Mark 10:32-39 32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.
We all can struggle with hearing the truth. Even when it is spoken plainly to us we can be oblivious as to what is actually being said. Why? Because with spiritual truth unbelief blinds our hearts. Pride prevents us from responding to the truth as we should and instead we act out in rebellion against God instead of obedience. Ultimately spiritual truth is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit as we respond to God in humility. This is plainly seen in James and John after Jesus declares for the third time that He would die and after three days rise again from the dead.
Just prior to this, the disciples had been deeply confused and concerned as Jesus sent the rich young ruler away. The ruler appeared to be a perfect Jew and was the type of leader that the disciples desired to emulate once Jesus formally established His new kingdom. Ever since Jesus reiterated to them that He indeed was the Christ at Caesarea Philippi the disciples knew that soon, they too by association with Jesus, would rule with Him. But the reality that Jesus would die they glossed over. They couldn’t understand. How could the Christ die? Jesus knew they would not believe (at least not until after the resurrection) and so each time He shares of His coming death and resurrection He provides more details. Now He mentions that He will be delivered by the religious leader over to the Gentiles in order to be killed. He would be mocked, spit upon, beaten and killed. Jesus would drink a cup of suffering. He would not yet be revealed in glory to reign but first would suffer all for all. He needed to provide the way for our salvation in dying for our sins in order that we could be forgiven. The disciples did not understand this. This truth was yet hidden.
So James and John foolishly come to Jesus privately and ask for special favor from Him. Do you ask for special favors from God? Do you go to God in prayer looking to be treated better than those around you? Are you trying to get into God’s “good books?” There can be great comfort in knowing that God treats every person the same. There are no favorites with God. There isn’t a way to gain favor with God or a shortcut to spiritual authority. He loves all of His children the same for those who will repent and believe in Jesus Christ. He loves us with an infinite and perfect love. The way He responds to us will be different based upon our individual personalities and life history and circumstances but we are all equally loved.
How sad it is when we seek God’s glory in the way the world seeks glory- by stepping over others and one upping them. The glory of man is to be the only one standing on the top of the mountain but the glory of God is to become the least among men. The cup of suffering brings down all those who truly know Jesus to an equal level and it shatters and destroys our natural desires for the glory of man. Jesus puts up with James and John’s request because He knows what is coming for them. They would be brought nearly to ruin by Jesus’ death. They would yet be broken.
Do not think that just because you are now a Christian that you have yet been set free from the trappings of this world. Our concern about what others think of us can and will deeply limit in what manner God may use us for His Kingdom. But what a blessing is the cup of suffering! Every true child of God will be forced to taste this cup. The cup of suffering is a right of passage for every true believer. There is no way to escape it. It is God’s method of breaking every Christian and bringing us into the right relationship with God where we place the needs of others above our own. We exalt others in the Kingdom of God because we are not concerned about our own position. We are not afraid of what others think of us because we know what God thinks of us. He loves us all the same. We are His children! I know that Jesus died for me! In spite of all our shortcomings and our insecurities and our sinful past and our ongoing struggles, He is at work in us! He is transforming us! And we thank Him for bringing us to drink from the cup of suffering!
I am not speaking of the cup of sin. In the book of Revelation is a picture of a woman with a golden cup full of all of her evils.
Revelation 17:4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.
The reality is that every sin comes with a curse. The taste that seemed sweet in the moment always turns bitter and there are always eternal consequences apart from true repentance. Every unbeliever is storing up wrath for the day of wrath:
Romans 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
The unbeliever does not know about this cup of suffering that the disciples would soon taste. They cannot know. For the cup of suffering for believers is a blessing. It is opposite of the cup of sin. The cup of suffering for the believer is at first bitter but then it becomes sweet. It is always hard but it brings the transformation that is absolutely necessary for us to be used by God for greater things. Once we have tasted of the cup of Jesus’ suffering we know Him in a way we never knew Him before. Have you tasted of this cup? Do you know Jesus in this way?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 10:23-31 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Jesus had just sent the rich young ruler away because he was not willing to give up everything to follow Jesus. This shocked the disciples as based upon outward appearance the rich young ruler was the perfect Jew and was the exact type of ruler that the disciples desired to be like in Jesus’ new kingdom that He was soon going to establish. They were unable to discern the true spiritual condition of the rich young ruler. The disciples still did not understand that Jesus was going to establish a new spiritual kingdom as He would form the Church: the body of Christ- a kingdom of individuals from every tribe and nation worshipping Him as their Lord and Savior. They had expected Israel to once again rise in prominence and to rule the world.
It devastated the disciples to see this ruler sent away. It made them question how anyone could be saved. In sending the ruler away their own hopes for the future were crushed. Jesus makes it clear that it is impossible through human effort for any man to be saved. Salvation is totally of God as He draws us to Himself and leads us into repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is at this point that Jesus encourages His disciples. Their hopes had been crushed and so He rebuilds them. He confirms to them that they were born again. They had given up everything to follow Jesus. And He confirms to them that they would indeed rule in His Kingdom. In Matthew 19:28 Jesus says:
Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
In all these things Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure. In order for them to lead His Church they needed to shake this false idea that they would soon rule over Israel in glory and splendor. They would rule over the twelve thrones of Israel in the new world- in the future perfect eternal Kingdom of God but not yet. For now they had to become the last. For now they had to be willing to be mistreated by family. For now they had to be willing to give up material wealth and earthly pleasure. For now they had to be willing to be persecuted. The Church is composed of believers filled with humility living in a manner that is absolutely contrary to the world sharing the Good News to a lost and dying world. Based upon outward appearances the Church is weak and foolish but in reality it is filled with spiritual power and blessings.
Jesus confirms to His disciples that every true follower of Him will receive a hundredfold blessing in this lifetime. In spite of the hardship and rejection experienced by following Jesus, in spite of the sacrifice and persecution that will come, the blessings of following Jesus far exceed the life that we once lived. There is a hundredfold blessing in this lifetime for all who follow Jesus. The spiritual blessings that we receive for being in union with Jesus Christ are far and above anything the world can offer. The riches that the young ruler possessed were nothing compared to the spiritual blessings that the disciples had already experienced by following Jesus and the many, many amazing experiences yet to come. Pentecost was soon coming when divided tongues as of fire would rest upon each one of them and they would be filled with the Holy Spirit. They would see the Good News of Jesus Christ spread around the world.
But even greater than the spiritual blessings promised in this lifetime to every true follower of Jesus is the future promise of eternal life! If we only knew what eternal life is really like we would have no trouble in sacrificing here and now for Jesus Christ! If we only knew the reality of the perfect eternal Kingdom of God we would turn away from all temptation to evil that surrounds us here and now and we would be willing to suffer all in proclaiming the Good News to the lost around us! The disciples were not yet fully living their lives in light of this future glory. They were still looking for glory upon this earth. How foolish are we in seeking the same? Let us set our eyes heavenward and live here and now in the light of the glory that awaits us and not think that it is here and now that we are living for. Why would anyone want the glory of this broken world? Why would anyone want the fading glory that can be found in a sinful world? Live for what is to come! Live in humility and sacrifice for your Lord and your Savior Jesus Christ! Live as the least and not as the greatest and you will be amazed at who you will become in the future. Jesus Christ will raise you up to glory if you are truly living your life for Him- if you are willing to submit to Him in every way and to fulfill His will for your life. He intends to use you for His glory here and now and to one day in the future reveal His glory within you!
Can you see how Jesus is slowly breaking down the disciples false ideas of what it means to be in His Kingdom? Do you still have false ideas of what it means to follow Jesus? If you are truly born again, you are progressively being sanctified; you are progressively being made holy. You are already separated from the world; you have been set apart unto God and are no longer of this world. You belong to Him! You are a child of God! Do not keep looking at the world around you as if you still belong to it. You are already in the spiritual Kingdom of God. The disciples struggled to understand this and we can struggle in the same way. Let go of your false ideas of what it means to be in the Kingdom of God. Submit to the teachings of Jesus Christ and He will lead you into untold blessings here and now and in the future eternal life. One day we will rule with Jesus Christ! One day we will be exalted! One day we will be glorified with Him forever! In light of the future glory we live here and now as servants of Jesus Christ in all humility.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 10:17-27 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
At this point in Jesus’ public ministry He had told His disciples that He would soon formally establish His Kingdom but that He would die and rise again. They could not understand this and fell back in their thinking that Jesus, as the Christ, would rule over the nation of Israel and they became excited that they would be soon given authority and power to rule beside Him. There was still so much about the spiritual Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing that they did not understand. They were not yet ready to rule with Him even though the disciples in their own minds believed that they were ready. They were proud and needed correction.
A rich young ruler appears before Jesus and begins to question Him. In every respect this was an admirable man. He was probably not unlike Saul who became the first king over Israel. He was likely tall, handsome, strong, wealthy, smart and well respected by the people. He would have been highly regarded by the Jews as a man of God who strictly followed the Old Testament law. In every way this man would have been recognized as a great leader and only greater things could await him. Based upon outward appearance he was the perfect man- the perfect Jew. This man would have made the disciples think to themselves, “Could I rule in Jesus’ kingdom like this ruler?” And yet this rich young ruler was not born again. He had not yet even entered into the Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing. He was still on the outside and yet he was highly regarded and respected by all of the people. He was a great man and yet lost and would be lost forever unless he came to a place of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Of course Jesus could see the spiritual condition of this rich young ruler. He could see the wicked state of his heart in spite of the external greatness that was hiding his lost soul. But how shocking that this man was outside the Kingdom of God! For even when he approaches Jesus he knelt before Him in what appears to be humility and asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Whatever motivation was for the ruler to ask Jesus this question we know that it was impure because of how Jesus responds. He says, “No one is good except God alone.” Based upon Jesus’ response it is obvious that the rich young ruler did not recognize Jesus as the Christ- the Son of God in the flesh. The ruler had knelt before Jesus in all likelihood looking to be praised for his actions but he was unwilling to bow his heart before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Deep down the ruler was ruling his own kingdom apart from Jesus Christ and was unwilling to give up his authority to the authority of God.
As Jesus reviews the Ten Commandments relating to loving your neighbor as yourself, the ruler confirms his belief that he is innocent before God. He cannot see the condition of his corrupt heart. Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and to follow Him but he is unwilling to do so. The ruler leaves Jesus’ presence in great sorrow. How shocking and confusing for the disciples to see what had transpired. Why did Jesus make it so difficult for this man? This great man left in disappointment whom the disciples would have expected to be a great asset to Jesus. This ruler could have opened great doors for Jesus and provided an “in” to the leaders in Jerusalem. But Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world. He does not rule with anyone but is ruler over all. He does not need the help of any great man to establish His Kingdom. His Kingdom is above all.
The reality is that every single person who is a true follower of Jesus must be willing to surrender everything they have, including their very life, to Jesus Christ. If we are not willing to give up everything we cannot be in His Kingdom. He does not necessarily expect us to sell all that we have and become physically poor to become a Christian. But we must be willing to become spiritually poor and naked before Him. We must bow our heart before Him and not just in a form of external show as the rich young ruler. We must truly be sad over our sin and our sin nature to the point where we genuinely repent and not just become sad that it is difficult to follow Jesus and leave His presence disheartened. We will never experience the joy of being in the Kingdom of God if we do not first taste the sadness and difficulty of genuine repentance.
Jesus taught the disciples at this point that they could not recognize the true spiritual condition of a human soul. They said to Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” They were not ready to rule. Jesus humbled them through His dealings with the rich young ruler. He once again shook the foundations of what they thought they believed. In order to prepare them to rule within His Kingdom which was spiritual in nature they still needed correction and preparation.
Are you still like the rich young ruler? Are you trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle? Are you trying to do the impossible in ruling your own kingdom and yet thinking you can still be in the Kingdom of God? There can only be one ruler and that is Jesus Christ. Submit to Him. Surrender to Him. Or, are you like the disciples at this point? Are you a born again Christian but you still look at the world around primarily through your physical eyes? Do you think that the Kingdom of God is primarily about material wealth and status and honor and recognition among men? Do you wrongly assess the spiritual condition of those around you? Let Jesus humble you as He humbled the disciples here. Without this change you will not see clearly.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 10:1-16 1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
There is a natural tendency in all of mankind to compare ourselves with others. When a child is young their knowledge of the world is very limited. What they know of the world is seen primarily through their home and through the eyes of their parents or guardians and siblings. As they begin to go to school and ride a bike and go to different places their understanding of the world will grow beyond their family. And as they grow there is a natural desire to feel accepted and to be praised by others. Their identity is intrinsically associated with how their parents view them and love them and then as they grow based upon their friends and peers and eventually coworkers and society as a whole. But every person’s true identity is found in their relationship to God. This is the most important thing.
The disciples had a direct and personal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. They walked and talked with Him. They believed that He was the Christ who came to save them. As Jesus walked upon this earth as a man over two thousand years ago He was establishing a new kingdom- the Kingdom of God. But Jesus acted in a manner that was very different than what the disciples had expected. As the disciples continued to follow Jesus it became harder to still believe that He was the Christ. And yet they kept following Him. When Jesus questioned them about His identity Simon Peter still identified Jesus as the Christ. At this point Jesus makes it clear to them all that He will soon formally establish His Kingdom but then He adds that He must die and rise again. Once again, this is not what the disciples expected and instead of humbling themselves and seeking God for the meaning of this hidden truth, they reverted back to their false beliefs of the Christ and believed that soon Jesus would rule over Jerusalem and they each would be given power and authority in His earthly Kingdom. They still struggled to see that Jesus was establishing a spiritual kingdom of individuals from every tribe and nation. They were in confusion and their unbelief blinded them.
At this point the Pharisees enter the picture again. They were among the religious elite in Israel. They were highly regarded for their religious fervour as they performed all kinds of external religious acts. But in fact they were separated from God. Their identity was found not in their relationship with God but in their favour with the people around them. And so they try to trap Jesus in a question about divorce. Jesus directs the conversation from divorce to adultery. The irony is that the Pharisees had committed adultery in their relationship with God. And adultery according to the Old Testament law was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). The Pharisees had condemned themselves from the very question that they asked to try and trap Jesus.
But what was the underlying problem of the Pharisees and the struggle of the disciples at this point? They were not willing to humble themselves before God. Their relationship with God was not the most important thing but rather how they were perceived by others. They desired to be great or at least better than the closest people around them. Their identity was not found in and through Jesus Christ. And so once again Jesus uses children to teach them. He says in verse 15: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Jesus had previously taught the disciples in Mark 9:36-37 using a child but it is obvious by His repetition here that they still did not understand. They still had not repented of their sin. Here He declares His teaching even more clearly. To enter into the Kingdom of God requires receiving it like a child. The Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus Christ, at its foundation is not difficult to understand. You don’t have to become a great person in society to make sense of it. You don’t have to have a great intellect or become a Pharisee or a philosopher or have lots of money to enter into the Kingdom of God. Rather it is often more difficult for those who are considered great to enter in. Why? Because it is a spiritual kingdom that is spiritually discerned. And God will never reveal this Kingdom to those who are filled with human pride- whose identity is found only in how other people perceive them. But He is willing to reveal His Kingdom to those who will receive it like a child- who will humble themselves before Him and recognize that the most important thing is what God thinks of them. Their relationship to God is the most important thing. Their sin has separated them from God and they are condemned to eternal death apart from Jesus Christ’s saving work upon the cross by dying in their place. Everything that they have believed about themselves and the world around them up to this point has been based upon a broken relationship with God. Until their relationship with God is restored it does not matter what their relationship with other people is like. To become like a child is to stop dead in your tracks and re-examine everything that you have known in light of this truth. To become like a child is to turn to Jesus Christ as the only means by which you can have a relationship with God. And when we get off track in our understanding of the truth as the disciples had at this point, we need to return to the simple truth of becoming like a child.
