About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 9:2-13  ch. 9:14-32  ch. 9:33-41  ch. 9:42-50

The Transfiguration (ch.9:2-13)



In verse 2 we see Jesus take Peter, James and John up into a high mountain.  Peter, James and John seem to be the inner circle of the Twelve.  There’s three recorded incidents in the New Testament where Jesus does something special with these three men. 


When up on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured.  What this appears to mean is that Jesus’ body is changed to be in what appears to be a vision.  Along with Jesus is Elijah and Moses.  It’s not that Elijah and Moses returned from the dead.  They appeared in a vision and this is why Jesus was transfigured.  His normal earthly body had to change to match Elijah and Moses in this vision.


In verse 4 we note that all three men were talking with each other.  It would have been very interesting to know what they were talking about.  We don’t know.  We can only guess.  It is quite possible that Peter, James and John did not hear what they were saying, but only saw that they were talking.


In verse 6 we see that the three apostles were frightened.  Of course this is to be expected.  Peter once again is the spokesman for the three men and so being afraid, and with not knowing what to say, he suggests that they build three monuments on the spot, one for each man.  This would have been something that Old Testament people might have done.  They would have built a memorial to worship at. 


Building a memorial, a human structure, especially when we don’t know what else to do is typical for man.  W    e still do it today.  We build all orts of buildings and structures to worship or to have a place for worship.  This is the trend of mankind, not necessarily the will of God.  This is also Old Testament thinking and not New Testament thinking.  


Concerning the shelters, or the memorials, that Peter wanted to build, we should understand that such a thing was culturally acceptable in Jewish circles throughout the Old Testament.  When men with the Lord, or had a heavenly vision, or, any other such things, they built altars of worship and memorials. I say that to say this.  We should not think down on Peter for what he said here.  He was only following in the tradition of Israel.   


In verse 8 we see a cloud  that envelops everyone at this point.  A voice came from God the Father  that said, “this is my beloved Son, hear Him”.  This is much like the experience at Jesus’ baptism where God the Father spoke as a witness to His Son.


The obvious question is, “what did this all mean”?  I believe that Elijah represents the Old Testament prophet since he was one.  I also believe that Moses represents the Law since God gave Israel the Law through Moses.  Both the Law and the prophets gave God’s will to Israel.  Even though Israel constantly struggled with obeying the Law and hearing the prophets, both were God’s mouth piece to Israel.  But this experience and the voice from Heaven announces a change.  From now on, you don’t listen to the Law and the prophets in the way you once should have.  You listen and hear Jesus instead. 


In verse 9 and 10 we see Jesus telling the three men not to tell anyone what they had seen.  I’m not sure that they really understood this enough to start telling others anyways.  But the mere mention of what had happened, along with any kind of true understanding of this would have landed these three men in prison most likely.  The idea that Jesus replaces the Law and the prophets would have been blasphemy to the Jewish leadership.


Jesus told them not to say anything until He rose from the dead and so they did well to keep this secret.  I only imagine that Peter wanted to tell people. 


As they walked down the mountain they discussed what “rising from the dead” meant.  It appears that they needed further explanation.  We saw in the last chapter that Jesus told them about it, so it is clear they didn’t understand if they needed to discuss it further at this point.


In verse 11 we see that the disciples ask Jesus why the teachers of the Law say that “Elijah must come first”.  We’ve mentioned this before.  The Jewish leadership believed that before the Messiah  came to earth, Elijah would first return from the dead to prepare the way for the Messiah.


Part of the thinking of the Jewish leadership concerning Elijah coming was that he’d “restore all things”.   So when Jesus answers this question, He in fact agrees with the Jewish leaders by saying that “Elijah does  come first and restores all things”.  Yet even though Jesus agrees with the Jews in this statement, Jesus differs in the understanding of this statement. 


In verse 12 Jesus asks the three men why the Scriptures say that the Messiah must suffer and be rejected. This is the preface to Jesus’ understanding of the Elijah issue and the coming of the Messiah.  Jesus is saying that the Scriptures teach that when the Messiah comes, He won’t come as king.  He will come as a suffering servant, to redeem mankind by his death.


This section ends by Jesus stating very clearly that Elijah has come and the Jewish leaders have done with him what they wanted.  It’s not recorded here but we know that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for Jesus.   The restoring of all things then is interpreted to be the restoring of the hearts of the individual Jew to make each and every heart ready to receive the suffering Messiah when He came. 



The Healing Of A Boy With An Evil Spirit (ch.9:14-32)


In verses 13 and 14 we see that Jesus, along with Peter, James and John returns to the other disciples and finds a big crowd.  Among the crowd were teachers of the Law that were arguing with the other disciples.  That might not have been much of a debate.  The disciples might have been arguing from the emotion of their hearts wile the teachers of the Law argued from an intellectual approach. The teachers of the Law were very learned men, while the disciples were most likely not so educated.


While the teachers of the Law were trying to argue with some disciples, in verse 15 the crowd saw Jesus coming and were overwhelmed and so they ran to them, leaving the teachers behind.  The mere presence of Jesus ends the argument and the teachers are left behind.


In verse 16 Jesus asks what the argument was all about.  One man in the crowd replied by telling Jesus that he had brought his son who was possessed by a demon here to be healed.  The man explained that the demon caused the boy not to speak, made him foam at the mouth, threw him to the ground and made him rigid.  Once again we see the power of demons.


So by this man’s explanation we can safely say that the argument had something to do with casting demons out of people. 


Since Jesus was not there but with Peter, James and John, this man asked the other disciples to cast out the demon.  Many scholars believe the other disciples were the other 9 apostles, which is most likely the case. Jesus separated Himself, along with Peter, James and John from the Twelve and went up the mountain.


The question now arises, “why couldn’t these other 9 apostles cast the demon out, especially if they had such power on other occasions when Jesus sent them out two by two to preach?


In verse 19 Jesus expresses his displeasure, disappointment and further frustration by saying, “O unbelieving generation.  How long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you”? 


The word “generation” is a general word.  It applies generally to all people who lived in those days.  The generation at large were an unbelieving, untrusting group of people.  Jesus was upset with all these people.


Jesus asks, “how long will I stay with you’?  He knew that He wouldn’t stay too much longer.  He also asks, “how long shall I put up with you”?  The answer is, “not long”.


One thing we should note is that though Jesus was upset with His generation as a whole, it was not this generation who could not cast this demon out of the boy.  It was these 9 disciples that failed in their attempt.  What Jesus appears to be doing is lumping these 9 apostles in with the rest of the crowd, with the rest of the faithless generation.  If this is so, we see one of the biggest problems that the Twelve had was a failure to really put their full trust in Jesus.


In verse 20, after the demon saw Jesus he threw the boy to the ground causing him to convulse and foam at the mouth.  Just at the very presence of Jesus demons automatically react.  No words need to be said, only His presence is enough to scare a demon.


In verses 21 and 22 Jesus asks the father how long the boy has been so distressed.  We learn that from an early age the demon was trying to kill the boy by either fire or water. Thus we see the end result of any demon’s activity and that is to kill and destroy.  They merely take after their leader satan whom Jesus says in John 10 has come to kill and destroy. 


The father begs Jesus  to have mercy. He says, “if you can do anything, take pity on us”.   Jesus responds by saying in verse 23, “if you can, everything is possible for him who believes”.   


The words “if you can” places the emphasis back on to the father.  It is clear that Jesus can cast the demon out.  The question is, “does this man believe that Jesus can cast the demon out”?  This is why Jesus puts the question back to the father. 


The words “everything is possible for him who believes” has generated lots of discussion and is the basis for the Prosperity Teaching.   The question should be asked, “does everything actually mean everything, or is there certain qualifications to everything”? 


If you take Jesus’ words simply as they stand here without understanding anything else He says, then everything would mean everything.  There’s no exceptions.  Faith can produce everything we ask for.  But this form of reasoning is bad Biblical interpretation.  It’s bad hermeneutics.


We never take one phrase or sentence that someone might say or write and conclude this is the extent of what the person believes and understands about a subject.  We need to hear everything a person says about a certain subject, not just one phrase.  In this case Jesus says a lot about this subject, and one thing is clear and that is our trust is in Jesus and that trust needs to be exercised according to what Jesus wants, not according to what we want.  His will is the issue, not ours.  So in my thinking “everything” means “everything that is according to the will of Jesus”.


In verse 24 the boy’s father “exclaimed”, (in the Greek means “cried out”), “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief”.   This man is not any different than the rest of us who have a measure of faith.  We do trust Jesus, but we’ve got more to trust Him with.  When we first come to Jesus and give our lives to Him, we actually only tell Him that we are His.  Each and every day after first coming to Jesus we learn how to give more of ourselves to Him.  Giving of one’s self to Jesus is what trust or faith is all about.


In verses 25 to 28, after seeing the crowd rushing over to Him, Jesus casts the demon out of the boy and as usual, upon leaving the boy the demon puts up a big fuss.  He makes the boy convulse to such a degree that once he leaves, the boy looks like he is dead.  Jesus then helps the boy up onto his feet.


The disciples saw what Jesus had done, and after they had gone indoors with Jesus, away from the crowd, they ask him why they couldn’t cast this demon out of this boy.  Of course this is a natural question.  They couldn’t do what Jesus effortlessly did.


In verse 29 Jesus answers the disciples question by saying that “this kind can only come out by prayer”.  Some manuscripts add the word “fasting”.  Still, prayer is the important issue here.  When Jesus says “this kind”, He’s saying that there are different kinds of demons.  It is evident throughout Scripture that not all demons have the same authority or strength.  Some demons have more authority than others, and it seems like this demon was one with a higher authority and therefore was harder to cast out. At least it was harder for the disciples, not for Jesus.  This tells us that what is easy for Jesus is not necessarily easy for us and thus it is clear that we can’t do all that Jesus did.


Prayer, and possible fasting is required to cast certain demons out of people.  This is something that these 9 men had not done, and really couldn’t prior to Pentecost. 


In verse 30 we see that Jesus and the disciples were passing through Galilee and that He did not want others to know where they were.  This time we don’t have to guess why Jesus didn’t want to let people know  where He was.  Mark tells us that He wanted to teach His disciples.  He wanted to be alone with them.  His time was running out and He wanted quality time with these men during the last days of His life on earth.


Once again we see what Jesus wanted to tell His followers in verse 31.  He tells them again that He will be delivered into the  hands of men and killed but will rise from the dead in three days. It is clear that these things are weighing heavily on Jesus’ heart and mind.  This is not the first time in the last short period of time that He has told His disciples this. 


Yet in verse 32 as elsewhere the disciples just didn’t understand what Jesus was telling them.  Peter had already tried to rebuke Jesus for such words and failed, so there wasn’t any use trying that again.  So Mark tells us that the disciples were simply silent.


Who Is The Greatest (ch. 9:33-41)



In verse 33 we see that Jesus and the Twelve return back to Capernaum .  This will be the last visit to Capernaum for Jesus.  While in Capernaum He entered “the house”.  Most scholars believe this was Jesus’ house, or the house belonging to Jesus’ family.  In  John 2:12 we note that Jesus and some other family members went to Capernaum .  Although I don’t see this clearly in the text, many scholars feel that Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum at that time.


Apparently the Twelve were arguing on the road to Capernaum so Jesus asked them what they were arguing about.  They did not respond to Jesus but remained silent. Maybe their silence was based on embarrassment due to what they were arguing about.


We’ve noticed on a few occasions of late that the Twelve did not respond to some of Jesus’ questions or comment.  They simply remained silent.  They might well have been  too afraid to respond.  At times Jesus was somewhat upset with their responses so choosing to be silent might have been better than saying something.


In verse 35 Jesus sits down with the Twelve and starts teaching them concerning the things they were arguing over, because all along Jesus knew what they’d been discussing on the road to Capernaum. 


Jesus says, “if anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and servant of all”.  The use of the words “very last” emphasis the point that Jesus doesn’t mean somewhere near the last, or end of the line, but the very last person in the line.  The worldly concept of being first is important to those in the world.  To be first one must promote himself over and above everyone else, so they are first in the line. 


This is not the case in the Kingdom of God.  What Jesus is promoting here is the idea of being last, or being a servant to all is the important way to live.  Putting yourself first is not what Jesus wants.  It’s not what Jesus did.  We often hear that we must first love ourselves before we can love others.  This thinking is not New Testament thinking.


In verse 36 we see Jesus taking a little child and using him as an illustration.  Obviously someone’s children must have been in the home at that time.  This would normally be the case because homes in those days would have been occupied by an extended family, not just one nuclear family.


Jesus then says that anyone who welcomes one of these little children welcomes me and he who welcomes me, welcomes my Father.  Especially back in those days, women and children were not as important as men.  If one wanted to be seen as important they’d be seen with important men, not unimportant children. But Jesus is saying that if anyone receives a child and thinks of him as important, then you’ll be welcomed by me.  Once again Jesus is emphasizing  the importance of true humility. 


Whoever Is Not Against Us Is For Us (ch. 9:38-40)


In verse 38 we see the sectarian and exclusive nature of humanity coming out of the Twelve.  They were quite taken back by someone else casting a demon out of someone who weren’t part of their group.  The same mentality shows up frequently among Christians today.


The amazing thing here is that someone who Jesus hadn’t given the authority to cast demons out of people was actually doing it.  One might say that this man might have been attempting to cast demons out of someone, but the text seems to imply that he actually did.  Just why and how this happened is somewhat of a mystery to me, although the general consensus is the man’s faith caused this to happen, even though Jesus didn’t specifically authorize this as He had with the Twelve.


In verse 39 Jesus responds by saying that  no one doing a miracle in my name can say anything bad about me.  The important words are “in my name”.  “In my name” means, “by the authority of”, that is Jesus has given us authority to represent Him.  If He has really given us the authority to represent Him, then a miracle that we may do is because He has given us the power.  If this is so, we certainly wouldn’t say anything bad about Him.  If we did say something bad, then we’d fail to do it in His name.


In verse 40 Jesus says that “anyone who is not against  us is for us”.  That’s pretty simple.  They’ve certainly experienced those who were against Jesus. 


Jesus closes this section by saying that if anyone gives you a cup of water in my name because you follow me he will not lose his reward.  A few things are learnt here.  One thing is that we will receive rewards for doing things as Jesus’ representatives.  If we do the job that Jesus gives us to do in the way He wants, we will receive a reward, even if that job is something as small as giving someone a cup of water.  Once again Jesus majors on something that the world would call insignificant.  The Pharisees liked doing the big things and doing them in public for all to see.  Jesus says that if you quietly give someone a cup of water, you’ll receive a reward.


Another thing to note is that the cup of water given must be given in “Jesus” name.  Many people do nice things for others but they are not done in the name of Jesus or as Jesus’ representatives.  As Paul speaks about these things in Romans 14, anything done outside of faith is sin and will not be rewarded for. 


A study of  the end of this age and the coming White Throne Judgment shows us that Christians are not saved by works, but once saved by faith, they will be rewarded for their works that are truly done in the name of Jesus by faith. 


Causing To Sin (ch. 9:41-50)


In verse 42 we see how Jesus feels about people causing other people to sin.  He uses a little child in His analogy again, probably because they’re seen as not real important by the men of that generation.  If anyone causes a little child to sin, it would be better for him to drown in the sea. There’s no room for anything better for this man, other than death. 


I really don’t think Jesus is simply speaking about causing a child to sin.  The child is the analogy.  The child is seen as unimportant.  So if you case a child to sin and you should die for that, what should happen if you cause an adult to sin? 


This mentality follows the thinking of Jesus that we must be servants to all.  If you serve others in the name of Jesus, as His representative, then you will not cause them to sin.  Causing someone to sin can be something as simple as women not dressing appropriately in front of men.  Or it can be as simple as irritating someone that causes them to respond negatively to you.


In verse 43 Jesus says a pretty drastic statement.  He says that if your hand is causing you to sin, you should cut it off, because it’s better to go into life with one hand than into hell with two hands.   I believe Jesus is speaking here from the Old Testament perspective that He lived in.  This kind of thinking is something that could be seen in the Law, an eye for an eye.  The Law set forth drastic penalties.  It often said that someone should die when found committing any sin, many of which we’d consider pretty small sins.


Jesus is also trying to make a point here and by over-emphasizing it hopes to get the point across to the Twelve. He’s basically saying “do whatever is necessary to stop sinning, even if it seems drastic”. 


We see Jesus saying in verse 44 that the “fire never goes out” in hell, or what Revelation calls the Lake of Fire .  For those who do not believe in a literal Lake of Fire and Eternal Judgment, you’d need to look at Jesus’ words here. Jesus definitely believes that the fire will never go out in the Lake of Fire .  He thus believes in Eternal Judgment.


In verse 47 we see that Jesus says it is better to enter “the Kingdom of God ” with one eye, than to go to hell with two eyes.  Here the Kingdom of God is referring to that future Kingdom that will be set up on earth after the Great While Throne Judgment.  There are two aspects to the Kingdom of God that can be found in the New Testament.  One is that we are presently in the Kingdom of God on earth, but in a spiritual sense because we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, assuming we have been born again of the Spirit.  The other is the literal and material Kingdom of God that will come to the earth at the end of this age.


Verse 48 is Hebrew poetry and describes the place of Eternal Judgment, that Jesus must agree to or else He would not be using these words.  Jesus says “their worms do not die, and the fire is not quenched”.   The word “‘worms”  refer to maggots that eat the sinner from within, while the fire burns him from without.  This is how Jesus views the place of Eternal Judgment.


Verses 49 and 50 have been debated over the years.  Jesus says that “everyone needs to be salted with fire”.   Salt is what preserves food and makes it tasty.   So Jesus has in mind preserving His followers and making them what Paul would call a “sweet smell” before the Lord.  The fire might well refer to the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives. We need to be sprinkled with the effective salt of the Holy Spirit to be preserved for God’s future Kingdom on earth. 


To paraphrase verse 50 is to say that if salt loses its saltiness, then it’s no good.  So make sure the salt of the Holy Spirit stays fresh and effective in your life.  This will bring about peace with one another, and peace with one another comes back to the beginning of this chapter where the Twelve were arguing with each other. 


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