April 19, 2015
We are going to look at one of three most thrilling portions of Scriptures. There are three similar accounts in the gospels on the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Matt 17 and Luke 9 and the one we just read in Mark 9…
This is a passage with the deity of Christ on full display!
Verse 1 “And he said unto them, truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” The most compelling view is that the ‘coming’ mentioned here related to the entire complex of events involved in the Son of Man’s receiving the DOMINION, especially his resurrection, ascension, Pentecost, and sending of the Spirit and judgment against Jerusalem 70AD. I tend for the HS coming in the upper room where the 120 gathered were given an extraordinary display. I believe this to be an announcement and preview display of the power of the third person of the trinity…the Holy Spirit coming more fully at Pentecost and worldwide spreading of the gospel.
So now in Verse 2 we are about see another immediate display of the power and majesty of God that gives testimony to the deity and power of the second person of the Trinity.
Now the Lord has been saying to the disciples…Listen, I’ve been talking to you about self-denial, I’ve been talking to you about bearing your cross, I’ve told you that I must go to Jerusalem to suffer many things and be killed. You’re very much aware of the persecution, the hostility, the rejection that we’ve seen from the people. You know that the message that I’ve given you is a message of suffering and death, My death and your death……. But it will not always be that way.
He is saying that there will be a day when the Son of Man comes in the full blazing glory of the Father with His angels and then He will act in judgment upon every man. This will be a glorious time for the believer. There will be a time coming when the Son of Man comes not in humiliation but in royal majesty.
The Bible is very clear about this. It isn’t just a New Testament message; it was an Old Testament one as well. And the disciples should have remembered that the Messiah would suffer first (Isaiah 53) and then be glorified. But it seems as though all they can see is the glory and all they can anticipate is the Kingdom and all the wonder and all the majesty and all the splendor of that and they cannot handle what’s going on in the present tense.
They anticipated a political coup by Jesus and over throw of the Romans. Jesus’ reign was far more than that….it entered into the spiritual realm. His Kingdom was never about weapons of physical warfare. Never will either in the future.
AND so it will come, and it will. It will shortly come on God’s timeline. Now even this transfiguration scene is veiled but not so much as to hide the glorified Christ. It is stunning and even still is not what we will see and be like when we are received into glory as I John 3:2 tells us…When we see him we will see him as he is.
But frankly, the promise in the face of hardship and persecution is very hard to believe…very hard. To say I’m coming in glory and sometime in the future seems so far away. And so the Lord in His wonderful grace goes a step beyond the all the prophecies and He promises them and shows them in a preview. I’m not only telling you I’m coming, I’m going to prove it.
And that preview begins in verse 2 of chapter 9 and runs down through verse 10, that’s the full text of it. It is His transfiguration. And at that event, He gives them a live display of His majestic splendor, His majestic glory, His majestic power. On full display.
And so what you have here in Mark is our Lord showing Peter James and John them the reality of Christ so that you need not ever doubt the reality of His Second Coming, I’m going to give you a glimpse of it…..the glory of it, I’m going to give you another taste of the final reality. And it comes in a marvelously important time because it comes at a time when they needed balance. They had just heard about suffering. They had learned that Jesus was a suffering Savior and now they needed to see a glimpse of Him as a glorious King.
The marvelous and miraculous preview of final glory was to remind them and us that it is going to come to pass. And to fill their hearts with assurance and hope in the midst of great despair. It should fill ours too!!
Now there’s another thought that I would just add as a footnote here. In my understanding of the Old Testament prophecies, very often in fact, the prophecy would have a near literal fulfillment and a future spiritual fulfillment. And the reason the prophets did this was in order to verify themselves as prophets and to give hope for the future fulfillment. In other words, if someone predicted something to happen in the end times like the coming of the Messiah, how would you able to trust them? How would you know such a thing would come to pass? Well, the prophet would then predict something in the near future and when the near event came to pass, you could believe him that the future would as well. And so it was a part of prophetic credential to affirm something in the far distant future and then verify your trustworthiness by an immediate prophetic utterance which had literal fulfillment during the generation of those who heard you speak. All OT prophecies have a literal fulfillment in the Old Testament and spiritual fulfillment in the church.
I believe in a very real sense the final and supreme prophet Jesus is accrediting Himself as a true and trustworthy prophet by saying yes I will come in the future, at the last day. And to prove it, I predict that some of you won’t die until you see God’s regal majesty. And when the near event came to pass, they knew He spoke as a trustworthy prophet and could trust Him as well for the future event.
Let’s look at Verse 2. “And after six days,“ by the way, Luke says about eight days. So, Matthew and Mark use the more exact Jewish chronology and says, “After six days (that is six intervening days) Jesus takes Peter, James and John his brother.”
And He takes them and it says He brings them up into an high mountain privately, He draws them away. Now we ask ourselves at this point, Why does Jesus do this? Why does He take just these three….Peter, James and John? Let me suggest some reasons.
First of all, to be a witnesses. He needed to have witnesses to see His glory. Now Deuteronomy 19:15 laid down and established a principle that any testimony was confirmed in the mouth of how many? Two or three witnesses. And so the Lord going to display His glory wants it confirmed in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses, trustworthy witnesses. And so they are taken to be those 3 witnesses.
Second, they are taken because they were part of the inner circle of the Savior. They were the closest to Him. They were around Him the most. And very frequently perhaps accompanied Him into intimate times of prayer. And so, as He takes them to the high mountain, I don’t think they would have been very shocked by that, it perhaps had happened on many occasions. They were frequently alone with Jesus, certainly Mark 5:37 indicates they were there at the raising of the young girl. They accompanied Him, you remember in Mark 14 in the garden of Gethsemane the night that He agonized and sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, they were there with Him in His intimacy also. And so, we’re not surprised that it’s Peter, James and John.
And, I guess, in a way we can understand why, because it seems proper that those who most intimately knew His sorrow, and those who most intimately knew His suffering should most intimately see His glory. They who would suffer… Peter crucified upside down, James beheaded and John exiled, should, as well, see His glory.
And third, I think another reason He took them was because they were acknowledged trustworthy leaders. They were men of great spiritual report and leadership. And when it came time to articulate what happened, they would be trusted. They would be the most believed. They could convince and influence the rest.
Those are positive reasons why He took them. There’s a negative reason why He only took three. If all of the disciples had seen this, or if all of the disciples plus the crowd that was gathered there that day in upper Galilee, if all of them had seen it, too, there would have been no way to prevent widespread chaos because having seen the glory of Jesus Christ on display, you can imagine that those people would have come running down that hillside and been unable to restrain themselves. And they would have propagated what they had seen and again Jesus would have been pushed into becoming the political military Messiah that the people wanted Him to be. The people had tried that before after the feeding of the 5K and wanted to make him a king, In John 6:15 it says “…by force…and Jesus withdrew from their presence”. And so, that they might not happen again he even tells them in verses 9 and 10 not to tell anyone. He restricts it just to three, three that He can trust, three that are very intimate with Him, but three that can confirm Him as the Son of God….deity!!! This is the God of Isaiah 43.
It says He took them into a high mountain. Now we don’t know what mountain it was, somewhere in upper Galilee south of Caesarea, Philippi where they had been for awhile and before Jerusalem. I wouldn’t doubt that the reason we are not told is that the place would become holy ground to some.
Now when they get up in the mountain, what do you think the disciples were doing? Well, they did what they usually did…slept. Mark doesn’t tell us that but the parallel account in Luke says they were sleeping. And Jesus was…what?…praying, that’s right. They went into the high mountain and Jesus would pray and they would sleep, and we’re not surprised because we see this again and again. In fact, we see it later on when the Lord is in the garden of Gethsemane pouring out His heart to the Father in that agonizing prayer. And at that very time the disciples also sleep. And Jesus, in fact, rebuked them and said, “Can’t you even watch with Me for an hour?”
But if you were to look at Luke 22:45 you would find that there was a possible reason they were asleep. Not only were they probably physically tired, the Bible says they were sleeping for sorrow. You know what happens when you get really depressed? Many people want to sleep. They were sleeping because it was the only way to deal with their sorrow was just to shut it out by falling asleep. Maybe here the same thing. By the time they get to the Mount of Olives in Luke 22 for prayer there, they have heard about His death over and over and over and the despair is great there but perhaps it’s nearly as great here.
But they woke out of their sleep and Jesus rose from His prayer. And an utterly incredible thing happened. One unlike any other thing that ever happened in the history of the world and we’re going to have the privilege of looking at it. We are being given ultimate proof that this is the King of kings, verification that this is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the one and they need this affirmation, we need this affirmation!!
