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Mark 9 gives us the account of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain with three of his disciples. As we observe Peter, James and John, we learn valuable lessons we can apply today as followers of Christ. Consider what the Lord may be teaching you in your own mountaintop experiences.
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Father, we thank you that we can come now. We just sang that you're worthy of our praise. We don't want our praise just to be with lips that say right words while hearts are far from you. Our hearts, Lord, are easily distracted, easily dismayed, constantly deceived, so we go to your Word, which is the plumb line of truth, and we snap it again this morning.
We ask that you bring us back right on course, that we might listen to you and get it right. We thank you, as we worshipped already today, for how you provided for us in all the ways we miss it, if we humble ourselves, acknowledge our need, and come humbly before you, receiving your gift. We thank you that you have taken away our sin.
Now we want to respond appropriately to this Lion who died on the cross for our sins. Lord, we pray this: Help us to get it right. Would you just take the scales off our eyes so we could be worshippers who, in word and deed and action and thought, rightly respond to you as we submit to you and yield to the Spirit who works in our lives? We thank you for your provision, and now we thank you for your Word. We ask that you teach us. In Christ's name, amen.
We're making our way through the gospel of Mark, if you've not been with us. Today we're going to be in Mark, chapter 9. Turn there with me. It's a section of Scripture that shows up also in Matthew and in Luke. It's what's called the transfiguration, the title we most often put on this thing. It's a time when Christ was revealed more as the Lion than he was the Lamb.
What I mean by that is Christ took three of his most trusted leaders, three guys whom he especially was going to work in and through: Peter, James, and John. He took them up a mountain, and up on that mountain, God, as he often did in the Scriptures, revealed part of his purpose, plan, and person with a clarity he doesn't always do other places.
Peter, James, and John saw, if you will, that flesh which the Scriptures say was a veil, something that covered the glory that really innately and eternally exists in the person of Christ. As he walked on this earth he took on, along with his divine nature, a human nature. That human nature veiled some of his divinity as he laid aside his ability to act according to his own divine nature and his own divine will but trusted, as a man or a woman would, in God the Father who would care for him.
Up on this mountain is when Jesus pulled back the veil, and they saw, if you will, what was underneath those clothes Clark Kent wore. They saw a little bit of the Superman. Jesus is not a superman. He is divine. He is God…very God of very God…but he's also fully human. This is what's called by theologians the hypostatic union. There. I said it; forget it. Never remember it again.
All it really means is there are two contrasting natures that somehow, in a way we can't understand, came together fully in Jesus as he walked on this earth. In much the same way, we can't get around the concept of who God is in his very nature, essence, and person in the Trinity, that God is one, and yet God is Father, God is Son, and God is the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. They are all distinct persons, but they are one in essence.
God doesn't just change his shape according to the need of the moment. They have eternally existed together, but the Son, at the will of the Father, by the power of the Spirit, was on this earth for a while that he might accomplish the purposes of the Godhead. He walked as a man. He suffered the death that humankind deserved to suffer. He was who the Jews had long anticipated, which is the Promised One of God.
Let me explain to you some stuff this morning that is, I would say, rather deep. If you're a guest here today, one of the things we always try and do is make sure there's an application point and teaching that is relevant to your life. There will be, but I want to let you know we're going to throw out a big ol' steak this morning that you're going to have to chew a few times to get down on our way there. I want to teach you some good theology today and some good concepts that will help you as you go through this world that you're in.
Here is the question…If God is sovereign and is in control and is loving, then why is there so much havoc in the world today? Why do God's people suffer along with the wicked people? We don't have a hard time when wicked suffer, but we don't ever see ourselves as the wicked who deserve the suffering that wickedness deserves. We always think it's the other guy whose sin is bad enough to deserve a plane in their building, never us.
One of the things God is revealing to his people whom he has chosen to reveal himself through… In the Scriptures those were the Jews. Now I want to say this again. Why did God choose the Jews? The answer is not because the Jews were more glorious, more godly, and more upright than any other nation. Quite the contrary.
They came from a guy named Abraham and his wife Sarah. A multitude of descendants God promised he would give them became a great nation, but they were godless pagans just like the rest of the world. God knocked on Abraham's heart, and Abraham listened to God. God cultivated a relationship with Abraham and then gave Abraham and his children truth no man could ever have unless God gave it to him. That's why it's called revelation.
If you ever watched Monty Hall, you never knew what was behind curtain one, two, or three, unless Carol Merrill ripped it back and revealed that you got either a camel or a car. You just didn't know. God is pulling back the curtain, and he's going to show that he has something, not just for the people who are lucky enough to get on the show and then get selected by Monty Hall, but for anybody who acknowledges God, throws himself before him, and asks for mercy. God wants to give good things, and he was going to use this group of individuals, this family, as an instrument to proclaim who he was and what it is he wanted from mankind.
