The Necessity of Defining Jesus (Mark 9:9-13)

The Necessity of Defining Jesus (Mark 9:9-13)


I.) The Age Without Definition

We currently find ourselves living within a time were definition means very little. True, we clearly see this in the secular world, but its deadliest form has manifested itself among the church. We must come to acknowledge we live in an age of the church where little is defined by many. Since biblical terminology has not been clearly defined, biblical illiteracy and gospel ignorance have been allowed to run rampant.

Understand, until something is clearly defined it is left in the realm of the subjective, meaning people will define it according to their own understanding. The gospel’s power does not lay in the surface truths of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, but in the substance of them. This is why some Christians can sit under a false teacher and not even realize it. They will hear the terminology, but interpret it according to their personal understanding, and not the teacher’s.

This is illustrated by the fact you could put a Christian, a Jehovah’s Witness and a Mormon in the same room, and ask them:

“Do you believe in the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ?”

Each will say, “Yes!”

Each will be talking about a different Jesus Christ.

Q.) How do you know?

A.) Ask each one to define the Person of the Jesus they teach, and ask each one to define the work of the Jesus they teach.

Once everything is clearly defined you will be left with three different Jesus’, but only One of which can save people from their sins.

Q.) Does Jesus care about people correctly understanding His Person and work?

The text will answer this question for us.


II.) Wrong Christ, Wrong Gospel

We gaze into a text that describes the after math of Peter, James and John having just gazed upon the glorified Christ in His transfigured state. Not only did they witness Jesus in His glorified body, but they saw Moses and Elijah as well. They not only saw, but heard the three discussing Jesus’ death in Jerusalem.[1] They are discussing the very matter Peter previously rebuked Jesus for after He affirmed Himself to be the Messiah.[2]

Q.) What was Peter’s issue?

A.) Based on his understanding, the Messiah would not suffer and die at the hands of men.

Peter is not only corrected by Jesus on this, but God the Father as well Who declares on the mount:

“This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!”[3]

In other words, “Listen to what He says about Himself and His work, for He speaks nothing but the truth.”

After all of this the text tells us:

Mark 9:9

Q.) Why does Jesus command them to refrain from telling “anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man should rise from the dead?”

A.) Just as Peter and the disciples did not have a correct understanding of the true work of the Christ, neither did the rest of Israel.

Israel believed their Messiah would come and save them from the oppression of the Roman Empire by destroying it, and establishing His kingdom. Israel understood a forerunner would prepare the way for the Christ to accomplish His work.[4] The last thing Israel ever heard from God before four hundred years of silence was this:

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”[5]

If they come down from that mountain proclaiming they had seen the glorified Christ, and Elijah, they will further perpetuate that misunderstanding. They were to wait until the Christ was raised, for His resurrection would have proved that He did not come to destroy and conquer Rome, but Satan and sin.[6]

If we get the Person and work of Jesus wrong, we get the gospel wrong, for the good news is found only in His clearly defined Person and work.


III.)    Struggling to Grasp the Cross

As the disciples make their way down that mountain they struggle to understand “what rising from the dead might mean:”

Mark 9:10

The Greek word for “Seized” here conveys them wanting to take hold of Jesus’ statement in such a way that they are seen as master over it.[7] They firmly grasped it in a desire to understand what He meant. Realize that the disciples are not confused about the nature of resurrection in a general sense. Resurrection from the dead was not new to Jews. This is evident in Jesus’ conversation with Lazarus’ sister Martha after his death:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother shall rise again.’ Marth said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’”[8]

Based on Daniel 12:2, Israel understood there would be a resurrection to either eternal life or death:

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”

Q.) If the disciples believed there to be a resurrection, what are they struggling with?

A.) How resurrection from the dead relates to the revealed Son of Man, Jesus.

They could not marry their understanding of the Messiah with Jesus’ teaching. Consider their understanding of the Son of Man, who Jesus clearly referred Himself to be, from Daniel:

“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like the Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”[9]

They understood the Christ to be given a kingdom that “will not be destroyed.” Yet, six days prior to the transfiguration, Jesus stood before them and said:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

This not only entails the brutal death of the long awaited Christ, it means Israel’s leaders who are esteemed among men as “loving” God, hated Him. Talk about an offensive message to Jews:

“The One you thought would come and destroy your enemies, was destroyed at their hands.”

