A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
7. Seeing Christ for Who He Is (Mark 9:1-10:12)
  • Jesus continues to speak of His coming death. He takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and is transfigured before them, but orders them not to tell anyone. Later, He heals a boy from demon possession, and continuing towards Jerusalem, teaches about humility, and dealing with sin, and about divorce.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus is truly the Messiah. (Mark 9:2-7)
  • Jesus' followers must be “all in” and fully dependent on Him and servants of others if they are to be true followers. (Mark 9:19, 36 & 37, 43-49)
  • God's ways are not man's ways. (Mark 120:5-9)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What did Jesus do and say to confirm He is the Messiah?
  • How focused are you on Jesus? Are you fully dependent on Him and a servant of others?
  • To what extent do you sometimes seek to have God accommodate your own desires instead of submitting to His ways?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Jesus take only 3 of the 12 to the mountain where He was transfigured?
  • Why did Jesus transfigure Himself?
  • Describe the response of Peter, James and John to Jesus' transfiguration. What did they miss?
  • Why did Jesus command the 3 disciples not to talk to anyone about the transfiguration?
  • Why were the other disciples not able to cast out the demon in the little boy?
  • Describe the faith of the father of the demon possessed boy? How did Jesus respond to the father's faith?
  • Why did the 12 have difficulty understanding Jesus teaching about His death and resurrection?
  • What is Jesus' call to discipleship?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What do you think of Jesus' transfiguration? What does it mean to you?
  • What does it mean to say that casting out the demon from the boy can only be by prayer?
  • Contrast talking about who is the greatest in the kingdom with the call to radical discipleship?
  • How are you to live for Jesus?
  • How do you keep your salt salty?
  • What is your responsibility vis-a-vis other believers in terms of how you and they serve the Lord Jesus?
  • What is Jesus' teaching regarding divorce?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
The turning point in Jesus’ ministry had been reached, and now He focused on teaching the 12 about what was to come for the Son of Man, namely His complete rejection, His death and His resurrection. Remember that the 12 did not understand these things … their conception and expectation of the Messiah was that He would come in power. What Jesus was telling them just didn’t make sense. It was still true that He would come in power, but not until after He had gone to His death on the cross. To underscore who He was, Jesus told them that some of the 12 would in fact see Him in His power (Mark 9:1). Again, all these things are part and parcel of the key question that underlies the entire book: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29) Jesus is about to give some of the 12 a peek at who He really is.

So, Jesus took the inner three, Peter, James and John, to a high mountain (Which mountain is not identified. It could have been Mt. Tabor which was southwest of the Sea of Galilee, but more likely it was Mt. Hermon, a much higher mountain northeast of the Sea of Galilee). Once there, Jesus was “transfigured” before them (Mark 9:2). This transfiguration, coming some six days after Jesus first began to speak to the 12 about His death, is specifically intended for these men to confirm that Jesus was indeed the glorious Messiah and would come to judge at the end of the age (note Mark 8:38). In short, His death would not be the end – His resurrection would happen, and He would rule in power, albeit much later. And as if to make the truth of Jesus’ glory and the reality of His death and resurrection clear to these men, God Himself in the midst of the transfiguration said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7). What happened in this transfiguration? The Greek word translated “transfigured” is “metamorphoo” which literally means “to change into another form.” The description of this change in form is simply that Jesus’ clothes became “radiant” and blindingly white, which suggests that He took on the appearance of the heavenly being that He truly was. And then, Elijah and Moses appeared with Him, and they were talking with Jesus (Luke’s gospel tells us they were talking about Jesus’ death in Jerusalem. Luke 9:31. See also I Peter 1:15). We are not told how the three disciples knew the individuals with Jesus were in fact Elijah and Moses. Did Jesus mention their names in greeting them? We simply do not know. Nevertheless, these two long deceased individuals were there -- Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the prophet. Was their appearance indicative that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets? Did their respective extraordinary disappearances from life on earth (for Moses - Deuteronomy 34:1-6; for Elijah – II Kings 2:1-11) figure in to their appearance with Jesus in this scene? Mark does not give us an explanation. In any case, both Moses and Elijah were revered heroes of Israel’s past and were commonly connected to future events as well as being considered types (or forerunners) of the Messiah. However, as large as these two men were in the Jewish mind, they were not equal to Jesus; He is superior. Peter and his companions didn’t necessarily understand this reality and, foolishly and impulsively, suggested that three booths be set up, one each for Jesus, Elijah and Moses, presumably picturing the tent of meeting at the time of the exodus. Mark notes that Peter’s statement is essentially without value and the result of fear (Mark 9:6). And as if to indicate that Jesus was superior, a cloud overshadowed them (meaning Elijah and Moses as God was about to declare the uniqueness of Jesus, the very Son of God) and God Himself tells Peter, James and John that this is His Son and they are to listen to Him (Mark 9:7. Compare Mark 1:11). Then, just as suddenly as the transfiguration had happened, Elijah and Moses were gone and only Jesus remained – Jesus, the unique one, the true Messiah, the one to whom these three men, and the other disciples, and all of us, are to listen.

