Studies in the Gospel of Mark- Chapter 9
I. Kingdom of God-A Glimpse of Reality
A. And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” 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, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” (Mark 9:1-13)
B. The chapter begins with Jesus making a statement to His disciples that some who are standing there presently would see the Kingdom of God come in power. One can make the case that all of the disciples saw a measure of the Kingdom of God in power before they died. They saw the resurrected Christ. They saw the miracles, signs, and wonders worked through not only Jesus’ hands but through their own. They saw the glorious fellowship of the saints that took place after Pentecost. They saw many of their own families and fellows come to salvation. All of these things are the effects of the Kingdom coming and at work in the lives of those who receive the message, but there is still more. The fullness of the Kingdom is realized when the full measure of the King’s Presence, Glory, and Power are established throughout creation.
C. Mark records after 6 days Jesus takes the 3 disciples- Peter, James, and John to a high mountain by themselves. We do not know the name of the mountain. It is not recorded in any of the Gospels. It is inferred that they were going there to pray. These are the same three that Jesus invites a little further with him even in the garden of Gethsemane.
D. It says He was transfigured before them. Literally Metamorphosed before them…the sight was like nothing they had ever seen before. He was brilliant, shining like the sun. On either side were two men, Moses and Elijah, of course one representing the Law and the other the Prophets. (Zechariah 4:14) Some have argued that these are the two witnesses found in Revelation 11, all we do know is that they are two men that saw Living Flame of God and were changed as a result. They were obedient to the heavenly calling and now they are here on the mountain with Jesus talking to Him.
E. As a result of Peter’s fear he opens his mouth to speak only to hear the Father tell him to listen to His Son. The disciples had received a glimpse of the Eternal Kingdom and its King in Glory to be reminded that they should listen to Jesus, for the Law and the Prophets were declaring Him.
F. The disciples have a clarifying conversation with the Lord on the way down the mountain. Theological discussions make more sense after experiences than before, otherwise they are just theory-logical. The question centered around the coming of Elijah. They had just seen Elijah and He did not come before Jesus, so… Jesus clarifies that Elijah has come inferring that John the Baptist was the forerunner that Malachi prophesied about. (Luke 1:17)
II. Kingdom of God- Authority Manifested through Faith
A. And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can”! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, 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.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:14-29)
B. The disciples have just had the mountain top experience of their lives and now as they return to the valley they encounter the very spiritual power that is antithesis of God’s command- Deaf and Mute Spirit.
C. We understand that the disciples could not cast out the demon spirit from the man’s son. Jesus rebukes His disciples before He rebukes the spirit, calling out their faithlessness. He also declares to the man that faith is necessary for the possibilities the authority of the Kingdom to be realized.
D. Afterwards the disciples ask why they could not cast it out. Jesus tells them that this kind cannot be driven out but by prayer and fasting. The need for prayer and fasting is inarguable. Therefore the case has been made that this kind of demonic oppression requires the added ingredients of prayer and fasting to precipitate the deliverance. And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17:20-21) The Howbeit can be translated “But”…in reference to the disciples own unbelief that was a limiting factor in their ministry to the young man. Prayer and Fasting are important in freeing us from “unbelief” or “faith in ourselves” so that we can manifest the Kingdom’s authority here on the earth.
III. Kingdom of God- Greatness Based on Humility and Service of Others
A. They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:30-37)
B. Jesus began to openly discuss with His disciples what was about to happen to Him, they still didn’t understand. Instead they began to discuss among themselves how the whole Kingdom was going to shake down and their positions within His kingdom.
C. Jesus knowing their discussion lays out the conditions for position in His Kingdom…Humility and Servanthood. Receiving children in His name is like receiving Jesus himself.
IV. Kingdom of God- Offense Resists Kingdom Advancement and Robs us of Effectiveness
A.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, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-50)
B. Offense can take many shapes and come at you in many ways. Jesus continually warns His disciples to “take heed to themselves” so they will be unoffended as well as being blameless. Whether it is the mode by which someone does ministry or by causing a little one to stumble in their faith or continuing to allow your members to indulge in their sinful behavior, Jesus reminds us to be active and deal with our own hearts.
C. If we are not mindful of guarding ourselves from offense or blame we can hinder the advancement of His kingdom and rob ourselves of effectiveness. To turn a deaf ear has eternal consequence!