As is often the case in Scripture, more is going on behind the scenes in many passages we read than first meets the eye. This is particularly true of the episode known as The Transfiguration. The account begins in Mark 9:2 which says:
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.
First let’s notice that Jesus and His disciples climbed a high mountain. Which mountain? One chapter back in Mark 8:27, the text gives us a clue:
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
Caesarea Philippi is in the far northeastern part of Israel. It is in the territory of Dan where a temple to the Greek god Banias (a.k.a. Panias or Pan) was carved out of the rock. This rock, in fact is the place where Jesus in Matthew 16:17-19 made a prophetic pronouncement about the church:
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
There is no other mountain in Israel that can legitimately be called high except the one that dominates all of Israel in the north. That is Mount Hermon. It was Mount Hermon that Jesus, Peter, James, and John ascended, and at whose foot Jesus said that hell itself could not overcome the church.
These are dramatic and powerful scenes. The question must be asked: Was there something special about Mount Hermon that might have caused Jesus to initiate these things there?
Recall from Genesis 6:1-2 that the sons of God (bene Elohim) came down to earth from their heavenly abode. They trespassed the divine boundaries that God had ordained for them and procreated with human women. The ancient Jewish understanding of this incident is that these rebellious spiritual beings descended from Mount Hermon.
This area of Israel has always been known as one with extreme demonic activity (e.g. the giant Rephaim King Og of Bashan). Now we see why. Disobedient spiritual entities came to earth here. A temple to a major pagan god was built in this location. As a bonus, we also have the tribe of Dan, which had serious disobedience issues with Yahweh that later causes their tribal name to be omitted in significant prophetic texts (e.g. Revelation 7 – Dan does not provide any Tribulation witnesses).
So, what is going on with Jesus and this demonic area?
Jesus came to this world to redeem mankind. He had serious opposition to this task from Satan and the various spiritual forces of evil that Paul notes in Ephesians 6:12. Much earlier, Yahweh had declared in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the woman would take on Satan (the nachash – the serpent) who had caused Adam and Eve to sin.
When Jesus was transfigured on Mount Hermon, this demonstrated to the entire spiritual realm that Jesus was the One who would bring them down. He reinforced this in declaring that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church, which was His chosen instrument to facilitate mankind’s redemption. These incidents put Satan and his minions on notice that their time was short.
As an exclamation point to the threat that Jesus brought to his enemies, when He and the disciples came down off the mountain, He cast out the spirit from the young boy. It was not only a physical act, but a symbolic one. Jesus would cast out all the rebellious, unclean spirits that had infested the world. The King had come, and nothing could stand in the way of accomplishing His purposes.
Is it any wonder that Satan incited the religious authorities to crucify Jesus? Yet, it was a setup. God had deceived the deceitful one. Jesus had to be crucified in order for man’s sins to be imputed to Him. The crucifixion was exactly what had to occur. Satan didn’t know this, and he fell into God’s trap. Yahweh accomplished exactly what He needed to through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He made a way for man to be reconciled to Him. Do you think Satan would have caused Jesus to be killed like this if he’d known it was what must take place to fulfill the prophetic Word?
We can rejoice that our God is sovereign and mighty, far above all powers and principalities. Jesus is already victorious in this ages-old war. In Him, we too are triumphant. When the enemy attacks us, we have only to remember who we are in Christ. We’re already victors!