Summary: The Transfiguration is apocalyptic in nature revealing not only the divinity of Jesus, but also looks forward to the time when all is in complete submission to him.
I hope this sermon is helpful to you in your studies. I have found William Lane’s commentary on Mark (new international commentary) very helpful and highly recommend it.
There was a magician who was hired to do his act on a cruise ship. He had been there for several years and did the same act over and over because the crowd was continually changing. He enjoyed the good life, spending most of his time out on the deck working on his tan rather than new tricks. One day the Captain bought a parrot and the parrot came with him every night to see the magic show. The bird learned all the tricks as to where the cards, flower, etc. were hidden by the magician in his act. The bird would say, “the card is up his left sleeve, the flower is under the pot, he hid the money under his shoe…” Because the parrot caught on fast, it was getting harder by the day for the magician to come up with new tricks. The magician hated the parrot for giving away all of his tricks, but since he was the Captain’s, he couldn’t just weigh the bird down and throw him overboard. Late one night the engine room exploded and the ship sank within minutes. Miraculously, the magician found himself clinging to a log. He was the only one left alive. As the sun came up in the morning, he turned around and here at the end of the log was that parrot. They just glared at each other and said nothing. This went on for three days. On the fourth day the parrot finally broke the silence and asked, “OK, I give up--what did you do with the ship”
Jesus’ transfiguration. Maybe its a trick, an illusion. Maybe the three disciples had a vision, a dream like event created in their minds by Jesus, where they all experienced the same mythical reality. What about an eclipse, an earthquake, an immense fog bank or a violent storm? Maybe …the disciples had, you know, a little too many the night before? Perhaps it is simply a literary illustration used by Mark to advance his storyline.
We live in a material world bound by time, space and the laws of physics. We see this world everyday of our lives, move in it, act in it, become enveloped by it to such an extent that it is our reality, and anything beyond that reality is….well, unthinkable. So if an event occurs that does not jive with our experience in life we, especially as Americans, immediately explore rational reasons of how the event happened. I think in many ways this shows our disconnect from the spiritual. Ask yourself this question: Isn’t it odd that I claim to believe in Jesus Christ and His resurrection, isn’t it odd that I say I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but I have great difficulty in believing in miraculous events? I would say, and say this quite frankly, that if you are sitting here this morning and think that taking the miraculous events in the bible at face value is a little naïve, kind of like believing the magic of a magician is real……then the reality is, there is some naïveté about spiritual matters in your life that you need to deal with. For to claim to believe in the resurrection, which is the ultimate miracle, and then have difficulty believing in lesser miracles – well, that may shed some light for you where you honestly stand in your Christian faith.
Here in our passage from Mark chapter 9 we have a real event, with real people involved, in a surreal kind of situation, the transfiguration. I just spoke about one type of spiritual naïveté, on where we are trapped by our view of the material world, and we tend to be pulled into that kind of naïveté when we read a passage like this. But there is another kind of spiritual naïveté and we see it strongly in our passage this morning, it is the naïveté which blocks us from being able to analyze an event of spiritual proportions and apply it to our lives. For though the three disciples personally experience this powerful event, they are unable to see its application. How naïve can they be, how naïve can we be?
First of all, what is the transfiguration of Jesus? In verse 2 we see that Jesus is transfigured. The word used for transfigured is the word that we get our word metamorphous from. You know, in grade school we all learned how a caterpillar goes through metamorphous to become a butterfly. But to crossover and apply the transformation of a caterpillar directly to the transfiguration of Jesus is a mistake. Jesus does not become something else. Jesus is. He doesn’t become, He doesn’t change, He doesn’t evolve. In the truest sense a caterpillar doesn’t become something else either, no, conceptually, a caterpillar is another form of what it truly deep down is – a butterfly. A caterpillar has always had the butterfly deep within and in a sense the form of a caterpillar is veil that hides the true identity within – a butterfly. Jesus does not become something different, Jesus is seen for who He is.