Mark 9:2-9 The Transfiguration
Can you actually imagine how Peter, James and John must have felt ?! Speechless I
would imagine, and yet bursting to talk about and find out what the whole thing
means. There are layers upon layers of significance in this account, but I don’t want
us to get lost in those details today. I am not a lecturer, nor am I being a home
school teacher right now. I am a disciple of Christ, yearning to know more about
Jesus, and I have the privilege of speaking to you, wherever you are.
Wherever in a physical sense, and wherever in a spiritual sense too. I don’t know if
you have never prayed a prayer before, or if you feel like these three disciples on a
daily basis! But I do believe that this Scripture can speak to us all, today.
The message of the transfiguration is the revelation of who Jesus is.
A voice from a cloud declared, ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.’ This is
not the only time Jesus’ identity is revealed, but I feel it is an extremely crucial
element here. This is not a message we can underestimate. We talk about this time
and time again for a reason. If you have ever done the alpha course you might recall
that the first week is entitled, ‘who is Jesus?’ At Jesus’ baptism a voice from heaven
made a similar declaration, ‘this is my Son with whom I am well pleased.’ This is
crucial not only to our faith, but our understanding of God and the world.
This is also one of the reasons that Jesus asks the disciples not to tell anyone about
what they have seen, until he has risen from the dead. We have the gift of reading
this account in hindsight, we know what Jesus means by that, and we can think
sympathetically of the disciples as they discuss among themselves. The phrase, ‘ahh
bless’ almost comes to mind. However there is a danger that with all of our
knowledge, we could miss the point. And that is exactly why Jesus asks the disciples
Jesus often asks for secrecy around his miracles, but this is the first time he gives a
condition: keep this secret UNTIL…
It is something that has always perplexed me.
Of all the strange things about this encounter, the fact that Jesus asks the disciples to
keep quiet is really one that confuses me! What does all this secrecy mean?
Especially now when we actively encourage each other to share the good news.
Paul’s letters encourage us to evangelise, we want to share our faith and our
testimonies. It seems natural to me. Jesus knew this, which is why he asked the
disciples to keep things quiet, for the time being. He deliberately did not want lots of
attention on this event: yet. It occurred up a mountain, far away from the public eye,
and he took just three disciples with him. He does want people to flock around him
because of a wonder he performed. He certainly did not call the paparazzi. For this
was no publicity stunt.
Jesus doesn’t want everyone to know just yet because his authority is not based on
miracles. He isn’t doing this to impress people. Jesus doesn’t heal for the wow factor.
He is not an entertainer. He knows that this encounter is like nothing the disciples
have seen before, he knows they will be … baffled.
So the transfiguration is definitely not about impressing us.
I also wonder if it is not about distracting us.
We could easily get fixated on the teachings of Jesus, we all know what it is like to
become obsessed with the law. If coronavirus has taught us anything, it is how
quickly the rules can change, how differently people can interpret the laws and how
much damage can be done to relationships as we try to live within them. I would
imagine that we all know someone who has done something during this time,
differently to how we would have responded. It’s really hard, it’s really hard to let
that go. Perhaps sometimes we shouldn’t, but that is another sermon for another
time. I’m not suggesting that we break the law, but when the law becomes our
primary focus, rather than our relationships, we end up losing sight of what the law
was about in the first place.
The point is, part of human nature is to be fixated with laws and teachings. Jesus
can be described by non-Christians as an excellent moral teacher. This is usually
meant in a complimentary way. ‘Look, I don’t like your religion, and I’m not religious
myself, but Jesus seems like a nice guy. He was a revolutionary moral teacher.’
My daughter has been studying Christianity during her RE homeschool lessons and I
have been listening to the videos that she is given to watch. I heard the online
teacher say; ‘the main message of Jesus was to treat other people how you want to
be treated’. This instantly felt so uncomfortable, I couldn’t put my finger on why. I
kept thinking, well the teacher isn’t wrong exactly, but somehow she is. It’s about so
much more than that, I thought, but I was sympathetic that she was trying to give a
brief summary for some year 5s and actually she wasn’t evangelising as a preacher.
But I couldn’t shift it, her words kept coming back to me. ‘The main message of
Jesus…. The main message of Jesus….’
I think the transfiguration holds the key, and the key for me is in that word until.
We can never fully understand what Jesus has done for us, but his teachings and the
miracles do not even come close to what they really mean when they stand alone.
When you have bits of the gospel in piecemeal, you can miss the meta narrative, and
this is what Jesus was doing when he asked the disciples to wait UNTIL the son of
man had risen.
You see, when they had known him, eaten with him, done life next to him, and
spent time really getting to know him, like you know the people closest to you.
When they had seen him suffer and be persecuted, and they knew in their bones
that he was the last person on earth who deserved that. When they had watched
him die, and grieved, and feared and they really started to grasp what they had lost.
Then, when they saw him rise, when they saw him defy the grave, victorious not
only against the Roman Empire but against death itself. And then they looked back
on these moments…
Then they knew
They knew it was him all along. At the time they did not understand, they could not
There is no right way to understand who Jesus is until you have seen him suffer, die
and rise again.
Jesus is so much more than a good teacher, or a clever wise man. He is so much
more than charity.
In the transfiguration we see Jesus connected with the Father. Unlike when Moses
went up the mountain and he came back reflecting the Father’s glory. Rowan
Williams describes Jesus as reassuming rather than transfiguring, here he is more
who he has always been. God.
How could the ground hold him when he is the one who made the ground?
When you know, utterly know in your bones that this is One who flung stars into space.
This one who is utterly other than us, because he is divine and we are not. Yet he IS like
us. Because he chose to be. And he chooses to give us wise counsel, and he goes beyond
charity to include the people the rest of the world has left behind.
Jesus, who is God. Jesus loves you, and Jesus has defeated death. This is what you need
This is the gospel. Jesus says you can be free from your past, but if that is going to
mean anything to you, you need to know that he has authority to say that.
You can read entire books about the relevance of Moses and Elijah and why they
were there. One aspect of this account is that it is prophetic, which means speaking
about how things will be in the future. Moses and Elijah both handed over their
ministries, and as Jesus is preparing for his eventual return to heaven, there is to be
a handing over of his ministry too. But it is still more than the teaching of Jesus, this
is about who Jesus is. This is a prophetic sign, as Jesus is shining ‘whiter than white’,
of what is to come. And it won’t really make sense until after the resurrection. This
is a taste,
Because as Jesus is resurrected, and is shining white, so too, one day, will we.
What does this mean for us on Valentine’s day in a pandemic preparing for Lent?
It means the same thing is means any other day in any other place. It means that
there is more hope than there is fear. It means that love wins. And love is on your
side and cheering for you.
The one who flung stars into space knows you by name, AND knows all about it.
And loves you. still. And wants you. still.
Jesus is inviting you closer.
I would not try to convince you with my words that Jesus is worth believing in. I can
only tell you that it is possible, it is possible to have a hope in Jesus like no other. To
believe in something beyond yourself and this world. To know a peace that has no