Mark 9:1-13

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

August 16, 2012)


Some events recorded in the Scripture are so unusual, they are difficult for us to get our minds around.  For me, at least, that is true of the event that is recorded in this passage.  This is one of those mysterious events in the Scripture, an event we really cannot explain.  What happened on that mountain that day is so unusual, so out of the realm of the ordinary, that if defies human understanding.  This event, which is recorded in all three synoptic gospels, is referred to as the Transfiguration of Jesus because of the word in verse 2 that is translated transfigured.  The Greek word is metemorphothe which is a compound word made up of a preposition (meta – after) and a noun (morphoo – form).  The word means to change one’s appearance, but it means more than that.  One writer points out the word metemorphothe  means to be changed from the inside out [Wiersbe, p.88].  It is just the opposite of the word "masquerade" which means covering up something, as with a mask, but with the inside staying the same.  The idea behind the word is allowing one’s true nature to show.  In this passage three of Jesus’ disciples were privileged to get a glimpse of His true nature.


Verse 1 – It is unclear whether this verse is the conclusion of the discussion in chapter 8 or the introduction to chapter 9.  Actually, I view it as a transition statement, linking the two sections together. 

      “truly I say to you” – Jesus way of introducing an authoritative, important saying.


      “shall not taste death” – An Hebrew idiom meaning to experience physical death.


      “see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” – A number of interpretations have been offered of this phrase:

·         Jesus’ resurrection

·         Jesus’ ascension into heaven

·         Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

·         The expectation of Jesus’ early second coming

·         The transfiguration experience

      It seems to me the most natural interpretation of this verse is to see it as referring to the transfiguration of Jesus which occurred shortly after these words were spoken.


Verse 2

      “six days” - Luke 9:28 has “eight days.” Such a specific time designation is very unusual in Mark’s Gospel.

      “Peter and James and John” - This is the inner circle of disciples who were always present at major events (cf. 5:37). This event was as much for them as for Jesus.

      “on a high mountain” Tradition says it was Mt. Tabor, but probably it was one of the foothills of Mt. Hermon.

      “by themselves” - Luke 9:28 states the purpose as “to pray.” Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds to teach the disciples privately. In this instance it was this inner circle of leadership.

      “He was transfigured before them” - The radiance of His true divine self was visible to these disciples (cf. II Pet. 1:16–18).


Verse 3

      “exceedingly white”This comment is unique to Mark’s Gospel, probably reflecting the eyewitness account of Peter.


Verse 4

      “Moses…Elijah” – Why these two?  Why not some other Old Testament characters such as Isaiah and Jeremiah or David and Daniel?  A number of suggestions have been put forth about why Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus that day: 


·         Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets...Moses is the one through whom God gave the law to Israel......Elijah was commonly viewed by the Israelites as the greatest of all the prophets...the law and the prophets represent the entire we have the father of the law and the father of the prophets conversing with Jesus..


·         Both Moses and Elijah had both had previously conversed with God on  mountaintops and had been shown God's glory... Moses on Mt. Sinai and Elijah on Mt. Horeb...


·         Both Moses and Elijah had unusual departures from this world...Moses was buried by God, Himself, in a grave known only to God...Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire...


      appeared” – This word is used in the New Testament to describe the supernatural appearance of angels (see Luke 1:11)


      “talking with Jesus” – The phrase involves an extended conversation.  Luke’s account indicates the disciples were asleep during at least part of this conversation.  Luke tells us the discussion centered around Jesus’ departure from Jerusalem.


      There is an amazing corollary between this passage and Exod. 24:12–18: (1) the time element of six days (v. 16); (2) the place, on a high mountain; (3) the presence of a cloud and God’s speaking from it (vv. 15–17); and (4) the mention of glory on Moses’ face and here Jesus’ face (v. 19; Exod. 34:29–30).[1]


Verse 5

      “Peter said to Jesus” - Luke 9:32 says the three disciples were asleep after a long day and a hard climb and Peter woke up just in time to see Elijah and Moses departing.

      “Rabbi ” - The Matthew parallel has “Lord” and the Luke parallel has “Master.”

      “it is good for us to be here” - What an awesome spiritual and physical experience this must have been; what a confirmation of the person of Jesus as the promised OT Messiah.

