Devotional: Mark 9:2-13

July 30th, 2013 | Posted in Blog | No Comments
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The story of the Transfiguration thunders with all the awe and wonder of Mount Sinai. Just as Moses and three companions climbed the mount to witness a vision of divine glory, just as God himself speaks—just as the whole event takes place “after six days” even! (Exodus 24:1-16)—so now Jesus and his three followers climb to a brief interlude of glory.


When they reach the top of the mount, Jesus is transfigured. He is not just another Moses, and this is not just another Sinai. He is more than that. The vision of divine glory that Peter, James and John behold is not of God the Father, but God the Son—come in the flesh.


As Peter, James and John adjust to the dazzling light, they notice Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus. Why do they come? Not, as many have thought before, to represent the Law and the Prophets (as a non-writing prophet, Elijah would be a strange choice in that regard). Given the conversation that follows about Elijah in verses 12-13, and the context of the passage as a whole, the focus seems to be on the eschatological hope of the messianic age. The disciples remember that Elijah must return before the Messiah can come. And every pious Jew longed for the appearance of the “Prophet like Moses” prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. As harbingers of this blessed hope, the disciples should have embraced their coming as a sign that Jesus is indeed the Messiah!


But they just don’t seem ready for it yet. Peter asks to build three shelters, probably as a clumsy way of signaling a sense of occasion. He wants the moment to continue—wouldn’t we all want it to?—and so he offers a modest proposal to do just that. The problem, though, is, “He did not know what to say, they were so frightened” (verse 6). Incomprehension leads to fear, and, as is so often the case in Peter’s life, fear leads to impulsive speech.


So Another speaks. Out of the mountain-covering cloud—the cloud of divine glory that covered the Tabernacle and Temple in days of old—God is heard to speak. After hundreds of years of silence and seeming absence, God has manifested himself in glory and direct communication. This is a new level of divine revelation.


What does God speak? “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Jesus is the Prophet like Moses, and deserves our full attention. But he is more than that. He is the beloved Son of God. In the light of this new information, Peter’s proposal to build shelters for all three dignified men seems even more out of place, for Moses and Elijah are naught but willing servants of the Son of God, Jesus, to whom all glory is due!


And just like that, it is over. “Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus” (verse 8). Why was it so short? It was only ever meant to be a glimpse of future glory—not the path. The disciples—and we with them!—prefer a discipleship path of easy glory. But Mark reminds us that this is not the Way the Master followed. If we are to follow him to glory, the path will lead us up another mount, the hill of Calvary.


Questions for Reflection and Application

  1. As you reflect honestly on your thoughts, words, and deeds, do you find any areas of your life where you put others (people, things, ideas, etc.) on an equal plane with Jesus? That is, do you have any of Peter in you, desiring to build three shelters to three equal dignitaries, instead of offering your undivided, single-minded allegiance to Jesus alone?
  2. What words of Jesus do you need to “listen to” at this point in your life? Where are you neglecting his words because of their implications for your life? What steps will you take to hear and obey them? Will you consider memorizing some of them as part of this process?
  3. Is your discipleship one of easy glory? Or is it a cross-centered discipleship? Have you compromised your faith at any point to avoid the suffering that Jesus has called us to? (E.g., have you kept from sharing the faith because you fear the rejection that might come?)