Jesus took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, “up a high mountain by themselves to be alone” (Mark 9:2) and “to pray” (Luke 9:28). Imagine it! “Come on, guys, let’s get away from the hustle and bustle for a little R & R… we’ll enjoy some time praying together!” What an invitation!
Earlier, Jesus had selected these three men to accompany Him to the home of Jairus. There, with mortal eyes, they witnessed immortality as Jesus spoke life into the dead girl (Mark 5:37-42). Later, at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was the same three disciples who were invited to go deep into the Garden of Gethsemane. From a short distance, they could have heard their Master pray, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will”(Mark 14:36).
Far away from the city lights, high on the mountain, Jesus “was transfigured in front of them … and a cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him!’ ” (Mark 9:2, 7). Oh my!
Jesus was “transfigured.” (That word in the original Greek language is “metamorphothe” from which we get the English word metamorphosis.) Much like the metamorphosis of a worm becoming a butterfly, Jesus was transformed! One minute, Jesus appeared much like any other man, dressed in the garb of a poor carpenter. The next minute, Jesus was the radiant, regal, royal King of all kingdoms. “His face shone like the sun; his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). He was clothed with majesty, magnificent in splendor! The light of His divine presence chased away the darkness.
Then came the sound! The voice of God, like the roar of thunder, shook the atmosphere! “This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35). When God spoke at the baptism of Jesus, “the heavens were torn open … and a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased’ ” (Mark 1:10–11). What a declaration, spoken so that Peter, James and John could hear… spoken so that the angels of heaven and the demons of darkness could hear. When the disciples heard God’s voice, “they fell facedown and were terrified” (Matthew 17:6). Yes indeed, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10).
As the disciples peeked, “suddenly, two men were talking with Jesus—Moses and Elijah. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31). Without introduction or fanfare, the two Old Testament superstars materialized. Moses, the giver of the Law, and Elijah, a representative of the Prophets, “appeared in glory.” And why? To talk to Jesus about “his departure,” His impending torturous, agonizing death… about life beyond death… and about the ultimate victory over the enemy. Moses and Elijah reminded Jesus that at the cross, He would “disarm the rulers and authorities and disgrace them publicly by triumphing over them!” (Colossians 2:15).
As quickly as it had begun, “looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus” (Mark 9:8). “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid’ ” (Matthew 17:7). That’s a mountaintop experience!
Today, Jesus invites us to come away to a quiet place. Like He did so long ago, He reveals His unequalled majesty, and gently encourages us, “Don’t be afraid!”