“This is my beloved Son.” A voice out of a cloud was heard, and the message added, “Listen to him.” (Mk 9:7) Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism has a voice from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleases.” (Mt 3:17) Mark’s version presents Jesus in glory as the Messiah and gives him credentials for preaching the Gospel. The first verse of his Gospel announces Jesus as the Son of God.
John tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (Jn 1:14) If we put these three foregoing comments together we get some helpful insight into our reading of our Gospel passage. The Son of God is the Word who is the message of the Father to humankind. He is the beloved only Son of the Father and the Father is well pleased with him. When the Father gave the Son to the world for its redemption he gave his most precious gift. Since the Son is the Word it is obvious that all ought to listen to him.
In the instance of his transfiguration, Jesus appeared in a glorified form that was characterized by glistening and intensely white garments. This may be an apocalyptic element that draws the disciples’ attention to a non-earthly existence of Jesus that surfaces here in the forecast of his rising from the dead.
Overall, the apostles just did not understand the events. They were afraid and did not know what to say during the actual transfiguration. When the voice from the cloud spoke to them they either missed the message altogether or took it for granted. When it
was suddenly over, they looked around and no longer saw anyone with them but only Jesus. His reference to rising from the dead would need clarification.
Moses and Elijah were two towering figures from the Hebrew Scriptures. It was a popular tradition that Elijah would appear on earth before the arrival of the Messiah. Thus, his placement here might have been meant to trigger awareness of the Messianic identity of Jesus. Moses was the great leader and lawgiver of the Jewish tradition. Here the implication might have been that a greater than Moses had come. Thus, again, the messianic person was now in place in history.
It has often been asked why the transfiguration occurred. Many think it was for the sake of strengthening the faith of Jesus’ disciples among whom Peter, James, and John were preeminent. His passion had already been foretold once in Mark 8:31, and it would be foretold again in Mark 9:30-32 and Mark 10:32-34. Put these together with Mark’s version of the Synoptic Apocalypse (Mk 13:5-37), and we see this Gospel speeding forward to Jesus’ violent death and then his resurrection. After that, it seems, Mark’s disciples finally come to grasp the meaning of all they had been taught.
Let us raise a prayer of praise with the Psalmist whose experience of suffering and distress received relief from the Lord. He then offered a thanksgiving sacrifice in the house of the Lord. Praise the Lord! ((Ps 116)
Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.