Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reflections on the Gospel – Mark 9:2-9 – The Feast of the Transfiguration

Read the Gospel text here: Mark 9:2-10

“Listening to Jesus”
We have been focused on the Gospel of Mark since the first Sunday in Advent and for the most part our lessons have come from Chapter 1 (pew bibles NT pg. 27).  In fact, next week (Lent I) we will actually return again one more time to chapter 1.  But this week we have made a jump to chapter 9 (pg. 34) that is the very center of the Gospel of Mark.  And since it is at the very center it is very important to our understanding of this Gospel.  So what has happened in chapters 2 through 8?  Well, remember in 1:14-15 we have a key verse which tells us that everything that follows is a proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God come into our midst.  We have also come to understand in chapter 1 that this is more than words; in fact the Kingdom is most represented by what Jesus does!  And what does Jesus do?  Jesus calls and commissions disciples; Jesus confronts unclean spirits and casts them out; Jesus heals the sick, the paralytic, the blind and restores them to life; Jesus even raises the dead daughter of Jairus (chpt. 5 – pg. 30).  Not only that but Jesus stills the storm, teaches in parables, walks on water feeds the crowds and has deepening serious conflicts with the authorities.  And through it all the disciples are dazzled.  All they are seeing is glory and wonder.  Even when Jesus predicts his death and resurrection (8:31ff – pg. 34) they totally miss it.  They see only power and glory.
So it should not be surprising that when Jesus takes his 4 closest disciples up the mountain where he is going to pray and be transfigured, his disciples would again miss the point and see only glory and power.  But in the midst of this event a voice (the same voice that spoke at the Baptism in chapter 1) actually addresses the disciples: “This is my Son, the Beloved; Listen to Him!”  Now it seems that the disciples are guilty of hearing what they want to hear and seeing what they want to see (like us, perhaps?)  It is obvious that they hear the first part of this proclamation – the part about Jesus being the Beloved Son.  They already figured that out right?  Jesus is God’s Son, the Messiah!  Glory, Halleluiah! But, it is clear that they have also completely missed the “Listen” part.  So Jesus calls the boys together and gives them an instruction: Don’t say anything to anyone about what you have seen and heard!  I can just imagine the disciples being totally upset and confused.  “Why?  This was so exciting.  This confirmed everything we had thought about Jesus and now we have to keep quiet about it?!?!”
“Yes you do!” says Jesus.  First, let’s ask what is it in particular that the disciples are told to listen to?  Right before this story (8:31ff) Jesus had told his disciples about how he would be going to be rejected and would suffer and be crucified and then on the third day rise, and how that in order to truly be one of His disciples they also need to take up the cross and follow.  Well, the disciples apparently didn’t remember that part.  They weren’t listening, I suppose.  So what is the voice calling on the disciples to hear?  The word about the cross!
2nd – What does it mean that Jesus is God’s Son?  The phrase is actually not that common in Mark.  Jesus never uses those words to describe himself.  The Gospel writer uses the phrase in the very beginning of the Gospel, the evil spirits recognize Jesus as God’s Son and the voice from heaven proclaims Jesus as God’s son.  The disciples have suspicions, but they never voice them.  Only at the very end of the Gospel does a human character actually recognize and verbalize that Jesus is God’s Son: The Centurion standing at the foot of the cross in 15:39!  It is not a disciple, it is not one of the women, it is not even a Judean – it is one of the Jesus’ executioners!  Only when seen on the cross is it possible to recognize that Jesus is God’s Son!  And the Centurion is the only one who hasn’t run away by that time!
Lastly, the verb form for the word “Listen” is imperative.  This is important because it requires a response.  “Listen to him!”  This means it needs to make a difference, it needs to be reflected in how you live your life, how you relate to others and how you live out your calling to take up the cross and follow.  “Listen” in the imperative means – hear, see and act!  And this is the word to us as well: “Listen to Jesus!”  See the cross! And what difference does this cross make in your life?  Following Jesus is not about glory and power – it is not about being good and right – it is not about being the select holy ones.  It is all about service – picking up the cross and following.  It is all about receiving the gift of God’s love that comes to us through the cross and then allowing this gift to flow through us to a hurting, hungry and suffering world!  Are you listening!
If you would like to listen to this sermon - the audio is posted on the site under "media."

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