration event have to do with Moses and Elijah, verse four said and there appeared to them Elijah and Moses and they were talking to Jesus. Luke adds that Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about his upcoming death, they said, “Behold two men talk to him; Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Jesus in the event on the top of the mountain, and the symbolic lesson here is from the presence of Moses and Elijah is that there is a continuity between the faith of the first covenant, the Old Testament and the faith of the new covenant which is in the Savior."

"The fact that they are joined together is a symbol of the continuity of biblical faith, it is one faith, in the Old Testament we have Moses and the law and Elijah is a symbol of the prophets. The old covenant, the initial phase of the faith the law and the prophets and it is one faith all the way it evolves, it evolves in the New Testament to the faith vested in the savior. It’s a powerful lesson here that Moses and Elijah are here, that they symbolize one faith to which we are called. The third lesson about Moses and Elijah is even more important, Moses and Elijah had been dead mortally for a very long time centuries, in mortal terms they had been dead for eons and yet in the event they are not only alive, they are recognizable as who they were."

"This is true despite the fact that this is long before the perusia the second coming, there is in the New Testament there are significant statements about the fact that the dead when they die in some sense are put in limbo. Paul and the great fifteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians says that, when the world ends, when Christ comes there will be a final trumpet and he says, we will all be changed in the moment in the twinkling of an eye and the dead shall rise. The vision in transfiguration is different than that and I believe that there is an error in Paul’s interpretation about in some sense going into a shield like state to be in limbo after death. The symbol of the recognizable living Moses and Elijah is that when we die we instantly pass into the presence of God."

"Moreover while we have no idea what heaven is like and what we will be like, what this says is that we are not ghosts, not fuzzy fog unrecognizable at all. We are in some sense in the same essence that we were before symbolized here by the fact that Moses and Elijah were recognizable. That is why we use terms like the when we had the Eucharist we talk about the communion of saints, we say not goodbye to our loved ones who die, we say in essence in C. S. Lewis’ terms so long, see you later in a while."

"This is the powerful third lesson of the transfiguration that we do not go into limbo, but we go into the presence of God in the moment of our death. It is an affirmation that we do not cease to be even for a period of time and you simply have to say, “Well there is a conflict between some of the things that are said and you simply have to choose what you believe.” You’ve heard me say that many, many times you can and I repeat myself about these things, in the moment of death you can just simply sense the disappearance in the room. You don’t see anything but you just sense it, you can almost feel the soul leaving there and just leaves a shell there would you say. This is a powerful lesson from the transfiguration."

"Now the fourth lesson from the transfiguration is that it is a fearful thing and awesome thing to come into the presence of the living God. Here to come into the presence of the glorified Christ and to hear only the word of God, it was awesome for them. Peter is so frightened that he does a very dumb thing he says, “Master let me make three booths; one for Moses and one for Elijah and one for you.” Now some of theologians say what he is really doing Mark doesn’t believe this, but what he says is that he is trying to hang on to Jesus, he has heard this is like the feast of the tabernacle. I’m going to give you a place to live so you don’t have to go to Jerusalem, you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to die and I’m trying to try to hold on to you. Mark apologizes for peter he says, “He didn’t know what he was saying he was just scared to death and he just blurted out anything that he could think.”"

"There is no hint to me that he is trying to hold on here, I think he has just had his pants scared off because of the awesomeness of the glorified, the deified Christ and the word of God. Matthew says that when the disciples heard the voice they fell on their faces and were filled with awe. The fourth lesson is don’t trivialize the awesome power of God, a lot of folks particularly well I’m not going to judge, but there are a lot of folks who talk about God is so he is their very best friend he is going to be sure and give them a parking place so forth like that. It’s not, they trivialize God. I tell you the truth I think most of us will be scared to death when we first pass into heaven to be when the glory is there."

"Revelation says, “Every time they mention it the elders fall down on their face,” it’s an awesome thing to fall into the hands of the living God. If you think about the big bang you just see a little derivative thing that he built a world out of a big bang, think what it must be like to be in his awesome presence and that’s what they saw here."

"Now the last lesson from the transfiguration is that only the Christ is worthy of worship. Now there were two great heroes of the faith here; Moses and Elijah great heroes of the law and the prophets. What Peter says is well there is a lot of one and the same will make a booth for each, now he is scared to death he has not though this through. The voice comes and says, “This is my beloved son,” and they fall on their faces in awe, then when they lift up their eyes they see no one but Jesus only. The writers say great heroes and heroines of the faith, great preachers, wonderful saints like we have a church full of here are worthy of respect and love but not worship. The central feature of worshiping Christians is that they have eyes for Jesus only, and they don’t confuse anything in the world as being of equal importance, for Christians Jesus has a way of dimming the glories of the world so that he alone is seen."

