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About this series
How Jesus Chose to Change the World
What does it mean to be a real disciple of Jesus? Through this new series based in the Gospel of Mark, Chip breaks down this complex idea, by using the simple lessons Jesus taught His followers. We'll learn how characteristics like commitment, humility, and trust - set genuine Christ followers apart. Chip helps us better understand how we can avoid sin, grow in our walk with Christ, and just as important, help others mature in their faith as well. Don't miss how real disciples of Jesus, can radically change our world.More from this series
God basically, through the life of another person, put me in a situation where he had me ask and answer the question, “Are you willing to go for broke or not? Do you trust Me? Is this a college passing fantasy of getting involved in Bible studies and all that, or are you really committed to go where I send you, to do what I want you to do, to literally write a blank check, sign your name on the bottom, and let Me fill out the top? To take all the chips of your life and push them to the middle of the table and let Me deal and accept that I am good enough and more powerful and gracious, that what the hand I deal you will be best?”
And in my case, it may not seem like a lot to you now, but back then, leaving a girl that I thought I would marry for a year and leaving a basketball scholarship and friends and all the rest seemed like a real big deal. And for six or eight months, I prayed about it.
And it was exciting for me to get to a point where I could say, “God, if You want me to leave this school and go, I’m willing. I don’t want to. I mean, I’m going to be up front with You. This does not sound like a fun deal at all. But if You want me to do it, I’ll do it.” And it was even more exciting for them to say, “We don’t think you need to do it.” It was kind of like the knife was coming down on Abraham’s son and God said, “Stop!” And I said, “Great.”
And, but a year later, I did it. A year later, I turned down a couple teaching jobs and ended up mixing mud for a bricklayer and started a campus ministry on a campus where there was nothing going on.
To be honest with you, when I am serious and write a blank check with my name on the bottom of it and give it to God, I hate to admit this, but it scares me to death. And that’s why a lot of us don’t do it. But let me tell you, in this case, I did it. I said, “I’ll go.” At that campus is where I met my wife, Theresa. That was a pretty good little bonus, wasn’t it? I think it’s even better than pretty good.
It was there that for the first time after a year, the bricklayer said, “You know something? I’m getting too old for this stuff. You take over all the college part of it and I’ll work with couples.” And I was very young for someone to turn over the entire reins of a campus ministry, and where issues of leadership and teaching ability and – full rein. God developed my life because I took that step. I always had a dream of coaching. And after about four months of mixing mud and realizing what real life is about, I decided that I was willing to do this and I admire those who do it, but I sure would like to get back into teaching and coaching.
God opened a door and I got to coach a high school team. Another reason, another benefit that came from there is a year later, they had a real particular need that I had some background in at West Virginia University and they asked me to come there and teach for a year while I did my master’s degree. Well, West Virginia University was only twenty minutes from where I moved. Couldn’t have done it anyplace else.
So, what I want to help you see is that when God asks you and I to make a radical step and say no to our will and yes to His will, what I want you to see is His will is great. It’s wonderful. It’s good. It’s powerful! It’s better than anything you could dream up for yourself. But you have to let go of yours to get to His.
So often when we talk about sacrifice and commitment, you know what I find people do? We always look at the side of: This is what I’ve got to give up. And then we recoil.
What Jesus is going to do with His followers is He is going to flip the coin over and say, This is what you get.” This is what you get in on. Following Me instead of focusing on what we give up, He’s going to talk about what He promises. And He’s going to show His inner group of three that it is the most fantastic thing you’ll ever get in your life. And to actually, to do anything less than abandoning yourself to Christ really is not very intelligent. Now, that’s a different way to look at it, isn’t it?
Well, let’s open it up to Mark chapter 9 and pick it up. “And He said to them, ‘I tell you the truth,’” after this great call to commitment, and the reasons why they should do it, “‘some of you are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’” And the word power there is dunamis. We get our word dynamite.
He says to them, Look, I have just asked you guys to go for broke, I’ve asked you to put the chips of your life in the center of the table. Let Me deal, do whatever I ask you to do. And He says, But now here’s what I want you to get. There are some of you standing right here, not only are you going to see Me in all My glory and power when I return, but He says, Some of you are going to get to taste and see what it’s like even before you die.
