Friday, April 1, 2022 | Mark 9:2-13
It can be comforting to read about the apostles in the gospels. Their stories take our lofty religious ideals and yank them down into the somewhat embarrassing ordinary. In this passage from Mark’s gospel, Peter, James, and John see Jesus “transfigured before them,” suddenly glorious, dressed in dazzling sunlight, and talking to Elijah and Moses, both of whom have been dead—or disappeared, in the case of Elijah—for eons.
Immediately Peter proposes to pitch three tents for Jesus and the two visitors. Oh, Peter. It’s not his most impressive idea. But surely Peter deserves our sympathy: “For he did not know what to say, and they were terrified” (v. 6).
At that moment, a cloud darkens the sky and a voice speaks from the midst of it: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (v. 7). And when the disciples look around, the visitors have disappeared, and Jesus stands before his disciples, alone.
When the four of them are walking down the mountain, Jesus warns Peter, James, and John not to talk about what they had just seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. The Scripture tells us that the three apostles heed his warning, but that they question among themselves what all this “rising from the dead” business must mean (v. 10). They go on to ask Jesus about Elijah and the theological assertions of the scribes.
It’s hard to know what to make of the mysterious meeting between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, or of Jesus’ answer about Elijah “coming first to restore all things” (v. 12), though much could be said of this as a sign of Christ’s continuity with and fulfillment of the Old Testament witness. The behavior of Peter, James, and John is somewhat easier to distill:
First, Peter speaks for the three of them out of fear and ignorance: faced with a vision of otherworldly splendor, he offers to set up camp, perhaps wanting the dazzling Christ and his visitors to make an extended stay. Then they hear a voice from heaven and Jesus’ warning to say nothing about it to their friends, and rather than heed the voice in any visible way, they concern themselves with nailing down their theology.
Peter, James, and John have had a vision of the transfigured Christ—the unhidden and glorious eternal Son of God—but they haven’t gotten it yet. They’re like us, it seems, distracted and afraid, wanting to stay with Jesus but in a way they can parse out and understand, wanting to stay with Jesus, but on their own terms.
There is another way, brothers and sisters. Today the Scriptures invite us to look upon God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ—to recognize him as God’s Son and to “listen to him”—and rather than set up camp where he has first touched down among us, to follow him wherever he goes, even to the end.
Deanna is an aspirant for Holy Orders and has been a member of Trinity Cathedral for two and a half years. She loves being outside, writing, and listening to Jane Auten’s novels on an endless loop.