This is a series of lessons on the transfiguration of Jesus with a focus on Mark 9:1-13. It also emphasizes personal application for you today.
If you have your Bible turn to Mark 9, if not you will find the scriptures on the sermon guide and screen.
What you believe will determine your behavior. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:16 to “watch your life and doctrine closely” (NIV). “Doctrine” is what you believe about a particular subject. It is what you believe about the teachings of something. In the Bible you have major and minor doctrines. Some of the major doctrines are God, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, end times, spiritual warfare and the like. One major doctrine that concerns us today is the doctrine of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of Jesus Christ is the teachings and truth that the Bible gives us about Him.
Paul tells you to “watch your life and doctrine closely” because your “life” and “doctrine” are connected. What you believe will determine how you live and God is very interested about what you believe and how you live out your life.
As we go through the gospel of Mark we are actually thinking about the doctrine of Christ. We are learning who Jesus is and how who He is impacts who we are. Mark is helping us to take a close look at Jesus so we can better understand Him and follow Him.
With that said, 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.
Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi….”
In verse 5, Mark tells us that Peter responded by calling Jesus “Rabbi.” The word “Rabbi” was a respectful title. It was a title of honor which would be given to someone who is a teacher or expert in the Scriptures. It was used to describe someone who was great in the eyes of the student. To get Jesus’ attention, Peter called out “Rabbi.” However, when Luke describes this event he says Peter cried out “Master” (Luke 9:33) and when Matthew describes it, Peter cries out “Lord” (Matt. 17:4). We are told that Peter called Jesus Rabbi, Master, and Lord.
Keep in mind, Moses and Elijah are wrapping up their conversation with Jesus and they are getting ready to leave. Peter sees and hears what is happening and doesn’t want this incredible moment to end so he cries out something like this, “Rabbi, don’t let them leave. Master, tell them to stay. Lord, this moment is so awesome let us build three tabernacles to each of you.” Even though Peter is not sure what is going on, and even though he is responding out of ignorance with what is happening his titles for Jesus nail the character of Jesus. Peter’s understanding of Jesus is growing and becoming deeper. The title Lord reminds us that Jesus is Lord overall and He is the One who makes a way where there is no way. As our Rabbi, Jesus is the one who brings and teaches truth. If Jesus is our Master then that means we are His servants and the way we live our life is dependent on Him. Without knowing it, Peter just declared Jesus the way, the truth, and the life through these titles (John 14:6).
It’s wonderful for us to be here!
Peter then shouts out, “It’s wonderful for us to be here!” Absolutely! You’ve got Jesus revealing Himself like never before. You are in His presence of pure holiness, righteousness, and perfection. You are overcome with the Lord’s greatness. In addition, you have two heroes of the faith with Moses and Elijah there as well. Talk about a spiritual high. This was an incredible moment for Peter, James, and John.
Have you ever had one of those moments where God’s presence is strong and you don’t want it to end? Maybe you are by yourself in the presence of God or maybe you are with a few other believers at a conference or Christian concert and you since that God’s presence is stronger than normal and you don’t want to leave yet. You don’t want to go back to your home or your job or your life or the real world. You want to capture it, keep it, and stay there. It’s wonderful for you to be there! If you have experienced that, multiply that by 100 and that’s what is happening to Peter, James and John.
We all need these moments with Jesus that are more than normal. We all need those spiritual pep rallies that inspire us, motivate us, and encourage us. We all need those moments to rekindle the flame and get fired up for Jesus. You need those moments with Jesus where your soul declares, “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.
Peter was so excited about what He saw and heard and how he felt that he says, “Let’s make three shelters as memorials – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
- These “shelters” were more like a temporary tabernacle that looked like a straw hut. These temporary tabernacles were used during various religious festivals (Festival of Booths) as an expression of worship and as memorials to what God had done in the past. So, Peter wanted to build one for Jesus, another one for Moses, and another one for Elijah. Why would Peter want to do that? Understand this comes from a heart that loves Jesus and from a heart that has committed to leave his job and follow Jesus. Peter wanted to build these tabernacles to honor these individuals and this moment. Even though Peter was trying to honor them in some way and memorialize this moment it was not the right thing to do. As we will see, Jesus was fulfilling everything in the Old Testament represented by Moses and Elijah (the law and the prophets) and Jesus would need to do that through the suffering of the cross. By building these tabernacles, these memorials, it would have slowed down the mission of Jesus.
