Mark 9:1-13 The Transfiguration.
Jesus made abundantly clear that the presence of the kingdom of God with power was not off in some far distant future. There were some standing before him who would “not taste death” until they saw it. It was far enough away that some might taste death, but close enough that some would not. It would occur in that generation in which he spoke (v. 1). Jesus had just taught his disciples that any who desired to come after him must take up their cross and follow him. This was before his accursed death (8:34-38), but this was after he predicted his own death and resurrection. Clearly the coming of the kingdom with power refers to this context – the death and resurrection of the Christ, and his ascension to the right hand of the Father to begin his messianic reign.
Some of the disciples were about to have a foretaste of that soon coming ascension in the transfiguration. Mark wrote that “after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them” (v. 2). “After six days” may refer to the intervening time between the Sabbaths, but of this we can only speculate, since Luke states that it was “about eight days.” The word ‘about’ tells us that this was not meant to be an exact number but an estimate, with Matthew and Luke picking different start and end times (Lk. 9:28). In any case, Mark records that Jesus’ “clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as a launderer on earth can whiten them” (v. 3). Luke indicates that this happened as Jesus prayed (9:29).
Mathew also commented on Jesus face which “shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (17:2 Cf. Lk. 9:29). Elijah, as no doubt representative of the prophets, and Moses the law, appeared with Jesus and talked with him (v. 4). Luke refers to the presence of Elijah and Moses as their appearing in glory, no doubt referring to the well known Glory-Presence of the LORD God, and that “Peter and those with him…saw His glory” (v. 32), so that they regarded this as also Jesus’ glory. However, it would appear that they did not fully understand the gravity of this Glory-Presence, for immediately they were separated from Jesus, Moses, and Elijah and the glory, by the cloud of the Glory-Presence. It was from this cloud which surrounded them, that the Father bore witness to the Son.
Jesus was in a very unique sense the Father’s beloved Son, whom they were to hear (v. 7 Cf. Lk. 9:35)! Luke also states that they discussed Jesus coming death (9:31), the necessity of which Jesus had been pressing home to his disciples for some time. At this point Mark records that Peter simply referred to Jesus as ‘Rabbi’ (v. 5), and he offered to erect tabernacles for them “because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid” (v. 6). When the Glory-Presence departed, along with the cloud, the disciples were alone with Jesus as before (v. 8). “Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (v. 9). Clearly this refers to the coming of the kingdom of God with power.
Part of the reason for this delay was the fact that the disciples didn’t even understand what Jesus meant by “rising from the dead” (v. 10). However, now that they had seen the appearance of Elijah they do ask Jesus why the scribes said that he must appear before the coming of the Messiah, and yet here he was appearing after Jesus advent (v. 11 Cf. Mal. 4:5). There were two conflicting views about the Messiah. The apostate Jewish leadership could not accept the scriptural testimony that the Messiah must first suffer and die before he began his reign. They had Elijah in the person of John preaching a baptism of repentance, the forgiveness of which depended on the Anointed One’s priestly sacrifice of Himself (v. 12). They would do to him as “they wished,” but in doing so they helped fulfill what was written of Him (v. 13).