And He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.”We hear about this so often--The Transfiguration. It's one of those things that probably has become cliche to us. But have we stopped to really imagine it? Jesus is there before them, as usual, when all of a sudden his clothes are shining with a blinding white light. He was changed, right there before their eyes. Exalted. Like all the special effects Hollywood of today can achieve, but there. In front of them. And suddenly Moses and Elijah were too.
2 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.
7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” 8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
11 And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
12 Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.”
I think I'd have been as in shock as Peter was. And really, what do you say? What do you ask? How to take it all in?
14 And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. 15 Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. 16 And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”
17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”
19 He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
I refer to this passage in A Soft Breath of Wind, since it deals with the casting out of demons. This is a glimpse into that spiritual world--that some demons are so entrenched in their hosts, a simple word isn't enough to cast it out. It requires preparation.
So why then was Jesus able to do it? I'm not going to accept the pat answer of, "Duh, he's Christ." Yes, I know this is true. But he was operating through the Holy Spirit here. And he'd given his disciples authority over unclean spirits. So then, the answer that comes to mind is that Jesus was always tending that spiritual health. We see him frequently going off for time alone to pray. Presumably also to fast. He was already doing what he was telling them they'd have to do too.
30 Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. 31 For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” 32 But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.We all know these verses . . . but they're still hard, aren't they? Because we don't want to be last. We want to be successful. We want to win awards. We want to be recognized. We want everyone to know if we're generous. We want people to talk about us with respect. We want love. We want authority.
33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
We each have our struggle, but it's common to a pretty big percent of us. But here Jesus tells us one of those profound, contradictory truths: the only way to get those things we want is to give up the desire for them. Give up the seeking of them. Give up reaching for them. And instead, humble ourselves. Serve. And do it, not just without expecting honor in return, but refusing it when it's offered. This is why He charges us with doing our good deeds in secret, so pride can't enter in.
38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 where
‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 46 where‘Their worm does not die,
And the fire is not quenched.’47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— 48 where‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.'
49 “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. 50 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.”
With the section breaks, it's easy to lose the flow of this, so sometimes I find it helpful to read it quickly, without those breaks. Jesus set the child on his lap and said that whoever received a child received Jesus. John says they rebuked people casting out demons in His name. Jesus says not to--and then immediately goes into the real danger being causing a little one to sin. And then the lengths we should go to, to keep ourselves free from sin.
Question for Mark 9: What does it mean to be seasoned with fire, and to have our sacrifices seasoned with salt?