Mark 9:1-13 (Contemporary English Version)
I can assure you that some of the people standing here will not die before they see God’s kingdom come with power. Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him. They went up on a high mountain, where they could be alone. There in front of the disciples, Jesus was completely changed. And his clothes became much whiter than any bleach on earth could make them. Then Moses and Elijah were there talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Teacher, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But Peter and the others were terribly frightened, and he did not know what he was talking about. The shadow of a cloud passed over and covered them. From the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, and I love him. Listen to what he says!” At once the disciples looked around, but they saw only Jesus. As Jesus and his disciples were coming down the mountain, he told them not to say a word about what they had seen, until the Son of Man had been raised from death. So, they kept it to themselves. But they wondered what he meant by the words “raised from death.” The disciples asked Jesus, “Don’t the teachers of the Law of Moses say that Elijah must come before the Messiah does?” Jesus answered: Elijah certainly will come to get everything ready. But don’t the Scriptures also say that the Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected? I can assure you that Elijah has already come. And people treated him just as they wanted to, as the Scriptures say they would.
The Transfiguration of Christ
The Lord’s disciples were already reeling from His revelation that He would be put to death and rise again. On the heels of that stunning statement, Jesus called His followers to a life of total commitment and absolute separation. His words must have come as a shock to their system. They had left every aspect of life as they knew it to go with Jesus. They did so expecting Jesus to destroy Rome, deliver Israel and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Now, Jesus tells them that following Him is a costly business. He has given them the negative side of being His follower.
The passage we have read today was spoken at the same time. As soon as Jesus tells His men that He is going to die, and as soon as He calls them to a life of total surrender; Jesus makes a very strange statement. He tells the assembled multitude that some of their number will see the kingdom of God coming in power before they die. He softens the blow of His earlier words with the promise that His followers will enjoy His glory in the future.
I praise the Lord that there is a better world waiting for the people of God! A world where there is no sin, sickness, or separation. A world where Jesus is glorified, and the saints of God will see the Redeemer in all His glory. This precious passage gives us a little glimpse of the glory we will see one day in the future. Besides that, truth, there are more very special blessings contained in these words.
Some people have a problem with verse 1. Liberals try to tell us that Jesus is talking about His second coming in this verse. They say that Jesus made a mistake and was wrong when He said what He did here. Jesus was not talking about His second coming; he was talking about the transfiguration. The Lord did not make a mistake; He merely took the opportunity to encourage His discouraged and confused disciples.
I want to try and show you the blessings that can be found in the account of our Lord’s transfiguration. I want to share about A Place; A People; A Presentation; and A Purpose. Please allow the Lord to speak to your heart as we seek to catch A Glimpse of His Glory in these verses today.
!. v. 2b A PLACE
This passage opens with the mention of a mountain. We are not told what mountain it is, but most scholars believe that it is Mount Hermon.
This mountain rises some 9,200 feet above sea level. It is some twelve miles north of Caesarea-Philippi and is near the place Jesus has been ministering. Those who have seen this mountain tell us that, even in the hottest of months, the top of this high mountain is wrapped in bands of snow.
- Mountains occupy a special place in the Word of God.
- It was on a mountain called Moriah that God manifested His grace to Abraham when he was willing to offer up his son Isaac, Gen. 22.
- It was on Mount Sinai that God handed down His Law to Moses, Ex. 19.
- It was on Mount Carmel that God demonstrated His power to Israel through Elijah, 1 Kings 18.
- It was on Mount Horeb that God ministered peace to the troubled heart of Elijah, 1 Kings 19.
- It was on Mount Calvary that Jesus died for our sins on the cross, John 19.
- It was from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended back into His heavenly glory, Acts 1:9-11.The Mount of Olives
- It will be that same mountain that will greet His feet when He returns in glory, Zech. 14:4.
- Mountains occupy a special place in our own lives as well. I praise the Lord that He sets aside a few mountain top experiences along the way for you and me. We have our valley, our hardships, our sufferings, our sicknesses, and our problems; but I praise God for the mountain tops of life. I am glad there are a few places along the way where we are allowed to see His glory and His power! I praise the Lord for those times when He has led me into a “high mountain”.
- Every now and then we are blessed with a mountain top experience. We ought to enjoy them for all they are worth! When Jesus and His men came down from the mountain, they ran directly into the devil and his work, 9:14-29. But these men who were with Jesus on the mountain never got over what they experienced there, John – John 1:14; Peter – 2 Pet. 1:16-18. The mountains of life will help us make it through this life as well.
The answer to that question isn’t an easy one to answer, but these three men became the preeminent in the early church. Perhaps they were allowed to witness the events of this day in preparation for the places of leadership they would later occupy.
II v. 2a A PEOPLE
Of course, this isn’t the first time Jesus singled these men out for a special time of ministry, nor would it be the last time He would do so. The first time Jesus singled these three men out was when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Mark 5:37.
He singled them out here. Jesus would also take these men “a little deeper” with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He went to the cross, Mark 14:33. These men were privileged to see things the other disciples never got to witness.
Now, we all know that God “is no respecter of persons”, Rom. 2:11. This simply means that He does not prefer one person above another because of any special merits that person may have. In other words, God does not play favourites among His people. He does not love you more than He loves me, and He does not love me more than He loves you. But, as Vance Havner so wisely said, “God does not have favourites, but He does have intimates.”
He may not love one of His children any more than any other of His children, but some are simply closer to Him than others are. And those who are closer to Him will see more of His glory and more of His power than those who stay farther away.
We are as close to God as we desire to be, James 4:8. We can experience as much of His glory and His power as we desire to experience.
Do you ever wonder why some people seem so full of love for the Lord? Do you ever wonder why some people seem always ready to worship and praise Him? Do you ever wonder what their secret is?
Their secret is no secret at all! Those people have made up their minds to live close to Him. As a result, He has promised to live close to them. The outcome of that is the sweet presence of Jesus in their lives.
Let me encourage you to get as close to Him as John was at the last supper, John 13:23-26. John laid his head on the breast of the Lord Jesus. From that position, John could hear the Lord’s heartbeat. He could feel His breathe on his head. He could hear the Lord speak in a “still, small voice”. That is where I want to be! How about you?
So, why did Jesus choose these three men? I’ll tell you why Jesus chose them when you can tell me why Jesus chose you and me! To think that He would take a sinner like me, save me by His grace and then allow me to experience His glory is more than I can understand! But the simple fact that I can’t understand it will not stop me from enjoying it! I want to get as close as I can!
III. v. 2c-8 A PRESENTATION
The climb to the top of Mount Hermon would have taken the better part of the day. Luke, in his account of this event, tells us that Jesus began to pray when they arrived at the top of the mountain, Luke 9:28-29. Apparently, this prayer meeting lasted for a while because the disciples fell asleep, Luke 9:32. So, the day has probably vanished, and night has fallen. The peaceful mountain is covered with a sky filled with a canopy of stars.
Suddenly, Jesus changes! His face changes, Luke 9:29. His garments change, v. 3. His is “transfigured”. This word comes from the word “metamorphosis”. It is the same word that is used to describe the changes a caterpillar goes through when it is “transfigured” into a butterfly.
In other words, the Jesus changed forms on the mountain. The glory that was concealed within Him was revealed on that mountain. You see, this was not the first time Jesus had experienced a transfiguration. When He was born in Bethlehem, Jesus concealed the glory of His deity behind the veil of His human body. On this occasion, the glory on the inside burst forth to the outside.
The dark mountain was instantly bathed a light brighter than the sun. Anyone looking up at Mount Hermon that night would have seen the mountain lit with the glory of God. It was a special presentation!
Of course, these men were given a glimpse of the glory all of God’s children will see when they get to Heaven. One day, we will see Jesus in all His glory.
Then, Moses and Elijah appeared there on that mountain with Jesus. Mark says they were “talking with Him”, v. 4. Luke tells us that they were discussing His “decease”, Luke 9:31. They came to talk with Him about His impending death upon the cross.
Why Moses and Elijah and not some of the other great luminaries from the Old Testament? Moses and Elijah are the preeminent representatives of the Law and the Prophets. These men have come to represent the Word of God that spoke of the coming of the Word of God. Moses was the great lawgiver and Elijah was the first and the greatest of the prophets. These men have come to encourage the Lamb of God as He draws closer to Calvary.
These two men also represent the two ways the people of God meet death. Moses died and was buried, Deut. 34:5-6. Elijah was taken up alive into Heaven, 2 Kings 2:11.
Like Moses, many have, and many will die. Like Elijah, some will be taken up alive into Heaven to meet God, 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:16-18. Like Moses and Elijah, regardless of how you leave this world, if you know the Lord, you will be with Him in glory someday! What a truth and what a blessing!
By the way, I am blessed by the fact that Moses is standing with Jesus on that mountain. You may remember that Moses was forbidden from entering Canaan because of his rebellion to a specific command of God, Deut. 32:49-52. Now, here he is, standing on the top of a high mountain, looking all over Canaan. Can you imagine his excitement? Moses had been punished in time, but he was free in eternity!
Peter, James, and John have been asleep. They awake to find the mountain bathed in supernatural light. Jesus, their leader, and friend was no longer the same man He had been. When they walked up the mountain Jesus had appeared to be an ordinary Jew; when they awoke, Jesus was shining brighter than the sun. When they see this, they are terrified, v. 6.
Peter didn’t know what to say, v. 6, so he just blurted out something. He recommends that they enter a building program, v. 5. He suggests that they build three lean-tos, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus.
Peter may have been suggesting that they just stay on the mountain, enjoying this amazing moment. Maybe Peter was suggesting that they use Mount Hermon as the world headquarters for the “Kingdom of God Movement” that he felt like was about to take place.
Whatever Peter’s motives may have been, one thing is sure, God did not like what Peter had to say. Suddenly Jesus and the other five men on that mountain are overshadowed by a cloud. Out of that cloud booms the very voice of God Almighty. God declares the supremacy of Jesus over the Law and over the prophets. God does not tolerate Peter placing Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. God is saying that Jesus is superior to both men and their message. After all, it was Jesus Who gave them the very words they wrote. It was Jesus that they were writing about when they wrote. God wanted Peter, and the rest of us, to know that Jesus is His final work to humanity!
People can try to get right with God by keeping the Law or by doing religious things, but those things will not suffice. Salvation, forgiveness, and Heaven will only come when a person believes on Jesus for their soul’s salvation, Acts 16:31; John 3:16.
God speaks and immediately the cloud is gone, Moses and Elijah are gone, and the disciples are alone with Jesus once again. Peter and the others had allowed their focus to rest on other things and other people, instead of on Jesus alone. God takes care of that by removing all the things they were looking to.
So, it is today, we need to beware that we do not allow anything to take our attention off Jesus. Anything that does is dangerous. Anything that does may be taken away by the Lord.
IV. v. 2c-13 A PURPOSE
As Jesus and His men leave that mountain, Jesus tells them not to tell what they have seen until He rises again from the dead, v. 9. They do not understand what He means by this, v. 10, because they would not grasp the truth of the resurrection until Jesus had died and was risen again.
Jesus told them to keep this information to themselves for two reasons.
(1.) They didn’t understand all the information they needed.
(2.) They didn’t understand the information they did have. If they had gone around telling everyone what they had seen, they would have confused many and hindered the rest of Christ’s earthly ministry.
As they come off the mountain, the three men are confused. They want to know why the scribes say that Elijah must come before the Messiah, v. 11, when they had already seen the Messiah, and then they saw Elijah appear on the mountain. Jesus tells them that Elijah will come, v. 12, and then He turns the tables on them.
