Summary: The Mount of Transfiguration story does not stop on the Mountain.
Mark 9:2-9 “Come Off The Mountain”
For the past eight weeks, we have been in the season of Epiphany. The importance of this season is the way in which we see Christ revealing who He is, or we might say, the way we see God making Himself known in our world.
This revelation began with the visit of the Magi who came bearing gifts and looking for the King of the Jews. Then there was Jesus’ baptism and the start of His public ministry in which He called ordinary men to follow Him.
The ministry in which our texts have been dealing with has been the ministry of healing as we hear Jesus casting out demons, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, various other diseases as well, then he healed the leper and the paralytic.
If all of this wasn’t enough, we have today’s text which is the last text of Epiphany and turns our minds towards Lent and Easter and the cross.
But today we get to climb a mountain with Jesus and three of His disciples. I frequently envy those who were actually able to walk with Christ while He was in this world but potentially not more than I do as we come to this event.
Jesus’ disciples take an ordinary hike on an ordinary day to climb an ordinary mountain. But when they get to the top, the event is anything but ordinary.
First, Mark records for us that Christ’s entire presence is transformed, that His countenance is dramatically changed. Yet it isn’t just His face, His entire being is changed. His clothes reflect this reality as Mark records for us, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”
But that’s not all. I mean that’s pretty amazing but Mark records that there are also a couple of visitors on top of this mountain, Elijah and Moses.
Moses, you may recall was the recipient and then presenter of the Law to the nation of Israel. Elijah was the classic prophet. And in Jewish understanding Moses and Elijah were harbingers of the coming of the Messiah. The understanding was that when you saw these two, you would know the Messiah was on His way.
So at the peak of the mountain, Christ is transformed, nothing short of being glorified, and then He has a conversation with Elijah and Moses.
Now understand that Moses and Elijah have both been gone for a long time. Moses died in the wilderness as well as all those who rebelled against God. Elijah, according to the scriptures, was simply taken away. In 2 Kings 2:11, Elijah and Elisha were walking along together and “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
The point is that both of these men have been separated from the earth for a very long time, certainly since before Jesus called His disciples, before Jesus was even born these men were what we would call “dead”, no longer here.
The reason I say this is because it’s incredible that Peter recognizes them. There was no photography, no internet, no encyclopedia, nothing as far as we know with any type of picture of what Moses and Elijah look like. These men who had lived thousands of years before the disciples, yet when the disciples are there on the mountain, in the midst of this transfiguration moment, Peter says, “let us put up three shelters, one for you, meaning Christ, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He knew who Jesus was talking to. And there would be no reason to doubt that the rest of the disciples knew as well.
As I said earlier, nowhere do I envy the disciples more than I do at this particular event, to see Christ in a “glorified” state and to see Moses and Elijah together.
Do you know what I would have wanted to do? The same thing you would have wanted to do and the same thing Peter suggested.
“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters.”
If we had been on that mountain seeing what they saw, we would have wanted to stay there. We would have wanted to build shelters and tried to hold on to that glorious moment for as long as possible. We would have tried to bottle the whole experience and keep it.
Sooner or later, one of us would have said, “Let’s just stay, right here, on top of this mountain. Let’s not continue on. Let’s live right here forever.”
Peter, although often impulsive, I think had it right this time. It was a great experience, a great moment, and just like you and I wanted nothing more than to live on the mountain top forever.