I had a difficult time settling on a passage to write about this morning. The Psalms readings were great (of course), and there were so many good stories in Mark 7-9. I settled on Mark 9:2-13, the Transfiguration of Jesus, because, well, it’s about Jesus. Obviously, all of the gospels are about Jesus, but if I’d taken up, for example, Mark 3:34ff I would have ended up writing more about the cost of discipleship than Jesus.
Mark starts his account ‘after six days’, which locates it in time, and on a high mountain, which locates it in space. In other words, Mark recounts this event as a historical event, not a Jesus legend read back into his story. The word ‘transfigured’ is literally metamorphoō – where we get our word metamorphosis. In this transfiguration, the glory of the deity Jesus possesses shines through. In the incarnation, Jesus didn’t cease being who he was, namely God. Instead, his deity was veiled by the addition of humanity. Here, on a high mountain, it shines through.
And here, on a high mountain, we get a glimpse of what we will be. The fourth-century church father Athanasius famously wrote, “He became what we are that we might become what he is.” He became a son of man so that we might all become sons and daughters of God. He became human so that we might become deity – not in an absolute sense; only God is God, but that we might share in the divine nature. Or, in Peter’s words “[through God’s great promises] we may become partakers of the divine nature.” On this high mountain, we get a glimpse of Christ’s glory and the glory that awaits those who are “in him.”
Another aspect of Jesus’ transfiguration stands out, the presence of Moses and Elijah. Why are they there? Moses stands as the representative of the old covenant and the promises and to testify to Jesus as the one who will lead the second exodus, not from Egypt, but from sin and death. Elijah’s presence indicates the fulfillment of all things – the last days have begun. Together, they are proclaiming ‘the coming of the end’.
I’ve been asked by family if I think we’re getting close to the end. My answer has been the same for decades – we’ve been in the last days since Jesus’ departure. Hebrews 1 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
Christ ushered in his new age, and as a result, the old is passing away. The last days have been full of tumult, but also of the advance of Christ’s kingdom.