The Transfigured Christ (Mark 9:1-8)

The Transfigured Christ (Mark 9:1-8)


I.) God in The Flesh

Before us this morning we have a text that grips the minds of believers in wonder of what this event truly looked like in person. It is here the Christ unveils His glory to mere uneducated fishermen. This is certainly a concept difficult for us to grasp, but our inability to complete understand this does not diminish its validity.

We read of Moses getting a brief glimpse of God’s glory in the book of Exodus.[1] This glimpse was so great that Moses’ own face began to reflect the glory he saw:

“…Moses did not know that the skin of His face shone because of speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of His face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.”[2]

It is because of this Moses would wear a veil whenever He was not speaking with God.[3] The Sons of Israel did not see the glory of God for themselves, but a mere reflection of it on Moses.

Consider then the weight of the statement uttered by a man of little education:

“…We beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth…No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

The author of Hebrews makes a similar claim:

“He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…”[4]

Jesus does the math for us:

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”[5]

If you want to see the King eternal, immortal, and invisible look to the Christ.[6] He is God in the flesh![7]


II.) Glory Revealed

John Owen said this:

“The person who never meditates with delight on the glory of Christ in the Scriptures now will not have any real desire to that glory in heaven. What sort of faith and love do people have who find time to think about many other things, but make no time for meditating on this glorious subject?”[8]

May our week be spent soaking in the unchanging truth we read this morning.

Here Jesus pulls back the flesh that is veiling His eternal glory, which He has always possessed.[9] Before this occurs we read this:

Mark 9:1

Q.) What is Jesus talking about here?

Q.) Does this mean that the Son of Man came in His glory and established His Kingdom with power during the life of His apostles?

A.) No!

This is the beautiful thing about context; it tells us exactly how to interpret Jesus’ statement. Look at the very next verse:

Mark 9:2

The “those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” are the ones named next: Peter, James and John

Q.) What do they see?

A.) The Christ “transfigured before them” unveiling His glorified state.

They are briefly shown the glory all of mankind will one day witness at the Son of Man’s return.

The text says He took them to “a high mountain”, which many believe to be Mount Hermon. Upon the mountain He changed forms before them. “Trans”, across; “Figure”, form. The Greek word is familiar to us; Metamorphoo.[10] We get metamorphosis from it.

Understand, the God-man is immutable, so it is not His character or nature that is changing here, but the flesh He put on to conceal it all.

Mark does not describe for us His change in bodily appearance, but Matthew and Luke do:

1.) Luke says, “His face became different.”[11]

2.) Matthew tells us, “His face shown like the sun…”[12]

John sees Jesus while exiled on Patmos and describes Him as:

“Clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire; and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters…and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.”[13]

By the way, the disciple whom Jesus loved falls down “as a dead man” when he sees Christ in this glorified state.

It was not only His physical form that changed, but His garments as well:

Mark 9:3

1.) Matthew, “His garments became as white as light.”

2.) Luke, “His clothing became white and gleaming.”

Christ’s glory is revealed!


III.) Confirmed by The Law and The Prophets

We quickly see that something else occurs in this text, that also would be a surprise to the three men:

Mark 9:4

Elijah and Moses appear to them in glorified bodies talking with Jesus.[14]

The fact they had glorified bodies indicates God either gave those bodies to them momentarily, or gave them to them early.[15] The text is not clear.

The text also is not clear on how the disciles knew the two to be Moses and Elijah. We can rightly assume that either Jesus identified them, or they introduced themselves to the disciples.

There are, however, two things that are clear:

a.) They were actually there.

b.) They were talking with Jesus.

Luke tells us exactly what they were talking about:

“His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”[16]

His departure is referring to the death He was about to experience at the hands of godless men. The very thing He told His disciples was going to happen, and the very thing which Peter rebuked Him for.

This very work is being confirmed by 2-3 witnesses. Not just any old witnesses, Moses and Elijah: Moses was the known vessel through which God gave His law to His people. Elijah was the known prophet who fought to defend the keeping of the law. These men are confirming the work of the Christ in the sight of His disciples.


IV.) Confirmed by The Father

The three men become terrified, and as Moses and Elijah are leaving Peter does not know what to say, and speaks “not realizing what he was saying”:[17]

Mark 9:5-6

I would like to read John MacArthur’s thoughts on why Peter would make such a request:

“His suggestion…reflects Peter’s tenacious desire that the suffering of the cross be avoided. He wanted the three to stay there permanently in their glorious state and establish the kingdom on the spot…as Moses and Elijah began to leave. He saw his dream of seeing the kingdom established slipping away and made a last, desperate attempt to stop that from happening. His fear caused him to express what was uppermost in his mind…He had wanted all along to see the kingdom established, and Jesus’ promise in verse 1…had intensified his hope that it soon would be established. That hope reached its peak when he awoke to see Jesus in a transfigured state with Moses and Elijah present in glorified form. Those two prophets could certainly lead the people of Israel into the kingdom, and Elijah was associated with the coming of the kingdom. The transfiguration took place in the month of Tishri, six months before the Passover. At that time the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), which commemorated the exodus from Egypt, was being celebrated. What better time, Peter may have reasoned, for the Messiah to lead His people out of bondage to sin and into His righteous kingdom than during the Feast of Tabernacles.”[18]

Matthew indicates that “while He was still speaking” God the Father interrupts him:[19]

Mark 9:7-8

This was a command by God the Father to the disciples to listen to the Christ concerning His death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming. All of which is seen in the previous texts. This truly is not just a command to the disciples, but to all people everywhere who are confronted with the Christ and His gospel. To listen does not just mean to hear audibly, but to respond in obedience to the Christ. Our glorious God clothed in flesh.


V.) Transformed in Christ

Many people read of Jesus’ transfiguration and long to experience such a thing. I want to therefore remind us of what impetuous Peter says to everyone would did not see it:

2 Peter 1:16-21

This text tells us we have something better than what all three of them saw. We have the Word of God!

God’s Word is more reliable than human experience, because God is the One who authored it. It is through our study of His Word that a transformation will begin to take place in us. A path where we no longer conform to this world or the lusts of our flesh, but are transformed into something completely other than ourselves.[20]

Just as a butterfly in no way resembles a caterpillar, this transformation will leave us completely, and totally, unidentifiable. In the end we will look nothing like ourselves, but everything like Christ!


[1] Exodus 33-34

[2] Exodus 34:29-30

[3] Exodus 34:35

[4] Hebrews 1:3a

[5] John 14:9

[6] 1 Timothy 1:17

[7] John 1:1-2,14

[8] Meditation on The Glory of Christ, John Owen

[9] John 17:5

[10] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number:3339

[11] Luke 9:29

[12] Matthew 17:2

[13] Revelation 1:13-16

[14] Luke 9:32

[15] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, John MacArthur; Page 6

[16] Luke 9:31

[17] Luke 9:33 This text indicates Moses and Elijah were leaving.

[18] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, John MacArthur; Page 7

[19] Matthew 17:5

[20] Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24; 2 Corinthians 3:18

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