And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.Mark 9:2-3
Many scholars argue that Mark’s Gospel comes from the life experiences of the Apostle Peter (see 1 Pet. 5:13). In this text, Mark records the names of the three disciples who went up the mountain with Jesus–Peter, James, and John. Since Mark’s Gospel is Peter’s account of Jesus’ life, death, and ministry, Peter’s presence adds validity to the transfiguration of Jesus recorded for us in this passage. Mark shows us that these three disciples physically and visually witness Jesus transfigure before them.
Mark’s Gospel, along with majority of the New Testament, was written in Greek. The word for “transfigured” in the original language is “metemorphōthē.” You don’t need to know Greek to hear and see the English word metamorphosis. Even young children can understand the concept of this word when they watch Power Rangers who say “It’s morphin’ time” and transform into ninja fighters ready to defeat the bad guys.
We can rightly conclude based on this word study that Jesus transfigures. However, we might ask, “What does he transform into and what does this mean?” We must look at the context and details to answer this question. The text says that “his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” Jesus’ appearance changed before their very eyes. We see his image become dazzling white; so much so, that the only human description Mark could offer was that no launderer on earth could bleach them to be that radiant.
The transfiguration conveys that Jesus’ appearance reflected his true nature as the Son of God. Perhaps we could say that the fullness of his deity and humanity were on display in this moment. We can infer this to be the case from Psalm 104:1, which reads, “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” Do you see the connection between the Psalmist’s praise of God’s glory and the revelation of Jesus’ glory in the transfiguration? Mark, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us another snapshot that Jesus truly is the Son of God (cf. Mark 1:1).
What does this truth have to do with you and me? How does Jesus’ transfiguration impact our lives? The Greek word for “transfigured” is found four times in Scripture. Twice the word is used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus in Mark 9 and Matthew 17, which makes complete sense based upon what we just learned. Interestingly, Paul uses the same word two times in relation to how Jesus Christ “transfigures” his followers. Here are the two texts:
Romans 12:2–“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (emphasis added).
2 Corinthians 3:16-18–“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (emphasis added).
Second Corinthians 3:16-18 can be used to help us connect the transfiguration of Jesus to the transformation of his followers. When we behold the glory of God by our faith in Jesus Christ and are indwelled with God’s Spirit, the Lord continues to work in our lives by transforming us into the image of his Son–Jesus Christ. To put it another way, Jesus’ transfiguration reveals the nature of who Christ is to us, and God’s grace causes the unbeliever to believe in the work of God’s Son. Thus, believing in Christ according to the scriptures will not only save you, but also transform you into being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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