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( Mark 9 ) THE POWER OF THE WORLD TO COME
As the disciples beheld the grace, and love, and power of the Lord Jesus in relieving men of their distresses, they saw, indeed, something of the blessedness of the Kingdom of God, but in circumstances of weakness, for the King was in their midst as a poor Man, despised and rejected of men, with not where to lay His head. In order to sustain their faith, and ours, in following a rejected Christ in His lowly path of suffering and reproach, the Lord passes before us a vision of the coming glory to show that the path of outward weakness will end in "the Kingdom of God come with power."
(Vv. 2, 3). To see this glorious vision, the Lord leads Peter, and James, and John into an "high mountain apart by themselves." And, if, as believers, we are "To look beyond the long dark night, And hail the coming day," we, too, shall need, in spirit, to be lifted above the turmoil of this poor world, to find ourselves alone with Jesus. In such moments, as with the disciples, our souls will, above all else, be engaged with the glory of His Person. Thus, in this vision, the disciples are first arrested by the glory of the Lord; "He was transfigured before them." In after years, Peter. writing of this great scene, can say, "We made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." They say, not only His coming, but "the power" of His coming. They saw a sample of the mighty power that at His coming will change us into His likeness in the twinkling of an eye. In a moment He was "transfigured," and His garments of humiliation were changed into shining raiment "exceeding white as snow."
(v. 4). Further we learn that in His reign of glory and power there will be associated with Him, not only the saints of the present period, represented by the three apostles, but also all believers who lived before the Lord came to earth, represented, in the vision, by Moses and Elias, the two outstanding witnesses to God in the times of the law and the prophets.
(Vv. 5-8). These witnesses will be associated with Christ in His earthly glory; but, however great in their day, they must give place to Christ. His personal glory is maintained as the One who is supreme. From the nation He had received dishonour and shame. From ignorant but true disciples He receives little more than the honour and glory they would give to Moses and Elias, for Peter would put the Lord on the same level with these great servants. Later, when the Holy Spirit had come, Peter sees the true significance of this great scene, for, he says, the Lord Jesus "received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The honour that He received from the Father, and heaven - the excellent glory - is in contrast to what He received from man, the world, and even true disciples. In our day, are believers not in danger, at times, of falling into the snare of forgetting that, however outstanding the devotedness and spirituality of individual servants may be, the Lord is supreme? They may change and pass away; but of the Lord alone it can be said, "Thou remainest," and "Thou art the Same." Thus with the disciples, having heard the voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son: hear Him," "they saw no man any more, save Jesus only." Moreover, they saw that He was "with themselves." They had just seen two men "with Jesus" in glory: now they see Jesus "with themselves," in the path that leads to glory. Good, for us, to realise the glory of the Person of Jesus - the One that we shall be with in the glory, and that He is with us on the way to glory.
(Vv. 9, 10). To make this possible the blessed Lord must die and rise again from among the dead. So, in a later day an apostle can write, "He died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" ( 1Th_5:10 ). At that time this great truth raised a difficulty in the minds of the disciples. They believed in a general resurrection at the last day ( Joh_11:24 ); but that any one should rise from among the dead leaving others in their graves for a later resurrection was something entirely foreign to their thoughts. This, however, is the fundamental truth of Christianity. The resurrection of Christ from among the dead is the everlasting proof of God's acceptance of His work, and that believers are accepted in Him, and will share in the first resurrection of the just. So we read, "Every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming." ( 1Co_15:23 ).
Alas! as with ourselves, too often, when faced with difficulties, they kept the difficulty "with themselves, questioning one with another", instead of spreading their difficulty before the Lord.
(Vv. 11-13). The disciples, however, have another difficulty about which they do speak to the Lord. The scribes said that Elias must first come, but apparently Elias had not preceded the Lord. The difficulty arose from the act that while they accepted the Scriptures that spoke of Christ coming in glory, they overlooked those that spoke of His coming to suffer as the Son of Man. The prophecy of Malachi stated that Elias would precede Christ's coming in glory. This prophecy will surely be fulfilled. Nevertheless, morally he had already come in the forerunner, John the Baptist, who Same in the spirit of Elias calling the people to repentance (see Mat_11:14 ).
(Vv. 14-19). In the former chapter the Pharisees "dispute against" Christ ( Mar_8:11 ). Coming down from the Mount, the Lord finds the scribes 'disputing against" His disciples (N. Tr.). Later, the Lord reminds us that, "The servant is not greater than his Lord," and He adds, "If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" ( Joh_15:20 ). Little wonder, if men dare to "dispute against" Christ, they are opposed to believers. With the Lord this opposition only drew out His perfection; but with us, too often, it exposes our weakness. So, in this scene, having caught a vision of the glory of the Lord on the top of the Mount, we find the misery of man, the power of Satan, and the weakness of the disciples at the foot of the Mount.
