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The Glory of the Coming Kingdom
9:1 And he said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’
What did Jesus mean? There were those who were standing among the people who would still be alive when the kingdom of God was ushered in; that is after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. From that time on the kingdom would be seen amongst the people, coming into being with great power (probably a reference to Pentecost).
9:2-3 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and led them alone up a high mountain privately. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiantly white, more so than any launderer in the world could bleach them.
Jesus chose Peter, James and John to go with him to the summit of a high mountain where they could be alone. Jesus’ choice of these three was not based on favouritism, for we are all equal in God's sight (Acts 10:34). Rather, it appears that these three were the most spiritually responsive to the teachings of Christ.
Whilst they were on the mountain (presumably in prayer) Jesus’ physical body was transformed as the glory which he had with the Father before he came to earth shone through (John 17:5). The disciples saw his eternal glory shining from him to such an extent that his garments appeared whiter than anything on earth.
9:4 Then Elijah appeared before them along with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
The text does not explicitly state that the disciples recognised Elijah and Moses; the Lord may have addressed them by name. The presence of these two men was full of significance. For Elijah represented the prophets, and Moses the law of God. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of both the law and the prophets.
One would very much like to know what they were talking about with Jesus. It seems most likely that it was concerned with his approaching crucifixion and the salvation that he would obtain through it. These two men had waited in faith for this salvation; and the sacrifice of Christ which made it possible is the endless theme of the glorified saints in heaven (Rev. 5:9).
9:5-6 So Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters -- one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ (For they were afraid, and he did not know what to say.)
The disciples seemingly could not understand what was happening, and this strangeness brought fear to their hearts. Peter, for want of something to say proposed to build three booths (made of tree branches) for each of them. Such booths were often made as temporary protection from the hot sun. The text does not reveal what Peter had in mind – for he did not know himself! Even so, Peter did get one thing right - it was good for them to be there. What better place could there be than where we can behold the beauty and the glory of the Lord?
9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came from the cloud, ‘This is my one dear Son. Listen to him!’
At this point God intervened, descending in a cloud which covered the frightened disciples. As he spoke to them, acknowledging Jesus as his beloved Son, God gave these disciples the true lesson which the experience was meant to teach them – by commanding that they should listen and obey him.
9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus.
Suddenly it was all over - the cloud, the voice, Elijah and Moses had gone; only Jesus remained.
9:9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
As they were coming back down the mountain Jesus strictly ordered them to tell no one about the things they had seen until after he had risen from the dead.
9:10 They kept this statement to themselves, discussing what this rising from the dead meant.
And this is what they did; although they did not understand what he meant about being raised from the dead.
9:9-13 Then they asked him, ‘Why do the experts in the law say that Elijah must come first?’ He said to them, ‘Elijah does indeed come first, and restores all things. And why is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? But I tell you that Elijah has certainly come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written about him.’
Realising afresh from this experience that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, the disciples asked why the experts in the law taught that Elijah (whom they had witnessed speaking with Jesus) must first come before the Christ would be manifested (Mal. 4:5-6). Jesus replied that the lawyers were correct in their interpretation of scripture, for truly someone must first come in the spirit and power of Elijah to make Israel ready to receive the Christ. But this Elijah-type role had been fulfilled by John the Baptist (Luke 1:17); and just as the religious and political leaders of Israel had rejected John and mistreated him, so they were about to do to Jesus.
Belief and Unbelief
9:14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and experts in the law arguing with them.
While the three disciples were with Jesus enjoying the mountain top experience the other nine were having a tough time down in the valley. When Jesus arrived on the scene he found them being interrogated by the scribes and losing the argument.
9:15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran at once and greeted him.
Something of the glory of the transfiguration must have still been upon the Lord for when the people saw him they were amazed at his appearance and eagerly ran to greet and welcome him.
9:16 He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’
Seeing his disciples greatly disturbed he asked them what they were discussing. This was not because Jesus did not know, but he wanted to bring the subject out into open discussion.
9:17 A member of the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that makes him mute.
Neither the scribes nor the disciples answered him; instead someone from among the crowd called out. He had brought his son who was possessed by a dumb spirit to Jesus to be delivered.
9:18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able to do so.
On discovering that Jesus was not with the disciples, he had turned to them expecting that they could cast out the dumb spirit. The man must have heard, or may have witnessed the disciples casting out demons when Jesus sent them on an earlier mission (Mark 6:13). By the description that the man gave it would seem that it was only at certain times that this demon took hold of his son throwing him into a fit which left him almost lifeless and that it was slowly destroying his body. The disciples had been powerless to cast out this demon.
