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Jesus Only

February 11, 2024|Jesus Only|Mark 9:2-9

JD Cutler

Click here for the sermon audio

In the liturgical church calendar we have come to the end of the Epiphany season which began six weeks ago with us looking at the baptism of Jesus and what it revealed about him. As we close, we turn to another event in the life and ministry of Jesus that further reveals who he is. The transfiguration, recorded for us by all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as referenced in the writings of the Apostle John and Peter in the New Testament. 

As we have been preaching through the beginning of Mark’s gospel account, along with the disciples of Jesus, we have been learning about who Jesus is and what he came to do. Today we are going to skip ahead in Mark to chapter 9, where we find his account of the transfiguration event. Mark 9:2-9. 

This morning as we see what these three closest disciples learned from the transfiguration account we find three ways the transfiguration teaches us about Jesus.

Mark 9:2-9 (ESV) 2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Three ways the transfiguration teaches us about Jesus. 

The transfiguration increases our understanding of Jesus.

An interesting note that all three of the synoptic gospel writers include is the timing of this event, which is unusual for all three of them, especially for Mark. As we have noted previously, usually uses the word ‘immediately’ to transition from one event to another in his action focused gospel. Similarly Matthew uses changes of scenery to move the narrative along. But both include this reference to ‘after six days’. 

When reading scripture and finding this kind of reference, immediately we should ask, what are they referencing that happened preceding this event? That is, what is the context of this event?

A quick scan back in the gospel brings us to another important event in the life of the disciples as well as their understanding of who Jesus is. 

Mark 8:27-32 (ESV) 27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.

This pivotal confession given by Peter, on behalf of the twelve, is certainly a highlight of their time with Jesus. 

Jesus blesses Peter and praises the Father for revealing this to Peter. It is this confession that Jesus says he is going to build his church on. 

In Matthew the confession adds, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

I am convinced that in reading the rest of the gospel accounts, although Peter’s confession was theologically accurate, he didn’t fully understand what all it entailed. He believed that Jesus was God’s anointed, the Christ or Messiah, and he had some knowledge that Jesus had a special relationship with the Father, but his understanding was far from complete. 

But notice two things with me, one, that Jesus accepts his confession as well as says that it is foundational for his church. 

Notice as well, that although Jesus knows Peter doesn’t fully comprehend what it means yet, he doesn’t correct Peter, he doesn’t dismiss Peter, because he knows that he will understand, because Jesus is going to show him. 

So at least in the literary context, we see the transfiguration tied to this confession, which is important to note, but also there is the reference to six days. 

At this point all we have is speculation, but if the detail was important enough to include, and it would be obvious to the first century reader the significance, we have to ask, what could these six days refer to?

One interesting connection that would have been readily apparent to the original audience is that of Moses’ experience on the mountain with God after the Exodus from Egypt.

Exodus 24:15-18 (ESV) 15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Now, after six days, the disciples are going to go up on a mountain and see the glory of Christ, hear from the father, as well as receive instruction from him. There is certainly a similarity of purpose between these two accounts. 

Let us look at the first part of that, their witness of the glory of Christ. 

The text says that, And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 

The word transfigured is translated from the Greek word metamorphoō (meta-ma-far-o) which is where we get our english word metamorphosis. Used only twice in the gospels, here and in Matthew’s account. 

The word is used by Paul in his epistles to describe the transformation we experience in Christ. 

Mark gives us little detail here beyond the fact that he was transfigured before them and that part of that transformation was that his clothes became intensely white, radiant, beyond what anyone on Earth could produce. 

Luke, being the more detail oriented writer, says it this way. 

Luke 9:29 (ESV) 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.

Luke indicates that this transformation was seen, not in the sense that his physical form was altered, he still looked like a man, but rather his face changed. But he does not say in what way. 

Turning to Matthew’s account as we try to put all of it together, we find another detail that helps us understand what is happening. 

He says, Matthew 17:2 (ESV) 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 

Putting it all together, we see Jesus take the disciples up a high mountain, where he is praying, as he is praying he is changed before their very eyes. His face begins to shine so brightly that it looks like the sun and his clothes also began to shine from a  supernatural light. The Bible says that what they were witnessing was his glory. 

Luke 9:32 (ESV) …they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

In our language today, we might say they saw his majesty. They had seen him in his humanity, this humble carpenter from Nazareth, but now the veil is pulled back and they see him in his pre-incarnate majesty as the Eternal Son of God. 

