NOT SO BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we saw Jesus healing the blind man, which was assuredly for his good, but it also served as a very vivid object lesson for the disciples. Remember, they didn’t quite understand who Jesus was (cr. v.17; 6:52), and so after the doubt expressed by them when Jesus spoke about the “leaven of the Pharisees” (v. 15-17) was addressed, He healed a blind man that was brought to Him differently than He usually did (vv. 22-26). It was in the way that Christ healed the man that the “slowness” of the disciples to “see” who Jesus was in truth was portrayed.
Jesus then asked them specifically who they thought He was; at last, we witnessed some progress! “Thou art the Christ” (v. 29)! But quickly after that divine wisdom was imparted to Peter (Matthew 16:17), we saw him rebuke Jesus when He spoke of His suffering, death, and resurrection. “Suffering precedes exaltation.”
Peter appears to hear what Christ said in bits and pieces. He doesn’t seem to hear more than he wanted to hear. He heard that his friend and teacher would die, but the resurrection part was apparently missed! So, what does he do? Like us, Peter acts hastily on the incomplete information he heard and rebuked Jesus. Jesus, never missing a valuable teaching moment, proceeds to instruct the disciples and the multitude with them (vv. 33-34).
Most bible translations link 9:1 with the previous verse (8:38) ending that chapter. My translation is one of them. It makes good sense to do so because it naturally gives a reasonable conclusion to the discourse Jesus began in verse 34.
So, what does Jesus mean when He speaks of some not tasting death until they see the Kingdom of God? What aspect of the domain is He referring to?
9 And 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 when it has come with power.”
FOCUS ONE: Kingdom of God (with power)
Some questions seem necessary at this point in our study. When will this Kingdom arrive? What aspect of the Kingdom is in view? What does Jesus mean when He states that some “standing here shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power?”
Let’s begin by answering the question regarding what He is referring to; the rest will naturally follow. Many commentators address that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this remarkable promise immediately before the experience of Peter, James, and John on the mount of transfiguration, indicating that they understood the experience to be the fulfillment of the promise. We see the three disciples being translated six days later in a vision (Mt 17:9) to the glory of the future Kingdom.
For example: “Jesus’ words assert that the arrival of the Kingdom of God in power will transpire within the lifetime of the persons addressed (again, the crowd and the disciples in Mark 8:34). So this is a future event. While a number of possibilities have been mentioned, if one lets the context rule in interpretation, it would seem clear that this refers to Jesus’ transfiguration as described in the following passages, the three disciples saw the King of the Kingdom of God in His glory.”
Jesus is very directly making a promise that the power and glory of His Kingdom would become evident soon, and some there would see it! Because Jesus Christ the King is present, the Kingdom of God is at hand. “And when His glory is seen by a few who are present, they will get a glimpse at the glory of the divine, the God-man, Jesus Christ as He will be forever” (Hill).
2 And six days later Jesus *took with Him Peter, [a]James, and John, and *brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was [b]transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
FOCUS TWO: The transfiguration (2-8)
If you have been studying this on your own, you most likely have been reading the parallel accounts in Matthew 16:28-17:3; Luke 9:27-36. One of them records the days differently than the others. Luke states in his account that it was “about eight days after these sayings” (Luke 9:28), while Matthew and Mark state that it was “six days later.” What are we to make of this apparent contradiction?
I do not believe that these accounts contradict one another. We must remember that in the Gospel narratives, we hear from several witnesses regarding the events. Each has a different group they are writing to; each has a different perspective that they are writing from, but with one goal: to reveal who Jesus is! And, never forget that they are being divinely led in what they report (2 Timothy 3:16-17)!
So, with all that being said, how do we explain the difference? It seems logical to conclude that while Matthew and Mark only count the days between Peter’s confession and the transfiguration happening, Luke includes both days in his numbering.
So, six days later Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain (v.2). This unnamed location, according to many bible scholars, was probably a southern ridge of Mount Hermon about 12 miles northeast of Caesarea Philippi (8:27; 9:30). These three men are part of the “inner circle” of disciples that Jesus allowed to witness things the others did not (Mark 5:37; 14:33). MacArthur points out that “Jesus took them with Him in accord with the Law’s requirement that two or three witnesses confirm truth (Deut. 17:6; cf. Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28).
