11 February 2024Mark 9:2-13
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!' (v. 7)
Mountains have always represented places of encounter with God. I can understand why – some of my memorable prayer times have been while walking in the hills. Perhaps the most famous example in the Bible is Moses’ encounters with God in a cloud on Mount Sinai. I wonder what the three disciples feel as Jesus led them up a mountain? Excitement at being chosen for this particular adventure? Expectation? Apprehension?
From the very first word of his gospel, Mark is clear about who Jesus is. His gospel starts "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (1:1) He’s also keen to point out that Jesus’ disciples took a long time to understand this. Surely a voice from a cloud would clarify it for Peter, James and John? Mark records with refreshing honesty that Peter, faced with that astonishing situation, completely misread the situation. Even faced with the most vivid, explicit and symbolic evidence, we so often miss the point. Peter represents all of us as we try to make sense of the gospel, and so often miss the point. After all, it’s quite outrageous that God would send his son to live and die amongst humankind – then rise to life again to enable us to be with God. I sympathise with Peter: I understand why it took so long for the penny to drop for him.
When you ascend a mountain, you know that eventually you need to come down again. As they picked their way down the rocky track, Jesus warned them not to talk about what they’d experienced. Instead he gave them some heavy stuff to think about – he seems to be connecting Elijah with John the Baptist, who had recently been executed. Perhaps there’s a lesson here that even when God blesses us with extraordinary experiences, they are not for us to brag about – reflecting on them first may be far more worthwhile. Growing in faith and understanding takes time and commitment, and there may be a few setbacks along the way. But God loves us and is always there for us.
- Peter is often mocked for his attempt to hold on to the special moment on the mountain. He suggested building shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, perhaps hoping this might persuade them to stay. Are there special spiritual memories we like to hold on to? Should we reflect on how we learn from them and then let go and move on?
- This story seems to suggest there are times when it’s not right to tell everyone about everything that just happened to us. Perhaps it’s better to reflect and pray about what happened, so we can understand when and how to pass on what we have learned.
God of mystery, thank you for your patience and faithfulness as we struggle to make sense of faith. Help us to watch out for those moments when you are especially close, and to learn from them. And help us to keep our heads and remain faithful, even when things are beyond our understanding. In Jesus Christ, Amen.