A mural from the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The church belongs to the Franciscans.
Mark 9 (New Living Translation)
2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Moses represents the Law, and Elijah the Prophets. What are they talking about? Here is my guess: Since Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, they are discussing what Jesus would do in Jerusalem and what he would accomplish there. As Jesus says later to the disciples, he has come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
5 Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
The Father says ‘Hear him.’ Many voices clamor for our attention: new philosophies, modern theologies, and old heresies revived, all call to us and entreat us to hearken, but the Father says, ‘Hear him.’
–C. H. Spurgeon
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.
“Only Jesus” — such a powerful thought! HERE is Matt Redman and “Jesus, Only Jesus.” This song makes me want to bow down.
9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”
This event made a strong impression on Peter; he remembered it years later—
2 Peter 1:16-18 (NIV)
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
11 Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”
12 Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.”
Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy
14 When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them, and some teachers of religious law were arguing with them. 15 When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.
16 “What is all this arguing about?” Jesus asked.
17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”
19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.
21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.
He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”
23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
HELP MY UNBELIEF!
Faith does not come from ignorance. Faith is based on what we know.
Before we will trust others with something precious to us, we first try to find out if they are trustworthy. This father was asking that he might come to know God in such a dimension that he could trust Him to cure his son.
His son had been possessed by an evil spirit since early childhood. The father did not know Jesus well, but he had heard and seen enough to convince him that if there was any hope for his son, it lay with Jesus. In desperation he cried out to Jesus for help. Jesus’ response was to heal his son. The desperate father had correctly gone to Jesus with his problem even when he was struggling with his faith.
When you are struggling to believe, that is not the time to avoid Christ or to be ashamed of your struggle. You will never increase your faith by not going to Jesus! Rather, Jesus wants to help you with your belief. He can not only meet your need, but He will also give you faith to trust Him to provide for you.
If you are struggling to believe that God can take care of your need, it is because you don’t know Him as He wants you to. Go to Him and allow Him to convince you of His ability to meet every need you will ever face.
25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”
26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”
29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”
“Jesus found disputing scribes, a distracted father, a demon-possessed boy, and defeated disciples . . . He silenced the scribes, He comforted the father, He healed the boy, He instructed the disciples.”
–George Campbell Morgan
Jesus Again Predicts His Death
30 Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.
The Greatest in the Kingdom
33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done . . . With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means . . .
The figure of the crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.
–D. Bonhoeffer, quoted in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”
Using the Name of Jesus
38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.
42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’
(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before. I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)
JESUS, THE RABBIS, AND SMALL SINS
The Sermon on the Mount: Imagine for a moment that you are packed into the hillside along with the rest of the crowd, above the glittering waters of the Sea of Galilee. The longer you listen, the more uncomfortable you become. The crowd is hushed, as though everyone is holding their breath, listening as Jesus compares lustful thoughts to adultery and anger to murder. His examples are hitting a little too close to home. Then it dawns on you that Jesus is himself employing the rabbinic method of “fencing in” the Torah by telling the crowd that small sins lead to greater sins, advocating that you set up boundaries against great evils by avoiding small ones.
This idea of linking small sins to greater ones was common among the rabbis. Listen to a rabbinic comment on laws in Leviticus: “He who violates,’Love you neighbor as yourself,’ will ultimately violate, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart,’ and ‘You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge,’ until in the end he will come to shedding blood.” The rabbis wisely noted that the consequences of sin slope ever downward: not loving your neighbor deteriorates to hating him in your heart declines further to taking revenge on him and finally falls to taking your neighbor’s life.
Both Jesus and the rabbis were preaching that the time to avoid sin is when it is small, before we slip any further down the slope . . . .
Later rabbis also preached about sin by comparing small sins to greater ones. Listen to what they had to say about gossip:
“To which is gossip more similar, robbery or murder?”
“Murder, because robbers can always give back what they’ve stolen, but gossips can never repair the damage they’ve done.”
Such comments remind us of Jesus’ striking exhortations to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye should they cause you to sin. The rabbis knew the great damage that even tiny sins can do. A little bit of gossip can ruin a reputation. One sharp retort can ignite a war. The goal of their exaggerations was to impress upon their listeners the dire consequences of sins. Jesus, too, was urging his listeners to avoid evil at all costs. His strong warnings express his anguish at the destruction that ensues when we do not resist temptation at the very beginning.
49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”
Fire and salt. What is Jesus talking about? This passage has led to many different interpretations.
The first main interpretation is that fire refers to tribulation and suffering; these things accompany the “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) of the disciple. Since Old Testament sacrifices always included salt (Leviticus 2:13), Jesus is saying “just as every sacrifice under the law required salt, so the living sacrifice My followers bring to Me must be seasoned with suffering and tribulations.”
The other main interpretation is that fire refers to the Holy Spirit. As His presence in our lives “seasons” us, it purifies, preserves, and adds flavor to our lives, and so it makes our “living sacrifice” acceptable to God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of: