The Life of Jesus Christ: The Transfiguration

Mark 9:1-29 :: Jesus’ Transfiguration

This event in the life of Jesus is hard to describe. Even the authors of the three accounts of Jesus’ transfiguration included slightly different details and seem to struggle capturing the power and awe of the moment. To fully grasp the story, before your small group discussion and prayer, I would encourage you to read through the three accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke. It won’t take you long.

Matthew 16:28-17:21
Mark 9:1-29
Luke 9:27-45

Every account of the transfiguration begins with a word from Jesus about some of the disciples seeing the coming power of His Kingdom. Each are slightly different. Of course, the meaning and interpretation of these statements have been widely debated. There are several main options for its reference: Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Jesus’ bodily return to earth, or Jesus’ transfiguration. Depending on how one sees the Kingdom involved, three of these are good options, as most or some of the disciples witnessed them. Jesus’ bodily return to earth hasn’t happened yet, so if this is what Jesus meant, further interpretive work needs to be done on elements of His statement. It may fit best, however, to see Jesus referring to His transfiguration - the event that immediately follows each account. Moreover, each account opens with a relation to the number of days between that statement and the transfiguration event (Matthew and Mark say “six days later,” Luke says “eight days after.”). This clearly links the two.

Perhaps Jesus’ transfiguration in appearance and clothing, as well as the companions that appeared and the discussion that ensued, is a glimpse of His future glory, that glory with which He will appear in His kingdom. There are some appealing similarities and connections between this passage and the descriptions of Jesus in Revelation.

I will contend that in this beautiful true story and the conversation and healing that follow, a marvelous matrix of themes and foci can be seen. Tracking these themes and their interactions is the key to understanding the account and its purpose in the gospels. These themes include: Jesus’ identity, restoration, resurrection, ability, prayer, doubt and faith. Try to track these as you read and discuss.

My personal contention with this passage is that, apart from a focus on Jesus’ identity and communion with two chief Old Testament saints, God reveals something powerfully freeing and instructive about faith. The power of faith lies not in faith itself - the amount or the maturity - but in the object of that faith. This is why Jesus follows this account with these words in Matthew 17:20, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you.”

This was often illustrated by Old Testament Jewish idolatry. When they placed their faith in wooden idols that could not speak, hear, move or reason, the prophets would ask of the power of such faith? They would then compare it to faith in a Living God. Great faith in a false object releases no power. On the contrary, even a little faith in the True Object of God releases untold power.

The life God designed for us, this side of heaven, is a life of faith. Trust in Him. He is good.

Family Discussion Questions:
  1. Have you ever experienced something or seen something so cool or unusual that it was hard to describe to someone who didn’t see it? Share a brief story
  2. Reread or recount the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. What parts stick out to you as either interesting or important?
  3. Why do you think Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus?
  4. What is important about what God the Father said of Jesus?
  5. Describe in your own words the desperate need of this unnamed father and his tormented son. Why did they come to seek out Jesus and His disciples?
  6. How would you define or describe faith to someone?
  7. How does faith relate to doubt? See the father’s words in Mark 9:24.
  8. How does faith relate to prayer?
  9. What does this story reveal about Jesus’ identity and ability? How does it encourage your trust in Jesus?

Small Group Discussion Questions:
  1. What are the differences in detail and emphasis in the three accounts of Jesus’ transfiguration? Share with the group what you noticed.
  2. Read 2 Peter 1:16-18. How well does this account, written by Peter, fit Jesus’ transfiguration? What is Peter’s point?
  3. How does the transfiguration scene imitate the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai?
  4. What do the descriptions of Jesus’ face and clothes represent?
  5. Why do you think Moses and Elijah appeared? What does Luke’s version say they specifically discussed?
  6. The conversation about Elijah coming before the Messiah come from Malachi 4:5. Read that passage and discuss Jesus’ words to His disciples about Elijah. Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:7-15 will also help immensely.
  7. All of the gospel accounts seem to connect the transfiguration with what happens after Jesus and the three disciples descend the mountain - healing the boy with an unclean spirit. Why and how are these events connected?
  8. Do you read Jesus’ words in Mark 9:19 as frustrated and impatient rebuke of the needs and wants of the crowds or as mournful and distraught lament over the circumstances of the cursed and corrupt world? Why? (NOTE: Jesus’ repeated “how long” is syntactically identical to the critical Old Testament “how long” in passages like Psalms 6, 13, 74, 90, etc.)
  9. Jesus’ interaction with the boy’s father is one of the most remembered in the New Testament. How does Jesus reveal about faith and doubt? What is the relationship between faith and doubt? See also Jesus words in Matthew 17:20. (NOTE: The opposite of doubt is certainty)
  10. How do Jesus’ closing words to His disciples - “this kind cannot come out by anything but prayer?” - relate to the whole event? What is Jesus teaching them and faith and prayer?
  11. Jesus’ resurrection appears at several places in this story (see Mark 9:9-10, and the way that Jesus “raised” up the boy). Why do you think this is so emphasized?
  12. What practical things can you discern or implement from this text?
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