John would go on to describe it like this. John 1:14 (ESV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Peter would later describe this event in his 2nd epistle. 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV) 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

It is in this moment that both men refer back to when they first saw the majesty of Jesus. This is where they began to understand that ‘this Jesus’ was more than a man, he was God incarnate. 

Jesus was not just a great man, not just a great prophet or a great moral teacher, he was not just a great social activist, those closest to him testify that he was something more. This is essential to our understanding of who Christ is. 

Fundamental to our confession of who Christ is that we hold that he was both fully God and fully man, acknowledged in two natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the natures being in no way removed because of the union, but rather the properties of each nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into one person and one hypostasis; not as though He were parted or divided into two persons, but one and the self-same Son and only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as from the beginning the prophets have taught concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath taught us, and as the symbol of the fathers hath handed down to us. 

The sometimes underemphasized role of the transfiguration is part of an increasing revelation of who Jesus is in the gospels. We, along with those who confessed an orthodox faith before us, did not create these doctrines, this confession is found within the revelation of the scriptures which record for us the revelation of who Jesus is, revealed to us in his baptism, in his transfiguration, in his resurrection, and in his ascension. 

So, the transfiguration of Jesus increases our understanding of who Jesus is, secondly…

The transfiguration instructs our view of suffering.

If there was something that the disciples misunderstood more than who Jesus was, it was why he came. 

For the disciples, words like Lord, Christ, Messiah, the Anointed One, these words reflected majesty, sure, but they reflected victory over enemies, righteous vindication for the Jewish people from their mistreatment at the hands of the Romans. They pictured an earthly kingdom with Christ at the center, a kingdom in which those who defied Christ, they would call down fire from heaven to destroy.    

We cannot blame them too much, these were the common Messianic thoughts about the coming Christ. But how wrong they were about not only the nature of the Kingdom but what its establishment would cost. It wouldn’t be a blood battle between Israel and Rome, there would be no large uprising where Rome was overthrown. Rather, Jesus says that as their king and Christ he is going to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, representing the Judaistic system as a whole. That their rejection would manifest itself in many sufferings and ultimately he would be killed. 

In all three gospel accounts, the same order is seen. The supernatural confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ, Christ telling them not to tell anyone yet, and immediately he begins teaching them plainly about his coming suffering, rejection, and death at the hands of the Jewish leaders. 

You can imagine their confusion, can’t you? They have been called to be disciples of this Rabbi, who is unlike any of the other Rabbis. He teaches with authority that astounds the crowds, he commands unclean spirits with authority. And as those closest to him, they see that he is more than just a teacher, they begin to either gradually or the Father reveals it in a moment, that he is the promised Messiah. How hopeful they must have been to have been called to his side, to witness and participate in this historical event that had been so long expected and waited for. 

And then…

And then, this same Jesus begins talking about being rejected, not received by the religious leaders, about suffering and not conquering, about even dying, as well as being resurrected, although they are not quite sure what to make of that. 

Now, what Peter says in response to this teaching prior to the transfiguration, makes a little more sense. Look back at Mark 8, at verse 32.

Mark 8:32-33 (ESV) And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

What a difference two verses make! Verse 29- You are the Christ. To verse 32- Jesus, come over here and let me set you straight.

What causes this sudden and titanic shift in Peter? Here, it is not spelled out for us, but in Matthew we gain some clarity at what caused it from the substance of the rebuke. Matthew 16:22 (ESV) 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Essentially, Peter says two expressions. In the Greek they amount to, ‘God be merciful to you!’ ‘These things (you have said) will never happen to you!’

Pastor Doug O’Donnell in his preaching the word commentary offers this paraphrase. 

“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, which doesn’t include suffering and death.”

It's as though Peter says, Jesus, I know you are God’s chosen one, but you have his plan all wrong, surely it is to bless you with health and wealth, success and happiness. In today’s words, Peter would have told him he just needed more faith and God would bless him abundantly, right?

Why the rebuke from Peter? Why did he go from confession to condemnation?

Peter could not see how glory and suffering could go together.

In Peter’s mind, he could not reconcile that Jesus was God’s chosen one and that he would be largely rejected, greatly suffer, and ultimately be put to death. Majesty and suffering didn’t fit together in Peter’s mind.

But really, let’s be honest for a minute, when we try to put those pieces together in our own minds, it seems like the pieces don’t fit together well. 

Suffering feels wrong, shameful, something to be avoided.

Majesty feels good, elevating, something to be embraced. 

