Lectionary Year B
March 5, 2000
Mark 9:2-9

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


(CH) This is a critical moment in the life of Jesus and his disciples. Just before this he announced his death and crucifixion. This moment must have meant a lot for him. He had already made the decision to go to Jerusalem to be crucified. Sometimes in our lives when we have to make critical decisions we wonder if it was the right choice or not. The presence of Moses and Elijah must have been reassuring as well as the voice of affirmation of God. God's presence in the form of the cloud is reassuring to Jesus and illustrates support of Jesus' decision. "He received two ‘green lights.'" It also was meaningful to the disciples because it helped them understand what Jesus was trying to tell them....to give them something to hold on to. They perhaps realized that they were to carry on the mission begun by Moses, Elijah, and then Jesus. Jesus is recognized as both the Son of God (v. 7) and the Son of Man (v. 9).

(GG) This makes me look at the response of the disciples: "let's do anything but go back to Jerusalem." Often when the call of Christ comes to us we want to stay in the glory, and be where all the good feelings are!
(DR) Compare this and parallel it with Jesus' baptism in the Jordan where he was immediately driven (led) out into the wilderness and tempted by Satan.
(GG) Is this the Holy Spirit (as Luke says) or an unclean spirit?
(JA) If Mark wanted to make it clear that this was the same spirit he would have used the same demonstrative Greek pronoun in both, but he didn't. He also could have used the verb "to lead" instead of "to cast out," but he didn't.
(CU) How does the liturgical setting (the last Sunday before Lent) shape our preaching of this text?
(CU) The question still is, "Who is Jesus?" This says Jesus transcends time and transcends life and death.
(JA) Do you think that the question "who is Jesus" is rhetorical for him or are they real for him? Also, are they real for Jesus? (recall his question, "who do people say that I am?")


(JR)History of Interpretation

A. Ancient
Thomas Oden's Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture II offers several comments from ancient exegetes. Jerome identifies the transfiguration as a theophany, writing, "It seems to me that this cloud is the grace of the Holy Spirit. Naturally, a tent gives shelter and overshadows those who are within; the cloud, therefore, serves the purpose of the tents" (120). And Ambrose, after connecting God's declaration on the mountain to that made at Christ's baptism, writes, "[God] declared him in the centurion, who said: "Truly this was the Son of God" (120). Was the centurion moved to make this declaration by something he had heard Jesus say?

B. Reformation
John Calvin's exegesis of Mark is limited; however, he refers to Matthew's account of the transfiguration multiple times in his Institutes. He writes, "[I]t is indisputable that no one is loved by God apart from Christ: ‘This is the beloved Son'…, in whom dwells and rests the Father's love. And from him it then pours itself upon us, just as Paul teaches: ‘We receive grace in the beloved'"(579). (In its entirety, Ephesians 1:6 reads, "… into praise of his glorious grace which he gave freely/grace-fully in the one he loves [hgaphmevw]. Jesus is the embodiment of God's grace. Listening to him is one way that we receive this grace.

Calvin also writes, "As to why these two [Elijah and Moses] appeared rather than others from the band of the holy fathers, it should be sufficient for us to realise that the Law and the prophets had no other goal than Christ."

Contemporary and Theological Issues

A. World
Contemporary American culture has trained us to be terrible listeners. Persons of younger generations such as my own are especially poor listeners. We have been trained by sound bites, television commercials, and music videos to pay attention to a given voice for no more than five minutes.

B. Church
Our church is more pluralistic than at any previous time. There are a wide variety of voices, but it is unclear that they all contribute equally to the exhibition of the kingdom of God. And despite our best efforts, we are unable to give equal time and consideration to every voice. Given our finitude, it behooves us to be prudent listeners, prayerfully discerning which voices glorify God and which voices do not. God could have instructed the disciples to listen to Elijah, to Moses, and to Jesus. Instead, it is only Jesus whom we are told to hear. Jesus then instructs his disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen "except whenever" or "until after" (NRSV) his resurrection. To disciples who are "after" rather than "until" the resurrection, this statement offers an implicit instruction to proclaim that Jesus has been given honor and glory by God. Yet too often we post-resurrection disciples fail to make this proclamation, failing to hear the voice of Jesus.

1. The importance of tradition. The Church in Cuba is realizing that renewal must take place in the midst of tradition.

2. The importance of keeping the dialogue with our Lord. In Cuba today churches are totally full of people who have a deep spiritual need, and more than ever they see it is essential to stick to the Lord and have a dialogue with Him. This is what Jesus did with his Father.

3. The Lord is recognized not only as the Son of God but as the Son of Man. This makes this text, and all other text, so meaningful to us. There is the human aspect that Jesus is part of us....reminding us that we need to not only stick to God, but to stick to His Son, Jesus.

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