The Cloud

Written by Eric Sahlberg. Image by Paul Morris.

Written by Eric Sahlberg. Image by Paul Morris.

I have these push notifications on my smartphone. They remind me of my appointments. They tell me when I need to get on the road for work. They notify me when someone has sent me a message. They continue to come to me day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. I listen to all these messages, but information overload is driving me crazy. 

You are bombarded with information in your professional and personal lives too. Emails, social media, spreadsheets, Word documents, pictures, text messages, and other forms of information swamps you to the point that you’re losing your ears and eyes to what is truly important. Information overload is driving you crazy.

A survey of 2,300 Intel employees revealed that people judge nearly one-third of the messages they receive to be unnecessary. They are a waste of time and energy. A few years ago IBM found that every day the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — much of which is created passively through technology like medical and home devices, web crawling, surveillance cameras and apps that track your movement. Floodgates of information are flowing to you constantly through your smartphone, your email, your TV, your mailbox, your radio, your friends, your family, and several other channels. Big data is REALLY BIG and it is overwhelming you.

There are many streams flowing with information including Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Siri, Alexa, YouTube, your favorite websites and email are all competing for your attention. They want to push information your way, flood your mind, and they expect you to respond. Like this. Reply to all. Subscribe here. Receive notifications. Allow access to your location. At times we feel like all circuits are busy. Please try your call again later. Information overload is driving us crazy.

In a noisy, information overloaded, knowledge-based economy whose voice are you listening to the most?

THE CLOUD

May I suggest that you listen to the cloud. The talk these days is all about the cloud. On TV people are talking about the cloud. The cloud has the answers you need. Let me show you what the cloud says.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. 

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2–9 ESV)

The cloud answered correctly. The cloud tells us to listen to Jesus. Listen to him.

We are like Peter. We need the cloud to correct us so that we listen to Jesus. Let’s walk through Mark 9 and see where Peter went wrong and where we go wrong too.

TRANSFIGURATION

After six days Jesus takes Peter, James and John mountain climbing. On top of the mountain Jesus is transformed before their very eyes. His clothing became exceedingly whiter than any dry cleaner could clean clothes. His white clothing seems to signify a new dimension of Jesus’s existence within a fully revealed rule and reign of God. In Mark 8:31, Jesus told his disciples that the he would be rejected, killed and rise again after three days. Here the disciples get a glimpse of Jesus’s divine presence and action after six days. Ultimately they will experience the dazzling presence of the Resurrected Jesus on the seventh day.

Also appearing on the mountain with Jesus was Elijah and Moses. Jesus has a public conversation with these two famous Old Testament prophets. The sight of them on top of the mountain is too much for Peter. It is information overload. The circuits in Peter’s mind are all busy. Please call back later. He’s terrified on top of the mountain. Jesus is dazzling in white. Two dead prophets are alive and talking to Jesus. Information overload is happening to Peter. It's too much.

A Boy Scout merit badge project is the best thing Peter comes up. We will make a tent for Jesus, and one for Moses and one for Elijah. Peter thinks he knows what’s best for Jesus and the prophets. This is a big mistake.

MISTAKE: PETER LISTENS TO HIMSELF RATHER THAN JESUS

Conventional wisdom says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But Peter is does not work by conventional wisdom. He’s the type of guy that wants to fix things, before hearing what’s really going on. He’s the type of guy that skips reading the instructions and just jumps on in and starts doing stuff. His active listening skills are very poor. I can imagine he drove his wife a little nuts because of his poor listening skills.

Remember, Peter is the type of disciple that is reluctant to follow Jesus’s instructions. He listens to himself before listening to Jesus. You might remember in Luke 5:4-6 that Jesus encouraged Peter to put out his net into the deep for a catch. Peter’s reluctant response was, “Master, we’ve toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Peter is less than enthusiastic about following Jesus’s words. Nevertheless, he drops down his nets and they were filled with so many fish that two boats were swamped. 