Do you know that you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? The only way to receive the Kingdom of God is to become like a child. Humility before God is the only way in.
Pastor Murray Hack
Isaiah 9:2-6, 7 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 3 ... 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
At this time of year we celebrate the incarnation- the Son of God entering into creation. God is an infinite, all powerful being. He is soooo great! He has to be greater in size than the universe that He formed and He created all things simply by speaking them into existence. He can make something out of nothing. It is impossible for any creature within creation to ever create something out of nothing. He exists outside of creation as well as transcends all of creation. His handiwork is seen in all of creation as His fingerprints exist everywhere from the human eye, to the birth of a child, to DNA and so on. God is awesome! He is above all and no one is greater than He is. God, in all of His attributes, is perfect in every way. There is no fault in Him. There is no way to defeat Him, to overpower Him, to trick Him, or to cause Him to sin. He transcends time and knows the end before the beginning. He knows who are His from the foundation of the world. He rules over all of creation and is exalted above all as the only non-created being. He exists in three persons and determined the plan of salvation before Adam and Eve fell. Everything goes according to His perfect plan. He is sovereign over all.
And because of who God is He can never be viewed as anything less than who He really is. He is unchanging: absolutely perfect and glorious and majestic. He is worthy to be praised! But there is only one way by which mankind could be saved. God had to enter into creation not in all His glory but to be exactly like us in every way apart from sin. The only way to save us was for the Son of God Himself to live in perfect obedience to the Law of God and to stand against all the temptations of the devil. This was the preliminary requirement to provide for our salvation.
And so the Son of God entered into creation in weakness exactly as we enter into creation: as a baby. A baby is weak and fragile. It is completely dependent upon its parents for survival. A baby cannot live on its own. And yet the Son of God could have been born into a family of power and privilege among men, as in the home of a great king. He could have been raised by Pharaoh’s daughter like Moses was. He could have had all the advantages and protection among men. Also, His physical weakness could have been only temporary. A baby is weak but a child can grow up to be strong. As the Son of God entered into creation as a man He could have grown physically to be taller and greater than all of mankind. He could have still appeared as a “lion” among men.
But this was never God’s intention. The Son of God would not enter into creation demonstrating great power and majesty but rather humility.
Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
Not only is it more humiliating to be defeated by someone who appears to be weaker than you as Jesus would defeat Satan as a man upon the cross, but by the Son of God appearing in creation in humility rather than majesty, this only magnifies the greatness of God. The infinite, all glorious, perfect God becomes even greater to us in light of the humility of Jesus Christ. For in glory, the Son of God cannot demonstrate humility. Jonathan Edward writes:
“Infinite glory and the virtue of humility, meet in no other person but Christ. They meet in no created person; for no created person has infinite glory: and they meet in no other divine person but Christ. Humility is not properly affirmed of God the Father, and the Holy Ghost, that exist only in the divine nature; because it is a proper excellency only of a created nature; for it consists radically in a sense of a comparative lowness and littleness before God, or the great distance between God and the subject of this virtue; but it would be a contradiction to suppose any such thing in God.”
God cannot be humble because of who He is. But as a created being the Son of God could be humble. Do you understand this profound truth? Jesus Christ chose to be humble in order for His glory to be more glorious. The salvation that He provided for mankind is more amazing and astounding because He, as a perfect, infinite, all powerful being became the least among men. His victory over the devil is more astonishing when you understand how He defeated His powerful enemy. The greatest manifestation of power ever displayed was in perceived weakness as Jesus provided the atonement for our sins as He died in our place upon the cross.
Jonathan Edwards also writes, “It was in Christ's last suffering, above all, that he was delivered up to the power of his enemies; and yet by these, above all, he obtained victory over his enemies. Christ never so effectually bruised Satan's head, as when he bruised his heel. The weapon with which Christ warred against the devil, and obtained a most complete victory and glorious triumph over him, was the cross, the instrument and weapon with which he thought he had overthrown Christ, and brought on him shameful destruction. Colossians 2:14, 15, “Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances- nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” In his last sufferings, Christ sapped the very foundations of Satan's kingdom; he conquered his enemies in their own territories, and beat them with their own weapons; as David cut off Goliath's head with his own sword.”
Isn’t the humility of Jesus Christ amazing? Do you recognize how far down He stepped in coming into this world to die in our place? We all have our times where we are brought low, when we feel everything is stripped away and we are as nothing. But any decline in our position is absolutely nothing in comparison to what Jesus Christ has done. He came into this world as a baby for you! He suffered all on the cross for you! He died for you! At the same time He is filled with majesty. He desires to raise you up to glory! Cry out to Him! Worship Him!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 9:42-50 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown 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 has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
No person in their right mind would think that it is okay to abuse a child. A child is dependent upon their parents or guardians, teachers, and others for everything in life. They cannot provide for themselves. They are vulnerable and weak and trusting in all things. They are innocent and sweet and deserving of love. Jesus is using a child as a picture for His own disciples who were in confusion after Jesus first reveals to them that He is going to die and rise again.
Although the disciples did not believe that the Christ, their Savior would die (for how could salvation ever be provided through death?), they did recognize that Jesus was soon going to formally establish His Kingdom. In the book of Matthew we read that Jesus even uses a new word: “church.” Jesus would establish the church when He later sent the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended into heaven. This is the first time the word “church” is used in the New Testament and the disciples would have recognized the change in Jesus’ ministry at this point.
Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
But most of all the disciples thought about themselves. I suspect they were disillusioned at first on hearing that Jesus would die, then tried to fit Jesus’ teaching into their wrong understanding of the Christ. They justified their unbelief and they continued down a wrong path of understanding. They fought amongst themselves about the authority that they would receive in the new Kingdom. They became jealous of someone else casting out demons in Jesus’ name who was not among them. Jesus would leave them in charge of the Church but at this point they were not ready to be given such spiritual authority hence the illustration of the child. At this point Jesus would not trust them with any of His children. Jesus had renounced the teaching of the Pharisees and the religious leaders but how foolish were the disciples to think that at this point they were ready to replace them. There was no unity among the disciples at this point. They would individually rule and not Jesus Christ if they keys of the Kingdom were given to them at this point.
Right now, If Jesus gave the disciples little ones who believe in Him to care for they would cause them to sin. Why? Because of their bad example and their limited understanding. One of the many qualities of children is how they copy and imitate their parents. They become like them. They trust them. They believe them. A little one still has limited understanding and can be easily misled. Jesus is saying to the disciples, “If I give you the authority that you desire right now I will have no choice but to bring judgment upon you.” And Jesus gives them a very strong and powerful rebuke about a millstone hung around the neck of those who harm His little ones (new Christians). Such false leaders are to be thrown into the depths of the sea. How great is the responsibility of any who are called to authority in Jesus’ Church.
Jesus’ rebuke of His disciples does not end there. He then speaks about hell and reiterates that no sin will be permitted in His Kingdom. Sin must be cut off and cast away into the lake of fire forever. It will not be permitted in the presence of God. It doesn’t matter how great or small our disobedience to God is. God is holy and the servants in His Kingdom must be holy. Jesus expresses the urgency of the disciples recognizing their sin and repenting. He brings hell before their eyes and shows them how terrible it will be: ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ (verse 48). Our only hope is to be united to Jesus Christ through faith and for the Holy Spirit to be actively at work in us as we walk with God. The disciples needed to repent. How often do we need to be reminded of the seriousness of sin and the severity of hell?
Jesus closes with another illustration about salt very similar to what is recorded in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Salt is a picture of preservation from the contamination of the world as it is used to preserve meat and is very important without refrigeration. But old salt is useless. So too would the disciples be as leaders at this point. They would ultimately become like the Pharisees and they would be useless and ultimately be destroyed. Jesus calls them to have salt in themselves and to be at peace with one another. Jesus gave them a similar command right before His death upon the cross:
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
At this point the disciples did not have peace with one another. They did not love each other as Jesus loved them. They were competing with each other. But in the future they would be united to each other and to Jesus Christ by the Spirit of Christ. They would be ready to lead the Church. Jesus later said of the disciples:
John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The blessing of the Church is that true unity can be found in the body of Christ as we are all united to God through Jesus Christ and to each other in the Spirit. There is no competition or disunity in the true body of Christ. In the true body of Christ we are one in the Spirit and we are led by those whom God has specifically prepared for leadership in the Church. Do you know this unity in Christ? Have you experienced the true Church of God? Do you know Jesus?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 9:38-41 38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
Immediately after Jesus revealed to His disciples that He was going to the cross we see how ill prepared they were for His departure. First, they flipped the teaching of Jesus to fit their pre-existing ideas of what the Christ should be like. Secondly, they showed the pride that remained in their hearts as they had been told a secret by Jesus of whom no one else knew. And now thirdly, they show their jealousy of someone who was not of their own special group.
The secular world teaches in many ways that jealousy is a good thing. Those who are so driven to rise to the top in sports, entertainment, business, etc. often do so as they are looking over their shoulders. They may be passionate and competitive but often underneath it all is a constant comparing themselves to those around them and a sense of insecurity. Often unhappiness is revealed if anyone rises above them and gets the recognition that they are striving for. Usually when someone rises to the top they compromise their beliefs to achieve their goal. They do whatever it takes to become successful and to receive the accolades of their fellow man.
But not so with those who are in the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught the disciples just before this passage in verse 35, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” There is no concern for the Christian to compromise their beliefs to achieve the top for the Christian never makes this their goal. Our goal is to glorify God in any way that we are called to serve Him and it does not bother us if someone else in the Kingdom of God receives more recognition than us. For we do not desire our own glory but that God would be glorified through us. This is a profound truth and removes any desire for us to become better than anyone else if we are truly living within this reality. We are not concerned about the unbelievers around us who may walk over us as they are clawing their way upward. We are not looking for the recognition of man but of God Himself. We are content just that we are in His Kingdom and that we can serve God in any way. We are so thankful for the salvation that Jesus Christ provided for us in dying upon the cross in our place and we are amazed that He would choose us to carry on any of His work here upon this earth in furthering His plan of salvation in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are content simply in our relationship with God as we are right now at this very instance and we rejoice in Him! While we still desire to grow in holiness and to honor Him in a greater way and to love Him even more than we do now, we have peace with God even now. And because we have peace with God we are not jealous over anyone. We have complete trust in God and our relationship with Him. We do not struggle with insecurity or fear. We are satisfied. We are content. We are full in Him and yet we desire to know Him more, please Him more, and to love Him more. We have all that we need and yet we seek Him.
But the disciples were not yet in such a place of trust and faith in their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In all of this we see that the disciples still had a shaky foundation. They have a very limited view of the Kingdom of God and yet I’m sure they all thought that they were ready to rule in God’s Kingdom. They desired to be at the top and were influenced by the religious leaders in Jerusalem in how to get there. Their understanding was limited. You can see how the things of God can only be spiritually discerned and are foolishness to the world for they are often the very opposite of what we expect. Who would expect that to receive a child in Jesus’ name would be receiving Him? Who would expect that someone would get a reward for simply giving a follower of Jesus a cup of water? These are not great and amazing acts and yet they can bring glory to the infinite, all powerful, all knowing, ever present, unchanging, all loving God.
Imitation is flattery. This man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name was trying to copy what he saw either Jesus or the disciples do. Was his understanding limited? Yes. Absolutely. He was not among those who were directly following Jesus. But so were the disciples yet limited in their understanding. How often is the very thing we condemn in others a reflection not upon the one we accuse but upon our own condition? How blind we can be to see the true state of our own heart!
Why would Jesus allow this man to cast out demons in Jesus’ name if his understanding was so limited? Ultimately to bring Himself glory. To show love and compassion to the people who were set free. Also, to draw them to Himself as well as the man who was used to set them free. And finally to show the disciples that the Kingdom of God did not belong only to themselves. God is always working through others to complete His purposes. There is only one way of salvation but there are many people beyond ourselves whom God is using in this world to fulfill His purposes in advancing the Kingdom. Often they may be people that we believe have a limited understanding of God and His plan of salvation. While that may be true the reality is that all of us are limited in our understanding of the infinite God. The born again Christian knows Jesus Christ. They have repented of their sins and their sin nature and have looked to the Son of God as the only means of their salvation as He died for them and rose again that they may have new life in Him. They are true followers of Jesus as the disciples were and yet their understanding is still limited. They are still growing in their walk with God.
If the disciples only knew where Jesus was leading them. As Jesus was going to the cross He was bringing the disciples with Him. They would yet be refined by fire and they did not know it. They would be brought lower: lower than they could comprehend. Jesus knew what was needed to purge these evil desires from their hearts. While now they were deciding who among them was the greatest and jealous over another man it would not be so as Jesus died upon the cross. As Jesus died the disciples would flee. They would be afraid for their lives. They did not understand what Jesus was doing. They would be filled with guilt and shame and there would be no jealousy at this point. But as they were brought low Jesus was preparing them to be leaders in His Kingdom. The way up is down. Don’t believe that God cannot use you because of your low estate. Seek Him with all your heart and God can glorify Himself where you are.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 9:30-37 30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
What makes a secret a secret? Nobody else knows. The disciples of Jesus had been taught a secret- that He would die and after three days would rise. Nobody else in Israel knew this. As Jesus and His disciples returned to Capernaum in Galilee from Caesarea Philippi where He had first told them, they returned in secret not drawing crowds as they had done previously. Although the disciples had doubted Jesus when He first told them about His death and resurrection and unbelief had crept into their hearts, they had been reassured by the demoniac boy being set free. Jesus healed the boy when the disciples had been unable. He was still sovereign over all and in control of all things. All of this took place after Jesus had given Peter, James, and John a glimpse of His future glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. They had been shown in what manner Jesus would appear after He had risen from the dead.
None of this made any sense to the disciples. They continued to follow Jesus but did not understand what He meant when He told them that He would be killed by the hands of men and after three days rise. But they did remember that all of this happened after Peter declared to Jesus that He is indeed the Christ which was also to be a secret (Mark 8:29-30). The disciples had previously believed that Jesus was the Christ when they began to follow Him but He acted in a manner that none of them expected. The Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing was not the same as the nation of Israel that they expected Jesus to rule. This is why it was not a simple thing for Peter to provide a correct response to Jesus’ question of who they thought He was. Jesus was establishing a new kingdom that would be manifest on earth by the Church.
