The Transfiguration of Jesus

 Posted by Thaddaeus

Mark 9: 2-10


After six days, Jesus took Peter, 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 fuller on earth could bleach them.  Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.  Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!  Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.  Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”  Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.  As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.


Background:  This passage takes place in the fall before the Passion.  Jesus and the Twelve are journeying to Jerusalem for the weeklong Feast of Tabernacles, one of the three major festivals where Jewish men must make an annual pilgrimage to the Temple.  They stop in Caesarea Philippi at the base of Mount Hermon, about 120 miles north of Jerusalem on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar year.  At this place, Peter makes his great profession of faith.  The link is significant.  Peter’s recognition of who Jesus is coincides with the one day each year that the high priest solemnly pronounces the name of YHWH in the Temple’s Holy of Holies.  Jesus recognizes that Peter’s spoken faith comes through a revelation of the Father.  He strictly orders that the disciples to tell no one that He is the Messiah.  From that time on, Jesus begins to reveal the Messianic Secret about the sufferings of the Son of Man.


The Transfiguration of Jesus: Yom Kippur and The Feast of Tabernacles are five days apart. They still have a five-day journey.  Along the way, Jesus begins to teach that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected and killed, and rise after three days.  He instructs them on all the conditions of discipleship and says some of them will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.  The Transfiguration takes place six to eight days after he says this in keeping with Luke.  Accordingly, it takes place on the last day of the festival.  The mountain of the Transfiguration is a mystery.   Some early Church Fathers identify it as Mt. Tabor.  Some modern scholars identify it as Mt. Hermon, but both are more than 100 miles away.  Others suggest there is no geographic significance.  if scholars are right about the connection with the Jewish festivals then the Transfiguration takes place on a mountain near Jerusalem.