Jesus says to the multitudes and the disciples, "Some standing here shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." What did He mean? Was He planning on returning within the next 75 years? Was He planning on keeping some of these people alive for 2,000 years? No. Each of the three gospels that mention Jesus' words here immediately follow them with the account of the transfiguration. Three that stood there would see Him transfigured, would see Him in His glory.
Peter tells us in 2Peter 1 that...
2Pet. 1:16 ...we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
And John tells us...
John 1:14 ...and we beheld His glory...
They, along with James, got a glimpse into the kingdom of God. They saw Jesus Christ in all of His glory.
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on the mountain to pray. These three guys were privy to experiences and teachings that no other disciples or even apostles saw or heard. Things like the raising of Jairus' daughter from the dead. The Garden of Gethsemane. The Olivate Discourse.
It has been said that these three made up the "inner circle." I like what Gayle Erwin calls them instead: the "remedial class."
This account of the transfiguration is also in Matthew 17 and Luke 9, each with additional information. As we compare the stories, we get the entire picture.
Jesus takes Peter James and John up on a mountaintop for a prayer meeting. And as Jesus is praying, He is transfigured, transformed. The word "transfigured" is "met-am-or-FO-o" in Greek. It means to physically change. Like a caterpillar morphs into a butterfly, or a polliwog morphs into a frog. Jesus undergoes a physical transformation.
The Bible says that we are also to undergo a transfiguration. 2Corinthians 3 tells us,
2Cor. 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
We, too, undergo a physical transformation, a metamorphosis. We are morphed from glory to glory, into the image of Jesus Christ. How? But how? Isn't it true that not every Christian seems to undergo this transformation? Don't some people seem to stay the same? Absolutely. Romans 12 says,
Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
How are we transformed? By the renewing of our minds, and rejecting of the world's ways. The results of our lives are very physical. Sin gets etched onto our faces, just as walking with God gets inscribed on our countenances. If none of us saw each other for ten years, we'd be able to gather together again and just see physically who had been conformed to the world, and who had been transformed by the renewing of their minds.
His clothes become radiant and white as lighting, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. This is also part of the transformation that we undergo.
The Bible uses clothing as a metaphor for your condition and your character. You might think, "Hey, I'm a good person. My whites are pretty white." But just like those detergent commercials, when compared with real white, they look pretty gross. Sin has made us filthy. Isaiah wrote,
Isa. 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...
You can't make it on your righteousness, your cleanliness. You need supernatural cleansing. Fortunately, the Lord has said,
Isa. 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
How exactly are we cleansed?
1John 1:7 ...The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
That's the only way our clothes will get white enough for heaven.
Now, Moses and Elijah have shown up, but, as Luke tells us, they were turning to leave. And, just like Peter always seems to do, he speaks before he thinks. He has no clue what to say, so he just opens his mouth and whatever came out...
Mark 9:6 For he did not know what to answer...
There are two kinds of people in this world - those who have something to say, and those who have to say something. Solomon, in all his wisdom, wrote,
Pro 10:19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
I've been trying to apply this to my own life for years. You think I talk a lot now... you should have known me ten years ago! When we speak without thinking, we are likely to say something compulsive, offensive, combative, or divisive. In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking. Jesus said:
Matt. 12:36 "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment.
Let us carefully consider the proverbs,
Prov. 17:27-28 He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.
Oh, how I look forward to the day when I have gained complete victory in this area!
So Peter says something stupid, equating Moses and Elijah with Jesus. Big mistake! A cloud overshadows them, and God the Father speaks from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, listen to Him." And then all they saw was Jesus alone.
Jesus alone. He's all we need. We don't need Moses with the Law, His Law is written on our hearts. We don't need Elijah with words of prophecy, for as we wait on the Lord, He speaks to us directly. Jesus alone is all we need.
Over the years, the church has tried to focus in on more than Jesus. Some want the church to be Jesus and Mary. But what does Mary say?
John 2:5 ..."Whatever He says to you, do it."
Some want the church to be Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But what does the Spirit do? Jesus told us,
John 14:26 "...The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
May we never forget that the true foundation of the church is Jesus alone.
Last week, we saw that
Mark 8:31-32 ...He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly.
And again here in chapter 9, Jesus is stating plainly that He will rise from the dead. But Peter, James, and John discuss among themselves what "rising from the dead" might really mean. It was so clear, it was so obvious. But they just knew that He was speaking figuratively, parabolically, metaphorically, typologically.
Once again we think, "silly disciples." Silly disciples? Don't we do the same thing? Jesus has stated so much so plainly, yet we disregard the teachings as being figurative, parabolic, typological, metaphorical.
Jesus taught us that people are going to hell. Have you taken that seriously? Jesus taught us that lukewarmness will get you spit out of His mouth. Have you taken that seriously? Jesus told us that we must forsake all to follow Him. Have you taken that seriously? Or have you interpreted these things figuratively, parabolically, metaphorically, or typologically?
Now they start pondering the fact that they saw Elijah up on the mountain and ask,
Mark 9:11 ..."Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
The Jews knew that Elijah was coming back. Malachi 4 says,
Mal. 4:5-6 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
Before the final judgment, Elijah was going to be sent. But Jesus says that Elijah had come.
Matt. 11:13-14 "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come."
John would have counted as Elijah if they had accepted him, but instead, they did to him whatever they wished. So Elijah will still come before Jesus' second coming, presumably during the Tribulation period, as one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.
The man said, "If You can do anything..." How often we come to God like that! "Lord, I know there's probably nothing you can do about this..." "God, I don't see anything that you could do in my situation..." But Jesus says,
Mark 9:23 ..."All things are possible to him who believes."
Faith is the essence of our relationship with Jesus. It is so basic and so important.
Faith is the most single important doctrine of Christianity, because without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6), and it is the vehicle by which God gives us His grace in Jesus Christ. We are justified by faith (Rom 5:1). We're saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8), and faith is reckoned to us as righteousness (Rom 4:5).
God has allotted to each a measure of faith (Rom 12:3). It is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).
Jesus saw people's faith in their actions. James wrote, "I will show you my faith by my works.Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself (James 2).
Faith can be incomplete and lacking (1Thes 3:10), but it can also grow. It can be greatly enlarged (2Thes 1:3). How does it grow and enlarge? Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom 10:17). Jesus is the the author and perfecter of faith (Heb 12:2). You receive the Spirit by hearing with faith (Gal 3).
Hearing makes faith grow, but trials and testing make it strong. Trials prove your faith, and the testing of your faith produces endurance (Jam 1:3).
But not all have faith. Some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith (1Tim 1:19). Sin has hardened their hearts into unbelief (Heb 3). The measure of faith that God gave them was starved and destroyed.
Your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1Cor 2:5), because we walk by faith (2Cor 5:7), not by sight. The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God (Gal 2:20). The shield of faith makes me able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one (Eph 6:16).
So may we say like the father of the demon-possessed son,
Mark 9:24 ..."I do believe; help my unbelief."
Faith expects the impossible.
Afterwards, the disciples couldn't understand why they couldn't cast out the demon. They had seemingly done the same thing Jesus did. Jesus told them,
Mark 9:29 ..."This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
There is incredible power in prayer.