If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone, I invite you to turn to Mark 9:2-13. If you’re new with us at E91, we’re right in the middle of a teaching series we’re calling, “[Re]Discovering Jesus: Life Lessons from the Gospel of Mark,” and we’re taking a look at two key questions: Who is Jesus? And, what does He want with me? So, once you get to Mark 9:2ff, just hold on to that, and we’ll dive right in in just a minute.
There are certain times in life where it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But sometimes that’s not a bad thing. What we typically think of when we talk about being overwhelmed is how stressed we are. We have too many demands, there’s too much pressure, we don’t have enough margin in our lives, we’re up to our eyeballs in work, or we’re barely staying afloat—barely keeping our heads above water. You know—you’ve been there!
But I want you to think with me about different times in our lives when we get “overwhelmed.” Times like this: Falling in love, being at a concert where the music and the entire experience just moves you, watching the sun set over the horizon, witnessing the birth of a child. I have to tell you that when Will, our oldest, was born, I was overwhelmed all right. Laura, of course, was overwhelmed in a different way than I was, but I was overwhelmed nonetheless, because when Will was born, I thought something was wrong! I’d never seen a seconds-old baby before, and here this little person was—all grey and his head was shaped like a little cone. Oh, I was overwhelmed all right, and I wanted to ask the doctor if he could put Will back in, because maybe he needed to cook a little longer!
Well, here’s the point: there are stressful times when you feel overwhelmed, but there are also breakthrough moments where you become overwhelmed. Now, my question is: Have you ever had a breakthrough moment with Jesus? Have you ever encountered Jesus in such a way where you were… overwhelmed? Let me explain what I mean. I remember a time in my life when I had one of those moments. I was on my way to meet with some church leaders in Kansas after Hurricane Katrina to try to raise support for the relief and rebuilding efforts. I flew into OKC on a Southwest flight, and rented a car to drive up into Kansas, because it was cheaper. And on that drive north, I remember getting angry with God at how this… stupid hurricane had changed everything. We were supposed to be planting a church not working on hurricane relief! I was by myself, and I just started yelling at God. I know sometimes if we’re by ourselves in a car, we’ll sing, or maybe talk to ourselves—don’t deny it; you’ve done it, too! But I wasn’t just having a little chat by myself—I was yelling. I was angry. I started crying like a baby, and telling God how this wasn’t fair! Why me?!? I don’t want to be doing this! I just want to plant a church! And it was right at that moment that all of a sudden, I was… overwhelmed. Although there was no one in the car, suddenly there was Someone in the car. And there was a peace that gripped me and comforted me and told me that everything was going to be o.k. And I was… overwhelmed. And from that moment on, I knew I was not alone, and that God would guide me every step of the way. Overwhelmed? Yes. But it led to something. It led to a renewed purpose and passion to follow Jesus.
When we look at Mark 9, we read about a time when three of Jesus’ disciples were overwhelmed by a breakthrough moment with Jesus. But we learn it also had a purpose for something more. We read about it, starting with v. 2. So, if you would, let’s stand together out of respect for the reading of God’s Word:
You may be seated. Did you see the breakthrough moment? Jesus takes Peter, James and John—the three core disciples—up a high mountain, and Jesus is “transfigured.” Which means what? The word is metamorphoo which sounds familiar to us. Metamorphis: to change the form of. Jesus changed His form into this glorious presentation, Mark records, with His clothes becoming radiant, intensely white, “as no one on earth could bleach them.”
What’s interesting is that Mark records this story in a way that takes us back to the OT where Moses led Joshua up a mountain in Ex. 24, and it was there that God transfigured Moses to show the glory of the Lord. But this glory, we find out in 2 Cor. 3 was only a fading, reflecting glory of the Lord. In contrast, Jesus’ transfiguration was His own glory. He was simply assuming the divine glory that He had with the Father before the world began (Jn. 17). Jesus was re-assuming His own true form, right before the eyes of these disciples! I would call that a breakthrough moment!!
And don’t miss the significance in v. 4 of the two mountain guests who appeared and talked with Jesus—Elijah and Moses. Elijah: the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, and Moses: the Law Giver in the Old Testament. Jumping to v. 7, a cloud overshadows them, which in the OT was a sign of God’s presence, and a voice comes out of the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” Elijah—that’s great. Moses—fantastic. But this is MY Son, so listen to Him!
Yep, definitely a breakthrough moment, and the disciples were… overwhelmed. Look at v. 5. Peter is so caught up in the moment that he offers to make three tents—one for Jesus, one for Moses, and the third for Elijah. Again, the illusion to the OT is amazing. In the OT, what’s called the Shekinah Glory: the dwelling of the presence of God, was the meeting tent of the Jews and eventually the temple in Jerusalem. And so now Peter babbles on about how they should make three tents for this glory of God. But v. 6 points out the humanness of what’s going on, because it’s just like those times when we have a breakthrough moment, and we don’t know what to say, so we just say something. V. 6 says that Peter didn’t know what to say, for they were terrified—they were in awe—they were… overwhelmed.
So, o.k., this is all interesting, perhaps, but what does this mean for us? Let me just ask you again: Have you ever had a breakthrough moment with Jesus? Some moment in your life where He grabs your attention, and you’re just overwhelmed? Perhaps for some of you, it might even happen today. I want you to notice a few things about these breakthrough moments from what we read here in Mark’s Gospel.