Now, verse 2 says, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and He led them up on a high mountain, where they were all alone.” Notice the little phrase, “six days”. He made this challenge, and for six days, can you imagine what it was like? I mean, let’s put ourselves in their shoes. Two and a half years we are following this guy, we listen to Him, we see the miracles, He walks on water, He calms the storms. We are on board. He’s our Messiah! He is going to do it. But in our mind we are thinking, Oh, I can’t wait until He takes on the Roman government and He pushes them aside and then He takes care of that religious establishment. And then He’s the Messiah, the King, the Deliverer. And the twelve of us will rule with Him. Boy, that’s going to be neat.
See, that’s how they viewed it. And then He comes on with this sort of sidelight to the story. Yes, I am the Messiah. You’re right. But…before I reign there’s a part of God’s plan you all have skipped over. Remember? I’m going to suffer, be rejected, and then killed. And then after that, rise again.
And that’s when Peter said, “Hey, hey, hey, hey. We don’t go for that part of it.” And Jesus had a few choice words for Him.
Now, for six days you realize that He has kind of shifted the cost. And for six days you’re saying, “Hey, Pete, what do you think about this suffering jazz?” “I don’t know, Andrew.” “You know, this isn’t what I bargained for. When I signed on and left the fishing business, and I’ve been away from my wife a lot and we have had a lot of sacrifice. What is this suffering, reject…are you in from it?” “I don’t know.”
See, He gives them six days to rummage with it and struggle with it and ask and answer the question: Hey, are you in this for good or just for what you can get? Are you in this for the miracles, for the blessings? Are you loyal to this Person who is actually God?
And then after six days, He takes the inner three – James, John, and Peter – and what He wants to do is take them up where their focus can change from on what they have to give up onto what they are going to get, what they can share.
And so, they go up on this high mountain, probably Mount Hermon, about nine thousand feet. “There” it says, “He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” Matthew, in the same account will say, “His face shone like light.” Luke will tell us in the same account that they fell on their face when it happened. And it likely happened at night because Peter, it says, was kind of sleepy. And then all these lights come.
“And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” And Peter, in typical fashion, not knowing what to do, starts talking. And he says, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here.” I mean, this is awesome. What an experience! “Let us put up three shelters – one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” And this is a great deal. We’ll stay up here forever!
“(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and it enveloped them,” the Shekinah glory cloud of God, “and a voice came from the cloud, ‘This is My Son,’” can you imagine what they are going through at this point? “My beloved Son. Listen to Him!”
The present imperative: Keep on listening to Him; obey His words. “And then suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except for Jesus.”
Let me give you a little insight about what is happening here. They go up on the mountain, Luke tells us they went up to pray. So, these guys don’t – this is normal – they went up on mountains to pray all the time. You’re going to spend time with the Lord, great.
The nine are down, they’re ministering, we’ll go up on the mountain to pray. It’s probably night by the time they get there and they are having a prayer meeting. And as Peter and some of us struggle with at night when we pray, we fall asleep. And he’s waffling a little bit, and then it says He was transfigured. You learn this word in ninth grade biology. Metamorphosis.
Remember the little worm that turns into a butterfly? Metamorphosis means a change from the inside that manifests itself on the outside. See, what happened is lights didn’t shine from angels or spotlights on Jesus. What happened was His true nature – all man, yes, but all God – what He did is He opened just a little bit and cracked and He allowed them to see His deity, His power, His glory.
And so, all of a sudden, instead of this iterant preacher who walked around in sandals and had a beard, all of a sudden, whoom! It’s lights! And then Moses shows up and Elijah shows up! And they’ve got these glorious, shining bodies too. And they are shaking in their boots.
All of a sudden, instead of, they are not thinking, “Well, what we have to give up.” They are realizing for the first time in their life who it is they are really following. They are seeing Jesus in His power and Jesus in His glory. And then can you imagine being a Jew? Who is the most highly esteemed person in all of Jewish history? Moses! He’s the lawgiver. And then who is the king of the prophets? Elijah. Both of those men had miraculous ministries. Both of those men had unusual ways of leaving.
Do you remember who buried Moses? God did. Do you remember what happened to Elijah? Shooo. God took him! I mean, these are heavyweights. These are the guys that of all Jewish history – and Peter and James and John – six days earlier they were saying, “Do we really want to get on board with this guy? Should we give up home and life and future and dreams and submit them all to Him and trust that He will make our lives work out okay?”
