Sermon on Mark 9: 1-29

This is the outline of my sermon I was privileged to give at our church this past Sunday on the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9. Here is part 1.

Highlights of Mark 8
  • Jesus feeds 4000 with 7 loaves of bread and a few fish
  • Jesus heals a blind man by putting his spit on the guy's eyes
  • Jesus and his crew head up north into Gentile territory and Peter declares Jesus is the Christ
  • Jesus foretells his suffering, rejection, betrayal, murder and resurrection
  • Peter rebukes Jesus
  • Jesus rebukes Peter (calls him Satan)
  • Jesus proclaims the way to life is through death and suffering.
Highlights of Mark 9
  • Transfiguration - Jesus is affirmed by God
  • Demonized boy delivered
  • Who's the best?
  • In-or-Out excorcist
  • Don't hurt God's kids
  • Cut it off or go to hell
  • Be holy and be at peace with each other
Mark 8 ends on a downer. Jesus tells them he's going to be killed and resurrected, but the disciples don't get any of that, then he calls Peter Satan, then he tells them to take up their cross, like telling us today to take up our electric chair, and follow him.

Snowy Mount Hermon as seen from Mt. Bental.Image via Wikipedia

Mark 9 begins with a morale booster. And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” Mark 9:1 Jesus promises some of them a foretaste of God's kingdom, as if they didn't have one already. But this experience turns out to be different from anything they have already experienced. Since they are up in the north of Israel, they are probably climbing Mt. Hermon, which is 1.5 miles high. It's the only ski resort in modern Israel, up in the Golan Heights area.

Only Peter, James and John get the invitation to climb with Jesus. 9:2 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and led them alone up a high mountain privately. I can see this mountain having enough room for privacy. Who knows what the other guys were thinking staying down at the base. "Phew, we finally get a break from Jesus' fitness plan." When they go

Icon of the Transfiguration (15th century, Nov...Image via Wikipedia

up there, Jesus "was changed in form before them" (BBE). The Greek word for "transfigured" is metamorphoo, the same word that we derive metamorphosis from when speaking of that change from caterpillar to butterfly. Jesus' change was dramatic, 9:3 and his clothes became radiantly white, more so than any launderer in the world could bleach them. I'll only mention here, but I'll come back to it later, but this entire scene is a fulfillment of the last two chapters in the Old Testament in Malachi. In this case, look at Malachi 3:2. [Umblog note, if you hover over the reference, any verse reference should pop up a little window with that verse in it.] Also, notice Daniel 7:9. John experiences Jesus again like this in Revelation 1:14 and Rev. 20:11 as well.

Not only does Jesus metamorph, he has company. 9:4 Then Elijah appeared before them along with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. How did these guys get picked?


  • law-giver
  • only man to see God and live
  • foretold God would raise up someone like than him from among them, Deut. 18:15
  • dead and buried, Jude 1:9
  • confronted an evil ruler, Pharaoh
  • worker of miracles
  • ΠΡΟΦΗΤΗΣ ΗΛΙΑΣImage by giveawayboy via Flickr

  • met God in the still, small voice 1 Kings 19:11-12
  • never died 2 Kings 2
  • confronted an evil ruler, Ahab
  • worker of miracles, including raising the dead, 1 Kings 17:17-24

As a result of this taste of the kingdom of God, the disciples are afraid. 9:5 So Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 9:6 (For they were afraid, and he did not know what to say.) Peter doesn't seem to be the type to let nothing to say stop him from saying anything. Peter again reveals his misunderstanding of Jesus. By suggesting three shelters for them, he reveals his mis-understanding of the Christ, as another great prophet. [How did he know who the other two guys were? Did they have name tags?] But he is enjoying the moment.

Peter is having his spiritual high, his "mountain top" moment with God. This was an experience that he never forgot. In fact he directly referenced it 30 years later in his 2nd letter, 2 Peter 1:16-18. It's a good thing to hold onto intense encounters with God. It's a taste of heaven. The good God who leads us by still waters and into green pastures also brings us through valleys in the shadow of death, see Psalm 23. It's the snippets of heaven that help us get through the normal darkness of a world in rebellion to God.

But Peter is clueless. God the Father comes down and makes it as plain as he can. He takes away Moses and Elijah and declares the identity of Jesus, God's son. 9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my one dear Son. Listen to him!” 9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus. And, then, the party is over. And Jesus wants them to keep the affair private until his resurrection. 9:9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 9:10 They kept this statement to themselves, discussing what this rising from the dead meant. They just don't understand the resurrection stuff. They don't understand why the Christ will be killed by the very leaders who are supposed to be on the look out for him.

In their confusion, doubt arises. Every supernatural experience will be followed by doubt. Supernatural means it's not supposed to happen. If it's not supposed to happen, is there a natural explanation for what just happened? There are too many pieces of prophecy they are trying to put together. So they ask. 9:11 Then they asked him, “Why do the experts in the law say that Elijah must come first?” 9:12 He said to them, “Elijah does indeed come first, and restores all things. And why is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? 9:13 But I tell you that Elijah has certainly come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written about him.” Jesus isn't angry with honest doubts. But his answers aren't easy either.