When the Lord sent forth the Twelve, He "gave them power over unclean spirits," and for a time they used this power, for we read, "they cast out many devils" ( Mar_6:7 ; Mar_6:13 ). Here, however, their faith failed. They could not cast out the dumb spirit. There was power present to work miracles, and overcome all the power of Satan, but man could not profit by it, and the disciples had no faith to use it.
In the presence of this failure, the Lord has to say, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" - words that indicate the solemn import of the failure of the disciples. It meant that the testimony of God through the disciples had fallen to the ground, and, as a result, the dispensation would come to an end. "How long shall I be with you?" implies that a limit was set to the Lord's sojourn on earth. A needy generation, oppressed by the power of the devil would not drive the Lord away: on the contrary, it was the deep need of man, under the power of Satan, that brought the Lord Jesus into the world. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." It is the "faithless generation," not the needy generation, that brings His mission of grace and power on the earth to an end. When there is no longer power to use the resources in Christ, His service on earth is finished.
Has this not a voice for Christians, for again, is it not the failure of God's people, rather than the increasing wickedness of the world, that is bringing this day of grace to its close? That which professes to be a public witness for Christ on the earth in its last phase becomes so nauseous to Christ that He has to say, "I will spue thee out of my mouth."
Nevertheless, the goodness of the Lord is not withered up by the opposition of man, or the failure of His own, for the Lord can add the comforting words, concerning the demon possessed man, "Bring him unto Me." As one has said, "Faith however small it be, is never left without an answer from the Lord. What a consolation! Whatever be the unbelief, not only of the world, but of Christians - if only one solitary person were left in the world who had faith in the goodness and power of the Lord Jesus he could not come to Him with a real need, and simple belief, without finding His heart ready and His power sufficient." As, in the presence of the failure of His own disciples, He could say on earth, "Bring him unto Me," so in the last solemn moments when the Lord is about to spue the professing church out of His mouth, He can say, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." However dark the day, however great our failure, Christ is the Same, and Christ remains. He still stands at the door, and is ready to bless "any man" that hears His voice and opens the door to Him. May it be our happy lot to respond to His voice, and say,
O Lord and Saviour, we recline
On that eternal love of Thine,
Thou art our rest, and Thou alone
Remainest when all else is gone.
(Vv. 20-27). In response to the Lord's words, they brought the case of need "unto Him." But, as too often with ourselves, they come with feeble faith in the power of the Lord, for the poor father says, "If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us." The Lord in His reply says, "The 'if thou couldest' is 'if thou couldest believe': all things are possible to him that believes" (N. Tr.). One has truly remarked on these words, "Power connects itself with faith; the difficulty is not in Christ's power, but in man's believing; all things were possible if he could believe. This is an important principle Christ's power never fails to accomplish all that is good for man; faith alas! may be wanting in us to profit by it." (J.N.D.).
(Vv. 28, 29). Alone with His disciples, in the house, we learn from the Lord the deeply important truth that the faith which uses the Lord in all our difficulties can alone be sustained by intimate communion with God, set forth by prayer, and abstinence from the things of the world, set forth by fasting. As with the disciples, so with ourselves, behind our lack of faith to use the power of the Lord there is a lack of communion in prayer with the Lord.
(Vv. 30-32). The glory of the Kingdom had been revealed; the power and grace of the Lord to bring in the blessings of the Kingdom had been manifested, only to bring out the unbelief of the world, and the failure of His own to use the power in their midst. His departure was at hand, and the time for all public appeal to the nation, as a whole, had gone by. He will, indeed, dispense grace to individual need, but the reigning time had not yet come, so, as He went through the land, "He would not that any man should know it." The sin of man was about to rise to its height in killing the Son of Man. But this would become the occasion of manifesting the mighty power of Christ over sin, and Satan, and death, by rising from the dead. The Lord's words again manifest the weakness of the disciples. They not only lacked spiritual intelligence to understand the truth of the resurrection, but they "were afraid to ask Him." In the matter of the man with the evil spirit their faith was too weak to use the power of Christ; now their confidence is too small to use the wisdom in Christ. Alas! how often, like the disciples, when difficulties arise, we seek solution by discussing them "one with another" (Verse 10), instead of turning to Christ, our Head, with Whom is all wisdom.
(Vv. 33, 34). Alone in the house with His own, the Lord, by a simple question, reaches the conscience of His disciples, and exposes the root of much of their weakness. By the way they had disputed among themselves, and the subject of the dispute was "who should be the greatest." Alas! since that day, how often the desire to be the greatest has been the real root of many a dispute among the people of God. Whatever the immediate question under discussion, underneath there has often been a great deal of self in the dispute; for self not only wants to be great, it wants to be "the greatest." If a believer wants to be the greatest, sooner or later it will lead to a dispute in which any little slip in a brother will be seized upon in the endeavour to belittle him in order to exalt self. The very thought of being great shows how little the disciples comprehended the truth of the Kingdom. They failed to see that the Kingdom is for the display of all that God is in love, righteousness, grace and power. So too, in our day, we may fall into the snare of using the assembly as a sphere in which to exalt ourselves. The Corinthians were doing so by means of gifts, and carnal methods: the Galatians were doing so by legality; and the Colossians were in danger of doing so by fleshly religion.
If, however, believers can dispute among themselves, they have to hold their peace in the presence of the Lord. We may be sure that when believers start disputing among themselves, they are no longer consciously in His presence.
(V. 35). With infinite patience, the Lord instructs His disciples. In the presence of their heartlessness that sought their own greatness at the very moment when He had reminded them that He was about to be killed, He does not rise up with indignation and leave them, but "He sat down, and called the twelve" around Him, and gently instructs them in the path of true greatness. If any one desires to be first in the Kingdom, let them be last in the path that leads to glory - let them become the "servant of all." We might be prepared at times to serve some great person, or some devoted saint, and exalt ourselves by so doing; but are we prepared to be the "servant of all?" It has been truly said, that "Love is the most powerful of all things, and loves to minister, not to be ministered to," and again, "He who is smallest in his own eyes is the greatest" (J.N.D.).
(Vv. 36, 37). Having instructed the disciples in the path of true greatness, the Lord illustrates His instruction by placing a little child in their midst and showing how He, Himself, could stoop to taking a little child into His arms of love. The disciple who can receive one of such little children, in His Name, will be following the Lord in the path of true greatness. He will be stooping to the lowest in the Name of the Highest. So doing he will find himself in company with Christ, and to receive Christ is to receive the One that sent Him. Thus refusing self, and self-exaltation, we shall find ourselves in company with Divine Persons.
(Vv. 38-41). We have seen the danger of exalting self; in the incident that follows we see another snare, the danger of exalting a company. John says, "Teacher, we saw one casting out demons in thy Name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us." They themselves, though following with Christ, had just failed, through lack of prayer and fasting, to cast out a demon. Now they forbid one to do, what they had failed to do because he followed not with them. The Lord in his answer, shows that what is of value, above all else, in His sight, is the disciple's relation to Himself. It may be true that the man had not the faith to identify himself with the disciples who were following the Lord in the outside path; but, if he could do a miracle in Christ's Name it was evident he set value on that Name and would not speak lightly of it.
So absolutely had the world rejected Christ that there would be none in that circle but opposers of Christ. If there are any not against Christ they must belong to those who are on His part, even if they lacked the faith to publicly identify themselves with Him. John had said they are not "with us," but, even so, the Lord can say they are "not against us." The disciples were making too much of this wretched "us" - the weak little company gathered round Christ - and too little of Christ - the glorious Person to Whom they were gathered. The Lord reminds them that His Name is everything. The smallest act, even to giving a cup of cold water to one that belongs to Christ, if done in His Name will not lose its reward.
(Vv. 42-48). Warnings follow. Let us beware that in condemning others hat we are not putting a stumbling block in the path of one of Christ's little ones. Further, let us see to it that we deal faithfully with every evil tendency in ourselves, by refusing all that would lead into sin. This may entail the stern refusal of that which is most precious to the flesh - the land, the foot, and the eye, and every form of evil into which these members can lead us. Let us not forget that these evils are taking men on to the never ending judgment.
(Vv. 49, 50). All will be put to the proof. The fire will try both saints and sinners, "Every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." The sinner that rejects Christ will pass into the fire that is not quenched: but the true saint will be tested by fire that will take the form of trials or even persecution. The apostle Peter tells us that our faith may be tried with fire, and warns us not to think it strange if we are passed through a "fiery trial" but rather to rejoice, inasmuch as if we partake of 'Christ's sufferings" we shall also share in "His glory" ( 1Pe_1:7 ; 1Pe_4:12-13 ). The believer's life here is also viewed as a sacrifice, for we are to present our "bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" ( Rom_12:1 ). But the sacrifice is to be kept pure, "salted with salt." The Christian, if practically holy, becomes a witness in the midst of the world. Apart from holiness, his life is like salt that has lost its savour. We are to have salt in ourselves and walk in peace with others.
In the course of the chapter we see, on the one hand, the perfections of Christ, and on the other, the exposure of what the flesh is even in true disciples - those who loved and followed the Lord. In the presence of the glory the disciples were "sore afraid" (6): in the presence of the power of Satan they lacked the faith to use the power that was at their disposal in Christ (18, 19): behind this lack of faith there was the neglect of prayer and fasting (29): being little in communion with God in prayer, when difficulties arose in their minds they discussed them one with another, but were afraid to ask Him (10, 32): out of touch with Christ, they disputed among themselves, each seeking to be the greatest, and condemned what another was doing in the name of Christ because he was not in their company (38).
If, however, we see our own weakness in the disciples, we see the fulness of our resources in Christ. We see on top of the Mount the glory and power of the Kingdom, and that we shall be with Him in the glory. At the bottom of the Mount we see amidst all our weakness and difficulties He is with us our unfailing resource, the One to Whom we are invited to bring every trial and all our hard questions (19, 33): the One who is our teacher (31), to whose Name we gather (39), and who will reward the smallest act done in His Name (41).
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 9". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29