First of all, he wanted them to acknowledge the fact that they had sinned against him, that they had rebelled against him, that they had turned their own way. Then he wanted them to say, "Lord, how can I have this bridge ever built between you and me, this gap my sin has created? How can I close it?" God gave them, for a while, some acts of worship that pointed, ultimately, to one sacrifice that would take care of the debt.
For a while there were sacrifices of bulls and goats. Innocent blood was shed. That lamb, that bull, that goat did nothing except graze and go to the bathroom in the pasture like every other bull, goat, or lamb. They were just yanked out, and their innocent blood was shed because of the sins of God's people. Until one day a perfect sacrifice came. Not a teaching instrument, not one that anticipated, but one who actually was the perfect sacrifice. It was God himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Jews were a people who were greatly oppressed by other nations. God allowed that to happen, mostly because they never walked in the way he told them they should walk, in fear and trembling before him. He brought consequences into their lives, which we could clearly say were consequences.
God said, "This is not happening because you live in a wicked and sinful world, and so sometimes accidents happen and sometimes horrors will triumph. This is happening specifically to teach you a lesson. That is that you have turned from me, and so judgment has come upon you, that you might learn to trust in me again, that my righteous right hand would uphold you."
For the Jews, whenever a plane slammed into some of their buildings, God often told them, "It's coming because you've turned from me," all the while wanting them to come back and return. They looked for this Messiah who would one day deliver them from all the oppression they faced. This Messiah was to be a mighty God. They expected that Messiah to come and to destroy those who terrorized their land, but the Messiah came in the person of Jesus.
The Messiah was going to deliver them from a different terror. Not the terror of Rome or the terror of Syria or the terror of Egypt, but the terror of the justice of God and the oppression of sin. He was going to lead them in an Exodus, not from political exile but from spiritual death as an anticipation of the fact that one day he would deliver them from a world full of wickedness, hate, and evil. This blew the Jews' category because they wanted their Messiah to be a lion who roared and made the world better for them.
God is going to do that. There will be a day when he will literally and physically dance on injustice, but for a while, right now, what he's saying is, "You have a bigger problem than the fact that you have wicked governments who attack you, and that is that you have given yourself over to a wicked king. He is destroying more than just your bottom line, the size of property you can own, and the security in which you sleep. He is destroying your very heart, your very soul, and your very relationship with me."
Jesus came delivering that message. When Jesus came saying he was the Messiah, they looked for him to be a triumphant victor. Instead, he came to be a sacrificial lamb who will eventually triumph over sin and the enemy. This confused his disciples, even as it would confuse us. That's where we are in Mark. Mark, chapter 9, verse 1. Here we go. Are you ready?
The first time you hear this stuff I just said and what you're about to hear on top of that, don't get frustrated that you don't get it. Keep going back to his Word, gather with his people, and study the Word to see if what I say is so. One of the things I'm going to say a little bit later today is that ultimately you make sure you listen to God and his Word, not some pastor, not some preacher, not some Pharisee, not some public pundit, but God's Word.
We go there that you might know him. He just got through saying, "Some hard things are going to happen, and I'm going to die. If you follow me, I expect you to take the cross as well because right now we're not living in a world where I am resurrected and in glory. We're going to live in a world who will take that which is the ultimate expression of good, God in human flesh, and they're going to nail him to a cross. This world, which crucifies me, is a world which will hate you."
Here's what he says. "And as he was saying that to them, he said, 'I'm just going to tell you, in the midst of what I am calling you to, there are some men who are right here in my midst who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.'" Now Mark, who doesn't often give us sequences of time, says, "Now just six days later, here's an event that happened." The reason he says that is because he's going to show you this is the fulfillment of what Jesus said in Mark, chapter 9, verse 1.
Here is a vision of the kingdom of God when it comes with power. You're going to see Jesus as he is described in the book of the Bible called Revelation. It is the revelation of God to John, one of the men who was on this mountain with Jesus at this moment. God told John, "This is what's going to happen. This Jesus you knew intimately, who died on a cross, is going to come back, this time not as a humble servant who carries his cross, but as a conquering King who comes to dance on injustice." That's what John, Peter, and James saw on this hill.
"And six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves." It's interesting that he took these three. There are two or three other places that he took just these guys with him. One of the places he took Peter, James, and John was into the room where a guy named Jairus had a little girl who was dying. In fact, she was dead when Jesus got there. He took these three in.
There's a reason Jesus took these three. First of all, you can't take a big group into a small room. You can't take a big group everywhere. He was going to really pour himself into these three so these three might be the leaders, if you will, the generals, through which others would be multiplied in confidence.
