1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
2 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.
3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
4 And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.
5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
6 For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.
7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.
9 And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.
10 And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.
Years ago someone gave me a little plaque that had written on it the words about one solitary life. You have become familiar with it, but let me read it again. It is one of the finest statements concerning Jesus that you will ever find anywhere. “He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was 30. And then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place where he was born. He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had only himself as his credentials. He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away, and the Romans nailed him on a cross between two thieves. And when he was dead, they laid him in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone and today he is the central figure in the human race. And a leader of a column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that out of all of the armies that have ever marched, and all the navies that have ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all of the kings that have ever reigned have not affected the life of man on earth as has that one solitary life.”
There is one thing wrong with that beautiful statement. It says nothing about the resurrection of Jesus. And the resurrection of Jesus is the central fact of his life and the central fact of history. In fact, apart from the resurrection of Jesus, he would have been simply another great significant historical figure who lived and died and left behind an influence. Because of his resurrection, Christ still lives. And the power, the influence, the sway he had over the hearts and lives of men in the days of his flesh, continue unto this present hour. Almost 2,000 years have passed since the resurrection of Jesus, but that resurrection remains the central fact in the history of man. What does the resurrection mean to you and to me today?
We are given a glimpse of the significance of the resurrection in Mark 9:1-10. You know that experience as the transfiguration of Jesus. Prior to that Jesus had asked the disciples beside Caesarea Philippi, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13) They said, “Well, some say that you are John the Baptist returned to life again; some say that you are Elijah the prophet, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.” Then Jesus asked those disciples the most important question for any one of us in time and eternity: “Whom say ye that I am?” And Peter spoke for the group to say, “Thou art the Christ.” Since they were beginning to understand who Jesus was, they needed to understand how he would do his work, the kind of Christ, the kind of Messiah, the kind of Savior he was going to be. And so he said to them, “It is necessary that I go to Jerusalem. And I will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. And I will be rejected there. And I will die there. And I will be buried and I will be resurrected from the grave.”
This was shocking news to those disciples. They had not expected that kind of Messiah. They had expected a military king who would overthrow Rome, who would establish his kingdom in Jerusalem, who would sit upon the throne there and rule the world. He would restore the kingdom of David. And now Jesus was talking about rejection, and crucifixion, and burial. They could not accept that kind of a Messiah. Besides that, he said that on the third day he would be raised from the dead. And they had no idea what the resurrection meant.
They had no concept of resurrection. Remember now, they had never seen a resurrection. They did not have the benefit that we have of looking back on 2,000 years of history and knowing about Jesus being raised from the dead. So they were completely in the dark concerning the meaning, the significance of the resurrection.
I believe that Jesus took Peter and James and John up the mountain and was transfigured before them so that he could confirm their minds to the fact that he was indeed the Christ, the Savior, the Messiah, and at the same time give them a glimpse of what the resurrection would mean to their lives. They went up into the mountains and Jesus knelt down to pray before his disciples and as he prayed, his countenance was changed. His clothing and even his face began to glow. The word that is used in the original language suggests to us that what actually happened was that the inner nature of Jesus began to show on the outside.
Jesus had always been the Son of God. But he appeared to be a man. He wore the ordinary clothing of a Galilean peasant. Jesus was usually dressed in homespun. He looked just like anyone else. But that day as he prayed, his clothing was changed, his appearance was changed, and what he was on the inside—divine Son of God, the Savior of the world—suddenly shone through. And the brightness and the glory of God could be seen in his very clothes and could be seen in his face and the apostles saw Jesus as the Son of God.
Then there appeared with him Moses and Elijah. Moses was the great lawgiver of the Old Testament. He had been taken up into the mountains and he died there. And the angel of the Lord buried him in the mountain. Elijah was that great prophet of God who did not go through the death experience. Rather, he translated in a whirlwind into heaven without having the taste of death. Both of these men—one had died and one had been translated hundreds of years prior to this. And yet on that day, they stood on the mountain alive and well with Jesus the Son of God. And the disciples were allowed to see not only that transformation was possible in a person’s life, but that men long since dead could live again.
And then there was a voice from heaven. It was the voice of God. And he said, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” In those three experiences, Jesus’ countenance changed so they could see the brightness and the glory of God. Moses and Elijah, there visiting with Jesus alive and well, the voice of God confirming that Jesus is his Son. Mark gives this one comment concerning that experience: “And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.” They had never seen a resurrection. They didn’t know of anyone who had ever been resurrected. And so they kept thinking in their minds, what does the resurrection mean? Jesus had given them a glimpse in the mountain and here is what they saw. They saw a man transformed and the resurrection means that you can be transformed also. They saw dead men alive again. The resurrection means that because he lives we can live also. We can live until we die. And then we can live forever.
