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Studying Mark's Gospel: Transformation and Exhortation

Lesson 13: Transformation and Exhortation (Mark 9)

 

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW

 

Lesson 12 focused on Jesus’ two important questions demanding an answer: Who do you say I am, and who will you live for? The compassion of Jesus was in action once again as He fed the multitudes. They experienced physical fullness, yet Jesus wanted them to experience the fullness that knowing Him brings. Throughout the rest of Mark 8 there was a running theme of blindness vs. true sight. The Pharisees had blinded themselves out of bias against Jesus, seeking a sign from Him while many signs had already been done, even right in their midst. The disciples allowed themselves to be blinded to the truths Jesus was trying to teach them through all these things. They then came across a blind man who was restored to seeing clearly again, a living symbol of what God was trying to teach them (and us) through this all. The chapter then closed with Peter’s inspired claim that Jesus was the Messiah, then his flesh-inspired rebuke of the Lord, Jesus’ harsh redirection, and Jesus’ teaching about the cost of discipleship. 

 

The chapter also closed out the first section of our studies. As you may remember from our Introduction, Mark is divided as follows:

 

I.  Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, Mark 1:1-8:26 (Lessons 1-12)

II.  From Galilee to Jerusalem, Mark 8:27-10:52 (Lessons 13-15)

III.  The Passion of the Son of Man, Mark 11-16 (Lessons 16-22)

 

At this time, Jesus “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 nkjv), and in this middle section of Mark we’ll see how there is a definite change in things from Caesarea Philippi on. As far as the chapter division between Mark 8 and Mark 9 is concerned, most people consider that Mark 9:1 should have been actually Mark 8:39 for it ties in with what Jesus was saying then, but also in what is covered in chapter 9.

 

DAY ONE: Transformation and Illumination

 

Please carefully read Mark 9:1-13 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  In transition between the end of Mark 8 and the events of Mark 9, what amazing thing did Jesus say after proclaiming the establishment of His physical Kingdom at the end of the age (9:1)?


2.  Six days later, Jesus took the inner circle of the disciples (Peter, James, and John) with Him on a special journey, which became one of the most amazing things in the earthly ministry of Jesus. How do verses 2-4 describe this event?


The word transfiguration in Greek is metamorphoo, from which we get our word metamorphosis, a change into another form, to transform, to transfigure; here from a natural form to a supernatural form.[i] It describes a change on the outside that comes from the inside, and serves as a preview of the full establishment of the kingdom of God at Jesus’ return.[ii] This transfiguration was a change that began with what was already in the heart of Jesus rather than by some outside force, and His essential glory was revealed.[iii] With Him were Moses, who represents the resurrected souls, and Elijah, who represents the raptured believers.[iv] I believe it was Greg Laurie who said that the miracle wasn’t that Jesus transfigured Himself like this, but that He kept it from happening all the time! This important event is recorded in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but for some reason John didn’t choose to include this in his Gospel as one of the signs Jesus performed.

 

3.  Peter and the others were totally awestruck. At such an awesome moment which we don’t understand and which seemed to them no doubt that the literal kingdom had arrived, it is best not to say anything. But poor Peter was so blown away, he couldn’t help himself. What did he blurt out, and what was the response to this (v. 5-8)? How should Psalms 141:3 be part of our daily prayer to the Lord in view of our tendency to just shoot off our mouths?

 

4.  After this was completed, they headed back to join the other disciples, and interestingly Jesus told them not to tell anyone else about it until He died and rose again. How did these three react to this, and what else did they question Jesus about in view of the transfiguration (v. 10-13)?


5.  God warned Peter (and us today) to “hear Him” or listen to His beloved Son. That phrasing is a present imperative, speaking of continuous action: “Be constantly hearing Him.” The verb “hear,” akouo, in this context does not merely refer to the act of hearing, in the sense of listening to, but to the act of obeying what is heard in response; so we need to be constantly listening to Him and obeying what He asks of us. How did all of this fulfill the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15-22, and how did Peter himself use this experience in 2 Peter 1:16-19?

 

Scripture Memory:  This week we will be memorizing Mark 9:48. Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely.

 

Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another. Mark 9:50 (nkjv)

 

DAY TWO: Opposition and Compassion

 

Please carefully read Mark 9:14-24 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  After the mountaintop experience came the valley, the return to reality. Waiting for them was an unusual scene. What was going on at the time (v. 14-18)?