It makes sense. Peter was the outspoken one, the one we commonly see as the leader. James was the very first one to die for his faith. John was the last of the 12 to be alive after others had died for their faith. Jesus had built into these three, specifically. He said, "James, you're going to be a leader. You're going to go first. You need to see some things and be sure of some things."
"Peter, you're going to be the leader, period. We have to make sure you begin to get this right. John, you're going to be here last. When everybody else has died, you need to stand firm. I'm going to give you guys some things and build into your lives in a special way so the foundation can be laid sure and solid."
"To whom much is given, much is expected." Much was given to these three, even as much is given to us. Peter, James, and John went into Jairus' room where his little daughter was dead. They also were here on the mountain we're about to study, and they were with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. I just have to think about why those were the three places those three alone were taken? I made a little note to myself.
He showed them in those three things that he had power over death, when he brought a dead girl back to life. They need to know that. He showed them right here on the Mount of Transfiguration that at his death he would be glorified, that he has power over death, and that in his death that would not be the final statement, but he would be glorified in death.
At the garden of Gethsemane, he showed them he was desperate, in need of assurance. You could almost say he was scared to death in the face of death. Watch this. Jesus himself, whom the Scripture says laid aside… Meaning not that he stopped being God but did not rely on his own deity to get himself through tough times. He trusted the Father by the power of the Spirit to work in him and through him.
As he got near the cross, this Jesus who knew God has power over death and knew he would be glorified in death, still was scared to death at the prospect of death. I say that because that kind of offends us when we think about, "Hey, Jesus went to that cross boldly." Yes, he did, but he went to the cross boldly after he got his friends to pray for him, after he went back to God's Word and was reminded again that God was sovereign, in control, and had never proven himself wrong.
As a man, he trusted in what you and I have to trust in, overcame his fear, and lived by faith. Then he took that cross with a set jaw and a strength of character that got even godless men to say, "Surely this man was who he said he was." He showed Peter, James, and John that he has power over death, that he will be glorified in death and so will his followers.
He showed them, "Listen, being scared to death in the face of death is a natural human response, but I don't want you to respond naturally. I want you to respond supernaturally. You go where I go: on my knees to commune with the Father and to his book to be reassured that we are in his plan and on his way." Those were the men who were with him.
Verse 2 says, "He took them up a high mountain, and He was transfigured before them." That word transfigured is basically the same word that shows up a couple of places in the Scripture, and other times it's translated transformed. A transformation is a change on the inside which manifests itself with the way you look on the outside. It is exactly what is supposed to happen in you and me as God works in our midst.
It is the opposite of a masquerade. A masquerade is when you do something on the outside to cover up the ugliness or the reality of what is inside. Halloween is all about that. You put on a costume, so no one knows who you really are. This is not what God is about. God does not want us to come here, dress well, be polite, not cuss for a few hours, and sober up for the morning so we can look, basically, clean and moral in his presence, and then scurry on about our own ways.
He is not impressed with a masquerade of religiosity. God only wants transformation, which is when something inside transforms that which we see. If anything, it was Jesus' flesh, which covered up who he really was in his greatness and in his deity, in his God-ness. What would happen is that in this moment his glory burst through the veil, and he was transformed. The very nature of God, if you will, was revealed to Peter, James, and John in the purpose of Jesus Christ.
It was to show them, "Look. This is who I am. When I tell you to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me, when I tell you to fear me, when I tell you that you will be hated on my account, that many of you are going to be delivered up to death, and to trust in me, you're trusting in the one who is in and of himself God. That's the one you should rightly fear. I am glorious, and I will be glorified as I go through and finish what it is I've come to do. Those who trust in me will also be glorified, as I do in them what I say I'm here to do. While you're here, I want you to be transformed."
Listen to this. It says this in Romans, chapter 12, verses 1 and 2. After Paul talks about this great work Jesus did on the cross that is about to happen in Mark, he then says, "Brothers and sisters, I urge you, by the mercy of God, to present yourself, or to present your bodies, as a living and holy sacrifice, which is acceptable to God." The living part is easy. I have that part down.
The holy is kind of hard. "The problem with living sacrifices," as one man said, "is they keep crawling off of the altar." Amen? Amen. He says, "Listen. Take your life, and you make your life a living sacrifice, so that you would not be conformed to the world but that you would be (and it's the exact same word we just had in Mark) transfigured," that what is happening on the inside would change what people see on the outside.
This is not so you would look different even though you're still corrupt and just you sin better in dark places. Jesus is saying, "Have your heart changed so your hands will be informed. I urge you to respond rightly to who Jesus is and what he's done, and not to be conformed to the world but be yourself transformed. Slowly, day-by-day, as you renew yourself by the Word of God and by the power of his Spirit, I want you to be transformed so you can prove what the good will of God is."
