Mark 9:2-9 Transfiguration Sunday 2018

Mark 9:2-9


1     Last sunday after epiphany. Transfiguration sunday Year B [1]

Other Revised[2] Common Lectionary[3] (RCL) texts for today:[4] Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

2     Background information about the Bible Book and text:

Author: We do not know who the author named Mark was. Most probably it is not the same Mark mentioned in Acts 12:12 and 1 Peter 5:13.

Dated: Around 65-70 AD

Style: Indications are that the author was Jewish and that Greek was not his first language. There is a theory that Mark was the first Gospel to be written down and that the other gospels made use of Mark as one of their sources of information.

Historical Setting: There is no absolute clarity on the geographical context. The author was probably situated in Rome or in the Roman province of Syria. The book as we know it came into existence about 35-40 years after Jesus’ resurrection. It was a time of conflict between the Roman emperors and Jewish rebels, which led to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Christian community functioned within this threatening context.

3     Text

Markus 9:2-11 Afr 1983Mark 9:2-11 NIVUmarko 9:2-11 Xho96
2 Ses dae later het Jesus vir Petrus en Jakobus en Johannes saamgeneem en hulle op ‘n hoë berg gebring waar hulle heeltemal alleen was. Toe het sy voorkoms voor hulle oë verander, 3en sy klere het blink geword, spierwit soos niemand op aarde dit kan maak nie. 4Elia en Moses het toe aan hulle verskyn en met Jesus gestaan en praat.   5Toe sê Petrus vir Jesus: “Rabbi, dit is goed dat ons hier is. Laat ons drie hutte bou: een vir U, een vir Moses en een vir Elia.” 6Hy het nie geweet wat hy sê nie, so verskrik was hy saam met die ander. 7Daar het toe ‘n wolk gekom wat sy skaduwee oor hulle laat val het; en uit die wolk het daar ‘n stem gekom: “Dit is my geliefde Seun. Luister na Hom.” 8En meteens, toe hulle weer kyk, sien hulle niemand meer nie, net Jesus alleen by hulle. 9Terwyl hulle van die berg afkom, het Jesus hulle opdrag gegee om wat hulle gesien het, vir niemand te vertel voordat die Seun van die mens uit die dood opgestaan het nie. 10Hulle het hulle toe aan hierdie opdrag gehou, maar onder mekaar geredeneer oor wat dit beteken as Hy sê dat die Seun van die mens uit die dood sal opstaan. 11Hulle vra Hom toe: “Waarom sê die skrifgeleerdes dat Elia eers moet kom?” 12“Elia kom wel eers om alles weer reg te maak,” antwoord Hy hulle. “En hoe staan daar ook oor die Seun van die mens geskrywe? Hy moet baie ly en verag word. 13Maar Ek sê vir julle: Elia het reeds gekom, en die mense het met hom gemaak wat hulle wou, net soos daar oor hom geskrywe staan.”2 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. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.   5Peter 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.” 6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9As 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. 10They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. 11And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 12Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?13But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”  2 Emva kweentsuku ezintandathu, uYesu uthathe uPetros noYakobi noYohane, banyuka intaba ephakamileyo bebodwa. UYesu ke wenziwa kumila kumbi phambi kwabo. 3Zasuka nezambatho zakhe zabengezela, zamhlophe qhwa; zamhlophe ngangokuba kungabikho bani emhlabeni apha unokuzenza njalo. 4Kwabonakala uEliya noMosis bethetha noYesu. 5Wasuka ke uPetros wathi kuYesu: “Mfundisi, kulungile ukuba sibe lapha. Masakhe amaphempe abe mathathu: elinye libe lelakho, elinye libe lelikaMosis, elinye libe lelikaEliya.” 6Wayesitsho kuba ebengayazi into anokuyithetha, kuba babesoyika kakhulu.   7Ke kwabakho ilifu elibagubungelayo, kwavakala nelizwi livela efini apho, lisithi: “Lo nguNyana wam endimthandayo; yivani yena.” 8Bakusinga-singa ke, ababa sabona mntu wumbi ngaphandle koYesu. 9Xa babesihla entabeni, uYesu wabayala ukuba bangazixeleli bani ezo zinto bazibonileyo, ade yena *uNyana woLuntu avuke kwabafileyo. 10Babambelela kule ntetho, bebuzana bodwa ukuba ngaba ukuvuka kubo abafileyo kukuthini na. 11Bambuza uYesu besithi: “Kungani na ukuba abachazi-mthetho bathi uEliya umelwe kukufika kuqala?”Mal 4:5 12Waphendula wathi kubo: “Ewe, okunene nguEliya ofikayo kuqala azilungise zonke izinto. Kodwa ke kutheni ukuba *iziBhalo zitsho ukuthi uNyana woLuntu ufanele ukuva ubunzima obukhulu, enziwe into engento yanto? 13Mna ke ndithi kuni: ufikile uEliya, baza abantu benza kuye konke abakuthandayo, kwanjengoko zitshoyo ngaye iziBhalo.”  