I find it interesting the timing of this breakthrough moment for Peter, James, and John. Back in v. 2, Mark writes that this was six days after Jesus had been giving a little talk to the disciples and the crowds. I hit on this last week, but the nature of Jesus’ talk was some pretty hard truth. Mark 8:33, Jesus scolded Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” That’s pretty harsh. And then in v. 34, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus talks about losing your life for His sake and the Gospel’s sake will save it. Don’t be ashamed of Jesus and His words, v. 38.
I mean, these are some pretty hard truths that Jesus is saying—not little niceties, fluffy feel goods where you leave church and say, “O, I feel so much better.” And then Mark says, “And after six days,” Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain.
You know, and here’s the first application,
1. Sometimes hard truth precedes breakthrough moments (Mark 8:34-38)
In other words, it’s not all fun and games. In our American Christianity, at least of the Evangelical kind, we look at Christianity as some form of “happy pill.” We just want to feel good! We just want the breakthrough moments with Jesus! “Come on, Jesus, do something for me!” And in our narcissistic faith, we wonder why we don’t have any breakthrough moments, and sometimes it’s because we haven’t committed our lives to the hard truth of denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus.
It’s like the person who’s always looking to “find the right person,” and fall in love. But the harder they look, the harder it is to find someone. It’s often the case that when you stop looking so hard at finding someone who will make you happy, and you start becoming the person who makes others happy, then all of sudden someone appears in your life.
Whatever breakthrough moment you’re waiting for in life—new job, new relationship, overcoming some addiction or problem—most of the time those breakthrough moments come AFTER you’re willing to absorb some hard truth, take the focus off yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus!
Now, there are so many more things we could unpack here, but let me just mention two more applications real quick. First part, hard truth precedes breakthrough moments. It’s not just about having this “moment” where you’re overwhelmed and you feel good—even if it’s an incredible experience with Jesus like I had on that car ride in OK (of all places). But here’s the second part:
2. Breakthrough moments center on the true identity of Jesus (Mark 9:2-3, 7)
There are a lot of times in our lives when we want to be overwhelmed with the goodness, the love, the peace, the joy that just floods our hearts—but so often what we chase is the high and not the Person. Here’s what I mean. I had a friend back in New Orleans who was a former coke addict, and I’m not referring to Coca-Cola, and he told me that you never have a high as good as the first one. The way he put it is that you’re always chasing after that first high.
Believe it or not, I see a lot of this spiritually. Let’s say you have an “experience” with Jesus, and you’re overwhelmed with joy. The feeling is incredible. Kind of like I had in Oklahoma—I cried. I felt peace and joy. It was great. But here’s the catch. Am I now just chasing after the high, or am I chasing after Jesus? Am I chasing after the peace and the joy and relief and the “feel-good”? Or am I chasing after the One who has the power to bring the peace and the joy? You see, breakthrough moments center on the true identity of Jesus. V. 2, Jesus was morphed into His own true form—transfigured. V. 7, the voice of God said, “This is MY beloved Son, listen to Him!” That is a breakthrough moment with Jesus, not religion or some spiritual emotionalism. And when you have a breakthrough moment with Jesus, you will be overwhelmed because of HIM, not just because you had an experience.
One last part. Hang with me. First, hard truth precedes breakthrough moments. Second, breakthrough moments center on the true identity of Jesus. But don’t miss this last part:
3. Breakthrough moments are a MEANS not an END (Mark 9:9)
Let’s say you have this breakthrough moment with Jesus, and you’re overwhelmed, and that’s great. But you know what? Jesus isn’t going to leave you on that mountaintop. Now, one day, yes, we’ll get to be on the mountaintop for all eternity! That’s called heaven. But this is called earth. And these breakthrough moments with Jesus that overwhelm us have a purpose. They renew us, strengthen us, empower us to go back down off the mountain and serve others.
Look at Mark 9:9, “And as they were coming down the mountain.” Wouldn’t you want to stay up there with Jesus, Moses and Elijah?!? I would! But they had to come down the mountain. Jesus gave them some instructions, and the very next scene in Mark’s Gospel is in v. 14, “And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them….” We have breakthrough moments on the mountain, but we live life in the valley. And we serve, and we reach out, and we help others…in the valley. The mountaintop has a purpose. The breakthrough moment is important, but it’s greater cause is so that we can go back to the valley.
So, let me ask you once again—Have you ever had a breakthrough moment with Jesus? If you haven’t, maybe today is your day. Maybe Jesus is taking you up the mountain, and He’s going to reveal Himself to you, perhaps even right now. You can come and talk to us right up here in the front after the service, or you can stop by “Starting Point” on your way out back towards the front entrance, and maybe “starting point” will mean more than a place but the start of a breakthrough moment with Jesus.
And for those of you who have had some breakthrough moments with Jesus? That’s great. Nothing like it. But it’s time for us to get back to the valley where the people are waiting. That’s what this church is about. Not just having some mountaintop experiences in here, but going back out there to be the hands and feet of Jesus. If you’re ready to join us, we invite you also at the end of our service to come up here or stop in at “Starting Point,” and we’ll serve together so that more people can experience these breakthrough moments with Jesus. Let’s pray.