Mark 9, 2 – 29 no. 27 Oct. 31

We notice now that Mark records three predictions by Jesus of his passion, death and resurrection (8, 31; 9, 31; 10, 33-34). From a literary point of view, each of these three predictions serves as a heading for the stories which follow it. That is, each of the stories in each of the three groupings should be read in the light of the death/resurrection predictions in this Gospel. In the first grouping, following 8, 31, we have 1) the Lord’s sayings about discipleship and the cross (upon which we have commented in no. 26), 2) the Transfiguration of Jesus, 3) Jesus’ comments about Elijah and 4) the healing of a boy possessed by a demon. In regard to the Transfiguration, we have a suggestive revelation of the glory of Jesus. The story means to counter the shock of the grim prediction about Jesus’ death, his being killed. It also serves, as we near this terrible period, as an experience people can recall when they see no glory in the Jesus hanging limp on the cross. Thus, the story is both revelation and encouragement. The sense of the revelation is indicated by the presence of Moses and Elijah in conversation with Jesus. Luke helps us here: he notes that they are discussing what the frightful agony soon to happen to Jesus in Jerusalem. The figures of Moses and Elijah represent the prophecies, in the Law and in the Prophets, about the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is heaven calling to the reader’s attention that the death of Jesus was foreseen, anticipated, and equally so his glory. He is the apex of the OT hopes and promises, or, as Luke says, he is the glory of Israel - and we see the intimation of his gloriousness here. The encouragement the story offers is that which a person, facing opprobrium and even martyrdom, needs to hear. Mark feels that a glimpse, even if only a glimpse of the glorious Jesus can justly offset the tragic suffering of the cross; under suffering the disciple must not lose sight of the glory to follow his devotion. The Transfiguration is encouragement: glory does follow death undergone as obedience. But the chosen disciples (who were apparently the leaders of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem after the Ascension) hear even more. As Jesus heard at his Baptism, so here the disciples hear the Father announcing His beloved Son. As seen earlier, ’beloved’ means to emphasize that Jesus is the obedient son of his Father. That Jesus is divine is already believed by Mark’s reader; this reader needs to hear that Jesus is obedient to the will of his Father. What is added to the Father’s statement is the imperative: ’Listen to him’. At Jesus’ Baptism, the Father’s words about his Son, his beloved Son, ended with the phrase: ’in whom I am well pleased’. His pleasure is in the Son’s obedience to whatever the Father asks, obedience experienced in Mark’s Gospel. Now, the Father reveals again his beloved Son, not to call for Jesus’ obedience, but to command that the disciple must believe Jesus’ words – words about his own suffering and words about the disciple who must follow him with whatever cross the Father may place on the shoulders of the disciple. This glorious Jesus, the culmination of hopes and promises – who would not like to have him remain? But again, Peter shows his lack of understanding. Jesus must depart, and further he must go to his death and resurrection; this is the will of his Father to whom he is fully obedient. When the experience of the Transfiguration came to an end, the end was simply ’it’s over’. No one but Jesus was to be seen. Only in one’s mind and memory and heart does the Transfiguration live on, to carry one through difficulties suffered for the faith in Jesus – someday to be seen in all his glory. John Kilgallen, SJ
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