October 16, 2016
We’ve spent the last couple of weeks in our study of Mark talking about suffering – seemingly bad news. First, Jesus said to His disciples, “I know you think you know what the Messiah came to do. But you have no idea. Now that you know I’m the Christ, let me tell you what I must do. I must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed, and be raised again the third day. I know that seems like bad news – it’s not. It’s called the gospel – good news. The death, burial and resurrection of the Christ is how the Lamb of God will take away the sin of the world.”
“Not only that, I have some more seemingly bad news. Not only have I come to bear a cross, I’ve also come to bring you a cross. Anyone who would come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. And while that sounds like bad news, I want to remind you by losing your life, you find it. There must be a cross before a crown, suffering before glory, sacrifice before reward, giving before gaining, losing before winning. It’s why the author Hebrews wrote for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. It’s the same for you. You see, now Jesus says, My cross-bearing, your cross-bearing is not the end of the story. Which brings us to our text today. Read it with me, Mark 9:1-8.
Jesus says, “I know it sounds like I’ve given you bad news, but it’s not the final chapter. Here’s some good news – I think you’ll like it”:
- First, in 8:38 and 9:1, we’ll see, Jesus is Coming in Glory
- Then, in 9:2-8, we get a Glimpse of Jesus Coming in Glory
The end of the story is incredibly good news which is why we lose our lives. We looked briefly at verse 38 last time. We saw when Jesus comes back, He will come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. It will be quite different from His first coming. We may not know how it will unfold, but Jesus is coming back. It doesn’t matter how you see Revelation, allegory, symbolism, historical, future, whether it will be premil, postmil, or amil; whether it will be pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib – one truth is undeniable and non-negotiable – Jesus is coming back. The best is yet to come.
You see, there are two comings. His first coming took everybody by surprise. They didn’t think He would come like He did – undercover, if you will, veiled in human flesh, as the Son of Man. Jesus gives a stark contrast between His first and second comings in verse 38, “the Son of Man [that’s His first coming – Son of Man refers to His humanity – He came in the form of a servant, in appearance as a man, inside a human cloak] the Son of Man will come [that’s His second coming] in the glory of His Father [this time, it won’t be in the humble appearance of a servant. He’ll come] with His holy angels [in a magnificent display of glory, power and strength].”
Now, this is all old news to us, but this would have been startling to the disciples. This is the first time in the gospels He’s told them about His second coming. Totally foreign to them. They expected the Messiah to come in great glory the first time. Now, He’s just told them, I’m going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Wait just a minute – what about all the glory we’ve been expecting? That’s coming, Jesus says. But not this time – it’ll happen when I come back.
Two comings/two appearances – they weren’t ready for that. But again, understand the way He’s coming back will be completely different. Think of His first coming. He came as a baby. Not very impressive. And His birth was an inauspicious beginning – born to a working class couple from, of all places, Nazareth. Not Athens, not Rome, not Alexandria, not even Jerusalem. Not to an emperor, not to a king, not to a Herod, not to a tetrarch, not even to a Pharisee or Sadducee – but to a carpenter and his virgin wife. A Galilean, in a barn, no less. Not very majestic – not very kingly.
He grew up in relative obscurity – no official training, no theological or rabbinic schools. Not even any political or military training – we’re not sure He even knew how to use a sword. The only instruments of His trade? A saw, hammer, maybe an awl or a chisel.
When He came, there was nothing particularly outstanding about His looks that would draw us to Him – Isaiah 53 says, “For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” I used to think that meant Jesus was homely – basically, all it means is there was nothing in His appearance that would cause us to say – that’s gotta be God – that’s gotta be the Messiah.
When He entered His public ministry, there were no armies following, no marching bands, no herald announcing His arrival. His inauguration, if you will, was a baptism in the Jordan River – no one even knew who He was. True, the voice of the Father was heard from heaven, and the Spirit of God descended upon Him – but no one seemed to notice. For the next three and a half years, He attracted a following. But it wasn’t the political or military leaders – they were only mildly interested. It wasn’t the religious people who claimed to know God – they opposed Him. It was the common, everyday people of society – fisherman, tax collectors. Less than that, it was the broken people – lepers, paralytics, lame, blind, deaf, crippled, demon-possessed, dead people. Quite a following.
No, there was nothing special in the appearance of His first coming. In fact, Isaiah goes on to say, because of the way He came, men despised Him, they rejected Him. He was a man familiar with sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we esteemed Him not.
But listen, there is a second coming which will be completely different from His first – and it will make all our suffering worth it. He will not come veiled, hidden, undercover in human flesh. He will appear in His Father’s glory – with all the majesty, strength, power, honor, and might that you would expect of divine kingship. What actually was there all the time will be seen by all, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. Everyone’s going to know it, everyone’s going to confess – because He’s going to shine like the sun. In John 17, right before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
Before coming to earth, Jesus was glorious – that is, there was a brilliant, magnificent display of Who He was. But He laid all that aside to come the first time. Philippians 2 says He emptied Himself – He laid aside the glory of His attributes – He blanketed His glorified deity in human flesh. The greatest undercover mission of all time. But there is coming a day when He will come in great glory. Not as the Son of Man, but as the Son of God, with great glory and holy angels.
Mark 13 describes it for us, “But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in heavens will be shaken. [You say, no sun, no moon, no stars – it’s gonna be dark. No it won’t…] Then they will see the SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.” He’s coming in great glory – no veil of human flesh – every eye will see Him, every knee will bow to the glory of God the Father – they won’t have a choice. And if they don’t love the light, they will be blinded by it.
The angels will come with Him, because they have a job to do – to gather the elect – that’s you, that’s me – from the four corners of the earth. And it won’t matter if we’re dead or alive.
I Thessalonians 4 says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” He’s coming in great glory. And we will be gathered together with Him in the air. John gives this further description of the Second Coming in great glory in Revelation 19:
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.
13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
This time, He’s not using a hammer, a saw, a chisel, an awl. He’ll come with a sword – and He does know how to use it. Make no mistake about it, He is coming a second time, and it will be in great glory. And so, while His disciples were lamenting this seemingly bad news – His coming death – not even really understanding it, Jesus says, I’m coming back. And while the promise of His return was meant to encourage them, and us – it may seem very remote, very future. Sometimes, just like the disciples, we get overwhelmed. The disciples still had His cross, their crosses, ringing in their ears. We’ve got to go to Jerusalem. There’s going to be rejection and pain, maybe even death.
And so Jesus, while they struggled with His first coming, sought to encourage them, and us, with a picture of His second coming. Not only am I coming back – let me give you a glimpse of my return – which brings us to our second point. Look at verse 1 again with me, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
What does that mean? Some think that refers only to the Transfiguration which follows, I think that’s only part of it – the beginning. The word kingdom, speaks of the kingdom reign of God. Here in this context, it speaks of royal majesty or regal splendor. I believe Jesus is saying, you’ll see my kingdom, that is, you’ll see my royal majesty, my regal splendor come before you die. And they did. Yes, it began with the transfiguration, which we’ll look at in a moment. But it continued through the glorious resurrection, through the founding of the church and the coming of the Holy Spirit – through the spread of the church down to the present day in kingdom power and authority. He is building His church, He is manifesting His kingdom reign, His regal splendor, just like He said He’d do – and even we are privileged to see the glory of the Son in the building of His church.
But, it did start with the transfiguration, when He gave the disciples a little glimpse. Yes, it’s sounded like bad news over the past few verses, so let me give you a little encouragement as you bask in the glory of the Son. Let this picture encourage the church through the ages until I peel back my flesh at the Second Coming. We see three significant things that point to the glory of the Son in this passage:
- First is the Transfiguration itself in verses 2-3.
