Transfigured before their eyes!
Gospel : Mark 9:2-10
- The story of Jesus’ transfiguration is full of symbolism.
- The images of cloud and mountain suggest God’s appearance at the covenant-making on Mount Sinai.
- Moses, the major figure in Exodus and Sinai covenant, represents the law, and Elijah, great ninth-century prophet of Israel, represents the prophets.
- Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
Resisting egoistic power grabs
Today noisy evangelical movements—and the mainline churches as well—often make claims for Jesus’ divinity as if it were a public truth that anyone might see and grasp. However, the knowledge of Jesus as the divine Son is a matter of revelation that comes in God’s own way and time—as a gift. It is not a possession on the basis of which we can claim spiritual status and institutional or personal power, as if to make little gods of ourselves by ruling the world in his name as many have sought to do (9:33–37!). Like Peter, we want to build tabernacles; like the quarreling disciples, we want our little egos to bask in Jesus’ power and glory. But the Gospel of Mark repudiates all such Jesusology, with its underlying egoistic power grab, as idolatry. Jesus’ mission was not to make a big deal of himself or to elevate his followers to positions of power, authority, and prestige through identification with him. It was rather to point through and beyond himself to God and to God’s coming reign on earth, and to invite his followers to find their voice in bearing witness to this transforming, redemptive God (see Mark 16:8).
SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
The Divine perspective
Suddenly a cloud, God’s shekinah glory cloud, overshadows or envelops them (cf. Exod 40:35; 1 Kgs 8:10-11). We do not need man-made tents (v. 5). Rather, we need the presence of the living God, who now speaks words that thunder with authority and are pregnant with meaning: “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him!” The statement recalls Jesus’ baptism (1:11). It calls to mind Deuteronomy 18:15, where Moses says God will send His prophet and “You must listen to him.” This is God’s beloved, one-of-a-kind Son. We are to listen to Him and only Him. When the cloud disappears, Elijah and Moses vanish, and “Jesus alone” remains. Moses and Elijah were great revealers of truth along with all the other prophets, but the voice of God commands us to listen to His Son, Jesus. Give Him your ears. Have eyes only for Him (Heb 12:2). He can give you what neither Moses nor Elijah could ever give. This is God’s perspective on the matter!
SOURCE: Content taken from CHRIST-CENTERED EXPOSITION COMMENTARY (32 Volumes); David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida (Editors); Copyright © 2013-16. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
The Biblical Imagination
Transform vs. Transfigured
After the four have made their way up the unidentified mountain, we are told with typical Markan abruptness that Jesus was “transfigured” (metamorphoo). Paul uses the same word twice in his writings to describe the process by which the Holy Spirit works in us to transform and renew our minds (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18). Strictly speaking, Jesus is not transformed but transfigured. A veil is momentarily lifted and the three disciples see who Jesus has been all along. It is a continuation of the progressive opening of their eyes.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE BIBLICAL IMAGINATION (4 Volume Series); Michael Card; Copyright © 2011-14. IVP Books. All rights reserved.
God's Justice Bible
The Justice Tradition
Moses and Elijah stand firmly in the justice tradition of the Old Testament: Moses as the one who leads the people out of slavery and gives them the law; Elijah as the one who stands up to the king’s idolatry and oppression of the people. Elijah also brings to mind the raising from death of the Gentile woman’s son (see 1 Kings 17), an indication that God’s justice is extended to all people without prejudice.
SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: THE FLOURISHING CREATION & THE DESTRUCTION OF EVIL notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE
Jesus shows his power over death
Jesus told Peter, James, and John not to speak about what they had seen because they would not fully understand it until Jesus had risen from the dead. Then they would realize that only through dying could Jesus show his power over death and his authority to be King of all. The disciples could not be powerful witnesses for God until they had grasped this truth. It was natural for the disciples to be confused about Jesus’ death and resurrection because they could not see into the future. We, on the other hand, have God’s revealed Word, the Bible, to give us the full meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have no excuse for our unbelief.
SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
CATHOLIC Bible Study
Transfiguration of the Beloved Son
by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)
In the Gospel Reading, God calls Jesus His “beloved Son” on the mountain of the Transfiguration miracle in the same way that Isaac was Abraham’s “beloved son” in Genesis 22:2. The difference is that God spared Abraham’s beloved son, but He did not spare His “beloved Son,” who died as a sacrifice on the altar of the Cross for the sins of humanity. The Church has always read Abraham’s story of testing and faith in offering his beloved son Isaac on an altar as foreshadowing how God, like Abraham, did not withhold His beloved Son from the altar of the Cross. Jesus died for all the beloved sons and daughters in the human family as a sign of God’s love for the world. Jesus is the true Son that Abraham rejoiced to see (Jn 8:56; Mt 1:1). He is the beloved Son of God sent to suffer and die in atonement for our sins (Is 53:3) so that we might be strengthened in our tests of faith on our journey to eternal salvation. Jesus’ sacrificial death, Resurrection, and Ascension give us the hope of reaching Heaven and the blessing of union with the Most Holy Trinity at the end of our life’s journey.
Context: Jesus predicts his death
The experience with the divine on the Mount of Transfiguration is a revelation of the New Covenant Kingdom of the Messiah to the three Apostles: Peter, James, and John. The Gospels of Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36 also record the same experience.
The disciples and Apostles must have been frightened and discouraged after Jesus’ first prediction of His death in Mark 8:31-33 (also see Mt 17:1-8; Lk 9:28-36; 2 Pt 1:16-18). To give them the vision to grasp in their darkest hour in the fulfillment of His prediction, Jesus took Peter, James, and James’ brother John Zebedee up a “high mountain” to let them witness a manifestation of His glory. It was an experience that would confirm for them that Jesus is the Son of God and that He will come in glory when all He told them took place.
Witnessed by three Apostles
The selection of the three out of the twelve Apostles was not a demonstration of favoritism. God does not have favorites. It was instead a demonstration of hierarchy in the future administration of Christ’s kingdom. That the event took place on a mountain is significant. Throughout salvation history, mighty works/revelations of God often took place on mountains, including the Theophany of God on Mt. Sinai (see Gen 22:2, 11; Ex 19:16-20; 1 Kng 18:19-39; 19:11-18; 1 Chr 21:15-17; 2 Chr 3:1; and Mt 5:1-2).
The mountain where it takes place
As the new Moses, Jesus, like Moses in Exodus, ascended a mountain (Ex 24:12). Jesus did this not to find a revelation of God (like Moses) but to give a revelation of God the Son to His three Apostles. Two traditions identify the mountain.
- One tradition names Mt. Hermon near Caesarea Philippi.
- However, the more famous tradition names Mt. Tabor, an isolated mountain about eight day’s journey for a religious Jew (a religious Jew could not travel on the Sabbath) from Caesarea Philippi where Jesus and the Apostles were staying (Mk 9:27). Mt. Tabor is west of the Sea of Galilee in the northeast portion of the Plain of Esdraelon that rises to a height of 1,843 feet. Christians have celebrated Mt. Tabor as the site of the Transfiguration since the 4th century AD.
Details of the transfiguration
2b And He was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
In Greek, the word transfigured is metamorphoo, from which we get the word metamorphosis.
Mark’s Gospel records and His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Matthew and Luke’s Gospels add that Jesus’ face changed and became radiant like the sun (Mt 17:2l; Lk 9:29). The phenomenon of Jesus’ radiant face recalls the description of Moses’ glowing face after being in the presence of God (Ex 34:29-35). Jesus’ white garment also recalls Daniel’s vision of a “man” (probably the pre-Incarnate Christ). Daniel wrote that the “man” appeared to him dressed in linen with a belt of fine gold around his waist, whose body was like chrysolite, his face shone like lightning, his eyes were like fiery torches, his arms and feet looked like burnished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a multitude (Dan 10:5-6).
Moses and Elijah
4 Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the prophets for the Old Covenant people. In St. Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, he tells us Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and discussed with Jesus the coming hour of His “exodus,” meaning His departure, “from Jerusalem,” referring to His Passion (Lk 9:30-31). The disciples and Apostles knew Jesus in His human form; however, in the Mt. of Transfiguration encounter, He revealed Himself in His divine glory.
In the epiphany on the Mt. of Transfiguration, the three Apostles witnessed the coming together of the Old and New Covenants with Christ as the beginning and the end of divine revelation.
Moses and Elijah represented the Old Covenant Church, embodying the law and the prophets of the old Israel, while Peter, James, and John represented the New Covenant. The three Apostles also embodied the hierarchy of the new Israel, the Church of the people of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. It was a vision of the supernatural the Apostles would need to strengthen themselves and their brother Apostles in the covenant ordeal they were to face in the climax of the final year of Jesus’ ministry.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He hardly knew what to say; they were so terrified.