“The men you thought to be closest to God actually abhorred Him so much they delivered Him to be destroyed.”

Jesus’ teaching on His work as the Son of Man did not leave the disciples with the establishment of a kingdom that will never see destruction. It left them with the Son of Man who would experience nothing but that at the hands of men.


IV.) Where Has Elijah Been?

In their wrestling with Jesus’ statements they being to ask a question:

Mark 9:11

They ask a really good question here, which is based on a correct understanding of the forerunner. I believe their train of thought was this:

“If you are in fact the Son of Man, why hasn’t Elijah been doing the work God said he would do?”

God said in Malachi that He would send His “messenger” to clear the way for Messiah.[10]

As we have already noted the messenger is later identified as Elijah, who would:

“…restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”[11]

This conveys bringing about repentance towards God in such a way that man can escape the curse.[12]

The disciples rightly acknowledged Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God:

Q.) Why had they not seen Elijah preparing His way?

This would have caused them to consider how Jesus could be the Son of Man if Elijah did not come.

Look at Jesus’ response:

Mark 9:12

Jesus affirms their understanding of Elijah, but challenges them on their knowledge of the Son of Man that seems as if He is saying:

“If you clearly understand this is what God says about Elijah in His word, why don’t you understand what He says concerning His Son?”

The clearest text that comes to mind on the suffering and work of the Son of Man is Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53

Jesus’ point is then this:

1.) It is true that I cannot be the Son of Man unless Elijah comes according to the Scripture.

2.) It is equally true that I cannot be the Son of Man unless I suffer and die at the hands of godless men according to the Scripture.

He draws them back to the truth they wrestle with.


V.) The Spirit and Power of Elijah

At that point one of them could have wrongly concluded that Jesus was not the Son of Man, because Elijah had not come, so Jesus says:

Mark 9:13

Matthew helps us to understand what He is talking about when He says, “Elijah has indeed come:”

“Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.”[13]

Q.) Was John the Baptist Elijah?

We will allow John to speak for himself on this through his answer to the Levitical Priests:

“And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’”

The answer is quite clear, no he is not.

Q.) Why then does Jesus say that He is?

A.) According to Luke, John the Baptist came:

“…in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”[14]

John’s ministry replicated Elijah’s in spirit and power preparing the way for the Son of Man as He came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Q.) What did Israel’s rulers do to the one who came “in the spirit and power of Elijah?”

A.) They rejected and killed him.

Jesus wants them to recognize that just as “they did whatever they wished” to John “So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”[15] He desires them to have a correct view of the Son of Man, and His substitutionary work on the cross.


VI.) Clearly Defining Jesus

I will ask it again:

Q.) Does Jesus care about people correctly understanding His Person and work?

A.) This answer is an emphatic, Yes!

Since that is of great importance to Christ, it ought to be of great importance to us. One cannot come to saving faith without a clear knowledge of His Person and work upon the cross in the place of guilty man.

Q.) What than should we do?

In gentleness and in love, and with great patience and instruction speak the truth of Christ and correct those who are in opposition.[16] Understand that when we do this we have engaged in a warfare that does not consist of flesh and blood, and the weapon that we use is not physical:

“…but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”[17]

One can quickly understand the weapon we use to be the truth of the Word of the Living God, but:

Q.) What are the fortresses that are being destroyed?

A.) “Speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”[18]

Q.) Why do we engage in such a way with people?

A.) So that “God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” of the Son of the Living God.


[1] Luke 9:31

[2] Mark 8:27-33

[3] Mark 9:7

[4] Malachi 3:1

[5] Malachi 4:5

[6] Hebrews 2:14-15

[7] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 2902

[8] John 11:23-24

[9] Daniel 7:13-14

[10] Malachi 3:1

[11] Malachi 4:6

[12] The Macarthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, John Macarthur; Pg. 17

[13] Matthew 17:13

[14] Luke 1:17

[15] Matthew 17:12

[16] 2 Timothy 2:24-25

[17] 2 Corinthians 10:4

[18] 2 Corinthians 10:5

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