Scripture Reading: Mark 9 - 10 …
This was a real "mountaintop experience" … like none other! Peter, James and John, standing on the mountain as Jesus is "transfigured" in front of them ... and then Elijah and Moses appear! Some believe that Elijah and Moses are the "two witnesses" of Revelation 11. A literal interpretation of the events there would certainly point in that direction. At any rate, this was such a magnificent scene that Peter wanted to stay on the mountaintop with Jesus. Who could blame him?! The voice of the Father spoke from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!" (9:7). Moses received the Law from God Himself and Elijah represented the Prophets who brought God's Word to Israel, and he himself was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire without dying. Now One who was even greater has appeared in fulfillment of God’s promises. It is here that Jesus first mentions "rising from the dead," (9:9-10), though the disciples did not yet understand what He meant.
You can understand why they wanted to stay on the mountaintop when you read through the rest of these two brief chapters. Jesus is confronted by an argument about His disciples not being able to cast an evil spirit out of a boy; followed by an argument among the disciples over who would be the greatest. Then there was some teaching about hell, followed by a debate with the Pharisees concerning divorce. Jesus was then rejected by the rich young man who walked away, not willing to make a commitment to Jesus, more talk about Jesus' death, another ridiculous request by James and John (hadn't they just been on the mountaintop??), and the healing of a blind man. In every detail Jesus was teaching the disciples about His kingdom and why He had come. Jesus was the ultimate teacher because everything He spoke was truth.
The effects of sin are all around us in this world and the words of Jesus that "all things are possible with God" (10:27) are desperately needed as we live in this world … when we come down from the mountaintop. It seems that too many Christians crave one mountaintop experience after the other. We often want to run away from this world, rather than confront the ills that are so obvious in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Since all things are possible with God, then what should we be doing? We need to be learning from Jesus. We who are disciples of Jesus Christ today must understand that the only solution to the problems in this world that are caused by sin is the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of His kingdom!
It would be easy to focus on Jesus casting out demons and healing the blind, but these were signs that pointed to the greater healing that Jesus came to bring: the healing of the human heart. Jesus called the disciples then and His disciples now to be servants in this world (9:35; 10:42-45). He says, "Even the Son of Man did not come to BE served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (10:45). He welcomed the little children and said, "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (10:15). A child accepts things by faith … so must we. Jesus wasn't saying that we should remain as children. We need to learn, to grow, to mature. Yet we must never lose that childlike faith that cries out to the Father for help, for direction, for strength.
Jesus told the disciples, "some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power" (9:1). This was right before the transfiguration on the mountaintop, but Jesus was likely referring to Pentecost. After His resurrection, just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses" (Acts 1:8). As the disciples of Jesus today we need to learn that it is in walking with Him, praying in His name, believing His promises and obeying His Word that we are equipped and empowered for ministry in this world as the Spirit does His work within us.
It is in the name and in the power of Jesus that we are able to confront sin and all its consequences and declare victory! Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount that we are the salt of the earth, and He says here, "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other" (9:50). As many have said, salt is a preservative and we who know Jesus are called to be a positive influence in this world by speaking and living for God.
Learning from Jesus means humbling ourselves so that we are good listeners to all that He says. I think of the debate today that surrounds marriage and how Jesus makes things simple: "At the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’” (10:6). All of us need to be students at the Master's feet and learn from the One who is the Living Word made flesh.
In the midst of all of these events, Jesus began to teach the disciples that He came to die, to pay the ransom for sin, and that He would rise again, victorious over death. They did not yet understand, but when they did, and when they received power from heaven, the focus and attention of their lives would be on passing on to others what Jesus had taught them. This is what the Church today is about: Learning from Jesus and passing it on. The power of Jesus is displayed in lives focused on Him and lived for Him. Faith believes that all things are possible with God and then prays, as Jesus did in the garden, "Your will be done!"
Commit yourself to a life of learning from Jesus. The rich young man had it right when he called Jesus, "Good teacher" (10:17), but he was not willing to learn from Jesus. He wanted to do things his way. Learning from Jesus leads to living life as a servant of others, knowing that you will some day have an eternity of mountaintop experiences! It will be worth the wait.
"Heavenly Father, You gave Your best when You sent Your Son into the world to be our Teacher, our Savior and our Lord. Fill me with Your Spirit and help me to be a good student, constantly desiring to sit at the Master's feet to learn more of what He has to teach me. And when confronted by the realities of life in this world, let me be 'salty' enough to improve the "taste" of life for those around me. In Jesus' name, Amen"