9:19-20 He answered them, ‘You unbelieving generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you? Bring him to me.’ So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
One might wonder to whom the Lord addressed these words: the scribes, the crowd, the father of the boy or to his own disciples. They are certainly words of rebuke to all who have no faith. They would certainly apply to the scribes, who did not believe in Jesus at all. There were probably many in the crowd who were sceptical of Jesus’ claims. The father of the boy had some faith in bringing his son to Jesus in the first place, yet confesses later that his faith is small. What about the disciples? The Lord had rebuked them on a previous occasions for lacking faith (Mark 4:40). So perhaps all of those standing there merited the rebuke.
Jesus reproof was aimed at provoking faith in those who lacked it. When he asked “how long am I to put up with you?” he already knew the answer; for he knew when his hour would come. As the boy was brought to Jesus the demon immediately manifested itself in the presence of the authority and power of Christ, throwing the boy to the ground in a convulsion.
9:21-22 Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’
Jesus’ purpose in asking the boy’s father for details of his son's condition was not to enable him to diagnose; but to bring a full realization to the father and the disciples of the hold and length of time the demon had bound this child (the importance of this fact is brought out later in verse 29).
9:23 Then Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able? All things are possible for the one who believes.’
Jesus placed the responsibility for the boy’s deliverance on the father. 'If you can believe - for all things are possible to him that believes’. This is a promise that we can also claim (see Mark 11:24).
9:24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’
The man realized what Jesus was saying to him and knowing his own deficiency gave out an heart rending cry; and weeping confessed ‘Lord, I believe’ but, ‘constantly help my weakness in faith’ (Amp. N. T.) or ‘when I begin to doubt help me to continue to believe’.
9:25 Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘Mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’
On seeing the crowds approaching the Lord immediately rebuked the unclean spirit and commanded it to come out of the boy. He further charged the spirit never to enter him again (this is the only time that it is recorded that Jesus does this).
9:26 It shrieked, threw him into terrible convulsions, and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He is dead!’
The demon did not leave willingly; yet it simply had no choice but to obey the authority of Jesus. Such was the violent exit of the demon that the boy appeared to be dead.
9:27 But Jesus gently took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up.
But whenever the Lord delivers or heals he does so completely without any adverse effects. Taking the boy by the hand, Jesus lifted him; he had been made completely whole.
9:28 Then, after he went into the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn't we cast it out?’
The disciples were eager to find out why it was that they failed to deliver the boy. Was it their lack of faith? It is always good for us to enquire of the Lord why we seem to fail at something which we have tried to do for him.
9:29 He told them, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.’
Jesus tells them that it was not their lack of faith alone which hindered them. The demon was so powerful and had such a hold on the boy (having possessed him since he was a young child) that it could only be effectively dealt with after time spent in prayer and fasting.
A Quiet Time with Jesus
9:30 They went out from there and passed through Galilee. But Jesus did not want anyone to know,
At last Jesus found an opportunity to spend time with his disciples alone, leading them through Galilee in order to avoid the crowds. There are times when the Lord leads us in quiet paths so that he might teach us and show us the way in which he would guide us.
9:31-32 for he was teaching his disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand this statement and were afraid to ask him.
Jesus wanted to use this time to teach his disciples. Mark records only a summary of the content of Christ’s teaching: the Son of Man (Jesus may have explained to them the meaning of his preferred title - that it meant him to be God manifest in human form) would be delivered into the hands of men and killed; and that he would be raised from the dead on the third day. Whether or not Jesus went into greater details about his offering of himself being sacrifice for sin, or about his resurrection bringing victory over death is not clear. Whatever the case, the disciples clearly did not understand what he was saying to them and were afraid to ask him to explain it more clearly.
The Greatest is the Least
9:33 Then they came to Capernaum. After Jesus was inside the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’
On their way to Capernaum all was not well between the disciples; for a dispute had arisen among them (which they thought the Lord had not heard) about which of them was be the greatest. Jesus, as the Master, would have walked in front and the disciples would have followed in single file behind him; so it was quite possible for them to talk among themselves without Jesus hearing. Nevertheless, when they arrived at the house they were surprised and embarrassed when Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about. He knew of course; for nothing is hid from his sight or hearing (Heb. 4:12-13).
9:34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
The disciples were too ashamed to admit that they had been arguing about who would be the most important and have the most honoured place in the kingdom of God. They were all rather ambitious and sought to exalt themselves.
9:35 After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’
Jesus soon brought them down to earth as he sat with them to resolve the argument. Whoever has a desire to be first, or the greatest, must humble himself and consider himself to be the least and servant of all.
9:36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them,
Taking a little child, Jesus placed him in the middle of the disciples so that they might compare their self-importance to the humility of a child. Then he takes the child into his arms to show that those who become as little children are the ones welcomed in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:4; Matt. 10:15).
9:37 ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’
Whoever accepts and receives a child in the Lord's name and for his sake is counted as having received Jesus Christ and the Father who sent him into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).
In My Name
9:38-40 John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say anything bad about me. For whoever is not against us is for us
Jesus gave the nickname ‘sons of thunder’ to James and John because of their quick tempers (Mark 3:17). On one occasion they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village where they were unwelcome (Luke 9:54). In this section John complains to Jesus about someone who was not among the disciples using Jesus’ name to cast out demons. John (and presumably James) became very indignant about this and forbade the man to use the name of Jesus because he was not a disciple. It is quite possible that their reaction arose from their own self-importance rather than any concern about Jesus’ reputation. They thought they had exclusive rights to use the name of the Lord, and had perhaps forgotten that it was Jesus by his grace who had given them permission to use his name. The point is that only Jesus can grant or deny permission to use his name, and he has given all believers the right to use his name in prayer (John 14:13). Through his name we have life (John 20:31) and in that name even the weakest believer may cast out demons and heal the sick (Mark 16:17-18).
Jesus corrects the disciples’ exclusivism; for no one who does a mighty work in his name would soon afterwards speak evil of him. What the man was doing would only serve to advance the interests of the gospel and therefore the disciples. Either a person is for Jesus or against him, for no one can be indifferent as far as Christ is concerned (Luke 11:23).
9:41 For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water because you bear Christ's name will never lose his reward.
If anyone gives even a cup of water to those who belong to Christ and bear his name, they will not fail to receive a reward.
9:42 ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone tied around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.
The child whom Jesus took into his arms in verse 36 must have still been there for Jesus again uses him to illustrate this point about offences.
What Jesus says does not only refer to little children but to all who believe in him as Saviour and Lord. Jesus said '‘except you are be converted, and become like little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven’’ (Luke 18:3). Throughout the New Testament believers are referred to as “children” or “little children”. The warning Jesus gave is that if anyone caused those who belong to him to stumble into sin then it would be better for them if they were tied to a millstone and drowned in the sea. We should be careful not to do anything that could cause a brother or sister to fall (Rom. 14:13). John says that if we love one another and abide in the light then we will not give an occasion to cause anyone to stumble and turn away from Christ (1 John 2:10).
Cutting off the Source of Temptation
9:43-48 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two hands and go into hell, to the unquenchable fire. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off! It is better to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! It is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.
In some countries offenders who break the law of the land are punished by various amputations. For example, a hand may be cut off a convicted thief. It is clear, however, that the disciples understood that when Jesus spoke of “cutting off” body parts that his words were not meant to be taken literally – for they neither practised nor preached mutilation.
Whatever “causes you to sin” is to be “cut off”. The scripture teaches us to mortify or account as dead the parts of our body so far as their being used for sinful purposes is concerned. In Rom. 6:6 Paul puts it this way “our old self was nailed to the cross with him (Christ) in order that our body which is the instrument of sin, might be made ineffective, and inactive for evil, that we may no longer be the slaves of sin” (Amp. N. T.). When we face many temptations which are very hard to resist, Paul exhorts, “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). So it is not by cutting off parts of our body that we can overcome sin, but by refusing to live according to the old ways, and live instead according to a new life principle – the Spirit of life.
Although it may appear that by taking such action to resist sin we are losing out in life, the reverse is actually the case. Instead we can only gain by living out the abundant life that Christ has given to us. Of this Christ-life, Paul wrote, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). There is only one alternative to eternal life and that is the second death (hell or Gehenna) where those who have not received Jesus Christ as their Saviour shall go because they choose to live a life of sin rather than live for Christ. The phrase “unquenchable fire” indicates that neither the first death nor the second death mean annihilation; the penalty for sin will go on forever (Rev. 14:11).
By considering the parts of the anatomy which Jesus uses to illustrate his point, we recognise some of the many ways in which temptation allures us. With our hands we take, hold onto or do things. The temptation to steal, covet or do evil must be resisted. As must the temptation to go to places where we should not go or walk in a way displeasing to God (foot). With our eyes we see; they are the gateway to the mind, and so what we see and think upon should be pleasing to God (2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 2:16). Since our eyes, feet and hands belong to Christ, we should choose to use them for him alone.
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Copyright (2009-2015) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark