The transfiguration of the Christ

Mark 9:1-13 NASB
¹And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
²Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; ³and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
⁴Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.
⁵Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
⁶For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.
⁷Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!”
⁸All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.
⁹As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead.
¹⁰They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.
¹¹They asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
¹²And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
¹³But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.”

Some further information:

In Mark 9:1 we read a prediction of God’s kingdom, which is foretold, and which is now nearly approaching.

▪︎ We read that the kingdom of God would come, and it would come in a way that it will be seen. It will be the restoring of the kingdom of God among men, which had been in a manner lost by the woeful degeneracy both of the Jews and the Gentiles.

▪︎ We read that it would come with power, so as to make its own way, and bear down the opposition that was given to it. It came with power, to bring the Jews (still His people) back to the Father, and to conquer the idolatry of the Gentile world.

▪︎ We read that it would come while some who were present were still alive.
“There are some of those who were standing there who would not taste death until they see the kingdom of God”

Compare with Matthew 24:32-35
³²Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; ³³so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
³⁴Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Those that were standing here with Christ, should see it, when the others could not discern it to be the kingdom of God.

Maybe the transfiguration of the Christ, six days after He spoke this prediction could also be seen as a specimen of that Kingdom.

Jesus had begun to give notice to his disciples of His death and sufferings; and, to prevent their offence at that, he now also gives them a glimpse of His glory, to show them that His sufferings were voluntary, and to prevent that they would take offence of the cross. 

This happened on the top of a high mountain, like Moses talked with God, on top of mount Sinai, and his prospect of Canaan was from the top of mount Pisgah.

Tradition says that it was on the top of mount Tabor that Christ was transfigured; and if so, the scripture was fulfilled, Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name (Psalms 89:12).
Dr. Lightfoot, observing that the last place where we find the Christ was in the coasts of Caesarea-Philippi, which was far from mount Tabor, rather thinks it was a high mountain which Josephus speaks of, near Caesarea.

The witnesses of the transfiguration of the Christ were Peter, James, and John; these were the three that were to bear record on earth, 
Moses, Elijah, and the voice from heaven, were the three that were to bear record from above.

Christ did not take all the disciples with him, because the thing was to be kept very private. As there are distinguishing favors which are given to disciples, and not to the world, so there are favors to some disciples, and not to others. All the saints are a people near to Christ, but some lie in his bosom.

James was the first of the twelve that died for Christ, and John survived them all, to be the last eyewitness of this glory; he bore record (John 1:14 ); We saw His glory; and so did Peter (2 Peter 1:16-18).

He was transfigured before them; he appeared in another way than they were used to see Him. This change was a miracle. See what a great change human bodies are capable of, when God is pleased to put an honour upon them, as he will upon the bodies of the saints, at the resurrection.

He was transfigured before them; the change, was possibly gradual, so the disciples, who had their eye upon him, had the clearest and most certain evidence they could have, that this glorious appearance was no other than the blessed Jesus Himself, and there was no illusion in it.

John seems to refer to this (1 John 1:1), when he speaks of the word of life, as that which they had seen with their eyes, and looked upon. 
His raiment became shining; it was now exceeding white as snow, beyond what any launderer could whiten it.

Jesus’ companions in this glory were Moses and Elias (Mark 9:4); They appeared talking with Him, not teaching Him, but to testifying to Him.
Moses and Elijah lived at a great distance of time one from another, but that breaks no squares in heaven, where the first shall be last, and the last first, that is, all are one in Christ.

The great delight that the disciples took in seeing, and hearing this, is expressed by Peter, the mouth of the rest; He said, Master, it is good for us to be here (Mark 9:5).

Though Christ was transfigured, and was in discourse with Moses and Elias, yet he gave Peter leave to speak to Him, and to be as free with Him as he used to be.
Note that our Lord Jesus, in his exaltation and glory, does not at all abate of his condescending kindness to his people.
Many, when they are in their greatness, oblige their friends to keep their distance; but even to the glorified Jesus true believers have access with boldness, and freedom of speech with him.
Even in this heavenly discourse there was room for Peter to put in a word; and this is it, “Lord, it is good to be here, it is good for us to be here; here let us make tabernacles; let this be our rest for ever.’’
Note, Gracious souls reckon it good to be in communion with the Christ, good to be near him, good to be in the mount with him, though it be a cold and solitary place; it is good to be here retired from the world, and alone with the Christ: and if it is good to be with the Christ transfigured only upon a mountain with Moses and Elijah, how good it will be to be with Christ glorified in heaven with all the saints!

But observe, While Peter was for staying here, he forgot what need there was of the presence of Christ, and the preaching of his apostles, among the people. At this very time, the other disciples wanted them greatly (Mark 9:14).
Note, When it is well with us, we are apt to be mindless of others, and in the fulness of our enjoyments to forget the necessities of our brethren; it was a weakness in Peter to prefer private communion with God before public usefulness.

Paul is willing to abide in the flesh, rather than depart to the mountain of glory (though that be far better), when he sees it needful for the church (Philippians 1:24,25).
Peter talked of making three distinct tabernacles for Moses, Elijah, and the Christ, which was not well-contrived; for such a perfect harmony there is between the law, the prophets, and the gospel, that one tabernacle will hold them all; they dwell together in unity.
But whatever was incongruous in what he said, he may be excused, for they were all sore afraid; and he, for his part, did not know what to say (Mark 9:6), not knowing what would be the end thereof.