What is God doing? He is saying, I want you to see Me for who I am. I want you to get your focus off of what you’re giving up and into the promiser. Now, you might be wondering, it says that Elijah and Moses and Jesus were talking. It’s an interesting tense of the verb. It means they were talking and had a prolonged conversation. And if you cross-reference this with Matthew’s account, he tells us what they were talking about.
Matthew 17 says that they were talking about His, and the word is, His exodus. His death. His checking out. His going to the cross. Now, what is the part of this whole plan that Peter and the disciples are having the biggest problem with? They like the king idea, they like the glory idea, they’re not real big on the cross idea, are they? And the suffering.
And so, you have here the man who gave the law and the king of the prophets. The law and the prophets, the Old Testament summarized in these great men. And they are talking with Jesus and I can’t help but them thinking they are affirming and saying, “All the prophesies are now coming together. All the dream of God, all the power, eternity past and You are now going to do what You and the Father and the Holy Spirit had decided from eternity past, You are going to exodus. You’re going to the cross.”
And as you study here, the reason He shows them power is He wants them to learn that the pathway to power is only through the door of the cross. That’s what He wants them to learn. It’s the theme of this section. The kingdom will only come in power when it goes through the cross.
Now, don’t get that negative idea of what the cross is. “Oh, the cross I’ve got to hurt here and this is…” The cross is the will of God. You and I and the disciples will only experience kingdom power like dynamite when we sign that blank check and say, “Your will instead of mine.” For Jesus, it meant death. At times, it will mean suffering and rejection for us. But it also means power.
And so, the disciples now, their focus has totally changed. And if that wasn’t enough, you talk about confirmation, you know, sometimes we ask God, Oh God, give me a sign.
These guys are the three men that the weight of the Church is going to follow on later.
John is going to write books and end up giving us Revelation at a ripe old age. Peter is going to be the man who gets things going and then Paul takes it to the Gentiles.
He wanted to convince them, “Men, you are in on the most fabulous opportunity that few human beings ever get ever. And I want you to see who I really am.” And that’s His message to us today. And so, this cloud, just like the Shekinah glory comes down, and they actually hear the voice of God tell them, “This is right. This is Jesus. Listen to Him. He is My Son. Follow Him, regardless of the cost.”
You get the affirmation? Now, like us, they have a few questions. And so, after this experience, they are walking down the hill, “They kept the matters to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.”
And Jesus, as they were walking down the hill gave them orders that until they see the Son of Man rise from the dead they should not tell this to anyone, and they still can’t figure out what all this resurrection terminology is about.
Verse 11, “They asked Him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’” Now, see, they are convinced He’s the Messiah. Peter knew it before this experience. But now they have heard from Moses, Elijah, and the voice of God, but they have got a couple nagging theological questions like you and I have sometimes.
Sometimes God makes His will clear and you know what to do. But you have always been taught a couple things and they don’t quite jive with what exactly you think God’s will is. And you need it cleared up. And so, this is what Jesus does. During that day they had a lot of, a lot of big I would say extra-biblical ideas about Elijah and what he would do and when he came and what it would look like. So, Jesus clears them up.
Verse 12, “Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes first, and restores all things.’” That’s true. Those teachers of the law, they are correct. And then He adds a question; He gets back to the heart of the issue.
“Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?” But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
Let’s do a quick review. Group of men have been challenged to the core of their being for about six days.
They saw the King in His glory and power; they saw His deity. They heard from the founders of the faith to affirm and confirm that Jesus was the Messiah. They heard His methodology about the cross was confirmed – by whom? The law, the prophets, and the Father. They had their theological questions answered about Elijah and John the Baptist. And they saw and they heard God.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that would be a pretty, you know, one of those experiences you want to mark up and write down in your journal. Question I have is why is this here? Every gospel, this transfiguration follows the great confession. Why? I think the answer is really simple.
The great confession calls the side of the coin of great demand, great sacrifice, follow Christ no matter what. And I think the Lord knows our humanness and knows that we struggle and knows that we need to also be able to focus on who in the world are we following and is it worth it? Is it worth it? And the answer is yes.