Sunday August 27th
Revised Hymns for Older People
Precious Lord, Take My Hand, And Help Me Get Up
Just a Slower Walk with Thee
Blessed Insurance, Blue Cross is Mine
It Is Well With My Soul, But My Knees Hurt
Go Tell It on the Mountain, But Please Speak Up
In Mark Chapter 9 we see Jesus, Peter, James, and John going up to hear God “Tell it on the mountain” (verse 1):
And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
The coming of the kingdom of God “with power” would seem to be a specific prophecy regarding Jesus’ resurrection since that would be witnessed by “some standing here”. The resurrection was also described as Jesus coming “with power” by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:3-4
“Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord”
But the Transfiguration, which is about to unfold within the same week that Jesus says this, is also a kind of fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words, since it displayed a temporary representation of His resurrection power and glory.
2 Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” 8 All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.
The word “transfigured” literally means “changed in form.” This same verb is used to describe the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives in Romans 12:2, where we are told to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and in 2 Corinthians 3:18 which tells us that we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.”
The fact that the two men who appeared with Jesus were Elijah and Moses ties the old covenant into the new covenant because Moses and Elijah were the messengers of the law and the prophets, and now they were together with Jesus and His apostles, who were the messengers of the new covenant of salvation and redemption. And the New Covenant was about to fulfill and replace the old one.
When Peter blurts out “Let us make three tents, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah” he is probably so overwhelmed by the glory of God shining through Jesus that he just wants to capture and prolong that moment as long as possible. But God knows that there is still work that needs to be done before Jesus fulfills His earthly mission, so He speaks from heaven several things that can be loosely translated as “Shut up, Peter. You have no idea what you are talking about!”
The first thing God says is “This is my beloved Son.” This first declaration is a divine revelation confirming the true identity of Jesus. There should be no doubt after this point that Jesus is truly the Son of God.
The second thing that God says is “listen to him”. This is both a reminder to Peter to listen rather than talk, as well as a declaration concerning the authority of Jesus as the true prophet of the new covenant. These words are also the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15, where Moses said that “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”
One powerful thing that came about as a result of this transfiguration experience was that Peter, James and John could now speak as the Voice of actual Eyewitnesses.
Look at 2 Peter 1:16
“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
Now compare that to 1 John 1:1-3
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
But of course the old saying tells us that “What goes up must come down” and so this mountaintop experience ends and the trip back down to real life continues:
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. 10 They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant. 11 They asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.”
Henry Drummond, the Scottish theologian said, “God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the mountaintops. It is not God’s desire that we live on the mountaintops. We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don’t live there. We don’t tarry there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below. The streams start in the mountaintops, but they come down to gladden the valleys below.”
As they are traveling back down, Jesus tells the three apostles not to tell anyone what just happened “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead”.
This causes some confusion among them because, from a Jewish perspective, there would only be one final resurrection at the last days, not an individual resurrection in the midst of their earthly lives. This was similar to what Martha said to Jesus when he told her that Lazarus would rise again.
In John 11:24 Martha says to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
But what does Jesus say back to her in verse 25?
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies”
Then the disciples wonder “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus basically answers “Elijah did come first” which is a reference to John the Baptist. Although John the Baptist wasn’t actually Elijah risen from the dead, Jesus is explaining that Elijah was an Old Testament character who foreshadowed John the Baptist’s ministry. That’s why Luke 1:17 describes John the Baptist this way:
“It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Just as Elijah suffered at the hands of Ahab and Jezebel, so John suffered at the hands of Herod and Herodias.
Now that they are all back on level ground, they immediately are faced with a spiritual crisis, one that was too big for the other disciples to handle:
14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
So let’s break down this incident. First of all, it is clear that this poor young boy was afflicted by a demonic spirit. The symptoms of his affliction were seizures, an inability to speak, and a self-destructive, almost suicidal tendency to toss himself into fire or water. According to his father, he has been this way for many years, and the best attempts at healing by the other disciples have had no effect on the boy.
In verse 19 Jesus seems a bit disappointed by the disciples failure, calling them an unbelieving or faithless generation. The interesting thing about Jesus’ encounter with the disciples’ lack of faith is that this happens just after He returns from the mount of Transfiguration, which is reminiscent of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the 10 commandments and finding the unbelieving and faithless Israelites worshipping a golden calf!
Notice also that Jesus kind of rebukes the boy’s father for saying “If you can do anything”. Jesus isn’t too hard on the Dad though. Jesus tells him, “this can happen if you believe it can.” But when the dad replies “Help my unbelief”, Jesus still heals the son by commanding the demon to come out.
When the disciples wonder why they couldn’t cast it out, Jesus answers “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
Now think about this. Jesus didn’t pray for the boy to be delivered, he simply commanded the demon to leave. So the idea that more prayer was needed didn’t mean praying right then and there. I believe that Jesus was saying that we need to be “prayed up” if we expect God to move through us. He was able to do what the disciples couldn’t because he was continually in communion with the Father through prayer.
But that kind of prayerful attitude comes from putting our own agenda aside and completely surrendering to God’s agenda, which the disciples still hadn’t quite grasped. We’ll see that in these next few episodes:
30 From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.
This idea that the Son of God was going to offer up his life as a sacrifice just did not make sense to Jesus’ followers. It was the opposite of their mindset.
And this becomes apparent from the next thing Jesus asks them:
33 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
I actually find it amusing and somewhat comforting how clueless the disciples were. He is talking about being killed and they are arguing about which one of them is the greatest. So Jesus gives them a lesson in humility and how they all need become like little children and look at what they say next:
38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is for us. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
Think about this. The other disciples were trying to discourage this man from doing the work of the gospel because… “He was not following us.” It wasn’t that the man was not a follower of Jesus; after all, he was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. What they really meant is that the man didn’t recognize their authority as “the greatest” of Jesus’ disciples. It’s the very attitude that Jesus was just trying to correct!
So Jesus again reminds them how important it is to respect all fellow believers as God’s children:
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,44 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
In verse 42 Jesus has a harsh warning for “Whoever causes harm to little ones”. This can refer either to actual children, or to any believer, especially new believers.
It’s a serious warning, but the part about cutting off body parts should be understood as the kind of exaggeration that is used to make a point. Jesus is simply talking about the need to completely renounce sinful habits at all costs.
The image of having “salt” in our lives describes the impact that true discipleship is supposed to have on the world around us. Salt is a preservative, and before the invention of refrigeration it was the only way to keep things from turning rotten. Jesus is telling His disciples to use humility and service to preserve the peace and unity of the church, rather than dividing it through a desire to be greater than everyone else.
Let’s summarize this chapter by looking at life on the mountaintop verses life down at ground level. We all love uplifting spiritual mountain-top experiences – whether they come in the form of a powerful worship time, an intense time of prayer, a fresh new understanding of the Bible, or receiving a prophetic word. There is nothing wrong with desiring those moments and allowing them to totally saturate our being. Have as many mountaintop experiences as you possibly can!
The tricky thing is avoiding the “Peter Syndrome” of wanting to build a tent on the mountaintop so that you never have to come down and deal with the “real” world.
You might want to stay there, but God needs your “salt” down here where lost and hurting people live.
In fact, I think it’s fair to say that part of what is supposed to happen during our times at the top of the mountain is that we get a heavenly perspective that teaches us “this isn’t really about me and what I want – it’s about God and what HE wants!”
Remember this – if Jesus had stayed on the mount of transfiguration, he would have never gone to the cross. Then where would we all be?
Here is my honest suggestion for all of us: Go to the mountain. Connect with God there. Bring what he gives you there back down the mountain with you to share with others. Then go back up and start the process all over.