The Transfiguration – Mark 9

Almost a week later, Jesus took Peter, James and John and went up to a high mountain. When they were all alone, His appearance transfigured before their very eyes. His clothes became the brightest shade of white, unattainable by any of our earthly dyes. Definitely nothing close to what the disciples could have imagined as Jesus chose to reveal His true glory to the inner circle. The choice of taking only the three is questioned but it was His will that these three might see His transfiguration while at the same moment the other nine struggled to drive a demon out of a little boy. Much to the bewilderment of Peter, Jesus was visited by Moses and Elijah in that transfigured state.

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.”

Mark 9:5
Mount Hermon is believed to be the site of the Transfiguration

Peter had no idea what to say and was lucky that he did not give any of his trademark overexuberant speeches. He assumed that Jesus had chosen the three specifically for this mission only to set up tents for them. However, Jesus had greater plans for Peter, James and John, one that they would realise after His resurrection. The disciples were experiencing a landmark moment which they would have missed had they been busy with the ordinary chores. Like Martha, who was busy with the chores at her house, we miss out on several landmark moments when Christ is working in our lives. Let us be like Mary, sitting at His feet and not missing anything that He is trying to teach us.

Identity of Jesus Revealed

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Mark 9:7

God gave a similar testimony about Jesus to John the Baptist as Jesus came up out of the water. Now the disciples were witnessing first-hand the voice of God and his command to obey the Son. This might also be a callback to Moses’ prophecy about the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15). But this was a commandment only for them at this point, as Jesus gave them orders to not tell anyone about what they had witnessed, till He had risen from the dead.

And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

Mark 9:11

The disciples were puzzled with Jesus’ statement of rising from the dead but rather than asking Jesus what was in their hearts, they asked Him another question about what the teachers of the law were saying about Elijah. The disciples did not realise that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah and that the Jews had rejected Him already like they would reject the Messiah too. Elijah and John the baptist were tools that God used to prepare the way. But the death of John will never be able to atone for the sins of the world. For that, the Messiah who is capable of carrying the sins of the world must come and die for all of us.

The Unbelieving Generation

As they returned to the rest of the disciples, they saw that a large crowd had gathered as something was afoot. When the people saw Jesus come down from the mountain, they were overjoyed and ran to Him to lodge a complaint about His disciples.

“Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

Mark 9:17-18

Jesus hears the crowd out but then calls everyone present there an unbelieving generation. The father of the boy who doubted Jesus, the crowds that had gathered to see the sound and light show at the expense of a little boy and the disciples for not putting their trust on Him but on His signs and wonders. Jesus had recently sent the disciples on a missionary trip empowering them with the gift of healing and the ability to drive out demons. No matter how much Jesus built His disciples up, they would find new ways to disappoint Him.

The boy’s father requested Jesus to build up his faith, something that disciples seemingly did not ask for. Jesus commanded the demon to leave the boy and the evil spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out of the boy. The boy looked lifeless perhaps even dead, but Jesus grabbed him by the hand, and just like He did with Jarius’ daughter, raised him to life. When the disciples questioned Jesus as to why they were not able to heal the boy, Jesus simply answered that they did not pray about it.

Oftentimes we are used by God as an empty vessel, to heal someone or maybe impact a life in a positive way. We take the work that God carried out through us as a sign of His approval of our lives. While in fact, our lives are not led by prayer and day by day we are growing apart from Him. Don’t mistake the things that God does through us in others’ lives to mean that He is happy with our ways. We must be in prayer with Him constantly to know the will He has for our own lives.

Jesus Warns His Disciples

Jesus did not want anyone to know about His whereabouts so they passed through Galilee. On the way, Jesus predicted His death again. He told them how He would be captured and killed but would rise up after three days. The disciples were afraid to ask any follow-up questions especially after getting reprimanded for not being able to heal the little boy.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Mark 9:33-34

The disciples kept quiet about what they should have asked and which was more important than their stupid argument. But they asked Jesus other things, like how can we heal people like you and by arguing about who is the greatest. These questions showed their hearts and their reasons for following Jesus. We also keep our doubts secret from our fellow believers but sometimes we try to keep them as a secret even from God. If the disciples had asked Jesus what was in their hearts, perhaps they would not have received the shock of their lives when Jesus was hung on the cross. They would have understood that it was all part of the redemption plan of God that was being carried out by His Son.

In It Together

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

Mark 9:38

John brought to Jesus’ attention another man who was driving out demons in Jesus’ name. The disciples thought that only they held the secret to driving out demons which is funny given that they themselves were not fully trusting in Christ. Rivalry has no place in the kingdom of God as people working for God are in it together. But still, we see rivalry even today, among different leaders, pastors, churches and even denominations. Everyone wants to stake their own claim to the kingdom of God. Remember what Christ said about satan’s kingdom and how it would fall if it was divided in such a manner.

“How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.

Mark 3:23-26

While we waste time in fighting, satan and his army are not wasting time in their efforts to separate all of us from God. The disciples were wasting time worrying about who among them was the greatest. The same formula of ego and distraction is applied by satan even today, as he tries to get the people of God fighting among themselves for the most insignificant issues and tries to tear apart the body of Christ.

But God’s kingdom is different as He and satan are not on equal grounds. In spite of all our egoistic motives, He still strengthens us for His purpose. However, Jesus also warns us about our state if we mislead His sheep (little ones) based on our egos or our own purpose,

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.

Mark 9:42

To the diluters of the word, the people who make false claims and those who actively cause the people of God to stumble by burdening them, Jesus says that their punishment is so great that anything that harms their physical earthly bodies will seem like a blessing in comparison to what is in stored for them.

Table salt

Salt is crucial for our cuisine as it is an enhancer and sometimes even activates the taste of other ingredients. If it loses its saltiness then salt would have lost the very purpose of its existence and would be similar to sand. Like salt, our purpose is to bring His people closer to Him. If instead we are driven by our own agenda we have lost the very purpose of our existence. We will be like tasteless salt that is thrown in the fire.

Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.

Mark 9:50

Discussion Questions

V2: Why did Jesus only take three of the twelve disciples to witness His transfiguration?
V17: Who is Jesus upset with when he says “Unbelieving generation”?
V34: Why are the disciples not asking Jesus the doubts of their hearts? Do we do the same?
V38: Why did John bring up another man driving out demons?
V44: Why such crude punishments for anyone who cause the little ones to stumble?
V50: What is Jesus trying to teach us using the example of Salt?

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