And then it means that Jesus is, without a doubt, the Son of God. They heard the voice of God. He said, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” And they came to understand as a result of that experience that through the resurrection Jesus Christ would be declared in such a way that we could never doubt that he was Lord. He was Savior. He was and is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. That’s what the resurrection means today. It means first of all that because Christ lives, we can have a transformed life.
I spoke this week with a young man who said he was an agnostic. An agnostic is a person who says he is not sure about God. An atheist says there is no God. And an agnostic says, “Well, there could be a God, but if there is I don’t know about it. I’m not sure of it.” He expressed some doubts about the reality of God. As we talked together, he talked about the church and said one of the problems with the church is that there are too many hypocrites in the church. I said, yes there are some. But do not mislead by the fact that there are hypocrites in the church. For the very existence of hypocrites in the church is evidence that Christianity is true and that Jesus Christ is real. For after all, a hypocrite is an imitation. And you cannot have an imitation unless there is first of all the real thing. And so, if there are hypocrites who are pretending to be Christians, it must mean that Jesus Christ is real, that Christianity is true and there is the “real thing.” Otherwise there would not be somebody trying to imitate them.
If you were to become a real Christian, you would be a new person. You would be the most honest, truthful, transparent person who lived in Tyler. You would become the most loving, gentle, kind person you could ever imagine. Your morality, your standard of living, morally speaking, would rise high above what it is today. And you would become pure in your thinking and in your actions—you would become the person God intended you to be. The person you ought to be.
He said, “I don’t understand that. I don’t understand how believing in Jesus Christ, believing the Christian truth can make you into a new person.” I said that I wasn’t talking about believing religious truth. You know there are some people who think if you believe in Jesus or if you believe the Bible that fact alone can transform your life. That is not true. It’s not any more true than believing in the Rotarian four-way test will change your life. You can believe it without practicing it. It’s not any more true that believing the Bible will change your life than believing in the 12 principles of Alcoholics Anonymous will change your life. You can believe in all of those principles and still be drunk. There are lots of people who are. Believing in Jesus Christ won’t change your life any more than believing in the golden rule will change your life.
He said, “I don’t understand how going to church and going through religious ceremony can change your life.” I said, “It can’t.” I wasn’t talking to him about believing intellectually. I wasn’t talking to him about feeing through religious ceremony. I was talking to him about Jesus Christ living in your life and he had no concept of the living who can come to dwell within us.
The message of Easter is this: “You not only can live anew after you die; you can live anew right now. For Jesus Christ who died and was buried and was raised from the grave is alive and well and he can come to live within you and he can give you the power to change to become a new person.” That’s the message of the mountain. Jesus went up there and he knelt to pray and as he prayed his countenance was changed. What was on the inside showed on the outside. And everybody who saw him saw that he was different in appearance. They recognized that he was the Son of God. And that kind of transformation can take place in your life. Listen to the apostle Paul: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but ye transformed” (Romans 12:1-2).
That word transformed is exactly the same Greek word that is used in Mark 9 to describe what happened to Jesus. As Jesus was transfigured or transformed so we are to be transfigured. We are to be transformed and that transformation is possible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus in his lifetime busied himself at transforming people.
Do you remember Zaccheus? He was a Jewish man who worked for Rome. Rome had conquered Israel and under Roman rule the Israelis were heavily taxed. And the Romans hired local citizens to collect the taxes. And so Zaccheus had betrayed his own people and had gone to work for Rome. Zaccheus was short in stature, a very small man. And probably all of his life he had suffered a lot of criticism, had been the butt of a lot of jokes because of his smallness. And he thought within his mind, “I will go to work for Rome, I’ll get rich and I’ll become somebody and then they will look up to me.” That’s what he did. He cheated everybody he could. He stole everything he could. He became a wealthy man. One day he heard that Jesus was coming to town. And great crowds gathered near the road where Jesus was going to walk. And since Zaccheus was short in statue and could not see over the crowd, he climbed up a tree to get a good view of Jesus.
And when Jesus walked by and saw Zaccheus up a tree, he stopped. And what Jesus saw up there was a little man with big problems. He had some priority problems. He had some value problems. He had a self-image problem. And he was lonely because nobody wanted to have anything to do with him. And Jesus said to him, “Zaccheus, come on down out of that tree. I am going to your house. We are going to visit together.” And I don’t know what they said to each other. I don’t know what happened that day. But I know that whatever it was, Zaccheus was a changed man after that. He said to the Lord, “Lord, if I’ve taken anything wrongfully from any man, I want it to restore it to him fourfold.” That’s a change in nature. He had been trying to take away more than he was due as a tax collector. Now he wanted to give back four times and he said, “Half of what I own, I will give it to the poor.” Zaccheus was transformed and changed when he met Jesus Christ. Listen, Christ is still alive, Christ is still at work because of the resurrection—he lives! And he can live in your heart and he can change you the same way he changed Zaccheus.
What does the resurrection mean? It means this—that we not only can live anew after we die, we can live anew now, today.
Some of you are sick and tired of being whipped by sin and you are possessed and dominated by habits that rule your life. You are not free to be what you could be or what you want to be. You want a new life, a changed life. You want to be a different person. You want to feel better about yourself. You want to have your priorities right. You want to have your values in order. Let me tell you that what Jesus did for Zaccheus, he can still do because he lives. That’s what the resurrection means. That’s the message that comes from the mountain.
There is another message. It is this: we can live until we die and then we can live forever. There appeared with Jesus Moses and Elijah—two great men of God from the Old Testament. And these two men of God had long since been dead—one buried by the angels up in the mountain, the other just taken off to glory in a whirlwind. And there they were on that mountain, alive and well and talking with Jesus. The reason they were there was to confirm the great confession. Simon Peter had said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The Lord sent two of his top men from the Old Testament to validate that claim. But their presence there answers two other vital questions for us.
The first is this: if a man die will he live again? Do you need an answer beyond that? There they stand—alive and well and talking to Jesus. You bet we will live again. Will we know each other in eternity? Well, the disciples knew Moses and Elijah. Apparently there were no introductions. They had no photographs in advance so they could recognize them. But immediately when the disciples saw Moses and Elijah they knew who they were. They knew they were Moses and Elijah—that shows that we will know one another in heaven. We know each other on earth, and our knowledge there will be superior to our knowledge here. Yes sir, we’ll know one another in heaven. That’s the message of the mountain. We can live until we die and then we can live forever.
Some time ago they found an ancient grave. On the tombstone was a skull and cross of bones. And these words: “I was; I am not.” That symbol and those words could never be on a Christian grave. Our symbol is not a skull or crossbones. Our symbol is an Easter lily and we do not inscribe on our tombstones “I was; I am not.” We inscribe rather, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever shall liveth and believeth in me shall never die. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (John 11:25; Revelation 1:18).
With the apostle Paul we can say that Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality into the light. And because he lives we can say with David, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23).
With the apostle Paul we can say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? … But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57). We can say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). That message of the mountain. Your life can be transformed now. You can have the assurance of life beyond the grave.
One other thing, you can be sure that Jesus is the Messiah. Christianity is on firm footing—don’t ever doubt that. In the midst of the revelations as Jesus was transformed and as Moses and Elijah came and talked with him, there was the voice of God. “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” God spoke from heaven three times in the life in the ministry of Jesus. He spoke when Jesus was baptized. He spoke just before the cross. Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? … Father, glorify thy name.” God said, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28).
Now he speaks for the third time. “This is my beloved Son: hear him. Do what he says.” Men have always wondered, “How can we be sure that Jesus is the Son of God?” His claims are validated by the voice of God. But they are also validated by the resurrection from the grave. And that fact more than any other authenticates every claim, every promise of who he is and what he would do, and because Christ lives, we can know that he is the Savior. And we are his.
The most wonderful part about the truth is that the power of the living Christ can be experienced anew today. Your life can be made new right now. You can have the certainty of eternal life. You can have assurance of your salvation and your relationship to Christ right now. Because he lives you don’t have to wait. You don’t have to search. It is as near as faith and trust in him.
Years ago a ship was sailing the Atlantic toward South America. They ran out of fresh water. They were dying of thirst. They happened upon another ship. And with great joy and great anticipation, they said to the men on the other ship, “We are dying of thirst for fresh water. Can you give us water to drink?” And the men on the other ship smiled and said, “Just drop your buckets down and draw water for there is fresh water all around you.” What had happened was this: they had sailed near the mouth of the Amazon River. The Amazon River is 200 miles across at its mouth. The water flows from the river in such a force that fresh water can be found up 250 miles out in the Atlantic. They thought they were in the open seas and they were in the mouth of the Amazon, with fresh water all around them, dying from thirst. All they needed to do was drop their buckets down and draw from the ocean.
There are some of you who are dying on the inside, slowly going into eternity without God and without hope. You walk around in a fog of doubt and uncertainty—what can I believe? What can I build on? What can I anchor to? And all the while, all you need to do is to drop the bucket of faith down where you are and the water of life will be yours. Give your life to the living Christ today. Turn from your sins and accept him for who he is—the Son of God. The Savior of the world. Commit yourself to him. Your life can be changed. Your destiny can be settled. And your hope can be sure. Do it now. Do it today. Do it here.