Mark 9:2-29 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Mark 9:2-29

  • Mark 9:2-8
  • 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transfigured in front of them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here. Let’s set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— 6 because he did not know what to say, since they were terrified. 7 A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
    • We are face to face with an incident in the life of Jesus that is cloaked in mystery. It’s something that really we can only try to understand
    • This took place about a week after the events at the end of Mark 8
      • Both the easter and western Churches hold their remembrance of the transfiguration on August 6 (had never heard of this before)
      • Tradition says that the transfiguration took place on the top of Mount Tabor
        • It may be that the choice is based on the mention of Mount Tabor in Psalm 89:12, but it also mentions Mount Hermon
        • Tabor is in the south of Galilee and Caesarea Philippi is away to the north
        • Tabor is only 1,000 feet high, and in the time of Jesus, there was a fortress on top. Not very suitable for solitude
        • Hermon is 9,200 feet high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi, where solitude would be much more complete (Mount Hermon was also almost always snow-capped)
    • Mark tells us that the garments of Jesus became radiant
      • The word he uses is the word used for the glistening gleam of burnished brass or gold or of polished steel or of the golden glare of the sunlight
    • When the incident came to an end, a cloud overshadowed them
      • In Jewish thought, the presence of God is regularly connected with the cloud
      • It was the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the could of God’s presence would return to the Temple
      • The descent of the cloud is a way of saying that the Messiah had come, and any Jew would understand it like that
    • The transfiguration has a double significance
      • It did something very precious for Jesus, who had to make His own decisions
        • On the mountain top, He received a double approval of His decision
          • Moses and Elijah met with Him
            • Moses was the supreme law giver of Israel
            • Elijah was the the first and greatest of the prophets
            • When these two great figures met with Jesus, it meant that the greatest of the law givers and the greatest of the prophets said to Him, “Go on”
            • It meant that they saw in Jesus the consummation of all that they had dreamed of in the past. It meant that they saw in Him all that history had longed for and hoped for and looked forward to. It is as if at that moment Jesus was assured that He was on the right way because all history had been leading up to the cross
          • God spoke with Jesus
            • He put all His plans and intentions before God, and God said to Him, “You are acting as my own beloved Son should act and must act.”
            • Jesus was assured that He had not chosen the wrong way. He saw not only in inevitability but the essential rightness of the cross
      • It did something very precious for the disciples
        • They had been shattered by Jesus’ statement that He was going to Jerusalem to die.
          • That seemed to them the complete negation of all that they understood of the Messiah. They were still bewildered and uncomprehending
          • What they saw on the mountain of transfiguration would give them something to hold on to, even when they could not understand. Cross or no cross, they had heard God’s voice acknowledge Jesus as His Son
        • It made them in a special sense witnesses of the glory of Christ
          • This time on the mountain had shown them the glory of Christ, and now they had the story of this glory to hide in their hearts and to tell to others, not at the moment, but when the time came.
  • Mark 9:9-13
  • 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this word to themselves, questioning what “rising from the dead” meant. 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 “Elijah does come first and restores all things,” he replied,“Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did whatever they pleased to him, just as it is written about him.”
    • Naturally the three disciples were thinking hard as they came down the mountain
      • First, Jesus began with an injunction; they must tell no one of what they had seen
        • If they were to tell of what had happened on the mountain, of how the glory of God had appeared, of how Moses and Elijah had appeared, how that could be made to him in with popular expectations! How it could be made to seem a prelude to the burst of God’s avenging power on the nations of the world
        • The disciples still had to learn what Messiahship meant. There was only one thing that could teach them that—the cross and the resurrection to follow
        • When the cross had taught them what Messiahship meant and when the resurrection had convinced them that Jesus was the Messiah, then, and only them, they might tell of the glory of the mountain top, for then, and then only, would they see it as it ought to be seen—as the prelude, no to the unleashing of God’s force, but tot the crucifying of God’s love
      • They could not understand what Jesus’ words about resurrection meant
        • Their whole outlook when the cross came was that of men to whom the end had come
          • It was simply that they had been so schooled in a completely different idea of Messiahship that they could not take in what Jesus had said
      • Jews believed that before the Messiah came Elijah would come to be His herald and forerunner
        • Malachi 4:5-6; 5 Look, I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
        • Rabbinic tradition taught that Elijah would come three days before the Messiah, and proclaim from all the mountaintops of Israel
          • Peace comes to the world. Peace comes to the world
          • Good comes to the world. Good comes to the world
          • Jeshuah (Salvation) comes to the world. Joshua comes to the world
      • If Jesus is the Messiah, what has happened to Elijah?
        • Elijah has come and people treated him as they willed. They took him and they arbitrarily applied their will to him and forgot God’s will
        • Of course, Jesus was referring to the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod
        • By implication He demanded, “if they have done that to the forerunner, what will they do to the Messiah?
      • Jesus was overturning all the preconceived notions and ideas of His disciples
        • They looked for the emergence of Elijah, the coming of the Messiah, the eruption of God into time and the shattering viceroy of heaven, which they identified with the triumph of Israel
        • He was trying to compel them to see that in fact the herald had been cruelly killed and the Messiah must end on a cross
        • They still did not understand and their failure to understand was due to the cause which always makes people fail to understand—they clung to their way and refused to see God’s way. They wished things as they desired them and not as God had ordered them. The error of their thoughts had blinded them to the revelation of God’s truth.
  • Mark 9:14-18
  • 14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes disputing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing with them about?” 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. 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 drive it out, but they couldn’t.”
    • This was the kind of thing Peter wanted to avoid. Life was so much better, so much nearer God, there on the mountaintop 
    • We must come down from the mountain though
    • It has been said that in religion there must be solitude, but not solitariness
      • The solitude is necessary, for each of us must keep contact with God; but if, in our search for the essential solitude, we shut ourselves off from others, shut our ears to their appeal for help, shut our hearts to the cry of their tears, that is not religion. Solitude is meant to make us better able to meet and cope with the demands of everyday life
    • The disciples had been unable to deal with the demon possessed boy, and that had given the scribes their chance
      • The helplessness of the disciples was an opportunity to belittle not only them but their Master as well
        • Our conduct, our words, our ability or inability to cope with the demands of life, are used as a yardstick, not only to judge us, but to judge Jesus Christ
        • It does not matter how high-sounding our professions may be, it is by our actions that people judge us, and in judging us, judge our Master
    • Here we learn two things about Jesus
      • He was ready to face the cross and He was ready to face the common problem just as either came
        • Human nature often allows us to face the great crisis moments of life with honor and dignity, but to allow the routine demands of everyday life to irritate and annoy us
        • Many of us can face a great disaster or a great loss with calm serenity and yet lose our tempers is a meal is badly cooked or a train late
        • The amazing thing about Jesus was that He could serenely face the cross and just as calmly deal with the day-to-day emergencies of life. The reason was that He did not keep God only for the crisis as so man of us do. He walked the daily paths of life with Him
      • He had come into the world to save the world, and yet He could give Himself in His entirety to the helping of one single person
  • Mark 9:19-24
  • 19 He replied to them, “You unbelieving generation, how long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into convulsions. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father. “From childhood,” he said. 22 “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for the one who believes. 24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”
  • Mark 9:25-29
  • 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you: Come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 Then it came out, shrieking and throwing him into terrible convulsions. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.n28 After he had gone into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 And he told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer.”
    • When they were alone, the disciples asked Jesus the cause of their failure
    • They were no doubt remembering that Jesus had sent them out to preach and heal and cast out demons
    • Why this time, had they failed so badly? Jesus answered quite simply that this kind of cure demanded prayer
      • “You don’t live close enough to God”
      • They had been quipped with power, but it needed prayer to maintain it
        • God may have given us a gift, but unless we maintain close contact with Him it may wither and die
        • Unless we maintain this contact with God, we lose two things, however great our gift may be
          • We lose vitality
            • We lost that living power, that something extra which makes for greatness. The thing becomes a performance instead of an offering to God. What should be a vital, living body becomes a beautiful corpse
          • We lose humility
            • What should be used for God’s glory we begin to use for our own, and the virtue goes out of it. What should have been used to set God before others is used to set ourselves before them, and the breath of loveliness is gone
    • Here is a warning thought. The disciples had been equipped with power direct from Jesus, but they had not nurtured power with prayer, and power had vanished. Whatever gifts God has given us, we lose them when we use them for ourselves. We keep them when we enrich them by continual contact with the God who gave them.

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