Jesus and the three men then proceeded down the mountain, and He ordered them not to speak of what they had just seen until He shall have risen from the dead (Mark 9:9), as the concept of His glory would detract from the necessity of His suffering and death. Yet the three didn’t understand the reference to rising from the dead, but instead asked Him about Elijah. The teaching in Judaism from Malachi 4:5 & 6 was that Elijah would come before the Messiah, and restore everything. So it seems their question to Jesus was that if Elijah was to come first and restore things, it didn’t make sense that the Messiah would suffer and die (Mark 9:11). Jesus’ response was that they were correct about Elijah coming first, but that the Scripture does say that the Messiah will suffer (Mark 9:12). Moreover, Jesus said that Elijah had already come (in the person of John the Baptist) (Mark 9:13). In His responses, Jesus was thus again emphasizing the reality that He, the Messiah, must suffer and die, and that their conception of the Messiah must adjust accordingly.

In due course, Jesus and the three come all the way down the mountain and rejoined the other disciples who were surrounded by a large crowd while in the midst of an argument with some scribes (Mark 9:14). These scribes were likely from Jerusalem and were “monitoring” the preaching of Jesus at the behest of the religious authorities. If the mountain referred to in Mark 9:2 was Mt. Hermon, some 40 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, and 100+ miles north of Jerusalem, the presence of these scribes indicates how worried the religious authorities were about Jesus, His impact and His teaching, and about the resulting diminution of their power base. When the crowd saw Jesus, they flocked to Him (Mark 9:15), and He asked them what the discussion was all about. A man from the crowd answered and it turns out that he had brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus to be healed only to find that Jesus was not present and that His disciples could not heal the boy (Mark 9:17 & 18). Jesus was disappointed, even bitterly disappointed, in His disciples and wearied by their spiritual dullness (Mark 9:19). He asked that the boy be brought to Him. The demon knew it was in the presence of Jesus as it immediately threw the boy into convulsions (Mark 9:20). Jesus showed His true concern for the boy and asked his father how long the boy had been in this condition, which it turns out, was from childhood. The boy’s father was at his wit’s end and essentially begged Jesus to heal the boy “if” He can (Mark 9:21 & 22). Jesus’ reply indicated that the issue is not His power to effect a healing, but the faith of the father (Mark 9:23) The father thereupon proclaimed his faith, but also confessed his lack of faith (Mark 9:24), and Jesus ordered the demon to leave the child which it did, but not after throwing the boy into a final convulsion so severe that the crowd thought he was dead. But Jesus lovingly lifted the boy to his feet (Mark 9:25-27), a clear picture that Jesus brings life as opposed to death which was the calling card of Satan. Why couldn’t the disciples exorcize the demon? (Mark 9:28) It seems it was because of their lack of faith and their failure to depend continually on the power of God. They had been given authority to cast out demons, but apparently they had come to rely on themselves as opposed to drawing on God’s power through prayer (Mark 9:29).

Jesus and the 12 returned to Galilee (Mark 9:30), not to minister in the region, for Jesus’ ministry was essentially completed there, but so He could spend time with and teach the 12, which is exactly what He did when they came to Capernaum which served as their base. On the way, He continued to speak of His coming suffering, death and resurrection (Mark 9:30-32), but the 12 still did not understand, and theywere afraid to ask Jesus about what He was saying. Instead, on the road they apparently discussed which of them was the greatest (Mark 9:34). Once in Capernaum, Jesus asked them about their discussion (Mark 9:33), but in their shame about the discussion, they did not answer Him (Mark 9:34). Jesus proceeded to teach them that the path to “greatness” is through service and sacrifice, and caring about people, modeling the teaching with His care for a child He took in His arms. (Mark 9:35-37).

