Sunday, February 26, 2012

“Free Will . . . My Will … God’s Will … Whose Will?”

Genesis 1:26-30
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.
Genesis 2:15-17
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

Message                    “Free Will . . . My Will … God’s Will … Whose Will?”                      Tom Williams

Years ago I heard a parent relating a story about their young son who was very active.
On this particular day the parent was extremely busy and becoming frazzled when the youngster continued to stand on a kitchen chair. She was afraid that he would tip the chair over or fall off of it.
“Sit down” orders had been issued several times and ignored.
Mom finally picked him up and “sat” him in the chair.
After a minute or so had passed the child looked defiantly at his mother and said, “I’m still standing up on the inside!”

I’m sure that we’ve all been both the victim and perpetrator of this type of defiance.
It is an integral part of our nature as human beings. It is the exercise of our free will.

The scope and limitations of free will has been theologically discussed for a long-long time by greater minds than mine so I will not get too involved in the debate on the nature of free will.
My quest is to understand the reason for free will.
Why did God create a creature capable of defying Him?

Let’s look back to the beginning.
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us create human kind in our own image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, And over the birds of the air, and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
That’s a pretty simple explanation of why God created human kind. He had a job for us to do.

God placed man in the middle of a perfect natural world.
He was given free reign over it all.
With one
… one! …
tiny stipulation …
 “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”

Without free will, there would have been no need of that limitation.
Without free will, there could have been no ability to eat of the fruit or even the temptation to do so.

So, again, why did God create a creature capable of defying Him?
What was the purpose of free will?
Certainly it wasn’t given to us to get us into trouble!
Then, why?

I’m sure that as we all were growing up we had a stuffed toy or doll that we really loved.
Mine was a teddy bear with the original name of Teddy.
This bear was a gift from my sister on the day I was born.
Originally he was a soft, plush black and white panda bear with glossy black plastic eyes.
I say “originally” because he doesn’t look like that any more.
Yes, I still have him! Over the years I literally loved him to pieces.
His eyes have been replaced by plain buttons.
His plush ‘fur’ has worn off to the point that he appears to be made of canvas.
The white has turned to the color of old asphalt and his chest has a star drawn on it (He was my deputy sheriff).
His head has been reattached by my less than skillful youthful hands in a stitch pattern that would make Dr. Frankenstein shudder.
And his right arm has once again fallen off.

Teddy was my nearly constant companion until about the middle of elementary school.
He listened to my jokes, stories of woe and shared my tears.
He was a comfort when I broke my arms
(so many times that I don’t know how many times they’ve been broken
– once while it was still in a cast.
– how would you have liked to been MY mother?).
He joined me as I scaled high mountains and fought my way through the darkest jungles.
He was my copilot in my airplanes and space ships.
We fought side by side against amazing armies of Indians, Germans, cattle-rustlers, and legions of bad-guys of all kinds.
We were occasionally wounded but didn’t keep us from being victorious over our foes!

I loved this bear!
He was as real as my family with his own personality and most importantly Teddy loved me back!

Well, that’s what my childish mind told me.
I understand now that I was projecting personality and love on to him.
In reality he is just a cleverly cut and sewn piece of cloth stuffed with sawdust and cotton batting.
A toy!
Not capable of returning my feelings of friendship and love.

God did not create us to be his toys!
We were not created to be His playthings or His pets!
We are His children! Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
Remember that verse in Genesis? We are created in his image and likeness!

But what is the image and likeness of God in-which we were created?
Obviously we are not made in the physical image of God because He is a spirit.
Indeed, it occurs to me that it might be rightly said that,   in the person of Jesus,   God created Himself in the image of man.

So, if we are not the physical image of God, how are we in His image?

I believe that the main way we are like God is in our free will.
Our ability to choose.
This is a great and terrifying gift.
With the gift of free will we can choose order or chaos, love or hate, obedience of defiance.

I believe that the reason we were given this gift is so that we can truly love God.
To be in fellowship with Him.
To be in partnership with Him. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says in Matthew 11:29.
That says to me that we are working side by side. And pulling in the same direction.
Our will and God’s will in step.

How do we show our true love to God?
Jesus gave examples: 
LOVE: John15:9-15
Even as the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from my Father, I have made known unto you.
LOVE:  John 21:15-19
So when they had broken their fast, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again a second time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Tend my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
LOVE: John 14:15
I ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.

Here, I believe is the one thing God really wants from us:
to say “not my will but thine”.

Herein lies the true reason for the gift of free will: to give it back to God.

I mean really!
What else do we have that we can give to God?
What do we “own” that doesn’t already really belong to God? Nothing!

Some will say that (Senator Foghorn voice) our tithe is our gift to God.
Wrong! We own nothing.  Everything belongs to God and comes from God.  It is only on loan to us.
John 1:3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
I say that the 90% that God allows us to manage is His gift to us.

Some might say that the time we spend in prayer, ministry, service and worship is our gift to God.
I think that since I can not CREATE time, it isn’t mine to give either.
TIME: Revelation 22:13
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
Before he created the first day, there was no time. And for that matter, no one to keep track of it.

“My gift is the use of my talents in God’s service,” some would say. 
Oh wait, … those are God-given talents.
TALENTS/GIFTS: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.

No, in truth the only REAL gift we have that can be given to God is our will.

And here is the real irony, only by bringing our will into alignment with God’s will can we be truly free!

You see, we are already “slaves” to sin.
John 8:34 “Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
Jesus recognized this truth when he was challenged to decide the fate of the woman caught in adultery. “He who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” John 8:7
His tormenters knew that truth also. Nobody threw a rock!

Does this mean to quit being a slave to sin I have to become a slave to God?
The apostle Paul answers that question in his letter to Titus (Titus1:1) by calling himself, “Paul, a servant of God”
The author of the book of James echoes that by calling himself “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” James 1:1
Peter does the same in 2nd Peter 1:1 “Simeon Peter a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ”
The writer of Jude “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” Jude 1:1.

These writers knew the difference between being a slave and being a servant.  You know what that difference is?
You guessed it! Free will!

I ask you to take a moment and look at your own life. Answer for yourself, “Am I a slave or a servant?” that is really the only two choices available! What will you do with your free will?

If you aren’t happy with your answer, take the step to change it. Pray “not my will but thine.” Actively seek the will of God. (here’s a hint … the answer is in the Book)

If you need help and support, I and others of the congregation and staff of this church are available.

In closing,
As I pray this familiar prayer, pay close attention to what it means to have His will done on earth as it is in heaven.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"When Jesus Came to Jordan"

For your convenience the scripture readings are posted at the end of the message.

