Mark 9: 2-9
There was a voice from heaven at his baptism in the Jordan River valley that spoke, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. (Mark 1: 11)” On the mountain at his transfiguration in the presence of Elijah and Moses, a cloud overshadowed them and a voice was heard from the cloud to say, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” The baptism confirmed for Jesus his identity. At the moment of Transfiguration, the voice told Peter, James and John that Jesus was the Lord’s beloved Son and they should always listen to him.
These are two events that are uniquely part of Jesus’ story and not relatable to the standard life-story of any Christian. A voice proclaimed Jesus was loved and God was well pleased with him. A voice proclaimed on the mountain top Jesus was loved and should always be listened to by his followers. In the presence of the stewards of the Law and the Prophets, Jesus is the one to be listened to. One could say he is the epidemy of both the Law and the Prophets.
The waiting was truly over last week. We shared in the season of Advent a time of waiting (the word Advent means to wait). God was about to appear again in the birth of his Son, our Savior, Jesus. By the actual unveiling of God’s Kingdom in the words and deeds of his Son, our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, we could see and hear that we no longer need to wait. We grow in our faith again in our Savior who declared in the gospel story from Mark he wanted to go beyond Capernaum to share the Kingdom because that was what he came to do. The waiting, as declared by the prophet Isaiah, was now over.
As commuters stood waiting for their train, an announcement came over the station intercom. The tired passengers were sure that the stationmaster was announcing a delay of the morning train. Instead, the stationmaster’s voice boomed apologetically, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, the seven-thirty train will arrive on time today.” A booming voice confirmed to the commuters their wait was over.
It was in the valley in the river his ministry began with the Holy Spirit coming upon him in baptism. It was on the mountain top Jesus reached a pinnacle, of sorts, in the gospel of Mark. Over the last few weeks we heard and read Jesus saying and doing what no one else could say or do. Without impediment or opposition, he knew it was time for him to go throughout Galilee and beyond to proclaim in word and deed the coming of the Kingdom of God. His itinerancy of grace and truth to Jew and Gentile alike led him to that mountain in the northern most edge of Galilee. It was there Jesus was transfigured, clothing and all, into a blazing luminous image. Moses and Elijah didn’t mirror that image. The voice told his disciples to listen to him. They weren’t told to listen to Moses and Elijah in the same manner. It is Jesus they see turn into a dazzling form. It is the very voice of God telling them to always listen to him. Perhaps what they saw and what they heard would sustain them for the days to come.
We heard from the ninth chapter of Mark this morning. At the close of chapter eight, Peter confessed his belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ. Jesus then taught them he would suffer greatly, be rejected by the chief priests and elders, be killed and after three days rise from the dead. And as we know the story, Peter rebuked Jesus, but Jesus then told him he was setting his mind on human things and not divine things. Six days later, Jesus, along with Peter, James and John ascend a high mountain together.
Peter and the disciples witnessed no authority on earth, no level of illness or ignorance or religious superiority or demonic oppression could deter Jesus from displaying or declaring the goodness and graciousness of God. All the gospel writers, along with Jesus himself, also wanted the disciples, then and now, to know the work of Jesus of Nazareth in displaying the Kingdom of God included his suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. Its all the gospel story. Again, six days later, they ascend the high mountain together, and they see and hear a full confirmation of who and what Jesus truly is; therefore, brothers and sisters, listen to him, trust what he says is true.
What does the story from Mark tell us today? Trust what he says. I believe this occurrence, this mysterious, transcendent event was confirmation of what Peter believed and said out loud. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Anointed One of God. From that high mountain in Mark’s gospel, he then headed with little deviation on his path to Jerusalem, his rejection, death and resurrection; therefore, trust what he says. Moses and Elijah could stand in his presence and talk with him – trust what he says. He transfigured into a figure ablaze in glory – trust what he says. He took Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and the fever left her – trust what he says. Demons knew who he was, but he didn’t permit them to speak and cast them out of many – trust what he says. He made simple fishermen renowned preachers, teachers and miracle workers of the gospel – trust what he says. He was rejected by his own and died on a Roman cross surrounded by the jeers and curses of those who cheered him when he arrived days before – trust what he says. He arose from the dead, walked through locked doors, showed his friends the nail holes and told them signs and wonders will follow those who believe – trust what he says. Alleluia.
Preached at Lincoln UMC in Lincoln, AL, February 7, 2021