• Steven Marsh

Learning–Points of Dependence, Not Obstacles: a Reflection on Mark 9:2-9 and 2 Kings 2:1-12

We have shaped Jesus over the centuries into a dreadfully small deity. Brennan Manning writes, “In every age and culture, we tend to shape Jesus to our image and make him over to our own needs in order to cope with the stress his unedited presence creates.”[1]

Elisha faced head on the stress which God’s unedited presence created in his life. Elisha is being handed the mantle of Elijah. The reading in 2 Kings 2:1-12 depicts Elisha identifying with Elijah’s vulnerability, difficulty, and struggle. By doing this, Elisha depends on God to meet him in his stress, seizing God’s mercy to see him through. It is through the stress and stressors of life that we see God’s faithfulness proved.[2]

The Transfiguration calls us to enter the deep realities and relationships of the people with whom we worship, live, and serve. In Mark 9:2-9, the story of the transfiguration, the disciples see the pulling away of the veil of Jesus’ humanity to expose his deity. Peter, James, and John see God. During the transfiguration, Peter recommends building three dwellings. Some have suggested that Peter is thinking of setting up booths in the sense of the feast of tabernacles where the Hebrews made shelters out of intertwined branches celebrating the goodness of God in their lives. Peter is not thinking about a family festival, but The Tent of Meeting. He wants to be fully dependent upon God.

The Tent of Meeting was where Moses met with God after he came down from the mountain after receiving the Ten Commandments. The Tent of Meeting was built in the desert and moved from place to place as the community of Hebrews moved about the desert for forty years after their release from captivity from Egypt. The Tent of Meeting represented direct communication with God. Peter wanted to capture the presence of God in a permanent way.

Are you willing to be met by and meet God? God inhabits everyday life. God interrupts and startles us. Meeting and being met by God, makes us the best neighbors. Others see in our words and actions God’s love at work. Thinking is one of the ways we learn, when and how, to interpret God inhabiting everyday life. John Piper, the author of Think, writes,

Thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God. Thinking is not an end in itself. Nothing but God himself is finally an end in itself. Thinking is not the goal of life. Thinking, like non-thinking, can be the ground for boasting. Thinking without prayer, without the Holy Spirit, without obedience, without love, will puff up and destroy. But thinking under the mighty hand of God, thinking soaked in prayer, thinking carried by the Holy Spirit, thinking tethered to the Bible, thinking in pursuit of more reasons to praise and proclaim the glories of God, thinking in the service of love—such thinking is indispensable in a life of fullest praise to God.”[3]

The transfiguration forces us to come to terms with the unedited presence of Jesus. Mary Oliver articulates the power of prayer in dealing with the unedited presence of Jesus in her poem, “Praying:”

It doesn’t have to be

The blue iris, it could be

Weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

Small stones; just

Pay attention, then patch

A few words together and don’t try

To make them elaborate, this isn’t

A contest but the doorway

Into thanks, and a silence in which

Another voice may speak[4]

The unedited presence of God is friend not foe. Blaise Pascal writes, “God made man in his own image and man returned the compliment.”[5]  Let’s embrace the former in all its unedited presence and cease and desist from the latter.

[1]Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1992), 131.

[2]Some ideas gleaned from David J. Lose in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 439.

[3]John Piper, Think (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2010), 27.

[4]Mary Oliver, Devotions (New York City, New York: Penguin Press, 2017), 131.

[5]As cited in Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS, 1994), 15.

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