Sermon:          “When Jesus Came to Jordan”          Tom Williams
Have you, like me, ever wondered why Jesus, sinless Son of God, would ask to be baptized?  Doesn’t that seem odd to you?  It has always appeared ‘backwards’ to me for Jesus to ask John to baptize him.  Are you listening, Church?
Well, I have a new insight that I’d like to share with you.
Here is the story in synopsis:  John the baptizer was preaching in the regions surrounding the Jordon.  It appears that he was one of those “hellfire and damnation” preachers when in Luke chapter three he says, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance.  Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  No sugar coating from John.  Amen?
John had been preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand.  And he was baptizing people to repentance.  And people were listening!  Sinners (yes, even tax collectors) were repenting of their sins and coming to him to be baptized.  Praise God!  There was revival taking place there along the banks of the Jordon.
Now people were beginning to ask if he, John, was the messiah.  Do you see what was happening here?   This people, the people set aside by God to be a blessing to the world, were a defeated people.  They were defeated in war and ruled by foreign powers AGAIN!  But worse than that, they were defeated in their spirits.  Instead of living in the Joy of the Lord, they were trying and failing to live under the burden of traditions and precepts that had were now enforced as law.  They listen to John and began to hope that the new Kingdom was at hand.  They were beginning to hope again.  They were beginning to look for a messiah and savior to come and free them from this downtrodden life.  I’ve been there!  Have you?
 It was at this time when Jesus came near the Jordan and heard, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  With these words he pointed toward Jesus. 
Can you imagine the response from those crowded around John?  A lamb?  No! We want … we need … a messiah, not another sacrifice.  We have sacrificed enough!
It was then that Jesus came to John and asked to be baptized.  John, realizing what those around him had failed understand, at first refused saying that Jesus should instead baptize him. The gospel of Matthew records it this way, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordon, to be baptized by him.  John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 
I have to say that I would agree with John.  That seems like the proper order to me; for the sinless Son of God to be the baptizer not the baptized.  What do you say, Church?  Does that seem right to you?
But Jesus answered him,Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.   Saying in essence, “This is the right thing to do at this time.”
Okay… why?
John had been baptizing people.  Under stand he wasn’t washing them of the dirt on their bodies.  He wasn’t seeking their physical cleanliness.  He was offering an object lesson, a visual aid that was symbolic of the cleansing of their souls.  As he says, “I baptize you with water for repentance.”
Now listen, Jesus had no need to repentant and no need for his soul to be cleansed.   I’ll say it again, Jesus had no need to repentant and no need for his soul to be cleansed because He was without ‘spot or blemish’. 
Without spot or blemish was the requirement for the sacrificial lamb, the lamb to take away the sins of the people of God.  This was what was required by the Law in Leviticus for the atonement of sin.  It made Jesus the perfect of Lamb of God.
Now, in truth, according to the law, there were two lambs required.  Leviticus 16:7-10 Then he (Aaron) is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.
One lamb was slaughtered and burned as a sacrifice, a symbolic way of presenting it directly to God.  The second lamb had the sins of the people symbolically laid upon it and was then driven into the wilderness.  One lamb was an offering for sin and one for atonement.
This convergence of thinking about the two lambs and the baptism of Jesus gave me a new insight as to why Jesus said that this baptism was the right thing to do.  Jesus was not just the lamb of sacrifice, he was also the lamb of atonement.
It could be that Jesus came to John, not to have his sins washed away, but to have the sins of the world laid upon him in the same way that the sins were laid on the scapegoat.
Before I go any further I want to offer this disclaimer:  I have to warn you here that this is not something that I’ve ever seen anyone else say about this passage of scripture.  And because I don’t want to lead anyone astray, I want you to know that this is MY interpretation and you are certainly free to disagree and offer your own interpretation of these events.  I in fact encourage you to read and study for yourself.
Now, having given this disclaimer, I have to say that when this thought entered my mind, it shook me!  I believe it was a revelation of the Spirit of God because I would never have thought of it myself.
Once the thought had entered my mind that John was in fact fulfilling the Law of Atonement by placing his hands on the head of Jesus at his baptism, several other things fell into place.
·       First, it made more sense that John would call Jesus the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. 
·       Second, the wording of the gospel that says “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” coincides so well with the Old Testament command to send the scapegoat into the wilderness.
You see, it was expected that the scapegoat would be killed by predators in the wilderness.  After all, goats are herd animals and once they are cut off from the protection of the herd, they fall easy prey to the wild beasts.  In a similar way, Jesus was driven into the wilderness and set upon by the Devil seeking to destroy him as soon as he entered the wilderness.  A while back we saw a DVD with pictures of this wilderness.  Not a wilderness of forested hills with streams of water trickling through it.  No! This is a barrenness of sand and wind and sun!  Here there was no place to hide, to rest, to have shelter from the elements or the wild beasts.
Now I have to admit that because the Bible list several specific temptations set before Jesus, I used to think that those were the only times in which Jesus was tempted.  The temptation is presented in the gospels so CIVIL, it is almost a dual of wits among English gentlemen sitting in deeply padded leather chairs, while they sipped tea.
In reality, Jesus endured forty days and nights of constant bombardment by Satan.  Picture in your mind some scene from a movie where some prisoner is being tortured and interrogated.  Now imagine that torture going on without ceasing for forty days and nights!  I believe that this is a more accurate depiction of the temptation of Christ than what I previously imagined.
Mark says, “and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”  Matthew records, “He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished.”  So, Jesus was surrounded by wild beasts and waited on by angels but did not eat.  He was famished and physically weakened by his ordeal of contending with Satan.  When you are in the middle of a battle, you do not stop for a coffee break.  Amen?
What were the angels doing if they weren’t bringing him food?  Were they there to keep the beasts at bay?  I don’t know.  However, it sure paints a different picture than the images that I’ve seen in paintings.  Jesus isn’t sitting peacefully praying while angels see to his comfort.  This is a battle!  And Jesus and the angels are fully engaged in it.  If Satan were to win this battle, then he could stop OUR salvation from ever happening. 
If my interpretation is correct, Jesus is fighting this battle while he is already weighed down with our sins.  WE had handicapped him in this most important fight ever fought!  He was carrying every temptation that has ever tempted anyone … ever. 
How great a love!  Jesus could have traded OUR souls for his own release from the temptations.  That was what Satan wanted here, OUR souls.  And Jesus endured this first great battle in the ongoing war on our behalf, even knowing that the path he had to travel on earth would end in a violent and painful death on the cross.  Again I say, how great a love.
If you, like me, are feeling unworthy of that love, it is alright … we’re right … we are unworthy.  Our salvation is a free gift not a reward earned.  Our only responsibility is to ‘open’ the gift by acknowledging our NEED for the gift and thanking God for it. 
We make proclamation of our acceptance of the gift by following the example of Jesus and being baptized.  As it says in 1 Peter, “And baptism, which this prefigured, (speaking of Noah and the flood) now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.”
AFTER accepting the gift, we do have the obligation to live it.  Even there we are empowered by the Spirit of God with the strength to live this new life as a child of God in His kingdom.  We also have an advocate to speak on our behalf during those time in which we fail to live as should.  How great is his love!  Amen.
New Testament:             1 Peter 3:18-22       
18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.  21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

*Gospel:                           Mark 1:9-15             
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  11And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." 
12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Why the Transfiguration"

Read Mark 9:2-9
for convenience the scripture is printed at the end of this post.

