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Rabbi, it is good for us to be Here

Notes & Transcripts

Lord, I pray that only truth is spoken and only truth heard - Amen

We are today at the mid-point between Christmas and Easter – and that midpoint is marked by the one of the most incredible stories found in the Bible – The Transfiguration

It is also basically the midpoint of Mark’s gospel – which starts with the most counter-culture, most politically incorrect, most rebellious statements for its day

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1)

I will paraphrase for amplification so that we might attempt to understand it the way it would have been understood 2000 years ago


The beginning – This the start of the story, understand when you hear “the beginning” you to think about the creation of the world – of the work of God – that is what I am about to start to telling you about

The gospel – Of the most monumental news you could imagine – ‘the good news” or “gospel” was for news of the emperor – the one that the Romans believed was a demi-god – so the message that you are about to hear is news of the highest magnitude

            Of Jesus – Of a man - named Jesus, a Hebrew

Christ – This man is the messiah, the long awaited leader that will bring us to the fulfillment of ‘the promises of God’ – promises that have waiting for centuries

            The Son of God – He is the male child of God, God – the creator of everything

– the news you are hearing is about God’s Son

Mark lays it out – states it all in the opening verse

And then takes the rest of his gospel to explain what he has just said

For Mark one of the vitally key messages to understand, which he goes to great pains to claim unequivocably is WHO Jesus is – for Mark – Identity is the story

            And so we have at this high point Mark’s gospel - The Transfiguration


This moment is a crucial moment for the disciples and for us today, shown by God

Miracles, although I am sure important to the individual and their family, are more important for what they reveal about God to us

            The miracle today is for us – for our understanding

And He was transfigured before them (Mark 9:2b)

And his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them (Mark 9:3)

And Jesus is transfigured to transform Him from Rabbi (teacher)

To the Son of God

                                                                                    Clearly to show His divinity


And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus (Mark 9:4)

Moses – the leader out of captivity and the traditional writer the first five books of the Bible

                        And Elijah - the greatest prophet – And Jesus revealed as the long expected Messiah

                                    “Talking” - talking to show that they are physically there

We have three giants of Hebrew tradition and expectation and yet after God spoke from the cloud

            “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

Then … ‘Only Jesus’ remained

As we understand metaphorically the three that we see on that mountaintop

As Moses represents the Law – God’s instruction for life – punctuated by the establishment of covenantal relationship

And Elijah represents the Prophets – God’s on-going efforts to get his people back on track – back into the covenantal relationship 

Then Jesus representing Grace - God’s giving of His Son – the ultimate solution to covenantal relationship that has never been able to be fulfilled by humanity themselves

When Law and prophets fade away…

What is God’s defining message – Grace

And how must our hearts be drawn to the words of God from the cloud

            “This is my Son, the beloved, listen to Him!”

“This is my Son, the beloved…” draws us right back to the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry and His Baptism in the river Jordan         

                                    “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

But today there is a shift…

            With Our Lord’s Baptism – God the Father declares TO Jesus - with you I am well pleased

                        Today the God’s identification shifts TO us

                                    This is my Son, the beloved, listen to Him

Today is the last Sunday in Epiphany – the season of revelation

In which the Light is revealed to the world

                        And today our Lord is glowing in unworldly glory – dazzling light - revealed for us

                                    And commanding us to Listen to Him


And today we are at a pivot point in the Christian calendar – it is the last Sunday before Lent

            We have on each end of Lent – mountaintops

Two mountains of Lent bring along the journey from Transfiguration to Calvary

The 1st is the shiny Las Vegas Christ of victory

The 2nd has the dark shadow of the cross

We might, like Peter, want to set up camp and remain with the shiny Las Vegas Christ

            But we are on a journey to mountaintop of the cross

We are pivoting from Glory we might want

                                    To the Glory we need

Beyond the Father in Heaven’s declaration of Jesus as divine, as Son of God, as the Messiah – in whom we are instructed to listen to… what does this story of the Transfiguration have to do with you, and me…

            Consider these details

                        “Jesus took with him, Peter and James and John and led them up a high                                         mountain apart by themselves


                        “appeared to them

                                    and most importantly

                        “Then Peter said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here

                                    “took them… led them …appeared to them

                                                Then… it is good for us to be here”

We have Jesus, God in the flesh, Emanuel - God amongst us

            Bringing… leading… revealing… … To Us

Making sure we understand exactly - who he is … to us… for us … in our presence

            We are part of God’s plan - brought along journey – along for the ride

Recently I have been listening to debates between leading Atheists and leading Christians

And the Atheists often state, that I would take God appearing to them in order for them to believe – and today God reveals precisely that in dazzling clarity

Trying to come up with illustrations that might compare this incredible moment that the closest disciples witnessed that special day is, in reality, impossibility

            So instead here are a few short stories that reveal insights to grander vision

According to a popular Indian legend, the leader of a certain tribe encamped at the base of a mountain was dying.

The chief summoned his three sons and said, "I am dying and one of you must succeed me as head of our tribe.

