TRANSFORMATION- TRANSLATION- TRANSFIGURATION – 2nd Sunday in lent – Mark 9:2-10
And now for the second time the Father bears testimony to the son. Jesus the beloved, is acclaimed by God as ‘His voice’; “listen to him” says God. Earlier in Chapter 1:11, God proclaims Jesus as his son in whom he is ‘well pleased’. So surely, the transfiguration must be a pivotal point in the Gospel of Mark. Attached to this pericope is what is called the Elijah question (11- 13). Let us understand this pericope a bit more.
Jesus has just pronounced the first of His three passion predictions and teachings on discipleship. He will do this again in chapter 9:31 and 10:33. Peter has pronounced Jesus as the Christ but is far from understanding what the Father’s revelation to him means. Scripture tells us that Peter is lost in an illusion of an earthy kingdom of power. He therefore remonstrates with Jesus in an attempt to prevent him walking down the road of suffering. Now as it were, to reiterate his earlier question on whom men thinks Jesus is, the Master takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain.
We have no idea where this place definitely is. Scholars have opined that it may be Mount Tabor or Hermon. In the Old Testament, mountains were the usual settings for supernatural revelations and manifestations of God. In the New Testament Jesus teaches the Sermon on the Mount and dies on the cross on mount Calvary. These manifestations are called theophanies. (Theo= God, Phaneroo = make clear) It is here that the form of Jesus changes; that’s why we call it the ‘transfiguration’. Peter’s confession is now revealed in visual form. The disciples of Jesus see the master’s glorious state which so far they have been revealed only in words. This is the glorious state that Jesus will have after his death and resurrection. It is this glorious state that we will all have in heaven.
To a Jew, listening to this narrative, the reality could not be clearer. Moses and Elijah represented the fullness of the law and the prophets; Moses, to whom the law was given and Elijah who embodied the role of the prophets. The presence of Elijah also forms a link to the following verses (9: 11-13) According to the prophet Malachi (3:23-24) Elijah’s return would precede the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. Elijah had to come first before Jesus could be raised from the dead; and so here was Elijah at the transfiguration. But Jesus makes a more startling revelation in 9:13, “Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased.”
Jesus is identifying Elijah as John the Baptist. It was John the Baptist who foreshadowed Jesus, and it is he who met with a fate of a martyr at the hands of Herod. Hence the prophecy of Malachi was fulfilled; Elijah had come and the prophecies of Malachi were fulfilled. The stage was set for the arrival of the Messiah and with John’s coming, is now fulfilled with the presence of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus thus answers the disciples dilemma (and in doing so the dilemma of the first century Jews listening to him.
What’s the take away for us? Like Peter, who was so taken up by this heavenly vision, we too want, long and prolonged moments of unique and glorious experiences. We too want to build our tents and not move on. We hope the Lord will never take away this exhilarating moment, this spiritual honeymoon or earthly joy that we are experiencing. But to every mountain top in in our life, there must be a valley. It is these glorious experiences that have strengthened and nourished us, that must be taken to those in the valley, who are in need of hope. We must become transmitters of the god news of hope. Our transformation experiences must be translated to others and then the transfiguration comes alive.
Fr Warner D’Souza
With inputs from the Jerome Biblical Commentary