All things that are good, all things that are acceptable, and all things that are perfect, that's what the world should see when they come into our midst as a body of believers. Do you know that? They ought to see, and they ought to have a sense of awe that there is such goodness and kindness and grace, such love, such a commitment to reconcile when we hurt each other, an absolute hatred of gossip and slander, a fleeing from immorality.
All that is good ought to be identified. You know why folks are most often driven away from the church? The number one reason, what is it? Hypocrisy. They see us put on a masquerade. They don't see us living out a transformation. I don't blame them. I don't blame them a bit. Everyone hates to be deceived.
Jesus implores us as his followers to be in the process of being transformed. There's going to be a day, he says, when he's going to finish the good work he has begun in us while we're here on this earth. While we're here, we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness. For example, the discipline of community, where you're really known, where folks can get inside your world and say, "Wagner, you're just so inconsistent. I know what your heart is, but you're so inconsistent. You have to tether down. You have to get in the book so your life can be informed by the book."
I believe there are many people in this room who really want to live in a way that glorifies God, but they haven't done jack one to go in that direction. This is a fact: God will not sanctify a stupid Christian. What's the word sanctify mean? It just means to make more holy, transform. He uses his Word to do that. If you haven't a clue about how transformation happens by going to the living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written Word, his Word, you're not going to change.
People say to me all the time, "Hey, Todd, how do I get to know my Bible?" As gently as I can, I look at them and say, "Well, are you reading it?" They go, "Well, no." I go, "Start there. All right?" "What translation?" "Whichever one you'll read."
Folks ask a lot to get together with me and with other godly men. They want to be mentored by people whom they perceive as individuals whom God is at work in their lives. I will tell you something. It is always a joy to get together with somebody who has questions and who wants to wrestle through difficulties they found either in God's Word or in the context of life.
When they call you and say, "This is my issue. I was just in Mark, chapter 9. It made no sense to me. I have a list of questions. Here they are. Can you help me wrestle through with these?" I don't see anybody pushing those folks away. The folks you just don't want to give an ounce of your time to are folks who say, "Hey, can we get together?" "What for?" "Well, just to get together."
As if some cup of coffee with me is going to make your life better. No, but it is a principle of God's Word that those of us who, by the grace of God, have been drawn further into a relationship with him, these things which we have heard we ought to teach to others, to faithful individuals who will be able then to teach other individuals.
A teacher doesn't want to go to some student and hear, "Hey, teach me about math." The teacher wants to say, "Have you done any homework, and where are your questions? Let's wrestle through them. There's a way we'll go from addition to subtraction to multiplication to confusion," or wherever else math leads. When was the last time you read your Bible so you had a question, and not just on some dainty little thought or some Psalm? "Oh, that's nice. God is King. Aww. All right."
Well, yes, he's King, but get a clue by having questions you want others to help you process. That's how you're transformed, by putting yourself in the midst of God's people, in the midst of God's Word, in the midst of a relationship with God through prayer. Jesus was transformed. That was his very nature. His glory was revealed. We're transformed as his glory is at work in us and through us.
It says, "And He was transfigured before them…" In verse 3, it says, "…and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them." I love this because Mark is commonly said to be a close friend of Peter's, and so much of Mark's gospel is basically Peter's account of what he saw with Christ.
Peter, when he was telling Mark about what he saw up on the Mount of Transfiguration, didn't know what to say. He just did the best he could, which is why I believe… When I get to heaven, I'm not going to be disappointed if the streets are not paved with gold. I'm not sure we can, in human vernacular, express the glory of heaven.
By the way, I won't be discouraged if they are paved with gold, but in the context of prophetic literature sometimes there are things we can't get our arms around. The best they can do is speak in what's called anthropomorphic terms. That's why sometimes we see God whose hands are working. God doesn't have hands, but we put it in terms we can understand.
When you think of heaven, I think the best John could do when he saw heaven was say, "Look, the most precious thing on earth is so common in heaven that they paved the streets with it. It's that good. It's better than that." I don't think hell, by the way, is a lake of fire. I do believe in eternal judgment. The Scriptures teach it. I think the best John could do is say, "It's like a lake of fire."
I won't be at all disturbed to find out it is literally a lake of fire. It is prophetic literature, so you interpret it as such. Sometimes it's very clear that it's saying, "This is exactly what it's going to be." Sometimes it's saying, "It's the best I can say." I think it will be something like a lake of fire…that or far and infinitely worse, that's the best he could describe…one you never quite really drown in. It's the most awful thing we can imagine.
Peter, right here, was saying, "Look. It was like… I mean his clothes were so white it was like… Well, there's not a single launderer in all of Jerusalem who can make them this white." That's basically what he's saying. "I don't know how to describe it to you, but it's whiter than the whitest white I've ever gotten when my wife left my robe in the Clorox all night." I love that. It's so personal.
One of the things we see about our Scriptures is God let men write those Scriptures with their own personality, though never in a way that their personality deviated away from God's inspired will. God carried them along in their person for his purposes to produce his perfect Word. That's the Word of God.
It says at this point, "And Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified." I love that. Why did Peter say, "Let's build three tabernacles"? You know, there are all kinds of reasons people have put out there.
What does the Scripture say? Peter himself didn't know why he said it. There was some silence, and so Peter stepped into the void and spoke. He didn't have a clue. He just said something and got himself in trouble as a result. He didn't get rebuked by Jesus. This time the Big Man tapped him. Look what it says.
"Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them…" Uh-oh. "…and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!' And all at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone. And as they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until…""Be silent until…" "…the Son of Man should rise from the dead. And they seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean."
"And they asked Him, saying, 'Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?'""Elijah was just here, and yet you're telling me still that you're going to die." "And He said to them, 'Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt?'" **I'll explain this. Verse 13:"But I say to you, that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him."**
All right. Nice stuff, Wagner. What does this have to do with me on September 30, 2001? Here we go, gang. This is such great stuff. These men are up there… Understand what frames this incident. It is Jesus saying, "I'm going to go and be delivered over to wicked men who will kill me." Transformation, where you see Jesus in his glory, back to normal Jesus as the disciples knew him, walking down the mountain.
Jesus says, "Shut up about this until after I'm killed." They go, "Dang, there it is again, this very confusing thing. We just saw God in this man. We knew he was there." Peter himself was saying, "I just got through saying he was God, and then he told me he was going to die. I rebuked him for it, and then he rebuked me. Now he takes me up this hill, and I see I was right! Now he's talking about dying again. This makes absolutely no sense."
Doesn't that make sense, that Peter was confused? It makes absolute sense. God is working here in a way that makes no sense. I mean, if we were God, we would come and kick some serious tail. I would fry them to a Cheeto until they were crisply fried to a crackling crunch and say, "Any questions?" That's what I would do if I were God and thank goodness I'm not. God comes and says, "I want to first give them a provision to be right with me, and then we will dance on dancers of injustice."
This little thing that happened with Elijah and Moses showing up… Why? I'm going to make a case that part of what is going on right here is for both the disciples and also for Jesus. I think Jesus, who is now on the way to Jerusalem… This is not just for Peter, James, and John. This is also for Jesus.
It says in Luke that he went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, as he communed with the Father, the Father steeled him with truth. You have the man who most fully embodies the Word of God in the Old Testament: Moses, the law of the Lord, and that which was revealed which is true, and the man who came to set people back in accord with the law: Elijah, the great prophet.
They, in effect, sat with Jesus and said, "Jesus, you know. You've read our books. You've read our works. Even as a man, you understand the Law and the Prophets all point to the Messiah who must suffer before the glory comes. You know who you are. You're the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace. You're the Lamb, the one who the world will reject, but the one who God himself raises up. You are very God of very God, but the Scriptures say the Son of the God, the Messiah, must suffer. You know that and you're going to go, but don't forget who you are."
Jesus himself did this very thing. If you'll look at Luke 24, verses 25 through 27. This is after Jesus had been crucified. He's the risen Lord. He's walking now what's called the road to Emmaus. He enters into a dialogue with two disciples. He's playing dumb because these disciples are all depressed because Jesus had died, and they had not yet heard the news of the resurrection. He's walking along with them, and he's frustrated with their hard-heartedness.
He basically finally says this in verse 25: "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!" See what he says? "You didn't hear what Elijah said, what Isaiah said, what Jeremiah said, what Moses said. Wasn't it clear in the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer things before he entered into glory?" Now watch this. If you want to be someplace in Scripture, there's two places I would time machine in. One is in Mark 9 and one is in Luke 24, because they're the greatest Bible study lessons, I think, ever taught.
He opens up the Scriptures and, starting with Moses and then all the way through Elijah, "…He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." I think that's what was happening up on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses was there saying, "Hey, remember the Word?" Elijah was saying there, "Remember the Word? It will be accomplished, your death and your glory. Stand firm."
Peter, James, and John were still getting their arms around this because (as we've talked now for the last three weeks) it makes sense that these men were looking for the conquering King and just couldn't mix that with the humble Lamb. This Mount of Transfiguration was to make some things very clear to them.
