BRIEF INTRO: Peter, James, and John were taken up to a high mountain with Jesus, where He was transfigured before them. These three men, out of the twelve that Christ called unto Himself, were the closest to Him, the “inner circle” that witnessed many things that the others did not. This was one of those times.
To these three disciples, Jesus gave a special privilege of previewing His kingdom. But in this case, it wasn’t a repeat of the view presented in Matthew thirteen (“the kingdom of heaven is like). Rather, “it was a glimpse of the kingdom as it will be when it has been completely established, and Jesus is revealed to all as its King.”
These men were the key disciples that Jesus would use to motivate and encourage others. To these men, all twelve, the gospel would be entrusted. The gospel was to move forward and be proclaimed throughout the world. I think this goal, at least in part, was to encourage and motivate these three men. We have witnessed their doubts along the way, so something as grand as this would increase their faith and understanding of who Jesus is and why He came, lived among them, and would ultimately die and rise again!
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, [a]until the Son of Man rose from the dead.”
FOCUS ONE: What happens on the mountain. . .
The central theme of this vision is Jesus, the king! He is the whole point. These men have just been given a glimpse of the divine nature of Jesus. Some of His glory radiated externally (that was within shined through) for them to see who He truly was and in such a powerful and memorable way so that they would understand more wholly why He would have to suffer and die.
Can you imagine yourself witnessing such an event and then being told to keep it to yourself? Would you be able to? Jesus instructs them “not to relate to anyone what they had seen.” But this instruction or exhortation was limited in time. It was not to be kept a secret forever, only until “the Son of Man should rise from the dead” (v. 9).
“Only from the perspective of the resurrection would they understand the transfiguration and thus be able to proclaim its meaning correctly.” It appears that they believed in a future resurrection (John 11:24), but their misunderstanding of His messianic kingdom’s nature was evident. And so…
FOCUS TWO: Healthy dialogue
They “seized upon” or kept those words to themselves. This “keeping” is similar to what Mary did (Luke 2:19) after she heard so many good things about her baby boy. One exception would be that while Mary kept those things to herself (pondered them in her heart), they kept discussing what Christ’s words meant with one another. Especially His statement regarding rising from the dead. What does rising from the dead mean?
Again, it is clear that they were perplexed by Jesus’ words. What is instructive for us is that they wanted to understand what He was saying to them! They kept on discussing His words together. The dialogue and possibly debates about what He meant continued for some time, most likely even up to the events at Gethsemane, the trials, and then the cross.
I love their zeal to understand! I love the discussion, dialogue, and debates that ensued over His words. I am excited that they wanted to know truth, understand theology (although they may not have viewed it that way at the time), and even their willingness to engage in thoughtful debate over the issue. We can learn much from this observation. We are witnessing the demise of such things in our society. Rather than polite, thoughtful discussion to know the truth, we resort to yelling, canceling, and even violence. God help us.
What does rising from the dead mean? One commentator points out: “The disciples did not understand the distinction between “the second coming” (8:38) and “the resurrection” (9:9). The Jews of Jesus’ day expected only one coming of the Messiah into history and this coming was related to the military victory and supremacy of national Israel on a global scale.”
11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And He said to them, “Elijah does come first and he restores all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has [a]indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written of him.”
FOCUS THREE: The authority of scripture
It is not odd for the scribes to come into the conversation. However, it is a bit unusual that the Pharisees are not mentioned with them. But it is rather insightful, especially when we notice Jesus’ response to the question. The Scribes and the Pharisees sat in “Moses’ seat. That is equivalent to a university’s “chair of philosophy. “The expression here may be translated as “[they] have seated themselves in Moses’ seat”-stressing the fact that this was an imaginary authority they claimed for themselves. There was a legitimate sense in which the priest and Levites had authority to decide matters of law (Deuteronomy 17:9), but the scribes and Pharisees had gone beyond any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the word of God (Matthew 15:3-9). For that Jesus condemned them (Matthew 23:8-36).”
Jesus, in this case, does not invalidate their teaching regarding Elijah. He clarifies it! The word “must” is a verb (dei) that in Greek speaks of the absolute necessity that this must occur. So this is a logical question being asked of Jesus in light of Malachi four and their recent experience on the mountain.
The question seems to be, how does the appearance of Elijah on the mountain relate to the scribe’s teaching? Let me sum up Jesus’ answer in this way:
“The sequence of thought is as follows: (1) Elijah is coming as the restorer (Malachi 4:5); (2) he came, unrecognized, in the person of John the Baptist, and was killed; (3) the Son of Man faces a like fate. The disciples seem to grasp only the first two points.”
We will witness these very words of Jesus coming true as we continue moving forward in our study of Mark.
One last observation for our consideration. Did you notice the statement “just as it is written of him” in verse thirteen regarding John the Baptist, and again in verse twelve “how is it written” concerning the Son of man? Those statements should encourage our study of scripture and equip us in our daily walk and ministries because they reveal Jesus’ high view of scripture! He believes it to be authoritative, and so should we!
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 143
Preceptaustin commentaries, online
Macarthur Study Bible, pg. 1436