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. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 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.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. – Mark 9:2-10 NIV
Today’s passage describes the transfiguration of Jesus. Apparently the word “transfiguration” is from Latin and means roughly to “change form” or “change the shape of”. This changing takes place high in the mountains when Jesus is on a “hike” with Peter, James, and John. The transfiguration is described as Jesus’ clothes becoming white, “whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them”. I will not pretend to understand what is happening here from a metaphysical perspective, but what does seem clear it that Jesus underwent a dramatic change in the way he looked, at least the way he looked to Peter, James, and John with their earthly eyes.
Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah. It does not say whether they were also clothed in whiteness or not. It just says that Jesus was talking with them. Faced with this incredible scene Peter, who was very frightened and probably speechless, decides to fill the vocabulary void with words. He has the idea that they could build shelters for these three metaphysical men. I am not sure what he thought he would be sheltering them from with these secular shelters made of stone. Perhaps given this glimpse of the spiritual realm they were simply unable to place the experience in their minds in any meaningful way. I do not know.
Then the water reference comes up in the form of a cloud, God’s presence, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”. This makes for an interesting juxtaposition. The Son of God was enveloped and surrounded by His Father God, the “Father of the Rain“, in the cloud. Of course God was present in this form throughout the Old Testament so this represents a confluence of sorts between the Old and the New Song that Jesus is “singing”. The presence of Moses and Elijah also represents this mixing of old and new treasures.
I am not sure why these men were chosen by God to witness this merging of worldviews between the old and the new. Perhaps God was presaging the need for these men to form a bridge between the Jewish culture and this new way that Jesus came to teach and demonstrate. It is interesting that Jesus does not want them to tell of this event until after He is gone. Perhaps this was another effort to keep people from seeing the magic instead of the metaphysical miracle of the Messiah. Jesus wanted these men, and those they would eventually teach, to focus on the transformation that God needs in their hearts rather than “trick” of the transfiguration.
The take home message for me in this passage is to focus on transformation rather than “tricks”. Don’t get me wrong it is amazing when God shows up in miraculous ways like He did in this passage, but I am pretty sure He prefers that we notice Him when He shows up in much more subtle ways in our lives every day.
Prayer: God give us eyes to see your presence in all that we do and transform our hearts to that they can see you more clearly.