Sermon:                 “Why the Transfiguration?”              Tom Williams
Today’s message is less a ‘sermon’ than a lesson. 
Not a sermon because I make no exhortation for change. 
I offer this as a study to gain a, perhaps new, understand of the scripture.  And I’ll leave ‘change’ up to you.

Okay, here is the question that comes to my mind when I read this story of the transfiguration, “What is the purpose of the transfiguration?” 

You see, I believe that everything in this book is there for a reason.  This is not just a book a dry facts it is a book of living truths.  So, let’s see what truths we can find hear and how do they become ‘living’ in us.

It is a very short section of scripture and pretty straight forward.
-  Jesus and three disciples go up the hill.
-  Jesus is changed to a ‘glorified state’ and visits with Moses and Elijah.
-  Disciples are confused and afraid  and want to build shelters for them.
-  God, the Father, exalts Jesus as His beloved Son
-  Jesus tells the disciples to tell no one.

There are so many ‘whys’ here.
-  Why take some disciples but not all?
-  Why go up on a mountain?
-  Why was Jesus appearance changed?
-  Why were Moses and Elijah there?
-  Why were the disciples able to recognize them? 
-  Why were the disciples afraid?
-  Why did the disciples want to build shelters?
-  Why did God speak to the disciples rather than Jesus?
-  Why were they commanded to tell no one?
-  What does this mean to me? 
-  What does this mean to you?

               When I run into so many questions, I try to see how the scripture fits into the narrative before and after the event.  Interestingly, the seventeenth chapter begins with the words, “Six days later …”

               Six days after what?
               I’ll get to that in a minute.  However, I want to go back further in the scriptures than the happenings of that last week.

               Mark records in his gospel a great number of healings and those were not supernatural events for Jesus, that they were indeed natural for him. 

These events were not called miracles in the gospels.  These events were called signs because they pointed the way to the Kingdom of God and the divinity of Christ.

               This signs were often attacked by the Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees.  These religious leaders saw the signs and dismissed them as blasphemous and works of the devil.

For His part, Jesus has systematically demonstrated that the Scribes, Sadducees and the Pharisees had been teaching tradition as if it were God’s law. 

In every confrontation with the religious scholars of the day, Jesus repeatedly claimed his divine authority to seek the lost and forgive the sinner.  But his message was not getting through to very many of them.
Here are a couple of examples:
Mark 2:3-10 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"  Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the man,11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home."

            And later, after Jesus had called Levi to become a disciple, Mark 2:15-17 records:
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

            Mark 2:23-28 tells us,
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"
Jesus reminds them of stories of David and of priests who have broken the Sabbath and “Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

               The other scene that Mark presents over and over is the inability of the disciples to fully understand what Jesus was teaching them about himself and the kingdom of God.  

               The examples that I just gave you were said in the presence of His disciples and yet even they keep missing the point that Jesus has come to save and forgive sin.

                “Oh you of little faith…” wasn’t directed at His detractors but at His own followers.  I can almost hear the exasperation in His voice here, in Mark 4:35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

            I have wondered why he didn’t just calm their fears instead of calming the wind and the sea. … Maybe because that was the easier thing to do.  The natural forces of wind and sea were obedient without questioning … unlike the disciples.

               Later, in Mark 8:27-33, when He asks His followers, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  The disciples say, “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

               Now here comes the famous question, when Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?”  We know that Peter answers, “You are the Messiah.” 

Here it appears that Jesus is finally seeing that they are beginning to understand.  So once again He tells them that He is bound for Jerusalem where he must die. 

Peter, because he can not accept that Jesus will be taken away by death, argues with him to which Jesus replies, "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

               Read your Bible and you will see that, though he taught the crowds in parables, Jesus spoke openly and plainly about his need to give up his life for the salvation of all.
               Here, Jesus, seeing that the disciples were still not ready to accept this truth about His mission, tells them to tell no one that He is the messiah.  I believe it is because His own disciples still don’t grasp the nature of Jesus as messiah.  He does not want them to spread the wrong story.
               And now, six days later, He takes his strongest inner circle of disciples and leads them to a dramatic experience, the transfiguration. 

