A reflection on Mark 9:2-9 for Transfiguration Sunday, February 14, 2021
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
Mark 9:2-9 (NRSVA)
Earlier on in the gospel of Mark we saw the revealing of the ‘authority’ of Jesus. Authority over the demons, illness, the sabbath. It is difficult to imagine more.
But more is exactly what Mark sets out to show in his account of Jesus’ transfiguration. It is the ultimate epiphany. The height of the revealing of Jesus.
Well, at least up until this point. Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection will soon reveal even more.
Prior to this the highest revelation point has been Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question: ‘Who do you think I am?’ His reply: ‘The Messiah’.
But although this was revealed to Peter by heaven itself, Peter has no idea what God’s Messiah will do. As soon as Jesus begins to talk of suffering, death, and resurrection, Peter is the first to rebuke. Jesus’ reply: ‘Get behind me, Satan!’
Since then Peter has been silent
Peter knows that though Jesus is at the very height of his popularity such talk will not go down well. Why not continue with the miracles or tell another mind-bending parable?
It amounts to a faith-crisis for Peter. He needs to see more if he is to continue to follow.
And he is about to lay eyes on more than he ever imagined. The veil between heaven and earth is momentarily parted: a glowing time-travelling, death-defying glimpse of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in all their cosmic glory.
And Peter’s response: a bumbling offer of ‘three dwellings’. He really is ‘terrified’.
And it’s not even over. A cloud. A voice.
I can’t help but wonder if Peter walked the return track convinced that God had spoken to him. The words: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ are not addressed to Jesus. Moses and Elijah are gone. John has been a silent spectator.
Who else could these words be addressed to? Does anyone need to hear them more than Peter? No one I suspect.
And it worked. Heading down the mountain it would seem Peter began, again, to listen.
Can you think of a moment when it has taken something unusual to get you to listen more carefully?
When have you needed a moment when you see beyond the veil between heaven and earth? Where do you need such a moment today?
If Moses represents the law and Elijah the prophets, what significance do you see in Jesus’ meeting with Moses and Elijah?