Six days later, 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. Mark 9:2-9
Earlier in the book of Mark Jesus healed blindness and deafness. In today’s reading, he will help his closest disciples see and hear too. When they are able to see Jesus in his glory, and hear the voice of God, they begin giving up their expectations of the coming kingdom and their secret fantasies of grandiosity. They will have to put aside kingdom careerism, and getting their own way. It won’t be easy, but as they travel with Jesus towards Jerusalem, they will begin to understand that they might have to give up their lives too.
Jesus had been forthright about how things were going to end. He told them about the passion: about suffering, being abandoned, and dying, even about resurrection. Yet they persisted in their expectations about what the Kingdom Of God would be like. It’s as if all that Jesus has said about his passion really did fall on deaf ears. The disciples continued to behave as if they expected a triumph; and if Jesus wasn’t exactly headed in that direction, then they could surely manipulate the situation towards their desired outcome. James and John, for example, schemed to nab the number one and number two posts in the glorious new government that they were steering Jesus toward. They even asked for it outright, angering the others who had probably hoped they would be selected. When Jesus started talking about his coming death, Peter, so sure that he’d be able to steer Jesus to an earthly throne, rebuked him! Suffering and death were not part of Peter’s vision. He just couldn’t see it.
Whether the resistance was organized or random, Jesus faced stiff opposition from the very people who should have been supporting him. They lacked vision. They didn’t listen to him.
But Jesus will heal their blindness and deafness.
The story is that Jesus selected these three: Peter, James, and John and he took them up on a mountain. While they were up there, Jesus revealed himself to them in both glory and the white robes of a martyr. Elijah and Moses, who had gone to mountain tops at low points in their own careers, appeared too. It should have been a time of strengthening and reassurance for Jesus, but it must also have been disappointing when, once again, Peter misunderstood. “This is great,” he said. “Let’s build something!” And this time a voice from heaven interjected. “This is my son. Listen to him!”
Jesus had been trying to tell them, but the disciples had not been listening. Whether consciously or not, they behaved as if Jesus could be manipulated like a political puppet, made into the king they dreamed about. Even after Jesus had taught them how to see, and the heavens themselves had told them to stop and listen they still did not understand. “Wait,” Jesus tells them. “Don’t say anything about this until you understand it.”
At some point between two hills, transfiguration and the skull, these conniving disciples would start to understand. They’d have to give up delusions of grandeur, their secret dreams, and their own stubborn wills.
It makes giving up chocolate — or even bacon! — seem like a cake walk.
It’s a long way from transfiguration to Golgotha. What will you give up along the way?
The story of Jesus healing a deaf man. Mark 7
The story of Jesus healing a blind man. Mark 8
“The son of man must suffer many things and be rejected… and killed.” Mark 8:31
“And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.” Mark 8:32