By: Chris Townley
It begins like this: Jesus is gathered with his disciples, walking along a path, with a crowd following closely behind. Jesus begins to make it clear that he, the Son of Man, must suffer and be killed. Only he will rise from the dead 3 days later.
Peter quickly takes Jesus aside and reprimands him for saying such nonsense. In that moment, Jesus turns toward the rest of the disciples to expose Peter’s claim, and reprimands Peter in their presence:
“Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Yeesh! Then Jesus calls in the crowd and names what it will cost (carrying a cross and losing your life) anyone who is to be his follower. But take special note of the words Jesus uses with Peter and the rest of the disciples. Jesus desires his disciples to see things from God’s point of view!
SIX DAYS LATER…
2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. (Mark 9:2)
Some natural questions arise for us.
First, which mountain? Mountains hold a lot of significance throughout the Scriptures. In this case, we don’t know which mountain… just a high one, apparently. But keep that thought in the back of your mind because I’ll tie in the nameless mountain at the end.
Next, why six days? It is six days later, yes. But for Mark that is an unusual statement. Throughout his Gospel it’s usually “immediately” and “immediately” that. Yet, here it is six days after Peter’s objection to a suffering Messiah. Perhaps, the writer wants us to remember that on the 6th day God created humanity. This “Revelation of Jesus as Christ” also harkens to the creation of becoming a new human being. A new humanity.
As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. (Mark 9:2-4)
The clothes of Jesus “became” this way which implies they weren’t this way before he arrived at the mountain. And as we try to visualize such an encounter, Marks wants us to know that no laundry service could achieve such a thing! Ha.
And so it is that, the Transfiguration is not something that happened to Jesus, but is a revelation of who Jesus has always been.
Moving on, it’s interesting to note, the Greek tense of “talking” implies a long conversation unfolded between Elijah, Moses, and Jesus… Luke tells us it was about the Exodus (Jesus’ departure from Jerusalem). Just let your mind soak in that for a moment!
5 Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. (Mark 9:5-6)
Ok, let’s tackle Peter’s response first. It is often thought that Peter is being foolish at this moment (I mean, he kind of has a reputation, but still). However, I’d argue Peter isn’t wrong to exclaim such a thing! And notice Peter is NOT condemned for his statement (like he was 6 days prior), rather he is told more about Jesus. To state it plainly, it’s a good thing to say, “It’s wonderful to be here!” when the Son of God turns dazzling white right before your eyes. It is good to make such a pronouncement anytime God reveals His Divine self to us!
In fact, I think we learn a lot from Peter: Any encounter with Jesus can be met with his words: “It’s wonderful to be here, Jesus. Tell us more, show us more!”
Now, this is not to say we should gloss over the humor here, because verse 6 is still hilarious and relatable (to me?). It’s ok to laugh when reading the Bible.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. (Mark 9:7-8)
Let me state the obvious, this cloud (God) leaves no doubt WHO Jesus is. And at the risk of stating the obvious too many times… who Jesus is, IS the Son of God, but also dearly loved! This, just for a moment, should serve as a reminder for each of us… you, my friends, right now at this exact instant, are also dearly loved by God.
And this is such Good News, in fact, that to experience the radiance of Christ’s presence means it can be reflected from Christ’s followers into a world that is too often overcome by the darkness of oppression and injustice.
Because, honestly, we all know this is the reality of the world once we descend the mountaintop.
So what does this require of us? God, via his fancy cloud, said “Listen to Him.” The life with Jesus is a life of active listening…
What was definitively declared at the outset of Jesus’ ministry is now reinforced at a crucial point in the story, just after the recognition of Jesus’ Messiahship and in the light of his first clear prediction of his coming rejection, death, and resurrection, 3 things are revealed to bring it home:
(1) the visible alteration of Jesus before their eyes demonstrates him to be more than merely a human teacher; (2) his association with Elijah and Moses demonstrates his messianic role; (3) the voice from heaven declares his identity as the Son of God.
The human and the divine are seen intertwined.
And so we must listen to Jesus… listen to what he has said, that he is the Messiah who will be killed and rejected, but rise again. And as we follow him it will require of us the same, taking up our cross as he did. We will die and we will rise (the symbol of baptism).
But also… we listen to a Jesus who continues to speak!
9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:9)
As beautiful as the mountaintop has been, we have to descend the mountain in order to go with Jesus… so down we go.
But hold on! Before we descend it’s back to this nameless mountain! (You thought I forgot, huh?)
At this point, the decision from Mark to not specify the name of this mountain takes on a new significance. If the name of the mountain were known, then certainly some later follower of Jesus would have built a shrine on it to commemorate it!
But Mark is not interested in high places. There is a great leveling going on as the Gospel of Jesus unfolds…
The words from God (in the cloud), plus Jesus and His Good News, rather than the name of a high place, are the only suitable way to remember this wild Transfiguration event. Let’s ask Jesus to speak… and listen to him.
Meet the author:
I have long held the dream of planting a church that shares leadership and centers life around the table. After my wife, Kate, and I moved to PHX in 2014 as she began medical school the dream took on a new life. We partnered to plant Kaleo Phoenix in 2018. I love joining people as we walk the path of being transformed by the Spirit of Jesus whether we are drinking good coffee, sharing a meal in the neighborhood, or playing basketball.