"It’s wonderful to have respect for the strong in the faith, it’s wonderful to have a great preachers we’ve had a whole bunch of them in this church got one sitting here in the front row, but they sometimes get worshiped. Sometimes Sunday school teachers I mean people I teach a Sunday school lesson somebody says something to me about that, that’s just not worth saying. You can say well, it’s good to teach Sunday school and occasionally you think the lesson is okay or something right, but no deification of the servants of God, that’s what I’m trying to say I hope that’s clear."

"Now, very briefly I want to point out several other important things in the 9th chapter of Mark, and the second thing I want to say is that in the healing of the epileptic Jesus chose his fully human nature. He was exasperated and irritated in the healing of this epileptic boy, it’s a classic description of someone who has grand mal seizures it’s a beautiful description. Interesting passing it will take me too long if I do, but Jesus calls us this demon deaf and dumb, one of the things we’ve just discovered in the recent time is that there is a form of continual convulsive activity in the brain that is not accompanied by convulsions it’s called CFES, Convulsion Free Status Epilepticus."

"What you do when you convulse over and over again is that you die from that, but we just I didn’t know about this myself until about three weeks ago. We had a patient like this who came in, a man who came in and couldn’t speak and couldn’t hear and just had his eyes and we couldn’t figure out why, everything we looked at he didn’t have encephalitis, we thought it might have West Nile or something he had not a single thing. Finally with prolonged EEGs of the brain, it was clear that he had a convulsive disorder which is going on, and it’s a convulsive disorder that locks you in and it turns out like everything else these days when you start to read you find that this is well not recently well established but its known, I didn’t know anything about it."

"A deaf and dumb spirit I swore to say, “Well I want to Jesus calls you deaf and dumb I guess maybe he knew ahead of time that we are going to find that now in 2007, we were going to find it trapped in epilepsy,” and it happens with older people. The warning is and you can’t do it we are just a regular EEG it’s too quick you have to sometimes trace some for three days and may people who are in Intensive Care Units who are unconscious actually turn out to have this form of epilepsy, but at any rate."

"Jesus comes in and there is a crowd there and it’s astonishing, now he’s not transfigured anymore but the crowd when they see him they are amazed. What the New International Version says about it is that that they were full of wonder when he just walked up. He says, “What’s going on here,” and the father answers him, “You see I’ve got this kid with convulsions,” and he describes it in a beautiful way and he says, disciples tried to cast it out and they couldn’t,” and Jesus answers, “Oh faithless generation, how long I’m I to be with you.” Translate that, how long I’m going to put up with this stuff."

"It’s probably aimed at the disciples because he had told them and they had gone out and heal people but they couldn’t heal this one, and he was exasperated, disgusted because he thought they did not have a full enough faith. How long I’m I going to have to put up with you, and then though he says, “Bring him to me,” when the kid comes, when the lad comes he convulses again that’s stress. He’s coming convulsions could be set off by any kind of stress."

"He is coming in, he convulses again and his father having brought him there says to him, “But if you can do anything have pity on us and helps us,” and Jesus is irritated again by this. He says if I can, if you can, I can just hear him, “Don’t you know who you are talking to, haven’t you heard of these healings that I’ve done. If I can,” so he is irritated, he’s teed-off about this; the lack of faith that the disciples and his father’s statement, but that doesn’t drive away his mercy at all, doesn’t drive it away and he says, “You can do anything if you believe,” and then the father speaks for all of us, “I believe, help me unbelief."

"Calvin commenting on this wrote, “He the father discloses that he believes and yet acknowledges himself to have unbelief,” then he adds, “There is none of us,” Calvin says, “There is none of us that has not experienced both that is believe and unbelief in ourselves,” this man speaks for all of us at certain times of our life. John Bunyan catches this in a remarkable way and the solution to it, at the end you remember pilgrim who has become Christian is approaching the end of his life, he’s is going to go to heaven he has lost his faith, he didn’t want to cross the river of death and so forth but he is not even sure that the crystal city is real and his friend helpful says to him, “Oh Christian do you not remember Mount Clare?” What a description for the mountain of transfiguration, “Don’t you remember, didn’t you hold to that high shining hour, don’t you remember mount Clare? The mount that shows the Christ didn’t you hold on to that, hold on and believe that Mount Clare.”