      “tabernacles” - This would have been a structure similar to the temporary thatch huts used during the Festival of Booths. The implication of Peter’s statement was that if the glorified OT visitors would stay a while, they could stay a while longer, too![2]

Verse 6 - Mark’s explanatory (gar, “for”) comment is set off as a parenthesis. It shows that Peter, as spokesman, responded inappropriately because (gar) they were so frightened (ekphoboi, “terrified,” a strong adjective used only here and in Heb. 12:21 where it is trans. “fear”[3]


Verses 7-8 - God the Father’s response to Peter’s suggestion set forth the true meaning of this event. The cloud that enveloped them (Jesus, Moses, Elijah) signified God’s awesome presence (cf. Ex. 16:10; 19:9) and from it came His commanding voice. Once again, as at Jesus’ baptism, the Father placed His unqualified endorsement on His beloved Son (cf. comments on Mark 1:11). Jesus’ sonship sets Him above all other men including Moses and Elijah.  Listen to Him (pres. imper.), actually means, “Be obedient to Him.”[4]


Verse 9 - On their descent from the mountain Jesus told the three disciples to keep silent about what they had seen till after His resurrection. Their misunderstanding of His messianic mission (8:29-33) was still evident at the transfiguration (cf. 9:5-6, 10; and comments on 8:30).


      This was Jesus’ last command to silence recorded by Mark and the only one on which He set a time limit. This implied that a time of proclamation (cf. 13:10; 14:9) would follow this period of silence. Only from the perspective of the Resurrection would they understand the transfiguration and thus be able to proclaim its meaning correctly.[5]


Verses 10-11 – These verses indicate the disciples lack of understanding.  The disciples did not understand the distinction between “the Second Coming” (8:38) and “the Resurrection” (9:9). The Jews of Jesus’ day expected only one coming of the Messiah into history and this coming was related to the military victory and supremacy of national Israel on a global scale.[6] 


Verses 12-13 – The essential thrust of these verses is that in a spiritual sense, John the Baptist was “the Elijah” promised to Israel (Mal. 3:1; 4:5–6; Luke 1:16–17; John 1:21; Matt. 17:13).[7]


What are we to learn from this event?  It is important to look at the Transfiguration in the context of what has been happening in lives of Jesus and disciples...notice Mark begins paragraph with phrase "And six days later..."...refers to events at end of chapter 8...Jesus taking disciples to Caesarea Philippi...identifying Him as Messiah... Jesus explaining was going be suffering Messiah...then dropped bombshell on them that to be His followers must be willing follow Him to the cross...told them only way gain life was to give up their lives for His sake...disciples were certainly confused by all that...must have wondered what kind of future there was for them in following Jesus...the Transfiguration was Jesus' answer to that question...


There is something to learn from this event about our future in Christ in this life

1.   The word metemorphothe  is used only four times in Scripture... twice it is used in relation to this particular event in Jesus' life--once in Mark 9:2 and again in Matthew 17:2 in Matthew's account of this same event...however, the other two times it is used, is used of us to describe what God desires do in our is used in--

--Romans 12:2 - "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

--2 Corinthians 3:18 - "But we all...are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

2.   When Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured that day on the mountain, actually seeing a dramatic preview of what God desired to do in their is God's purpose for us in this world to transform us, transfigure us into the image of Jesus Christ...

3.   That transformation begins the moment you accept Christ as Savior...when turn to Him for salvation, doesn't just masquerade/cover up our faults...enters our hearts and makes us new Apostle Paul put in 2 Cor. 5:17 - "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." ...and it continues throughout our lives in this world...God is never finished with us...we are never complete...we are continually in the process of being remade from the inside out...


There is something to learn from this event about our future in Christ after this life

1.      Imagine what Peter, James, and John must have been thinking as saw Jesus talking with Moses who had been dead for over 1400 years and Elijah who had been dead for about 900 doubt must have realized the implications of that for their own lives...maybe God chose to send Moses and Elijah to meet with Jesus to remind them and to remind us that whether we die as Moses did or whether we're caught up as Elijah was when Jesus returns to this world, our destiny is to spend eternity with Him... 

2.      That's the great hope, the great assurance of Christianity... that's what helps us make sense out of this life...this world is not all there is...there is more to our existence than the cycle of birth, life, and death...we are destined for eternity...and very reason Jesus came to our world is make it possible for us to spend eternity with Him...He said--

--John 11:25 - "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies..."

--John 14:2-3 - "In my Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

3.   And if we lose sight of fact that we are destined to spend eternity with Christ and that our loved ones who have died in Him are with Him this very moment, then we are missing the very heart of Christianity...


As I studied this amazing event in Mark’s in the life of Jesus, the words of old gospel song kept running through my mind.  Those words are a good summary of the practical truths to be learned from this event about our future in this life and the next life.  The song says:

I don't worry about tomorrow, I just live from day to day

I don't borrow from its sunshine for its skies my turn to grey

I don't worry o'er the future for I know what Jesus said

And today I walk beside Him for He knows what is ahead

Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.

[1] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (101). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (101–102). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Mk 9:5–6). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Mk 9:7–8). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Mk 9:9). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (102). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[7] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (124). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.