Only Jesus Remained
Mark 9:1-9 (King James Version) And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.†2And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.†3And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
4And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.†5And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.†6For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.
7And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.†8And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.†9And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.
The first verse of this chapter is controversial. There is some debate as to what the text means. Verse one indicates some of the disciples would not die until they saw the kingdom of God. We know this verse is not literally true. This cannot refer to Christís second advent. When this portion of the Scripture was written, Peter had already died.1 †It is unlikely Mark would have written something that had no meaning or truth for the church of his day.2 For that reason, Cole feels this may refer to either the transfiguration, to Christís victory on the cross, or to Christís resurrection.3 An alternative meaning is that this refers to salvation. When somebody becomes a Christian, they have tasted of and have experienced part of the kingdom of God. When you understand Jesus Christ is your Savior, you immediately start to experience the kingdom of God. John 17:3 (King James Version) And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
There is disagreement over the exact location of the transfiguration. Some people think the transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor. That mountain has a larger fortress on top. Because there is a fortress there, it seems unlikely the transfiguration took place there.4
The transfiguration could have taken place on Mount Hermon. The top of Mount Hermon is 9,400 feet above sea level. Because the Jordan Valley is below sea level, it towers even higher above the Jordan Valley. Mount Herman is 11,000 feet above the Jordan Valley. This mountain has rapidly forming clouds. In minutes, thick clouds can cover the entire mountain. Just as fast, those clouds can disappear.5
Because Mount Herman is so high, the transfiguration might not have taken place on the top of the mountain. You see the air is rather thin at 9,000 feet and thin air limits oneís physical abilities. Jesus may have been transfigured some place on the side of the mountain.
You may imagine the peace and quiet of being on a high mountain. Even the upper floors of a high-rise building seem to be more insulated from the noise of a busy street. Traffic noise is more muffled when you are 30 floors above the street. This was a quiet location. To this quiet location, Jesus took Peter, James, and John. The Savior brought them to the mountain, hundreds of feet above the pressing duties and the rush of life in the valley.
Some people think Christ took Peter, James, and John with Him, because Jesus loved them more than the other disciples. That almost strikes me as having favorites. I am not convinced God the Son has favorites. I agree with the commentator who feels it is more likely Jesus chose these men, because they were more open to Christís will6 and because they needed to see His transfiguration.7 Jesus may have known these men needed to see the revelation of His divinity to survive the coming events.
These three disciples had important roles to play in the early Messianic church. Each of the three disciples needed to see the transfiguration. James was the first apostle to die for Christ (Acts 12:1-2).8 James is the patron saint of Spain.9 Peter had a position of leadership among the apostles. Peter preached the first Christian sermon (Acts 2:14-40).10 Tradition holds Peter was the bishop of Antioch, may have preached through-out Asia Minor, and was martyred in Rome.11 There is some question as to identity of the author of Revelation is,12 but the traditional position is that John wrote the book of Revelation.13
Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John. John Burne, a Biblical commentator, says it is implied that the change came from Christís inner being, not due to any external influence.14 Moses was transfigured too (Exodus 34:29), but Mosesí transfiguration was a temporary reflection of Godís glory (2 Corinthians 3:7-11).15 Jesusí transfiguration was not a reflection of somebody elseís glory. As the stories of Jesus became better understood, Christian tradition came to hold that the transfiguration was due to Jesusí own glory.
Transfigured means Jesus Christ went through a metamorphosis,16 a major change in appearance. Jesus turned brilliant white. Your bible may say Jesusí clothes became whiter than any fuller could make them. The New Jerusalem Bible says Jesusí clothes turned whiter than any bleach could make them. The New American Standard Bible indicates Jesusí clothes turned whiter than any launderer could make them. Basically, His clothes turned whiter than any cleaning agent could make them.
Christís clothes did not just turn white. They did not look like you were shining a bright spot light on them. Godís glory shone from inside Jesus to the outside.17 If you can think of a lamp with a thin cloth lamp shade, it might help. When you turn on the lamp, the light shines out through the shade and illuminates the shade. A bright light bulb can illuminate an entire room through the cloth lamp shade. I bet you never thought of Jesus Christ being like a shining light, or a bright neon sign. This almost sounds like a commercial for Tide, but it is not! This is a commercial for a much better cleaning agent than any brand of laundry soap.
The transfiguration had two main purposes. The first purpose was to give Jesus strength and courage.18 You see, in the following chapters of Mark, we read of Jesus in Gethsemane, His trial, and of His death on the cross. The second purpose was to help the disciples understand Calvary.19
Mark 9:4 says Elijah and Moses were talking to Jesus. In Lukeís account, we read that Jesus was transfigured while He was in prayer (Luke 9:29-31). We can assume Elijah and Moses appeared as an answer to Christís prayer. Lukeís version says Elijah and Moses were talking to Jesus about His death (Luke 9:31). They talked to Jesus about His death on the cross. We are not certain what Elijah and Moses said, but we can assume they encouraged Jesus.
