Updated: Feb 8
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 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.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
This is the Gospel selection for the last Sunday after the Epiphany for Year B, to next be read aloud by a priest in Episcopal churches on Sunday, February 14, 2021. It accompanies the Old Testament reading from Second Kings, which tells of the passing of the baton (torch) from Elijah to Elisha. Here, we read that Elijah was one of the "spirits" who appeared before Jesus, Simon-Peter, James and John [of Zebedee]. So, the two readings connect in this way.
I have written previously about the event termed “the Transfiguration.” One is headed “Transfiguring things out” (R.T. Tippett) and another is simply “The Transfiguration” (Bus Stop Bob). I have also written "Notes on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany" and an interpretation entitled “The epiphany of Scripture transfiguring before your eyes” (one R. T. Tippett and one Bus Stop Bob). Nothing changes now, relative to what I have written prior. The elements of this event [the Transfiguration witnessed] are what they are.
What I want to do now is focus closely on the last verse in this reading, Mark 9:9. It seems like an afterthought that has been added, without explanation needed (if possible). I want to expand on that verse's meaning, as to why Jesus gave his disciples an instruction for secrecy.
The Sunday that is always deemed the “last Sunday after the Epiphany” is when Mark’s [Year B], Matthew’s [Year A], and Luke’s [Year C] versions of this event are read aloud in Episcopal churches [if church services are allowed, based on the government's fears of death]. This makes “the Transfiguration” become relative to the last step one goes through in one’s development as a disciple of Jesus [a Christian trying to become a Christian].
The Transfiguration is not about, nor has it ever been about, Jesus being witnessed as special by three of his disciples. To be Christian means to profess belief that Jesus was special, as the Son of man – the Son of God. Therefore, reading about three disciples seeing Jesus in three forms – all spiritual in presence – is about oneself reaching that state of spiritual development.
With that understood, a Christian should see himself or herself as one of those three disciples on the high mountain with Jesus. One needs to put oneself as a witness to the event, as the priest reads aloud. One has to feel so present at that event that one hears Jesus tell the listener what Jesus told his three disciples. Thus, the instruction was fully intended to be heard by all disciples of Jesus.
This is where the descent from the high mountain becomes the depth of this lesson, which needs to be firmly grasped. For that reason, I will list each of the three Gospel verses that tell this instruction given by Jesus to his disciples. After listing the Greek text of each Gospel's applicable verse, I will then present the literal English translation in segments form.
[According to the Interlinear of BibleHub.com]
Kai katabainontōn autōn ek tou orous , eneteilato autois ho Iēsous , legōn , Mēdeni eipēte to horama , heōs hou ho Houis tou anthrōpou ek nekrōn egerthē .
Kai [as] were descending of them from the mountain ,
instructed them this Jesus ,
To no one tell the vision ,
until that the Son that of man out from dead is risen .
kai oudeni apēngeilan en ekeinais tais hēmerais ouden hōn heōrakan .
kai to no one they told in those the days anything of what they had seen .
Kai katabainontōn autōn ek tou orous , diesteilato autois hina mēdeni ha eidon diēgēsōntai , et mē hotan ho Houis tou anthrōpou ek nekrōn anastē .
Kai [as] were descending of them from the mountain ,
he instructed them that to no one what they had seen they should tell ,
if not until the Son this of man out from dead had risen .
By reading these words that tell of the four men coming down from Mount Hermon [a truly high mountain], where the end result is neither of the three disciples told anyone about what they saw appearing near Jesus, the question becomes, “Why?”
Were the disciples forbidden from telling the other disciples what they saw?
When told not to tell what they saw, does that mean they could tell about hearing the voice of God telling them Jesus was His Son and they should be quiet and listen to him?
From looking at the three different texts of the same event [noting that Mark, as the story of Simon-Peter, would be the truest eyewitness account], all three introduce this instruction with the word “kai,” with Matthew and Mark capitalizing that word. The word “kai” must be read as a marker word that denotes importance to follow. By capitalizing the word, Matthew and Mark symbolically stated this instruction given by Jesus to his disciples was very important to grasp.