This part when they're coming down the mountain and the guys are wrestling with it because Jesus just said, "Listen, don't say anything until after I'm dead and resurrected." They then said to Jesus, "Hey wait. Since you told us… And we were up there… Didn't the prophets say Elijah must come before the kingdom? Wasn't that Elijah? Doesn't that mean we're going to go down there now and kick some tail?"
Jesus just said to them, in effect, "Elijah, if you want to handle it, did come in the person of John the Baptist, and they killed him. Elijah will come again. He'll make things right one more time, but right now, just like they killed Elijah and John the Baptist, they're going to kill me. Then there's going to be another time when Elijah comes back and gets it right, and I'll come back and get it right." Let me take you to two places and show you this.
Mark 11 comes up first. This is when Jesus had made his way down off the Mount of Transfiguration and had gone all the way to Jerusalem. He was there, in Jerusalem. He went through, and he did what a lion would do. He got into the place of worship, and he destroyed their godlessness in it. This is when he cleansed the temple. He went in there and saw the masquerade of religiosity and he, in his righteousness anger, cleaned house.
The guys who were around had a simple question for him: "How come you're doing this? Who do you think you are?" If you can imagine somebody walking in to (I'm going to use the paragon of what our world views as a holy place of worship) Saint Peter's cathedral in Rome, and in the midst of a High Mass going in there and just knocking over what's going on, ripping the hat off the pope, and saying, "Would you guys cut it out? This is absolutely ridiculous."
Can you imagine that some people would go, "Can we ask you a question? Who the heck do you think you are, turning things on their ear like this right here?" This is what Jesus says in verse 29. "I'll ask you a question, since you asked me one. If you answer me, I'll tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John the Baptist from heaven, or from men? Answer me that."
"And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, 'If we say, "From heaven," He will say, "Then why did you not believe him?" But shall we say, "From men"?'—they were afraid of the multitude, for all considered John to have been a prophet indeed." Why? Because it was clear who John was. He was an instrument of God.
If they say John was nothing more than a man with a messiah complex, the people would go, "We lose all respect for you because we can see who this man is, John the Baptist." If they said he was from God, then why did they reject his message? That's what Jesus was getting at, so they were absolutely stymied. "And answering Jesus, they said, 'We do not know.' And Jesus said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.'"
What is happening right here is Jesus is saying, "You know who he was, and you know who I am. Every bit of the evidence of who I am and who he was is right before you. John came, and John called you to repent. John called you to get your hearts right with God. You have failed to do that, you brood of vipers. You know who I am, and you know by what authority I am doing this. You reject it. Now you go about your dirty work, but don't say it was because you didn't know." I love that aspect of Christ.
You can sit here, if you're out there today as a guest or somebody who is wrestling with who God is, and you can say, "Well, how do I know who Jesus is?" Have you looked at the evidence? Have you ever personally looked at the prophecies? Have you ever looked at God's Word in comparison to other divine writings? Have you ever looked at the evidences for the resurrection? Have you ever seen how the history of the world pivots on this man, how the world can't suppress this man and do away with him? Who do you think he is, and what are you going to do with him?
Let me show you the verse in the Scriptures that pointed to Moses and Elijah coming before the King. By the way, this same idea appears in Revelation, talking about when Jesus returns. You're going to see Malachi, an Old Testament prophet, one of the last. In Malachi, chapter 4, in verses 1 and 2, it talks about how there's going to be a day when the day of the Lord will come.
That is a day when God will dance upon injustice. It's when the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. Look with me at verse 4. "Remember," he says. "Remember. Go back to the Word." Fourteen times that remember idea shows up in Moses' last book, Deuteronomy. I'm calling you back to the Word of God.
"Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold…" Watch this. "…I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
Here was the anticipation. When Elijah would return, he would get it right. He would do away with the wicked people who worshipped some other god than the God of Moses. What Elijah wants to do is call people, ultimately, to repentance. When they repent and they begin to walk in the ways God called them to walk, then he said his glory would shine through them.
When they heard Elijah would come and would restore things, they thought they were going to restore Israel to a place of national prominence and peace, but there's a different peace Elijah was first and foremost concerned with. Watch what he said would happen in verse 6. He says, "I'm going to come, and the hearts of children will go to their fathers and the hearts of fathers to their children."
Now, Mark 13. At the very end of the life of Jesus, his disciples are saying, "When are you going to dance upon injustice?" Look at verse 3 of Mark 13 . "And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 'Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?'" The all these things are God coming in glory.
"And Jesus began to say to them, 'See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, "I am He!" and will mislead many. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.'
But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit."
Look at verse 12. "And brother will deliver brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all on account of My name." What Jesus is saying right here is simply this: When the end times come and Elijah comes back, anticipate the Son coming back, just what it said in Malachi is going to happen. He's going to call them to repent again. This time if they don't repent, he will bring a curse against the people.
Let me give you just a little view of the end times. Israel is going to play primarily in it. We have no clue where America is. It doesn't even exist in the end-times scenarios. I'm sure there will be some American citizens intimately involved, but as a country, we're a non-factor. Israel, however, is. Israel is going to go through a time of incredible purification where they will suffer more than they've ever suffered as a people. See also the horrors of the Holocaust.
I told you a couple of weeks ago, if you thought our World Trade Center falling was a traumatic idea, I don't think we've seen the beginning. I don't think we have a clue the horrors that are ahead. I would say also that the Scriptures tell you there's going to be a time in Israel's history when what is called the abomination of desolation happens, and the horrors that happen then will be infinitely worse than anything that's happened previously and will happen again.
There's not a single person in this room who isn't horrified by awful acts like we saw earlier in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but it's going to get worse. God is going to remove his hand, and the people are going to be taken through a place where they have no place to turn but to Yeshua, to Jesus their Messiah. They're going to honor him as their King, and their hearts are going to get right.
As they go through those horrors, there will be prophets who stand up and say, "Turn to him. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life." There will be remnants in Israel who worship just like we worship today, acknowledging Jesus is King. Book it. Israel gathered right now is not Israel redeemed, for they don't yet know who their Messiah and their King is. What's the application to us? I want to give you a couple. We're not going to dwell on these long. Here's the first one:
1._ Tough times are good times for skeptics._ What do I mean by that? You have Jesus saying, "There are some tough days that are ahead. I'm going to go to a cross, and those who follow me are going to suffer until I dance on injustice. When you see tough times, people are going to mock you for believing in your God. They're going to say, 'Don't you know who your God is? He's the one who was nailed to a cross. You're foolish to believe in him.'"
People believed Jesus was nailed to a cross as a sign of God's judgment. No. He was nailed to a cross as fulfillment of what God was doing to, in his grace, bring sinful humanity to himself. There are some of you who are out there today who scoff at the hope of the believer because you go, "You live in a world that's going to hell. It's going to hell sometimes right on your head. Members of your body are dying and getting sick."
I have to tell you something. The Scriptures… This health, wealth, and prosperity nonsense is not there. Folks who hold it up as evidence of God being with us are further complicating the issue. Tough times will come. In fact, the Scriptures promise that all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
The Scriptures say most of us are going to die before Jesus comes back. Whether that's through a terrible car accident, some disease that takes us, or at the end of a long and satisfying life, we're all going to die sooner or later. Health, wealth, and prosperity ends for the most godly of those fools who preach it.
Look what it says in 2 Peter, chapter 3. Peter says, "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles." All he's saying is, "Listen. I'm telling you this again."
This is Peter. "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts." The last days, biblically, are anything after the cross. "And saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.'" You can bank on it, believer.
While we wait for our hope to be realized, there are going to be folks who are going to say, "Yeah, yeah. Where is your Jesus? I know you say the tomb is empty but where is he? You call to him, and your children continue to die. You continue to starve. Wickedness reigns." We don't have time to go there, but you just file Psalm 10 in your notes right here, and you go back and read it. It says that's what's going to happen. Tough times are good times for skeptics.
What Jesus is going to say right here is, "Don't let them talk you out of the glory which has been revealed to you." Jesus says, "Hey, great that Peter, James, and John saw me, but blessed are you who believe and do not see." Let me give you another one. This one's a little bit harder to understand, and it really is one that flies in the face of our world.
2._ If you get to choose between a powerful subjective experience and the promise of objective truth, you choose the truth._ Now this is amazing. Our world loves experience. Our world is racing towards experiences. Churches are filling up because they offer great experiences.
I love the worship movement that is happening out there. One of the problems with the worship movement is we are creating a group of individuals who worship the feeling they get in worship more than the God they worship. I love our good worship music here, but the day we elevate how we do it above what we're doing, we have serious problems.
There are kids who will travel all across the country to go to some conference on a farm or some retreat in a hotel to experience an incredible moving worship time who will go back to their campuses and not live out the faith, which is not the heart and the intent of those passionate leaders. If we're not careful, we'll just create a cult of worship and experience which feels so good and is so transforming and so powerful.
This is also what's going on in much of the charismatic world. You can have some subjective experience which shows God is real, with some evidence of God speaking in unknown tongues or some slaying in the Spirit…two completely unbiblical acts that have no foundation in Scripture…so you can know God is real. People will draw folks to them so they can experience this subjectively to know God is alive and real, and the Word of God keeps pushing you back to the truth.
