A Voice from Heaven

Mark 9:7-10 (NIV)
Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” [8] Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. [9] As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. [10] They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

So the voice of God…

We moderns do not often get to hear God that way–out of the heavens, direct-like. We don’t need to. We have His voice in the Bible and in the wind. His power and purpose in the night sky.

I like the timing of this narrative. The disciples are already awed by Jesus. The voice of the Father is not the emotional center of this story. His injunction is a corroborating authority.

Jesus stands alone.

Through most of the Bible he mutes the physical reality of his deity to do an unbearable job.

Why this story? Why so quiet?

The road of faith is bewilderingly painful. It helps to keep our glimpse of God at the center of our minds and hearts. It helps to know who he really is. It helps a great deal to see him.

Light on the water.


Mark 9:9-10 (NIV)
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. [10] They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

The worst feeling in the world happens a million times a day for at least a year after you lose someone you love. You wake up thinking (for just a second…bad dream?). No. Death.

Death is a terrible darkness. It robs us of comfort and love and a person who cannot be substituted for anything else.

Gone is gone and there is a whiplash agony when a beloved is gone.

The conditions of human existence for the last 6000 years have ground each of us down in the maw of grief. None have escaped it’s power or devastation.

And yet, here is Jesus speaking of rising from the dead.

Not that I hadn’t happened a couple times…there were a couple old testament resurrections…but…

What did Jesus mean?

They did not understand the impossible yet. Do you?

I don’t, but Jesus’ resurrection spills light and hope and courage all over his followers. They believed in the impossible because Jesus was the impossible.

He’s got this.

…frightened by what?

he was so frightened he did not know what to say.

So here I am, camping out on the Mark version of Jesus’ transfiguration and I get to the last bit–the parenthetical line notes of the story.

So small, so interesting. How often do we see what happens when people are frightened by dudes talking? No fanfare, really, by description, but Peter’s reaction is well worth contemplating.

When was the last time you were awed into making a goofy suggestion? When was the last time you were struck dumb by power, majesty, splendor, or heck, just light?

Something happens in the event of the transfiguration that cannot simply be replicated through description. A man who was generally unremarkable in appearance is suddenly revealed to be who he has always really been–God Incarnate.

What awes you? For me I think of two things–the hurricanes I have experienced and the births of my children. Nothing like natural childbirth to make a body feel totally out of control and powerless. But there is more than that–there is the face. A child you have waited for is there, real before you. New life miraculous.

Paul says,

then face to face.

One day each of us will see him the way Peter, James, and John did that day. Face to face with the Absolute: who wouldn’t be afraid?

Only his own wee ones, his dearest loves.

Give Me Shelter

Mark 9:5-6 (NIV)
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” [6] (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

I apologize. This is so not theological, but for years and years and years I have pictured brand new outhouses when I read this verse–no actual latrines, just the fresh sheds. They even have moon-shaped cut-outs.

I am positive that was not Peter’s aim. In fact, I suspect he was thinking of the shelters people built for the feast of tabernacles–three little mini-temples.

Oh, the inevitable allure of a church building project!

Three men who are known for their homeless wandering and Peter says–let’s build something!

God is building something, but it is not built, measured, or esteemed on human barometers of success–

It is built on the shelter of God’s heart. Nothing is sure but His love. But that love is shelter enough.

An Interventionist God

Mark 9:1 (NIV)
And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

I don’t often suffer from writer’s block. I am bossy enough to write about something. But I do suffer from faith block and I do suffer from what-is-the-point-malaise. This is a malady wherein you seriously doubt you are doing lasting good. it has a nasty kick–discouragement and grief, loneliness, spiritual myopia.

This pronouncement of Jesus’ is enigmatic. All the disciples would eventually taste death–some quite unpleasant. What did he mean?

The kingdom of God is Jesus. His power over hell is defining–AD versus BC defining. We all must see this power–this complete and perfect ability of Jesus, king of heaven, to rob hell and death of their eternal sting.

That is power indeed. All else falls in behind.