Seeing Jesus – Part 2
Text: Mark 9:1-13
Main Idea: Listen to Jesus—he is more than a messenger from God, he is the very Son of God.
I. An Astonishing Promise (Mark 9:1)
II. An Unexpected Disclosure (Mark 9:2–8)
III. A Necessary Repetition (Mark 9:9–13)
What picture comes to mind when you think about Jesus? Do you see gentle bearded man with a lamb on his shoulders or children in his lap? Do you see a compassionate man healing diseases and eating dinner with social outcasts and sinners? Do you see a wise and winsome teacher confounding the Pharisees as he clarifies OT Scripture? Do you see a meek and humble Jesus washing his disciples feet? Do you see a sin-bearing substitute whose was ruthlessly mocked, tortured, and ultimately crucified for our sin? What image to you see?
Everyone of this images is accurate but they are wholly incomplete. What I mean by this is that even though these images rightly reflect Jesus’ earthly ministry, they fail to clearly acknowledge and celebrate his true identity. An identity revealed in our text today. Jesus is so more than a gentle servant, inspiring teacher, or divine messenger. Jesus is the Son of God who will return in glory to reward all those who believed his gospel and judge those who rejected it.
Main Idea: Listen to Jesus—he is more than a messenger from God, he is the very Son of God.
An Astonishing Promise (Mark 9:1)
A Continuing Revelation
A we begin it’s important to point out that our passage is intimately linked to the previous section. Mark 8:34 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Disciples don’t just listen to my teaching they abandon everything and follow me even if obedience leads to rejection, persecution, and execution.
But why? Why would anyone agree to such an uncompromising demand? Well, it’s because the self-denying requirement is accompanied by a clear warning.
Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Jesus it telling his audience, You think that you are safe because you were born and raised as an Israelite. But I am here to tell you that the very judgment you expect the Messiah to render against the pagan nations when he establishes his kingdom will fall on you unless you believe my gospel, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. If you are not my disciple in this life, you will never see my kingdom in the next.
Jesus is not being wicked here! He is not eagerly wringing his hands in anticipation of the coming judgment. He is calling everyone to who will listen to respond while they have the chance! Think about it:
- What if your boss promised you a 1-million dollar bonus at the end of the year if you showed up to work on time and worked an honest 8 hours (no web surfing or slacking)?
- What if your parents promised you new car after Highschool if you obeyed them and endeavored to love everyone in your family?
In both cases, the obedience is driven by a greater promise. In the same way, Anyone who follows Jesus in self-denying, cross centered discipleship understands that the future promise is far greater than the present cost. But, Jesus doesn’t simply conclude with this warning, he looks squarely at his disciples and promises them that, “some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (9:1).
A Question of Interpretation
I am raising this question because some scholars attempt to use this verse to prove that Jesus was a false teacher, in that, he did not return and establish his kingdom during the disciple’s lifetime. But, the problem with their accusation is that they are completely ignoring the unexpected disclosure of the transfiguration.
An Unexpected Disclosure (Mark 9:2-8)
Divine Glory Revealed (Mark 9:2–4)
The first thing I want to point out is that Mark is going out of his way to frame this event in terms of God’s OT interactions with Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Jesus takes three disciples up the mountain. Moses took three named individuals up the mountain along with 70 elders (Exodus 24:1,9)
Jesus is transfigured and his clothes become radiantly white (Mark 9:2–3). Moses’ skin glowed after he talked with God (Exodus 34:29).
God appears in a cloud and speaks from the cloud to the disciples (Mark 9:7). God appeared in a cloud and spoke to Moses (Exodus 24:16).
See, the Peter, James, and John are witnessing something that only two people in the entire history of the world have witnessed—God’s glory. Jesus is so much more than a man. He is God almighty in human flesh.
The second thing I want you to see is that the transfiguration is more than a revelation of Jesus’ preincarnate glory. It is the direct fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that some of his disciples would see “the kingdom in power” (Mark 9:1). A key text:
2 Peter 1:16–18 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the powerand comingof our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”
Peter himself is telling us that the transfiguration is the very moment that he saw the kingdom of God come in power. In other words, he got a glimpse of the resurrected, glorious, and exalted Messianic King Jesus. The coming King who is going to return with his holy angels and establish his eternal kingdom. See, the transfiguration does not “just” reveal Jesus’ inherent glory as God. It a gracious revelation—a stamp of authenticity—that Jesus’ call to self-denying cross-centered discipleship is not utter foolishness, it is the path to eternal glory. Because they have seen the King!
But, once again, Peter’s response reveals the fact that he and his fellow disciples are still struggling to see clearly.
Partial Blindness Exposed (Mark 9:5–8)
Now, Mark doesn’t tell us why Peter wanted to build tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on the mountain. And I don’t want to spend time speculating this morning because I’m not even sure that Peter had a good reason—He didn’t know what to say.
The fundamental problem with Peter’s proposition is that he is still lumping Jesus, Moses, and Elijah all into the same category. But, Jesus isn’t another divine messenger in a long list of divine messengers, which is why God the Father completely cuts him off and provides the proper explanation.
This is the second time the Father has spoken in Gospel of Mark and in both instances he is saying something about Jesus.
Mark 1:11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 9:5And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
Did you notice the difference between these two verses?
In Mark 1:11 God is talking to Jesus and affirming something about Jesus—You are my Son and I love you.
In Mark 9:5 God is talking directly to the disciples. And in his short address, he affirms something about Jesus and commands them to do something in light of this affirmation. His identity demands a proper response. Jesus is my beloved Son. Therefore listen to him.
This is why I believe the main idea of the transfiguration is this: Listen to Jesus—he is more than a messenger from God, he is the Son of God. What happens the very moment God finishes speaking? The disciples looked around and saw only Jesus (Mark 9:8). In fact, the sudden disappearance of Moses and Elijah has at least two implications.
First, it confirms the preeminence of Jesus. The Transfiguration is about Jesus and they need to listen to him.
Second, God’s command to listen to Jesus implies that his prior revelation through the prophets like Moses and Elijah is being superseded by the new revelation given through Jesus. It is to himthey must listen even when his teaching seems to clash with previous expectations.
And what are the first words out of Jesus’ mouth as they head down the mountain… the necessary repetition that he was going to die and be raised from the dead.
A Necessary Repetition (Mark 9:9–13)
A Confusing Command (Mark 9:9–10)
Notice, that up until this point in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus’ commands to silence have been absolute—”don’t tell anyone.” But, here his command to silence includes a specific expiration date. Jesus is clearly affirming his Messianic identity and reinforcing the counterintuitive trajectory of his Messianic mission just like he did after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi. He needs his disciples to understand both who he is AND why he came. Even more, he needs them to understand that his suffering ensures the very kingdom they desireBUT his Kingdom of power and glory will not arrive until after he has been resurrected from the dead.
But, the disciples are still struggling to understand because in their minds, resurrection was an event that happens at the end of the world not in the midst of human history.
Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Notice, resurrection precedes eternal life and eternal punishment not the Messianic kingdom. But, instead of rebuking Jesus as before they turn to him with an honest clarifying question so that they might listen and understand.
A Clarifying Question (Mark 9:11–13)
I want to begin by saying that these verses could use a sermon of their own. But, that said, I believe Jesus’ main point in these three verses is that Israel’s spiritual leaders are just as mistaken about the prophet Elijah as they are about the promised Messiah.
First, Jesus begins by asking, if Elijah’s role is really to restore everything, how then can Scripture predict the sufferingof the Messiah? The prophetic data does not add up. Their current models are broken. They need to reconsider passages that they have ignored and adjust their expectations to Jesus’ teaching.
Second, what the religious leaders and the disciples have failed to understand is that Elijah’s restoration of all things must be understood in light of the Messiah’s suffering. Elijah and the Messiah inaugurate the kingdom BUT in a completely unexpected manner—their suffering and death.
They need to understand that the promised prophet Elijah was, in fact, John the Baptist.
Matthew 11:13–14 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.
So, what is Jesus trying to tell his disciples?
He is trying to tell them Yes, Elijah precedes the Messiah, but he precedes him in humiliation, suffering, and death. But, humiliation and death are not the end because the transfiguration is a tangible promise that the kingdom of God will be established through his resurrection from the dead.
The promise of the transfiguration is that suffering and sacrifice are never in vain because Jesus is coming in power and glory to restore and reward everyone who remains faithful to him.
This is the reason his disciples of every century can deny themselves take up their cross and follow him. Your suffering is not an indication that your faith is in vain OR the gospel is a sham. No. Our suffering is a mark of authenticity because it is a reflection of Jesus’ suffering.
In addition to this, we can know that our present suffering and rejection in this life is inconsequential compared to the weight of glory that will be revealed when Jesus returns to vindicate his blood-bought people in the eyes of the entire world.
No matter what you suffer in this life as a disciple of Jesus Christ, it can never define you or destroy your hope of glory.
2 Thessalonians 1:4–7 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 5This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, whenthe Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.
This is the image of Jesus that we need to see as we struggle to follow Jesus in self-denying discipleship. This is the image we need to see as we struggle to follow him. He is coming in glory and when he does every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
A Plea to those who do not currently believe the gospel: Listen to Jesus
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
An Exhortation: The promise of discipleship is far greater than the cost.
- Teens and young adults struggling to find your place in this world as you strive to follow Jesus. The promise of discipleship is far greater than the cost.
- Spouses in mixed marriages—where one of you is a believer and the other is not—there are times where you’re your commitment to Jesus will lead to conflict in the home despite the fact that you truly love your spouse. The promise of discipleship is far greater than the cost.
- Anyone who is trying to navigate the ethical minefield of political correctness. The promise of discipleship is far greater than the cost.
I believe the antecedent of the personal pronoun “them” is “his disciples” because they agree in number, and gender (plural, masculine).
Mark L. Strauss, Mark, vol. 2 of Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 381.
David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 345.
Strauss, Mark, 386; Cf. J. C. Ryle, Mark, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Crossway Books, 1993), 129.
Strauss, Mark, 388.
Strauss, Mark, 391.