October 31, 2016 • Life for Leaders
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Truly, the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is one of the strangest in the Gospel of Mark. The basic facts are clear enough. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain, where Jesus’ appearance changed as he became “dazzling white” (9:3). Then, Elijah and Moses appeared and began “talking with Jesus” (9:4). Unfortunately, Mark does not tell us what they talked about. But we do get to see the sweetly confused Peter, who offered to make shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (9:5-6). Mark adds that Peter made this offer because “he did not know what to say” (9:6). Then, a voice from heaven identified Jesus as “my Son, whom I love” (9:7), after which Moses and Elijah disappeared.
This scene, shrouded in mystery, reveals something of the divine nature of Jesus. He was certainly much more than a human messiah, that’s for sure. But the presence of Moses and Elijah also reminds us of something that is crucially important about Jesus, and sometimes overlooked by Christians. Here it is. We will only “see” Jesus rightly and fully in light of the Old Testament. The Old Testament law, represented by Moses, and the Old Testament prophecies, represented by Elijah, point to and are fulfilled in Jesus. They help us to understand him, to honor him, to receive his salvation, and to live as his disciples.
To be sure, sometimes the Old Testament is hard to fathom. It contains passages that stun our sensibilities and texts that baffle our minds. Yet we must never decide to ignore or denigrate the Old Testament because, among other things, it helps us to know Jesus. All of the familiar titles for Jesus, for example, cannot be grasped apart from the Old Testament, including: Messiah/Christ, Son of Man, Savior, Son of God, and Lord.
So, even as we make our way through Mark’s Gospel, today we’re reminded of the fundamental importance of the Old Testament.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How has the Old Testament helped you to know Jesus better?
How might you grow into a deeper understanding of the Old Testament?
What does the story of Jesus’s transfiguration mean to you?
Lord Jesus, it is so easy for me to think I have you figured out. I can get overly comfortable with you, making you a familiar friend (which you certainly are) yet losing touch with the fact that you are also King of kings and Lord of lords. This story from Mark reminds me that you are so much more than my conception of you. I am challenged to see you with fresh, open eyes, to be amazed and stretched by your glory.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Heeding the Glorious Christ
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Great reminder of the importance of the OT. I had never heard the significance of Moses and Elijah being the two talking with Jesus.
Two corrections are needed: the second to the last sentence in the first paragraph, “Mark adds that Peter made this offer because ‘did not know what to say,'” needs to have “he” added after “because”; and in the prayer, “King of kinds” needs to be changed to “King of kings.”