The Book of Mark - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 3 Lesson 07 - Teaching Disciples: Part I

Teachers Comments
Aug 10 - Aug 16

Key Texts: Mark 8:31–33, 38; Mark 9:1, 7

Study Focus: Mark 8:27–38; Mark 9:1–8

Introduction: The kingdom of God is a dominant topic in Mark. Jesus declares that He represents God’s kingdom. The Savior has come to restore His people to this kingdom. Thus, everything on His earthly agenda is oriented toward facilitating the accomplishment of God’s redemptive plan. Nobody can sway Christ from His mission. With single-minded dedication, He dedicates Himself fully to it. In affirmation of Jesus’ earthly work, the Father, at the Transfiguration event, announces once again the Sonship of Jesus and appeals to His followers to obey His Son.

Lesson Themes: This week’s study covers the following two topics:

  1. The priority of Jesus’ mission in light of God’s redemptive plan.

  2. The glory of God’s kingdom, as highlighted in Mark 9:1, and as portrayed, specifically, in the event of the Transfiguration.

Part II: Commentary

Jesus’ Priority

In his Gospel, Mark gives a lot of attention to Jesus’ deeds on behalf of the people. For example, Mark may describe the interaction of Jesus with the multitude or with an individual whom He addresses. Christ’s disciples are always present in the narratives, but they do not have a prominent role in many of the scenes. However, Mark 8:27–33 is a pericope, or narrative selection, in which there is a close interaction between Jesus and His disciples. The scene opens with Jesus’ dialogue with all the disciples. Then, at the end, the dialogue focuses on a single disciple, Peter.

The conversation starts with Jesus’ question concerning His identity. Some disciples voice the sentiment that there is a difference of opinion among the people concerning who Jesus is and what His mission is. Others among Christ’s disciples identify Jesus with the work of John the Baptist or with some of the prophets. Jesus’ question to His disciples does not imply that Jesus doesn’t know who He is. Rather, He wants to highlight the purpose of His life on earth and desires for His disciples to understand His mission firsthand. For this reason, after Peter’s answer, “ ‘You are the Christ’ ” (Mark 8:29, NKJV), Jesus begins to reveal some future milestones of His journey. Peter identifies Jesus as ho Christos, the Christ (with a definite article), the Messiah, the Anointed One. (See Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], p. 1091.) Jesus’ Messiahship is in harmony with the eschatological perspective of the gospel: He was the Chosen One whom God sent to redeem Israel. After affirming Jesus’ Messianic identity, Mark delineates details about Jesus’ mission as the Messiah, asserting, “And He began to teach them that 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 from the dead” (Mark 8:31, NASB). Jesus wants His disciples to fully understand His life on earth. He will suffer during His ministry, die, and then rise again.

Mark 8:32, 33 introduces a private conversation between Peter and Jesus. Peter, according to Mark, began to rebuke Jesus. But Matthew is more eloquent regarding Peter’s perspective about Jesus’ purpose: “ ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You!’ ” (Matt. 16:22, NASB). Jesus’ answer to Peter was amazingly severe, “ ‘Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but on man’s’ ” (Mark 8:33, NASB). Why did Jesus react to Peter in this way? For the simple reason that Peter touched upon the most essential aspect of His life and ministry: God’s plan of redemption. Jesus never allows anyone to interfere with God’s plan, even if such interference comes garbed with “good” intentions. Jesus permitted people to argue with Him antagonistically. He tolerated insult. He suffered injury without complaint. But one thing that Jesus never permitted: the hinderance, or deliberate attempt, to stop or abort the Father’s plan for His life.

The Father’s plan motivates Jesus; it is the reason for His life. The Father’s plan for His life is more important than physical sustenance: “ ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me’ ” (John 4:34, NASB; compare with Mark 6:31). What sustains Jesus’ life is God’s plan; apart from it, all other things are secondary. Jesus’ life is submitted perfectly to God’s will. In the same way, Jesus’ followers can lay claim to truly being His only when they live a God-centered life focused on His plan for their Redemption.

Those Who Shall See a Glimpse of the Glory of God’s Kingdom

“ ‘Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God when it has come with power’ ” (Mark 9:1, NASB).

This verse should be read in light of the last verses of Mark 8, in which Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship. Jesus makes it clear that “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38, NASB; emphasis added). In this pericope, there are two eras or times to which Jesus is referring: the era of the present generation and the era of the generation alive on the earth at the time when Jesus comes back. His Transfiguration in Mark 9:2–7 is a small, but accurate, representation of the major event of His future glorification. Peter, who was there, seems to understand the event in this way. Case in point, look at 2 Peter 1:16: “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty_” (NASB, _emphasis added). Concerning those who “will not taste death,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary states, “It is significant that all three Synoptic Gospels record the narrative of the Transfiguration immediately following this prediction . . . and furthermore all three mention the fact that the Transfiguration occurred about a week after this statement, implying that the event was the fulfillment of the prediction. The connection between the two sections of narrative seems to preclude the possibility that Jesus here referred to anything but the Transfiguration, which was a miniature demonstration of the kingdom of glory.”—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 436.

Additionally, it could be said that Mark is referring to the eschatological event of the glorious day of Jesus’ second coming in which “some [of that adulterous and sinful generation]” (Mark 9:1, NASB) will receive the final retribution of condemnation. Death, in this case, refers to the second death. Thus, the righteous shall not be included in verse 9:1. However, to understand the verse in this context, one must take the expression “death” to refer, in a symbolic sense, to “the second death.”

Another interpretation of Mark 9:1 derives from an understanding of the expression “see.” The Greek eidon may be interpreted in a more ample way that renders it with the meaning of “to perceive, to become aware of something, to take special note of something, to experience something, to show an interest in.”—Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, pp. 279, 280. In this sense, the promise of Mark 9:1 may include other events in addition to the fulfillment of the Transfiguration. And it also can include more people other than Peter, James, and John, who were the sole group that saw Jesus’ transfiguration.

A comment by R. Alan Cole may be helpful at this juncture: “The verse [Mark 9:1] must, therefore, refer either to the transfiguration which follows immediately after, which seems reasonable; or to later events, still within a human lifespan, such as Christ’s triumph on the cross, confirmed by the resurrection (Col. 2:15); or to the coming of the Spirit; or to the later extension of the blessings of the kingdom to the Gentiles.”—Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 2 (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1989), pp. 213, 214.

Another important detail to note in Mark 9:1 is that the verb erchomai, rendered as “come” in the clause “the kingdom of God when it has come with power,” is used in the perfect tense. This verb implies that the kingdom has already come. This understanding is in accordance with the Markan message, “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). Once again, the main topic here is the kingdom of God. It is Jesus’ fervent hope that some who stood around Him would perceive, or become aware of, the work of His kingdom before the day of His death came.

There is no doubt that the event of the Transfiguration and other events that followed, such as Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, were milestones meant to test and strengthen the disciples’ faith. This notion seems to harmonize with the view of Ellen G. White: “The disciples are confident that Moses and Elijah have been sent to protect their Master, and to establish His authority as king. But before the crown must come the cross. Not the inauguration of Christ as king, but the decease to be accomplished at Jerusalem, is the subject of their conference with Jesus.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 422.

The Transfiguration was, figuratively speaking, “a preview” of the magnificent event at the end of the days: the Second Coming. Such a glorious event filled the disciples with amazement. Before their eyes, Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus (Mark 9:4). According to Ellen G. White, both Moses and Elijah represent the redeemed. Elijah represents those who will not taste death, and Moses represents those who will rise from the dust. “Upon the mount the future kingdom of glory was represented in ­miniature,—Christ the King, Moses a representative of the risen saints, and Elijah of the translated ones.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 422.

The Transfiguration occupies an important role in Mark’s Gospel nar­rative. By this event, the Sonship of Jesus Christ is cemented. God the Father reveals a glimpse of the splendor of His kingdom. Then a cloud forms and overshadows the glory of God. The Father speaks out of the cloud, contravening the impetuous and presumptuous advice of Peter. As Mark puts it, “A voice came out of the cloud: ‘This is My beloved Son; listen to Him!’ ” (Mark 9:7, NASB). This story illustrates the importance of our recognition of Jesus as the Son of God. However, the narrative teaches us how vital it is that we obey Him more than merely recognize Him. In the Bible, listening is a synonym for obedience. Such obedience, or listening, involves a daily surrender to Jesus Christ. As such, our obedience should follow our knowledge of Him.

In the sections of Mark’s Gospel that we have just studied, the author highlights Jesus’ Messianic identity and gives major signs of the power and glory of His kingdom. Suzanne W. Henderson expresses this notion well when she writes, “The second evangelist clearly forges that identity within the fires of Jesus’ messianic mission: to give advance notice of God’s decisive victory over the powers of the present evil age.”—Henderson, Christology and Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark (Cambridge,UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 4.

Part III: Life Application

The event of the Transfiguration was so indescribably amazing that the disciples were terrified by it (Mark 9:6). Invite your students to pause for a moment and think of Jesus’ second coming. What are the first thoughts that come to mind? Ask for some volunteers to share their impressions with the class.

What will happen to the righteous dead at the Second Coming? Consider the teaching of the apostle Paul: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52, NASB). “Then,” he adds in verse 54, “will come about the saying that is written: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’ ” (NASB). How does this perspective give you hope and comfort?