Today’s reading: Mark 8-9.
Within a week after declaring that the religious leaders would condemn him and kill him, Jesus took his core disciples and headed to an isolated mountain.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Mark 9:2-4
Transfigured comes from the same word that means transformed in Romans 12:2. In that passage Paul said we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The word shows up again in 2 Corinthians 3:18, where Paul says we are being changed, transformed, transfigured into the glory of the Lord by the Holy Spirit. The glory was there all along in Jesus. The change was an external transformation that revealed his glory, rather than an internal metamorphosis that turned him from man to God. Whatever type of change it was, the remarkable thing is that believers go through similar changes. Not changed from man to God, but changed into the image of Jesus.
In the context of telling the disciples about his upcoming death and resurrection, Jesus may have gone through this mountain top transformation to prepare the disciples for the difficult trials ahead. God verbally proclaimed that Jesus was his son, a fact written down by Peter as well as the Gospel writers. Seeing him in his glory and divinity was an act of grace for the disciples who were so prone to doubting.
Another effect of the transfiguration was to confirm Jesus was greater than the Law and the Prophets. When God told the disciples to listen to Jesus, he was telling them that his authority exceeded that of Moses and Elijah who were there representing the Law and the Prophets. Moses and Elijah were putting their seal of approval on Jesus as the Messiah.
Jesus’ transfiguration was also a fulfillment of his own prophecy, for he had told the disciples in the previous week that some of them would see him in the glory of his kingdom before they died. But the glory they saw was not the glory they expected. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a political and military leader, freeing them from their oppressors. Jesus’ glory was the glory of God.
As we read this Gospel story, it is easy for us to miss the point or get only half the picture. The Transfiguration experience does highlight the glory of Jesus. His radiance and the voice of God affirmed that Jesus was not just a bloke from the outback town of Nazareth but that he was the Son of God. The disciples were given a ringside seat and a close up experience of the splendour of God as they witnessed the transfigured Jesus. They were given a future glimpse of the glory of God’s Son beyond his suffering, death and resurrection. Death will not be his end. Beyond death, he will appear in glory, his face ‘shining like the sun’. What they saw must have encouraged and supported them in the gloomy days ahead.
But if that’s all we see then we are missing the point. What the disciples saw that day underscored the announcement of Jesus that he would suffer, die and rise from the dead. This was Son of God speaking – God is not inclined to make up stories – what Jesus said was the truth, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.” The disciples suddenly were able to see Jesus in a new light. Yes, he was the Son of God, but he was also the suffering Messiah. Pastor Vince Gerhardy
Image by Randy OHC on Flickr, CC by 2.0