2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
(Mark 9:2-8 NIV)
In our previous passage, Jesus said that some listening to Him would see God’s power displayed before they died (9:1). Jesus was not referring to His second coming, but to two events: 1) the explosive growth of Christ-followers after Jesus’ ascension, and 2) His transfiguration, which is today’s text.
Within a week of that statement, Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up to an undisclosed high mountain top, where they are all alone. Jesus was transfigured (changed) before their very eyes. As Peter relates this story to Mark, he says that the brightness radiated white (light) from Jesus’ garments like nothing he had ever seen. No professional launderer could even come close to getting garments this white.
Suddenly, Moses and Elijah showed up to talk to Jesus. Moses represented God’s Law, and Elijah represented God’s Prophets. Jesus was the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets. Mark does not say what they were talking about, just that they were talking.
Verses 5 and 6 give us a clue what it was like to be in the presence of Jesus in His glory, along with the likes of Moses and Elijah. Peter, James, and John were terrified. Peter broke into their conversation, asking Jesus if they should build three tents/shelters, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
Peter likely thought that they were either about to die or were already dead, as they were seeing God. No one could see God and still live. Peter knew something big was happening here; he erroneously wondered if Jesus was already setting up His Kingdom as Messiah. There was one missing detail in Peter’s understanding of events leading up to Jesus’ return to reign as Messiah – Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection must occur first.
In verse 7, Peter had barely finished speaking when God provided the shelter Peter had asked about – in the form of a cloud. In the Old Testament, the cloud represented God’s presence among His people. The Father and Holy Spirit joined Jesus, Moses, and Elijah and enveloped them in their glory. A voice from the cloud, the voice of the Father, spoke from the cloud and gave both a blessing and an admonition. The blessing was to Jesus, and the admonition was to the three disciples to listen to Jesus.
As quickly as the cloud came and the Father spoke, the cloud was gone. When the disciples finally had the courage to look up, they saw Jesus back to His regular self, His glory veiled over once again.
These three men had seen God’s power displayed, just as Jesus had said (9:1).
It is interesting that this transfiguration is the only event that Peter recalled in his writings:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
(2 Peter 1:16-18 NIV)
May we simply bow with Peter, James, and John, worshipping the Lord today.