I feel many of us like to imagine if we are following Jesus then we will avoid suffering. Some false teachers teach as much today. 

But notice, Jesus not only embraces the suffering, but he teaches that it is the way to majesty. They are related in ways that are hard for us to understand, but listen to what he teaches immediately after rebuking Peter for his rebuke. 

Mark 8:34-38 (ESV) 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus’ ministry is going to take the pattern of cross then crown. The cross is not an obstacle to overcome, but a path to embrace. 

What Peter saw as wrong, what Peter saw as incompatible with who Jesus was, was the very thing he had come to do. Make no mistake, Christ’s glory is nowhere as clearly seen as it is on the cruel Roman cross. 

This is completely backwards from the world’s line of thinking. 

The world’s glory comes from giving in to self, to elevating oneself as number one, from dominating others, from being bigger, richer, louder than the other guy. This is what the world celebrates. These are the ones we crown with glory and honor. 

And yet, Christ says, true glory comes from self-denial. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. In this loss of life, you will actually save it. In this abandonment of self, you gain the most precious thing in the world. To embrace Christ, to not only understand it, but to celebrate his suffering and dying in the place of sinners, will lead us into a place where we enjoy the glory of God forever. 

Jesus said it, but then he illustrated it six days later on the mount when he was transformed before these men. 

Mark tells us that in this moment of his unveiled glory, they saw two others with him. Moses and Elijah, and they were talking to Jesus. 

Can I tell you this morning that I have so many questions about this, as I am sure you do. But one of the questions that comes to mind relatively quickly for the curious, is what were they talking about? 

I mean what could this heavenly meeting between the Messiah, and these two great prophets possibly be about?

Thankfully for those like me who are curious, Luke fills in some of the details in his account. 

Luke 9:30-31 (ESV) 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 

Spoke of his departure- literal word is Exodus, what exodus? The one he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. What is he about to accomplish at Jerusalem? He is going to be crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascend into heaven having accomplished the freeing of the slaves to sin and death, having conquered, sin, death, and the grave! He is about to lead his people out of slavery into a relationship with the one true God, similarly to how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery and into a covenant with God on the Holy mountain. 

Isn’t it amazing? I really want you to see this. 

That suffering is centrally within what is arguably one of the most glorious displays of heavenly majesty in the New Testament; Jesus is unveiled, Moses and Elijah are meeting with him in glory, high on a mountain, and what is right smack in the middle of this heavenly council? The cross. 

There is no separation of suffering and glory here and I think that might have been the point that Jesus is illustrating to these three disciples. His going to the cross was not something that was beyond his control, he was not at the mercy of the Jewish leaders, it was not something that Jesus simply saw coming as a result of the hatred of the religious leaders, it was a part of God’s plan, it was a part of Christ’s glory, and it would happen, not because men desired for it to happen, but because God had ordained for it to happen. 

Although we know they still didn’t fully grasp everything yet, this moment surely impacted them and cleared up some of the confusion they had about what Jesus had come to do and how he was going to accomplish it.

We also see just how much they would suffer as the gospel advanced, but how radically did their mindset change after the resurrection and outpouring of the Spirit?

Acts 5:40-41 (ESV) when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

For many of us, in my opinion, this is one of the last and most stubborn strongholds in our Christian life, so I will say this and we will move on, in the transfiguration we see the glory of Christ is not impacted one bit by his suffering and rejection. They are not mutually exclusive and I pray that we can learn that lesson so when we suffer for the name of Jesus, we can rejoice rather than recoil. 

Finally, let us deal with the last teaching of the transfiguration…

The transfiguration informs our understanding of God’s revelation. 

Picture the scene from the disciples point of view at this moment. Jesus, their Rabbi standing there with THE Moses and THE Elijah, these heroes of the faith, these spiritual giants. What a moment. 

Let us first look at Peter’s response and then ask what we can learn about Jesus from the appearance of these two specific men.

5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 

Rabbi- good start

It is good that we are here- okay

Let us make three tents- Oh Peter, come on!

Peter is really good at saying something when he doesn’t know what to say, right?

Luke says, that Peter didn’t know what he said and Matthew adds that he asked Jesus if this is what he wanted.

All in all Peter doesn’t know what to do, he is terrified, and as he sees Moses and Elijah leaving, and Jesus in his glory, it seems that he wanted to preserve this moment or at least do something in honor of it. 

Many commentators differ on their opinions on what Peter was saying here. Did he want to build these tents so that these three might remain, set up a base of operation, and become the place where people could come meet with them?

