This is a series of commentary/sermons that focus on the transfiguration from Mark 9:1-13 with an emphasis on practical application.
When you study the Bible you are going to discover that God’s Word addresses three areas of your life.
- God’s Word addresses what you do. It will say things like, “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” God’s Word will says these dos and don’ts because God loves you. When He says don’t do something He is giving you a warning that the consequences are going to hurt.
- God’s Word addresses how you feel. God’s Word will say things like “be angry and sin not” or “do not worry” or “do not be afraid” or “be patient” or “don’t be easily offended.” God wants you to mature emotionally. This is called emotional discipleship.
- God’s Word addresses what you think. God’s Word will say things like “Think about things that are pure, holy, and peaceable.” It will say “renew your mind” or “set your mind on things above.” What you think about is important.
When you have your thinker, feeler, and doer all working together it reveals what you truly believe. Some Scriptures will focus on what God wants you to do, others will focus on what God wants you to feel, and some Scriptures will focus on what God wants you to think. This passage on the transfiguration of Jesus deals primarily with what you think about Jesus. Your thoughts about Jesus will determine the level of authority you give Him over your life and it will affect your view of Jesus when it comes to His glory and majesty. As we think through the transfiguration, God wants to transform our thinking about Jesus where we are more convinced of who He is and how great He is.
Remember, Mark is teaching us what it means to follow Jesus. He is showing us who Jesus is and who He is not so we can better follow Him. The better your understanding of who Jesus is the better you can follow Him in your daily life.
With that said let’s read Mark 9.
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)
Let’s pick up where we left off, at the end of verse 2.
As the men watched Jesus’ appearance was transformed
Luke tells us “they woke up” (Luke 9:32) and Mark says, “As the men watched Jesus’ appearance was transformed” (NLT). Something woke them up, we are not told if it was a noise regarding what was happening with Jesus or if God simply woke them up. Either way, the three disciples had the great privilege of watching Jesus’ appearance be “transformed.” Some translations use the word “transfigured” while others use “transformed.” What does it mean and why is it important?
The word “transformed” (metamorphoo) refers to a change on the outside that comes from the inside. For this brief moment the disciples got a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. His true nature, His divinity, His deity, His majesty, and His glory were coming through. This transformation and transfiguration didn’t change Jesus or improve Jesus or make Him supernatural; it simply revealed who He already was. Jesus’ glory shone through His humanity and His garments demonstrating to the disciples who Jesus really was on the inside. For a limited time and limited degree the three disciples got to see who Jesus really was. God in the flesh.
As a side note, the word “transformed” (metamorphoo) is used to described what God wants to do with you. Listen carefully to Romans 12:1, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (vs.1-2, NLT). God wants you to change you from the inside out and part of that change requires a new way of thinking that comes from Christ and worshipping Him. As a believer, you already have the Holy Spirit inside of you and God wants to reveal His Spirit through your life.
Listen to 2 Corinthians 3:16, “Whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (NASB). Little by little the Holy Spirit is working on you to bring about the transformation He wants in your life. You are going from “glory to glory.” You are growing spiritually. You are understanding more. You are seeing things from more of an eternal perspective.
Back to Jesus’ transfiguration for a moment. Listen carefully, Jesus transfiguration was a preview as well as a guarantee of His future coming. Remember, one week earlier Jesus referred to His return “in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38) and He said some of them (Peter, James, and John) would “see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!” (Mark 9:1). The disciples were getting a glimpse of that arrival at the transfiguration.
and his clothes became dazzling white
In trying to describe this miraculous event Mark says in verse 3, “… and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them.” Two things I want to mention.
- First, Jesus’ “clothes became dazzling white.” This is not white like skin or white like you would find painted on the side of a house. This is “dazzling white.” When Matthew described the Lord’s clothes he said they were “as white as light” (Matt. 17:2, HCSB). Throughout the Bible this “dazzling white” and “white as light” is used to refer to purity, righteousness, and holiness (Dan. 7:9; Matt. 28:3; John 20:12; Acts 1:10; Rev. 7:13; 19:14). They were getting a small glimpse at the pure holiness of God. He is without sin. Perfectly righteous.
- Second, according to Matthew 17:2, “Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun” (NLT). This is interesting because when you get to Revelation 1:16 John describes Jesus’ face the same way when He says, “And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (NLT).
The transfiguration was not a new miracle, but the temporary pause of an ongoing miracle. The real miracle was that Jesus, most of the time, could keep from displaying His complete glory and majesty. As He walked around on the earth, Jesus was able to conceal His glory in human form.
Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Mark goes on to say, “Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.”
Mark says something incredible. He says, “Then Elijah and Moses appeared.” These are two preeminent characters in the Old Testament. Moses represents the Old Testament law and Elijah represents the prophets. You can summarize the message of the Old Testament through those two. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything they represented and taught. Let me give you an example of this. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose” (NLT). Jesus says in Luke 24, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, ‘yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day’” (Luke 24:44-46, NLT).
Mark goes on to say that Moses and Elijah “began talking with Jesus.” They were having a conversation about something. What were they talking about? When Luke describes this event, he tells us. In Luke 9:31 we are told, “And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem” (NLT). The conversation may have been something like this with Moses saying, “Jesus, everything God did through me pointed to you. The plagues God used me to bring upon Egypt, the Passover where the death angel passed over the homes where the blood of the lamb had been placed on the doors, the Ten Commandments revealing to everyone we are all sinners and need a Savior, and the deliverance through the Red Sea all pointed to you. You fulfilled and completed it all. The exodus of the people pointed to your death and exodus from the world and our exodus from the bondage of sin.”
Elijah might have said, “Jesus, my message to call the people to repent of their sin and turn to the One true God. Your message was repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. I prophesied when rain would stop and when it would start again. You control the storms. I raised a widow’s son from the dead, you have risen the dead. I miraculously was taken up to heaven and you will be too at the ascension. You are the fulfillment of everything I taught and did.”
Their ministry had come to an end and the baton was being passed to Jesus. This conversation with Moses and Elijah must have been encouraging to Jesus. What is the point of the transfiguration? Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God. This is the inauguration of the fulfillment of the law and the prophets – and he has come to completely fulfill all of God’s promises to His people. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures. This means that everything about Jesus is true. All His promises are true. Everything He is and taught is true. God is real. His Word is true. Heaven and hell is a reality. Forgiveness can be had. Hope can be experienced and love can win.
Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus in some way. When you read the Old Testament read it through the filter of looking for Jesus in it. The law and the prophets continue to encourage us, for they point us to God’s faithfulness in Christ Jesus.
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.