As far as capitalization goes, Matthew capitalized the word “Mēdeni,” which Mark wrote in the lower case. The root word(s) here is (are): médeis (or médemia, méden), which states “nothing, no one.” (Strong’s Concordance) HELPS Word-studies says the literal meaning is “not even one.” This becomes a statement of the importance that identifies it is “Nothing” witnessed [“To no one tell the vision”] – “the Transfiguration” – that has any value that can be put into words. Rather than being a command by Jesus not to tell anyone what they had seen, Jesus told them they would not understand what they had seen, so do not make fools of yourselves by speaking of things such as ghosts, spirits of the dead, the souls of Israel’s greatest guides. One can assume hearing the voice of God falls into the same category of being something impossible to put into words that others will believe.
The segmentation [placements of punctuation] in Matthew’s Gospel account makes this clearer to see. The Greek word “horama” is a word used to denote “a spectacle, vision, that which is seen.” This means the segment of words that state, “To no one [capitalized importance as to Nothing, implying neither Moses of Elijah]” was within their power to explain, where “eipte” means “answer, bid, bring word, command,” because they understood “Nothing” worthy of being told. Any attempts by the three to speak of “visions” would be heard as nothing more than someone at a high altitude, surrounded by snow, having seen little more than a mirage or a hallucination. While the event had a deep impact on all three men, it was not something that others [who were not there] could appreciate.
To better grasp this instruction given by Jesus, imagine if he had appeared in the upstairs room, before all the disciples except Thomas and then told them, “To no one tell the vision.” When Thomas returned later, he would see everyone looking like they had seen a ghost, but for them to say, “We have seen the Lord,” who all had seen dead and entombed, even though the tomb appeared to have been robbed, Thomas said it all - "Seeing is believing!" Likewise, anyone told about the Transfiguration [they would not have known that term back then] would have reacted just like Thomas, saying, “Unless Moses and Elijah come appear before me, I will not believe it.” Jesus knew explaining spiritual matters was as easy as telling Nicodemus about being reborn: went over like a lead balloon. Personally uplifting events told to others mean their not being part of that event causes them naturally to be viewed with jealousy and rejection.
You saw what?
In Luke’s abbreviated rendition of this verse [only one segment of words, begun with “kai”], the use of “oudeni” and “ouden” [basically the same word] has been translated above as “to no one” and “anything.” In reality, the words written can state, “kai to no one they announced in those the days nothing of who they had seen.” There, the possessive relative pronoun “ὧν” ["hou"] is less informative as “of what” and more informative as “of who,” relative to the vision of Moses and Elijah.
When Luke wrote “in those the days,” “those” [“ekeinais”] means “Simon-Peter, James, and John,” with “the days” [“tais hēmerais”] being a statement about the time when the three were mere disciples and still unknowing of spiritual matters. This says Mother Mary [whose recorder of Jesus’ life was Luke], herself was an unknowing follower of Jesus [even after decades of being told of Jesus performing miracles], so she too was just like them all “at that time,” each knowing “nothing” of value to share with others. Everything seen [and heard] was well over their heads "in those days." That time was then clearly stated by Matthew and Mark, as being "those days" before Jesus would die, resurrect, and spend time with the disciples enlightening them to all things spiritual.
This is then Jesus explaining to his three disciples why they must not tell anyone what they had seen was because they would not understand what they had seen until Jesus had risen. Still, that is read by simple-minded Christians today and thought to mean the resurrection of Jesus from death was the time when they could go tell people about "the Transfiguration." That is not the case.
