This is a rough draft from chapter nine of my new book. It is a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark.
Chapter Nine – Missing the Point
When deciding what to look at in chapter 9 we are faced with a what at first appears to be a series of different situations and incidents. There is the transfiguration, the demon that could only come out by prayer and fasting, Jesus’s second prediction of His death, a conversation about who is the greatest, others casting out demons in Jesus’s name, and a series of warnings from Jesus. These things on their own present a difficulty when trying to decide what gets the little time together we have. However, there is a common theme that runs through most of these incidents. If you saw it at first, then, to be honest, you did better than I because I had to read and reread a few times. In most of these events, someone missed the point.
At the transfiguration, Peter missed the point by wanting to make three tabernacles. He wanted to make one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. I am not sure but it would seem that his hope was the other two would stay awhile. Peter made the mistake of putting these three on the same level. He foolishly thought the Messiah was about the same as the previous prophets. In Peter’s mind, as well as others of his time, Moses and Elijah were two of the greatest people to ever live. Moses because he led the children of Israel out of Egypt and then later the Law was given through him. Elijah because he was a mighty prophet. So mighty of God in fact that he was taken to heaven by chariots of fire. For them to come and speak to Jesus must have been a sight and only reinforced to Peter that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. The problem, as we said, is that Peter put these three on the same plain. Jesus however, is greater. The Father Himself actually corrected Peter by declaring “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”
Peter foolishly thought these three were the same but how many times have we foolishly placed things on the same level as Jesus? How many times have we missed the point and thought something was as big as God? A job. A death. A new child. A tragic loss. A debt we cannot pay. A new marriage. A failed marriage. A wayward child. There are good and bad things we put on the same plain as God. We elevate these things and build dwellings for them to stay and take up a place of high importance in our lives. Just like Peter we need to be corrected and reminded that Jesus is the beloved Son and it is to Him that we must listen.
This is my beloved Son; listen to Him. Mark 9:7
The next one to miss the point was the father of the possessed child. If there is anyone who gets a little extra sympathy from me, it is a distraught parent. I cannot imagine having to see your child go through something that you cannot fix. Seeing them suffer and knowing there is nothing you can do to fix the situation. Knowing that your child is hurting and you cannot take it away crushes you as a parent. This man did what he could, and he took the child to the disciples but they were not able to do anything. Enter Jesus. The man comes before Jesus and says “if you can do anything have compassion on us.” Have you ever reached a point like that? To just cry out to God and say “can you do something?”
The man for all his love for his child missed a point, though. It was not a question of if Jesus could do something. Instead, the question was did the man believe? The man questioned Jesus’s ability when in this case it was his faith that was in question by Jesus. Jesus was able to and did cast out the demon. He tells the disciples after that they could only do this by prayer and fasting. There is a common misunderstanding that surrounds this section of Scripture. I have heard people say to others that they do not have the faith to be healed and some site this verse as proof of their claim (that enough faith is needed) but there is a problem. The problem is that it is not the father who needed deliverance but the son. The faith of the son was not in question but that of the one bringing the petition to Jesus. In the same way, we should not be so quick to question the faith of the infirmed if we are praying to God for them. If we interpret this section correctly we should see the man is acting as the intercessor for another and his faith is questioned. The question we should ask ourselves is not do others have enough faith but do we?
I do believe! Help my unbelief. – Mark 9:24
The last thing I want us to look at is the way the disciples missed kingdom greatness. The disciples had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest in the kingdom but when Jesus asked them what they were talking about they had nothing to say. This is one of those things in the Bible that transcends time and culture. You do not really need to know about the historical setting or cultural nuisances in order to understand that the disciples wanted to know who was the best. This is not a specific issue to the disciples but a fundamental flaw inherent in all people. It is the desire to be important and to be known. In our day with cell phones, social media, blogs, and streaming video we can be famous for just being famous. We have people who are famous in our day just because they are on TV or just because they make on-line videos. They do not actually do anything nor have they studied for years to learn something they are simply famous because they are. It is very odd. That is just how it has come to work in the world and because it feeds our natural desire to be important and known we allow it hoping someday we will be known. In God’s kingdom, it does not work this way, though.
Jesus says that those who want to become great in the kingdom must serve. If you want to be exalted, you must be humble. If you want to be first you must be last. It is contrary to the way things work in the natural but in reality it should be. If Jesus has come to bring God’s kingdom, then we should understand that it is different than what we have. Jesus uses a child as the example of what we must be like. A child while loved does not have much to offer. They are dependent on the parent for everything. We must be like a child and be dependent on God. Not seeking our own but trusting in our Father for direction, provision, and instruction. A child thinks they know more than they do but as any parent can tell you their child is not as smart as they think they are. You and I are not as smart as we think we are. We think we know a great many things but God knows all things. To be great then in the kingdom then is to understand your place and serve those who God puts in your life. There are no famous people in the kingdom of heaven except God alone.
If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. – Mark 9:35
- How do you think Peter missed the point in putting Moses and Elijah on the same level as Jesus?
- Moses and Elijah are important in Israel’s history but not as important. What do we do things that are not as important as God?
- Are there things you have put on the same level as Jesus?
- How can we better prioritize these things in our lives?
- The father went to Jesus because he knew he could not do it himself, have you gone to Jesus for things that were beyond you?
- Do you ever wonder if God cares?
- Jesus asked the father if he believed; do you believe when you pray?
- The father confessed his need for his faith to be strengthened, have you ever acknowledged a lack of faith?
- What was wrong with the disciples wanting to be great?
- Do you desire greatness?
- What does it mean to be humble?
- What is the difference between true humility and false humility?