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It’s possible to say a lot of nice things about Jesus without fully grasping Who He Is. Just look at the Christological teaching in liberal Protestant seminaries across our country. It’s possible to say a lot of nice things about Jesus without fully understanding Why He Suffered and Died on the Cross. For the most part, you don’t hear the world trashing Jesus. They certainly use His name in vain all of the time … but when they are asked their impressions of Jesus, they have favorable things to say. But the key is: they don’t Get It.

In the Gospels we witness the growing understanding of the disciples as they truly Get It. In this crucial mid-section of Mark’s Gospel, the disciples of Jesus have just testified to His Messianic identity as the Christ. They have been introduced to His Mission which will involve suffering and death and challenged to embrace for themselves the heavy cost of discipleship. To:

– Renounce Self

– Take up their Cross

– and Follow the Master.

At this point they needed words of reassurance — Because they still struggled with understanding the pathway of rejection and suffering and even the prospect of physical death for the Messiah. They also did not grasp the reality of the soon-to-come resurrection. So we saw last week in 9:1 that Jesus Reassured them regarding the Mission of the Messiah – He will be victorious and will send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in power to accomplish the spread of the gospel of the kingdom. So here Jesus Reassures them regarding His Identity as He walks them through this amazing mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration to reassure them that death for the Messiah is essential in order for the end game to be glorious.



A. Importance of the Vision

1. When – Timeframe – The Context Shows the Importance

“And six days later,”

It is like the confession of Peter has started the clock ticking; Jesus is now setting his face to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die on the cross. He is leaving Caesarea Philippi and beginning his final journey. So we see this time reference that ties the event of the Transfiguration to what had immediately preceded regarding clarification of the Identity and Mission of the Messiah.

Constable: This event not only fulfilled Jesus’ prediction in verse 1, but it also confirmed what Peter had confessed in 8:29. Despite Jesus’ coming death (8:31-32), it assured His disciples of eventual glory (8:38). Jesus had just finished addressing a wide audience (8:34). Now He spoke to a very narrow one (v. 2). . . Perhaps the reference to six days followed by revelation should recall Exodus 24:15-16. Moses was on Mt. Sinai for six days and then God revealed Himself on the seventh.

MacArthur: Matthew and Mark place the Transfiguration “six days” after Jesus’ promise (v.1); Luke, no doubt including the day the promise was made and the day of the Transfiguration itself, describes the interval as “some eight days” (Lk 9:28).

2. Who – Participants – The Chosen Audience Shows the Importance

“Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John,”

Edwards: Peter, James, and John appear elsewhere in the Gospel (5:37; 13:3; 14:33) as Jesus’ inner circle.

What a privilege to be in this inner circle – and what a responsibility

Talk about a life-changing experience – these three men would never be the same

What a boost to their faith and confidence

What a preparation for future leadership in the oversight of the Christian church

MacArthur: Why did He take three? Deuteronomy says that truth is confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Matthew 18:16 says when you’re dealing with people’s sins in the church, you confirm their response in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Second Corinthians 13:1, Paul says, “When I come to you, the Corinthian church, and I’m going to deal with the people who are there, I’m not going to go willy-nilly through the church but I am going to confirm sin before I deal with it, it will be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” In 1 Timothy 5 it tells us that an elder before he’s rebuked must have whatever sin confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses, the proper number of eyewitnesses to confirm the truth…very trustworthy, the most trustworthy, the most intimate of Christ’s followers.

Alan Carr: Of course, this isn’t the first time Jesus singled these men out for a special time of ministry, nor would it be the last time He would do so. The first time Jesus singled these three men out was when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Mark 5:37. He singled them out here. Jesus would also take these men “a little deeper” with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He went to the cross, Mark 14:33. These men were privileged to see things the other disciples never got to witness.

3. Where – Setting – The Closeness to God Shows the Importance

“and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves.”

Probably a fairly rigorous climb up the mountain – not surprising that the disciples had trouble staying awake while Jesus devoted himself to prayer

Alan Carr: The Kingdom will come in its time, listen to what He says about His death. The transfiguration, obviously, is a glimpse of glory, but its main point was to demonstrate that the glory is later and the cross was now.

Parunak: Mountain stories in the OT–the place to meet God, in one of two ways:

a> Direct encounter; God speaks with people

1> Abraham’s offering of Isaac, Gen 22. Divine voice; others waiting at the bottom, father and son

2> Giving of the law on Mt Sinai, Ex 19. Divine voice; others waiting; shining face (Exod 34:29).

3> Elijah’s journey to Horeb (1 Kings 19): divine voice

b> In death

1> Burial of Aaron, Num 20:22-29. Witnesses, death

2> Death of Moses, Dt 32:48-50; 34:1-5. Death.

B. Impact of the Vision

1. Reality of the Transfiguration

“And He was transfigured before them;”

Not a lot of details given here regarding the actual experience

2 Peter 1:16-17

MacArthur: And while they’re asleep and Jesus prays alone, He was transfigured before them. The word is metamorphoo from which we get metamorphosis, two Greek words, morphe meaning body or form, meta meaning change. His form was changed. Nothing changed on the inside, right? He’s God. But the outside changed. This word literally means to transform the morphe, the form, the body, the exterior. It’s used four times in the New Testament and always means a radical transformation. It’s used here once and Matthew 17:2 in that text on the transfiguration it’s the same verb to describe the same thing. In Romans 12:2 it says as believers we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And in 2 Corinthians 3:18, that great verse, it says that if we gaze at the glory of the Lord, we will be transformed into His image from one level of glory to the next by the Holy Spirit. So we’re talking about a radical kind of transformation.

2. Radical Nature of the Transfiguration

“and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white,

as no launderer on earth can whiten them.”

MacArthur: Light is often associated with God’s visible presence (cf. Ps 104:2; Da 7:9; 1 Ti 6:16; Rev 1:14; 21:23).

Matt: the face of Jesus “shone like the sun”

Sproul: As far as I am concerned, the most profound chapter in American literature is found in Melville’s Moby Dick. It is the chapter titled “The Whiteness of the Whale.” In this chapter, Melville explores how whiteness is used in history, in religion, and in nature. He describes the whiteness by use of such terms as elusive, ghastly, and transcendent horror, as well as sweet, honorable, and pure. He openly states that the whale was the symbol of all these things. Thus, if the whale embodied all that is symbolized by whiteness – that which is terrifying, pure, excellent, horrible, ghastly, mysterious, incomprehensible – he embodied the traits that are found in the fullness of the perfection of God Himself. It is this same deity that Jesus manifests in the purity that contains no spot, no wrinkle, and no blemish.

Cf. experience of Moses in Ex. 33:18-23; 34:29-35 and the reaction of the Israelites —

Moses’ radiant face was just a reflection from having had a momentary backwards glimpse of the glory of God; imagine the brilliance of the glory of the face of Jesus Himself; disciples here saw actual glory, not reflected glory — (Heb. 1:3)


A. (:4) Association of Jesus with Elijah and Moses

“And Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.”

Edwards: they appear as representatives of the prophetic tradition that, according to the belief of the early church, would anticipate Jesus. “All the prophets testify to [Jesus]” (Acts 10:43). It is probably too specific to maintain that Moses stands for the law and Elijah for the prophets, because each figure was associated with both the law and prophets. According to Deut 18:15, 18, a passage that is recalled in v. 7, Moses is considered the prototype of the eschatological Prophet, and Moses is frequently regarded as the representative figure of the prophetic tradition in Judaism.

Luke 9:31 – they were talking about his coming death – “speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”

MacArthur: Don’t they wait to get a glorified body until Daniel 12:2 says, “The establishment of the Kingdom and the resurrection of the Old Testament saints? Yes. However, for this occasion provided them a visible form.

Moses is the greatest leader in Israel’s history, rescuer of the nation from captivity, its greatest general, can we say? God was the one who drowned Pharaoh’s army but Moses was the victor by divine power. In authority he was a king, though he never had a throne. In message he was a prophet. In service to God he was every bit a priest, serving God on behalf of His people. He was the author of the Pentateuch, the agent by which God gave His holy Law. He’s the greatest. If you’re going to have somebody give testimony to the fact that the Messiah needs to die, you couldn’t get a better witness than Moses, unless it was Elijah. He could stand with Moses because he fought against every violation of that law. He battled the nation’s idolatry and he battled it with great courage and words of judgment and he validated his preaching with miracles. There are only two miracle eras in the Old Testament, the time of Moses, and you know what the miracles were, they were in Egypt and the time of Elijah. You can read them in 1 Kings 17 to 19, 2 Kings 1 and 2. There was no law giver like Moses and there was no prophet like Elijah. Moses gave the Law, Elijah was His greatest guardian. Here are the most trustworthy eyewitnesses. No one could bring the apostles more assurance and confidence that the death of Jesus was in the plan than to hear it from Moses and Elijah, the very men that they look to as the heroes of the Old Testament faith.

Alan Carr: These two men also represent the two ways the people of God meet death. Moses died and was buried, Deut. 34:5-6. Elijah was taken up alive into Heaven, 2 Kings 2:11. Like Moses, many have and many will die. Like Elijah, some will be taken up alive into Heaven to meet God, 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thes. 4:16-18. Like Moses and Elijah, regardless of how you leave this world, if you know the Lord, you will be with Him in glory someday! What a truth and what a blessing!