- Then, there’s the Testimony of the Saints in verse 4.
- Then, there’s the Testimony of the Father in verses 5-8.
We’re not sure exactly where this very high mountain was, although many attempts have been made to identify it. The traditional site of Mount Tabor, which tour guides would be happy to take you to, and charge you – is likely not it. It’s too far south in Galilee, and not particularly a “high mountain.” So, Jesus took Peter, James and John to this high mountain, maybe Mount Hermon, since they were in Caesarea Philippi. They were known as the inner circle – those who seemed to be closest to Him. And what they saw would impact them forever.
Jesus was transfigured. The word is metamorphoo, from which we get our word, metamorphosis. The word suggests a change of nature that may be outwardly visible. He transformed before them, and it was outwardly visible – His clothes became radiant – exceedingly white like no one can bleach them – Mark wants us to understand this was a supernatural event. Matthew tells us His face shone like the sun. When Moses came face to face with God on the mountain, his face shone with the reflection of the glory of God – he had to wear a veil till the glory wore off so he wouldn’t scare the people. Here, Jesus is not reflecting glory – it’s His glory – He was transfigured. Jesus was peeling back the cover – He was giving them, and us, a glimpse of the glory He talked about 6 days earlier.
You see, God’s glory seems to have the visible manifestation of light. We call it the Shekinah glory of God – the light, the glory, that represents the very presence of God. God paraded His glory before Moses in Exodus 33. When Moses came down from his mountaintop experience, again, his face shone with the glory of God. The glory descended on the Tabernacle in Exodus 40, it descended on the Temple I Kings 8 such that the priests could not stand to minister – they were transfixed because of the glory of the Lord. We move to the New Testament, and at His birth, while the shepherds were keeping their flocks by night, the glory of the Lord shone about them, and it was as bright as the sun. Later, when Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus, the glory of the Lord appeared to him and knocked him off his horse – it blinded him – because it was brighter than the noonday sun. The glory of the Lord is bright light – it dispels all darkness, which is why John declares, God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
Jesus was giving His disciples an encouraging, visible expression of His glory, and it appears as white, bright light that even transformed His clothes. Now why? Remember, Jesus has just given them a boatload of news they didn’t expect. They expected Messiah to come in great glory. They didn’t expect Him to come veiled in human flesh as a servant. They didn’t expect Him to suffer, they didn’t expect Him to die. And they thought if they followed the Messiah, it would be glory for them. They certainly didn’t think if they chose to follow, it would be suffering – self denial and a cross.
So, having enlightened them, Jesus does so even further – figuratively and literally. While it is true the Christ will suffer and die and be raised again the third day, while it is true you will suffer, and maybe even die a martyr’s death – Jesus is still the glorious Messiah. Yes, it’s true His power and majesty and deity is hidden in the flesh for now. But in order that you may know I will come in great glory – here, let me give you a little picture. Let me give you a glimpse of the kingdom in its fullness.
And while it’s been 2,000 years, and while we may face trials and opposition, while we may even face death, while there is rising hostility in our country, while the coming election is foreboding – be encouraged. Jesus is coming back in great glory. He will make all things right, we will behold Him, we will see Him reigning in the glory of His Father with His angels. We’re supposed to hold onto this picture with everything we’ve got. You need to understand this vision is for us today. Jesus tells them in verse 9 – don’t tell anyone about this till after the resurrection. But then, tell them. Tell them in the midst of their cross-bearing, so they can be encouraged.
In verse 4, we see the glory of the Son in the Testimony of the Saints. Elijah and Moses appeared talking with Jesus. This was for the benefit of the disciples and Jesus Himself. Mark doesn’t tell us what they talked about – Luke does – they came to encourage Him regarding the news He shared with the disciples – that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, and die.
Now, why these two? Why Moses and Elijah? Lots of discussion about that – some say it’s because they both had mountaintop experiences with God. Some say it’s because they are two of the most predominant OT figures. Some say both of the deaths were different. I’m not sure. Some suggest Moses is the embodiment of the Old Testament Law. The Law had come through him – he was the one who went up the mountain to get it. He’s the one who brought the tablets of stone back down. He’s the one who taught the Law to the Israelites. He was the great lawgiver. We even call it the Mosaic Law.
Elijah was viewed as one of the greatest of the prophets. He had the school of the prophets – he trained other prophets. He faced Ahab and Jezebel. He was the one translated into heaven in a fiery chariot – he never died. He was a prophet-hero in Israel. The point is, these two men together represented the Old Testament economy – all the Old Testament had to offer – the Law and the Prophets. And they came as a testimony – the law points to and was fulfilled by Jesus. All the prophecies point to and are fulfilled by Jesus. This is the One – their presence gives testimony to the fact Jesus was the awaited Messiah.
Of course, as you would expect, Peter missed it, which brings us to the third evidence of the glory of the Son – the Testimony of the Father. It’s found in verses 5-8. Peter blew it again, that’s shocking. He sees this thing unfold, and as he normally did, he just starts talking. Get the picture: this is an unbelievable event, it should leave anyone speechless, not Peter. He’s not comfortable without talking, even though what he says is off the mark. The event is too big for words, but he has to talk anyway. In fact, Luke tells us, he didn’t know what he was saying.
Rabbi, it’s good for us to have been here. If you’ll let me, I’ll build three tabernacles – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah – maybe we can just live here. Some think the Feast of Tabernacles was going on at this time, which is why Peter suggested tabernacles or tents. The Feast of Tabernacles was a time the Israelites built small tents and camped out for a week to commemorate the Exodus and living in tents when they were delivered from Egypt. So, Peter may be saying, let me build three tabernacles, and let’s enjoy summer camp for a week.
Peter had a good heart – he just missed the whole point of the object lesson. So notice, while Peter was still speaking, the Shekinah glory of God, in the form of a bright cloud enveloped them, and the voice of Father said, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” Peter, stop talking and listen – not to Moses and Elijah – they were only the shadow of the reality to come. They were not transfigured – that is, their flesh did not conceal deity – their flesh was not peeled back. There is only one Son – and I am pleased with Him. Everything He is doing – going to Jerusalem, suffering, dying, and rising from the dead is all according to plan. This is my beloved Son – listen to Him.
At this point, Matthew tells us Peter, James and John fell face down to the ground, and were terrified. That is the only response when coming face to face with the glory of God. The priests couldn’t move in the Temple. The shepherds were terribly frightened in their fields by night. Paul fell off his horse. John fell down in Revelation 1:
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands;
13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.
14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.
15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.
16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,
18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
When presented with the glory and holiness of God, these men were overcome with the divine presence. Peter, James and John on the Mount fell to their faces. But, in Matthew, Jesus touched them, get up, don’t be afraid. And looking around, they saw no one except Jesus. You see, a vision of the glory of God should cause everything else to pale in comparison. Moses and Elijah were gone – there was only Jesus.
I said at the beginning this event changed the lives of these disciples forever. While Jesus was transfigured, they were transformed. Years later, they wrote about it. John wrote of this event in his first gospel. It didn’t take him long to mention it: John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh [wrapped in a human covering] and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Many suggest, in addition to His miracles, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension, John was also talking about the transfiguration.
Peter is more clear. While he didn’t know what to make of it when it happened – he figured it out later. II Peter 1:16-18 says:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased” –
18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
This event changed their lives forever. And it’s recorded to help change ours. While He did go to Jerusalem, while He did suffer, while He did die – He also rose again the third day. And He is coming again in great glory – the glory of His Father and with the holy angels. Until then, we look to this event, when He peeled back His flesh, as evidence of and encouragement for His coming in glory. Jesus is coming again. And we will see Jesus and Him alone.