Mark 9


‘After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’ Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant. And they asked him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.’ Mark 9:2-13

The mountain in question is either Mount Taber in modern-day Syria or Mount Hermon in Israel which is the highest mountain in Israel. Peter, James and John were with Him in Jairus house, the synagogue ruler, when Jesus healed his daughter, Luke 8:49-56.

Peter, James and John went with Him when He went to pray at Gethsemane, Mark 14:33. Why didn’t He take the other disciples with Him? Why did Jesus take only Peter, James and John up the mountain?

He simply was preparing them for leadership. Remember that Peter had just confessed that Jesus is the Christ. Mark 8:28-38. The transfiguration was the confirmation of Peter’s confession. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter was given the keys to the kingdom and Jesus says to him, ‘whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Matthew 16:19.

Which means he was given the right to teach the new law of forgiveness with its terms and conditions. James was executed by Herod, Acts 12:1-2 tells us that James must have been a man of influence or Herod wouldn’t have bothered to kill him.

John seems to be the quiet one but at the cross of Jesus, he was given the responsibility of looking after Jesus’ mother, which also tells us that by this time Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather was dead. John 19:26-27.

How do you feel the other disciples felt when Jesus only took Peter, James and John to certain places?

They possibly felt a little jealous, that’s possibly why they started arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Luke 9:46 / Luke 22:24. This could be with Jesus telling them not to tell anyone about what happened up on the mountain. Matthew 17:9.

Jesus had taken three of His closest friends with Him to a high mountain, there, he began to glow with breath-taking brilliance. This light was an outward appearance from within, the light came from within Jesus. John 18:6.

Just then, Elijah and Moses appeared, talking with Jesus, and the disciples were awestruck. Moses was the great Lawgiver, the one who had led Israel out of Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness. Elijah was a great prophet, one of two men in the Old Testament who went directly to heaven without dying and there they were talking to Jesus.

We don’t know how the disciples recognised Moses and Elijah, the only possible explanation is that God opened their eyes. Peter was profoundly moved by the occasion and suggested that they build three shelters, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

No doubt he felt that it would honour Jesus to receive a shelter alongside Moses and Elijah. Peter wanted to stay on the mountain for a while and enjoy the company but there was work to be done in the valleys.

But God’s voice boomed from heaven, ‘This is My Beloved Son, listen to Him’. The voice of God is very seldom heard in the News Testament, in fact only three times. Mark 9:7 / Matthew 3:17 / John 12:29. Moses and Elijah vanished and only Jesus remained. They used to listen to Moses and Elijah but now they must listen to Jesus.

As they descended, Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone about what had happened until after He was raised from the dead. Remember the disciples and the Jews as a whole had no concept of the resurrection, every blessing in the Old Testament was all about the land and long life. This is why the disciples never understood anything Jesus taught about the afterlife or they were afraid to ask Him about it.

The resurrection from the dead was a whole new concept. Jesus brought immortality to light, 2 Timothy 1:10.

The greatness of Jesus

God’s refusal of Peter’s suggestion to construct three shelters teaches volumes. The problem with Peter’s plan was that it put Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah, He isn’t. Jesus is above everyone in this case, above the greatest figures of the Old Testament era.

Our problem is like Peter’s. We often tend to build multiple shelters, one for Jesus and one for our parents or one for Jesus and another for our preacher, for our church, or a favourite activity, this won’t do. Jesus must have the only shelter, He must be the supreme authority in our life, nothing else can be on a par with Him.

‘When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked. A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’ ‘You unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’ So, they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can’?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.’ Mark 9:14-29

Notice as soon as the people saw Jesus they were overwhelmed, why? It’s certainly possible that just like Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai his face was radiant as he reflected God’s glory. Exodus 34:35.

But here the glory of God is Jesus and He’s isn’t reflecting God’s glory, He is God’s glory.

As Jesus descended the mountain, He noticed a great commotion in the valley, the crowd ran to meet Him. While Jesus had been with three of the apostles on the mountain, the others had been unable to cast a demon out of a boy. Since the apostles had normally been able to cast out demons, Mark 6:13, this failure puzzled them and surprised the bystanders.

Jesus’ enemies were taking advantage of this lapse to discredit Him, we can imagine how embarrassed the disciples must have felt as they were being ridiculed.

The father of the tormented boy asked Jesus to do something, if He could, the man obviously feels hopeless and helpless. Everyone thought the boy was dead. The Lord turned his statement back on him, ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.’

The father said that he believed, but recognising the possibility that his faith wasn’t as strong as it needed to be, he begged Jesus to help his unbelief. With that, Christ commanded the unclean spirit to leave the boy, the demon cried out and threw the boy into convulsions, but left. The Jews believed that no one could cast out a mute spirit unless you knew its name.

Later, the disciples asked why they had been unable to cast out the demon, Jesus explained that they weren’t relying on God enough, but on their own power, ‘this kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.’

Perhaps their prior success in expelling demons had caused them to be self-reliant, and they had neglected to pray in faith to God so that He would cast out the demon.


Time and again the disciples demonstrated a lack of clear spiritual understanding, they saw Jesus multiply loaves and fishes but failed to see that He could handle another food emergency. Peter affirmed that Jesus was the Christ, but thought it best to give Him some needed ‘advice.’ He believed Jesus was great, but on the same level as Moses and Elijah.

