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Mark 9.1-8 The glory that shapes the suffering.

Mark 9.1-8

Last week looking at 'cosmic' Christ. Jesus the creator and lord of all, the source of everything - even life and being.

Today we see the glory of Christ, Jesus transfigured, shining with a brilliance that one of the gospel writers describes as like the sun. 

There are echoes in this story of Moses who met with God on the Mount Sinai, and Elijah who met with God on Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are different names for the same mountain. And there are echoes also of Isaiah's vision of God (Isaiah 6), when he hears the angels proclaim, 'Holy Holy Holy'.

In verse 1, Jesus says “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” (Mark 9:1)
And in verse 2 we are told 'six days later'.
That 'dating' is unusual in Mark. We are meant to understand the transfiguration as the fulfilment of that promise. The 'some' are Peter, James and John who see here the Kingdom of God come with power.

This is important. Jesus has just told them that he is going to be crucified. 
And then he has told his followers, us, that we too are called to deny ourselves (i.e. do what God wants us to do and not what we at first want to do), to take up our cross (to live as people sentenced to death), and to lose our lives for him.
it is not exactly the most attractive prospect.

It reminds me of Gimli, the heroic dwarf in the film, Lord of the rings. The fellowship are about to go into the cave to rouse the living dead, and Gimli says, as they are hesitating before they go in: "Certainty Of Death? Small Chance Of Success? What Are We Waitin' For?"

Lent is a time for reassessment and realignment. 
It is about realising that to follow the Lord Jesus is costly.
Yes it is about self denial (and there are always, at this time, the discussions of what are you giving up for Lent). But to be honest self denial is necessary for many things (three illustrations in the bible are athletics, army and farming).
It is about being taken to places - and I'm not necessarily talking about geographical places - where we would really not go. Perhaps it is about seeking to heal a broken relationship even if it means saying sorry or forgiving or swallowing our pride; it may be about facing up to truths about ourself; it might be about learning outrageous risky generosity. 
But it is more than that: Jesus in Mark 9.1-38 is talking about a very specific form of self denial. It is about being prepared to face ridicule and accusation and suffering because we stand up not even for an at times discredited church, but for the person of Jesus Christ. 

But before we go into Lent, and before Jesus goes to the cross, 'some' of the disciples are given a glimpse of the Kingdom of God coming in power - and that cannot be separated from the glory of Jesus.

Peter, James and John see Jesus shining more brightly than any natural thing on earth. We are not told about him, but his clothes - which are in direct contact with him - are dazzling white.
He transcends history and time: he is speaking with Moses (died about 1350 years earlier) and Elijah (who is transported up into heaven in the chariots of fire about 900 years earlier).
He transcends any religious act: the three 'dwellings' - recalls one of the most sacred moments in Israel's history when they left Egypt and lived in tents in the wilderness. They became symbols of God's love (bringing them out of slavery), punishment (disobedience which kept them in the wilderness for forty years) and mercy. Of God's guidance and provision and protection.
Peter wants to put Moses, Elijah and Jesus into one of those memorial religious dwellings - no!! He didn't know what he was saying. There is nothing that can capture, or frame, the glory of Jesus

And we are shown here Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God.
The voice from the cloud declares him to be the Son of God: 'This is my Son, my beloved'. 
We've read those words earlier. At the baptism of Jesus the voice from heaven speaks. But then it is much more intimate and personal: 'You are my Son, my beloved'. 
But now the words are declaratory: 'This is my Son ..'. And something new is added to it: 
'Listen to him!'

We are shown here Jesus Christ, the one who we are called to listen to: more than we are called to listen to even Moses and Elijah. He is the one who speaks the words of God.

Perhaps as we go into Lent we need to put aside time to listen to him. That means primarily putting aside time to read the Word of God. Perhaps we might read through Mark's gospel. To do that involves discipline and self denial: giving time to read. I'm discovering again what is called 'slow reading', when you read through a passage once, then again, then again. Maybe we try to learn it by heart. But we allow the words to sink into us. 

And remember, when it gets hard, when it seems that we are so foolish following Jesus Christ in a world that minute by minute is increasingly forgetting him, remember what Mark tells us. Remember this vision. 

When we are led into the valley, when we choose to go into the valley, and when it seems that it is all deep dark cold valley, stir your mind.
There is a mountain top and the Son is shining.

And as over the next few weeks we look at Jesus, shamed and crucified, seemingly powerless in the face of evil and death - we remember that in the background there is the real Jesus who is the Son of God, who is beyond space and time, who conquers death, and who shines with the glory of God.


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