St. Peter addresses Jesus as “Teacher” and makes a request that seems bizarre unless one takes into consideration the seven holy feast days of the Old Covenant; see the chart: The Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant. Significantly, Jesus did not rebuke Peter. St. John’s Gospel does not mention the Transfiguration. St. John rarely repeats what was sufficiently covered in the Synoptic Gospels. However, he does mention that in the second year of Jesus’ ministry, He went to Jerusalem for the pilgrim feast of Sukkoth, known in English as the Feast of Booths/Shelters or Tabernacles (Jn 7:1-2, 10). The covenant obligations for the festival are in Leviticus 23:33-43. In verse 42, God commanded: During this week every native Israelite among you shall dwell in booths, that your descendants may realize that, when I led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, I made them dwell in booths, I, the LORD am your God.”
If it was indeed near the time of the pilgrim feast of Booths, Peter’s suggestion about making booths/tents on the mountain is reasonable. Peter has realized that the old covenantal order is no longer binding, and it is not necessary to go to the Jerusalem Temple to worship God when they can worship God the Son on the mountain. If this is why Peter made the suggestion about building booths, then the Transfiguration event took place near the seven-day festival of Booths/Tabernacles in the early fall. St. John confirms that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths in His ministry’s second year (Jn chapters 7-8).
7 Then a cloud came casting a shadow [episkiazo] over them; then from the cloud came a voice…
A cloud is a frequent vehicle for the manifestation of God’s presence in Scripture (see Ex 16:10; 19:9; 24:15-16; 33:9, 34:5; 2; 40:34; Dan 7:13; 2 Mac 2:8; Acts 1:9; Rev 11:12; 14:14). For example:
- The Pillar of Cloud led the children of Israel on the Exodus journey (Ex 13:21-22).
- The overshadowing cloud took possession of the desert Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 40:34).
- The cloud that filled the newly dedicated Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kng 8:10-14; 2 Chr 5:13-14).
- Daniel’s vision of one like a “son of man” coming to God in Heaven and carried on a cloud (Dan 7:13).
- The cloud “shadow” of the Holy Spirit covered the Virgin Mary at the Incarnation (Lk 1:35).
The Greek word in Mark 9:7 for the shadow of the cloud cast over them is episkiazo. It is the same word found in the account of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation (Lk 1:35). It is also the same word used in the Greek translation of Exodus when God’s Spirit overshadowed the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 40:34).
The voice from Heaven
The voice from Heaven said: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”
The voice from Heaven in verse 7 is the same voice heard when Jesus was baptized (Mt 3:17; Mk 3:11; Lk 3:22). It was at Jesus’ baptism that, for the first time, the Most Holy Trinity was clearly manifested in an event. The same manifestation took place in the Transfiguration: God the Father’s voice was heard from Heaven, God the Son was present in His glory, and the overshadowing cloud represented God the Holy Spirit.
In this significant event, Jesus is “transfigured” both in time and meaning to confirm Peter’s confession of Jesus as the “Messiah and the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:16; also see Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20) and the prediction of His coming Passion (Mt 16:21-23; Mk 8:31-33; Lk 9:22). The pronouncement of the Divine Voice, “this is my beloved Son,” is confirmation of Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah, and the command: “Listen to Him,” is a warning to listen to Jesus’ announcement of His coming Passion and to cooperate in His mission.
The command of the Divine Voice of God from heaven, “Listen to Him,” is also a confirmation that Jesus is the prophet like Moses that God promised the covenant people in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. That prophecy ends with a promise and a command: I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command. If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it (Dt 18:18-19 NJB; emphasis added).
The disciple’s experience afterwards
8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
Like the children of Israel who heard the voice of God in the Theophany at Sinai (Ex 20:18), and like the prophet Daniel who experienced a divine apparition (Dan 9:15-18; 10:7-9), the three Apostles are amazed at what they experienced. ”
At that time” (Lk 9:36b; Mk 9:9-10), they did not tell anyone about their experience, but later they not only spoke of it but wrote about it. Peter wrote about the Transfiguration in a letter to the universal Church: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him for the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain (2 Pt 1:16-18).
