2 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. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
To this point, Mark has not been careful about transitions in time. He has used simple time markers like ‘immediately’ or ‘then’. Now we have the passage of six days listed quite accurately. Why the change? Jesus goes up a mountain and God speaks to him through a cloud. Does this sound familiar? The time marker takes us back to the accounts of Moses going up the mountain to talk with God in the book of Exodus. Moses was changed by the experience, but the presence of Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus shows not only the connection with these figures but that Jesus transcends them. Jesus fulfills the Law and also fulfills The Prophets. God the Father verifies that the disciples should listen to him. How have the disciples not listened to him? They have not embraced the way of the cross, the path of suffering, the road of death as a path to resurrection. They need to listen to this message that they have been told immediately prior to this account in the passage and that they will be told again after they descend the mountain.
In the book of Micah it is alluded to that Elijah would come before the Kingdom of God is established on earth. Being familiar with that passage, Jesus’ disciples ask him about it. He says that Elijah has come in the person of John the Baptist. It seems odd that they just had an encounter with Elijah. Maybe they were wondering if this was connected to Elijah coming back permanently.
The original recipients of this gospel were beginning to encounter great resistance and persecution. They would have been encouraged to see how Jesus was transcendent and was glorified before knowingly walking a path of suffering. If the glorified Jesus would welcome them home, they could walk the way of the cross as he did and then be with him in glory.
Sometimes I see You as a man and sometimes as God. It is hard to hold those two ideas in tension. Help me to see you as both God and man and to embrace the life of suffering that I may have on earth so that I can also rejoice in sharing Your glory.
- What event in the Old Testament does this event mirror?
- Why would Mark emphasize the parallel?
- Why did the original recipients need to see that Jesus was glorified in this way?
- How do you remember to hear that Jesus calls you to walk the way of the cross?
- How do you remind yourself of Jesus glorified? How does that change how you live?