Mark 8:27–9:29 Jesus Glorified in the Presence of His Disciples.
Key Notes: Who is He? Seeing the Kingdom of God in power. Peter trips up twice. The disciples can't do it.
This study shows Jesus at the pinnacle of His life, and at a turning point that divides Mark’s Gospel into two parts. The second phase of His life is marked by His repeated announcement of coming death and resurrection. By the time we read the 11th chapter, we will be in the last week of Jesus’ life.
The lesson begins with a clarification to the disciples of who Jesus is, and Jesus’ announcement that He is going to die; it takes us on up with Him to the singular event called the Transfiguration and back down to a failed exorcism. The events would be stressful for the disciples, and Peter in particular will go from the victorious to the pitiful twice in a week’s time. Volatility was the order of the day.
Later, Peter will comment on the unique experience of Jesus’ transfiguration:
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased’, we heard this voice from Heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (IIPet.1:16–18)
And John will add his testimony:
“…and we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." (Jn.1:14)
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked up and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--the life was made manifest and we saw it and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us" (IJn. 1:1–2).
8:27–30 They were in the far north of Israel in the pagan territory of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus, among the images of the pagan gods, asked His disciples two questions on the same topic, with time to think.
*Who do people say that I am? Some (Herod 6:14) thought He was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Others thought of Elijah (reincarnated? Mal.4:5) or the latest prophet.
*But what do you say that I am?” Peter blurted out the answer: “You are the Christ”, the Anointed One. That was the right answer.
Jesus had earlier given notice that He was the Christ, the Anointed, preaching at Nazareth (Lk.4:18) on the text from Isaiah 61:1–2.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good tidings to the afflicted…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….”
8:31–33 And that’s what they all wanted. But in the next breath Jesus shocked the disciples with the announcement of His coming death, and in no uncertain terms; He must suffer, be rejected, be killed and after three days rise again. The word “must” is to be emphasized because Jesus is telling them His death was foreordained and necessary—not subject to argument or challenge. That was totally unacceptable to the disciples and Peter was the first to say so.
Turning to the rest of the disciples strung along the path, Jesus said to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God but of men.” Jesus never hit his enemies as hard as He hit Peter. The sword of His mouth flattened Peter! After Peter’s declaration of faith, Mark does not record Jesus’ praise of Peter, or His special mission in the Church as Matthew does. (Matt.16:16). Perhaps Peter was sitting at Mark’s elbow as he wrote and did not want to elaborate to his readers the painful experience of going from 100% approval to 0% in two minutes.
8:34–38 Jesus made sure everyone understood. He called the crowd in with the disciples and gave them all a formidable challenge. The choices are sobering.
Follow Him and take up the cross.
Lose your life for Jesus and the Gospel and save it, or gain the world and lose your soul.
Follow Him and lose your life in order to save it, or disown Him and face shame before the Father.
The disciples were not ready for Jesus to take up the cross much less take it up themselves.
9:1 He concluded with a clear statement. Some disciples then present would see the Kingdom of God in power. Jesus had previously proclaimed the Kingdom of God “at hand” (Mk.1:14), but this would add an additional dimension.
Did He mean that the Transfiguration was that event? It would be a perfect antidote to the frightening thought of their leader’s death. Not everyone agrees.
*Some commentators believe that the disciples expected Jesus’ Second Coming during their life-time and that His Second Coming was intended.
*Others have suggested that Jesus was referring to the Cross, and the Resurrection.
*And others think we should not attach the statement to any particular event.
But the statement was made with Jesus’ special emphasis: ‘Truly I say to you”. His climb into the mountain (Mt. Tabor is the traditional site) was made deliberately and within a week of making the pronouncement. Jesus underwent transfiguration--“metamorphosis”—changing from the appearance of an ordinary man into a figure of glory, with Moses and Elijah on either side. Now the power was evident, the power of the transformed Christ, with the visible presence of Old Testament powers, and the confirming voice of the Father. Peter says he saw His Majesty; He “received honor and glory from the Father”. (II Pet.1:17)
Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. His clothes were dazzling white. He became transformed into the image of beauty that describes His appearance when we shall see Him. This image of Jesus is like the one described in Dan.10:1–9 when He was seen by Daniel and in Rev.1:12–17 when He was seen by John. Elijah and Moses were there on the Mountain talking to Him. Is there any reason to doubt that “seeing the Kingdom of God come in Power” was seeing Jesus glorified and accompanied by the representatives of the Law and the Prophets, as well as the Apostles? And hearing the voice of God from Heaven?
9:5–9 Peter did not know what to say and should have said nothing—a good lesson for us.
“Don’t just do something. Stand there!”
The suggestion of three shelters would put Moses and Elijah on an equal plane with Jesus. The stern rebuke from Heaven was Peter’s second put-down of the week. Suddenly, there was Jesus alone, in His ordinary clothes. He ordered them to keep His secret until after the Resurrection.
9:10–13 But they were diverted to another topic. They wanted to know what rising from the dead meant. They had seen Elijah on the mountain and wanted to know his place in the events they observed. Had he risen from the dead? (More of that in Lesson 14). Wasn’t he supposed to come before the Messiah? First the messenger, then the Lord, as Malachi said? (Mal. 3:1). Jesus told them that John the Baptist was the Elijah to come. “…and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him”.
9:14–29 Back on level ground, they came upon a boy severely disabled by an evil spirit. At various times he was dashed down, seized, convulsed, foaming at the mouth, grinding his teeth, rigid, cast into fire or water, crying out, rolling around, deaf and dumb. He was more violently ill than the Gadarene demoniac.
