Updated: Feb 3, 2021
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 from the Episcopal lectionary for the last Sunday (sixth) after the Epiphany, Year B. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, February 11, 2018. This reading will be accompanied by the Old Testament reading from 2 Kings 2:1-12, which includes the verse that says, “Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”’ It will also be accompanied by the Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, which includes the verse, “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” This reading from Mark is important as it addresses the event called the Transfiguration, which foretold that the Holy Spirit would come only to those who desire eternal life.
Please excuse me while I pull out my soapbox out and make an important announcement (in my mind at least), which deals with the authorship of the Gospel of John.
It was not written by John the brother of James of Zebedee. This recount of the “transfiguration” (wholly Mark 9:1-13) is also told by Matthew (17:1-13), Luke (9:28-36), and Peter (1 Peter 1:16-21), but not by John. When one sees Mark as the writer of Simon Peter’s Gospel, and with Matthew having to have reported Simon’s account of the event, which was made to the disciples of Jesus after the Son of Man had been raised from the dead (Matthew, aka Levi), then the same report was also made before the adult family of Jesus (Luke, writer of Mother Mary’s Gospel). John of Zebedee (if he were the John of that Gospel) would have confirmed this report as well, especially having been in attendance, as a direct witness. Since that is not the case, that means John of the Gospel (the one Jesus loved) was not an adult follower of Jesus, and certainly not one of the twelve disciples (who were all over the age of 21).
Thank you. Thank you very much. The soapbox is put away.
I have written several times about the Transfiguration. Here is one post that I published on a blog in July 2017. In another I address how the “high mountain” is Mount Hermon, which today is the highest elevation in Israel, with a year-round ski resort. Its height makes it a strategic location, as it overlooks the plain of Syria.
In Luke’s Gospel, he told how Jesus went into the high mountain to pray (Luke 9:28). In the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany Gospel reading, we read how Jesus went alone in the morning while it was very dark to pray (the Jewish commitment to morning, afternoon, and evening prayer). To hike up a high mountain, while snow is on the ground, Jesus would have taken three disciples and a rope, along with tents, simply because of the danger. They had been in that northern region (Caesarea Philippi), and praying on a high mountain would place Jesus closer to the Father.
I addressed this aspect in a sermon for the last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, in 2014.
Because I have written about the “Transfiguration” (as a tag placed in five sermons on the WordPress blog “Bus Stop Sermons”) I will not address this reading from Mark as a stand alone interpretation. Still, I realized I have not addressed Mark’s version of the Transfiguration, as a Year B Epiphany lesson, on WordPress, only the Matthew account (in Years A & C, Epiphany & Pentecost seasons). Because this Gospel selection in the season of Epiphany goes along with the Second Kings and Second Corinthians selections listed above, I will slant this reading so it suits the needs of those lessons, which support the Transfiguration.
The Second Kings reading is about Elijah going to heaven, with Elisha following him on Elijah’s “farewell tour.” Elijah went from Gilgal to Bethel and Jericho, with Elisha being told he could stay at each stop, only to have Elisha tell Elijah, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”
That devotion and commitment to a most holy man of God should be seen as the commitment and devotion Jesus’ disciples had for Jesus. Three went with Jesus up the high mountain, but nine stayed behind on instructions. None of them would “leave Jesus” and do what they wanted to do, in the same manner as Elisha. Elisha was Elijah’s disciple.
At the stops Elijah made at Bethel and Jericho, we find that “the sons of the prophets” came to meet Elijah. At both places those holy descendants asked Elisha, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” Each time Elisha answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
This same demand for silence can be seen in Jesus’ order to the three disciples he came down the mountain with: “Tell no one about what you have seen, until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” Thus, the three disciples saw Jesus glowing white with Moses and Elijah … the sons of God as Prophets. That vision told them, “the Lord will take away your master,” but that topic was best not talked about.
When we see that Elijah offered a promise to Elisha, for his devotion and commitment, Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” While Peter, James and his brother John would all be given the Holy Spirit because of their devotion and commitment to Jesus as the Christ, Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah, having been given the same “double spirit” Elisha had requested.
When God spoke, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” that said the only source of that “double spirit” was God. Therefore, if one encounters a most holy Prophet of the One God, “Listen to him!” That becomes the key to receiving the Spirit, such that “if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you.” The eyes are the windows of the soul.
Jesus told the three disciples “Tell no one about what you have seen.” Since the three disciples saw Jesus with two shares of the Holy Spirit, they believed. Telling someone what one sees might make someone close believe what you say; but telling someone what you see can produce doubt and hesitation to believe.