Did he just want to honor these men by doing something for them?

We do not know, and that’s okay, because according to scripture, neither did Peter. 

But we do know his statement and intent were wrong for a few reasons. 

One, how could three hastily built tabernacles by fishermen ever be good enough to house these glorious individuals, it’s ludacris. 

Two, he clearly seems to place Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on equal footing, which we know is not right. 

Three, beyond these simple, clear reasons, God the Father tells him as much. 

When we reconcile the three accounts we find that, as Peter is speaking, a cloud overshadows them and God the Father speaks from heaven, similarly to what he did at the Baptism of Jesus, only this time the disciples get to hear it for themselves. 

‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased’, but unlike the baptism, there is an additional line uttered by God. Interestingly, it is the only imperative, or command, in the whole mountaintop experience. God the Father says, listen to him. 

God interrupts Peter and says Jesus is the one (singular), the Beloved Son, that you are to listen to. 

What are the implications for us in this command?

Let us look again at the preceding scene. Moses the prophet God used to deliver his people and his law. One who, scripture says, talked with God face to face and Elijah, the great prophet of God that called the people back to God. 

Oftentimes these two figures are used to summarize all of the Hebrew scriptures, or the Law and the Prophets as it is often summarized in the New Testament. 

Jesus stands above them both, indeed he stands over all of scripture, both as the word of God and the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. 

He is the greater prophet and ultimately all of the types and shadows of the Old Testament point to him. 

He is God’s final word. Listen to what the author of Hebrews says in the opening of his letter. 

Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV) 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Here in this moment, when the disciples look up, they see only Jesus. 

8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Jesus is greater than Moses, Jesus is greater than Elijah, listen to Him. 

Jesus is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased, listen to Him. 

Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of God, listen to Him. 

Peter wanted to include Jesus into what he already knew, but God says, Jesus is everything he needs to know. 

He is the authority over everything, the author and finisher of the faith, our example, our Lord, our Savior, the redeemer, He is the Beloved. 

At the end of it all, the transfiguration was God’s revelation that Jesus is the one we should listen to. 

In Jesus we learn that God loved mankind by sending his one and only son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

In Jesus we learn that God is altogether righteous and just and will not overlook sin. 

In Jesus we learn that God is merciful and compassionate, providing salvation to those he calls. 

In Jesus we learn that this life is not it, that there is an afterlife and without Christ we are doomed to an eternal judgment. 

What more do we need? Nothing. For as the scripture says, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. 

Jesus only.

Friends, if we had to summarize what faith in the gospel was, these two words do a pretty good job. 

It is not Jesus plus anything. It is not Jesus plus obedience to the law that saves you. It is not Jesus plus religious experiences that saves you. It is Jesus only. 

In his transfiguration we have before us the perfect sacrifice for our sins. 

Fully God and fully man. The glory of God robed in flesh, not only willing to suffer but embracing it for the joy set before him. 


On this day, from their experience seeing Jesus transformed before them, the disciples gained a clearer understanding of who Jesus was, of his suffering, and of his authority. 

As we, some 2,000 years later read their accounts, we are confronted with the same truths. 

Jesus is not just some historical figure, he is more than a good teacher, he is greater than any that came before him or born after him. He is absolutely unique and therefore when he says he is the only way to the Father, we believe him. When the scriptures declare that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved, we believe them. 

Jesus did not just come to show us what the Father was like as the unique and only son of God, he came to suffer and to die for the sins of his people. He willingly went to the cruel roman cross to offer his sinless body up so that by his own blood he might secure redemption and reconciliation for his people. In his suffering, he bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. 

Jesus is not an addition to the Hebrew scriptures, the law and the prophets, he is the fulfillment of them. All of the promises of God find their fulfillment in Him. It is not Jesus plus anything else, rather the Father testifies that this Jesus is the only begotten, beloved son of God, and we should listen to him, and he says, Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

He also tells us how to come to him, it is not through obedience to the law, it is not through religious experience or sacraments, it is through repentance and faith. He calls all men everywhere to repent, to turn from their sins, from their trust in themselves, from their trust in systems of religion, and place their hope and trust in himself. To trust him as our savior and to obey him as our Lord. 

May we not be a people with an incomplete view of Jesus, but may we see him in his glorious majesty, the only son of God, who willingly laid down his life so that men and women would be saved. This is the Jesus that confronts us in our text today, and this is the Jesus who saves. 

Let us pray. 

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