"I think if you don’t remember anything else about this chapter just that phrase that there is a mountain called Mount Clare that reveals the ultimate truth about God. That’s the real importance of the epileptic healing here not just the healing itself, but its meaning and it’s very comforting to realize that the savior of the world being fully human has all the accoutrements of being fully human, he would get mad he didn’t do it very often just in the temple, clearly he could get irritated here, he got irritated at his family one when they tried to say that he was crazy and so forth. It’s comforting to know that the savior of the world has a lot of things that are like us because then he understands these things for ourselves."

"The third thing I want to say is that the sacrificial passion was not canceled by the glorification of the transfiguration. Right after this healing that Jesus then tells him again, this is a second prediction of the passing he says, “The son of man is to be delivered to the hands of men and they will kill him and when he is killed after three days he will rise, but they again did not understand and they were afraid to ask him.” Jesus is telling them that he has to die he came to die, without him dying the great sacrificial event for the forgiveness of our sins would not have occurred, he had to die. As a consequence the glorification that he participated in which anticipated the post passional events did not cancel the need for him to die. That’s pretty impressive because most of us say, “You know who are they are not going to crucify us look at this,” so the passion devoid of glory is absolutely devoid of glory except symbolically at the end of it, had to be carried out."

"The forth lesson is this, that the quest for greatness that is the demands of the ego are anathema to Jesus. The demand for ego reward is anathema he hates it, he hated pride and when he found out that disciples were arguing about who was greatest, he took a child and put him on his arm and held him. I love these pictures in the New Testament of Jesus holding these children, because he understood that a child at least early in the development is not paralyzed by ego or even an understanding. What he is saying is, “You need to be child like in your faith and have the same demands as a child. You should quite in your demands to be first and in fact if you really want to be great you will be blessed, and the way to accomplish that is to be like this child.”"

"Then he says, “By the way,” he can’t ever not say this, “And we see a child take care of it in the, when you see a child any child.” I should say I mean a child and age in a child is adulated, because all of us a children of God. What he is saying is when you take care of a child you take care of me, so here is another one of these powerful lessons in this chapter. You take care of a child and you take care of me you see."

"Then the last formal point and then I want to come back to a real life situation is that Jesus is comfortable with allies who may not be his disciples, that’s the last point. John says, “Teacher we saw a man casting out demons in your name and we forbade him because he was not following us,” but Jesus said, “Do not forbid him for he that is not against us is for us.” Antipathetic mean that when human beings who are not yet in faith act as though they are, that they practice love and mercy, that they and the terminology which is being used here about this man cast out the demons of loneliness or pain or suffering in other human beings that Jesus says, “They are on my side because they are doing what I am doing.” I believe the Savior of the world accepts as allies those who are not yet fully informed about the Savior."

"Now to be sure in Mathew 12:30 he says, “He who is not with me is against me,” and interpret that to mean that if one who is not a disciple is living in ways opposite to what God desires, but that’s not an ally with somebody who is not part us. He says both way, “If you’re not with me you are against me that means if you are not living in love and mercy you are against me, but if you are living in love and mercy you are my ally and we don’t forbid him.” They had to learn that Jesus concerned about what humans do is not narrow in such a way that good people not yet in faith are worthy of inclusion in the humans who are living like they should live."

"Now I always believe, that the great things about the faith is that they are lived out and you see them in real life situations. I want to tell you about the one that illustrates two of the principles here that we’ve been talking about in this great chapter; that is the issue of unbelief and the issue of life after death. I think I’ve mentioned this; I’m the president of the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. This is all the members of the national academy, so elected to the national academy who live in Texas and the organization has taken on a response to the rising above the gathering storm report, which is saying that if we don’t do something about the teaching of Math and English and Engineering and Science in the schools the United States is a goner."

"That’s the prediction is that if we don’t do something about this the innovation, just for example the number of patents in this country has been going steadily down and most of them are from foreigners. It used to be 10% increase a year 3% now, the evidence is overwhelming that we are not doing well and that India, we graduate seventy thousand Engineers a year in the United States and half of them are internationals, and India makes two hundred thousand engineers we don’t even know how much China makes, we are losing the most important and smartest people in the country you understand. Well, the academy has decided to try to do something about this in the Texas Schools to examine it and this conference we had thirty five master teachers from around the state and some of the most terrific programs that has overcome these defects even in minorities. We are trying to see if we can put together something that will help change the schools in Texas and use two of our programs have been going over all the nation."

