Sunday

11 February 2018

Mark 9:2-13

“Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’” (v. 7)

Jesus on the mountain peak

Psalm: Psalm 2


Background

Mountaineering in 1st-century Israel was not the leisure activity it is today. Mountains were considered places of danger and fear, so we might imagine Peter, James and John were already out of their comfort zone when they were caught up in this extraordinary experience of transfiguration. Peter’s words, although dismissed by Mark’s Gospel as irrelevant babble, express the great courage of the disciple; it is not all of us who can say, “It is good for us to be here” (v. 5) when we are terrified!

The significance of the Transfiguration runs like a thread throughout all the passages we will look at this week (under the overall theme of Repentance and Renewal), and on Saturday as we revisit the story as told in Luke’s Gospel we will consider some of the differences between the two Gospel accounts. The presence of these two giant figures from the Hebrew Scriptures is understood to represent the witness to Jesus of the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Both men had their own remarkable encounters with God on mountain tops and they make fitting companions here for Jesus as he is “transfigured before them” (v. 2).

Throughout the Bible, cloud is often an important conveyor of mystery and of the presence of God and Mark’s description evokes in us a memory of Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12-18). Perhaps we should bear this in mind when our weather is overcast, and give clouds a better press!

Verse 10 gives an interesting glimpse into how the disciples behave after the transfiguration. Although sworn to secrecy they question amongst themselves what this might mean, and, in particular, wonder at the meaning of Jesus’ reference to his rising from the dead. Like generations of disciples after them, they are exercised as they work out how their Experience chimes with Reason, Scripture and Tradition (the other elements of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral). Baffled, they come up with a question about Elijah’s role; Jesus’ answer suggests that he identifies the expected Elijah with John the Baptist, although this is not explicit.


To Ponder

  • How might this reading lead you to Repentance and Renewal?
  • Can you recall a time when being out of your comfort zone has made you more open to an experience of God? What happened?
  • Manifestations of God (sometimes called ‘theophanies’) rarely come out of a clear blue sky. Reflect in your own life upon God’s revelation in times of cloud and overshadowing.
  • Today is Racial Justice Sunday. Take the opportunity to give thanks for the renewal which has come to these shores through our multi-cultural communities, and to repent for ongoing injustice.

Bible notes author

Jill Baker

Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is glad to be part of the small but distinctive Methodist Church in Scotland. She is a local preacher and local preachers’ tutor in the Strathclyde Circuit, where her husband Andrew is superintendent minister. For Jill, the past 20 years have included all sorts of roles within Methodism – further afield (as a mission partner in the South Caribbean) and closer to home (with WFMUCW, MWiB, leading pilgrimages and as part of various committees and groups) and is currently the Vice-President of the Conference 2017/2018. When not engaged in these ways, Jill enjoys walking in the beautiful mountains of Scotland, gardening and writing; she blogs at www.northoftheborder.wordpress.com and "Thanks, Peter God", her book about the life of her son, Peter, who died in 2012, was published in 2016.