Can you imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus in the flesh? The disciples had that opportunity for three years as they followed Jesus during His public ministry. But on one very special occasion, three of the disciples got to see Jesus in all of His heavenly glory, too. This event is called the “transfiguration” of Jesus, and with it God the Father showed and told us that Jesus is His Son and worthy of all of our praise and devotion.
The Text (Mark 9:1-13)
1 And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”
2 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. 3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 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”— 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.
7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.
9 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. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
12 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? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.”
Background and Observations
1. Some Bible scholars think that the promise in verse 1 was fulfilled much later, such as when Jesus rose from the dead or when the Holy Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost. But it’s more logical to see the promise as being fulfilled just six days later with the event described in the rest of the passage. By seeing Jesus in His heavenly glory, the three disciples saw “the kingdom of God present with power.”
2. Of the 12 disciples, Peter, James, and John were part of an inner circle of leaders who sometimes received special instructions and experiences in the gospels.
3. Moses had received the Ten Commandments and written Genesis through Deuteronomy, so he represented the Law, the first section of the Old Testament. Elijah represented the Prophets, the other major section of the Old Testament. The point is that Jesus was greater than these men because He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in who He was as God’s Son.
4. The disciples are still struggling with the coming death and resurrection of Jesus. They are only able to think about the general resurrection of everyone at the end of history.
5. When Jesus says that Elijah has already come, He is talking about John the Baptist, who prepared the people for Jesus’ coming by calling them to repentance of sin and faith in God. John the Baptist was killed by King Herod for preaching against Herod’s sins. So, too, would Jesus be killed for confronting the religious leaders about their sins.
Questions to Think About
1. When you think about the day when you will finally see Jesus face to face, what thoughts and emotions do you have?
2. Why do you think that believing that Jesus rose from the dead is such an important part of the Christian faith?
3. Have you ever had to suffer in some way for believing in Jesus? How did your suffering affect your faith?