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Wrestling with the Word, episode 9: Transfiguration of our Lord, year B (Feb. 22, 2009) February 3, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Transfiguration of our Lord

The Transfiguration of our Lord occurs at a strategic place in the church year. On the one hand, it closes the Epiphany Season in which we focused on the various ways Jesus is revealed–as the Son of God with authority to preach and teach, cast out demons and heal the sick. Our gospel readings for the past two months have taken us through the first chapter of Mark.

We are about to embark on the season of Lent. During this time, we focus, on the one hand, on walking with Jesus through his sufferings to his tragic and untimely death. On the other hand, we celebrate that we confess our faith in the Lord who walks with us in our sufferings–physical and emotional, spiritual and social We worship a living Lord who knows intimately the sorrows we experience. “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.”

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 9: Transfiguration of our Lord, Year B.


2 Kings 2:1-12
For some unwritten reason the Lord took Elijah the prophet up to heaven in a whirlwind, leaving behind the prophetic successor Elisha to carry on his work.

The first chapter of 2 Kings places the prophet Elijah squarely once more within the context of history, for it describes the role he played in dealing with Ahaziah, King of Israel. Having suffered a serious accident, the king sought healing from the Canaanite god Beelzebul, but Elijah prevented the mission from taking place. As a result, three regiments of fifty men each, sent to bring Elijah to court, were destroyed by fire from heaven. Finally, after hearing Elijah’s prophecy that the king would surely die, Ahaziah expired, paving the way for  Jehoram to succeed to the throne.

Key Words
Vv. 3, 5.  hechešû = “be silent”:  the curious command might be related to the controlling of the chaotic waves at Ps. 107:29. The order seems to have become part of Jesus’ responsibility in the NT when he silences the demons/unclean spirits and the storm (see Mark 1:25; 4:39).

V. 8.  wayyakkeh ‘et-hammayim wayyēchātsû hēnnā wāhēnnā = “and he struck the waters and they were parted to the one side and to the other”:  cf. the parting of the “sea” by Moses at Exod. 14:22, and of the Jordan by Joshua at Josh. 3:17 and by Elisha at 2 Kings 2:14.

V. 11.  wayya`al ’ēlîyāhû base‘ārâ haššāmāyim = “and Elijah went up in the cloud (to) heaven”:  Until this point in the Bible the only one who has gone up without record of his dying is Enoch (Gen. 5:24). Mystery over Moses’ actual death arose because no one knows where his grave is located (Deut. 34:6). Because of these peculiarities regarding their deaths, Enoch, Elijah, and Moses came to play important roles in later apocalyptic expectations.


Psalm 50:1-6
The psalm appears to form part of a liturgy in which the Lord comes into the presence of the people during worship, perhaps even a specific festival, in order to judge their sins and to promise ultimate salvation. These introductory verses describe a theophany, that is, a God-appearance, in terms of the customary signs and wonders. In verse 5 the Lord refers to the covenant with the people made with a sacrifice (perhaps a reference to the blood spilled and sprinkled at Mount Sinai at Exodus 24:3-8).


2 Corinthians 4:3-6
While Satan has blinded the eyes of unbelievers from seeing God’s light in Christ, God has manifested the divine glory in the face of Christ to those whom God sends to proclaim the word.


Mark 9:2-9
After hearing a variety of understandings about the identity of Jesus, God settles the issue by announcing that Jesus is God’s “beloved Son” and does so in such a way that all the expectations about who Jesus is come together in an unexpected way.

Beginning at 8:27 Jesus raises questions to his disciples about his own identity in terms of (1) what do the crowds say about him (vv. 27-28, (2) what do the disciples themselves say about him (v. 29), and (3) what does Jesus say about himself (v. 31). Discussion and debate ensue over the necessity of Jesus’ suffering, and so Jesus proceeds to talk about discipleship in terms of bearing the cross. Now occurs the answer to the question in terms of what God says about him.

Key Words
V. 2.  kai meta hēmeras hex = “and after six days”: At Hos. 6:2 the expression “after two days” is synonymous with “on the third day.” If “after six days” is the same as “on the seventh day,” we have here a poetic expression that indicates the climactic act to some preceding activity (see Gen. 2:2; Exod. 24:16; Josh. 6:15).

V. 2.  oros hypsēlon = “a high mountain”:  a technical term in the LXX for mountains or hills or even sanctuaries which serve as holy places, points of contact between heaven and earth. Such mountains are sometimes called the “navel of the earth”  (see Judg. 9:37; Ezek. 38:12). At 2 Peter 1:17-18 the author speaks of “the holy mountain” as the one on which the transfiguration occurred.

Mountain functions in the Bible, especially Sinai/Horeb and Zion
Invitation (Exod. 3:2-3; 19:20; 24:1-2, 12-14)
Theophany signs (Exod. 3:1-6; Exod. 19:16-17; 20:18; Isa. 6:1-8 )
Revelation of divine name (Exod. 3:1-17)
Revelation of divine will (saving at Exod. 3; commandments at Exod. 20)
“On that day” (Isa. 2:2-4)
Eating and drinking (Exodus 24:9-11; Deut. 12:7; 14:26)
“On that day” (Isa. 25:6-8 )
Commissioning (see Exod. 3:10; Ps. 2:6; Mark 3:13-19)

V. 2.  metemorphōthē = “he was transfigured”:  compare the change in Moses’ face as he spoke with God on Mount Sinai (Exod. 34:29-30), causing Moses’ to put a veil on his shining face (see the second assigned lesson for the day from 2 Cor. 4:3).

V. 4.  “Elijah with Moses”:  the only two persons with whom God spoke directly on Mount Sinai/Horeb (Exod. 24:19ff; 34:10-28; 1 Kings 19:15-18). Further, the OT tradition allows the hope that the two will reappear by raising questions about each of their deaths. Elijah’s assumption into heaven (2 Kings 2) and the unknown site of Moses’ burial (Deut. 34:6) contributed to this tradition. At 9:12-13 Jesus tells his disciples that Elijah must come before the end to prepare all things. Indeed, he has already come (apparently in John the Baptizer), setting the stage for the suffering of the Son of Man. John the Seer apparently alludes to this tradition in referring to the “two witnesses” of the end time (Rev 11:3). Their appearance here confirms that the end time has already begun in Jesus. Note that in the LXX there is “Jesus” on the mountain also at Exod. 24:13.

V. 5. poiēsōmen treis skēnas = “let us make three booths”: Peter’s remark seems to relate to the Festival of Booths but the intention is not clear. Or he might have considered the appearance of Elijah, Moses, and Jesus (the Messiah) indicates the kingdom has come on earth and that the three need somewhere to live. Yet, Mark suggests in the next verse that he did not know what he was saying.

V. 6. ou gar ēdei ti apokrithē, ekphoboi gar egenonto = “for he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid”: Through Mark’s Gospel runs a theme called “the incomprehensibility of the disciples” (see 4:41; 6:51-52; 8:32; 14:40). He had not yet received the message of the event.

V. 7.  “a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud”:  note the similarity with the Sinai tradition at Exod. 24:15-18. At Exod. 40:34, the cloud is related to glory of the Lord, both indicating God’s presence at the tent of meeting/tabernacle.

V. 7.  houtos estin ho huios mou ho agapētos, akouete autou = “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him”:  The secret is out! Not only the unclean spirits and demons know who Jesus is. The first part of the announcement “you are my Son” confirms Peter’s confession (8:29) that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah (see Ps, 2:7). The combination “beloved son” (huios agapētos) appears in the LXX only to define Isaac at the point at which he is to be sacrificed (Gen. 22:2, 12, 16), thus confirming Jesus’ contention that he is the one who must suffer and die (8:31). The third part “listen to him” alludes to Deut. 18:15 and thus confirms the popular view that he is the eschatological prophet like Moses. That we understand the identity of Jesus on the basis of God’s revelation is demonstrated further by Martin Luther’s teaching about the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed.