In my last blog, we looked at marks of Christian faith with a peek at self-denial in Mark chapter 8. Today we concentrate on self-denial a little more as we study Mark chapter 9. So give this chapter a read.
Just to give you a recap some highlights from the first seven chapters:
-Satan will come to you when you’re the weakest; Overcome temptations by knowing the Truth, the Word of God and trusting God to meet the needs of your life.
-Don’t be a careless Christian; strive to be holy.
-Riches and self-gratification aren’t a way to avoid suffering.
-Jesus came for the sick.
-Come to Jesus with faith and expectation.
-God made the Sabbath for man, not the man for the Sabbath.
-He is the New Wine and the fulfillment of Mosaic Law.
-Let the seed fall on good soil.
-Some seeds have small beginnings, but grow to be large providing much shelter.
-Even if you face perils, God will preserve you.
Caught up with the Flesh
Looking specifically at Mark 9:2-29, we see Jesus speaking of His resurrection. The disciples become intrigued with the idea of rising from the dead. Along their journey they come upon a large crowd that is attracted to Jesus with one other man holding the center of attention as his demon possessed son is unable to be healed by Jesus’ disciples. They are trapped by the angry, argumentative crowd. Jesus steps up and heals the boy and the discussion of the disciples shifts as they begin questioning why they couldn’t deliver the boy. Jesus tells them it is by prayer alone.
What are we meant to learn here? Why does Jesus have His disciples witness all of this?
He is allowing their faith to be fortified. He even lets them know why this is necessary, because He will soon leave them, and they will undergo fierce trials. He is reinforcing that He is Lord of all, He will return as He said. They need to remember what they had witnessed at the Mount of Transfiguration. It was a foretaste of heaven, a marvel both wonderful and terrifying! They were afraid of the supernatural event, because they were not yet suited for heaven.
If Jesus is The Beloved Son, the disciples must listen to Him, learn and remember His teachings. If this is true for them, how much more should we imitate them. The only way to learn these teachings is to study them, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and assist and provide opportunity for us to live them out.
The demon filled boy is totally symbolic of the corrupt world that fills us without the hand of Christ upon us. The demoniac also symbolizes death of the flesh of Jesus, and His resurrection. For the demoniac had a rebirth brought about by his deliverance. He was foreshadowing the coming events of Christ on the Cross. It was a rebirth, a resurrection.
Jesus then teaches that we can’t stockpile grace. Just as we can’t eat a huge meal on Sunday and think we can survive and run strong on it all week long, we need to eat good food daily, and through the day at that. It is the same for our spiritual welfare. We can’t just sit in church on Sunday. We need fresh encounters on a daily basis, to be victorious. This comes through prayer and studying the Word of God.
Jesus Riding on the Clouds
Read Mark 9:30-50.
We move to a section where Jesus is wanting to explain what is coming without distraction or interference. His disciples must have understood that, and that His words connected to Daniel 7. Jesus was the divine spirit Daniel referred to, although they know the exact context or events to connect them. Daniel 7:9-10 proclaims that while terrifying rulers and empires are on the throne, it is only for a season. God is firmly in control. We can apply this today. Chaos and the threat of more chaos from man and nature envelops us. Even so, God is present.
The image of a triumphant conqueror appearing on the clouds simply represents the divine hand of God intervening. This image reflects God’s mobility, moving with us in every circumstance, even the most difficult ones. Sometimes we are inclined to believe He is far-removed, uninvolved with us in this world.
Status and Self-denial
Understanding that some sort of dark hour was impending, just as many feel today, the thoughts of the disciples were fleshly. Rather than identifying with Jesus and His coming plight, they were concerned with ambition and status. Just like we are today. When questioned, they didn’t want to admit to Jesus what they were talking about. And we don’t want to admit how consumed we are with the flesh, either. But He already knows.
He explains status in His kingdom to us, and gives the first-last scenario. We miss this today. But understanding culture, the world in antiquity revolved around status, not money. The more “clients” you had, the more important you were, the higher your rank. A client was someone whom you granted a favor to, who couldn’t repay you. Consequently, anyone who was a client of the one you were servicing also became your client. The more clients you had, the more status.
The first-last scenario looked like this:
This was because only the Paterfamilias was allowed Roman citizenship and could own property. A woman could not earn her own living, nor could children or slaves. They had no chance at higher status.
But Jesus turned it on its head. Whoever is first (the head man of the household) will become last (the slave), and whoever is last, (the slave, or servant), will become first in His kingdom. If you want rank in the Kingdom of God, you must serve.
If you bless in word or deed someone because they follow Christ, God will remember you, and reward you. On the opposite, if you persecute or punish someone simply because they follow Jesus, or cause them to sin, severe punishment awaits. God sees all.
The writer Mark concludes chapter 9 teaching us how to deal with personal sin, as well as corporate sin. We are to preserve ourselves, and be at peace with ourselves, as well as with others. We are to keep away moral decay and corruption by cultivating holiness in us and others. This is brow-sweating, back-breaking labor. To cultivate. This is a farming word. You have to get down and gritty in the dirt and mire. So being holy isn’t something that grows naturally in a man. It must be cultivated. We must labor to preserve the unity, serve and accept one another. After all, we are one body. No part of the body hates another part. No part of the body is insignificant or without purpose or function. No one person in the Body of Christ can be a body all alone.
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…