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Listen to Him!

March 14, 2021 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: The Gospel of Mark

Topic: The Glory of Christ Passage: Mark 9:1–9:13

LISTEN TO HIM!

An Exposition of Mark 9:1-13

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date: March 14, 2021

Series: Mark: Knowing and Following God’s Son

Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

THE SCRIPTURAL TEXT

Holy Scripture says:

1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” (Mark 9:1-13)

This is God's holy Word, and it is for our good. Let's pray.

Father, we thank you for speaking clearly and compellingly to us in the words of Holy Scripture. Father, we believe that these words were written down for our instruction and for our encouragement, that we might have hope and that we might walk with you. So, Father, we pray that the Holy Spirit would shine the light Of your truth into our hearts. Open our eyes to see the glory of Jesus, that we would follow Him. In his name we pray, amen.

INTRODUCTION

Peter, one of the three who was on the holy mountain with Jesus, wrote in his first letter: “Concerning this salvation” – this great salvation that God has brought about through Christ – “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” (1 Peter 1:10-11) I hope that this two-part gospel theology is starting to sound familiar and that you're internalizing it. Because this two-part gospel theology reveals the pattern of Jesus’ life, and it also reveals the pattern of our lives as Jesus followers. Part 1 is “the sufferings of Christ”. Part 2 is “the subsequent glories”. Part 1 is what is written in Mark 8:31 – “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected… and be killed”. Part 2 is the end of Mark 8:31 – “and after three days rise again” – and also Mark 8:38 as it looks ahead to that future day will “the Son of Man… comes in the glory of his Father”.

Jesus summons us to follow Him in this pattern: take up the cross now, be awarded the crown later. Lose our lives now, gain them later. There is weakness and mortality now in the present age, and glory and power and immortality in the age to come. We have been reflecting on this theme – that suffering is the pathway to glory – and this theme continues in Mark 9. The recurring emphasis of this teaching shows that it is obviously really important!  

Now these first thirteen verses in Chapter 9 approach this theme from a different vantage point. In this passage, specifically in verses 2-8, the Father gives Peter, James and John a preview. It is not a written preview – we get the written preview! – but they got an audio-visual-physical preview of the glory and power of the Lord Jesus Christ after he rises from the dead and particularly when he comes again in glory. And their audio-visual-physical preview was written down for our benefit, so that by faith we might get a foretaste of the glory to come.

This audio-visual-physical revelation of Jesus’ glory on the holy mountain is called the transfiguration. Verse 1 sets the stage for the transfiguration. Verses 2-8 show us the glory of Jesus. And then verses 9-13 stress, once again, that suffering comes first. So let's walk through it.

SETTING THE STAGE (verse 1)

Verse 1 sets the stage. Remember what Jesus has just been talking about in those last several verses of Chapter 8. He is emphasizing the cost, the suffering, the rejection, the shame, the self-denial, the bearing of the cross. He is also telling his disciples and all who would listen that after that pathway of suffering, after that pathway of the cross, there is glory and resurrection. Indeed there is eternal salvation, and at the end of the age the Son of Man “comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). And so now in the first verse of Chapter 9, he says to those who were listening to him: “[There] are some standing here” – as it turns out he is specifically referring to the three (Peter, James and John) that he is about to take up the mountain with him – “[There] are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (v. 1).

In all three gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – that describe the transfiguration, the statement in verse one introduces the transfiguration (see Matthew 16:28–17:8 and Luke 9:27-36). And this helps us to understand what the transfiguration actually is. The transfiguration is a preview. In terms of Mark 8:38, it is a preview of the Son of Man coming in the glory of His Father. And in terms of Mark 9:1, it is a preview of the kingdom of God coming with power. And who is the focal point of the kingdom of God? The King, the Messiah, the One who comes in glory. And so the transfiguration is a preview of the glory that Christ will have on the other side of the cross and for all eternity.

THE GLORY OF JESUS (verses 2-8)

Now let's go to verses 2-8. Verses 2-8 show us the glory of Jesus. Verse 2 tells us that “after six days” – about a week later – “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John”. If you're familiar with the gospels, then you know that Peter, James, and John were the inner circle.  Jesus had the Twelve, and within that Twelve he had the three (e.g., Mark 5:37). One of the functions of the three is to be witnesses – because the Bible teaches us that claims to truth are established by two or three witnesses. And so Peter, James, and John would become witnesses of the glory that they saw and the voice that they heard on the holy mountain. Jesus took with him these three and led them up a high mountain.

There are several metaphors in this passage that indicate the transfiguration involves an encounter with the living God. There is the significance of “a mountain” (v. 2), the significance of light (v. 3), and the significance of “the cloud” (v. 7).

Let’s talk about mountains. In Scripture, a mountain or a high mountain is one of the places where God meets with his people and where he reveals himself to them. Think of the children of Israel standing at the base of Mount Sinai, where God revealed his Ten Commandments to them. And of course Moses went up that mountain on multiple occasions in order to meet with God, hear his voice, and receive instruction. And many years later, Elijah went up that same mountain – Mount Sinai also called Mount Horeb – and he had an audience with the living God. And so this reference in verse 2 to “a high mountain” – this isn't Mount Sinai, this is somewhere more in the north of Palestine – but it is cluing us in that this is going to be an encounter with the living God.

Jesus’ Glory

And once they are up on that mountain, Jesus “was transfigured before them” (v. 2). Now Peter, James, and John have the opportunity to see his glory. It says in verse 3 that “his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them”. This revelation of Jesus’ glory was not the work of any man; it was the work of God Almighty. The Father of glory is shining the spotlight on his Son. We understand that this metaphor of light and radiance and intense whiteness reveals the glory and the uniqueness of God. It says in Psalm 104: “You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:102). In 1 Timothy 6, Paul speaks of “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of Lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:15-16) Hebrews 1 tells us that Jesus, the Son of God, is “the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3). Colossians 1 tells us that Jesus is “the image” – the visible image – “of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). There is that great hymn “O Worship the King” which speaks of the living God as “Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise” and “Whose robe is the light”.[1]

In this moment, God the Father is showing us that Jesus shares in his glory. You are familiar with the word that is translated transfigured – it is the Greek word from which we get the word metamorphosis. And so there is this change in the appearance of Jesus. As He walked the earth as the God-Man, he looked like an ordinary man. When people saw him they didn’t immediately think, ‘Wow, there is an angelic-like figure’. Jesus was a man who looked ordinary. And yet in His true nature, he is not ordinary. He is extraordinary. He is the Son of God. Here Peter, James, and John get an opportunity to see Jesus as he really is. They get an opportunity to see Jesus as he will be on the other side of the death and resurrection, and as he will be at the end of the age when he “comes in the glory of his Father”.

Jesus’ Company

They not only see the glory and splendor and majesty of Jesus, they also get to see the company of Jesus. Verse 4 says: “And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.”

I have to credit Ben Witherington for helping me see a connection between this verse (Mark 9:4) and the final verse of Chapter 8 (Mark 8:38). It says at the end of Mark 8:38 that Jesus will come again “in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (italics added). Now “angels” doesn't always mean angels in the sense we typically think. The word that is translated “angels” really means messengers – the word could refer to angelic messengers, but the word could also refer to human messengers. Inasmuch as the transfiguration is a preview of Jesus coming in the glory of his Father at the end of the age, Mark 8:38 also tells us that he will come with his holy attendants. So we get a little preview of that here in Mark 9:4 – Jesus is radiant in the Father’s glory with his holy attendants Elijah and Moses.[2] And Elijah and Moses are talking with him.

Why Elijah and Moses? Well, why not? I mean, this is elite Old Testament company – not elite in a worldly sense, but these are key players in God's kingdom administration. Moses was foundational in the redemption and formation of Israel as God's covenant people. God revealed His instruction to the children of Israel through Moses. And then Elijah was a great prophet. He didn't write any books like some of the other prophets, but the Lord did mighty deeds through him. And as I mentioned a number of weeks ago, Elijah has special prominence because at the end of the Old Testament, it was foretold that God would send Elijah before the great and awesome day of the Lord (see Malachi 4:5-6). And so you kind of get these Old Testament ‘bookends’: Moses was a foundational figure in the beginning and formation of Israel, and Elijah was to be a key player in the restoration of God's people at the end of the age. And here they are talking with Jesus.

What are they talking about? Mark doesn’t tell us what they were talking about. One of the other gospels does tell us that they were speaking about things concerning redemption (see Luke 9:31). But just keep this in mind: all of the Old Testament – the Law and the Prophets – were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus said in the Gospel of John that Moses wrote about him (John 5:46). And Elijah was going to come before the end. And so all of the looking forward that was taking place in the Old Testament is now reaching a point of fulfillment because the Promised One – the Messiah – is here.

A Beautiful and Terrifying Experience

Now moving on to verses 5-6, we learn that the experience of Peter, James, and John is really interesting. It was a beautiful and terrifying experience for them, right? Verse 5 says: “And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi”” – the term Rabbi could mean some combination of ‘my master’, ‘my teacher’, ‘my great one’[3] – “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” It was wonderful. It was inviting. It was compelling. It drew them in. And yet at the end of verse 6 it says “they were terrified”. So this is an encounter with God that was, on the one hand, disorienting and overwhelming and terrifying and frightening to them. But on the other hand, they found it beautiful and compelling, and they were drawn in and they wanted to stay a while. Peter said, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (v. 5)

I'm not sure that I would draw too much theological significance out of Peter’s proposal to build three tents. The reason I say this is because in verse 6 it says that “he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” In light of this description,, I'm not sure that Peter is thinking along careful theological lines at the moment. He's just: ‘Wow, good that we're here. Let's set up tents. Let's camp out here for a while. Let's stay a while.’ But this was not intended to be a lengthy experience. It was meant to be short and pointed. And so what happens?

A Cloud and a Voice

After Peter makes his proposal, what happens is that a cloud shows up. The cloud is another metaphor for the divine presence. If you think through the Old Testament, you probably recall that the Lord went before the children of Israel during the daytime in a pillar of cloud to lead them. It says in Psalm 97: “Clouds and thick darkness are all around him” (Psalm 97:2). In Exodus 19 we read: “On the morning of the third day” – when the children of Israel drew near to the base of Mount Sinai to hear from God – “there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” (Exodus 19:16) On another occasion, in Exodus 24 when Moses went up the mountain to meet with God, it says: “Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain…. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain.” (Exodus 24:15, 18)

So the overshadowing cloud in Mark 9:7 indicates that the presence of God is drawing near. And then out of that cloud there comes a voice. This is the high point – the crescendo – of the transfiguration experience. As awesome as it would have been to behold the brilliant radiance of Jesus, in the end we need words – a defining, clarifying word that tells us what is going on. And this defining word comes from God the Father, who says: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (v. 7).

Just reflect on the words “This is my beloved Son” and notice how it contrasts with other revelations that we learn about in Scripture. Moses was with God on the holy mountain and God had shown Moses his law. What a wonderful revelation! Later on in the book of Exodus, Moses said to the Lord: “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18) But the Lord replied, “[You] cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) And so the Lord passed by Moses on the mountain and proclaimed his name to Moses, but Moses could not behold the glory of the face of God.

As for Elijah, we are told that when Elijah went to Mount Horeb (=Mount Sinai), the Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” (1 Kings 19:11) The passage continues: “And behold, the LORD passed by” (1 Kings 19:11) – and you know how it goes, right? There was “a great and strong wind… but the LORD was not in the wind.” There was “an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.” There was “a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.” Then there was “a low whisper”, and it was then that Elijah heard the voice of God – and God told Elijah about the next stage of his ministry. (1 Kings 19:11-16)

God gave the prophet Daniel great visions about the future of the world. God gave the children of Israel so many types and symbols – including the tabernacle and the mercy seat and the sacrificial system.