Part of the context for their question is Malachi 4:4-6. They want to know how all this fits together. Jesus let's them know this prophecy has been fulfilled, and if that one is fulfilled, what about Isaiah 53, that speaks of God's suffering servant who is cut off from the land of the living, yet shall see his offspring and prolong his days, Isaiah 53:8-10 ? Won't that prophecy also be fulfilled? John the baptist is described in Mark 1:1-6, as the fulfillment of Elijah, including his appearance. Like Elijah, John the baptizer also challenged a wicked king and his wicked wife. But John did not escape death like Elijah. John knew he had to get out of the way, John 3:30. Jesus uses their doubt and question to show them the prediction of his death and resurrection is essential prophecy, something they need to embrace. He comes back to it again after an interruption at the bottom of the mountain.

9:14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and experts in the law arguing with them. He can't leave them alone for a couple of hours. If they aren't finding trouble, trouble is finding them. When Jesus appears, the crowd loses interest in the argument. Perhaps he has some afterglow from his transformation on the mountaintop, like Moses did, Exodus 34:34-35. 9:15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran at once and greeted him. Jesus tries to break up the fight his guys are not winning. 9:16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” But he never gets the answer. Instead a desperate dad clamors for Jesus's attention. 9:17 A member of the crowd said to him, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that makes him mute. 9:18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able to do so.” Some Bibles add a heading about the boy with epilepsy. This isn't epilepsy though. This is demonization. The demon makes the boy mute and gives the boy seizures. We also find out the demon tries to kill the boy. This dad is terrified for his boy. He heard about the band of miracle workers and sought aid from them.

Jesus responds with exasperation. 9:19 He answered them, “You unbelieving generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you? Bring him to me.” What caused such a forceful ejaculation from Jesus? Unbelief. Whose unbelief? The disciples', the religious leaders', the crowds'. Jesus knows his time is short. He makes it so simple, but we confound ourselves. We want a religion that is hard. We want a religious challenge that we can succeed at, while others flounder. Jesus simply asks for love, a love that denies self to worship God alone and serve all first before ourselves. This love depends on faith. How else can one love someone one can barely comprehend? Jesus demonstrates this love by calling for the victim.

9:20 So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 9:21 Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 9:22 It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” I think this dad has been rescuing his boy from certain death for years. I reckon the boy is not a child anymore. He may be an adolescent now, bigger and stronger, while the dad is older and weaker. Without deliverance soon, the demon, with the strength of a teenage boy will succeed in killing him. The dad has no other resort, except this miracle worker named Jesus. The dad doesn't know if the miracle worker is able to do anything. Like Peter, he also has an incorrect understanding of Jesus's identity. I imagine Jesus responding with a chuckle and a wink. 9:23 Then Jesus said to him, “‘If you are able?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” With those few words, Jesus gives that dad hope, something he has lost. And the emotion of hope erupts from him and awakens faith. 9:24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It's short, easy to memorize, and useful in all situations. Jesus commends small seeds of faith. God delights in the existence of faith, not in its quantum. The dad is quick to admit his lack. God rewards the humble with his grace, see James 4:6, 7. Faith only grows by exercise. When we see God intervene on our behalf in small things we are able to trust Him for those greater things. This is why I believe God does answer prayers for parking spots. It's a kindness of His.

9:25 Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 9:26 It shrieked, threw him into terrible convulsions, and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He is dead!” 9:27 But Jesus gently took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. Jesus is not seeking a spectacle. He is not interested in using the boy for his own glory. He cares for the boy, his dad, and God's glory. Jesus loves God and loves his neighbor. Interestingly, I don't read of Jesus ever touching someone when he casts out demons. He only touches them after the exorcism. For a moment, the dad might have worried that the demon finally succeeded. But Jesus. Those two words change everything. In the presence of Jesus, the situation shifts in his favor, to his glory. The boy is restored to his dad, never at risk again of this demon.

The humiliated disciples wait until they have some privacy and ask Jesus what they were missing. 9:28 Then, after he went into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” 9:29 He told them, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” But who prayed? Jesus didn't. The only prayer I see is the prayer. The dad asked Jesus to help his unbelief and Jesus did. This indicates to me that the disciples were trying to do spiritual work without establishing a spiritual attitude and connections through the spiritual act of prayer. Everything is spiritual, so we need to always be in prayer, 1 Thess. 5:17.

Prayer increases our faith, our expectations, our worship, our humility.
Prayer demonstrates our weakness, our need, our humility, our dependence, our connection to God.
Prayer opens our eyes to God's plans. Prayer opens our ears to God's plans. Prayer opens our minds to God's plans.

The disciples didn't get it, but the dad did.

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Anonymous said…
This Sunday morning I'm preparing for Sunday School lesson on Mark 9:7.
Thanks for your inspiring words.
John Umland said…
you are welcome. where are you at?
God is good

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