              And who does he choose for this experience?  He chooses Peter, James and John; the three most outspoken of the disciples.  All three were known to confront Jesus with statements and questions.

               These three disciples were ‘blurters’.  You know the type; the ones whose thoughts come out of there mouths before they ever reach their brains.  As leaders amongst the disciples, these were the ones who NEEDED the experience of the transformation the most. 

               And look what happened … Jesus was changed, his face shone like the sun and his clothes were transformed to an unearthly brightness … a whiteness no bleach could cause. 

               This was a preview of Christ the King in His heavenly glory.  This was the Messiah that was promised … not the Messiah that was expected.  Not a military leader and a man of war.   This was the divine Son of God, Beloved of the Father.  Not a mere messenger but He was the  MESSAGE. The Word of God incarnate.

               And there, on that mountain top, with His disciples as witnesses, appeared Moses and Elijah.  I use the term witnesses in the legal sense here.  Remember that by Jewish law an event was judged true or false by the witness of two or more.  The testimony of one disciple could have been disregarded.  However, the word of three witnesses had to be accepted as true.

               Now here were Moses, giver of the Law, the very personification of the Law and Elijah, the prophet of prophets who had ridden to heaven in a fiery chariot, standing there with Jesus. 

               Do you see the see the symbolism here?  The Law and the Prophets, the cornerstone of all Jewish beliefs, are standing there with Christ and talking with Him. 

               Peter got it.  For him everything was complete right there … and there he wanted to stay.  Let’s build houses and stay right here.
. . .
               Okay, maybe Peter still didn’t get it.   Because then God, the Father, in the form of a glowing cloud sets them straight, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"

`              “Listen to him!  Draw a big red circle around His words and highlight it in yellow.  Underscore His words multiple times.  Listen to him!  Pay attention.  This is not Moses giving you a law and this is not Elijah prophesying, this is MY SON!  His time with you is about over, so listen up!”   Okay, I have expanded what was actually recorded but that is the feeling of power and importance that I get from that simple line, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

               Okay, we started this session with a lot of questions.  Let’s revisit them and see what understand we have gained.

-  Why take some disciples but not all? 
I believe that it was because Jesus realized that these three needed it the most.  They were the natural leaders in the group of disciples.  If the three of them could truly understand the importance of this event, they would convince the rest.

-  Why go up on a mountain? 
To get away from the crowds and to be by themselves.  This was a ‘by invitation only’ event.

-  Why was Jesus appearance changed? 
It was a revelation of the heavenly Christ, the divine beloved Son of God.  This is Christ as He was and as He will be.

-  Why were Moses and Elijah there? 
They were recognizable symbols of the Jewish Law and Prophets and two of the most respected historical figures to the disciples.  Remember what I said about the testimony of two or more?  Here we have Moses, Elijah and God the Father all testifying about Jesus.

-  Why were the disciples able to recognize them?
I still don’t know.  This goes on my list of things to ask when I get to heaven … if they are still important.

-  Why were the disciples afraid? 
They were sinful men suddenly in the presence of the Almighty God.  And their realization of their sin stood out in fierce contrast to His holiness.  Ask yourself what your reaction would be.

-  Why did the disciples want to build shelters? 
It may have been a sign of honor or it was a desire to extend the experience.  Remember what Jesus said to Peter earlier? "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  He clearly is still thinking about human concerns and not God’s concerns.

-  Why did God speak to the disciples rather than Jesus?  
It was necessary for the disciples to be deep-down convinced that Jesus was the beloved Son of God and that the words that Jesus spoke were the words of the Father.  These men were going to be tested soon and their faith had to be rock solid all the way to their cores.

-  Why were they commanded to tell no one?
It was not yet time for them to share their testimony with the world.  And people have to come to their own understand of Jesus as God’s Son.

- What does this mean to me? 
Well, it means that those ‘red  words’ in my Bible, the words spoken by Jesus, carry far more weight than words spoken by anyone else in the Bible …. Or anywhere else. 
He was not an earthly ruler who gave us laws to follow. 
He was not some philosopher spouting words of wisdom. 
He was not a prophet giving mysterious and cloudy predictions of the future. 
He was and is the Son, the Beloved, of the Heavenly Father. 
And the words He speaks are not to be ignored.

- What does this mean to you? 
Well, that one you’ll have to answer for yourself.

Here ends the lesson.

Mark 9:2-9                        
2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.  4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  5Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."  6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.  7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.  9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the son of Man had risen from the dead.
Quoted from the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible