Jesus has promised that at least some of the disciples will see the glory and power of his coming kingdom. This, in context, is pointing to his death and resurrection. However, as that day approaches there seem to be further opportunities for them to see even clearer glimpses of what that will look like.
First of all, there is the Transfiguration. Jesus takes a small group, his inner circle of disciples up a mountain. There they witness Jesus meeting with two Old Testament figures Moses and Elijah. For a moment the veil is removed and they see his radiant glory. Jesus is the fulfilment of Law (Moses) and Prophets (Elijah). Peter wants to capture the moment permanently but this is to miss the point. Jesus as fulfilment is greater than these. The job of the Law and Prophets is to point to Christ. Jesus is the Father’s beloved son. The Father takes pleasure and delight in him.
On the way down the mountain, they are greeted by a commotion. The other disciples have attempted and failed to cast out a demon. Jesus explains that they needed prayer (and in some manuscripts, fasting) for this kind. It is possible that he is referring to a particular kind of demon or simply to demon kind in general. If the latter, then the point is not that extra skills were needed but that they had forgotten their dependence upon God for these things and attempted the exorcism in their own strength. There are echoes here of the commotion at the foot of Sinai when Moses returned from receiving the Law.
In verse 30-33 we see the second of Jesus’ direction markers as we transition towards Jerusalem and he reminds them of his impending death and resurrection. This points to where they will see his kingdom come in power.
Lack of understanding leads to a focus on their own striving for power as they compete and argue about who will be greatest. This leads Jesus to insist that they must follow his path of humbling themselves. If they want to be among the great then they must be first among the least. The kingdom belongs to those who are like children. The point being that children were of lower status and had no power in either Jewish or Roman culture (9:33-37).
Similarly, there is competition to protect the brand as they ask about someone using Jesus’ name to cast out demons. That the person acts in Jesus’ name shows that they are seeking to follow Christ even if not part of a specific organisation/group. Power and gifting is not restricted within the confines of the twelve. Jesus says that this person is not seeking to oppose them and so he is for them (9:38-41).
Finally, we see how important the kingdom is. It is not so much about risking life and limb as risking limb for life. There is a seriousness to the things that cause stumbling. If I cause another to stumble -especially someone vulnerable/weaker/younger in faith then that is a matter of serious judgement. If anything about my life, values, priorities causes me to stumble then I should be ready to abandon it (9:42-50).
Big Theme: The focus is on the power and glory of God’s kingdom revealed in Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul talks about counting everything else loss for this.
Questions to consider
- In what ways can we end up being like Peter, trying to freeze frame something for sentimentality and missing what God is saying and doing?
- Who are the little ones among us? What does it mean to be like a child?
- How might we become focused on protecting the brand?
- What are the things that cause us to stumble?