19 February 2012

Mark 9:2-9

"Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!' Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus." (vv. 7-8)


Who is Jesus? All of Mark's Gospel asks us this question. This story comes at a key turning point. Jesus has just predicted his own suffering for the first time (Mark 8:31). Mark's focus is now turning towards the story of Jesus' death.

Who is he? The one who suffered and died.

This story - known as 'The Transfiguration' - gives another part of the answer. Jesus is also the obedient Son of God. His dazzling clothes (verse 3) are a sign which show his purity and his belonging with God.

So Jesus is the one in whom death and glory come together. This is not 'death and glory' as normally seen: a combination of patriotism, fame and the institutionalised violence of war. Instead, the death is that of a public execution - shameful and with no answering violence from Jesus; and the glory is that of the perfect goodness of God.

The disciples were terrified by this vision of glory. Peter had recently shown that he could not get his head around the idea of God's chosen one suffering and dying (Mark 8:31-33). He wanted God to remain in control, and so to stay in control himself.

In this passage Peter is lost for words (verse 6). What he said, Mark implies, was inappropriate because this experience was utterly beyond the ordinary. But it's more than that. Peter's words betrayed his instincts: to bring under his control what was beyond understanding; to turn a moment of sublime insight into something he could handle, and maybe even institutionalise. He wanted to be in control.

But instead of Peter being in control there came an instruction: "Listen to him" (verse 8). The thing Peter, James and John could take away after this spiritual high are the words of Jesus. They were told to listen to Jesus. Jesus' words are reliable. They are words which are to be listened to, even when Jesus speaks of suffering and death.

To Ponder

How can a public execution and the glory of God belong together?

What kind of experience of Jesus might leave you speechless?

Why should we listen to Jesus?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Lunn

Andrew Lunn is the Chair of the Manchester and Stockport District of the Methodist Church, working with circuits and ministers from Salford to Buxton. His ministry has been mainly in urban settings, and he spent 11 years working in theological education in Durham.