4     Exegetical information (Understanding the text/passage)

  • The same narrative can be found in the gospels of Matthew (17:1-8) and Luke (9:28-36).
  • This passage has strong similarities with the commission to Moses on the mountain Horeb (Exodus 24:15-18), which lasts for six days.
  • Three of the gospels set this excursion to the mountain in terms of a time frame. Mark and Matthew wrote of six days, while Luke refers to eight days since Jesus’ last public appearance.
  • The emphasis in the preceding passage (Mark 8:27-9:1) is on Jesus as the Messiah. The emphasis is now (Mark 9:2ff) on Jesus as the Son of God, a repeat of Mark 1:9. It is important to make a connection between the concepts of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus as the Son of God. The Jews expected a special person to come forward and to be the Messiah who would save the Jewish nation. In the Christian tradition, Jesus was not only a special person, but also the Son of God.
  • Mark made it clear, earlier in the Gospel (6:14-29; 7:31-44), that Jesus is more than Elia and Moses. The two OT figures connect Jesus with the representatives of the “the Law” (Moses) and “the Prophets” (Elia).
  • The brightness and whiteness of Jesus’ cloth as well as the overshadowing cloud convey a clear message of the presence of God. A similarity to this can be found in Dan 7:9 and Ex 24:15-18.
  • The disciples with Jesus represent the “inner circle”, Peter, James and John. Peter is, as often happened, the spokesperson. It is remarkable how easily Peter bought into the glory of Jesus in contrast with how difficult it was for him to accept the suffering that lay ahead (8:31-33).
  • The message brought by the voice repeated the words at the baptism (1:11): “This is my Son, whom I love”. But it added: “Listen to him”.
  • The encounter on the mountain is described very visually, but the message is to listen to Him. The “listen to him” is about more than only hearing – it is also a call to understand what is happening. This is not the first call in this regard. In Mark 4 there is a call which admonishes “anyone with ears to hear” (4:9; 23-24). Jesus was busy predicting his death, but there seemed to be a “deafness” to it (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34).
  • One of the central themes of the Gospels is the coming of the kingdom of God. The Gospel of Mark refers 18 times to the kingdom of God (see Mark 9:1). John the Baptist and Jesus say the kingdom of God was at hand. Later on, Jesus announced that the kingdom of God had come (Mat 12:28; Luke 11:20).
  • What is in a name?

Jesus has many names: Christ, Son of God, Son of Man, Lord, Prophet, Servant, Priest; Good Shepherd, King, Image of God, Lamb; Passover Lamb, Rock, Sacrifice, Bread, Water and Light. Some of these names we can cluster together, like Prophet, Priest and King, which reflect the Old Testament offices. The names Lamb, Bread, Water and Rock are related to the exodus of Israelites from Egypt. The group of names, Word, Light and Image of God, refers to the creation account.

The Son of God in the NT is an indication of Jesus’ exalted position and divinity. But it is not limited to it. In the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke), it mostly means the Messiah, the king of Israel. The Messiah, in the Jewish understanding, would be a human descendant of David (2 Sam 7). In the Jewish understanding, people and heavenly beings were called son/ sons of God. The people of Israel are called sons of God (Ex 4:22-23; Isa 1:2; 30:1; Jer 3:22; Hos 11:1). The king is called son of God (2 Sam 7:14; Psalm 2:7). In Job the heavenly creature is called son of God (Job 1:6; 2:1).

