74. Test of true discipleship (Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-38; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:23-27)
Immediately after telling his disciples of his coming suffering and death, Jesus told them they had to be prepared for similar treatment. The disciples of Jesus are those who have given their lives to Jesus, and they will be obedient to their master even if it leads to hardship, persecution and death. They will no longer rule their own lives, but will deny themselves personal desires in order to please Jesus. In sacrificing the life that puts self first, they will find the only true life. On the other hand those who live for themselves may gain what they want in the present world, but they will lose the only life of lasting value, eternal life (Matthew 16:24-27).
Jesus promised his disciples that those who accompanied him in his ministry would, in their present lifetime, see something of the triumph of the Son of man's glorious kingdom. This was possibly a reference to the victorious expansion of the church after Jesus' resurrection and ascension (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1). (For the significance of the name 'Son of man', see earlier section, 'Jesus and the Kingdom'.)
75. The transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36)
Jesus' transfiguration took place on a high mountain, possibly Mount Hermon, which was not far from Caesarea Philippi. The event was a revelation of Christ's glory and was witnessed by only three chosen apostles. In coming into the world as a human being, Jesus had laid his divine glory aside, but now it reappeared briefly through a human body. It gave an indication of the glory he would receive after he had finished the work he came to do (Matthew 17:1-2; Luke 9:28-29).
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus during his transfiguration, possibly to symbolize that the law and the prophets found their fulfilment in him. He was the one to whom the entire Old Testament pointed. They talked with Jesus about his coming death, confirming what Jesus had recently told the apostles. The Messiah had to die before he could enter his glory (Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30-31).
The apostles were confused about what was happening, but the Father's voice from heaven told them that it was an expression of his satisfaction with the entire ministry of Jesus. By combining words from one of David's psalms with words from one of Isaiah's servant songs, God declared that the kingly Messiah would lay down his life as the suffering servant. This Messiah was also God's prophet, and people were to listen to his message (Matthew 17:4-5; Luke 9:32-35; cf. Psalms 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18; Acts 3:22).
When the transfiguration was over and Jesus' appearance returned to normal, he again told the apostles that they were not yet to reveal what they had learnt (Matthew 17:6-9; Luke 9:36). The vision of Elijah prompted the apostles to ask if Elijah would come before the Messiah. If Jesus was the Messiah, why had Elijah not come? Jesus replied that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah, but just as people rejected the Messiah's forerunner so would they reject the Messiah (Matthew 17:10-13).
76. Healing of an uncontrollable boy (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43)
While the faith of the three apostles on the mountain was being strengthened, the faith of the other nine on the plain below was failing. They were unable to cure a boy who suffered from sudden fits that made him uncontrollable (Mark 9:14-18). After the heavenly experiences on the mountain, Jesus felt the frustration of work in a world that was full of human failure (Mark 9:19). Nevertheless, he did not despise the uncertain faith that the boy's father expressed, and he quickly healed the boy (Mark 9:20-27).
The reason for the disciples' failure was their lack of faith. What they needed was not a large amount of faith but the right kind of faith. They needed a faith that relied completely upon the unlimited capacity of the all-powerful God and that expressed itself through sincere prayer (Matthew 17:20-21; Mark 9:28-29).
78. Lessons in humility (Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 18:1-14; Mark 9:30-50; Luke 9:44-50)
Despite Jesus' statement to his disciples that he was heading towards humiliating suffering and death (Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:44-45), they were arguing among themselves about who would have the important places in his kingdom. Jesus rebuked them, explaining that the way to spiritual greatness is through choosing the lowest place and serving others. To enter the kingdom of God, people must humbly accept that they have no more status than a child. Receiving Christ is not concerned with prestige as in the case of those who receive an earthly king. It is as humble an act as receiving a small child (Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48).
If people want to be disciples of Jesus, they should not despise those who appear weak and insignificant. Indeed, they should take severe action against themselves to remove from their lives anything that might cause them to follow their own desires instead of submitting to Jesus. Wrong desires prevent people from receiving Jesus and lead only to hell (Matthew 18:6-9; Mark 9:42-48). God will test and cleanse the disciples, but if they want to be useful for him in leading people to Jesus, they must cease their quarrelling and make sure that they themselves are pure in heart (Mark 9:49-50).
Jesus' disciples should have a loving concern for the weak, the helpless and the lost. They should not want any to miss out on his salvation (Matthew 18:10-14). They must love others, and not act like those who tried to stop a man from casting out demons in Jesus' name because he did not belong to Jesus' apostolic group. The man feared God, and God used him to deliver people from the power of evil. He was not an enemy of Jesus, and the apostles were not to despise him or hinder him in his work. If people do acts of kindness to others, and do them with the right motives, God will reward them no matter how insignificant those acts may appear to be (Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Mark 9". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter