When Divinity Displaced Humanity


Series: Mark

Title: 4. When Divinity Displaced Humanity Mark 9:2-8: The Transfiguration


  • 2015-10-10: White Rock Lake

  1. Introduction: Hiking in the mountains—tiring?
    1. We will study the Transfiguration of Jesus and consider three different meanings we can take from it.
  2. Background:
    1. Time: A little more than six months prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.
    2. Mark 8:31, 32. Jesus had stunned his disciples by telling them about his death. This was six days prior to our main story.
  3. The story
    1. Mark 9:2a:
      1. Jesus selects only the three closest disciples—the ones who were with him when he raised Jairus’s daughter (Mk 5:37), and the ones who would be with Him at Gethsemane.
      2. They ascend a high mountain—a tiring hike that no doubt leaves everyone exhausted.1
      3. Jesus’ purpose, according to Luke 9:28, was to pray, as he frequently did.
      4. Luke implies (9:32) that while Jesus was praying, the three disciples fell asleep.
    2. Mark 9:2b, 3:
      1. Descriptions of the transfiguration:
        1. Clothes radiant, intensely white as no launderer could bleach them. (current passage)
        2. Matthew: Clothes white as light; face shone like the sun (17:2)
      2. Background: Exodus 34:29-35: Direct encounters with God result in radiance.
      3. Jesus is radiant because of his divinity shining through.(DA 421.1)
      4. Meaning of the Transfiguration 1: When you encounter God, it is obvious to those around you.
        1. Different context, but nonetheless relevant: Matthew 5:14-16 (the light of the world)
    3. Mark 9:4 and Luke 9:30, 31: Moses and Elijah: There exist many explanations of their significance, all of which have merit:
      1. Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus’ exodus.2 Moses is associated with Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Elijah had an exodus from the earth.
        1. Jesus came to bring deliverance from the bondage of sin, and a promise of a future in heaven.
      2. Also, they, unlike the angels, had actual experience with human suffering, and they could relate to Jesus’ humanity in a way angels couldn’t
      3. Andrews Study Bible:

        They represent the Law and the Prophets, respectively. Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them ([Matt.] 5:17).

        Moses and Elijah, like Jesus, performed miracles, were rejected, and encountered God on a mountain (Sinai and Horeb/Sinai . . . respectively).

        In Judaism these men also had last-day significance. In Deut. 18:15-18 Moses prophesied that God would raise up a prophet like himself. It was believed that this would take place in the last days. In Mal. 4:5-6 it was also prophesied that Elijah would appear ‘before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.’

        Finally, both these figures were believed to be in heaven, having been resurrected . . . or translated without seeing death. . . . They became representative of those who will be saved at the Second Coming—both those who died in the Lord and those who are alive when Jesus returns. . . . The scene, portraying the transfigured Jesus with Moses and Elijah, is a type of the final last-day event with the glorified Jesus and all the saved.”3

      4. Meaning of the Transfiguration 2: Moses and Elijah’s conversation with Jesus about his death informs us about the Second Coming.
    4. Mark 9:5, 6:
      1. Throughout the Bible, the usual initial response to encounters with God or angels is fear. Thus, the frequent admonition, “Fear not.”
      2. Have you ever not known what to say, and so said something foolish? This was Peter’s experience.
      3. Peter may have been thinking of:
        1. The Feast of Tabernacles
        2. Harvest time festival
          1. All Israel visited Jerusalem, camped in tents, and waved palm branches in celebration
          2. Has eschatological significance
        3. Jesus, Moses, and Elijah worthy of equal honor—but of course, they weren’t, and Peter had a week prior confessed that Jesus was the Son of God
        4. A desire to prolong the visit
      4. Nevertheless, Jesus ignores Peter’s comment and doesn’t reply. It wasn’t the appropriate response.
        1. In fact, according to Matthew and Luke, the next event began while Peter was still speaking.
    5. Mark 9:7, 8:
      1. This is the second time a voice came from heaven to affirm Jesus; the first time was at Jesus’ baptism.
      2. Clouds are often associated with God’s presence. Note the pillar of cloud that led Israel.
      3. One week prior, Jesus had told His disciples for the first time about His death. They had been shocked.
        1. The Jewish view of the Messiah left no room for the Messiah to be executed.
        2. They likely wondered if their faith and hope in Jesus had been misplaced.
      4. God’s voice speaking out of the cloud—together with the divinity shining through Jesus—affirmed to the disciples that their faith had not been in vain, that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah, the Son of God.
      5. Meaning of the Transfiguration 3: There is hope for difficult times to come.
        1. Moses and Elijah encouraged Jesus
        2. Peter, James, and John’s faith was affirmed and strengthened, and they were better prepared to be with Jesus during His ordeal at Gethsemane.
  4. Conclusion
    1. Review meanings
      1. When you encounter God, it is obvious to those around you.
      2. Moses and Elijah’s conversation with Jesus about his death informs us about the Second Coming.
      3. There is hope for difficult times to come.
    2. What are you going to do about it?

Preparation note

Not part of the sermon

  1. Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah, but acc. to DA 422.1, the disciples believe that Elijah is ushering in an earthly kingdom for Jesus.
  2. Not too long after, Jesus shifted his ministry to focus more on His disciples.


  1. The most likely candidate is Mt. Horeb, on the present-day border between Israel and Syria. Horeb is over 9,000 feet tall and is snow-capped year-round. It is the tallest mountain in Israel, and is near Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had been six days earlier. The traditional site, Mt. Tabor, south of Galilee, is too far from Caesarea Philippi and hosted a fortress on its top in Jesus’ day, making it an unlikely spot for a retreat. Also, it isn’t a particularly high mountain. 

  2. See Luke 9:31 in Greek: “…ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ….” The ESV also notes this in a footnote. 

  3. Andrews Study Bible, note on Matthew 17:1-13. The last point is also brought out in DA 421.4.