Mark 9: 2-13
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3 and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. 4 Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Human One[a] had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, wondering, “What’s this ‘rising from the dead’?” 11 They asked Jesus, “Why do the legal experts say that Elijah must come first?”
12 He answered, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. Why was it written that the Human One[b] would suffer many things and be rejected? 13 In fact, I tell you that Elijah has come, but they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it was written about him.”
I want to start by sharing some of my context, as our contextual experiences shape and frame how we understand and engage with biblical texts. I am writing this commentary as a Latine queer non-binary neurodivergent person, born and raised in Puerto Rico and now living in the United States. I therefore look into the Gospel of Mark through that embodiment and story.
Mark can be seen as a story, and as a Narrative, tension increasing from previous passages. Of course, the tension increases not only for the reader, but also for the main characters, in this case Jesus. Jesus’ trans (the human that is also divine, the Jesus that trans/figured) immigrant (God who migrated from heavens to earth) life has been an object of constant surveillance (2:7, 18, 23; 3:6, 22; 8:12…) As seen in previous chapters, many of the questions directed to Jesus by the people in power were a constant scrutiny of his ministry and community. Little wonder that through the “messianic secret” (1:44, 3:12…) he hid his messianism in order to advance the Reign of God as an alternative society. In this way, the impoverished experienced the Trans Jesus on their own and not through the boxes that others created for Jesus.
The text in Mark 9 is known as the trans/figuration and comes after Jesus predicts his own death (8:27-9:1). Mark’s Jesus is a fast-paced Jesus. He healed, debated, taught in parables, healed fed, touched, rebuked, evicted… Jesus did not have a breakesito, even when he was asking for time (7:24).
It is this tired fast-paced Jesus who asks Peter, James, and John to go to the mountain and be alone. In that mountain, he could find a place of tranquility, relaxation, a place where he could take care of himself. However, sometimes the stress is so intense that self-care and spiritual practices are not enough, and the body goes away on its own. Today we find this trans Jesus experienced a disconnection between his own sensory experience, sense of self, personal history, and thoughts. Jesus’ trans/figuration could have been an experience of dissociation, which is very well known among queer and trans people.
Is Jesus experiencing dissociation as a symptom of acute stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, to name some conditions? Or is Jesus learning to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)? Conditions that were not described as we understand it today, in the 1st century, but today, 20 centuries later, are common in queer communities. To be sure, those conditions, which are the daily bread of queer communities, where not named in the 1st century, but it doesn’t mean that they didn´t exist.
Syd Flanagan, a Queer mixed-race person of color, in their essay “When DID and Christianity Collide” shares the following experience:
We learn quickly that “I” must be used to refer to this body, a slip risks punishment. “We” is demonic. “We” must be prayed out, cast out. “We” can get us whupped. We learn to hide in “I” and agree to go by the same name. Learn not to get caught talking to each other in front of the mirror. Never quite unlearn talking to each other. Press the idea of “us” further and further to the back. Never ask ourselves why is there an “us” when so many people proclaim to only have an “I”. Lock up the worry we are demonic. No more all night prayer sessions over us, to cast out or heal one thing or another.
Today’s western (Christian) society understanding of human embodiment has a particular definition—cis, heterosexual, individual, white, among other. Identities that move away from those centers are seen as uncivilized, unclean, abomination, demonic. Making some queer people believe as Flanagan mentions, “We swim with the idea that if we can become an ‘I’, a straight cis white ‘I’, Jesus will help us. We will be ‘right with God’ and not demonic.” This understanding also erases the possibility of seeing neurodiverse experiences in Jesus’ trans life.
That’s right, Jesus dissociative experience, probably linked with the burden of the fulfillment of his prophesies and his ministry, needed the blessing of Elijah and Moses. No wonder why all three disciples were scared and did not know how to handle that situation. Peter suggests the making of three shrines (σκηνή)—a portable tabernacle, cloth hut, or tent.
Dissociation sometimes can be temporary residence out of or within the own body. Therefore, Peter might be offering temporary residence to Jesus/Elijah/Moses’ body in shrines that traditionally had access to the stars. A temporary residence to not make everything go away, but to let Jesus’ body process all the burden he is carrying. Not so long ago he was predicting his own death and by the end of this same chapter will do it again. Maybe, Peter might have also been taken aback by Jesus’ dissociation remounting him to when Jesus’ family was looking for him and wanting to control him as he was “out of his mind” (3:21).
As a pastor, theologian, and biologist, I testify that neurodivergent experience is also a queer experience. Sometimes they are temporary, other times they are permanent. All the time they are hurtful because of the way society judges us. In this case, it seems that this was an episode of Jesus’ neurodivergent experience that needed the reaffirmation of Elijah, Moses and of course Papito, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” Now, how much do we as Christians, say about the neurodivergent experience of our children?
 David M. Rhoads, Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel, Third edition. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012).
 Eliseo Pérez Álvarez, El Muro de Tortilla: Migración y Mitos (Mexico: Comunidad Teológica de Mexico, 2019).
 Matthew Tull, “What Does Dissociation Mean?,” Verywell Mind, accessed May 12, 2022, https://www.verywellmind.com/dissociation-2797292.
 Syd Flanagan, “When DID and Christianity Collide,” Messy Misfit Club, n.d.
 “G4633 – Skēnē – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (Kjv),” Blue Letter Bible, accessed May 12, 2022, https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/gen/1/1/s_1001.
Rev. Eddie Rosa Fuentes is an embodied Puerto Rican and queer story, who works with the reimagining of the human being through a decolonial method. His incarnation and life experience moves him to use multiple concepts that have been taken for granted in theology, looking for a way to reimagine them in a fruitful way. He moves in an interdisciplinary space and works with queer, decolonial, Caribbean and performance theories. Eddie’s desire is to provide space to invite people to embrace their stories and embodiments.
Eddie is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Humboldt Park in Chicago.