 

This situation revolved around the failed disciples, the crowd, the father, and the boy. The crowd interestingly was amazed when they saw Jesus coming; Mark frequently uses similar terms to describe how the people were reacting to Jesus, but this particular word is used only by Mark and only here, in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33), and at the empty tomb (Mark 16:5-6).[v] We probably underestimate how mind-blowing Jesus and His teaching were to the people of His day, being quite radical in the view of the establishment of the day. He was literally amazing to those who saw and heard Him. Is He to us?

2.  This poor young man was exceedingly tormented by a demon drastically dominating him. Some have seen parallels between this type of demonic activity and epilepsy, but epilepsy and demonic possession are distinguished in Matthew 4:24; the parallels could indicate that the spirit gained access to the same centers in the brain where seizures could also be induced by other means.[vi] What was Jesus’ harsh reaction to this, and what happened as the boy was brought to Him (v. 19-22)?

 

3.  How did Jesus redirect the man’s asking Jesus for help in this, and how did this distraught father respond (v. 23, 24)?

 

4.  The father’s honest response to Jesus was immediate, laden with emotion; in fact the term cried out means an inarticulate cry, as though he couldn’t get the words out, but honestly asked Jesus to help his unbelief. That was all Jesus needed to hear, and we’ll see the results tomorrow. “He declared his faith (I do believe), but also acknowledged its weakness: Help me overcome my unbelief! This brings out an essential element of Christian faith—it is possible only with the help of the One who is its Object.”[vii] We saw that the miracles in the first section of Mark had a theological purpose as well as one to teach His disciples, and this one would too.[viii] But from this desperate father we learn that we could have all the faith in the world but if it is misplaced it will do no good, but weak faith placed in the One who can respond is all God needs, and He’ll take care of the rest. How does Luke 17:5-6 tie in with this?

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Salt is good, but if the salt loses its _____________________, how will you season it? Have ________________ in yourselves, and have _____________________ with one another. Mark 9:50 (nkjv)

 

DAY THREE: Restoration and Redirection

 

Please carefully read Mark 9:25-32 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  A bigger crowd was gathering and this was becoming a big scene, so Jesus took action. What did Jesus do, and what happened (v. 25, 26)?

 

2.  Was this boy really dead? We aren’t told for sure, but the Greek word for dead occurs 132 times in the kjv and all 132 times it is translated “dead.”[ix] Mark’s description suggests the idea of resurrection.The second and third verbs in v. 27 are often used in connection with resurrection. The account has much in common with the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:41-42). This exorcism is also a preview of Jesus’ own death and resurrection as well as the resurrection of believers.[x]

 

Jesus and the disciples left pretty quickly after this. What did Jesus tell the disciples about why they had failed to cast the demon out of this young man (v. 28, 29)?


3.  What did they do from there, and why did Jesus not want to linger in Galilee (v. 30)? What did He clearly tell His disciples at this time, but what was their amazing reaction to this (v. 31, 32)?

 

4.  We look at these disciples and wonder why they didn’t get these things. Jesus had to repeatedly teach them the same lessons over and over; He gave them the same repeated guidance and forewarning about His coming death, yet it was a shock to them. Tomorrow’s study leads us to an even more amazing display of their hard-headedness. But this also sounds a bit familiar to those of us who needed the same help of Jesus to overcome our doubts and confusion. What would Peter, who seemed most frequently to need such redirection, later say about why we need this repetition in our spiritual life and learning (2 Peter 1:12-15; 2 Peter 3:1-2)?

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Salt is ____________, but if the salt loses its _____________________, how will you season it? Have ________________ in yourselves, and have _____________________ with _____________ another. Mark 9:50 (nkjv)

 

DAY FOUR: Pride and Unity

 

Please carefully read Mark 9:33-41 and answer the following questions.

 

1. They next reached Capernaum, and Jesus knew some whisperings had been going on between His disciples on the way. What did He ask them, and what had they been doing (v. 33, 34)?

 

2.  Many in Jesus’ day were concerned about their individual rank within the community. Pride and ambition are temptations in every age, especially today. Mark correctly analyzed that the disciples’ attitude was at the heart of the problem.[xi] How did Jesus redirect and humble their self-seeking attitude (v. 35-37)?

 

3.  What did John tell Jesus that they had done, and how did He redirect them in view of it (v. 38-41)?

 

4.  Nothing will undermine the unity and effectiveness of a church or group of believers like such self-seeking attitudes and exclusiveness. The Greek has verse 34, “But they kept on being quiet.” Kenneth Wuest related:

No wonder. Our Lord was facing a cruel death, and they were nursing their ambitions. They were ashamed. Swete says that the dispute as to who should be greatest, was probably suggested by the selection of the Three for the mysterious ascent of Hermon, and the prominence of Peter among the three.[xii]

What are some of the things are necessary for believers to walk and serve in unity with each other according to Ephesians 4:1-7?

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Salt is ____________, but if the salt _________________ its _____________________, how will you ______________________ it? Have ________________ in yourselves, and have _____________________ with _____________ another. Mark 9:50 (nkjv)

DAY FIVE: Extreme Exhortations

Please carefully read Mark 9:42-48 and answer the following questions.

1.  In many ways believers should approach Jesus like a small child, and He compares us with them several times. Jesus suddenly turned from His exhortation about pride and disunity to something extremely serious. What was the first extreme thing He said (verse 42)?

2.  A large millstone was literally in Greek “a donkey millstone,” a heavy, flat stone turned by a donkey when it was grinding grain; a small hand mill (mylos) used by women (Matthew 24:41).[xiii] Also, punishment by drowning someone this way was no doubt familiar to Jesus’ disciples; death without burial including death at sea was “regarded as the worst kind of death; pagans even believed that the spirit of the deceased hovered eternally over the waters where the person had died.”[xiv] So this was pretty extreme, but Jesus really laid it out for them next. What extreme exhortation did He give them, and why (v. 43-47)?

Jesus uniquely could relate to man the horrors of hell, and His warnings are drastic, but if such a place exists (and indeed it does), then what wouldn’t we do to stay out of there? John Grassmick helps us understand the origins and meanings of this horrid place:[xv]

The Greek word geenna (“Gehenna,” trans. “hell”) is transliterated from two Hebrew words meaning “Valley of Hinnom,” a place south of Jerusalem where children were once sacrificed to the pagan god Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5-6; Jeremiah 32:35). Later, during the reforms of Josiah (2 Kings 23:10) the site became Jerusalem’s refuse dump where fires burned continually to consume regular deposits of worm-infested garbage. In Jewish thought the imagery of fire and worms vividly portrayed the place of future eternal punishment for the wicked (cf. the apocryphal Judith 16:1 and Ecclesiasticus 7:17). Jesus used the word geenna in 11 of its 12 New Testament occurrences (the one exception is James 3:6)... Where the fire never goes out is probably Mark’s explanation of Gehenna for his Roman readers. The worm (internal torment) and the unquenchable fire (external torment) (quoted from the LXX of Isaiah 66:24) vividly portray the unending, conscious punishment that awaits all who refuse God’s salvation. The essence of hell is unending torment and eternal exclusion from His presence.

3.  Jesus then turned from addressing the warnings of hell to experiences here on the earth. What does He say about this in verse 49, and how does this also tie in later with what Peter wrote about trials in 1 Peter 1:6-9?

4.  Salt not only cleanses, it preserves. What did Jesus exhort His followers to have and to be (v. 50)?

Pure salt cannot lose it saltiness. What was used as salt in ancient times, however, and especially what was gathered from the Dead Sea in Palestine, contained many impurities, and it was coarse, impure, and very susceptible to deterioration. If the true salt were removed, what remained might still look like salt but could not perform the life-giving and life-saving function of salt. A person may have the external appearance of a disciple, but not the internal properties. Such a life can’t be regained like salt that has lost its saltiness.[xvi] What a warning for us!

Scripture Memory:  Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day.

Mark 9:50:

 

DAY SIX: Following Christ

1.  The Transfiguration no doubt was one of the most amazing things to have ever happened on this earth, and demonstrates that Jesus is indeed not just the Son of Man, but Son of God. We too, though, go through a slow, step-by-step transformation from what we are to what He is making us to become: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). What do you see when you look in your earthly mirror? Do you see more of Jesus and less of you? How about when you look into the most accurate mirror of all, the Word of God, which reveals just how far or not so far we have come? How are you going to pursue being more transformed into His image, and how does 1 John 3:2-3 encourage you along the way:  “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (NKJV)?

2.  The disciples seem to have lost sight of the fact that it is God who accomplishes healing or deliverance, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and they had to be dependent on Him to carry it out successfully. Prayer is one expression of that dependence, an aspect of faith which the disciples either forgot or failed to learn, and led to their failure with this young man and his desperate father.[xvii] What are some things you can learn from their failing example in this and in their prideful self-seeking that you can do to avoid such a failure and disgracing the One that we serve? Share some thoughts here so your group can talk about how to do this.

3.  Mark 9:42-48 contains metaphors that mustn’t be taken literally, and neither must they be ignored. Jesus used the most startling metaphors possible to show that the possession of spiritual life is worth the most costly sacrifice. Whatever endangers spiritual life must be totally removed even as a surgeon amputates a limb that endangers the life of the rest of the body.[xviii] If we plucked out one eye, we could still sin with the other, or cut off a hand, etc. Evidently some of the most ascetic among the church in the second to third centuries practiced self-emasculation to avoid such a thing although the church had prohibited such a practice, including the godly Origen who as a young man overly literally read a similar passage, Matthew 19:12, and when he was starting to be bothered by concerns over “female catechumens,” he emasculated himself to avoid sexual sin; he regretted this later and vehemently wrote against such a practice.[xix]

The question before us then is two fold: What have you done about your eternal destiny, and what are you doing to see as many as possible avoid spending eternity first in hell and then in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20) after Jesus’ Millennial reign? How can you more effectively witness to those around you by your words as well as your life of their desperate need to turn from sin to the only One that can deliver them from this place? 

On July 8, 1741, a scrawny man bent over a podium, squinting at and mechanically reading word for word the text of his sermon that Sunday. Today we may think that people either slept or snuck out of church during that long dry message, but this was not the case. Jonathan Edwards had delivered one of the most famous sermons in history at which people were crying out before he finished, “What must I do to be saved?” The sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, described the horrors of the state of the unsaved as they entered eternity.[xx] Yet here in the Twenty-first Century, Satan has done all he can to convince people there is no such thing and for us not to worry so much about it. Consider these prophetic thoughts: General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, defined it when he said: “I consider that the chief dangers which will confront the twentieth century will be: Religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without regeneration, morality without God, and heaven without hell.”[xxi]

Wow! He’s reading today’s newspaper you’d think. Think about what you need to do differently to warn people about their need for Christ because of your love for them.  

Scripture Memory:  Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory.  Do so now, and keep on reviewing it so you will be ready to share it with others in your group time.

Mark 9:50:

 


[i] Unless elsewhere noted, all Greek word/phrase translations are based on the following:  A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997);  James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:  Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order, Electronic Edition (Ontario:  Woodside Bible Fellowship; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996); M.R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002); Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament:  For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997); and Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary:  New Testament, Electronic Edition (Chattanooga:  AMG Publishers, in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1992, 1993, 2000).

[ii] James A. Brooks, Mark.  In David S. Dockery ed., The New American Commentary, Vol. 23 (Nashville:  Broadman Press, 1991), p. 147; Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1 (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, Inc., 1989), p. 141.

[iii] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Winona Lakes:  BMH Books, 2005), p. 125.

[iv] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2004), p. 190.

[v] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark, p. 195.

[vi] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 158.

[vii] John D. Grassmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, 1983), p. 145.

[viii] James A. Brooks, Mark, p. 145.

[ix] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:  Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order, Electronic Edition (Ontario:  Woodside Bible Fellowship; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

[x] James A. Brooks, Mark, p. 148.

[xi] Brooks, p. 150.

[xii] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Studies in the New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co; in Bellingham:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1984, 1997).

[xiii] John D. Grassmick, Mark, p. 147.

[xiv] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, p. 160.

[xv] Grassmick, p. 147.

[xvi] Grassmick, p. 148; Brooks, p. 154.

[xvii] Roy B. Zuck and Darrell L. Bock, A Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1994, 1996),  in Oak Harbor, Washington, Logos Research Systems Inc.

[xviii] Brooks, p. 153.

[xix] Jonathan Hill, The History of Christian Thought (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 2003), p. 43. 

[xx] John D. Currid, Introduction to Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, 1992), p. 3-7.

[xxi] Tan, P. L. 1996, c1979. Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations: [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Bible Communications: Garland; In Oak Harbor:  Logos Research System, Inc.

© 2005 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2005-2006. 

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