SUNDAY SERMON: ‘Listen to him’

Rev. Stephen Baldwin

OT: 2 Kings 2.1-12

NT: Mark 9.2-9

Mountains are where the heavens meet the earth. Think about all the Biblical stories which occur on mountains. Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Mount Olive, where Jesus prayed before his death. Mount Zion, which became the city of David. Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus preached the beatitudes. Mount Carmel, where God appears to Elijah. Mountains are where the heavens meet the earth. 

We in West Virginia know this all too well. That’s why we call our home among the hills, “Almost Heaven.” 

In Mark, the heavens open three times–when Jesus is baptized, when Jesus is transfigured, and when Jesus is crucified. For Mark, these are the three main events of Jesus’ life. And one–the one we talk about the least–occurs on a mountain. 

Today’s story tells us about the time he was transfigured on a mountain, the place where the heavens meet the earth. 

Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him. They’d been through so much in the weeks prior–the feeding of the five thousand, a healing gone wrong which required Jesus to heal a man twice, and the foreshadowing of his death. The disciples probably needed some down time, and they probably assumed that’s what they were getting. Jesus probably needed some down time, and maybe part of him thought that’s what he would get. But that’s not what happened. 

When they got to the top, Jesus was transfigured. Lots of folks read that as he was transformed, but that’s not what exactly it means. 

When something transforms, it changes from one thing into something else. Jesus didn’t change forms. He didn’t change bodies. He was transfigured, glowing. Bright as the sun reflecting off yesterday’s snow. 

When someone transfigures, they are seen in a new light. Their nature and essence doesn’t change; we just see them clearly. 

Have you ever seen someone who is glowing? You may have seen them a thousand times, but when they are glowing, it’s like you’re seeing them–their true self–for the very first time. And every time you see them again, you will see them glowing. Once you’ve seen the best in someone, it’s all you can see. 

Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop. Peter, James, and John see him in a whole new light that day. Sure, they’ve followed him and seen him heal the sick and feed the hungry, but on the mountain they saw him. They understood what he was all about. They saw him alongside Moses and Elijah, who were widely recognized as the greatest Jewish leaders to have ever lived. And Jesus was in their company. One of them. 

And that’s when a voice comes down from heaven saying, “This is my son, the beloved.  Listen to him.” 

There’s a practical reason for this message. The disciples are about to go through hell alongside Jesus, and God reminds them that they must listen to him if they want to make it through. He will guide them through the wilderness, but they must listen to him. No matter what. 

I think there’s also a theological reason for the message. Do you know what you hear on a mountaintop? Everything and nothing. There’s all kinds of noise, but not much of it is discernable. Stand on a mountaintop in West Virginia and you might hear a chainsaw in one direction and children playing in another. You might hear wildlife in one direction and four wheelers in the other. Not to mention the hum of the wind in the trees. You can hear everything and nothing, which makes it hard to figure out what to focus on. 

Our world is like that. It’s filled with noise, all around. You can hear everything and nothing. Listen to him. That message is more important than ever now. Listen to him. 

In your prayers this week, I encourage you to listen. Don’t speak, don’t think, just listen to him. 

Mountains are the place where the heavens and earth meet. And so is Jesus. He is the middle ground between the heavens and earth. Listen to him. Amen.

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