The voice that came from heaven, was an attestation of Christ’s mediatorship (Mark 9:7). There was a cloud that overshadowed them, and was a shelter to them.
Peter had talked of making tabernacles for Christ and his friends; but while he yet spoke, see how his project was superseded; this cloud was unto them instead of tabernacles for their shelter (Isaiah 4:5); while he spoke of his tabernacles, God created his tabernacle not made with hands. Now out of this cloud (which was but a shade to the excellent glory Peter speaks of, whence this voice came) it was said, This is my beloved Son, hear him. 
God owns Him, and accepts Him, as His beloved Son, and is ready to accept us in Him; we must then own and accept Him as our beloved Savior, and must give up ourselves to be ruled by Him.

The vision, disappeared when the voice sounded (Mark 9:8); Suddenly when they looked around, all was gone, they saw no man any more. Elijah and Moses were out of sight, and Jesus only remained with them, and He was not transfigured anymore, but as he used to be.

Jesus charged them to keep this matter very private, till he was risen from the dead, which would complete the proof of his divine mission, and then this must be produced with the rest of the evidence (Mark 9:9).
And besides, He, being now in a state of humiliation, would have nothing publicly taken notice of, that might be seen disagreeable to such a state; for to that he would in every thing accommodate himself.

The disciples did not understand what the rising from the dead should mean; they could not form any notion of the Messiah’s dying (Luke 18:34 ), and therefore were willing to think that the rising he speaks of, was figurative, his rising from his present mean and low estate to the dignity and dominion they were in expectation of.
But if so, here is another thing that embarrasses them (Mark 9:11); Why say the Scribes, that before the appearing of the Messiah in his glory, according to the order settled in the prophecies of the Old Testament, Elijah must first come? 
But Elijah was gone, and Moses too. Now that which raised this difficulty, was, the scribes taught them to expect the person of Elijah, whereas the prophecy intended one in the spirit and power of Elijah. 
Note that the misunderstanding of scripture is a great prejudice to the entertainment of truth.

The Christ gave them a key to the prophecy concerning Elijah (Mark 9:12,13); “It is indeed prophesied that Elijah will come, and will restore all things, and set them to rights; and (though you will not understand it) it is also prophesied of the Son of man, that He must suffer many things, and be set at nought, must be a reproach of men, and despised of the people: and though the scribes do not tell you so, the scriptures do, and you have as much reason to expect that as the other, and should not make so strange of it; but as to Elijah, I tell you he is come; and if you consider a little, you will understand whom I mean, it is one to whom they have done whatsoever they listed;’’ which was very applicable to the ill usage they had given John Baptist.

Many of the ancients, and the Popish writers generally, think, that besides the coming of John Baptist (in the spirit of Elijah), Elijah himself, in his own person, is to be expected, together with Enoch, before the second appearance of the Christ, wherein the prophecy of Malachi will have a more full accomplishment than it had in John Baptist.
But it is groundless fancy; the true Elijah, as well as the true Messiah promised, is come, and we are to look for no other. These words, as it is written of him, refer not to their doing to him whatever they listed (that comes in a parenthesis), but only to his coming. He is come, and hath been, and done, according as was written of him.

Now let us reflect on this

A small trip, it seems.
Jesus takes three disciples to a mountain (Mark 9:2). These three are the core of the group of disciples of Jesus.

On the mountain Peter, James and John are terrified.
Jesus appears completely different, supernatural shine radiates from Him (Mark 9:2,3)! And then there are also Moses and Elijah, two persons of the Old Testament, the representatives of the law and the prophets (Mark 9:4).
They also hear the voice of God Himself (Mark 9:7).

Peter wants to hold onto this moment, do something with it to comprehend it, get busy to overcome his fear. That’s why he wants to build tents (Mark 9:5,6), as if they are needed right now! Clearly, the pupils do not understand what is happening here. What is going on?

God Himself clarifies Who this is about: “This is my Son, listen to him!
Again a rebuke to Peter (Mark 8:33), and a commandment for him and the others: Stop trying to figure out how it all is, and has to be, listen to Jesus and obey Him.
You need Him!

But Jesus does not explain anything. In fact, He says they shouldn’t talk over it until after his resurrection (Mark 9:9). Now they don’t understand anything at all.
Resurrection? They just have seen the glory of heaven and of God’s Son!
How can He die now?
And didn’t Elijah have to come first, to announce the Messiah (Mark 9:10,11; Malachi 3:1; 4:5,6)?
And how about the time of salvation that would follow?
How then to die? It doesn’t seem to fit.

Elijah has come in the person of John the Baptist (Mark 9:12,13; See also Matthew 17:10-13; Luke 1:13-17). But he was also murdered.
The time of salvation comes through suffering.
The greatest innovation is the victory of Jesus over death, if He arises after His suffering.

The transfiguration on the mountain is a confirmation: Jesus is really God’s Son,
the Messiah. But you will not see that until his suffering has ended. And also
we will see that when Jesus returns in all glory. Until then it is a matter of faith, and trust, and of listening to Jesus.

Prayer suggestion

▪︎ Thank the Lord Jesus that He also renounced His glory for you, to take on the suffering.

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