The nine disciples in the valley boldly attempted to expel a demon, but without relying on the Lord. They were like those formerly blind who even now saw men like trees walking.

‘They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’ Mark 9:30-37

Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples for the tragedy that was nearing. He warned them that He would be betrayed into men’s hands and be killed, but encouraged them by announcing that three days later He would rise again. The disciples didn’t understand, why? As we saw above the concept of an afterlife was foreign to them. 2 Timothy 1:10.

Why were they afraid to ask Him about it?

They didn’t understand the purpose of Christ’s death and they were too busy arguing about who would be the greatest in Jesus’ coming kingdom, in other words, they were struggling with pride, and they even argued about this during the Supper. Luke 22:24. This all happened at Peter’s house.

Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt?

He’s about to go and die for the world and all the disciples can do is argue about who is going to be the greatest. Notice that Jesus sat done, Jesus adopts the position of a teacher which signalled that teaching was coming. Knowing what they had been disputing, Jesus took a child into His arms and used him as a model of the humility that should characterise disciples.

It must have disappointed Him greatly to see the disciples competing for power while He was preoccupied with His coming suffering.

‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Everyone will be salted with fire. ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.’ Mark 9:38-50

John related how he had seen someone expelling demons in Jesus’ name and had forbidden him to do so. Evidently, John thought that no one should have been doing any work for the Lord who wasn’t following in their immediate company.

But Jesus had commissioned many to go out, preach, and expel demons. He was pleased with those who were faithfully serving Him in other places.

There seems to be some arrogance on the part of the disciples here against one they considered unauthorized to work miracles in the name of Jesus. This one may have been one of the disciples who was previously sent out by Jesus to cast out demons, Luke 10:1-17.

We aren’t told who this person was, he was simply doing this work in the name of Jesus. Whatever the case, the disciples weren’t happy with his work. Because he wasn’t in what the disciples considered to be the inner circle of disciples, they thought that he should be discouraged from his work.

They thus manifested their sectarian attitude, thinking that this disciple should be a member of their party before he could truly represent Jesus.

Jesus didn’t condemn the work of the disciple who was casting out demons in His name. It was the enemy of righteousness about whom the disciples must be concerned, not someone who was giving glory to Jesus by his works.

Jesus wants the disciples not to discourage the good works of those who are not of their social group. It is interesting in this context to note that this exorcist was doing what the disciples couldn’t do for lack of faith, Mark 9:18-19 / Mark 9:29.

Therefore, the effective work of the unknown disciple may have intimidated the disciples concerning their weak faith. Jesus’ teaching on this matter went beyond good works. His teaching focused on acceptance, not rejection. The disciples of Jesus must be known for their willingness to accept, not eagerness to find occasions for rejection. The disciples must learn how to receive those with whom they may disagree.

Jesus went on to warn of the danger of causing someone to fall, He said that it would even be better to tie a huge stone around a man’s neck and cast him into the sea than for him to cause another to stumble. He also warned of the danger of allowing anything to cause us to stumble.

Jesus stresses how serious we must be about possibly causing ‘these little ones’ to stumble. If disciples have an attitude of acceptance of others, they will be cautious about being an occasion for one to stumble.

Notice that the unquenchable fire, isn’t focused on the duration of the fire, but on the certainty, that it will exist to punish those who offend. Jesus wants us to understand that the punishment for sin will not go away. There will be a definite punishment for the wicked.

Jesus quoted Isaiah 66:24 where Isaiah said that ‘their’ fire isn’t quenched. It was the worm and the fire that consumed the dead bodies in the seemingly unending fire of the valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem.

Isaiah’s ‘fire’ was taken from the historical event of the burning of the carcasses of dead Assyrian soldiers after God killed 185,000 of them who sought to take Jerusalem. The bodies of the Assyrians were burned in the valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem. The event became the historical foundation for the metaphor that illustrated the final destruction of the enemies of God at the end of time, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

The Greek word gehenna also finds its meaning in the continuous fire that consumed the rubbish that was dumped in the garbage heap of the valley of Hinnom.

Jesus used the word ‘gehenna’ to emphasise the fact that offenders will face the punishment of the consuming worm and fire. His emphasis was on the fact that we cannot ignore the consuming fire, it will not go away.

However, that which is cast into the consuming fire will eventually be destroyed, Matthew 10:28 / 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. Therefore, it is best to cut off that part of one’s character that offends others. It’s best to cut it off least one cause another to stumble.

When Jesus speaks about salted with fire, He possibly reverts back to correcting in their lives that which needs to be brought under control. It’s the fire of persecution and trials that purifies our character, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

One’s work is also tried by the fires of life, 1 Corinthians 3:13. The fire, therefore, purifies the character of individuals in order to preserve them through life and prepare them for heavenly dwelling.

The purified character of the disciples would increase their effectiveness and impact on society, Matthew 5:13-16. As salt acts as a preservative, their Christian influence in society would preserve society. If one’s life doesn’t act as a spiritual preservative for society, then he has lost his Christian influence. He is of no value for kingdom business, and thus, not a proper candidate for an eternal heaven.

The Lord encouraged radical, decisive action, cutting off a hand or a foot or plucking out an eye in order to avoid abandoning Him. He wasn’t speaking literally, but He was forcefully declaring that we should sacrifice anything that is tempting us to sin.

He described Hell as a horrendous place of maggots and perpetual fire that must be avoided at all costs.

Go To Mark 10



"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."