There was much that those with Jesus did not understand – at least at the time. One of those was an amazing incident that took place on top of a mountain.
“Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!’ Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus” (Mark 9:2-8 CEB).
Peter, James, and John were the three from the group of twelve apostles that Jesus often took with him. This time it was to walk to the top of a mountain. Most translations refer to this as a “transfiguration,” a word which most people no longer use. The Common English Bible chose the word “transformed” which makes more sense to English speakers today and is what the word “transfigured” means.
If we were to describe what we saw, we would probably say that Jesus glowed and became very bright. That by itself would have been a sight to cause amazement. But two of Israel’s most admired historical figures appeared and began to converse with him! Moses, the giver of the Law, was with him along with Elijah, who was considered the greatest of the prophets.
Have you ever wondered how Peter knew who Moses and Elijah were? There were no photographs or paintings of them. I don’t think they were wearing name tags. Yet Peter seems to have automatically known who they were without having to be told. Perhaps this is a hint as to how we will know everyone when we get to heaven.
Peter saw before them the two greatest prophets of Israel’s history there with Jesus. It seems that he was trying to elevate Jesus to the same status when he suggested that three shrines be built, one for each of them.
But the Father reacted to this suggestion from heaven. It wasn’t that Jesus was to be elevated to an equal rank with Moses and Elijah. Jesus was the one they were to listen to – he had superseded anyone from Israel’s history. He was to replace Moses as the one to whom God’s people must listen.
The apostles didn’t understand what had happened. Jesus told them not to tell anyone about it until they had seen the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 9:9-10). This they didn’t understand either!
Throughout the early years of Christianity, there was a conflict over listening to Moses. The Jews who became Christians wanted to hold on to both the Mosaic Law and Jesus. This created problems with the Christians who were Gentiles. This was dealt with in Acts 15 and most of Paul’s letters contain something about not having to accept the Law to become a Christian – we now follow Jesus. The letter to the Hebrews dealt with this most decisively – Jesus is better than anything and anyone we find in Israel’s history.
The point of Jesus’ transformation was to tell the apostles – and all of us – that it really is all about Jesus. He is the one, and only one, we are to listen to. He is the one who died so we could be forgiven.
Readings for next week:
16 October – Mark 7
17 October – Mark 8
18 October – Mark 9:1-32
19 October – Mark 9:33-50
20 October – Mark 10:1-31