Let’s look at a couple of these elements of this affirmation.
Verse 2, “And He was transformed,” metamorphosis, He was totally changed and that term Morpheus has to do with the body and form. His body, His form was totally changed. And that’s really all we can say about it, we don’t have any of the explanation for it, it’s supernatural. “And His face did shine like the sun, and His clothing was as white as the light.” It was dazzling, glistening, blazing. “And His face was like the unclouded sun at high noon.“
Literally, the glory inside was unveiled. And here was the transformation of the Son. This Jesus whom they had seen walking around every day with very human form and characteristic was none other than the blazing radiance of God.
And this, beloved, is the greatest testimony to Jesus Christ, I think, of any passage in the Bible along with Matt 17 and Luke 9. If you really want to know who Jesus is, here it is. The glory that is his is radiating from the inside out.
There’s little doubt who this is, people of God..little doubt. For whenever scripturally God manifests His invisible Spirit essence, it is manifested as light, isn’t it? You go back and find the Shekinah, the glow of God’s light in the Old Testament. God manifest Himself in blazing light, pillars of fire by night and a cloud by day. In fact, that light appears as fire sometimes and as a brilliant cloud, other times and here as just blazing light like the sun. When God who is an invisible spirit chooses to take a form to reveal Himself, apart from his incarnation of Jesus Christ that form is light, blazing light.
And Peter gave testimony to that. In 2 Peter 1:16-18 he says, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coing of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” And in John 1:14 he writes, “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. We saw the very essence of God pouring out of that human form, transformed before our very eyes.”
That’s why the writer of Heb says, “You have had a taste of the good things to come.”
In Revelation chapter 1 we have a picture of Jesus Christ in marvelous terms. It shows Him moving among His churches and it says “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, His eyes were like a flame of fire, His feet like fine bronze as if they burned in a furnace,..it’s the same picture you see right here in Mark.
You see, Jesus Christ in His human form is veiled. The body is a veil. It veiled the reality of his divine essence. But when He pulls that veil back for a moment, it is the blazing sun that is seen. And that’s what they saw. And that’s what you see as you look at this text. This is God who is synonymous with glory, the revealed essence of His nature. When Jesus came into the world He is God but He took that veil of humanity and clothed the glory. But here He gave a glimpse unveiled. This is God, don’t let anybody come and tell you Jesus isn’t God, and the glory that comes from within. And so…. His deity, His majestic Kingship, His regal majesty, His royalty as the Son of God, the anointed of the Father is seen here by the transfiguration of his Son.
Here is the second great confirmation of Jesus Christ. They, too, that is Moses and Elijah, appeared with him in His glory. Look at verse 3. “And behold there appeared unto Him…” and Luke adds “in his glory,” not with glory but in His glory, shrouded by it, surrounded by it, encompassed by it, “Moses and Elijah, and they were talking with Him.” And now Peter, James and John are not only seeing something that’s beyond their comprehension, they are hearing a conversation.
Now, somebody might ask the question… Well, how did Peter, James and John recognize them? How did they know they were Moses and Elijah? I don’t know, maybe they had a name tag. No, I believe that answer lies in the fact that Peter, James and John, like us, when we are received into glory we are going to be able to recognize everyone.
Now why those two?
Moses…Moses is synonymous with Old Testament, isn’t he? And the law is called the law of Moses. Moses chosen by God to confront the Egyptians and lead the people of Israel out of that land and through the Sinai wilderness to the borders of the promised land. Moses, perhaps the greatest leader of human kind who ever lived. Moses, the king, priest, prophet…Moses, leader among leaders, leader over leaders, leader unequalled.
Beyond that, Moses was the agent of the Ten Commandments. He was the instrument through whom God gave the law expressing His will and revealing His character.
Now who could possibly stand with Moses? Only one, Elijah…Elijah. He fought against the nation’s idolatry. If Moses gave the law, Elijah guarded the law, the greatest guardian of God’s law. The man was zeal personified. He had courage. He spoke words of bold and profound judgment. He had a heart for God. He walked with God. He had miraculous power. You read 1 Kings, 2 Kings, and you see the miraculous nature of this man’s miracles and prophecies. He was zeal incarnate. His zeal for God was unequaled. He is considered the most zealous and preeminent of them all.
