Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Oct 20, Mk 9

Today's reading is Mk 9 (again). Tomorrow's reading is Mt 18.

Mk 9 begins with a verse that has caused much discussion. To whom is Jesus speaking? Who will not taste death until they see the kingdom? Many believe this is an end-times prophecy and Jesus is speaking to that last generation. If so, what about the ones standing in front of Him. They all died before the end times came. Did Jesus miss it? The only sensible way to interpret what Jesus says here is to apply it directly to the men standing there. If that's the case, then the prophecy is accurate and precise. The power mentioned is the power the disciples will receive in Acts 2, the power that they were to go to Jerusalem and wait upon (Act 1:8). The kingdom is Christ. It is sealed forever more as He rises to His rightful position at the right hand of God (Acts 1:9). 

Mk 9 provides additional detail to the healing of the demon-possessed boy. Jesus tells the disciples 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;

The disciples miss many of the points Jesus is teaching and fall into a disagreement as to who is the greatest (Mk 9:33-37). They make the common mistake of thinking that the kingdom is about them and the benefits they will receive when it arrives. Jesus brings the correction by telling them that He--and they--have come to serve, not be exalted. 

Jesus addresses minor doctrinal differences in Mk 9:38-41 saying those who are truly on His side will all receive a reward. The point of primary importance is that those "who are not against us are for us." Those who are not actively opposing Christ but moving in "His name", His character and nature, are working for Him albeit not directly with the disciples. Jesus tells the disciples to leave those people alone. This is a snapshot of the diversity the kingdom will exhibit. 

Mk 9 ends with an admonishment to do whatever is necessary to eliminate sin from their lives (Mk 9:42-50). In this, Jesus redirects the disciples to examine themselves rather than others. Far from being an endorsement for self-mutilation, Jesus is encouraging them to actively pursue eliminating sinful thoughts and behavior from their lives.

Examining the flow of Mk 9, we see this incredible teaching of the kingdom. Along with it is a caution that the kingdom is not about me or you, but about Christ and His work. We should welcome and be thankful for all those who are truly working to advance the kingdom. At the same time, we should avoid judging them or each other. Instead we should look inward and examine ourselves.

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