Jesus turns the focus from Elijah to Himself. He tells the disciples that while Elijah will come, the Son of Man will suffer and be treated as nothing. Then in verse 13, Jesus lets them know that Elijah has already come, not literally, but in the person of John the Baptist, who came in the “spirit and power” of Elijah, Luke 1:17. When this great man of God came, he was put to death. The implication here is that the Son of God came to this earth, and He too would be treated shamefully.
The real message of verses 9-13 is that the disciples still didn’t get it. They saw Jesus in His glory and they failed to comprehend the message behind the miracle.
With that in mind, allow me to give you a few insights that seem to me to stand out as the reasons behind the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- To encourage the Son of God – Just as God had at the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, Mark 1:11, He proclaims His relationship to Jesus and His approval of the Lord’s ministry. Jesus would hear that voice again as He got nearer to the cross, John 12:28.
- To prove once and for all that Jesus is the Son of God – Jesus had performed many powerful miracles in His life and ministry. Yet, His followers still doubted His deity. This miracle proves that He is God in the flesh, John 1:1; 14!
- To challenge the disciples – The disciples had been raised to believe that obedience to the Law and the keeping of religious rituals was the means of salvation. Here they are taught to trust Jesus and Jesus alone. That is a lesson we would all do well to take to heart! Works, religion, and good deeds will never save. Faith in Jesus alone is the means and method of salvation, Eph. 2:8-9.
- To remind us that the cross was a choice Jesus willingly made and not something He was forced to do – When Jesus appeared in glory on that mountain, He was simply showing us that He could have stepped out of this life at anytime. At His will He could have left time and moved back into eternity. He did not have to go to the cross! No one killed the Lamb of God; He willingly laid down His life on the cross because He chose to, John 10:17-18. He came to this world to die, Phil. 2:5-8, Mark 10:45. He came to die and that is what He did when He went to the cross.
- To show us that grace and take us where the Law never can – While Jesus was transfigured on that mountain, God came down, v. 7. When He did, a cloud overshadowed the top of that mountain. Personally, I believe that was the Shekinah glory of God. I believe that this is the same cloud that led Israel by day, Ex. 13:21. I believe this was the same cloud that rested on the Tabernacle, Ex. 40:35. I believe this is the same cloud that filled the temple in Solomon’s day, 1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chron. 7:1. I believe that this is the same cloud that Moses had only been allowed to catch a glimpse of as the Lord passed by, Ex. 33:18-23. This is the same cloud that Ezekiel saw arise from between the cherubim and move to the threshold of the temple because of the apostasy of Israel, Eze. 8:4; 9:3. This same cloud moved to the east gate of the temple where it hovered for a time, Eze. 10:4, 18, 19. This is the same cloud rose from the Mount of Olives to be seen in Israel no more, Eze. 11:22-25. The glory cloud had not been seen in Israel for over 600 years. Now, it has come back, and it has encompassed Jesus and all who are with Him! You see, the Law would never allow Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, or John to enter God’s glory. But, when they found themselves in the presence of Jesus, they experienced His power and His glory.
Conclusion: I praise God for the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nowhere in the Gospel record can His glory and identity be seen any clearer. Jesus was completely man, yet He was so divine that He could let His real glory shine like the sun. He is the fulfillment of everything Moses and Elijah, and all the Law and prophets, said or wrote. He brings that fulfillment to us! He brings the presence of God to our lives; He illuminates our lives; and one day, through our relationship with, we will rest for all eternity in the Shekinah glory of our risen, sovereign Lord.
Now, I know have covered a lot of ground in this message. It may be that God has spoken to your heart in some area today. If He has, let me invite you to come before Him and take care of business
- If you are lost come to Jesus and be saved.
- If you need to thank God the mountain top experiences in your life, now would be a good time.
- If you want to seek His face and become a person after God’s own heart, this altar is open.
If God has encouraged your heart and you want to thank Him, now is the time.