"The dinner the opening dinner, the kick off of this experiment was in the Houston Museum of Natural History, it was an incredible place to have it amongst the dinosaurs and so forth and so on, we didn’t get to see Lucy Thomas. There were three hundred people there, these teachers and many of the academicians who have thought about this. I had given a little history at the start, as I say I was the MC as the president and I had given a little history at the academy where it started, and I pointed out that the academy was started by our senior senator Kay Bailey Hutchison together with two Nobel laureates in Texas that is; Michael Brown at south western and Rick Smalley who won the prize in physics at Rice. He died fairly recently from acute leukemia, he was only fifty something like that and I had mentioned that his wife whom I had never met was here, Debby was here."

"After the introduction of, after I introduced Senator Hutchison and when I listened to her remarks we served the dinner and I was sitting next to the key note speaker for the night who was Dr. Leon Lederman who also won in physics, he has discovered many particles I won’t go in to that, he is a very charming person and then on the other side of him was Debbie Smalley who I had never met. I knew because she had shared emails with the academy of people who knew her husband very well about his struggle with leukemia and ultimately his death, and I was touched by one of those when she was asking for prayer so I had sent her and email and saying, “You don’t know me,” and that’s all I know that I had never seen her before and she was a very attractive middle age person. She started to, I said, “I appreciated what you shared with us,” so she started to talk about her husband and I only want to say two things about it related to this."

"He and Lederman sitting in between us, Lederman is a Jew I don’t know what he thought about this conversation that’s going on. She said when he got leukemia, this sounds like a strong Christian person maybe better than most, he told her, “That I don’t know whether what we are facing but if we have only one minute of joy in ten thousand minutes I want us to focus on the minute of joy and not the ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine minutes of sorrow and pain.” She said, “You know,” he got a bone marrow transplant and everything else but she said, “He never once complained of struggle.” This not a religious man, “He never once complained, he focused on joy and not on the problems.”

"Then she said, “He did not have a religious faith, but I had told him that I did,” and I had seen an email about that. “When my mother died I was convinced that I would see her again,” and she said, “You know Rick Smalley is a person when he focuses his mind on something,” he discovered the fullerene the thing, he is really the father of nanotechnology here it’s going to. She said, “When I talked to him about eternal life he was interested and he begun to learn all he could about the Christian doctrine of eternal life.” He was symbolic of, “Debby, I believe help my unbelief.”

"You see centuries later the same thing that the father of the epileptic said came with one of the most brilliant minds of our country, and we don’t know because he died fairly soon, we don’t know whether he was able, I don’t know she didn’t know for sure. She has this hope she said to me, “I believe that he may be in heaven,” well that’s her hope. I suspected that might be true because if he can’t believe that’s one thing, if he just refuse to believe that’s another and what refuse to believe is to not open the mind to the possibility of it and he opened his mind and heart to studying it you see, if he can’t get there then God is going to have mercy on him, I’m absolutely … If he had said, “I’m not going to believe a word of this,” and he probably did a lot of it just because of his wife’s faith and so forth."

"The point I’m trying to say is that these things we talk about here on Sunday mornings are not abstract things, and the lesson is that we need to be ready in the real world to speak to our faith and actions and sometimes as in this case in the theology of it as it was with Debby and Rick. As Mark 9 is what we are about in a spiritual sense we have eyes only for Jesus that’s central, and we proclaim the message of salvation and love because of that and we proclaim the reality of life with God after death and the communion of the saints that we will see each other and will receive all the children; old children, little children, homeless children, sick children, whatever. Our business is in taking care of the children and we do it in a child like way not for ego reasons but for the honor of bearing the name Christian which means to be like Christ. That’s why Mark 9 is so powerful, there a lot of other things I could have said but in the forty minutes that’s the best I can do, but don’t forget who we are and don’t forget who he is, that’s what we are in the business of."

"Let’s pray, heavenly father we thank you for the events you share for us, to mold us in what you want us to be, we thank you for the incarnation event, we thank you for the transfiguration event for the power it brings to us about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. We thank you for the fact that the Savior could be tired and exhausted and irritated and exasperated with us and Lord if we confess we are also are exasperated with ourselves and others too, so that’s encouraging. We ask that you would make us worthy of carrying his name that you will bless our church, that you will bless the church universal, that you would somehow help this world that seems so dark to see the light that is already here and help us to be at least little pinpoints, little flash lights of that light. We ask all these things in the name of Jesus of Nazareth whom to know is life eternal and life fulfilled while we still live in Jesus name, amen okay."