The Transfiguration

My husband, Dave, and I took our children, Paul, Laura, and Mary on a hike when they were young. Paul was eight at the time. Laura was four and Mary was two. We backpacked 154 miles along Appalachian Mountains from Springer Mountain in the northern part of Georgia through North Carolina to the base of the Smoky Mountains. It took us three weeks. We had a lot of experiences on that trek. One of the most memorable for me happened on a mountaintop.
We had camped on a rock outcrop at one of the highest elevations of the hike. We built a campfire and enjoyed a hot meal as the sun set. For once, it wasn’t raining so we could see down the mountain range that we had spent a couple of weeks hiking. We could see forever. It was beautiful and peaceful. I will always remember it.
There was another mountaintop experience. The mountaintop experience of all time. The transfiguration.
Mark 9:1-13. And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” There are a number of views as to what this verse is referring to. The most common view of Bible scholars is that Jesus was referring to the transfiguration which was going to occur in just six days. Jesus said only some of the disciples would witness the kingdom in power which is what happened. Jesus took only Peter, James, and John to witness the Transfiguration. Transfiguration is defined as “a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.”
He took three disciples as witnesses because that was the number that could legally, according to scripture, testify to what they saw. Scriptures state, “For out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Jesus took them to a “high mountain,” which could have been Mt. Hermon, which is around 9,200 feet high and is covered in snow all year long. God and humans often encountered one another on mountains in the Bible. Why Elijah and Moses? These two are mentioned together in the Old Testament, and this explains why they were with Jesus. In Malachi 4:4-6, there is this prophecy about the Messiah: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, or else I will come and smite the earth with a curse.” Moses was Israel’s lawgiver and Elijah was the greatest of the prophets and both wrote prophecies about the Messiah.
Mark doesn’t tell us what they were talking about but Luke does. In Luke 9:31 he says, “they spoke of his decease (that is, His death) which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) I can only imagine what the scene must have been like. The three disciples must have been awestruck. and maybe Peter just says what comes to his mind in the moment. I’m not sure why Jesus, Moses and Elijah in the spirit would need shelters unless Peter was thinking a shelter like a tabernacle or holy place.
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Jesus doesn’t answer Peter’s rambling about shelters. Other times in the Old Testament when God met with people, He did so in a cloud. As in this time, God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son. Hear him” or “Listen to Him.” He identifies Jesus as His beloved Son, establishing the divinity of Jesus Christ. He said this about Jesus at His baptism as well.
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Jesus had just told the three disciples not to tell anyone about what they had seen until after the resurrection, which totally confused them. What was the resurrection of the Son of Man? It didn’t fit into anything they had been taught or understood from the scriptures.
11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
They understood from Malachi 4:4-6 that Elijah would precede the Messiah. So, if Jesus was the Messiah, where was Elijah who was supposed to restore all things and prepare the way for Messiah? They had just seen Elijah in the Transfiguration, but he had just disappeared!
Jesus was going to answer that question, but first He talks again about His suffering and rejection and death. Then He answers their question about Elijah. He says, Guess what. Elijah has come, and they did with him whatever they pleased. His name was John, and Jesus said that they did what they wanted to him. They chopped off his head. How do we know that Jesus is referring to John the Baptist here? In Luke 1 an angel appeared to John’s father Zachariah and said in verse 17 that John would, “go before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah.”
They forgot about what Jesus told them until after the resurrection. When the women came to the tomb of Jesus to prepare His body for burial on the third day after His death, Luke tells us that they saw the stone rolled away and two angels in shining garments. In Luke 24:5 they said to the women, Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ Luke 24: 8, “and they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.”
In his book, Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado talks of the time the bank sent him an overdraft notice on of his daughter’s checking account. He didn’t know whether he should send her an angry letter or just transfer the money from his account because he knew she was broke.
He finally decided to go ahead and deposit enough to cover the overdraft, plus the bounced check fee, plus a little more, all without her knowledge. When he told her of the overdraft, she apologized profusely, yet she still didn’t have the money to make a deposit to cover the overdraft.
She said, “Daddy, could you…” and he interrupted, “Honey, I already deposited the money for the overdraft and some more money besides.” He met her need before she even knew she had one.
And so, it is with our heavenly Father. Long before we knew we needed grace, He made an ample deposit. Before we knew we needed a Savior, we had one. And when we ask Him for mercy, He says, “My child, I’ve already given it.” That’s what the cross was all about: God paying our sin-debt before we even know we were in trouble.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus is not easy, but it is well worth it. When we’re resurrected at the Last Day, we’ll trade these old bodies in for a new model and it will be a glorified one much like the one Jesus has in glory.
1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and what we shall be has not yet been revealed: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, “Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
We will have a glorified body that will never sin, never get sick, never get old and frail, or experience grief, and never die. Amen.


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