Temporary glories on the mountain heights or the eternal triumph of the
cross? It's such a mixture of nature and grace, weakness and strength,
revered past and unknown future, short-sightedness and obedience.


 

Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high
mountain apart by themselves [to pray. As He prayed the
appearance of His face was altered and] He was transfigured
before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white,
like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking
with Jesus [and spoke of His decease which He was about to
accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were
heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw
His glory and the two men who stood with Him.

Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter]
answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here,
and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses,
and one for Elijah"--because he did not know what to say, for
they were greatly afraid.

A cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out
of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!"  
Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one
anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.

Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them
that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the
Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to
themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.

                                                     Mark 9:2-11 [& Luke 9:28-33] NKJV


                                  3 + 3 On the Mountain

If I want to make a pumpkin pie, I can find more recipes on the internet
than I care to shake my mouse at. The first thing I look at in these
recipes is: preparation time. The shorter, the better! Or then again,
quicker is not always better; it all depends if my focus is on making the
pie, cleaning up afterwards, or eating it. I'm writing this page during the
Advent season which is the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day.
It's preparation time on the church calendar, twenty-eight days to get
ourselves ready--in heart, mind and soul--for the coming of our Lord.
A month may sound like a long time, but like the pumpkin pie, the
fast track does not usually produce the most satisfying results.

At this point in these studies Jesus has begun preparations to leave
Galilee and begin the final journey toward his death in Jerusalem. The
journey will not be brief. Matthew, Mark, and Luke devoted half of their
Gospel accounts to the last weeks of Jesus' life when he and his
disciples headed south to the annual Passover Feast. But first, they
must get ready--in heart, mind and soul.

Jesus had already started telling his disciples he would suffer and die,
and then rise again. These words could not get through; the mindset of
his listeners would not absorb such baffling thoughts. Their concept
of Messiah was a triumphant figure who subdues the enemy under his
feet. The savior of Israel could never be subjected to the humiliation and
defeat of death. Jesus definitely had his work cut out for him. Not only
getting himself prepared for the awful ordeal ahead, but also convincing
his disciples to trust what he was about to do.

Jesus needed a boost so he took the day off and headed one last time
back into the hills where those secret springs gave strength to his soul.
He took three of his disciples with him; their leader, Peter and the
brothers, James and John. Off they went into the wild, climbing higher
and higher until it was obvious they would not be back by nightfall.
Oh that this day could last forever!

In Bible times, mountains held spiritual significance and Jesus went
there to pray as though being on the mountaintop put him closer to his
Father in heaven. The solitude set him free to express himself with all
the fervor that was in his heart. And right now, there was only one thing
on his mind--his destiny as the symbolic Passover lamb.

It's unclear what Peter, James and John did when they finally reached
the summit. Jesus was energized through prayer; yet in several other
situations we read that the disciples slept while Jesus prayed. Many of
us can identify with that, and smile. Or maybe the disciples were so
tired from the climb and so frightened and overloaded by the events
playing out before them that they just closed their eyes and escaped
into grogginess.

Luke informs us that Jesus' face was altered as he prayed, like a
light shining brightly. His form was transfigured, his clothing became
too white for this earth! The whole scene was absolutely dazzling.
That's when Jesus got company! God sent some saints from the
past to encourage and add clarity to the future and what Jesus would
accomplish in Jerusalem. They helped to confirm and strengthen
Jesus' will and resolve. The use of the word "accomplish" is interesting
because it speaks not to the idea of defeat, but on the contrary to the
victory and triumph of Jesus' impending sacrifice.

Somewhere amid this scene, Peter, James and John woke up and
regained their energy. Just as Moses and Elijah were about to leave,
Peter spoke. Peter always had something to say whether he knew
what he was talking about or not. What he blurted out revealed where
he was at, and how far removed Peter's thinking was from the purposes
of Jesus. Peter thought the present scene so wonderful, he wanted to
hold on to it and stay on the mountaintop permanently. Let's build some
tents here. One for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. What an
excellent way to call it quits and put an end to all this talk of death!

That's when a cloud overshadowed them. And a voice spoke; affirming
Jesus and instructing Peter, James and John. "This is My beloved
Son; listen to him." There it was. God had spoken. Peter must stop
trying to end the talk of suffering and death. In the clear air of the
mountain, God vindicated the language of the cross and gave a new
commandment, "Do what He says!"

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  Share your favorite mountaintop or mountain climbing story.

 

Jesus was trying to go one way, but the disciples were stepping on the brakes.
        When you are in a situation like that, how do you make forward progress?

 

Peter, James and John were the inner circle within that group of twelve.
            What inner circles are you a part of?
            Discuss the group dynamics and pros and cons of being,
                        or not being, inner circle?

 

The disciples slept through much of the activity on the mountain that night.
            What do you think your response would have been?
Name some things which prevent people from sharing in the glories of God?
            What item on your list are you most guilty of?
Peter did not want to accept the message of the cross.
            Is there anything in the New Testament your mind refuses to accept?

 

"This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Discuss how these seven words
of God summarize the message of the Bible in a nutshell.

 

If you want to "Hear Him!", take 5 or 10 minutes a day to pray with Jesus
over a passage from the Gospels.
            Ask, "What do you want me to hear today?" Then quietly listen.

 

Jesus' transfiguration was a powerful experience. It's something Jesus
may have been remembering as he endured the brutality of the cross.
            Suppose that were the case, what aspect of this mountaintop
                        experience do you think was most memorable for him?
Peter, James and John had a peak religious experience, too, and one that
would bind them together forever. Then they started back down the
mountain, leaving heaven behind.
            What do you think they remembered and pondered most often
                        as their lives dipped through the valleys?
            Was being there more of a privilege or a responsibility?

 

Moses represented The Law; Elijah represented The Prophets.
Jesus was the Christ, the beloved Son of God.
            What is significant about the symbolism of these three conversing?

 

If you were giving this story a title, what would it be?

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