Sunday, September 16, 2012

Transfiguration - The Point

Message from September 2, 9:00 Traditions service, by Michael Greek.
Scripture: Mark 9:2-10
Audio available, and here
Mark’s gospel I’ve learned has been referred to by many as the “Action Christ” gospel.  The writing portrays the actions and ministry of Jesus as a whirlwind of preaching and healing with urgency, using the word “immediately” 27 different times (41 if you happen to be reading the Greek).  To set the scene of today’s scripture I’m going to slightly recap what has happened in the Mark account thus far.  John the Baptist has been hooting and hollering in the desert preaching repentance and preparation for messiah.  Jesus arrives on scene and is baptized, gets tempted, and goes to work teaching the people and healing.  Jesus is galavanting around the known vicinity teaching, healing, casting out demons, delivering folks from suffering and essentially showing off what he has to offer. 
So Jesus takes Peter James and John to the top of a mountain.  We don’t know the pretext, we don’t know what Jesus told the three they were up to, we just know that they are hanging out on top of this mountain and BAM!  Jesus doesn’t quite look like Jesus anymore.  His face is glowing and his clothes are white, so bright white that the disciples really had nothing to compare it to, as the scripture specifically states that they were “as no cloth refiner on earth could bleach them” (Mark. 9:3).  And not only has Jesus changed (the greek word is metamorphosis), he invited guests!  Because now the scripture tells us its not only Jesus standing in front of Peter, James, and John, but Elijah and Moses have joined him.  And I love the reaction of the disciples to this.  Jesus is standing before them, having been revealed in all his glory, and Peter (who always seems to be the spokesman of the group) speaks up and says, “Lord, its good that we’re here, how about we make some tents for the three of you?”  How familiar is that reaction?  Peter is exposed to something that he knows is good, realizes is from God, but he is terrified of it anyway and so he attempts to put it in perspective, to make a place for it that it can reside, box it in.  This is the moment in this story that strikes me so clearly, sticks out to me the most.  Because you see, Peter is just like me... is just like all of us.  Peter is human, has a relationship with Jesus Christ, walks with him day in and day out, and does not really know him.

You may ask, “What do you mean he doesn’t know him?  The man lives his life in direct contact with the Christ, they have traveled together, ministered together, Peter has seen Jesus perform miracles, cast out demons, heal the sick, dying, and dead, cure blindness, walk on water, how can you say he doesn’t know Jesus?”  Well friends, it really is that simple, and how true it has rung to me in my own life.  Peter thinks he knows, Peter has admitted to knowing, been affirmed in his knowledge by Jesus himself.  In fact, just six measly days before this transfiguration occurs, Jesus asks the disciples who he is and it is Peter out of all who his it right on the head saying “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29).  Six days!  Six days since Peter has confessed knowledge to Christ being the messiah, the chosen one, divine, and here he is standing in the presence of Jesus in all His glory and is bewildered and terrified!  He is attempting to box in what he’s seen so he can cope with it.  Peter had knowledge that Jesus is the Christ.  But he did knot know.

It may seem to you that I am coming down a little hard on Peter.  I mean, it is completely understandable that he reacts the way he does, yes?  The reason I am pointing out the severe disconnect between Peter’s knowledge of who Jesus is and his knowing Jesus is because it affects all of us as well.  For, you see, if Peter, who lived and walked and talked and loved Jesus every day for three years did not know all there was to know of the divinity of Christ, we must realize that we will never know as well.

We will never know.

Allow that statement to sink in, to wash into your being.  What kind of a reaction does it bring with it?  Michael, what is the point to all of this?  If we can never know Christ to His fullest extent, never be able to encounter all of Him while we are on this earth, what is the POINT?

The Point, brothers and sisters, is this:  we have a choice.  Or maybe better put, we have an opportunity.

You see, in my own walk with God I have stumbled upon this realization several times, and I have had some dramatically different reactions.  Examining these reactions I imagine they are a fairly good cross section of how many Christians react at various points in their journey as well.

The first time I realized that I did not know Christ there came with that knowledge a terrible burden of guilt, condemnation, failure.  After all, I am a Christian now, I’m supposed to know all there is of God and be intimate beyond intimate with Him and everything was supposed to have changes in this!  I felt so hopeless, like I had let God down and that was it for me.  Thank you for becoming a Christian, I appreciate your interest, but I can’t really use you because you don’t know me. 

