Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Oct 19, Mt 17, Mk 9

Today's readings are Mt 17, Mk 9. Tomorrow's are Mt 18, Jn 7-8. 

Mt 17 gives us another look at the transfiguration. Three disciples get a peek at the glory of Christ, a promise of what is to come. The promise is there to gird them for what's next. Notice that, right after the glory is revealed, two things happen:  Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, then Jesus tells the disciples He has to die. Even more significant is that fact that He calls them to "take up their cross and follow Me." The full import and impact of this statement will not be apparent for a while. Jesus is headed to Jerusalem and the cross and telling His disciples that they may suffer as well. 

Following the transfiguration, Jesus heals a demon possessed boy. In doing so, He relates the teaching of the mustard seed. When He refers to their "little faith" (Mt 17:20), He's not talking about their lack of faith but referring to their infant, baby-like faith. It has not yet matured and is, so far, ineffectual. But, even a small amount of faith, like a mustard seed, can grow into a powerful, earth-changing faith. The mountains are a metaphor for earth-shaking. They are not intended to be literal. Jesus is telling His disciples that their ministry will start out very small, based on the works He is now performing, but will one day change and reform the world.

With this teaching of nascent faith, freedom is declared to the disciples, albeit with an admonishment to respect earthly authorities, insofar as it is possible to do so and maintain godliness (Mt 17:24-27). 

The lesson of the temple tax and the miraculous provision are meant to demonstrate that Jesus will provide and bless if the disciples work within the governmental system, honoring the taxes and the ones who levy them, even through they may present a hardship. 

Mk 9 provides additional detail to the healing of the demon-possessed boy. Jesus adds that this kind of demon comes out only by prayer (Mk 9:29). This statement has to be taken in harmony with the teaching in Mt 17. Their faith is not yet fully developed. The power to heal and cast out demons is not in them apart from a close and mature relationship with Christ. Jesus is not saying, "If you pray more, then the demons will leave." He's telling them that a deep and committed relationship with Him will lead to them being able to move in faith in all they do -- move mountains, cast out demons, etc. Their goal is not to perform miracles, but to have a deeper walk with Him. Prayer is fellowship and communion with Him. Their spiritual growth will be commensurate with their prayer life. 

As an aside, they are in or near Caesarea Philippi when much of this happens. This is actually the Northern-most part of Jesus' journey. This is where they turn and start heading for Jerusalem. There was an ancient sacrificial site there, in a cave, that was known as "The Gates of Hell". Here's what the cave looks like today;

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