The story of Jesus’ transfiguration begins his final journey to Jerusalem and the cross. And, just as at his baptism, which marked the beginning of his ministry, the Voice from heaven again identifies him as the Son of God. As you read, keep in mind that this begins the journey to the cross and wonder.
Prepare to listen. Prepare to listen to God’s Word and pray: The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes. (Psalm 119:64)
Read Mark 9:2-8
2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
I used to imagine this scene of Jesus in dazzling white clothing chatting to the two ancients, Moses (the representative of the Law) and Elijah (the representative of the Prophets), as a comfortable and even joyful occasion, a delightful heavenly summit. It was nothing of the sort for the disciples. First, they were terrified. You’d think they’d be excited about seeing those two giants of Jewish history and pounce on them with a million questions. But they were speechless until Peter made his ignorant suggestion. I wonder what terrified them?
Second, the white clothing on Jesus is a symbol of a vindicated martyr (see Revelation 6:9-11). It hinted that Jesus’ teaching about his suffering and death, the very teaching Peter had rebuked him for, was true. It was going to happen and there’s nothing the disciples could do to stop it. Perhaps this was one reason why the three were terrified. Finally, when he spoke from heaven, God made no changes to Jesus’ radical teaching, no toning down the challenging demands of the cross and discipleship. Jesus had said all that needed to be said. Therefore, God simply authenticated Jesus: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved’ and added just one new command, ‘Listen to him.’
The story, including the appearance of Moses and Elijah, gives credibility to Jesus’ teaching about the suffering and the cross. As Myers states, “the cross stands now with the ‘law and the prophets,’” (p, 250) telling us that the story of Jesus is in continuity with the story of the Old Testament. We must read his story with the Olt Testament just as we now interpret the OT through the lens of Jesus.
The transfiguration story ended abruptly: ‘Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.’ Did they walk back down the mountain with God’s words ringing in their ears: ‘Listen to him.’ I’d like to think they did.
Imagine walking back down the mountain that day with God’s words ringing in your head. Can you let those words keep ringing in your ears today? What are the voices that get your attention and prevent your listening to Jesus’ words?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Jesus, you make costly demands I confess I’d prefer to ignore and so I often fail to spend the time and energy to listen to you. Forgive me and make me take the time needed to read your Word in ways that I listen to your voice rather than voices that easily distract me. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world and listen to him.