Peter is the type of guy that will disagree with Jesus, rather than listen to the Lord. Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows twice. Peter listens to his inner voice, rather than Jesus. Peter says, “No I won’t Jesus. I will not deny you.” (Mark 14:30-31 — author’s paraphrase).

Peter is like a lot of us. Peter responds to things with his gut instincts. The problem is gut instincts are often wrong. Have you ever met someone that seemed to be nice and it was only an outward appearance? Gut instincts are often wrong. I once bought a car that looked really cool, but it had a lot of mechanical and electrical issues. My gut instincts were really bad.

Our initial response to things happening around us is to tell Jesus what is best. We want Jesus to listen to us, rather than us listen to Jesus. You know these types of prayers. Your prayers sound something like this, “Lord here’s the situation and here’s what I’m doing to fix it. I need you to bless what I’m doing so it gets fixed.” That’s a prayer life of telling Jesus what is best. Let me tell you [Jesus] what needs to happen. 

This is the type of response which starts telling Jesus that he needs three tents, but no one asked for tents. Jesus doesn't need tents.

There is good news for you. The Father’s voice from the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7). The Father does not say, “You are my beloved Son” (Mark 1:11). Instead the voice from the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” This is a signal that the cloud is talking to the disciples. The cloud is talking to us. The cloud is talking to you.

The cloud answered correctly. The cloud tells us to listen to Jesus. Listen to him.

Even when the world around us doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, it is better for our prayer life and faith life to sound more like this, “Jesus I am here and I am listening to you. I don’t understand everything I see around me. I’m even terrified right now. But I’m going to be still and let you be God. I am here listening to what you have to say to me.”

Sometimes the Transfigured Jesus has us in some unusual mountaintop experiences. He has us on top of a mountain and the cloud rolls in for something we need to learn and experience. God doesn’t want you to do anything, but rather simply look and listen to His Son.

Do you see what Jesus wanted Peter to see? Moses and Elijah are not dead, but very much alive. Through faith in the Son of God there is life after death. Take this in and just listen. Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah. This same gracious Jesus who talks to Peter, James and John on this side of eternity also talks with Moses and Elijah on the other side of the grave. This same Jesus talks with your loved ones departed in the faith. Jesus talks with you on this side and he talks with them on the other side.

Can you put the tent poles away? Just look and listen to Jesus. Experience His dazzling presence. Marvel in his grace for you on top of the mountain.

THE CLOUD MAKES OTHER THINGS GO AWAY

Peter offered to make a tent one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. In the Bible tents are connected the Feast of Booths. This is a Festival commanded by God and celebrated by Moses. In Leviticus 23:39–43 it says,

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:39–43 ESV)

The Feast of Booths (tents) was time of harvest and memorial of God’s faithfulness in delivering his people from slavery. Now at first Peter’s offer seems like a nice thing. Moses might like a tent. However, Peter’s proposal places Jesus, Moses and Elijah on par with each other.

The cloud engulfs Peter and reveals the correct answer.

The Father’s voice from the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. (Mark 9:7-9)

Where is Moses and Elijah? They are gone. They see Jesus only and they are to listen to him only. Moses and Elijah are not on the same playing field as Jesus. So the voice of the cloud commands the disciples to hear Jesus, not Moses and Elijah. They are to listen to only Jesus. No other is the suffering servant, only Jesus. He is the prophetic figure “hear him.”

His voice is the One that declares that he will go to another mountain to die for the sins of the world. His voice declares that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected and killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31). He goes to that mountain for you and for me.

The cloud says listen to Jesus. Forget the distractions. Forget what your gut is saying. Listen to him.

What did Jesus say to the disciples? Mark 14:9, “He [Jesus] charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Their instructions were to be quiet for now. On that greater mountain and at the cross the centurion will declare, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).

APPLICATION

What is distracting you from listening to Jesus?

He speaks to you through His Word. What is he saying to you?

Eric Sahlberg