For many NT believers in the time of the gospels, the understanding of Jesus as the Son of God was not an expression of Jesus’ divine nature. The Son of God was similar to the King or the Messiah who would represent the people before God.

By “Son of God” the Gospel of John and Paul means “a divine person”, who is in a unique relationship to the Father, which is unknown in the OT understanding. John refers to Jesus as the only begotten Son of God (John 1:18; 3:16; 10:30-38). Clearly, this indicates a difference between Jesus and God in terms of relationship. For Paul, Jesus was more than the son of David (Rom 1:4; 8:3; 32).

If we again turn to the title “Son of Man”, we should understand that it is an oversimplification to see it as a clear reference to Jesus’ human side. There is one OT reference to the Son of Man in Daniel 7. The person described here is clearly a heavenly person, different from the Messiah in the OT, who was a descendant of David. Jesus often used this title for Himself, especially in times of crisis – approximately 35 times in the Synoptic Gospels. Ironically, others hardly ever used this title for Him. Outside of the gospels, the term only appears in Acts 7:56; Rev 1:13 and 14:14.

What is remarkable is that the Son of Man in Daniel represents heavenly glory, judgment and rule, while Jesus often refers to himself as Son of Man in the context of his coming suffering. For Jesus the concepts of the Son of Man and Servant are closely connected.

  • Why did Jesus give his disciples the order not to tell anybody (Mark 9:9)? This is a repeat of what happened in the previous chapter (8:30) (see also Mark 5:43 and 7:36). In Mark 3:11-12, the evil (unclean) spirits saw him and cried out “you are the Son of God”. Jesus gave them the order not to reveal who he was. One of the explanations (Tolmie 2014) for this is that Jesus was aware that the people’s understanding of the words “Son of God” or “Christ” (Messiah) was that of an earthly king who would to take over the rule from the present rulers. Although Peter acknowledges that Jesus was Christ (8:29), his understanding of what it really means was still limited. Before His suffering on the cross, death and resurrection, people would not understand that He was a different type of Messiah, a servant Messiah, a Messiah who gives his life for others. It can be argued that the Roman officer who stood at the cross and announced (Mark 15:39), “Surely this man was the Son of God!”, truly understood what it meant to be a Son of God. He could identify the suffering Christ as the Messiah.

5     Sermon:

5.1   The theme of the sermon

Glory before suffering. Holding on to both glory and suffering.

5.2   From text to context (What does it say to us in our context?)


Last Sunday was the last of the Sundays following Epiphany Sunday (Second Sunday after Christmas). Today is “transfiguration Sunday”, which is followed by Ash Wednesday and represents the beginning of Lent. Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Lent.

Christmas celebrations now really come to an end. The passage on God’s affirmation of Jesus on the mountain, echoing the message with his baptism, prepares the disciples (and also the readers) indirectly for what follows: the persecution, passion and death of Jesus lie close at hand.

5.2.2    A glorious moment

The visit to the mountain was a glorious moment. Jesus was transformed into a heavenly figure. The representatives of the Law and Prophets, Moses and Elijah, appeared before them. And a voice spoke from the cloud that engulfed them, confirming who Jesus was.

It is not strange that Peter just wanted to create some permanency around the moment by suggesting that they build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

It was an important moment – and we celebrate it today, thousands of years later.

5.2.3    Jesus, Son of God and son of man

The Son of God in the NT is an indication of Jesus’ exalted position and divinity. But it is not limited to it. In the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke) it mostly means the Messiah, the king of Israel. The Messiah in the Jewish understanding would be a human descendant of David (2 Sam 7).

There is one OT reference to the Son of Man in Daniel 7. The person described here is clearly a heavenly person, different from the Messiah in the OT, who was a descendant of David. It is interesting how often Jesus used this title for Himself: 35 times in the Synoptic Gospels.

What is remarkable: The Son of Man in Daniel represents heavenly glory, judgment and rule, while Jesus often refers to himself as the Son of Man in the context of his coming suffering. For Jesus, the concepts of the Son of Man and Servant are closely connected.

