When heaven breaks in (Mark 9:1-13)

Jesus takes a few of his disciples with him up to one of the high points and there they are treated to a glimpse of his true glory.  The emphasis in Mark’s Gospel is on his humanity as “the son of man” and frequently the command is for people not to go around talking up his miracles and drawing attention to his power and glory. Even here, those with him are placed under a strict embargo not to talk yet about what they’ve seen.

Joined by two great figures from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, we are reminded of their mountain top experiences.  Moses had received the law from atop Mount Sinai, he’d also asked to see God face to face, the request had been partially fulfilled as YHWH allowed his glory to pass by. Maybe there is something there in that now, in the person of Jesus he is able to see God face to face.  Elijah had been taken into heaven from the mountain top. Now, he returns to meet with the one who makes it possible for us to go to heaven.

Moses represents the Law and Elijah the prophets, there are also representatives of the Apostles present and Peter speaks for them but he is so shocked and amazed by what he is seeing that he doesn’t know what he’s saying. He start talking about putting up tents for the three to stay, perhaps seeking a way to try and keep the memory of this incredible moment alive.  The Jews after all had commemorated Moses’s act of deliverance by the festival of booths.

Peter’s bumbling words prompt a response from heaven.  A voice speaks, the voice of the Father.

“This is my beloved son, listen to him.”

Heaven has broken in, not just in the sense that they are seeing an incredible vision, not just that they have now heard the Father’s voice but in the very person of Jesus, stepping into history, Emmanuel, God with us.  Heaven was breaking in as God acted to bring salvation through the cross.   And the required response? Peter was to stop speaking and instead listen.

The Law, Prophets and Apostles all point to Jesus.  He is the one that matters.  If you are reading your Bible, whether it’s a bit of Deuteronomy, one of Pete’s epistles or one of those events in the middle of 1 Kings and heaven isn’t breaking in, if it’s not pointing to Jesus and the Gospel then I would gently suggest that you are doing it wrong. If those of us who preach are preaching on those passages and people’s gaze is not turned to Jesus, then something is up.

And when Jesus is speaking, our job is to make sure that we aren’t talking over him, that we are not distracted by our own ideas. Instead, when heaven breaks in, when we hear Jesus speak, our responsibility is to shut up and listen.

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