Did you realise that the Transfiguration is primarily about the second coming of Christ? It’s a brief momentary glimpse of Jesus Christ that will be revealed fully when He returns in majesty, power and glory.
The meaning of verse 1 has baffled commentators for centuries. Non-believers may mock saying He hadn’t returned before they died, so He was lying and isn’t God. Others say it refers to the cross, or the resurrection, or AD 70 when the temple was destroyed. It looks to me that v.2-13 help us to understand v.1 more clearly. The transfiguration occurred just six days after the comment was made. It is likely that “some” is the key word in verse 1 – and so I believe it is referring to Peter, James and John – three out of the 12 who will see what kingdom power fully is. They are the some! Although, we can’t rule out the cross, resurrection or AD 70 as being part of the answer, the primary event in my view is the Transfiguration. Let me explain.
So the “some” refers to Peter, James and John out of the 12.
“Will not taste death” – harks back to chapter 8:34-35 – taking up our cross and dying to self. Following Jesus may well cost us everything. Jesus is telling the 12 that for some of them, they will see the kingdom of God in power. Notice it is not “witness the coming of the kingdom” – in Mark the kingdom is a present reality already. It is witnessing the kingdom “coming in power” – there’s a contrast to the secret presence of the kingdom of God with the powerful manifestation of the future glorious age of the kingdom that some of them will get to glimpse.
“A cloud overshadowed them” echoes the cloud of God’s presence in the tabernacle in Exodus 24 and 1 Kings 8 – “The cloud is the impregnating presence of God, symbolising that in Jesus, even more than in the tabernacle of old, God dwells bodily with humanity.” Jonathan Edwards.
Moses and Elijah both were deathless in the Old Testament like Enoch and represent the Law and the Prophets. They appear, talk with Jesus and then disappear – they served to point to the fact that the law and prophets are fulfilled now in Jesus.
Peter, James and John, the some, got a glimpse of the eternal, preincarnate, glory of the Son. The veil of human nature was lifted to give them a glimpse of Jesus in his eternal, infinite glory. Peter is scared but at the same time wants to stay there. Perhaps he didn’t want Jesus to come down from His glorious state to go to suffer and die. So he offers to make some tents or tabernacles, just as the Jews did annually at the feast of tabernacles.
Four things we can take from the transfiguration
i) The glimpse of His majesty and glory are designed to encourage them and us, as we deny ourselves and embrace sacrifice with the knowledge that it will be more than worth it.
ii) Jesus is a reliable Lord and guide – God says listen to Him, trust Him.
iii) Jesus is God. Yes, He is human and He will suffer and die and rise again. But he is glorious and victorious and God.
iv) It’s a glimpse of the second coming, which Peter makes clear in 2 Peter 1:16-21.
Don’t be discouraged. When He returns, He will come in glory and power, bringing new hope, righteousness displayed and wrath against His enemies.
Come down from the cloud to the crowd
Mountain top encounters are wonderful, but we come down from the cloud to the crowd to bring them into encounter with Jesus. They go straight into a crowd who are arguing with the nine disciples, who are unable to heal a demonised child. It’s their lack of faith that stopped them – but as Jesus finishes the passage – it’s actually a lack of prayer life and intimacy with the Father that is the root issue.
We must be a praying people if we want to be doing the stuff!