All of those things were just setting the stage for this moment when the Lord would bring Peter, James, and John – and now us through the written Word – into the Holy of Holies. And what does the Father’s voice say? Not: “This is my Law. This is my plan. Here are some instructions. Here are some types and shadows.” Not that. The Father says about Jesus, “This is my Son.” Not a servant. Not a prophet. Not a priest. “This is my beloved Son.” This is the One whom the Father loves pre-eminently. The Father is shining the spotlight on his Son. The Father is calling attention to Jesus’ uniqueness.

And then the Father says: “listen to him”. I'm going to come back to this – this is where I want to focus the application of today's message. But in brief, we must understand that if Jesus is the radiant, beloved, unique Son of God, then the only proper response to him is to listen to him and to walk in obedience to his words.

Then in verse 8, as if to emphasize and clarify put an exclamation point upon the fact that Jesus is utterly unique. what happened? What happened is that Moses and Elijah have exited the scene. It might have been nice to make three tents – one for Jesus, one for Elijah, and one for Moses – but the Father wanted Peter, James, and John to understand that Jesus is in a class by himself. Jesus – and Jesus alone – is the beloved Son. And so it is fitting that as this experience draws to a close, they see Jesus and “Jesus only” shining in the radiance of his Father.

SUFFERING COMES FIRST (verses 9-13)

Finally we come to verses 9-13, which stress that suffering comes first. You might think, ‘Boy, you're talking a lot about this suffering theme. You're talking about this suffering-is-the-pathway-to-glory thing a lot.’ Well, I am talking about it a lot because Mark is talking about it a lot! We really need to hear this. We really need to internalize this. And even though I've talked about this theme a lot from Mark 8:31-38, I have not talked about it yet from Mark 9:1-13. And it shows up right here in verses 9-13.

As Jesus and the three disciples “were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” (v. 9) The open proclamation of Jesus as the unique, authoritative, beloved Son of God who is the focal point of God's kingdom, and who will come again in the glory of his Father to judge the living and the dead, and who will bring God's kingdom to its grand consummation – this must wait until after the cross and after the resurrection. The glory of Jesus and his role as Savior and Judge and King cannot be rightly understood until the suffering and the rejection and the cross has taken place first, and then the resurrection. Peter, James, and John obeyed this instruction: “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.” (v. 10) They were mulling it over. They were trying to make sense of it. They were asking themselves, ‘What does it mean that Jesus will rise from the dead?’ To us it seems obvious, but it wouldn't have seemed obvious to Peter, James, and John. In their day there was a widespread belief among the Jews that there would be a resurrection of the dead at the end of the age. They didn't quite know what to make of a resurrection of one man in the middle of history. But the truth would be revealed to them in time.

Moving to the next verse, Peter, James, and John decide to ask a question: “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” (v. 11) It makes sense that they would be thinking about Elijah, right? Because he just showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration (v. 4-5). Further, you may recall that when Jesus asked his disciples “Who do people say that I am?”, the disciples reported that some people thought that Jesus was Elijah – that he was the Elijah who had been promised that God would send before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5-6). Now in Mark 9:11 Peter, James, and John wonder why it is that the scribes – the teachers of the law – say this? Their question runs along the line of: ‘Why do they say that Elijah must come before God brings about the restoration and renewal of his people? How does this fit into what is going on? You are the Messiah. You are the One, the King, the beloved Son. What about this Elijah guy?’

Well of course the reason the scribes say that Elijah must come first is because he must! Which is what Jesus affirms in verse 12: “And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things.”” But notice what Jesus does. He immediately turns it around and says essentially that suffering is the pathway to restoration. Suffering is the pathway to that renewal. Suffering is the pathway to glory. Look at what happens in the rest of verses 12-13.

What does Jesus say in the middle of verse 12? He says, “And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt.” Yes, Elijah must come, but the greater one – the Son of Man, the Messiah – he is going to suffer, he is going to be treated with contempt. Peter, James, and John – have you taken this to heart?

The theme of suffering continues in verse 13: “But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased”. “Elijah has come” – huh? That might make you scratch your head. Elijah has already come? Yes. The New Testament teaches us that John the Baptist is actually the fulfillment of God's promise to send Elijah before the end of the age. It says in the Gospel of Matthew after Jesus said the same thing that he says in Mark 9:13, it says: “Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:13) And if you look at Luke 1, we learn that John's entire ministry is set up as the fulfillment of the Elijah figure. We are told that John “will go before him [the Lord] in the spirit and the power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17; see Malachi 4:5-6). And Mark tells us about John's strange attire (Mark 1:6), which reflects the attire of the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8)

So John has come as the fulfillment of the promised Elijah figure, and Jesus says that “they did to him whatever they pleased”. What do they do to him? They imprisoned him and they beheaded him (Mark 6:14-29). Do you see how the story goes? John the Baptist has come – and they imprisoned him and they beheaded him. Jesus the Messiah came – and he was crucified. And what about these three disciples – Peter, James, and John – who were witnesses to the transfiguration? What happened to them? According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down. Acts 12 tells us that James was killed “with the sword” (Acts 12:2). And John was exiled to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Do you see the pathway that lies ahead? Do you understand that Jesus is emphasizing that suffering comes first?

I appreciated the insight of one commentator who was commenting on the end of verse 13 where it says “they did to him [Elijah/John] whatever they pleased, as it is written of him”. When I was thinking about the end of verse 13 I thought, ‘This is strange. I know that the Old Testament foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, but does the Old Testament foretell the sufferings of the future Elijah figure who is John? Well, yes – and this is the insight I got from that commentator – if the ministry of the actual historical Elijah is seen as a pattern for John’s ministry, then there is a strong connection. Because what happened to Elijah? A wicked woman named Jezebel, the wife of her weak-willed husband King Ahab, sought to put him to death. Then John the Baptist comes onto the scene and what happens? A wicked woman Herodias successfully conspires with her weak-willed husband King Herod to put him to death.[4] It is always the same storyline.

LISTEN TO HIM!

Now if you ask the question, ‘What does the Lord want me to take away from this passage?’, the answer is very simple. Three words: “listen to him” (v. 7)! Listen to Jesus! This is the Father's will for your life, that you listen to his beloved Son.

“Listen to him” doesn't mean to go on a walk in the cool of the morning and attempt to hear his voice through the chirping birds or the sunrise breaking over the horizon. I know that the heavens declare the glory of God and that such a morning walk can be a wonderful part of your fellowship with God, but that's not what it means to “listen to him”.

“Listen to him” doesn't mean to go on a private retreat and attempt to hear his voice by quieting your mind and waiting for a still small voice to show up.

“Listen to him” doesn't mean to seek out your own mountaintop experience with God.

The purpose of the transfiguration – as witnessed by Peter, James, and John, and as written down by Matthew Mark and Luke, who presumably learned about it from Peter, James, and John, although the Holy Spirit could have revealed it to them directly – the purpose of the transfiguration is to convince you to listen to the written-down words of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, it is very interesting that when Peter describes and reflects on his experience of the transfiguration in his second letter (2 Peter 1:16-18), do you know what he concludes? He doesn't say, ‘Hey, you should try to have this experience too.’ That's not what he says. Immediately after highlighting the glory of the transfiguration, he says: “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). In other words, pay attention to Holy Scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21)! Open the Bible. Open the Scriptures to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read aloud the words of the Lord Jesus Christ! When you read the inscripturated words of Jesus, Jesus is speaking to you! Listen to him!

And don't turn listening into something abstract. Listen to Jesus when he tells you that suffering with him is the pathway to being glorified with him. Listen to Jesus when he tells you that he will come again in the glory of his Father with the Holy angels, and that he will be ashamed of you if you didn't listen to him. Listen to Jesus when he tells you in the next passage that you must die to shallow faith and instead learn to connect with God's power through faith-filled prayer (Mark 9:14-29). Listen to Jesus in the passage after that when he says that the greatest person in the kingdom of God is the one who has learned to be servant of all (Mark 9:35). Listen to Jesus in the second passage after that, that you must make war against sin (Mark 9:43-48). And listen to Jesus when he says – now I'm somewhere in Chapter 10 – listen to him when he says that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15). No preoccupation with status. No jockeying for position. No exaggerated sense of one's self-importance. But impressed with Jesus. Eager to be with him. Ready to learn from him.

“Listen to him” means I bring my life under his authority and actually do what he says. Listening is not for entertainment or information or intellectual curiosity. Listening is for discipleship. When the Bible says listen, it means listen for obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Listening is for obedience and transformation, and transformation is for witness.

And do you know what? A focus on transformation is a great way to bring this application to a proper conclusion, because what happens on the Mount of Transfiguration is that Jesus himself is transfigured in glory. And Paul tells us that even though the fullness of Jesus’ glory will not be seen until the end of the age when he comes again, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4 that even now we can see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4) through the preaching of the gospel message (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). And if you back up to the end of 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says that as we “[behold] the glory of the Lord” – as we behold the glory of the Transfigured One, as we behold the glory of the Crucified One – as we do that, we ourselves “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We become like what we behold.

God's will for your life is for you to behold the glory of the Transfigured One through the words of Holy Scripture, so that you would become a faithful follower, so that you would become like Jesus – a humble cross-bearing servant who shoulders the burden of love with gladness. And then you go forth and you become a symbol of God's grace to a desperate world. Because listening is for transformation, and transformation is for witness.

You know, I was thinking about this reality of being transformed into more faithful witnesses. It is easy to stand up here and be critical of the world. But really the state of the world is so sad. The world is chasing after freedom, justice, equity, fairness, prosperity, and progress (as the world defines them). The world is trying to get rid of evil – the evil of the past and the evil of the present (as the world defines evil). The world is demanding apologies, and ordering people to get in line, and sacrificing all the wrong things, and devouring one another – all because they do not know the glory of the Crucified One who laid down his life for sinners. God's will for you and for me is to behold the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ through words by listening to him and by listening to all of Scripture’s Spirit-inspired words about him, so that we would become more and more like our Lord. And then you will be “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) to that crowd of Mark 8:34 to whom Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) As you are transformed, you will be “the aroma of Christ” among the people of this world: you will be the fragrance of death to “those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15) but the fragrance of life to those whom God is calling out of the world and bringing into his glorious kingdom (see 2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

Let's pray.

Father, I pray that your assessment of your Son – that He is worthy, that He is beloved, that He is worth listening to – and I pray that your word to Peter, James, and John, would capture our hearts, would weigh on our soul. I pray that we would not chase after all the other voices that are vying for our attention. I pray that with great jealousy we would seek to listen to Jesus, and bring all of life under his rule, and be transformed by his glory. Father, we pray that you would do this work – you must do it! – and we pray that you would do it in our midst. For Jesus’ sake, amen.

I invite you to stand for the benediction. 

Brothers and Sisters, go forth and be the aroma of Christ. May it be said of you that ‘here is a man’ or ‘here is a woman’ who has spent time with Jesus. Go forth in his peace.

 

 

ENDNOTES

[1] From “O Worship the King” by Robert Grant.

[2] See Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001: p. 245, 261.

[3] For understanding ‘rabbi’ is ‘my great one’, see James W. Voelz, Mark 1:1–8:26 (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013: p. 643, 648.

[4] See William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974: p. 326.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974.

Eckhard J. Schnabel, Mark (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Vol. 2). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017.

James W. Voelz, Mark 1:1–8:26 (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013.

Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.

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