“And He was transfigured before them.” What does that ten-dollar word mean? Transfigured in the original Greek is (μεταμορφόω, metamorphoó). It means “to be changed into another form, not merely a change in outward appearance. For a brief time Jesus’ human body was transformed (glorified), and the disciple’s saw Him as He will be when He returns visibly to establish His Kingdom on earth (Acts 15:14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).”
The word “Before” is essential to defining what took place on the mountain. It is “ἔμπροσθεν-emprosthen,” which means in front of them. Luke 9:29 indicates the transfiguration took place “while He was praying,” “In the transfiguration, Jesus exhibited a change on the outside which came from His inside, His true nature, His divinity. Christ’s nature, of course, could not change; only His appearance. Jesus’ glory shone through His humanity and His garments demonstrating to the disciples what Jesus really was on the inside. The glory which was Jesus’ essential and eternal divine nature, shone outward, for a brief time and to a limited degree.”
This HAD to be a fantastic event to behold! His garments were becoming so white that they could never be whiter, purer. His facial appearance changed!
David Garland – “The Transfiguration, therefore, serves to confirm that (what)the suffering Jesus will endure is not incompatible with his glory. The scene functions like a hologram. For a brief moment, the disciples glimpse the truth as divine glory shines through the veil of suffering. It foreshadows the time when God will gloriously enthrone Jesus after the degradation on the cross. This white flash of the splendor to come brightens the dark cloud of tribulation that presently hangs over Mark’s first readers and confirms Jesus’ promise that those who follow and suffer for him will not have done so in vain.”
Elijah and Moses appear, and they are both walking with Jesus. In the role of Israel’s deliverer and law-giver, Moses represented the Law. Elijah represented the prophets. But why are they here? What’s the significance of their appearing on the mountain? One commentator writes: “If what the disciples saw was a glimpse of Jesus’ final state of glory, then Moses and Elijah’s function is to announce the end.”
Even more interesting is that both of these men had ended their lives on earth in mysterious ways (Deuteronomy 34:6; 2 Kings 2:11). “It adds to the appropriateness of their mysterious reappearance in this preview of the glorious climax of Jesus’ ministry.”
5 Peter responded and *said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here; let’s make three [a]tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know how to reply; for they became terrified. 7 Then a cloud [b]formed, overshadowing them, and a voice [c]came out of the cloud: “This is My beloved Son; [d]listen to Him!” 8 And suddenly they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.
FOCUS THREE: THE FATHER SPEAKS (7-8)
Here again, we witness impetuous Peter speaking when he doesn’t know what to say! His response is impulsive and based on fear, “for he didn’t know what to answer; for they became terrified.” This experience deeply moved Peter, but he was unsure how to react. It seems like he wanted to prolong the event, so he asks to make three tabernacles (tents of meeting, booths- Leviticus 23:33-43), one for each of them- Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.”
On the surface, it seems like Peter regarded all three as being equal (v. 5). “Unwittingly or not, Peter was again resisting the suffering which Jesus had said would precede the glory” (8:31).
But, God’s response from the cloud would make clear the true meaning of the event (v.7)! This cloud formed almost out of nowhere. It dominated the mountain! It “overshadowed them” or, in other words. The cloud appears to have cast a dark shadow over them.
And then God’s voice Emanates from the darkness with unmistakable clarity “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” Like at Jesus’ baptism, the Father places His “unqualified” endorsement on His beloved Son. God tells them to “listen to Him,” but it is written in the present imperative in the original language and means to “be obedient to Him.”
“The uniqueness of Christ is highlighted by the fact that suddenly-as suddenly as they had appeared-Moses and Elijah were gone.” And the three disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus.
Some food for thought:
- 1. Apparent contradictions are only that. Further study allowing scripture to interpret itself reveals the answers.
- 2. Jesus, the god-man, never ceased to be God but veiled His glory for a time. Imagine how limited this revealing of His glory must have been to them. No human being on this side of heaven could handle the complete revelation of His glory! Imagine your response if you were there.
- 3. Like Peter, we often “don’t get it.” We are slow to hear and even slower to comprehend. Often we speak when we should remain quiet. What have you learned from Peter that might help you in your struggle to walk by faith?
Bible Knowledge Commentary
Preceptaustin (verse by verse)
Moule, Gospel of Mark, pg. 70