That state of being [an inability to fathom spiritual matters] existed when Jesus appeared before his followers as they were hiding in fear, after this death, behind locked doors. They still would not understand how Jesus could appear before them then, after they knew him to be dead. Jesus returning to life was as unexplainable as was being able to understand how long-dead Moses and Elijah could appear before three disciples on a high mountain. Their ignorance showed so vividly then, when God had to tell Peter to shut up and "Listen!" This means the words “ho Houis tou anthrōpou ek nekrōn egerthē” [“this Son that of man out from dead is risen”] need to be better understood, because Jesus rising from death is not the deeper meaning.
It is so easy for Christians to place great importance on Jesus as the Savior, so much that Christians believe that Jesus can never be replaced by anyone. Regardless of the fact that twelve disciples were all reborn “in the name of Jesus Christ” on Pentecost [a Sunday in Roman calendar timing], all having their own “Transfiguration” into Apostles, Christians deny that an Apostle is Jesus rising multiple times, in different bodies of flesh, at the same time. That is not so much Jesus, as it is the power of God, whose Holy Spirit lands upon one deserving [like tongues being set on fire], making each become a duplication of the Christ Mind. When the Christ Mind rules over a body of flesh, that flesh has then become the resurrection of Jesus – the Son of man – where “anthrōpou” means “a man, a human, one of mankind.” A disciple is such a “man,” whether it is male or female.
The caveat that then must be seen is “death” [from “nekrōn”]. This means the words “anthrōpou ek nekrōn” [“of man out from among dead”] say the “Son” [“Huios”] must “rise” from someone human who has died of self-ego and self-will. They then leave behind a world of sinners, in a world born to die in the flesh, becoming God’s “Son” [regardless of human gender] reborn, whose presence then spiritually “is risen” [“egerthē”] within their body of flesh [call it a corpse at that time]. This means the exact same death-rebirth scenario of Jesus must take place in a disciple, if that disciple is to “Transfigure” into an Apostle [call it a Saint]. Therefore, Jesus told his three followers, in essence, don’t speak about this now, because everything will become crystal clear to you when you do what I am about to do.
Now, this reading is paired with the Second Samuel reading of Elijah leaving Elisha, such that Elisha had “a Transfiguration” when he put on the mantle of Elijah – the Holy Spirit of God that brings on the Christ Mind and the resurrection of Jesus [before Jesus was known by human beings]. In that event, which continues beyond the point of the reading on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, there was a company of fifty prophets who watched from afar as Elisha went with Elijah, to where he ascended into heaven. When Elisha went back across the Jordan, those who watched the two go away together, with only Elisha returning, offered repeatedly to go and search for Elijah … just in case he was hiding some place, in need of rescue. They asked so many times that Elisha finally said, “Yeah. That’s a good idea. Go look for Elijah.” They searched for a week and then came back saying he was gone. Elisha knew all along that Elijah had risen to heaven, because Elisha had risen as the new high priest with the Christ mantle.
That story is how it is impossible to tell anyone about a personal experience of a deep spiritual nature, because everyone must have his or her own personal experience for it to make sense. That then becomes the truth of Christianity, where all members must be Jesus Christ reborn, or else there are people hanging around that want to go search for Jesus, when Jesus is standing right in front of him or her, in a body that looks nothing like the pictures of Jesus in the Biblical coloring books.
So, as a Gospel reading on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, when all true Christians are supposed to be remembering their own days past, when he or she was a mere disciple that witnessed some remarkable, life-changing event, one that would forevermore stay with that person [those people with the same past “Transfiguration” experience, each uniquely powerful to the individual], all Apostles-Saints can do is smile when novices are listening to a priest read aloud the words that tell of Simon-Peter, James and John, "Yes. You witnessed Jesus glowing, along with Moses and Elijah, but you cannot profit from telling that to anyone."
The priest reading the words aloud should know from personal experience what the words mean and then preach a sermon that enlightens wantabe Christians to the truth. Once upon a time that was the case, when there were seekers of truth wanting to be themselves transfigured into Christians. Alas, those days have become no more. But, then that is why God has His prophets write all this important stuff down. Since it is all up to the individual to have a persona epiphany, God is waiting to help all who truly want to be reborn as His Son. Take the time to seek and you will find.