The Jewish community generally believed Elijah and Moses would appear before the Messiah came.20 Both Jewish heroes were there. The presence of Elijah and Moses confirmed Jesusí ministry. They were evidence Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
Moses represented the greatest law giver and Elijah represented the greatest prophet.21 The law giver, Moses, and the prophet, Elijah, appeared to show Jesus is the Messiah. That is the role of law and prophecy. The law and prophecy are to emphasize Jesus, to point to the Messiah. You may picture a triangle. On top of the triangle is Jesus Christ. One one side of the bottom is the law and on the other side of the bottom is prophecy. Both prophecy and law point to Jesus Christ. The rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices of the law, and many Biblical predictions, were fulfilled in the Messiah.
The law is to focus attention on the need for God, on the need for the Savior. When law points to human efforts, to human achievement, there is a problem. The ceremonial laws, the sacrifices, and the moral law all show the need for a savior. Keeping the law does not help one deserve salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 (King James Version) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:†9Not of works, lest any man should boast. I like the way the New Jerusalem Bible explains it. †The New Jerusalem Bible says this is done, ď. . . so that nobody can claim the credit.Ē
All prophecy is to point to Jesus and to point to the existence of God and the need for God in your life. I will give you a quick way to determine if a prophet is a false prophet. If a prophet directs attention to him or herself, to rules or to regulations, this is a false prophet. Any prophet that is out for profits is a false prophet. A true prophet will only direct attention to Christ and to Godís grace. In other words, a true prophet will focus attention on Godís grace. Run from any prophet who does not focus on grace. The risk of following a false prophet is significant. Just as the families of people who died following the orders of religious gurus.
Books on Biblical prophecy can be evaluated the same way. Check to ensure the book is centered on Christ and is centered on grace. Good interpretation of prophecy focuses clearly on the gospel and on Christ.22 The gospel is positive. It inspires hope. Good prophetic interpretation and good Biblical interpretation will also be positive and will inspire hope. Unless prophetic and Biblical interpretation are centered on Godís forgiveness, they cannot be positive and they cannot give people hope.
The key to determining if a person is a good pastor or a true prophet, or if an interpretation of the bible is correct is found in Revelation 19:10. The last sentence reads, ďfor the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.Ē
In Hebrew and Greek, the same word means spirit, breath, and wind.23 The word spirit in the Bible is used to refer to the breath or the life force.24 The last part of Revelation 19:10 in the Moffatt Bible says, ďfor the testimony borne by Jesus is the breath of all prophecy.Ē The life force of prophecy is Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, prophecy is dead. The testimony borne by Jesus is that of the cross. Jesus carries a testimony of Godís grace.
Those pastors, church leaders, and religious gurus who condemn gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified people do not understand the testimony borne by Jesus. They just do not get the cross of Christ. They do not understand that Godís grace is bigger than our limited human understandings of sexual orientations, gender identifications, and gender expression.
The spirit of the law is the principle of the law. The spirit of prophecy then is the intent of prophecy. The intention of Biblical prophecy is to point to Godís grace. We understand that when we look at John 3:16 (King James Version) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. †Prophecy is to point to salvation, to Godís grace.
Peter asks Jesus is they should build three shelters or temples, one for Elijah, one for Moses, and one for Jesus. His offer was not accepted. The offer was rejected, because it was wrong. If Jesus had accepted the offer, there would have been no unjust trial, no cross, and no resurrection. Salvation, as Christianity traditionally has understood it - flowing from Calvary - would not have happened.
We cannot live on a mountain. That life is wrong. The Christian life is to be lived in the valley, in the real world. There is not as much value to a life lived in a monastery as there is to a life in the real world. Our life is not to be lived in church, in church institutions, campmeetings, retreats, or seminars. Those are all good, but we cannot be the salt of the earth when we are still in the salt shaker.
At a time when the needs faced by social service agencies far outstrip all sources of funding, the world looks to Christians to be salt. The world wants us to prove we have the superior religion we claim we have by doing something to help. Reaching out to those who have values, habits, addictions, and life styles we might not understand can be frightening.
I want to leave you with something that can help give you the courage you need. In Mark 9:8, the disciples look around. Nobody is with them, except Jesus. Moses and Elijah are gone. Miracles in your life may stop. You cannot have wonderful charismatic or spiritual experiences every day. You cannot be healed every day. When the wonderful feelings are gone and you find yourself in the trenches of doing the ordinary for God and humanity, Christ is still there. When family or friends leave because of who you are, Jesus remains. When the joy of life ends, when happiness is gone, when comfort fails, when your health suffers, Christ is there. Christ is always there. Matthew 28:20 (King James Version) I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. †