By Toni Ford
I love the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is within these Gospel accounts that we learn about the ministry of Jesus while He was here on earth. One of the things that makes the Gospels so unique is that they are written by four different authors who were writing to four different groups of people, and they all wrote according to their own style or personality. Matthew wrote primarily to the Jews, Mark to the Romans, Luke to the Greeks and John to the entire population.
This week, our reading comes from the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s theme throughout his book is “Jesus Christ the Servant.” Many scholars view Mark 10:45 as the “key” verse – “For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark’s style and approach was on “activity,” which is why so many of his chapters have Jesus moving from place to place with multiple events all taking place in one chapter. Mark reveals Jesus as God’s Servant, sent to minister to suffering people and to die for the sins of the world.
In chapters 8 and 9 of Mark, we find Jesus sharing with His disciples some secrets to life, which included teachings on suffering and discipleship and how God can move us from suffering into experiencing His glory.
One example is found in Mark 9:1-8, the story of the Transfiguration. When looking deeper into the meaning of transfigure, Webster Dictionary defines transfigure as, “To give a new typically exalted or spiritual appearance; to transform outwardly, and usually for the better.”
Thus, transfigure means a change on the outside that comes from the inside. I have read the story of the Transfiguration multiple times. This time when I read the story, however, it was as if I had read the story for the very first time. Several key lessons stood out to me:
Suffering usually comes first but then the glory.
Jesus had just spent time with His disciples discussing His own suffering that was coming, as well as teaching them the meaning of suffering while being a disciple of Christ. Now six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the top of a mountain where He reveals His glory, which was not only confirmation of the words He had recently spoken to His disciples but also a demonstration of the glory of the future kingdom. Jesus had been sharing with His disciples about the suffering He would endure by way of the cross, and yet He also encouraged them to follow Him in the way of the cross. It would have been easy for them to get discouraged and lose confidence in Jesus, so by Him revealing His glory and taking on the appearance as the King of Glory, the disciples realized His suffering would and could lead to glory just as He had taught them. Jesus’ message was clear: first the suffering, then the glory. This event had a significant impact on Peter’s life, and he speaks more about his experience in 2 Peter 2:16-18.
Listen to Him.
Scripture tells us in Mark 9:2-4, “As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.”
When Elijah and Moses appeared, Peter got excited and didn’t know what to do, so he started talking and planning to put up three shelters – one for each of them. The shelters were in reference to the booths the Israelites dwelt in for seven days when celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-42). While Peter was talking and planning, Scripture tells us in verse 7 that, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Those last three words struck me, for I thought to myself of how many times have I not known what to say or do so I just start talking or doing when instead I should stop and “Listen to Him!” Oh, how I pray that I learn to listen first before I ever start doing.
We can’t stay on the mountain.
Peter wanted to build the booths so that they could all hang out together indefinitely. I am sure he felt as if he had died and gone to heaven, being able to experience the glory of the Messiah and then listening to Moses, Elijah and Jesus talking together. However, just before Jesus took them up to the mountain, He taught them that discipleship means denying self, taking up a cross and following Him. This can’t be done if we selfishly want to stay on top of the mountain basking in His glory. As Warren Wiersbe states, “If we want to share the glory of Christ on the mountaintop, we must be willing to follow Him into the sufferings of the valley below.”
Lord, thank you for Your Word! It is and always will be alive and applicable for us in our lives, for it is You. Help us take the time even today to stop and listen to You. Thank you that with suffering also comes Your glory!
If you would like continued prayer, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com. I would love to pray for you!