Yesterday, I preached from Mark 9:1-13. At the end of the eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus had made a revelation to His disciples that rocked their world. He told them that He would suffer and die. The Messiah had come, they had come to some basic understanding that He was the Christ – the Son of the living God (Mark 8:29). Then, the intensity grew as they were likewise told that they must suffer for the sake of Christ. In other words, they must walk the Calvary road in His steps. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
Jesus knew that they were troubled, so in order to encourage them, He did something amazing. He took Peter, James, and John up onto a high mountain and while praying together, He was transfigured before their eyes. Transfigured comes from a Greek word = “μεταμορφόω” – to be changed or transformed. This is where we derive our English word – metamorphosis. The transfiguration of Christ is often overlooked among miracles, but imagine what these disciples witnessed.
The physical nature of Jesus’ body, including His clothes, changed in appearance. Light was shining from Jesus and it was a dazzling scene to behold. They witnessed the majestic exaltation of Jesus as the King of glory. They witnessed the effulgence of Jesus’ sovereignty. They witnessed the radiant splendor of Jesus’ throne. They witnessed the dazzling, eye popping, jaw dropping glory of God radiating from Jesus. Even His clothes were white and shining.
To intensify matters, Moses and Elijah were also standing there on the mountain conversing with Jesus. Moses represented the Law of God and Elijah represented the prophets. The topic of their conversation was about Jesus’ death (Luke 9:31). Apparently Peter wasn’t paying close enough attention to their conversation about Jesus’ death, so he suggested that three tabernacles be erected for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. What happened next would cause Peter to focus on what Jesus was saying. As if things could not reach a greater intensity, God overshadowed them in a cloud and then spoke to them. He said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7). This was a direct fulfillment of Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 18:15-19. The point was clear – Jesus must be listened to and obeyed. His suffering was not optional. His death was certain.
This must have been a great encouragement to the discouraged disciples. Jesus brought a little heaven to earth for them to see. Before they tasted death, they were privileged to see Jesus in His glory (Mark 9:1). They were able to witness faithful men of old talking with Jesus about His upcoming death. They were given the privilege to be encompassed in the divine glory cloud of God the Father, and they received a direct audible message from Him. This scene served as encouragement and direction at the same time.
The Kingdom of God had come in power, and they were privileged to see it. However, it wasn’t completely fulfilled at this point. There was a duality to this reality – an already, but not yet aspect to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. Then, suddenly, the cloud was gone, as well as Moses and Elijah. The disciples were left with Jesus alone. As they descended the mountain, they were reminded of Jesus’ upcoming resurrection. They were still confused, but Jesus was moving them closer to the cross – closer to the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for sinners.
No matter how bad things would get for them as Jesus was betrayed and taken to the cross, they would remember this glory scene. He is God, His suffering will be temporary, and His glory will be eternal. As they would eventually die for their faith, as Peter would eventually be nailed to a cross and turned upside down as a means of mockery, he would cling to the cross of Jesus alone as he recalled the eternal glory of Jesus. The same hope would strengthen all of the disciples as they experienced pain, betrayal, shame, and horrific death at the hands of God’s enemies.
There is a greater treasure and glory awaiting the followers of Jesus. Suffering and cross bearing is temporal. There will be no pain, suffering, betrayal, and death in heaven. There will be no crosses to bear in heaven. Until they reached the finish line, they were to remain steadfast in the faith. As Jesus reminded them, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). This same thing is true in our present adulterous and sinful generation.