The Transfiguration: Mark does something a little different here- the promise that “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” Is placed right before the transfiguration. Peter, James and John, then, are witnesses to the Glory of Christ, right then and there. They see Jesus glowing with his eternal glory, and, make no mistake, HE is instructing Moses and Elijah, not the other way around. The Heavenly Father speaks, and he doesn’t say, “listen to Moses and Elijah,” he says, “Listen to my Son!” (do you think that voice was just for the three disciples, or was it also for Moses and Elijah to pay attention to?)
The Epileptic Boy: Just as in Matthew, Jesus comes down from the mountain to find the disciples facing failure.
In this account we hear the father’s desperate response to Jesus claim that everything is possible for him who believes. “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” The dad is afraid that he might not have enough faith for this miracle. But don’t worry: the one for whom all things are possible is not the dad, or the disciples, but God: God the Son has enough faith to believe his Heavenly Father will do what he has promised. The boy is healed, fully and permanently by the Heavenly Father in whom Jesus puts all his trust.
Matthew remembered Jesus words about the disciples little faith, Mark remembers Jesus bluntly telling them they lacked prayer (‘and fasting’, in some accounts). I am convinced that they are saying the same thing. It looks like the disciples forgot who the healer is. Question: “Why couldn’t WE drive it out?” Answer: ”YOU never could heal, it was always God who did it.” The disciples had forgotten that it was not their words or actions that changed things. It is God who changes things. Their faith was of little quality when it was confidence in themselves. Faith does not believe “I can do this” but “God can do this.”
In this lesson the disciples were reminded that no matter how many times they seen people healed or delivered, they never gained the power to do it themselves. It needs to remain a prayer, not a skill.
Who is the Greatest: Maybe you’re noticing how repetitious this is getting. You read this all before in Matthew. Yet the things that Matthew, Mark and Luke hold in common are of prime importance: repetition is a way of driving a point home. This message of being a servant to all is so contrary to our nature that it needs lots of repetition. The most important kind of fasting is to stop feeding our ego! That is also the kind of fasting that would have helped the disciples with the epileptic boy
Who is on our Team? In a lesson that has great modern relevance, the disciples are upset that an outsider was casting out demons in Jesus name. (Were they still stinging from their failure to help the boy?) But Jesus assures them that anyone who believes in Him is on the same team. ‘Whoever is not against us is for us’: This is the flip side of the saying in Matthew and Luke: there the Pharisees would not acknowledge Jesus, they opposed him. Here a man believes in Jesus’ name, and therefore is right with Jesus.
Jesus introduced a child as the example of a humble believer, and Mark puts this ‘who is not against me’ story here before Jesus goes on to warn about causing ‘one of these little ones who believes in me to sin.’ In doing so, we are cautioned not to be an obstacle to other believers who aren’t part of our congregation or denomination. Don’t cause them to stumble, instead “be at peace with one another.”
Jesus, thank you for the four gospels, and how they reinforce your teaching. Don’t just inform me, transform me, as your words shape my faith, character and behaviour!