Mark then proceeds to present several teachings of Jesus that continue to speak to the calling of discipleship, and how it is that the follower of Jesus is to act vis-a-vis God, and with and towards others. (These verses are speaking of what Pastor John MacArthur calls “radical discipleship.” And credit to Pastor MacArthur for the following four aspects of radical discipleship reflected in these verses.) The 12 were not the only ones who followed and ministered in the name of Jesus. Even those who drove out demons in Jesus' name were on Jesus' side and were not to be stopped (Mark 9:38-40). Those who minister thus in Jesus' name have God's approval (Mark 9:41). And further, the follower of Jesus must be “all in.” What does “all in” mean? What is radical discipleship? First, it means never leading others (In Mark 9:42, the “little ones” are not children, but refer to Jesus' followers over whom He is protector and Shepherd) into sin, whether deliberately or unintentionally. He says it would be better to be cast in the sea with a large millstone (these weighed up to several tons!) around one's neck. Second, it means turning from sin. One must deal with sin – cut it out, lop it off, get rid of it; one cannot have sin and Jesus too. (Mark 9:43-48) Better to go into the kingdom with one eye, one hand, or one foot, than go to hell with two of each. The word translated “hell” is the word “Gehenna” which was the steep valley to the south of Jerusalem where human sacrifices to Molech were made many centuries before Jesus, and where all kinds of garbage and animal carcasses and such were thrown and burned in Jesus' day; in fact there was a constant fire in Gehenna which is why it is used in Scripture as a picture of the place of judgment. In all, it was not a nice place to be! Third, it means lives of sacrifice that doesn't quit, meaning the offering of one's life to God for His use and service. (Mark 9:49) In Leviticus 2:13, we see salt, a preservative, as a part of the grain sacrifice, as the salt was indicative of God's covenant and His faithfulness. The offering of one's life for His service must be constant, total and long lasting (see Romans 12:1). Fourth, it means lives of obedience; one's life (one's “salt” to use Jesus' picture) must not be mixed with anything else. In Palestine, impure types of salt were often mixed with other substances such as gypsum and the resulting mixture was worthless for preservation purposes and was cast out or even used on roads (cf. Matthew 5:13). The disciple of Jesus must keep his or her “salt” pure by obedience solely to Jesus. Jesus then added an application to the life of radical discipleship, namely to “be at peace” with one another (Mark 9:50). The 12 had not been at peace with each other; they had been arguing and talking about who was greatest, which was neither loving, nor pure, nor sacrificial nor obedient.

Finally, Jesus and the 12 leave Galilee and move to Judea and “across” the Jordan, meaning east of the Jordan river. The crowds came to Him again, as did some Pharisees. (Mark 10:2) The latter came to test Him with a question concerning divorce. The Jewish religious thinkers of that day did not agree on the matter of divorce; one party was very strict, and the other very lenient. Moreover, in that day and age, a woman could not divorce her husband; only the husband could divorce his wife. So Mark again presents the on-going opposition of the religious authorities to Jesus and His teaching. These Pharisees were not interested in His teaching concerning divorce; they were looking for a way to trip Jesus up and perhaps find grounds to arrest Him. Their question sought to force Jesus to take a side in the debate. Instead of answering directly, Jesus replied with a question about what Moses commanded, since He knew that the religious authorities would look to the Law of Moses as a basis for their statements. (Mark 10:3) They gave their answer, which was that Moses permitted divorce. (Mark 10:4) Jesus went on to turn that answer on its head by indicating that Moses was not approving divorce by his commandment, but rather accommodating the sinfulness of man. For from the beginning, said Jesus, Godbeginning indicated that men and women left home and married and became one, and what was thus joined together, man was not to separate. (Mark 10:5-9) In short, divorce was not part of God's plan, nor did He approve of it. The 12 later asked Jesus in private about what He said concerning divorce, and He proceeded to lay out a high standard: one who divorces and marries another commits adultery! (Mark 10:10-12) And note that Jesus has this going both ways – a man divorcing his wife, and a woman divorcing her husband. By so doing, he elevated women in the sense that they were equally as responsible as men, and equally answerable to God's law. Thus, Jesus' answer to the question of the religious authorities was that marriage is to be held to God's standard that it should not be divided by divorce.

The big question of Mark's book continues in this passage: Who do you say that Jesus is? Jesus is answering this question in multiple ways, indicating to the 12 that He is the suffering Messiah who must suffer death after rejection, that He is the Messiah who will rise from the dead, that He is the Messiah who will return as the righteous judge, that following Him requires radical discipleship which includes full submission to His Lordship. The 12 were still not getting it; the crowds were all over the place in their responses, and the religious authorities certainly were rejecting Him. Jesus is clearly headed to the cross now. He is in no hurry; yet He is on an intentional path to accomplish His mission, and it will lead to Jerusalem, to rejection, to His death, and to His resurrection. To follow Him is to take the same path in terms of the giving up of self and all the world offers. To do otherwise will lead to hell. It is a stark but real choice presented by Jesus. What is your choice?