Further along my journey I came once again to this realization that I will never know all there is to know about Jesus and a new reaction came to me.  Complacency might be the best way to describe it.  You see by now I had been hanging out in “Christian” circles, had some very good friends that were brothers and sisters in the Lord, and had the opportunity to interact and observe other believers in the day to day.  I realized that no one knew all there was to know of Jesus, that the “best” of Christians and the “worst” of Christians were all the same in that they are missing out.  So I accepted it as normal.  This conclusion was so much more dangerous that my original.  Before I was lost in hopelessness, essentially at the opposite end of the spectrum of Christ, so it made it pretty darn easy to run His way once the Truth hit me.  But to accept something in your spirit, to look around and say “hmm, not one person on this earth will ever know all there is to know about Jesus.  Oh well.” is tragic.  It is throwing in the towel.  It is saying that life and relationship will never get any better than it is right now, today, so there is no sense in hoping for it.  We will just do what we can to make the best of things until we’re called home. 

To see it from a different perspective, look at my marriage.  I have been married for about three months know, have known Sarah for about 8 or 9 years.  If at three months of marriage I come to the realization that I don’t know all there is to know about my wife and conclude that I should just accept things the way they are and make the best of it, what kind of husband would that make me?  What a sad shame our marriage would be if it peaked now and we have nothing but a plateau to look forward to for the next 60 plus years.  That would be crazy!  And yet that’s what so many of us have done in our walk with Christ.  I don’t have a bad marriage, I absolutely love my wife.  I look forward to seeing her and spending time with her, we have love and we live together in it and it is beautiful.  But if we were to stop here in our journey of intimacy it would be doing us, our marriage, our future children, and God a complete disservice. 

Which brings me to the third reaction I have faced in this recurring realization during my journey: excitement!  You see, nothing about this experiance has been false any time I had it.  The realization is Truth, my reactions to it were what sent me for a loop.  Because we will NEVER know all there is to know about Jesus in our lifetime.  It will never happen.  And that is the most amazing and mind-blowing piece of information that we have as Christians!  It is exciting!  It is a challenge, an opportunity, it is as if God is saying to us “I dare you to find the limits of my love for you”!!  Or as Paul puts it in Ephesians, “That you...may have the strength to comprehend...what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge.” And that is the point right there, LOVE!!  God has not set us up for failure in our relationship with him, we are not bound to be lukewarm and mediocre for the duration of this lifetime, we are given opportunity!!  We have a literally endless supply of love, intimacy, relationship with the father at our fingertips and we have been given open access to see how much farther we can push in!  So when we are walking around caught in the bleak little reality of our humanness, saying “Lord I’m just gonna do my best for you and I hope that is enough and maybe you could possibly lend me a hand if you have some time later...”  God can come back and blast us out of our reality and into His by immersing us in his absolute unending love! 

We should never throw in the towel, we should never give in to being mediocre Christians, mediocre people, because we have the Love and Glory of Christ not only surrounding us but indwelling us!  How easily we forget that we were bought with a price.  So often in my heart I think of what Jesus gave and I tell God “wow, you way overpaid for me...”  But that is a total lie!  Jesus did what He did because we were worth it to him!  Everything I have been talking about comes down to the gospel, the good news of Jesus.  And I know it may sound like I’m speaking ideology or impractical Christianity.  I react so often by holding back from God because of the fears and hurts that I have when I should really be diving in because all of my baggage has been taken care of.  God doesn’t care what my baggage is, it makes no difference to Him.  He cares so much that I have it because its already been payed for!  Its not my baggage anymore, its His redemption, and yet so often I’m caught standing there holding on to it saying “No, God, you don’t understand, you don’t want any of this.  Its my baggage and I’ll deal with it... don’t worry, you can’t use it anyway.”

Keep pressing in!  Peter James and John were given this wonderful opportunity to see Jesus in all his glory, to be chosen by God to be the witnesses of this announcement that Jesus really is who you think Him to be.  No one in history had the same opportunity that they did, and yet after Christ died for us every person on this earth has the opportunity to press in and see just how much of Christ they are able to experience while on this earth.  Take advantage of it, don’t get caught up in hopelessness in your walk or complacency.  No matter where we are God always has more to give, and He does so with lovingness and excitement.  That is the Point.

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