- Can I say that as Christians we have a tendency to do this? We want to hang to what God did in the past (Moses and Elijah days) and we want to hang on to what Jesus is doing right now, not what He is planning on in the future. We want to build tabernacles, shelters, memorials and either stay still with Jesus or live in the past with Moses and Elijah all the while Jesus is wanting to move forward regarding the mission of saving the world. Let’s be careful that we don’t build our own tabernacles to what God has done in the past that keep us from moving forward with Jesus in our spiritual growth and kingdom mission.
He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.
Mark goes on to give us some insight to why Peter said what he said. According to verse 6, “He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.” I think many of us are like Peter, when we don’t know what to do, we just talk. Peter was not speaking out of faith, but out of fear. Mark says, “they were all terrified.” Let’s make sure we understand the intensity of this fear and why it’s important.
The word “terrified” (ekphobos) means to be overcome with fear and intensely afraid. It literally means to be “frightened out of one’s mind.” Peter’s fear made him say something and want to do something that was not a part of God’s agenda. Peter wanted to stay and build tabernacles to remember this moment, while Jesus was revealing who He was and what His mission was all about. Peter’s fear would have kept him on the mountain if Jesus hadn’t ignored it.
Listen carefully, when God shows up in your life and you sense that a change is about to happen one of the emotions you are going to experience is fear. You are not going to know what to say, what to do, or how to react to what God is doing. When God is doing something significant in your life and you sense this fear coming over you the best thing to do is nothing at all… until God gives you clear direction on what to do next. Sometimes you need to simply soak in what God is doing before you take the next step or before you declare something.
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
What caused Peter to stop talking and start listening again? Mark says in verse 7, “Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.’” Peter’s suggestion about building three tabernacles to memorialize this moment was completely ignored by Jesus. There is no response by Jesus to that offer. Jesus loves you very much and sometimes the most loving thing He does for us is to ignore some of our request and suggestions because He knows we don’t get the big picture nor understand what is truly happening in the situation. I am thankful that Jesus does not feel the need to correct me every time I pray something that is wrong or ask for something that is not needed. He just moves on and takes me with Him and allows me to figure it out as we journey through life.
So, what caused Peter to stop talking and start listening again? Two things and they are both connected.
- Mark tells us that a cloud “overshadowed” Luke tells us the cloud “covered” them (Luke 9:34, NLT) and Matthew says “a bright cloud overshadowed them” (Matt. 17:5, NLT). This was a sudden event, it happened quickly. This was a divine and supernatural moment. Usually, when God shows up in a cloud it is to provide protection and guidance. It is what is known as God’s Shekinah glory.
- Mark then tells us, “A voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.’” There are two times when God the Father spoke in the gospel of Mark. The first time was back at the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1 where He said, “You are my dearly love Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mark 1:11, NLT). The first time God the Father spoke it was to Jesus, but the second time God the Father spoke it was to the disciples.
The Heavenly Father declared two things about Jesus.
- Jesus is God’s dearly loved “Son.”[i] One of the ways the word “son” is used in the Bible is to connect certain qualities or characteristics, good or bad, to a certain person. So, like when the Bible refers to someone as the son of wickedness or the children of darkness it is referring to their character, nature, and essence. When Jesus is called the “son of God” it is referring to His character, nature, and essence. He is the Son of God, He is God in the flesh.
- God the Father described Jesus as His “dearly loved” We often talk about God’s love for us. We do not talk enough about the Heavenly Father’s love for Jesus. But it is the Heavenly Father’s love for Jesus that makes His love for us possible. Listen carefully to Ephesians 1:6, “Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and his favor that he has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son” (TLB). If you have a son or daughter and you really love them. You like them. You enjoy them. You love them. You completely trust them. They are a blessing to you and they bring home some friends. Those friends get to eat from your table. Those friends get to ride in your car. Those friends get to watch your TV. Your child’s friends become your friends and they end up being part of the family. All the blessings your child receives begins to overflow in his or her friends. This is what Paul is saying, “Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and his favor that he has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son.” Because you belong to Jesus you are going to get some blessing and experiences that you cannot get anywhere else because you are hanging out with God’s “dearly loved Son.”
- Instead of listening to Moses and Elijah and instead of listening to Peter, we should “listen to him.” This phrase “listen to him” does not simply mean hear what Jesus has to say, but hear what Jesus has to say and obey it. Are you listening to Jesus?[ii] If we are going to follow Jesus then we have to listen to Jesus.
At the beginning of this lesson, I referred to 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” Your life and doctrine are closely related. What you believe impacts how you live. What you believe impacts how you follow Jesus. What you believe drives the decisions you make about money, career, dating, marriage, and how you treat the people in your life.
Ultimately, what you believe about Jesus will determine how you follow Jesus or if you follow Jesus. It is important that we listen to what He says and believe what He tells us.
[i] (1) In Biblical language the word “son” is used first of all in its strictly literal sense of male issue or offspring of a man or woman. In a few cases in the Old Testament, as in Genesis 3:16; Joshua 17:2; Jeremiah 20:15, the Hebrew word ben, is translated correctly in the English by the word “child” or “children” as it includes both sexes, as in Genesis 3:16, or is limited to males by the use of the modifying term “male.” Closely connected with this meaning of direct male issue or of children is its use to denote descendants, posterity in the more general sense. This usage which, as in the case of the sons (children) of Israel, may be regarded perhaps as originating in the conception of direct descent from the common ancestor Israel, came in the course of time to be a mere ethnographic designation, so that the term “the children of Israel” and “the children of Ammon” meant no more than Israelites or Ammonites, that is, inhabitants of the lands of Israel or Ammon respectively. An extension of this usage is to be found in the designation of a people as the sons or children of a land or city; so in Amos 9:7 “children of the Ethiopians,” or Ezekiel 16:28, where the literal rendering would be “sons of Asshur,” instead of the Assyrians, and “the children of Jerus” in Joel 3:6.
See BAR (prefix); BEN-.
(2) More characteristic of Biblical usage is the employment of the word “son” to indicate membership in a class or guild, as in the common phrase “sons of the prophets,” which implies nothing whatever as to the ancestry, but states that the individuals concerned are members of the prophetic guilds or schools. In the New Testament the word “sons” (huioi) in Luke 11:19, rendered “children” in Matthew 12:27 the King James Version, means, not physical descendants, but members of the class or sect; according to Mt the Pharisees, who were attacking Christ.
(3) The word “son” is used with a following genitive of quality to indicate some characteristic of the person or persons described. In the English the word “son” is usually omitted and the phrase is paraphrased as in 2 Samuel 3:34, where the words translated “wicked men” in the King James Version mean literally, sons or children of wickedness. Two examples of this usage may be cited:
the familiar phrase “sons of Belial” in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 15:13 the King James Version, and often), where the meaning is simply base or worthless fellows (compare Numbers 24:17, margin “children of Sheth” (Expository Times, XIII, 64b)); and in the New Testament the phrase “sons of thunder,” which is given in Mark 3:17 as the explanation of the epithet “Boanerges.” This use is common in the New Testament, as the phrases “children of the kingdom,” “children of light,” etc., indicate, the general meaning being that the noun in the genitive following the word children indicates some quality of the persons under consideration. The special phrases “Son of man” and “Son of God” are considered in separate articles.
See also RELATIONSHIPS, FAMILY.
Walter R. Betteridge
[ii] In a sense the Father’s command to “listen to Him” was a rebuke to Peter who spoke before listening.