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The Transfiguration


Mark 8:31-33 (The New King James Version)

"And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

The urgent message of Christ is building as we read through Mark's Gospel. It's a message of God's kingdom (ref. Mk. 1:16). It is the message of the gospel of Christ, the Son of God (ref. Mk. 1:1). However, this message is not what people were expecting. How is it that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected and killed, and after three days, rise again?

What could it mean as Jesus calls His disciples to Himself and tells them (Mark 8:34b-35) "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it."

There must have been so many questions filling the disciple's minds as they were trying to piece together the teachings of Jesus. Jesus, knowing their questions, takes three of His disciples up on a high mountain where the majesty of Jesus is revealed.

Elijah and Moses

Mark 9:2-6 (NKJV)

"Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" — because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid."

The sequence of events leading up to this moment is no coincidence. It was six days. The images shown to them immediately would have reminded Peter, James, and John of Mt. Sinai. Moses was on the mountain for six days when he met with the Lord.

Exodus 24:16-17 (NKJV)

"Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel."

Moses met with the Lord for six days as the cloud covered the mountain. Elijah (ref. 1 Kings 19) also met with the Lord on the mountain. All of these images would have been flooding the disciple's minds as they witnessed Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the mountain. Jesus' face shining white, greater than any launderer could have whitened a garment. What are the disciples witnessing? What does all of this mean? The disciples are afraid, and Peter is perplexed, not knowing what to say. What comes to his mind is to build three booths to signify the importance of this event. Would we have done any differently?

Hear Him

Mark 9:7-9 (NKJV)

"And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead."

A cloud overshadows them, a voice saying: "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!"

Just as quickly as they had seen Moses and Elijah, suddenly they are alone with Jesus. Jesus instructs His disciples to save this in their hearts and minds. They are not to tell anyone until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. The ministry of Moses and Elijah is fulfilled. Suffering servants of God who have fulfilled their responsibilities are now seen with Jesus in glory and majesty. Now the work of God is to be fulfilled, not through Moses or Elijah, but through Jesus, His Son, hear Him!

Through the Cross

Mark 9:10-13 (NKJV)

"So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. And they asked Him, saying, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" Then He answered and told them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him."

As the disciples have witnessed this incredible event, Jesus is teaching and guiding them in His mission. "And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." (ref. Mk. 8:31).

What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus? Jesus, up on the mountain, is answering their questions. The mission of Christ is not what they were expecting. The disciples are still trying to piece together all the teaching, miracles, and images they are shown. They know a prophet like Moses was to come (ref. Deut. 18:15). They know the prophecies and that Elijah was to come (ref. Malachi 4:5-6). How is it that they and we are to understand all of these things? Jesus tells them, Elijah has come and they did to Elijah what they wished (ref. Mk. 9:13).

Elijah was God's prophet who spoke the commands of God and who suffered for the sake of the word of God. Elijah suffered under King Ahab and Queen Jezebel as she sought his life after he had defeated the prophets of Baal (ref. 1 Kings 19). Jesus, when saying Elijah has also come, is speaking of John the Baptist. John is one who came in the spirit of Elijah. Mark has discussed the death of John the Baptist (ref. Mk. 6). John the Baptist suffered under King Herod and Herodias who had him murdered, "they did to him whatever they wished…".

Now is the time for Jesus. He must suffer. He must be handed over to men so they can do whatever they wish. Now the time is approaching for Jesus to fulfill the will and word of God as others have. The message of God and His kingdom are not what people were expecting. The message Jesus shares is the message of suffering for the sake of the kingdom.

Eyewitnesses of His Majesty

The disciples were to hold these things in their hearts until the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is the hope for all who are in Christ. The burden of taking up the cross and following after Jesus, setting your desires aside, losing your life for the sake of the gospel. It's a message of sacrifice for the hope of being with Jesus as we see Moses and Elijah standing with Him. It is a message that Peter and the other apostles learned as they gave themselves entirely to the message of Christ. The apostle Peter would later record:

2 Peter 1:16-18 (NKJV)

"For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain."

Listen To Him

What is the message we should take away from the account of the transfiguration? There are many lessons. The message of Jesus may not be what we are expecting. The cross we are to carry and what we may need to give up will not always be easy to bear and may not be easy to understand. The hope we have is not based in this world but on Jesus. Jesus is exalted. He is glorified. Those who follow Him faithfully will be with Him as we see on the mountain.




New King James Version (NKJV) Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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