Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
“The Transfiguration of Jesus”
The story of Lady Shalott – poem by Alfred Tennyson
Paintings by John William Waterhouse
Seeing life through a reflection of reality.
Jesus Prepares the Disciples For the Hard Days Ahead (vv. 2-4)
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
In the OT there is a common theme for God to take leaders (Elijah, Moses) to a mountain and there reveal Himself to them. Exodus 24:15-16 “Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days.”
It represents a time of preparation for the reception of revelation. God is preparing the disciples for a revelation that is coming. Jesus seems to view his announcement of his suffering that is about to happen to be so important that takes three of the twelve aside to prepare them. Jesus only took three, of the twelve to the mountain, “Peter, James, and John.”
Jesus has already given a hint of this glory in Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
In the description of Jesus’ transfiguration, we are not given very much detail, but when we look at other passages that use this same word (i.e. 2 Cor, 3:18, and Romans 12:2) we see “that which is outward represents and expresses a true glory that dwells within.” Jesus’ divine nature is being revealed through the human body.
The English word transfigured is the Greek verb metamorphoo meaning, “to change into another form,” “to change in a manner visible to others,” or “to change inwardly in fundamental character or condition,”
Cole says, “in a sense, we are wrong to call this “transfiguration,” as though it was unique: the true great transfiguration, the metamorphosis, had already taken place at Bethlehem when God took human form. . .”
When discussing Jesus being transfigured, Mark describes his clothes, “became radiant, intensely white,” and who appeared to them, “Elijah with Moses.” “In the OT the glory of God is always conceived as shining brilliance or bright light.”
(v. 4) “The appearance of Moses and Elijah represent the coming together of the Law and Prophets. Each of these sections of the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied about the coming Messiah.”
Moses representing all of the law, and Elijah representing all of the prophesy pointing to the Messiah are there “to testify to the character and mission” of Jesus. “Both the law and the prophets Christ was thus to fulfill;” We don’t know if the disciples overheard what they saying, if they understood or followed what they were talking about.
When Elijah was at the lowest point of his life, God came and encouraged him and ministered to him. 1 Kings 19:5-8 Elijah is running for his life from the evil queen Jezebel “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” Now a man comes and talks with and encourages Jesus.
Moses used to pitch a tent way outside of the Israelite camp and would meet with God, the tent of Meeting. The pillar of smoke would move to the front of this tent while Moses and God met together. Exodus 33:11 “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Here God’s friend has come to encourage and talk again with Jesus.
Mankind can have a friendship and minister together with God.
God the Father speaks from heaven, all of the law and prophets are represented, and Jesus’ appearance become brilliant light – all confirming Jesus as the Messiah.
Jesus has already told them that he must suffer, and will die (at which Peter rebukes him), and now Jesus is being transfigured. “It offers assurance that despite apparent abandonment by God, Jesus is the Lord’s Servant who prospers in the task he has been sent to accomplish.”
This was for the disciple’s benefit, Jesus was transfigured (v. 3) “before them” and (v. 4) “And there appeared to them, Elijah and Moses.” It is a way of preparing them for the suffering that they also will be experiencing soon.
We can face the hard things in life, if we understand who Jesus really is – Jesus is God, and above all. He is above every person, everything in creation, every circumstance, every and anything we may encounter during our lives; and He rules above all – there is nothing that is above Him.
These disciples are about to endure seeing their rabbi and friend beaten beyond recognition, flogged, and crucified – they needed to know that while all that was going on, He could with a word stop it all. He was more powerful than the crucifixion, but endured it for their sake.
Jesus Wants the Disciples to Experience Being in the Presence of God (vv. 5-8)
5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
(v. 5) Peter, being terrified, suggested that they build them booths – temporary shelters. Peter is thinking, “Why would Jesus bring them along, unless He wanted them to do something once they are there with Moses and Elijah.” Peter is trying to organize the moment, organize Jesus. You cannot organize Jesus.
Jesus is not wanting them to do something, He is wanting them to experience something. For people who want to be doing something to feel productive, this is really hard.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Peter had acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah (Mark 8:29). God the Father does not respond to Peter’s comment – Peter doesn’t understand but Jesus is on the way to the cross, and to delay that by camping on the mountainside was not part of the plan. He wanted to slow the moment down. Peter keeps trying to interrupt the plan; he wants to be helpful but doesn’t understand the plan.
(v. 7) “And a cloud overshadowed them” – This appearance of a cloud and the presence of the Lord is what the OT calls, Shekinah glory of God. It has been six hundred years since anyone had seen this special appearance of God. Peter, James, and John were permitted to directly behold God’s glory – because Jesus was with them.
But in a voice God the Father tells them, that Jesus is the Son of God (i.e. God), “This is my beloved Son; listen to him. But even with seeing Moses and Elijah, hearing the voice of God from heaven, and seeing Jesus transfigured, they still are not grasping the significance of the moment.
(v. 7) “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” – God the Father, in a voice from heaven, is identifying Jesus as His Son (that he loves greatly), and He gives them an instruction, “listen to him.” Think of all that God could have said to the disciples, yet He chose these three words; only three. Listen to him.
The human body has the capability to filter out sound. Right now there are countless sounds around us (your heartbeat, the air conditioning cycling on and off, the sound of your breathing, road noise, the person next to you moving around, etc.) but we filter out all that noise and focus on what is important to us. It is the difference between hearing and listening. Focus.
The only true listening known in the Bible is obedient listening. James 1:22-23 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” So we are to focus on the words of Jesus, so that we may also obey them.
Wiersbe also helps us understand that God speaks and directs them “not on the vision, but on the Word of God; “Listen to Him!” The memory of visions will fade, but the unchanging Word abides forever. The glorious vision was not an end in itself; it was God’s way of confirming the Word (see 2 Peter 1:12-21). Discipleship is not built on spectacular visions but on the inspired, unchanging Word of God.”
The Father from heaven is affirming “Jesus is the unique Son of God who enjoys the unbroken presence and approval of the Father.” Jesus is the one with the plan, stop trying to do your own plan, and listen to Jesus.
Jesus Wants the Disciples to Know That There is More To Come (vv. 9-13)
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
Why does Jesus lead three of the disciples up the mountain, transfigure before them, and then tell them not to tell anyone? What they see will be important later – they needed to know Jesus was fully man (he was hungry, tired, expressed emotions, etc.) but Jesus was also fully God. God wasn’t just with Jesus as He was being the Messiah, but Jesus was God as the Messiah.
Why do we need to know that Jesus is God? If Jesus were any man who had managed to gather a following (Mohammed, Budda) then you can take their words as suggestions, teachings to add to your life. You can take their teachings, or leave their teachings based on if you think they are helpful or not.
Not so with Jesus. If Jesus is God, then when He speaks, then it is the Word of God – and as your Creator has the right to direct you into action. If you reject Jesus’ words, and ignore His life, then you reject and ignore God, and for that there will be consequences.
Even with Jesus speaking plainly to them earlier in the chapter, and here with God speaking, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, they still don’t understand Jesus’ mission involving him suffering and eventually dying, “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.” It is not until Jesus rose from the dead (and Jesus Himself explains it to them), that the significance of his suffering could be grasped by the disciples.
The disciples ask Jesus about the scribe’s teachings regarding Elijah, and Jesus answers them. But then he directs them to consider themselves what the Bible teaches regarding, “And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? Stop worrying about what the scribes say about the Word of God, and start interpreting it through the Words of Jesus. How do we understand and interpret all they seen and experienced? – through the Words of Jesus. He explains it all.
(v. 12) The end of the OT, Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” The religious leaders are correct in teaching that the Bible says that God would send Elijah as a forerunner to the Messiah – But here, Elijah had come after Jesus, and then he left quickly, without connection with the kingdom. Elijah was to come, be a restorer of the people back to God, a preparer of the way of the Lord. John the Baptist fulfilled this role of Elijah when He preached repentance in the wilderness.
There’s a scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion encounter the “real” wizard. You remember, right? The giant screen has shown a powerful, larger-than-life person whose booming voice rings out across Emerald City. Toto pulls back the curtain, however, and everyone finds that the wizard is just a man. It’s all showbiz, lights and amplification.
His cry of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” falls on deaf ears. When the curtain is pulled back, he is seen for what he is. In today’s passage, the curtain is pulled away for just for a moment and we see Jesus in His glory – so now that we know He is God, and we have His Word – what will you do with Jesus?
 W. N. Clarke, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Gospel of Mark (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1950) 126.
 Frank Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1984) 699.
 James McGowan, Twenthy-First Century Biblical Commentary Series, The Gospel of Mark (Chatanooga, Tennessee; AMG Publishers, 2006) 118.
 McGowan, 118.
 William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Eerdsmans Publishing, 1974) 318.
 Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Publishing, 2000) 146.
 Clarke, 127.
 Lane, 316.
 Ex. 13:21; 16:10; 19:9, 16; 24:15-16; 33:9.
 Deuteronomy 18:15f.
 McGowan, 120.
 Lane 321.
 This is the final command to be silent in Mark’s gospel. McGowan, 121.