Summary: The experience on the Mount of Transfiguration was an encouragement for everybody involved that, despite the dark times ahead, God was guiding them. This calls us to remember our defining moments.
Mark 9:1-13 – Defining Moments
Today, as we continue through The Life of Jesus, we are looking at a passage of scripture that I have never preached on before. It’s the Transfiguration, and it’s mentioned in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9. Let’s read tonight from Mark 9:1-13.
This passage turned out to be a defining moment for Jesus and His disciples. To get a better picture of what happened on the Mount, let me harmonize the 3 accounts. Jesus took 3 of His disciples up on a high mountain to pray. Peter, James, and James’ brother John were the 3. They all had strong personalities, and all had vivid nicknames – The Rock, and the Sons of Thunder.
So the 4 of them went up to pray. While Jesus was praying, He changed. The word is transfigured – His whole appearance changed. The Greek word is metamorphosis, which is the same word we use in English to describe what a caterpillar does to become a butterfly. It’s a complete change. Jesus’ face changed and shone like the sun. Matthew says His clothes were as white as the light, Luke says they were as bright as lightning, and of course we read from Mark how they “became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”
Then, Moses and Elijah appeared. They were 2 of the greatest servants of God from the OT. Moses was a great leader, and Elijah was a great prophet. Moses died just before his people entered the Promised Land, and God buried him, and Elijah never died at all, being taken to heaven in a fiery chariot.
Anyway, when Mo and Eli show up, they begin talking to Jesus. Luke says in 9:31 that, “they spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” Moses, who represents the Law, and Elijah, who represents the prophets, are talking to Jesus about how He was about to fulfill the both of them. He was about to become the standard and the means of holiness, and He’s about to become the fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus is about to fulfill completely all that the two of them had tried to do throughout their whole lives. They were no doubt talking to Him as a superior and not as a peer.
Well, I don’t know how long this conversation lasted, but by and by it came to a close. As Mo and Eli were leaving, as Luke tells us, Peter pipes in: “Rabbi [Mt: Lord, Lk: Master], it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” This was such a party that Peter didn’t want it to end.
Well, while Peter was speaking, a cloud appeared. It wrapped around them, and from the cloud came a voice: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Matthew adds, “With Him I am well pleased.” Luke says that the speaker says He chose Jesus. At any rate, clearly God the Father was declaring to the disciples, and to Jesus for that matter, that Jesus was on the right track. God the Father approved of who Jesus was, what He was doing, and gave affirmation to Him.
This, I think, was a defining moment for Jesus, as I mentioned earlier. Jesus was entering a difficult time in His ministry. The crowds were thinning out. Just before this, John says that, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” His teachings were getting harder to follow and accept. He was upping the requirements for following Him – or rather, expecting more and more from those who did. Expecting His followers to give more and more.
So to hear the Father’s words was a tremendous encouragement. I think that if we say, “Well, He was God – He knew He was right – what did He need encouragement for?”, then we are short-changing His humanity. If we think that He didn’t need to hear approval, just because He was divine, then we are minimizing His humanity in the process.
This was a defining moment for Him. It showed Him that He was doing well. It spurred Him on to keep being faithful to His mission. But as the story progresses, I think this becomes a defining moment for His disciples too. When the Father spoke, the disciples ended up on their hands and knees and faces in fear. The voice stopped, Jesus came over and touched them, as Matthew says, and told them not to be afraid. They raised their heads, looked around, and it was just the 4 of them again.
They all came down off the mountain, and Jesus told them not to tell anyone about all this yet. Not until after Jesus rose from the grave, anyway. Because, obviously, they were going to want to tell everybody about this. This was a big deal, and they weren’t going to want to keep it secret from the other disciples. Yet Jesus told them to be quiet about it.