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Let’s take a look at the background to today’ Gospel. First the broader picture.
It’s from the Gospel according to St Mark, the first of the Gospels to be written which starts with Mark’s title for the book “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark quotes a prophecy of Isaiah “Behold, I send my messenger … a voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way …’ John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness declaring a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Mark tells us that after John had been arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God. While Jesus was in Galilee he made Capernaum his base.
The turning point in the gospel comes when in chapter 7 Jesus began to travel further afield. He and his disciples left Capernaum, travelling north as far as Tyre and Sidon, in the Roman province of Syria, then back into the Decapolis. On the way Jesus fed a crowd of 4,000; he warned, then challenged the twelve. Then travelling by way of Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, they turned north again, and arrived at Caesarea Philippi, a little to the south of Mount Hermon.
Here Jesus asked the twelve “Who do men say that I am?”
And now we’ve come point when the events of our gospel reading this morning, took place. All three synoptic evangelists tell us about the transfiguration of Jesus. Mark tells us that after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John up into a high mountain, where as we’ve just heard, his clothes became glistening intensely white.
Our reading ends with them coming down the mountain while Jesus told them not to say what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They didn’t understand what he meant, but they kept quiet about it, just as he’d told them to.
These next few verses after our reading are a conclusion to today’s Gospel.
They asked Jesus “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah
His meaning was that Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist.
We’ve covered a lot of ground this morning: from the start of the Old Testament with the books of Moses, the Lawgiver, to the prophecy of the coming of Elijah in the last few verses of the prophet Malachi at the end of the Old Testament.
We’ve opened the New Testament at the start of the first written gospel of Mark with the appearance of John the Baptist (the last of the prophets) in the wilderness. And we’ve come to the point when the three apostles have heard the voice from the cloud “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”