B. (:5-6) Homogenization of Jesus by Blundering Peter

“To make uniform or similar”

1. (:5) Characterizing Jesus as Good Can Be Bad

“And Peter answered and said to Jesus,

‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here;

and let us make three tabernacles,

one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’”

Peter thought he was raising Jesus up – in actuality he was insulting him.

2. (:6) Careful What You Say

“For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.”

Usually when you don’t know what to say, it is prudent to keep quiet.

C. (:7) Differentiation of Jesus Demanded by the Father

“Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!’”

Deut. 18:15ff Listen to Him

Matt adds some detail here: “When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, ‘Get up, and do not be afraid.’”

Mark Copeland: The command, “Hear Him!” implies…

a. That God would now speak through His Son, not the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) – cf. He 1:1-2

b. That the rule and reign of God would be exercised through His Son, as He would be given all authority in heaven and earth – cf. Mt 28:18

Constable: A “cloud” frequently pictured God’s presence and protection in the Old Testament (e.g., Exod. 16:10; 19:9; 24:15-16; 33:1; 40:34-38; Num. 9:15-22; 1 Kings 8:10-11, Isa. 4:5). Probably the cloud enveloped and concealed Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, rather than simply overshadowing them. The heavenly “voice” assured the disciples that, even though the Jews would reject Jesus and the Romans would execute Him, He was still pleasing to the Father (cf. 1:11). It also helped these disciples understand Jesus’ superiority over the greatest of God’s former servants (cf. Deut. 18:15; Ps. 2:7; Isa. 42:1).

MacArthur: The Kingdom will come in its time, listen to what He says about His death. The transfiguration, obviously, is a glimpse of glory, but its main point was to demonstrate that the glory is later and the cross was now.

Alan Carr: Whatever Peter’s motives may have been, one thing is sure, God did not like what Peter had to say. All of a sudden Jesus and the other five men on that mountain are overshadowed by a cloud. Out of that cloud booms the very voice of God Almighty. God declares the supremacy of Jesus over the Law and over the prophets. God does not tolerate Peter placing Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah.

D. (:8) Isolation of Jesus to Emphasize His Preeminence

“And all at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore,

except Jesus alone.”

Parunak: now Elijah and Moses are gone. Before the coming of Christ, the law and the prophets, whom they represent, were the guide for the people of God; now our attention is turned directly to the Messiah. Heb. 1:1,2, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son.”


A. (:9-10) Suffering Must Precede Glory

1. (:9) Promise of the Resurrection Implies Death of the Messiah

“And as they were coming down from the mountain,

He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen,

until the Son of Man should rise from the dead.”

2. (:10) Perplexity on the Part of the Disciples

“And they seized upon that statement,

discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean.”

B. (:11-13) Rejection and Suffering Foreshadowed in John the Baptist

1. (:11-12a) Question Posed by the Disciples

a. (:11) Asked

“And they asked Him, saying,

‘Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’”

b. (:12a) Answered

“And He said to them, ‘Elijah does first come and restore all things.”

2. (:12b-13) Question Posed by Jesus

a. (:12b) Asked

“And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He should suffer many

things and be treated with contempt?’”

b. (:13) Answered

“But I say to you, that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him

whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.”

Constable: If the multitudes heard about this demonstration of Jesus’ glory, it would only fuel the fires of popular messianic expectation that created pressure for Jesus to depart from God’s will. This is the last command to maintain secrecy in this Gospel. It is also the only one with a time limit. The people the disciples would soon tell the transfiguration story to would only understand it after Jesus arose from the dead. With His resurrection behind them, they could appreciate the fact that He would return in glory to establish the messianic kingdom.

Constable: The disciples thought Elijah still had to come, but Jesus explained that he had come. His enemies had done to him what the Old Testament recorded. Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist (Matt. 17:13). The Old Testament passage to which Jesus referred was 1 Kings 19:1-3 and 10. There Ahab, and especially Jezebel, swore to kill Elijah. They “wished” to execute him. This is exactly what “King” Herod Antipas, and especially Herodias, really did to John the Baptist. Now we see why Mark recorded the story of John’s death (6:17-29). It was to show that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecies about Elijah coming. . . The fulfillment was not complete, however, because someone will come in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way before Messiah’s second coming (Mal. 4:5; cf. Rev. 11).


Look at how Peter Got It – in terms of understanding the Identity and Mission of the Messiah:

Acts 3:11ff – Peter now has a much better understanding of who Jesus is and the necessity of his suffering followed by his resurrection; Peter learned what Jesus had taught