They kept the matter to themselves
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Coming down from the mountain after the Transfiguration experience, Jesus commanded the three Apostles not to make known what they discovered about His true identity. Notice He did not tell them to never talk about the experience. He only asks them to remain silent until His death and resurrection.
10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
The Apostles must have wondered if “rising from the dead” meant to have life returned so one could go on living a normal life as in the case of the Synagogue official’s daughter (Mt 9:18-19, 23-26; Mk 5:22, 35-43; Lk 8:41, 49-56), or did it mean something else? It is a question that wasn’t fully answered until Jesus’ Resurrection, His forty days teaching the Church after His Resurrection, and finally answered at His Ascension to the Father in Heaven.
Abraham felt the wonder of God’s love and mercy after passing a test of faith that must have been the darkest experience of his life (First Reading). The Psalmist felt his connection to God as a beloved son even amid his afflictions. And in faith, he offered praise to God for His intercession in his life. In the Gospel reading, the Apostles Peter, James, and John had been feeling doubt and fear concerning Jesus’ announcement of His coming Passion and death. But their Lord allowed them to become the privileged witnesses to His glory in the Transfiguration of the Beloved Son that gave them confirmation of His divine nature. These experiences of God can be part of your life today when you claim in confidence the mantle of sons/daughters in the Sacrament of Baptism and in faith “walk before the Lord” in anticipation of one day being with Him “in the land of the living.” After all, beloved children, it is as St. Paul wrote in the Second Reading: “if God is for us who can be against us!”
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.
“Listen to Him”
Points to consider
- I hear the initial version of the Transfiguration event, and so I expect a version that is closer to the lived experience of the apostles. Let me listen carefully.
- It begins with Jesus, who led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. A deeper, wondrous dimension is evident in this remote place, as it was on Sinai (remember Elijah along with Moses). He was transfigured before them.
- The apostles hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Again like Israel at the foot of Sinai. I can bring out some of that terror.
- The final verses are concerned with the Messianic secret again: not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. And indeed they kept it to themselves, questioning what it meant.
- Climax: The divine witness. This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. And they did. Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus.
- Message for our assembly: Let us listen more attentively during this season.
- I will challenge myself: To speak with a voice proper for mysteries, one of belief in the impossible, one of hope in him who conquers all, and one of unfading love.
Word to Eucharist
“No one but Jesus”? How single-minded are we? How does our posture reflect this?
SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org
Jesus is named Son of God and successor to all the leaders of his tradition.
SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org
ST. PAUL CENTER
Why Does the Transfiguration Matter?
Dr. Scott Hahn, founder and president of the St. Paul Center, gives a profound and powerful meditation on the Transfiguration of Jesus.
CATHOLIC ANSWERS FOCUS
Insights from Christ’s Transfiguration
TRANSCRIPT: Father Hugh Barbour takes us on a tour of the role of Christ’s Transfiguration in the life of the Church. Starting with what happened, and explaining where the feast originated, he helps us grasp the relationship of the Transfiguration to our own spiritual lives.
THE RELIGION TEACHER
The Transfiguration of Jesus: Summary and Meaning
What was Jesus’ Transfiguration and what can we learn from this important event in the New Testament today?
In all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) we read about the event known as the Transfiguration. Jesus leads his three closest disciples (Peter, James, and John) up a mountain. At the top of the mountain, Jesus is transfigured. His face shined bright and his clothes become dazzling white. Then two miraculous events occurred. First, the prophets Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and spoke with him. Then a voice came down from the clouds of heaven saying, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Why do Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus on a mountain?
In the Old Testament Moses and Elijah both met God directly on Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb). Moses encountered God in the burning bush. Elijah experienced God’s presence in the still small voice. In the Transfiguration, the disciples experience God’s presence in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They see Jesus body burning brightly. They hear God’s voice. Another way to interpret their presence is to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Jesus is more than a prophet. Jesus is the Son of God.
Why does Peter want to raise tents for them?
In the Old Testament, the Israelites lived in tents as they wandered the desert and God was present in the cloud over the a specific meeting tent for the Lord.
What does the Transfiguration mean for us today?
Jesus is the Son of God. We may take that idea for granted today, but this was profound in the early Church. Jesus Christ walked this earth just as we walk the earth. God became man. The transfiguration revealed who Jesus really was and is for us today. He is the beloved Son of God.
The question for us is this: Will we listen to him?