So Moses gave the law, its great giver; Elijah, its great guardian. And what do they represent? The law and the prophets. And what is the law and the prophets? It’s the Old Testament. And why are they there? They are there as the Old Testament saying, “This is the One of whom we spoke. “It is the affirmation of the law and the prophets. Tremendous scene. It is Old Testament verification. It is all that Jesus said when He said, “I have come to fulfill the law and the prophets” It is the affirmation.
Now I don’t know how Moses and Elijah got there. I don’t know what kind of form they had. It doesn’t tell us that. I’m not really interested in that. But I am interested in why they were there…they were there so that the people could see that the Old Testament was indeed fulfilled in this person Jesus Christ. He is the Messiah in Royal Majesty. They needed to see that. They needed to hear that. We do as well. And if you have been saved by grace through faith…you see the light, and be my witnesses to the light, and will experience the fullness of that light.
It says in Matthew 17 they were talking with Jesus, Moses and Elijah were, and having a conversation. So they must have been in some physical form or at least perceptibly physical. Luke 9 it tells us what they were talking about. Isn’t that marvelous? They were talking but what were they saying? And you go to Luke 9 it says “Two men, Moses and Elijah appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about His departure which He was about to bring to filfillment in Jerusalem.”
Talking about Christ’s death? Why was that important. The word death, in the Greek is the word exodus, means final outcome. They were talking about His final outcome. They were talking about His coup de grace. They were talking about the big event at the end. And what was the big event? The cross…departure, exodus is a soft word for death. And so they were speaking of Christ’s death as an exodus, just as the exodus under Moses delivered the people from the bondage of Egypt, so the exodus of Christ’s death would deliver His people from the bondage of sin. Beautiful use.
Is it important that they talk about His death? Sure, because that was the one aspect about Christ, final outcome of his ministry the disciples couldn’t understand, didn’t fit their Messianic program. They couldn’t handle that. And so here is the law and the prophets represented in these two men and they’re talking about the Savior’s final outcome when going to Jerusalem… to die. Oh what an important conversation to hear. And maybe that’s why later it was easier for them to talk about the fact that Christ had to have suffered and given His life because that was the plan. And that’s why Peter could stand up at Pentecost and say “that the Lord was crucified by the determinant counsel and foreknowledge of God”. God’s irrevocable plan. Christ predestined to die, as we are predestined to live in glory with him.
So, what is going on here is a tremendous testimony from the Old Testament saying this is indeed the King and He is indeed on schedule. And death is a part of the plan in spite of what some people have tried to do with the life of Jesus Christ. He died as the one ordained died from before the foundation of the world and His death was as much a part of the plan as His Second Coming will be and it’s so important for the disciples to know that. And so they see and they hear the Old Testament representatives affirming Christ.
Do you see why I say this passage is so important as to the deity of Jesus Christ? Tremendous passage, unequalled in all the gospel records for testimony to his deity and Kingship.
In the middle of all this glory and majesty and splendor and wonder, we are brought right back to the reality. Verse 5 “Then answered Peter and said to Jesus”, so you could still discern Jesus was there, of course, in some transfigured form and perhaps the form we’ll see Him in glory where He’s recognizable in form and yet glorious. He says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You will, let’s make three booths.” In fact, he even volunteered, according to Matthew, to do them himself.. “Let’s make three booths, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Now we don’t know what his motive was as, it is not told to us but I believe Peter had worship in mind here. Remember one of the three feasts the Jews had to attend was the feast of tabernacle sometimes called the feast of booths. And the people had to bring gifts and worship God there. Maybe Peter’s thought was in a small way an act to attempt worship. We don’t know what all of the things going through his mind were but he really liked what he was experiencing and even with the ambivalence of his thrill and his terror, he made this suggestion. Mark says he said this because he had no idea of what he was saying as his mind must have been trying to process all he was seeing.
Third element testifying to the Kingship of Christ. “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is my Son, whom I love…Listen to him.” There are 430 occurrences this Greek word or a derivative of it used in the NT. Very important concept. But it also is saying to us….listen to him, listen to this Jesus who has revealed himself to be God and this is the only God and the gloried God who has said “I am the way, the truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me”.
