International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending February 13, 2011
Purpose: To identify barriers to listening to Jesus
Scripture Text: Mark 8:2-13 (NRSV)
(2) Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, (3) and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. (4)And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (5)Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (6)He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. (7)Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”(8)Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
(9)As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (10)So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. (11)Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (12)He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? (13)But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Let me begin by telling you that Mark is the shortest of all the synoptic gospels and it was written to Gentiles more specifically Romans, and does not normally go into detail like Matthew or Luke. Therefore, the first verse in our lesson uses a detail that may seem out of place in Mark's Gospel. “Six days later” must be very significant for Mark to include it in his writing. How far could Jesus and the Apostles travel from the area of Caesarea Philippi in six days? Certainly enough time to get to either Mt. Hermon or Mt. Tabor; Mt. Hermon was north of Caesarea Philippi maybe twenty-five miles and Mt. Tabor would have been approximately sixty to seventy miles south of Caesarea Philippi, no one is sure on which mountain this passage takes place.
It could be that Mark is giving us a time frame of how long it took for the previous lesson to sink in. Whatever Mark's reason, he must of felt it was important to give us this time stamp. Peter, James, and John were chosen by Jesus to accompany him on this trek up the mountain. Most of us can accept Peter and John, but why James? It could be that James, the older brother of John, would be one of the very first of the Apostles to be martyred by Herod Agrippa in 44AD, while his younger brother John would live the longest.
To be transfigured means “to be transformed into something more beautiful or elevated.” Some scholars believe this could go back to creation when “light” was created, prior to the fourth day when the sun and moon were created, and God himself became the “light of the world.” in the form of Jesus. It appears there was some surprise when Moses appeared with Elijah. Elijah, they understood, but Moses' death was more mysterious, God buried Moses, and Moses' grave was never found. The fact that Jesus communicated with both Elijah and Moses, shows the relationship between the three was an eternal, everlasting relationship and places Jesus as a resident of a heavenly kingdom.
Peter, was ever the exuberant one, and out of a lack of things to say, says, “let us make three dwellings.” Peter may not have realized, none of the three needed a dwelling place on earth, they all had a home in glory.
The affirmation of who Jesus was comes from the Father, remember the question in last week's lesson? “Who do you say that I am?” God confirms the answer, “This is my Son, the beloved.” Then God issues a command to the three witnesses, “listen to him!”
I love the last line in verse 8, because it says all we need to know, “they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.” We are in the same situation, we only have Jesus, but that is all we need. Jesus in us and with us is the only proof we need, that He is “The Beloved.”
The last three verses can get very confusing when read, but suffice it to say most scholars believe the Elijah mentioned, was John the Baptist, who preceded Jesus and who was brutally murdered, as well as ignored by the Jewish leaders.
I trust you can witness to the world that Jesus lives in you and through you, and you are convinced that Jesus was indeed, “The Beloved.”