I want each of you to climb our holy mountain and bring back something beautiful.

The one whose gift is the most outstanding will succeed me."

After several days the sons returned. The first son brought his father a flower which grew near the summit and was extremely rare and beautiful.

The second son brought his father a stone which was colorful, smooth and round having been polished by rain and sandy winds and sparkled magnificently in the sunlight.

The third son said, "Father, I have brought nothing back to show you.

As I stood on the top of our holy mountain, I saw that on the other side was a beautiful land filled with green pastures and a crystal lake and I had a vision of where our tribe could go for a better life.

I was so overwhelmed by what I saw and by what I was thinking that I could not bring anything back."

And the father replied, "You shall be our tribe's leader, for you have brought back the most precious thing of all.

You have brought us a story of fertile fields and clear waters, a gift of vision of a better future."[1]

The Rainmaker is a play written by N. Richard Nash in the early 1950s.

Set in a drought-ridden rural town in the West in Depression era America, the play tells the story of a pivotal hot summer day in the life of spinsterish Lizzie Curry.

As their farm languishes under the devastating drought, Lizzie's family worries about her marriage prospects more than about their dying cattle

A charming confidence trickster named Starbuck arrives and promises to bring rain in exchange for $100.

His arrival sets off a series of events which enable Lizzie to see herself and life around her in a new light.

At one point she says: 'Some nights I'm in the kitchen washing the dishes. And Pop's playing poker with the boys. Well at first I'll just see an ordinary, middle-aged man — not very interesting to look at.

And then, minute by minute, I'll see little things I never saw in him before.

Good things and bad things — queer little habits I never noticed he had — the ways of talking I never paid any mind to.

And suddenly I know who he is — and I love him so much I could cry!

And I want to thank God I took the time to see him real.[2]

In the first story we have the vision of hope, of better things for the future and for a whole tribe – it can be seen as a parallel to the teaching about the Kingdom of God – on earth as in heaven

            In the second we have the clarity of vision, of seeing someone the way God sees us

With deep abiding love that brings God to send His Only Son – and on that mountain – when the law and prophets pass away – God’s best is stands alone – only Jesus remains

I have often wondered, since the original Greek would not have had punctuation and since most versions that you will read keep punctuation out of it - whether Peter was asking a question –

“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here?

                        But I believe that it is more profound to leave it as a statement

                                    “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here!

I think that whole passage, for our identification with it, actually hinges on Peter’s words told as a statement

            It is without a doubt about Jesus being transfigured

                        Present with Moses - the Law, and Elijah - the prophets

God’s cloud, and ‘words of affirmation’, and command to ‘listen to Jesus’

And only Jesus remaining

But I think our life rests more on the fact that:  God values us and wants us part of His plans

                                                “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here!

Scripture, in the classic Christian understanding, is written by human hands but God breathed – God inspired

And in this moment Peter is speaking God’s words and declaring for all humanity - over all time – drawing us to the beginning of time when “God made it and said ‘it is good’”

And as we are a big part of God’s created order

“It is good for us to be here”

Jesus is the Christ and He was transfigured for a purpose and the purpose is us – to transform us

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance.

Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael’s chief joy was to paint scenes from the life of Christ.

His last work, the culmination of years of study, was "The Transfiguration."

It was scarcely finished when he became ill, and so he had the picture hung in the sick-room.

When he died the picture was hung above the body, and as the crowds came to pay their last tokens of respect to the famous painter, they beheld above him the vision which had transformed his life and had given birth to his genius.[3]

 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”

            Mark labours the point through-out his telling of the Gospel of Jesus identity

Because with understanding identity of just WHO Jesus is we can grasp the purpose… and with that… believe 

The Transfiguration is for our Transformation of understanding

And understood in a grand scale – it is God’s abundant Love

We were not there on the mountain to see and hear what is described in the text.

One could even say that we missed out on the action.

But this would be a mistake.

The miracle of it happens again and again to us when the reality of the living Christ comes alive to us through the witness of the church.

God's powerful Word—preached, washed, eaten, drunk, and shared—

Makes the transfiguration not just a past image, but a real recurring event in our lives

Through it, we too, in matters of ultimate significance, we too are called to see Jesus, and only Jesus.

Today as we look to the solid proof that St. Mark and all the other Gospel writers provide of who Jesus the Christ really is

            As we look to the transfiguration

We are to look to the wholeness of Scripture knowing that it is God, the Holy Spirit inspiring the each writer

Know as St. Paul often writes that we are to be “In Christ”

                                                We are to be transformed from ‘one thing’ to “a life in Christ”       

                                                            Jesus is Transfigured…  to transform us

                                                                        From Glory to Glory

                                                                        Because - “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here!                                                                                            Amen


[1] Illustration Sourcebook II - # 1794, VISION, FUTURE

[2] Illustration Sourcebook II - # 1044, VISION, LOVE

[3] Illustration Sourcebook II - # 1419, VISION, FAME

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