The saying goes, “Seeing is believing,” which means it is up to each individual to see Jesus with the double share of God’s Holy Spirit. That can only come as a reward from being committed and devoted to God.
The personal Epiphany lesson that comes from this is simple: Stop telling people you are a Christian “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (keeping in mind that “dead” means mortal, like the vast majority of human beings). That means after you have died of brain-fed ego and you have been reborn as Jesus Christ. Once you reach that state of being, you know telling people is best done by acting the part of Jesus, with a double share of his Spirit.
In the accompanying Epistle reading (2 Corinthians 4:3-6), Paul says, “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” The Greek word “kekalymmenon” means “veiled,” but also “hidden, concealed, enveloped, kept secret and covered over.” This is how the word of Scripture becomes a struggle to grasp. The “dead” (mortals born of death) can read it, but not understand. It holds veiled messages. No one can “see the truth of God” (be Transfigured or gain a double share of the Holy Spirit) simply by reading words on pages.
“Things” are those worldly distractions.
Atheists read the Holy Bible more dutifully than do most “Christians” and Atheists “convert” more Christians to disbelief, than vice versa. However, a true Christian can open the hearts of atheists, by removing their veils.
The “gospel” (Greek “euangelion,” which literally means “God’s good news”) is telling someone about the coming of the Messiah, which Paul knew to mean the “second coming” in another new Apostle (not the end of the planet Earth). For a disciple to ever see the truth of written words come to life, like Peter, James and John saw Jesus standing with Moses and Elijah, then hearing the voice of God say, “Listen to him!” that disciple must become deeply devoted to God and committed to finding Jesus.
A disciple needs a teacher to tell him or her what to do and explain the words that are confusing, because everything is concealed for the purpose of making a disciple show he or she really wants to be shown the truth. However, a teacher cannot see for anyone else; they only shine light onto the words for a reader to see for oneself.
Paul then said, “In their [those who are perishing] case the god of this world [lower case “g” god means Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This was seen in the two prior Epiphany Gospel readings, where unclean spirits and evil possessing spirits were keeping the Jews from understanding why they did what they did, because they were blinded as to why the Law was what it was. The lures of the world confound a message of sacrifice and selflessness.
The “god of this world” is why Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone what they had seen, until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. It is too easy to call disciples speaking from enthusiasm “drunk on new wine” and ridicule them. Only a true Apostle can cease that laughter by being able to “speak in tongues” that are most sobering.
Paul then wrote, “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” This means “ourselves” is the Big Brain ego that always seems to want to follow the whispers and lures of the “god of this world.” Evil suggests to disciples, “stay here and take it easy.” A devoted disciple replies, “As the Lord lives in me, and as you yourself lie and deceive, I will not listen you.” I will follow the righteous path of the sons of the prophets.
The tests of God present decisions to make. They continue once decisions are made.
When I say we must die of ego and be reborn as Jesus Christ, we must “not proclaim ourselves” as gods (lower case “g”) of this world. No human being can do what Jesus the Nazarene did by will power. Will power is “proclaiming ourselves.” As such, when Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had been raised from the dead,” he was telling them not to proclaim you saw something, like you are someone special. You have not yet (at that time going down the mountain) come to understand what you saw.
Apostles, like Paul, “proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord [of themselves] and [thus] ourselves [are the] slaves for Jesus’ sake.” Slaves for Jesus’ sake are those who proclaim the Gospel to disciples and other Apostles. Therefore, as Paul wrote, “It is the [true] God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
God shines in the hearts of His wives, those who are married to God through love. That light erases the darkness of mortal death, shining the way to eternal happiness in heaven. That light then shines to those attracted to the truth, from their darkness. This is what an Apostle lives to do: serve God with all one’s heart.
One who is devoted and committed to God feels the changes that overcome one. The brain is introduced to the Mind of Christ by God saying, “This is my Son.” The heart pounds from a love of God that has brought the birth of that Mind into being with one. The Mind of Christ is “the Beloved,” the progeny reborn through a consummated love of God. The egomaniac brain then becomes too afraid to let any unclean spirits speak. The Big Brain hides its face as the evil demons are removed, a process that may take years of commitment and devotion to complete. The Apostle has indeed “listened to the Mind of Christ,” becoming Jesus reborn.
The personal Epiphany lesson here is to take a look at one’s own life and how often one is caught up in self, rather than shining a light for others to feel, silently. Christianity is not like a competitive individual’s game, where each player is ranked by how much winnings they have accumulated over a lifetime. Christianity is all about being there for others, as a slave for God to those seeking help. Shining a light is not about giving dollars and helping start foundations and charities. Shining a light is about proclaiming the good news that the Messiah is coming; and letting another feel just how near the kingdom of God is.