Jesus transfigured. 9:2-13

The account of Jesus' transfiguration is closely tied to the disciples' confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus' subsequent teaching on his death and resurrection, and his demand that disciples identify with his cross and empty tomb. The story portrays Jesus as the faithful servant of God ("Son of God" = messiah), the long-awaited prophet like unto Moses. As the messianic prophet, Jesus proclaims the coming kingdom, and to this end we must "listen to him."

The passage

v2-4. Although not a full reenactment of Moses' ascent up Mount Sinai, Jesus, none-the-less, takes the inner circle of his disciples up a high mountain, and there "his whole appearance changes before there very eyes." His clothes, probably his whole person, is shrouded with a dazzling brightness. In the midst of a settling mist the disciples witness Jesus speaking with Moses, as well as Elijah, another prophet who spoke with God and lived to tell. During the Exodus it was Moses who was radiant on the mountain, now it is Jesus. This little story lets us into a secret; Jesus is the long-awaited prophetic messiah who will save his people.

v5-6. The weather is settling in and so, to keep the conversation going, the disciples offer to build some shelters. Luke tells us that the discussion concerned Jesus' "exodus" (his departure), "the destiny he was to fulfill in Jerusalem." Of course, the disciples miss the point, for they need only listen to Jesus.

v7. With much the same words that were used at Jesus' baptism, the heavenly voice proclaims that Jesus is the beloved Son of God; "listen to him." This time it is a word for the disciples, not just Jesus. When we see the term "Son of God" we tend to think in terms of the special divine union that exists between Jesus and the Father, but this title also has special Old Testament significance. It refers to God's faithful servant, the messiah. The prophets, priests and kings of Israel, even Israel itself, was God's son, and in the last day a faithful son will emerge, the messiah, and through his death he will save his people.

v8. In the blink of an eye the "vision" ends and the disciples are alone with Jesus.

v9-10. The events on the mountain were startling, even more startling than Jesus' miracles, so, as with the miracles, the disciples are to play down the "vision". Popular messianic fervor is the last thing Jesus needs and in any case, the mystery of God's coming kingdom is only for those with eyes to see. There is, though, a time frame to the injunction. Of course, getting their head around a "rising from the dead" leaves the disciples confused.

11-13. The disciples would have understood the standard teaching of the day concerning the return of Elijah, namely, that he would herald the great Day of the Lord, the terrible day of judgment when the wicked will be punished and the righteous raised to new life. What they couldn't work out was how Jesus' death and resurrection fitted in with Elijah's coming, given that they have just witnessed his coming on the mountain. Jesus explains that Elijah certainly does come before the Day of the Lord, but it is what his coming achieves that is more important; he comes to inaugurate the universal restoration of all things, to herald the coming kingdom. Jesus then explains from the scriptures how he, the messiah, fits in with the dawning of this new age. "But what does the scriptures say about the Son of Man? This: that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt", Phillips. As for Elijah, guess what, he has already come. One wonders how long it took the disciples to work out that Jesus was talking about John the Baptist.

Hearing Christ

We live in an age where nothing is true in itself, other than our own truth. We could once say, "I think and therefore, I am", now we say, "I think and therefore, it is true." In the secular world, truth is relative, not fixed. Still, it is one thing to believe that "I am true to myself", but another to believe that "my truth is universal." How fascinating it is that in an age where the notion of objective truth is derided, we are constantly imposed upon by a politically correct thought-police who act as if their ideas are universally true. Where is the sense in it all?

As believers, we are not able to extract ourselves from an age where everything is relative. Of course, we can join the thought-police and seek to impose our own brand of Christianity on our community. Mind you, given that fundamentalist Islam is into the imposing business we would do well to avoid such lunacy. So, how do we survive in an age where it is believed that nothing is true except the musings of the thought-police?

The way through the maze is to acquire "the mind of Christ", or as Mark puts it in our passage for study, "listen to him", listen to Christ. The way through the maze of life is made clear by understanding the revealed Word of God - hearing Christ, allowing him to teach us, treating him as a prophet, listening and learning from him. Of course, Jesus is more than a prophet to us, but his prophetic role must not be underestimated. In the end, he is the Word of God, and through his Word he will guide us along the narrow and rock-strewn way of life.

The business of listening and learning finds its focus on Sunday when we gather to hear the scriptures read and expounded, but is also supplemented through group Bible study and personal study. Personal study is always a bit hit and miss, but working through the Bible with commentaries such as, "The Daily Study Bible Series" or "The Bible Speaks Today", leads us to the truth. So, just working steadily at acquiring "the mind of Christ", this is what leads us through the maze of life and prepares us for our reign with Christ in eternity.


Discuss the different ways you have listened to Christ and rate their effectiveness.