Let's go down from this mountain
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.
"The voice comes from above"
There are two divine voices from above in the gospel of Mark. One is in the scene of the Baptism of Jesus, and one is in today’s story. We, therefore, can see that the scene of transfiguration of our Lord is really important in this Gospel. It’s important not only because it reveals His divine identity and His purpose to come to the world, but because it reminds us of our identity and mission in the world. Let me focus on these two things: Our identity as a disciples and mission in the world as a faith community during today’s message.
“What does “Six days later” mean?”
The first phrase of today’s Scripture begins that: “six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart.”
What does six days later mean?
What was happen six days before? Why does Mark emphasize six days?
It was my first question when I read these verses.
Let’s see chapter 8 verses 27 to 30 that is a story right before the story of the transfiguration of our Lord. Maybe it would give us vital clues to understand why he begins this story with “six days later.”
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30)
"Six days before"
Six days before, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do they say that Jesus is?” One of disciples, named Peter, answered, “You are the Messiah.” Peter called his teacher, rabbi, as a Messiah. Now, Peter is declaring Jesus as the one who will bring the new kingdom of God into Judea. According to the gospel of Matthew, Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” For Jewish people in the first century, Messiah generally meant a political as well as religious redeemer who will bring the new world, new kingdom overcoming Roman Empire.
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loosen on earth will be loosed in heaven.” What a wonderful blessing! The keys of the kingdom of heaven and the power connecting heaven and earth are Peter’s. Nothing can compare with such blessing. Who know the blessing, which can compare with such blessing?
After Peter’s confession, in Mark 8:31 Jesus taught them that Jesus “must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and eventually be killed, and then rise again after three days.”
Do you remember what would happen right after this teaching? Let’s see Mark 8:32.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:32)
Is Peter using the power Jesus gave him now? What does “take someone aside” mean? What does “rebuke” mean? It seems like Peter is denying the will of Jesus whom Peter confessed as Messiah. Peter takes Jesus aside to let Jesus know Peter’s plan (Peter’s will). Peter might say, “Teacher! Don’t say like that! That is not my expectation. If I knew you will be killed, I never follow you, teacher. Do not say something like that again!”
Even though the disciples had been taught by Jesus and had lived with Jesus for long times (about two years at that time), they did not know why Jesus came to the earth. They didn’t know why Jesus predicted His death until Jesus rose again from death.
Before Peter’s confession, Peter and other disciples had seen Jesus who taught people with different wisdom, argued with other religious leaders with different authority, stilled a storm, walked on the water, cast out demons, healed the sick, fed the four thousand, cured the blind, and so on.
They thought Jesus was the Messiah, the Warrior or King they had waited for centuries. They expected Jesus would defeat Rome and build the new kingdom. They believed Jesus would provide golden chairs to sit with Jesus to govern the world. Jesus, however, teaches about his suffering and death. Jesus is saying that he must undergo the great suffering and die on the cross to save people. It makes disciples disappointed.
To live in this world by the grace of God is free (the grace is free for all), but to know the divine will never come to us freely. So, it can make sense what they were called disciples. They needed discipline. Discipleship costs.
In Mark 8:33, Jesus turns and looks at his disciples, and then rebukes Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
There are two things we have to know from Mark 8:33. First, Jesus’ understanding of the Messiah is totally different from the disciple’s understanding of Messiah. Second, Jesus entirely focused on the will of God, but the disciples entirely focused on their own will.
One of the most well-known teachings of Jesus follows in the next verse. (Can you read it with me?)
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34, 35)
If anyone wants to follow Jesus, they have to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Jesus. It is very simple and very powerful, but very undesirable. It would be highly undesirable to follow Jesus and His teaching; but to believe Jesus would be easier and desirable for many people like His first disciples. To believe in Jesus might be more natural for us than following Jesus and His teaching. Believing Jesus and following Jesus must go together, but often we intentionally or unintentionally try to separate these two and would prefer to choose one of them. Obviously, we mostly prefer to choose easier one.
I believe; therefore, Jesus went up to a mountain with the three disciples, Peter, James and John to show them what the life of Messiah and the life of disciples mean.
Let’s go back to the “six days later” from the day of Peter’s confession and Jesus’ teaching of his death and resurrection.
“After Six Days Later”
After six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John to go up a high mountain, and he was transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus. Moses represents the Law of Israel and Elijah represents the prophecy of Israel. Both are the most important figures in the history of Israel.
At that moment, Peter asked Jesus to make three tents to stay on the mountain with Moses and Elijah. Peter might think that the moment of the transfiguration of Jesus is the ultimate destination they desire for the new kingdom. Peter wanted to stay on the mountain. He wanted to stay in the most glorious moment of Jesus Christ.
But Jesus said nothing, (Jesus answered nothing.) according to the gospels. Jesus never answered to Peter’s suggestion. Jesus never said anything on the mountain, but he was just being in the most glorious moment, transfiguration. And then, Jesus came down from the mountain with his disciples, and went back to the people in a great crowd to continue His ministry for them. The people were poor, sick, sinners and outcast. Jesus came out from the most glorious moment on the mountain for these people.
Luke 9:37 says,
“On the next day; when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.”
I love the character of Peter because I can see me in his behaviors and words. I assume that you all would find yourself in Peter’s behavior and words. We would sometimes see ourselves desiring to stay on the mountain top, and fulfill our own will.
Jesus might be sometime in conflict with our ignorance about the life of discipleship and the purpose of the coming of Jesus. Jesus might be sometimes in conflict with our will or desire only for our own financial blessing, educational success, high social status, or/and political victory.
Through today’s passage, we see Jesus who just came down from the mountain to show the love of God for the world.
He was humble.
He loved people.
He offered his life for little ones.
He came down from the peak of the mountain for the ordinary lives.
I believe we all have our own ministry in family, work place, school and any place we will be. During this holy season, let’s live only by the will of God, not by our own will. As Jesus came down from the mountain of his most glorious moment to go into the people’ life, let’s go down from this mountain (a mountain of our own will or a mountain of our own purpose). Let’s go down from this mountain to live Lent with our Lord and our people. Amen.