Let me tell you this. I want you to turn to 2 Peter, chapter 1. Peter himself said, "As great as the Mount of Transfiguration was…" If you'll go down to verse 16 for me. Peter himself said, "Hey, the Mount of Transfiguration was awesome, but better than being there on that mountain is the Word of God which is sure." Let me read it to you.
Peter says in verse 15, "And I will also be diligent that at any time after [I leave] you may be able to call these things [the truth about who God is] to mind [because you don't need me there to share with you my experience] . For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses [James, John, and me] of His majesty.
For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased'—and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain."
Listen to this. "And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, [which is not based on my loose experience but on what God has given us] , to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."
Here's what Peter is saying. "If you could choose any place to be, it wouldn't be on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. It would be in your study with the Word of God. Experience will fade. Experience is unreliable, but the Word of God stands forever."
All Peter is saying is, "You thought it was good to be on the mountain? Get in the book." Is that amazing? That's amazing. Most of us want to go to some subjective experience where we can see and feel something. God tells us that even better than seeing and feeling is having the anchor of God's Word available to us. That means we are without excuse. Two more quick, quick things. Here's one:
3._ If you don't have anything informed to say, it's better to say nothing at all._ There's Peter. An old saying, "It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear to be dumb than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." That's very biblical.
Proverbs, chapter 17, verses 27 and 28 say, "He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." In other words, he's not prompted by fear or by circumstances to just say something. "Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent."
Here's what I would say to you. Sometimes when you don't know what to say, just shut up. Grief counselors will tell you the most awful thing you can do when you're overwhelmed with the circumstances is try and speak into the void. Sometimes it's just good to be there and weep. Just go, "I'm sorry. I share your pain with you. I just want to be here until God gives me something informed to say." Here's the last one:
4._ Listen to him._ Now this one is tough. I love what God said… You think about this. You just saw the greatest physical picture in history. You saw God. You're Peter, James, and John, and the mountain is covered by a dark cloud. A voice comes out. Listen to what God said. It's amazing what he doesn't say. He doesn't say, "This is my Son. Look at him."
He says, "This is my Son. Listen to him. Peter, listen. You are so confused by what you think and what your teachers tell you the Messiah is going to look like. Peter, you're so sure of yourself. You just said he was God, but then you told him what to do. Would you cut it out? Would you listen to him? He knows what he's doing. He's going to a cross because that cross is for your good and for my glory. Suffering must come before I glorify him. Would you stop trying to inform me of what is for your good, and would you listen to Jesus?"
That's where we end today, because most of us want to tell God what he needs to do today for us instead of getting on our face, listening to him, and saying, "God, would you instruct me where I can find life?" Would you quit telling God, "If you'll just do this, bring me this gal, have this deal come through, if you'll just remove this thorn from my flesh, everything will be fine." Would you do what God calls these men to do, and that's to just listen to him?
"Listen to this," he says. "If you want to follow me, you have to deny yourself." See also all of last week. Take up your cross (we defined that last week) and follow him. We all want to stay on the mountain of glory, and God calls us to the valley of service. There will be a mountain of glory, and he'll bring us there one day.
For now, listen to him, suffer hardship with him as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. "They hated me; they'll hate you. Don't look for comfort now. This isn't your place of comfort. You are a soldier enlisted." If you're out here today as a guest, listen to him. Unless you repent, you will die in judgment. The Lamb you'll never know, who died for your sins, but the Lion you will not mistake. He says, "Come and worship me." Let's close in prayer.
Father, as we sit for a little bit longer… We took some extra time today because there's a lot here that's so difficult. It confused those men who were right there with you. How much more are we easily confused 2,000 years later? So, we just wrestled with some real meat. There's Elijah, and there's Moses. There's transformation/transfiguration.
It is hard for us, but I thank you that we don't have to sit and just wonder, that you've given us your Word. If we will discipline ourselves, we can go there, and we can see there is clear, revealed truth we can build our lives on. The foundation of your Word is true.
Lord, now we say this. We are prone to be men and women who want glory right now, who want to build tents to say, "Let's just stay here. The heck with the cross down there in Jerusalem. Let's stay on the mountain. Let's stay in this church. It's so good here right now. We love each other. There are times of worship."
You call us to go back into the world and to be salt and light, to love our enemies, to suffer, to bear up well underneath disease and sickness and disaster, and to preach hope. I pray, Lord, that we would not resent that we don't stay on this mountain now, but that we would long for that day, and with great anticipation and unwavering hope we would face whatever storm you carry us through, knowing there will be something far better than a mountain that we reside on with you. I pray that now we have the courage to listen to you, deny ourselves, carry our cross, and follow in your steps.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 9:1 through Mark 10:34 and includes the 2-message series "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: The Ordeal and the Ideal".