A Trip To The Mountaintop: What Do You See?
February 19, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Mark 9: 2-9
2 Six days later, 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, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Our title and our topic today is: A Trip To The Mountaintop, What Do You See?
Letís take a trip up to the mountaintop, the Mountaintop of the Transfiguration. Letís go along with Jesus and His selected few disciples and travel with them up the high mountain to this wonderful peak and experience the elevated mystery.
This is an unusual story that we are studying this morning. How mysterious, now unlikely! Perhaps you were wrestling with the Scripture over this point, and that is a good thing. Letís take a closer look. There are at least nine gems that I would like to look at today.
He Leads Us Up!
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.
Peter, James and John were the closest disciples to Jesus. Please underline the words, led them up.
That is what Jesus does-He leads us up. When we reach out to Him in prayer, He always leads us upward. The path of the Lord is always up to a higher place in consciousness. That is the symbolism of this phrase. He led them up!
Wonít you take this to heart this week? How is the Lord going to lead you upward this week? Maybe the Lord will put a book in your hands that contains a wonderful spiritual insight, an insight that you hadnít considered before. This is Jesus leading you upward.
I celebrated a funeral this past week of a dear man, who had sung in one of my choral groups thirty two years ago. After the funeral there was a luncheon. I had the most wonderful conversation about spiritual things with people that I had not met before. Everyone was filled with the most wonderful spirit. It was Jesus leading us up! We were all from different parts of the country, from different career paths, but we all had the Lord in common. What a wonderful connection we had!
Look for how Jesus is leading you upward this week. He wants to, as you reach out to Him, He will lead you up - up out of despair, up out of negative thinking, up out of procrastination, to hope, possibility, and accomplishment. Jesus is leading you UP!
The High Mountain - What Does It Symbolize?
The Scripture goes on to say,
and led them up a high mountain.
What mountain could this be? Some say it was Mount Tabor in the south. The problem with that is that Mount Tabor is only 1000 feet high, and there was a fortress on the top in the time of Jesus. In the north there was another mountain called Mount Hebron. Mount Hebron is 9,200 feet in elevation and is always covered in snow. It is a very elevated and mystic place, symbolizing an elevated place in consciousness. So Mount Hebron is where we think this episode took place.
Letís stop for a moment. Did it really happen the way it says in the Bible? Did they really see Moses and Elijah, was this all happening? I suggest that it did happen the way it says so in the Bible. I will tell you why I believe this is so. Jesus was on His way to the cross. His death was not far away. Have you ever heard of the ďnear deathĒ experience? People have remarkable experiences of visions of people who have gone on before. I tell you this. I have thirty four years in the ministry and it has become abundantly clear to me that ďnear deathĒ experiences are real. The bridge between this life and the next is very mysterious and inspiring. I think that the Transfiguration was a ďnear deathĒ experience for Jesus. I accept it simply as it says so in the Bible.
The Remarkable Transfiguration
And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
What does this mean? They had no other word, how else could they describe what happened to the body of Jesus? It wasnít in their vocabulary, so the best they could say was that Jesus was transfigured. His clothes became dazzling white. No bleach could make clothes this bright, they wanted to make this clear. It was the color you perceive when you look at highly polished gold with sunlight streaming directly on it. It was more than a color, it was a sensation that was partially visual and partially spiritual. It was part of this world and also another. It was the color of perfection. Jesus came to teach us about Godís perfect view of the world.
And then what happened?
And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
What is the symbolism of this?
Moses was the one who wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of our Bible - the part the Jewish people called, "The Law. "
Moses was the giver of the Ten Commandments.
Moses symbolized the sacred past.
Elijah symbolized the Prophets, those who foretold the future.
Elijah was considered to be the greatest Prophet.
Elijah and Moses were talking with Jesus, (they were not talking to the Disciples),
they were encouraging Him because He was on His way to the cross.
Jesus was about to fulfill Godís wish, to reconcile God to Godís people.
A Central Point of My Personal Theology
I believe it is a two way street. Yes, Jesus gave Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, for our human nature. But also, as a divine empathy. In Jesusís death God was saying to us, Friend, I understand that you go through pain. I understand that you perceive the world as broken. I go through pain, too. I would identify totally with you, in the death of my Son. So God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Not only cleansing us, but also embracing us with His understanding love.
We Want to be Helpful, Lord!
Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
This passage is the humanizer! The Disciples were terrified, they didnít know what to say. They wanted to be useful and to be included in this majestic moment that they didnít understand. Of course Jesus wanted them to be included, that was why He brought them up to the mountain. Jesus wasnít the only one who was transfigured, the Disciples were also. You canít un-see something. They saw the Transfiguration, and so they were transfigured too.
When God Talks, What Does He Say?
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"
In the thinking of the people of the time, the cloud was a powerful. Whenever they were in a fog or cloud, it reminded them of the presence of God. The relationship between God and Jesus was one of love.
This whole experience was too much for the Disciples, it was overwhelming. It was the Mountain Top experience. They just fainted away. When they woke up, they looked around.
And When They AwakenedÖ
Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
When the Mountain Top experience is over, when we have experienced the elevated, the incredible, we come back down. We come back to earth to everyday things. But even after the Mountain Top Experience there is still Jesus.
And so it is for us. Every day when we are working, going about our daily tasks, doing what needs to be done, there is Jesus. He is still with us.
One Last Word From the Lord
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Why did Jesus tell them not tell anyone about what they had seen? Who would believe what they had to tell? He told them they could tell after He rose from the dead. Why? In the accounts of what Jesus looked like after the Resurrection, there were accounts of dazzling white. There were accounts of a remarkable spiritual body who could pass through walls, and yet be touched and who could eat food. It was a new form of creation. The Disciples had gotten a glimpse of it on the Mountain Top.
In closing, please think of this idea as you go through your week. God has amazing possibilities in store for you. What will they be? As we go with Jesus in prayer, He will reveal the wonderful possibilities He has for us.
God loves you, Friend. I do too. I wish you a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2012 Anthony J. Godlefski