Transfiguration Sunday: Transfiguration and Glory (Mark 9:1-8)

People of God, this morning we come to the Mount of Transfiguration. As we ascend this mountain we are bound to be somewhat confused by what we see. It is a striking story on a mountain with clouds and glittering garments. It is a narrative found in the three synoptic[1] gospels, and in Mark we get a glimpse of this crucial turning point in the life of our Lord and in the life of the Church calendar.[2] Next Sunday begins the Lenten Season; a penitential season; a season of special reflection for God’s people regarding our sins, and the terrible cross bore by our Lord. But we are not there yet. Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord. In summary, the Transfiguration is a glorious preview of what is to come for Jesus first, and then for us. The word Transfiguration means to be transformed or changed. What is remarkable for us as we listen to this passage is that we know the whole picture; the whole story, while Peter and the others only saw in part. As things were happening they were filled with perplexing questions, and at times they failed, particularly Peter, to see the purpose of what is happening.

What is the context of our narrative? At this point, Jesus is increasing in popularity; there is an expansion of notoriety.

Let me begin by pointing out that in verse one Jesus says:  “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” Liberals love verses like this one. Many liberal scholars have said that the gospels are a fraud because this verse was never fulfilled. They say: “Those whom Jesus addressed have died and they never saw the power of the kingdom of God.” But liberal theologians are blind to the power of the Transfiguration. What is the Transfiguration but the very power and manifestation of the kingdom of God? Unbelieving thought denies God’s existence, because they are blind to the manifestation of his power. Verse two actually begins to solve that problem for us: “And after six days…” The coming of the kingdom in power occurs six days later.[3] This is not to say that the Transfiguration is the ultimate fulfillment of the coming of the kingdom in power, but it is to say that this is a first manifestation of this kingdom in power. And do not overlook the use of this phrase six days. In Exodus 24, Yahweh rested on the mountain for six days and then he called Moses to come up to the mountain, so He could give Moses His word; the tablets of stone (24:12ff).[4] What the text is saying is that Jesus is the new and greater Moses; He is the one called into the cloud not to receive the word of Yahweh, but to be the Word of Yahweh in the flesh. This phrase “after six days” is actually a key to unlocking this scene. It is connecting to the past, while pointing to a future reality. There is a lot more, but I draw your attention to the creation narrative. It was on the sixth day when Adam was created. So, six days has to do/is associated with man. This takes us back to the state of Adam before the fall. Have you ever considered why Adam and Even were not ashamed of their nakedness before the fall?[5] It is because they were covered with glory. They were radiant. When they violated God’s word, their glory was extinguished, and they suffered a type of death.[6] What happened to Moses when he approached the presence of God? His skin became radiant.[7] What can we conclude about this Transfiguration as it relates to the sixth day? We can say that Mark’s gospel is directing our attention to the fact that Jesus is the New Adam. The Old Adam lost his glory when he fell. The New Adam, Jesus Christ, is the true glory and brightness of the Father. Is this proof that Jesus is divine? Of course. But it is also proof that Jesus is giving his glory to his followers. Why do the gospels assume we are light to men? Because we shine with the glory and brightness of our Lord and Master.

And what happens in this powerful event? In verse two: “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” God gave these three a glimpse into this kingdom. This happens in the mountains. Mountains in the Bible are filled with significance. Mountains are where you meet God. They are the place where heaven and earth meet. Mountains are places of worship, and it is from that worship that kingdoms are developed. In the Bible, when you see God and man coming together know that worship and kingdom are coming together. Jesus is saying that first you must come and worship with me and then you can be proper foundation stones for this new kingdom.[8]  “And in this mountain our Lord was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” When you read this section, the first word that ought to come out of your mouth is Resurrection. This is resurrection imagery. Jesus’ clothing begins to grow whiter than any launderer can make. In the Bible, clothing is a means of glory. It is a very important image in the Bible. This explains why the saints in glory do not return to the nakedness of Adam, but rather are covered by Christ’s glory. As Revelation says, “the saints are clothed in white garments.”[9] And at the heart of the Transfiguration is a promise of a future glory. The Transfiguration of Jesus is a two-fold promise. First, it is a promise for us. It is a promise of a future resurrection. It is a promise that our bodies will be forever clothed with the glory of Christ; that our bodies will be made new like the resurrected body of our Lord Jesus;[10] that we were made for glory and to be glorified. But there is also another promise in the Transfiguration. It is a promise to Jesus. Jesus will endure the cross. He will endure death. This event is the Father’s promise to our Lord that he will taste glory after death; that his body will be raised; that his body will become the first to be raised incorruptible. Jesus is being glorified by the Father, and affirmed, approved by his Father as he continues in his Lenten journey to his death.[11]

In the middle of this marvelously brilliant and dazzling image, “4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.”

