Mark 9:1-13 1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” 2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
How easy is it in our day to trivialize the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So many movies and novels take the idea of a hero figure coming to a point of near defeat or injury or death and then suddenly rising victorious. While fewer people within our country claim to be Christians, the idea of someone rising from the dead doesn’t seem that shocking and amazing. It is easy to become desensitized to the amazing miracle and power of God as seen in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No one is foolish enough to claim that they can raise themselves from the dead but Jesus made such a claim and carried it out just as He had declared beforehand:
John 10:17-18 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He has told the disciples for the first time that He would die upon the cross and rise from the dead (Mark 8:31). He plainly revealed to them His ultimate goal. How confusing this must have been for them! The Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing upon earth was to be ruled by a King who knew He would be defeated. What could this mean? What purpose could there be in His death? If He had the power to see His own death why would He not prevent it? After Jesus shares this confusing information with His disciples there is this amazing scene upon the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus allows three of His disciples to see His future glory. They are allowed to see a picture of what Jesus would look like after the resurrection. His appearance changes and His clothes become radiant, the disciples recognize Moses and Elijah, a cloud appears, and they hear the voice of God! All of this overwhelmed Peter, James, and John and we read the foolish actions of Peter in wanting to build three tents. It was utter confusion and then suddenly they were alone with Jesus again.
What they had seen was to be a secret until after Jesus rose from the dead. Why? This was all very mysterious and confusing for Peter, James, and John. But it was the appearance of Elijah that they tried to make sense of as they walked down the mountain to meet the rest of the disciples. Jesus had taught the disciples to beware of the teaching of the religious leaders and so they questioned whether what they had been told by the scribes was correct. They had been taught that Elijah would come before the Christ was revealed. Did Elijah rise from the dead? Jesus confirmed that they had been taught correctly in this regard based on:
Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
But Elijah did not physically rise from the dead. Jesus confirmed that this passage spoke of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John understood this. John the Baptist came in the likeness of the great prophet Elijah and prepared the way of the Lord. He preached a message of repentance and pointed all of his followers to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ. So did Jesus mean a similar thing when He spoke to the disciples about His resurrection? Was Jesus’ death and resurrection somehow symbolic and not literal? It had to be a literal death. Jesus would physically rise from the dead. And yet there was deep and profound spiritual meaning significant to all of mankind and all of creation. All the significance and the meaning of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension would remain hidden from the disciples. They could not be told the meaning of what they had just seen until after He had been crucified. But although they did not yet understand, they did recognize both John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth for who they really are. The religious leaders in Israel did not and neither did most of the Jews.
Herein lies the amazing manner in which God will reveal Himself to us. Little by little we know more of Him as we seek Him with all our heart. The disciples continued to be challenged at every step of the way as they followed Jesus and so will we. If you do not feel challenged in your walk with God it is probably because you are not seeking Him with all your heart. If we seek Him, we will find Him, but there is always more of God to be revealed! When Mary became pregnant with Jesus as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant with John the Baptist. As Elizabeth felth John leap in her womb at the presence of Jesus, Mary responds in Luke 1:46 “My soul magnifies the Lord...” Does your soul magnify the Lord? From your small and insignificant perspective is the great and awesome God becoming greater to you as you look to Him? Have you seen how much He loves you in that He sent His Son Jesus to die for your sins? Do you have faith in His Name?
We know that without Jesus’ death and resurrection there would be no way that we could know God and be with Him forever. But has your soul magnified the Lord in what He has done to provide for your salvation? Do you continue to examine the cross of Jesus Christ or has it lost all significance to you? On the cross Jesus died for you. Your sins were placed upon His body as He died to take the punishment that you deserve. He died to save you! He rose from the dead to give you new life! When we magnify the cross of Jesus Christ we see ourselves dying with Him and we see ourselves rising with Him to new life. This is faith: to see Him as He is!
Pastor Murray Hack