Peter didn’t understand that this was only a preview and he had to go back to the valley and go through the suffering and the hardships and the cross- bearing and the self-denial and all that stuff and the Messiah still had to suffer and die. And the second thing he didn’t understand was you can’t put Jesus, Moses and Elijah in equal places. You see, Luke says that when Peter said this, Moses and Elijah were moving away. Moses and Elijah came in a very temporary fashion and their purpose was to salute their divine successor, the one who fulfilled the law and the prophets. That was their purpose.
And then in verse 8 they leave Him alone in the glory of unchallenged supremacy and to fade away so that the soul-remaining object of the adoration of the disciples and the adoration of the Father was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ in his gloroius form.
You and I will see Him again this way if we are saved by grace through faith. That’s right, when He comes in glory, won’t we…see him as he is. So I’m just going to have to tell you, we are in the same place with the other nine disciples… which isn’t too bad. You got the eye witness account of the preview but you’re going to have to wait for the real thing, at the Second Coming.
Now who’s this? Someone else arriving on the scene? The answer is in the clouds of redemptive history…starting in Exodus chapter 13 verse 21, take your Bible sometime and just begin to look for white clouds. And whenever you see one, guess who will be there. God…God will be there. (When the name God is spoken of it usually means the First person of the Trinity). And you can follow those white clouds all the way to the fourteenth chapter of Revelation where Christ is in the clouds. We read this, “And I looked and behold a white cloud and upon the cloud one sat like the Son of Man.”
And it says “a voice out of the cloud “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.“ When God speaks we need to listen!! God does not ask or plead. No God demands. This verb is in the imperative tense…a directive.
And now we are face to face with the awesome awful terrifying presence of Almighty God. And in the Matt account verse 17:6.. “The disciples heard it, they fell on their face and they were literally terrified.” They were totally traumatized. And why? Because God was there.
This is some scene, people of God. And God was there to say in addition to the testimony of the Old Testament, in addition to the testimony of the New Testament the transformed Son is the testimony of the Father, “This is…what?…My beloved Son.”
Do you have any questions about who this Jesus is? I hope not. It’s right here. Our response should be as the response of Peter, James and John. Be driven to our knees and be humbled wanting to worship the King of kings. To seek forgivness for our sins and seek to worship this Jesus every chance we get. That not only means when the word is preached but everyday of our lives we are to worship him in everyday activities. May our place in life, our dwelling… be the booth to bring our gifts of worship.
To believers Jesus has assures us that God’s justice is preserved and the eternal glory that is ours was on display to us with just a glimpse in Matthew 17 Luke 9 and Mark 9.
This is the best thing that could ever happened to us…to be in His intimate presence, to listen to what he says and live out our lives in anticipation of his return in glory.
And as we walk in obedience, listen to him. As we walk in obedience we know the excellence of His presence. If we walk in disobedience, we will experience the terror of his presence. But Jesus gives us assurances that to those who belong to him… have already passed through judgment.
The cross was Jesus’ glory and was not only our redemption guarantee but our glory too. Future glory. Romans 8:1 assures believers: “Therefore, there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ”.
John Calvin wrote…So tardy and sluggish is our mind, that it needs to be aided by looking towards heaven. Christ summons believers to his judgment-seat, to lead them to reflect at all times that they lived for no other object than to long after that blessed glorious redemption, which will be revealed at the proper time.
In 2 Cor 3:15-18 Paul writes. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their heart. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away…. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
His glorious righteousness has become ours by grace through faith and the result is the eternal glorious life.
We are in the process of becoming more like Jesus.
What more incentive do we need to listen to him and to worship him.
May we, like Peter, James and John…in the presence of Jesus…..say it was good for us to be here!
Father, we thank you so much for the fact that You have given to us a true word concerning Christ. Lord, we don’t understand all these things. We can’t put ourselves back nearly two thousand years ago and be on that place to perceive what they perceived who were there. So give us the eyes of understanding and may we at least understand this, that Jesus is God who was veiled in human flesh, that Jesus is the one whom the Old Testament and the New Testament speak as the fulfiller of the law and the prophets, that Jesus is the one beloved of the Father who is fulfilling the divine plan which pleases the Father and who is to be heard and obeyed by every soul. Father, we pray that we would understand the weight of this Scripture. We play that those to do not know you in a saving way that you would reveal yourself to them and receive them into your heavenly kingdom.