The scene was a chaotic mess, with the scribes provoking the nine disciples who had not been able to help this wild child, and the crowd running up when they saw Jesus. Out of the crowd came the father of the demoniac and he begged Jesus for his help. Jesus was provoked and impatient with the unbelief of His people (and the incompetence of the disciples). The boy promptly went into a fit and Jesus asked how long he had been disabled. Could Jesus help him? Could the man have faith to trust Him?
"If You can!"" If you can!" The man prayed for faith.
The exorcism was traumatic to the point of nearly destroying the boy but Jesus raised him and he was healed. The disciples, who had previously been effective (Mk.6:30), wondered why they were so weak. Jesus said they needed more prayer, and by some accounts, fasting.
The father of this tormented child prayed for faith so that his son would be healed. Faith was granted and the boy was made well. Let us also pray that what God commands of us, He will also provide for us—faith, hope and love. Faith is required not only for salvation, but for effective working of God in our lives. Faithlessness is the common sin of humans. Jesus commands faith and condemns faithlessness. Similarly, love is commanded, yet lovelessness is a common sin of humans. God commands us “…and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut.6:5). We are totally unable to love God with this intensity, if we love Him at all.
Augustine prayed “My entire hope is exclusively in your very great mercy. Grant what you command, and command what you will.” (Confessions by St. Augustine. Translated by Henry Chadwick; Oxford University Press Inc., New York;’98)
P.S. In the last four lessons, we have learned four important truths.
Lesson 7. Chapter 6. We are of two minds about most issues we face.
Lesson 8. Chapter7. Evil comes from within the human heart.
Lesson 9. Chapter 7–8. Unbelief is the original sin.
Lesson 10. Chapter 8–9. God's power operates in spite of our weakness and unbelief.
The Transfiguration Rethought
Key Notes: A new view of the Kingdom.
8:38-9:13 At the end of chapter 8 (8:38) Jesus speaks of His Return with the glory of the Father and with the holy angels. But in the next verse ( 9:1) He says “...there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power. “He had announced The Kingdom to the crowd sometime before, (Matt. 3:2) but now it will be demonstrated “with power” to a few. And the statement was made with Jesus’ special emphasis: “Truly I say to you...”. He climbed the mountain just six days later. (Mt. Tabor is the traditional site.) The Kingdom will be demonstrated now.
The account is rich with information.
Jesus underwent transfiguration—“metamorphosis”—changing from the appearance of an ordinary man into a figure of dazzling glory, with Moses and Elijah on either side. We note that the visitors are not bowed with their faces to the ground, but are talking, doubtless face-to-face as Moses talked to the Lord during his earthly leadership. (Ex.33:11; Num.12:8). The glorious image of Jesus is like the one described by Daniel (Dan.10:1–9) when He was seen in glorious display and later by John in Rev.1:12–17. Both men were overcome.
Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus. What are they talking about? Luke tells that they are talking to Jesus about His coming “Exodus” in Jerusalem, i.e., the Crucifixion. They are talking business, Current Events. And the power of the Kingdom paradoxically involves plans for Jesus’ apparent total defeat, which will be His victory over sin and death .
Jesus’ divine nature is briefly and plainly visible and the voice of the Father confirms it. The Glory is seen as brilliant, shining light radiating from His person .
Peter’s suggestion of three shelters would put Moses, and Elijah (not transfigured) on the same plane with their Lord. The stern rebuke from The Father was Peter’s second put-down of the week. His blunder reminds us not to offer original spiritual ideas.
Suddenly, there was Jesus alone, in His ordinary clothes. He ordered them to keep His secret until after the Resurrection. (Mk.9:9). He had allowed only three to witness the vision, so that His secret would be kept.
Moses and Elijah were alive, and conversing, although they had died 1400 and 700 years before. Together with Jesus' statement that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of the living, not the dead (Matt.22:23-), we have a demonstration that OT saints live as wise and thinking human beings in the presence of God.
The glory of the Kingdom in power is evident, the glory of the transformed Christ, with the visible presence of His Old Testament princes, Moses representing the Law, the will of God, and Elijah representing the prophets and the victory over idols (Baal). Christ is the visible summation of the OT message and the King of the Kingdom. The apostles are included in the Kingdom as the advanced team of Jesus’ power charging toward Pentecost and the birth of the Church.
This appearance of the Kingdom is quite different from Jesus’ Kingdom parables (Matt. 13) where the Kingdom is like seed or yeast, like a large bush, or treasure to be acquired, and a terminus with the harvest of souls. That is not a vision of power but of subtle influence, even peaceful coexistence. (Matt. 13:24-) The Kingdom is now a spiritual but not a political entity.
We note in passing that the Church, even in its earliest form, is a political entity with leaders (Titus 1:5), a meeting-time (I Cor.16:1), financial concerns (IICor.9:1), some ritual (ICor.14:20), and a mandate. (Matt. 28:19).
In summary, we see the Kingdom as the Power but not a Force. It is a Presence in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, but not viewed as an earthly Kingdom except in a prophecy to David (I Sam.7:16) and later to Daniel (Dan.2). It climaxes in the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Pentecost, but will not be complete until He returns in the Glory of His Father and with the holy angels. (Matt.24:3. Jesus put the two visions of the Kingdom—Transfiguration and Return—back-to-back and we live between them.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.