As they returned to Capernaum they knew something about Jesus that no one else knew. They must have sensed a change in tone in the actions of Jesus as He prepared to go to the cross. But instead of seeking God in humility asking for understanding for what they had just heard, they drifted back to what they had previously believed. They made Jesus’ teaching fit into what they thought they already knew about the Christ. And instead they added to it an elevated view of themselves believing that because of the secret that they had been told that they would soon receive positions of power in Jesus Christ’s Kingdom. Adding to this struggle for power was the fact that Peter, James, and John had been given an additional secret separate from the rest of the disciples as they had witnessed Jesus transfigured on the mountain but were told not to tell anyone what they had seen until after Jesus rose from the dead.
How dangerous pride can be. So soon after being in utter confusion about what Jesus had told them, these same disciples were fighting over which of them would be greatest in His Kingdom- a kingdom of which they still did not understand. They knew their argument was not pleasing to God for when Jesus asked them what they were talking about they refused to answer.
How does Jesus correct them? He tells them in verse 35, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” He utterly destroys their prideful ambition by telling them to be last of all. How humbling it is for a person at the front of a line to be told to go to the back. How natural it is for us to seek our own desires above the needs of others. And then Jesus takes a young child in His arms. He says in verse 37, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” The disciples saw the greatness of Jesus as the Christ and desired in a prideful manner to be nearest to Him in power and authority in His Kingdom. A young child does not demonstrate any strength or ability but rather weakness and dependence upon their parents. None of the disciples would rather take care of the child in Jesus’ arms for the day instead of being in the presence of Jesus and yet Jesus says whoever receives a child in His Name, receive Him. They could draw nearer to Jesus in caring for that child than they could in the arguments about who was the greatest.
In all these things Jesus conveys the idea that His Kingdom is a kingdom of humility. All those in the Kingdom of God see their utter depravity and realize that they do not deserve to be among those who are saved. The servants of God are not aspiring to be greater than each other but rather are willing to do the most trivial and meaningless task. And yet the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than the most powerful man on earth. The disciples were still thinking of the Kingdom of God as an earthly kingdom in spite of all that Jesus had already taught them about this spiritual kingdom that is here and now in the presence of Jesus and will one day in the future be established for all eternity.
Can you honestly say that you desire to be last of all? Are you living your life only for the glory of God or are you hoping to be recognized by those around you as someone who is great? None of the disciples were recognized by the religious leaders as great men but as they followed Jesus they still fell into pride. It’s a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus will reveal to you amazing things and even secrets of which an unbeliever will never comprehend. And yet, we are to show the utmost humility. We are not to boast in what God accomplishes through us but simply give God the glory for what He has done. We are to be like Jesus who became the servant of all in dying for you and for me:
Philippians 2:6-8 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 9:14-29 14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
This miracle took place after Jesus came down the mountain with Peter, James, and John. On the mountain His image was transfigured into a picture of His future glorified state. When Jesus rose from the dead He walked upon this earth in a glorified body- the reward for His perfect obedience to God and His submission to the will of the Father in dying for our sins. Jesus was going to the cross and before the transfiguration He had just told His disciples for the first time that He would die. Of all the difficult teachings that Jesus had taught His disciples, this was by far the most shocking and challenging. If Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Christ and was establishing the Kingdom of God, why would He die? If He could perform all the miracles that the disciples had already seen, why would He not prevent His own death if someone tried to kill Him? Was the devil more powerful than God? It made no sense.
The scene that transpired as they came down from the mountain consisted of the remaining disciples being challenged by the scribes- the Jewish leaders who knew the Old Testament writings better than anyone else. At the centre of their dispute was a demon possessed child.
Neither the disciples nor the scribes were able to help him. This boy had been brought by his father to be set free by Jesus but he did not find Jesus but only His disciples. The demon had complete control over the boy. The demon prevented the boy from speaking or hearing and would throw him around even trying to kill him in the fire. From childhood this boy had been utterly helpless because of the demon and was completely powerless.
This boy pictured perfectly the current state of Israel. If the true followers of God are walking with Him as they should the devil have complete control over them? No. The devil will be forced to flee. The devil’s power over man is because of sin and Israel was filled with wickedness. If the true followers of God are drawing near to God the devil has no power:
James 4:7-8 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
This is why Jesus said in verse 19, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” But why could the disciples not cast out the demon? The answer is their unbelief. Unbelief had crept into their hearts as a result of them being taught that the Christ would die. They were struggling intensely with believing this. A lack of faith was developing in their relationship with Jesus. They doubted Him and in turn they could not pray to God as they should. They could not see the Kingdom of God manifest in their midst because their relationship with God was in a damaged state. They did not believe. They doubted God.
Jesus knew what He was teaching them was difficult. He knew they would not fully understand until later but they needed to keep following Him. The disciples needed to follow Him to the cross. Before He died they would scatter but only temporarily. But here and now Jesus could not lose them. They needed reassurance that He was still in control and they could still trust Him. So the unbelief of the father was a picture of the unbelief of the disciples. It was the disciples who could also say, “I believe; help my unbelief!” They had given up everything to follow Jesus and yet now Jesus challenged them with the teaching of His death of which they did not and felt that they could not believe. But Jesus encourages them to keep following Him. He was saying, “Don’t give up following me now that it is becoming difficult and uncertain. I am still in control. I still have all power and authority. Submit to Me. I will lead you through this!”
Jesus demonstrated that He would have absolute control over what would happen to Him on the cross as He casts out the demon from the boy. The devil would try to destroy Him upon the cross but the devil has no power over Him. It was His Father’s will that He would die for our sins. It was the Father who would pour out His wrath upon the Son as He died upon the cross in taking the punishment for our sins. And by Jesus’ own power, and the power of the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus would rise from the dead! The devil could not destroy Him! Jesus would remain the King of the Kingdom of God! He could not be defeated!
All of us, if we are true followers of Jesus will have times in our walk with Him where we struggle with what He has called us to believe about Him. We all will have moments where we can likewise say, “I believe, help my unbelief.” In these moments, if we are genuinely seeking Him with all our heart, Jesus Himself will reassure us that He is still the only one we should follow. He is the way to heaven. He is the only means of our salvation. He will encourage us to keep following Him and in time we will believe. He is still in complete control. He still has all authority and power. He will raise us up for His glory! We will see Him in His glorified state! Believe!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 9:1-13 1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” 2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
How easy is it in our day to trivialize the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So many movies and novels take the idea of a hero figure coming to a point of near defeat or injury or death and then suddenly rising victorious. While fewer people within our country claim to be Christians, the idea of someone rising from the dead doesn’t seem that shocking and amazing. It is easy to become desensitized to the amazing miracle and power of God as seen in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No one is foolish enough to claim that they can raise themselves from the dead but Jesus made such a claim and carried it out just as He had declared beforehand:
John 10:17-18 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He has told the disciples for the first time that He would die upon the cross and rise from the dead (Mark 8:31). He plainly revealed to them His ultimate goal. How confusing this must have been for them! The Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing upon earth was to be ruled by a King who knew He would be defeated. What could this mean? What purpose could there be in His death? If He had the power to see His own death why would He not prevent it? After Jesus shares this confusing information with His disciples there is this amazing scene upon the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus allows three of His disciples to see His future glory. They are allowed to see a picture of what Jesus would look like after the resurrection. His appearance changes and His clothes become radiant, the disciples recognize Moses and Elijah, a cloud appears, and they hear the voice of God! All of this overwhelmed Peter, James, and John and we read the foolish actions of Peter in wanting to build three tents. It was utter confusion and then suddenly they were alone with Jesus again.
What they had seen was to be a secret until after Jesus rose from the dead. Why? This was all very mysterious and confusing for Peter, James, and John. But it was the appearance of Elijah that they tried to make sense of as they walked down the mountain to meet the rest of the disciples. Jesus had taught the disciples to beware of the teaching of the religious leaders and so they questioned whether what they had been told by the scribes was correct. They had been taught that Elijah would come before the Christ was revealed. Did Elijah rise from the dead? Jesus confirmed that they had been taught correctly in this regard based on:
Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
But Elijah did not physically rise from the dead. Jesus confirmed that this passage spoke of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John understood this. John the Baptist came in the likeness of the great prophet Elijah and prepared the way of the Lord. He preached a message of repentance and pointed all of his followers to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ. So did Jesus mean a similar thing when He spoke to the disciples about His resurrection? Was Jesus’ death and resurrection somehow symbolic and not literal? It had to be a literal death. Jesus would physically rise from the dead. And yet there was deep and profound spiritual meaning significant to all of mankind and all of creation. All the significance and the meaning of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension would remain hidden from the disciples. They could not be told the meaning of what they had just seen until after He had been crucified. But although they did not yet understand, they did recognize both John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth for who they really are. The religious leaders in Israel did not and neither did most of the Jews.
Herein lies the amazing manner in which God will reveal Himself to us. Little by little we know more of Him as we seek Him with all our heart. The disciples continued to be challenged at every step of the way as they followed Jesus and so will we. If you do not feel challenged in your walk with God it is probably because you are not seeking Him with all your heart. If we seek Him, we will find Him, but there is always more of God to be revealed! When Mary became pregnant with Jesus as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant with John the Baptist. As Elizabeth felth John leap in her womb at the presence of Jesus, Mary responds in Luke 1:46 “My soul magnifies the Lord...” Does your soul magnify the Lord? From your small and insignificant perspective is the great and awesome God becoming greater to you as you look to Him? Have you seen how much He loves you in that He sent His Son Jesus to die for your sins? Do you have faith in His Name?
We know that without Jesus’ death and resurrection there would be no way that we could know God and be with Him forever. But has your soul magnified the Lord in what He has done to provide for your salvation? Do you continue to examine the cross of Jesus Christ or has it lost all significance to you? On the cross Jesus died for you. Your sins were placed upon His body as He died to take the punishment that you deserve. He died to save you! He rose from the dead to give you new life! When we magnify the cross of Jesus Christ we see ourselves dying with Him and we see ourselves rising with Him to new life. This is faith: to see Him as He is!
Pastor Murray Hack