This is a series of commentary/sermons that focus on the transfiguration from Mark 9:1-13 with an emphasis on practical application.
Everything Jesus did and does has a purpose. Every miracle of Jesus, every word of Jesus, every action of Jesus, and every display of His divinity had a purpose. Sometimes when we see Jesus at work we learn something about Him and sometimes we learn something about ourselves. Sometimes we simply stand in awe of who He is.
As a church, we have been going through the Gospel of Mark. We have been learning about who Jesus is and who He is not. We have seen what it means to follow Him and what it does not. Today, we begin to get a deeper glimpse into who Jesus is and who this is that we follow and the One who has saved us and redeemed us.
Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!” 2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. 5 Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. 9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” 12 Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.” (NLT)
This is known as the transfiguration of Jesus. Today we are going to take a look at the first three verses and see what God’s Word has to say to us.
Jesus went on to say
Mark begins verse 1 by saying, “Jesus went on to say.” This phrase “Jesus went on to say” bridges what He just said with what He is about to say. The two are connected. So what did Jesus just say? If you go back to chapter 8 here is what you discover.
- Jesus just asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter, speaking for the disciples, said, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:27-29).
- Then Jesus tells them that He must “suffer many terrible things and be rejected” and that He “would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead” (Mark 8:31).
- This news was so shocking to the disciples that Peter pulled Jesus aside and “began to reprimand” Jesus for saying these things (8:32). But Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (8:33).
- Then Jesus says something that is personally disturbing to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (8:34). Jesus is saying, “Not only will I take up my cross, but you will have to take up your cross. Following me is not going to be easy and it will cost you everything you have.”
- Then finally Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (8:38).
Think of how this all sounded to the disciples. This was disturbing, confusing, and frustrating. They believed Him to be the Messiah, but His plan of action did not make any sense to their understanding of how the Messiah would rule and reign. They were discouraged to say the least, but Jesus gives them encouragement in Mark 9:1 when He says, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!”
I tell you the truth
Jesus says, “I tell you the truth.” Here at Genesis we believe in the authority of God’s Word. We believe that what it says is true and believe that it should guide and govern our lives in all aspects. When Jesus says, “I tell you the truth,” He is speaking with authority. This is Jesus’ way of saying, “Listen carefully to me. I am about to tell you something very important. This is significant, don’t ignore this and blow it off.”
Some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power.
So Jesus says, “Some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power.” Jesus makes this clear, some of them will get a glimpse into the power of God’s kingdom before they die. Not all of them will get this opportunity, but some of them. What is Jesus talking about?
Jesus is NOT talking about His resurrection. He is NOT referring to His ascension after the resurrection and He is NOT talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) and He is NOT talking about His future return. He is specifically referring to what is about to happen one week later, His transfiguration.[i] Some of them would get to see it and some of them would not.
Six days later
Mark goes on to say in verse 2, “Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed.”
Mark points out that the Lord’s transfiguration and the promise He just made about seeing “the Kingdom of God arrive in great power” is separated by “six days.” This is Mark’s way of saying the two are connected. What Jesus promised a week ago is being fulfilled.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
Mark tells us that “Jesus took Peter, James, and John.” Why these three and what does it tell us about our spiritual journey with Jesus? Part of the answer involves the fact that each would have a special leadership role in the early church. They were not aware of it yet, but they were to fill unique positions.
- Peter was to be the leader of the early church. God would use Peter to open the door of the gospel to both Jew and Gentile after Pentecost (Acts 2:1f; Acts 10:1f). This would be crucial for the gospel to spread to all the nations and eventually make it to people like you and me.
- James would end up being the leader of the first great church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13).
- John would eventually receive a vision from God and record it and we know it as the book of Revelation. God would use John to close out the Scripture.
What’s the implication for you and me? Not every believer will experience the same thing on their spiritual journey. Your experiences will be unique to you because you have a unique assignment from God. There are certain experiences you will have with Him that will shape and form you into the person you need to be in order to accomplish what He would have you to accomplish. Peter, James, and John needed to experience the Lord’s transfiguration and the others did not. Listen carefully to Ephesians 2:8, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph. 2:8-10, NLT). God has some “good things he planned” for you to do and there are some things you need to know and there are some things you will need to experience in order to be prepared to do them well.
And led them up a high mountain to be alone
Mark goes on to say that Jesus took Peter, James, and John “and led them up a high mountain to be alone.” Mark and Matthew both say they went up the mountain “to be alone.” Luke adds they went up the mountain “to pray” (Luke 9:28, NLT). Throughout the Scripture you see over and over again people getting alone with God to pray right before He does something significant in their lives or uses them in a significant way.
Listen to me, I know you are busy. You have work, school, kids, supper, homework, church, Life Group, mow the yard, repair the house, visit family, weddings, funerals, bills to pay, and a host of other things that are a part of life. I get it. You are busy. I want to encourage you, in your busy schedule, to set aside some time to be alone with God and pray. Talk to Him. Read His Word. Jesus may lead you up a mountain for a day or he may lead you to your back yard for an hour. Let Him lead you to be alone with Him so He can work on your heart and mind.
Back to Peter, James, and John; these men were normal men. They would get tired like everyone else. Mark says that Jesus “led them up a high mountain.” We are not told how high or how long they walked up this mountain, but since Mark points out that it was a “high mountain” we can safely assume they walked up this mountain for a while. This was not a fifteen minute hike. When they arrived at the top of the mountain they must have been exhausted because Luke tells us that Peter, James, and John “had fallen asleep” (Luke 9:32, NLT).
So what is the big deal here? This tells me even though I may climb mountains with Jesus, be exhausted and even fall asleep when Jesus wants me to pray He isn’t going to walk out on me when I stumble and He isn’t going to give up on me when I fail or when I’m weak. He is going to make sure I experience what I need to experience with Him even when I don’t know what’s going on. He is more determined and dedicated to my spiritual growth and development than I am.
Because of time, we will end it here and pick up here next time.
What does all this do for us? It reminds us of four things about Jesus.
- It reminds us of the glory of Jesus: It reminds us of the glory of Jesus. He is God in the flesh. He is God among us (John 1). God’s glory and majesty are revealed in Jesus. He is the Son of God. He radiates the glory of God (Heb. 1:3).
- It reminds us of the power of Jesus: It reminds that He is going to return in glory. No matter what happens. Even as you see Him suffer, as people beat Him, mock Him, place a crown of thorns on His heads, nail Him to a cross and as you watch Him die remember Who He is. He is the Son of God, He is God in the flesh!
- It reminds us of the return of Jesus: It reminds me that this world is not my home. There is more to come. The best is yet to come. The transfiguration points to the future. The greatest days of your life are ahead of you. He will return. Be encouraged by this.
- It reminds us of the victory of Jesus: Suffering is not the end. Jesus had been talking about His cross and His disciples taking up their own cross. This is all suffering language. This is going to be difficult to follow Jesus because of the resistance you will encounter. Jesus promises that He will return and then reveals His glory at the transfiguration to demonstrate who He is and that He can do what He says He can do. Suffering is not the end.
[i] If you let the context rule your interpretation, then it makes sense that Jesus is referring to His transfiguration. Some of the disciples (Peter, John, and James) were able to witness Jesus’ transfiguration, while the other disciples did not.