Mk 8:37-9:3… “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” 9:1 And he was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” 2 And six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; 3 and his garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
Jesus Christ is coming back to the earth to take believers into eternity – those who have placed their faith in him alone for salvation. When he comes back he will be accompanied by “the holy angels.” But those who are ashamed of Jesus Christ and his words will be rejected by him upon his return. He will be ashamed of them in the presence of God the Father and the angels in the same way they were ashamed of him. The adulterous/sinful generation Christ spoke of is any time period and people who are more concerned about worldly pleasures than about pleasing God. Those who are more concerned about how God should be than about how He has revealed Himself to be (as the suffering Savior sent to die on a cross), and those who insist on “gaining the whole world” by saving themselves (cf. 8:35-38) forfeit their soul for eternity.
In 9:1 Jesus adds a caveat as he instructs his very confused disciples. They knew Jesus was the Christ, but they were dumbfounded by his words that he was going to enter Jerusalem to die at the hands of the Jews. In their minds this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. But the caveat Jesus added was that even though he would die in Jerusalem he would reveal the kingdom of God coming in power to some standing there before they themselves tasted death.
Jesus was going to put his disciples to the test to see if they were willing to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him – even unto death in Jerusalem. Since no one can give anything in exchange for his life Jesus was asking his disciples to put their own lives on the line and follow him to their own deaths. But before they would die Jesus was going to show “some” of them his full deity and kingdom. God’s kingdom exists today in His children, but it’s not yet come in its fullest form. The term “kingdom” is sometimes used in the NT to refer to royal splendor. So the “kingdom” Jesus spoke of to his disciples was in reference to his coming reign of splendor on the earth in the Millennium. He would reveal himself as the King of kings.
So six days later, in 9:2, Jesus took his inner circle (Peter, James, John) up the mountain by themselves and revealed this “kingdom” – his majesty to them. It was they who witnessed Jesus transfigured before their very eyes (Greek “metamorphosis”). Mark says that his garments became so white that it was unexplainable. His ordinary human form became Godlike, and here, more so than any other occasion in Scripture, Jesus revealed himself as God Almighty. This would prove vital to the disciples who were going to march into Jerusalem expecting to die there.
Food for Thought
The passage is a microcosm of the Christian experience. Peter, James, & John all knew Jesus to be the Christ, but as they were trained by Jesus he revealed himself more and more to them. So it is with being a Christian. Each day we’re supposed to grow in our knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is. Though James died early on after the resurrection, Peter would later write about this experience in 2 Peter 1:16-18, and John wrote about it in John 1:14. That’s what people do when they experience Christ in all His glory – they proclaim him with no shame. And Christ will proclaim those folks before the Father and the holy angels with no shame.
Mark 9:4-8… And Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three booths, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” 8 And all at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.
As the disciples witnessed Jesus in all his glory before their very eyes, transfigured before them, the prophet Elijah along with Moses appeared on the scene “talking with Jesus.” In addition to his radiance from his own glorious revealing of himself as God to the disciples, two ancient faithful followers of God also appeared bodily to attest to Christ’s deity that day. Moses represented God’s law, and Elijah represented the prophets. Both the Law and the prophets spoke of and pointed to the coming Christ. Abraham, while in Paradise in Luke 16:31, speaks to the rich man in Hades that his family on the earth had Moses and the prophets, and they were sufficient to keep them from the fires of Hades when they died. Now, in this vision on the mount of transfiguration, the Law of God (Moses) and the prophets of God (Elijah) were speaking to the Word of God (Jesus)! Luke 9:31 says that they were speaking to Jesus about his “departure” – the same departure Jesus had told the disciples about in Mark 8:31 of his death in Jerusalem.
Elijah also might represent believers who never die because he himself never died. He was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind of glory without dying. All believers in Christ, upon Christ’s coming in the Rapture, will also not taste death, and Elijah might just represent them. Moses, on the other hand did die. He may very well represent believers who have died in Christ along with believers (of the OT) who died looking for Christ’s coming. Elijah was a miracle worker and bold in the face of death. Moses was the mediator of the old covenant whom God worked mightily through. The two men talking to Jesus, men whose ministries pointed to Jesus before his incarnation, show the harmony between the OT and the NT. They are intertwined.
Peter, in v. 5, not knowing what to do, asked Jesus if he should build three booths for the men. And v. 6 elaborates on this explaining that Peter, James, and John were terrified over what they saw. The suggestion that he build each man a booth is in connection with the annual feast of booths that all Jewish men observed commemorating the exodus from Egypt under Moses. But Peter’s request was a foolish one. Possibly he hoped that this experience would keep Jesus from entering Jerusalem and going to his death, but clearly that would not happen. And Peter also revealed once again his own ignorance by placing Moses and Elijah on the same level as Jesus.
Then in v. 7 a “cloud” appeared and overshadowed them. In Moses’ day the cloud was the “Shekinah Glory” – the very presence of God. And now God appears again and proclaims in a loud voice, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!” In other words, “Peter, shut up! Just listen to Jesus. He is God.” Then in v. 8 all of a sudden only Jesus was there with his three disciples.
Food for Thought
Sometimes as Christians we have a great experience with God, and we feel like we must go do something. But that’s not always the best thing. God told them to just listen to Jesus. And we must do the same. Read the Bible, God’s Word, and listen to Jesus speak. He is God’s Son. Read his words, study his prophets, dwell on his life, death, and resurrection. God will put you to work in due time, but our task is sometimes accomplished by simply sitting still (Psalm 46:10).
Mark 9:9-13… As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man should rise from the dead. 10 And they seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 Jesus answered, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you, that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.”
As the four men made their way back down the mountain Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. This order would have been difficult in light of the awesome vision the men had seen. But Jesus knew that word about this vision, were it to become public, would have made it all the more difficult to accomplish his mission of going to the cross in Jerusalem. If people would have gotten wind of what Peter, James, and John saw they would have taken Jesus by force and made him king of the Jews. But Jesus did not come to conquer Rome at his first coming; he came to conquer death.
It’s important to note, however, that Jesus didn’t forbid Peter, James, and John from telling what happened on the mount of transfiguration. They just couldn’t do so “until the Son of Man should rise from the dead.” Now it wasn’t the hush-hush nature that concerned them but the fact that Jesus spoke of rising from the dead that confused them. Verse 10 says that they heard that statement and began to discuss with one another what he was talking about. In calling himself the “Son of Man” Jesus was using this as a claim to deity, and for the disciples this simply made no sense because God could not die – at least not with their idea of the Messiah.
So the disciples asked Jesus, in v. 11, about the commonly held scriptural teaching that claimed Elijah must come first – first as a forerunner to the coming Messiah. Now this belief was not a scribal tradition, it was scriptural. For Malachi 4:5 says, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” The disciples were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, but they were confused as to why Elijah had not preceded him. But Jesus clarified this and affirmed the teaching of Malachi by telling the disciples that John the Baptist was Elijah (cf. Matthew 17:13). He also added that the Son of Man should suffer and be treated with contempt – a clear reference to Psalm 22 & Isaiah 53. Both of these prophecies were being fulfilled, and in the same way that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah to fulfill Mal. 4:5, so too would Jesus suffer to fulfill the OT prophecies.
Jesus said, in v. 13, that Elijah did come (as John the Baptist), “and they did to him whatever they wished.” They hated him, imprisoned him, and eventually killed him. Even if John would have known he was Elijah and explained it to the Jews of his day he still would have been rejected. Their hearts were hardened, and they opposed the truth of God, so they didn’t recognize John as Elijah – and so they didn’t recognize the Messiah he pointed to before his death.
Food for Thought
I am struck by the questions the disciples asked Jesus following their awe-inspiring incident they witnessed. They began to ask deep questions about Elijah and about what rising from the dead meant. Good questions about God are prompted after we spend time with God. The filling of the Spirit comes about when we allow God’s word to “richly dwell within us.” But to do that we have to draw near to God to be prompted to ask Him questions. To do that we have to put our own problems aside and pursue God, fellowship with Him, and the worship of Him.
A Preview of Christ’s Millennial Reign on the Earth
Huddle up!... Men, I’m going to die! Now let’s go to Jerusalem where you can prove your willingness to follow me unto death. Let’s roll!!!
· It takes faith to accept and practice this lesson on discipleship, so six days later, the Lord gave a dazzling proof that God indeed does transform suffering into glory.
· The message was clear: first the suffering, then the glory.
Proofs that Jesus is the Son of God…
- Transformation of the Son (2)
· Transfigured… Jesus revealed his full deity. The disciples had seen his humanity and great powers, but Jesus wanted them to see his full deity for them to later proclaim.
· Are you transfigured? Changed on the outside coming from the inside – opposite of “masquerade,” – an outward change that does not come from within.
- Testimony of the Saints (4)
- Moses and Elijah… The whole of the Law and the whole of the Prophets.
Ø The Law of God (Moses), the prophets of God (Elijah) speaking to the Word of God.
Ø For the rich man, Moses and the Prophets was enough for his family to avoid Hades.
Ø Moses might represent believers who die; Elijah those raptured.
Ø Mal. 4:4-5 calls Jews to remember the laws of Moses and to anticipate Elijah.
- Terror of the Father (7)
Ø “Hear Him!” The memory of visions will fade; the unchanging Word abides forever.
Ø 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.
Ø In God’s presence we’re speechless, and we should remain that way!
Ø We always want to do something, but how we serve is not always the way we should.
Ø They didn’t know what to say and felt like they needed to. But we must at times just learn to sit still in God’s presence (Psalm 46:10) and “listen to Him.”
Ø God took Moses & Elijah away so that the disciples would know that God’s voice was specific to listen to Jesus.
Ø The fact that Moses/Elijah were there meant that listening to Jesus was not in any way going to contradict them. They both foresaw Jesus in their ministries and pointed to Christ, his coming, and his power. They prefigured it.
- Totality of the Scene (9-10)
- Tie with the Forerunner (11-13)
Ø The good questions of the disciples.
Ø Their mindset wasn’t on earthly things (marriage, money, etc.).
Ø After being in the presence of God and seeing Jesus in his full deity their questions were reminiscent of their mindset.
Ø The best questions we can ask God and about God usually come after we’ve been with him, worshipped him, and begin to richly dwell on his Word.