Gospel: Mark 9:2-9 tells of the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus before the eyes of His inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John. Just prior to the transfiguration in Mk 8 Jesus performs one of His most stunning miracles–the miraculous feeding of the four thousand. Afterwards as they are crossing back over the Sea of Galilee, the disciples seem confused over what they have seen and Jesus quotes Isa 6:9,10 to them saying,”Do you not yet perceive or understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?”. Next a blind man is brought to Jesus and He heals his blindness (Mk 8:22-16). Next Jesus asks His disciples who do people–and then who do they–say that He is (Mk 8:27-30). After Peter says He is the Messiah [the Christ, the Anointed One] which Jesus confirms, He begins to tell them that He must be killed but will be resurrected, Peter argues with Him! This is almost comical; Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and then when Jesus tells him what is going to happen, he argues with Him! That’s self-confidence! Then Jesus makes one of His most important statements ever about eternal life: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…” (Mk 8:34-38). Keller in King’s Cross says this means to give up one’s identity based on gaining things in this world, and base your identity on Christ and the gospel, which is Christ loving you so much that you are moved viscerally and existentially and get a new strength, an assurance, a sense of your own value and distinctiveness based on Him rather than yourself (p.104f). Mk 9.1 then says there are those present who will see the kingdom of God come before they die (cf. Mk 13.30). This must refer to Jesus’ resurrection. Then our present passage says six days later Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to see Him transfigured. The transfiguration is a visual demonstration of Jesus’ divinity. We may argue about whether Jesus verbally confessed to His divinity, but the transfiguration shows Him to be divine and then a second time God the Father speaks from a cloud and identifies Jesus as His beloved Son (the first time was at His baptism, Mt 3:17).
It is so interesting how there is this buildup from miracle feeding which does not seem to have really registered with the disciples, to the Isaianic prophecy of people who have eyes but can’t see, to the blind man whose eyes Christ opens, to the recognition that He is the Christ but not so certainly that Peter believes His prophecy about His death, and then finally the vision of His deity with the confirmation from the Father. Surely now people will believe–but do we? And what did Christ come to do? He tells us throughout the Gospels that it is to launch the kingdom of God. This is why He called His disciples, and this is the task that He (and they) leave with us who wish to follow Him in obedience. What does it mean for His followers to assist in bringing in His kingdom? That is the challenge that He has left with the church. The charter is spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7). We are to be communities scattered throughout the world who are devoted to following Christ as we come to know Him through the New Testament and as preached and modeled in the Church which He referred to as His body.
Memory Verse: Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1: 14,15).