Elijah is associated with the prophetic word, and Moses is associated with the law. Elijah was caught up into glory in a chariot of fire. Elijah experienced the glory of God, as Moses did at Sinai’s mountain. This is one reason why these two are chosen. And here they stand as representatives of the entire Old Covenant era signaling a transition. But there is more: “Moses in receiving the law was exodused from Egypt and Elijah was driven out by Jezebel after defeating her gods.[12]

“Both of these men were used by God to defeat false gods, deliver God’s people, and bring in new worlds. In fact, the situation of the entire world order hinged upon these men. So it would be with Jesus. He would defeat the false gods, deliver God’s people, and bring them to God’s holy mountain to be true worshipers of him.”[13]

 

Both of their ministries focused on the defeat of false gods and the exodus of God’s people. They were anticipating the great deliverance that was to come. The presence of Moses and Elijah was a testimony to Peter, James, and John that the end of the age of darkness was coming and the beginning of a new world; a world of light and glory was about to emerge.

We can only imagine what kind of conversation they were having with Jesus; a conversation which if we knew would solve every theological question about how the Old and New Covenants come together. Interrupting this divine conversation pops up Peter. Let me point something out that might help us understand Peter’s reaction in his context. It is not uncommon to hear some say that Peter is simply acting foolishly here,[14] and Mark says that Peter did not know what he was saying. He is so overwhelmed by the situation that he wants to keep Jesus, Moses, and Elijah for a few more days. There is a fundamental problem with Peter’s response, but there is also an important theology to Peter’s response. In the Scriptures, when glory is revealed, you build a house. As Peter Leithart’s book A House for My Name implies, God is pleased when we build homes where His presence dwells. Peter is trying to assimilate what is going on. He does not have the big picture as we do, so he is acting as someone would act in light of the splendorous scene before him. He wants to build three tents; three miniature tabernacles to house the three men. Peter knows that glory and light need to be together; but what was mistaken about Peter’s assessment? Peter does not yet understand that this is a foretaste of the end, not the end itself.[15] To put it simply: “This is the preview to the great event, not the great event itself.” If the Transfiguration was such a powerful and magnificent preview, imagine what the great event will be like?

But Peter’s other mistake was that he did not realize the significance of Jesus. Jesus’s significance in this new age is found in the last verses:

7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Peter’s tabernacles are only temporal. Jesus is the eternal tabernacle who tabernacles upon his people. Jesus is the true house; the true glory; the true prophet. The cloud of glory comes and settles on the holy mountain, and a voice declares that Jesus is the final word of the Father. “Listen to him!” He is distinct from Moses and Elijah, because he is superior to them. His voice receives full approval from the Father. But what is also happening is that Jesus is receiving support for his task of suffering. Jesus will not be alone in his suffering.

The Transfiguration is all this. It is light, glory, theological perspective, fatherly affirmation, clothing, mountain, and tabernacle.

How Now Shall We Live?

As people who read the Bible, this is an important principle for us to keep in mind. You cannot understand Moses and Elijah in isolation. Jesus must be your interpretive grid. And this is why the Bible is so delicious to examine and taste. The Old Covenant stories are not in isolation. There is an inter-connectedness to the gospel narrative. Remember to read Samson and David, Moses and Elijah in connection, not in isolation from Jesus.

We could develop this theme quite extensively of the Father’s affirmation of the Son. There is at a local level a parental application. We can be quick to rebuke and discipline, but we also need to be quick to praise and affirm. How much do you affirm your children when they obey? Or do you not affirm them? If you do not, you are missing an opportunity to be God-like in your parenting. Or how often do you encourage them after a mistake, a bad grade, or something like it? We are encouragers to all people, and this includes our children.

What about Peter’s response to the unfolding brightness before him? Can we learn something from that? We can learn that our intentions can appear pure, but they can also be selfish and theologically lacking. You may get something about an intention right, while missing the big picture. This is why the community is so crucial. This is why communal wisdom is so significant in the decision-making process.

Do you want glory? Seek Jesus. Do you want wisdom? Seek Jesus. Do you want your baptismal life to be filled with transfiguration images; filled with pictures of the resurrection; filled with beatific visions; filled with the presence of God as we see in this account? Seek the One who Tabernacled among men; Jesus Christ our glory and our covering.

In The Name of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1] Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They are synoptic because they include many of the same stories.

[2] Several insights and typological observations from Rev. Jeff Harlow (fellow CREC minister). See also, James Jordan, Bill Smith, and notes from my previous sermons on parallel gospel, Matthew 17. I will add a few new insights not found in previous Transfiguration sermons. See also Pastor Stout’s sermon on wordmp3.com entitled Yahweh and the Transfiguration.

[3] I have modified my position on this issue from my old preterist interpretation. The symbolism of the six days has left me to change.

[4] Great insights from my good friend, Pastor Bill Smith.

[5] Genesis 2:25

[6] See Harlow. Helpful observation; fitting carefully with the creation motif of Mark 9. Drawn from Henry Morris.

[7] See Exodus 34.

[8] See my sermon notes from Matthew 17.

[9] Revelation 4:4.

[10] I Corinthians 15.

[11] See Phil. 2:5

[12] I Kings 19:8ff

[13] Smith.

[14] Of course, this needs to be paralleled with Luke’s account that says Peter did not know what he was speaking.

[15] Smith.

About these ads

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Mark, The Transfiguration of our Lord. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Transfiguration Sunday: Transfiguration and Glory (Mark 9:1-8)

  1. Pingback: The Transfiguration « Inspirations

  2. Pingback: TRANSFIGURATION: HOW JESUS CHRIST’S GLORY WAS REVEALED | KEVIN NUNEZ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s