Year B 2nd Sunday Lent: Mark 9:2-10

9:02 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John
and led them up a high mountain on their own by themselves.
There in their presence he was transfigured:
9:03 his clothes became brilliantly white,
whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.
9:04 Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.
9:05 Then Peter spoke to Jesus,
'Rabbi,' he said, 'it is wonderful for us to be here;
so let us make three shelters, one for you,
one for Moses and one for Elijah.'
9:06 He did not know what to say;
they were so frightened.
9:07 And a cloud came, covering them in shadow;
and from the cloud there came a voice,
'This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.'
9:08 Then suddenly, when they looked round,
they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
9:09 As they were coming down from the mountain
he warned them to tell no one what they had seen,
until after the Son of man had risen from the dead.
9:10 They observed the warning faithfully,
though among themselves they discussed
what 'rising from the dead' could mean.

Peter Clare. Detail of the Mark painting


Jesus had announced for the first time that he, the Messiah, would suffer in Jerusalem. Peter had tried to change his mind. Jesus had corrected Peter in an extremely vehement way, ‘Satan, behind me.’ Then he explained that those who want to follow him have to bear their cross (8:31-38). The cross is the fact that God’s love encounters opposition. For himself a bitter reality: the Pharisees and the Herodians made plans to destroy him; his family thought that he was out of his mind (3:20-21); the Scribes accused him to be the worst evil spirit of all (3:22-30); the High priests and Scribes will make plans to kill him (11:18); Judas, one of the Twelve will betray him (14:10-11.43-45); all his disciples will flee when he will be arrested (14:49) and Peter will deny him during his trial (14:66-72).

However, Jesus will not give up; he will continue to do the will of God: charity, love, forgiveness, grace. Even in his passion he will be steadfast. He calls that ‘the coming of the kingship of God in power’ (9:1).

Who will have such faithful eyes that they will discern the coming of God’s kingship through the brutal outside of the suffering? To help us Mark tells the story of the Transfiguration. We have to keep in mind..., to keep before our eyes Jesus’ glory when some moments later he will enter into his passion.


The three disciples play an important role in Mark’s Gospel. They are witnesses of the resuscitation of the little daughter of Jairus (5:37); they will be witnesses of Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane, and they will be especially mentioned when the disciples don’t react in the right way to Jesus’ passion announcements (Peter: 8:32; James and John: 10:35).

The word ‘white’ will occur again when we hear that Jesus has been raised from the dead: 16:5. Is it allowed to conclude that white is the resurrection colour?

Moses and Elijah

Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament: ‘Law’ (Moses) and ‘Prophets’ (Elijah). Besides that they are two people to whom God appeared; to Moses for example in Exodus 24,15, where we hear about a cloud, just as in our text; to Elijah in 1 Kings 19.

Voice from heaven

A voice ‘comes to pass’ from the cloud: ‘This is my son, the beloved...’ That reminds us of the voice from above during the baptism of Jesus (1:10). There the voice spoke to Jesus himself; here to the disciples.

Peter proposes to build three tents. Because ‘it is wonderful to be here’. But he didn’t know what he said. I think Mark means that Jesus, the Messiah, didn’t come to the people to stay in holy isolation far away upon a mountain; he came to share our lives, our temptations, our suffering and to show us which way we have to go in the midst of all that. So, at the end they descend to share the daily life of ‘simple’ people.

Picture Meditation

We are in St John’s church in Lüneburg, Germany and we are looking at a picture from 1726 (photographed by Fr Dries).

The artist makes a connection between three main moments in Jesus’ life: Gethsemane (left), Resurrection (right) and in the centre the Transfiguration. The transfiguration is meant to help us to discern, through the brutal outside of his agony and passion (left), the inside of the fidelity to God’s virtues. They will have the final word (Resurrection, right) That is the ‘coming of God’s Kingship in power’.

There is beautiful ‘rhyming’ in the picture, as well as in the story itself. The three figures of Jesus surrounded by Moses and Elijah, are rhyming with the three figures at their feet: Peter, James and John. The latter three will get the vocation to spread the Good-Message from the tradition; to hand it on to everybody who will listen and who is waiting and longing for a Good-Message.

And what if I would have been..., if I am called to be as one of these three?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