How do they compare – one being a glorious heavenly figure, and the other a suffering Servant who would be rejected? It seems as if Jesus was able to combine that which is the Son of Man and that of the suffering Servant in Himself (Mark 10:45). He represents both glory and suffering. When Jesus healed the paralysed man, those present were amazed and glorified God (Mark 2:10-12). He did not lose his power and glory as the Son of Man, but willingly chose to suffer and took on the role and work of a suffering Servant.

We know that several symbols from the OT became wider and richer in meaning and practice in the NT. The sign of the covenant in the OT, circumcision, was administered only to males; the sign in the NT, baptism, includes males and females. In the OT, one day of the week was the Sabbath, now all seven days should be considered a Sabbath.

5.2.4    Keeping together glory and suffering

Jesus understands that the glory of the visit to the mountain is not the total reality. He was aware that what was coming would be totally different because it would include suffering and persecution.

The real challenge is to keep together both glory and suffering. To keep going when things are not going your way. It is relatively easy to speak of “my faith” when I can recall moments of spiritual revival or experiences. When the moments of mountain-top experiences are fresh in my mind.

The challenge comes when I do not have any mountain-top experiences; when the only things I can remember are failure, mistakes and unhappiness. When I feel that I do not have any faith to speak of. When I experience physical and/ or emotional difficulty.

Christ reminded his inner circle when they were coming down the mountain of his imminent death (Mark 9:9). The disciples seem uncertain how to interpret his words. It is as if they just cannot hear what He is saying.

The voice in the cloud made it clear: “Listen to Him”. That seems to be very difficult if you are still excited by what happened on the mountain top.

5.2.5    Summary

Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain should have prepared the inner circle of disciples for the difficult time that lay ahead of them. Peter, for understandable reasons, would have liked to give permanency to this moment of glory. Jesus knew that the moment was necessary as confirmation of who He was and would strengthen the memory of the disciples, but also that it was not the full reality. What lay ahead was suffering.

The real meaning of who He really was can only be found by keeping together the concepts of both his glory as the true Son of God (which is different to the glory of earthly kings), and also that of His suffering as the Messiah who came to serve.


Dr Frederik B O Nel /7 March, 2018

6       References:

Agenbach, Andre 1999-2000. Preekstudies met liturgiese voorstelle, gebaseer op die Leesrooster vir lidmate, Jaar B, 81-90

Breuggemann, W, Cousar, C B, Gaventa, B R, Newsome, J D 1993. Texts for Preaching. A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV. Year B, 179-181

Cole, R Alan 1983. Mark. Tyndale NT Commentary

Cole, Victor Babajide 2006. Mark, in Africa Bible Commentary, 1185-1186

Fabian, Alice 2017-2018. Word and Worship, Year B, 78-80

König, Adrio 2004. Jesus, Name Above All Names. Revealing the Heart of Christianity

Nell, Ian 2017-2018. Preekstudies met liturgiese voorstelle, gebaseer op die Leesrooster vir lidmate. Revised Common Lectionary:  Jaar B, Advent 2017 vandag,  tot Koninkrykstyd 2018, 72-75

Van der Watt, Jan  (red); Bosman Hendrik; Du Rand Jan; Janse van Rensburg, Fika; Nel Marius; Smit Dirkie; Venter Pieter 2003. Die Bybel A-Z

Van der Watt, Jan & Francois Tolmie 2014. Ontdek die Boodskap van die Nuwe Testament. God se Woord vir vandag, 131-135

Vosloo, Wil & Van Rensburg Fika, J 1999. Die Bybellennium. Eenvolumekommentaar. Die Bybel uitgelê vir eietydse toepassing, 1215

[1] The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) has a three-year cycle. Year A focuses on the Gospel of Matthew; Year B on Mark and Year C on Luke. Each year focuses on different OT and NT books.

[2] The RCL has been in existence since 1992. The Leesrooster (reading roster) project was founded in 1995 and is the Afrikaans equivalent, based on the RCL.

[3] A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the service of worship. Lectionaries (tables of readings) were known and used since the 4th century AD.

[4] There are four readings for each Sunday. One from the OT; one from the Psalms, one from the Gospels and a second reading from the NT. The Leesrooster project focuses on only one of the four texts for preaching on each of the Sundays.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *