Meditations on Mark: The Transfiguration

Meditations on Mark_cvr_wing_c

Mark 9:2-13

It is an obvious fact that you cannot look directly at the sun. Expose your eyes to that much intense light for more than a fraction of a second, and you can do permanent damage. You can even go blind. And yet it is also an obvious fact that were it not for the sun’s intensity, life on Earth wouldn’t be possible. We need that much light and heat to sustain the cycles of energy that keep us alive.

Interesting. That which keeps us alive also has the ability to hurt us, even kill us.

The disciples go with Jesus to a mountaintop where he is “transfigured” before them. There is no clear or obvious natural equivalent by which to make sense of that word. Something beyond normal experience is happening. For a moment, the veil of Jesus’ flesh is pulled back and the fullness of his divine glory shines through. And the light and heat are so intense that the disciples can barely stand to look directly at their Lord.

Notice how their comments seem to steer attention away from what has happened. They’ve just witnessed something indescribable, and their response is to try to engage Jesus in a theological discussion. “So tell us about Elijah,” they say. They almost can’t handle the fullness of what has happened, so they try to come at it indirectly. The sense of the story is “This is too much for us. Let’s talk about things that we can understand.” It is as though the disciples are giving Jesus a sideways glance in fear that a direct gaze would blind them.

Imagine you and a friend witness something truly amazing. Whatever it is, it is beyond description. And your friend turns to you and says, “So, did you see that game last night?” He doesn’t know what to think about what has happened, so he chooses instead to focus on something that makes sense to him.

But notice that Jesus doesn’t fault the disciples for their indirect approach. For one thing, their inquisitiveness is genuine. Jesus welcomes honest questions. But more important, he knows this is how it is with God’s glory. It is too much for us to take directly. Exposed to the fullness of God’s holiness and righteousness, we would melt. God dwells in unapproachable light, according to 1 Timothy 6:16.

And yet God has taken all that glory and intensity and has stuffed it into human flesh. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being (Heb 1:3). We may not be able to look directly at the Father, but we don’t need to.

We can look directly at the Son.

Lord Jesus, you are the perfect representation of the fullness of God. Help me today to yield before your greatness and your glory. Help me to stand in awe of who you are and what you have done. Help me not to avert may gaze towards lesser things but to keep my eyes fixed firmly on you. You alone are my hope and my salvation. Amen.

meditations_on_mark_xsmThis post originally appeared in Meditations on Mark: Daily Devotions from the Oldest Gospel by Chris Cadenhead.

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