Mark 9:2–13 (ESV)
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
One of the best gifts in life is watching a small child encounter something completely new: bubbles; the light switch; the television remote, (how can they possibly mess up your TV so bad in just a couple of minutes?); a dog or cat; a new food; and my personal favorite, their shadow.
Often, when a child encounters something new, they have varied responses. Sometimes there may be joy and other times a mixture of curiosity and fear.
In both Mark and Matthew’s accounts of this encounter, Peter, James, and John are terrified and overwhelmed by what they are witnessing, and they are completely unsure of how to process what’s happening. They had been watching Jesus unveil the Kingdom of God in incredible ways. Their eyes were being opened to, not only the reality of the Kingdom of God but also to Jesus as the Messiah.
I love Peter’s response because he was doing his best to process this awe-inspiring moment. Peter was filled with fear and awe and didn’t know what to say and, as usual, said the wrong thing. But we should be understanding. What does one say and do in this situation?
The glory of the Lord was being revealed at that moment and the words of the Lord confirm the confession of Peter that we just read about back in chapter 8; Jesus is the Messiah. This whole scene would raise hope, as the presence of Moses and Elijah would signal to Jewish people that God is fulfilling His promises. The Kingdom of God had drawn near, and it is breaking into the world in the presence of Jesus.
Things have changed since Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Mark is moving us along at a rapid pace as Jerusalem and the shadow of the cross are on the horizon. Jesus has already spoken once before about His death and resurrection and now Jesus speaks about His resurrection again.
But the disciples are a little confused as they come down the mountain. “Wait, wait, wait; all this isn’t happening the way we understand it should.” The disciples are expecting that Elijah will come first and shake everyone up and then the Messiah is supposed to come in establish His kingdom by force. But it isn’t happening according to their expectations and so they ask Jesus, “Isn’t Elijah supposed to come first?” Jesus’ response was, “You blinked and missed it. Elijah has already come.”
Elijah did come first, it was John the Baptist, a voice in the wilderness announcing Jesus and warning everyone to be ready but things didn’t pan out as the disciples expected; John was murdered by the very evil that he was calling people to repent from. And then Jesus; Jesus hasn’t been establishing the kingdom of God by force; instead, the kingdom is being established with love and mercy and grace through the things Jesus has been doing and teaching, and now Jesus is talking plainly that He will experience suffering and His death and resurrection.
The fact of the matter is that God is always working and moving all around us in amazing ways. Looking back, it’s easier for us to see how the Lord is shaping our lives but our call is to look forward and to follow Jesus, to be like Him, and to shine His love, mercy, and grace into the heart of our world which is lost, dark and, as a friend of mine often says, “A hot mess.”
Our calling as Jesus' missional disciples is to reflect the light of Christ, His life, into every life that we touch.
That’s not as simple as it might sound when you think about where that road may lead, but it can be done if you and I will do what Jesus said back in chapter eight.
Mark 8:34–35 (ESV)
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Are you ready to follow Jesus as His kingdom unfolds all around you or would you rather keep things the way they are?
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers!