Skip to main content

Now is not the time to build something: Mark 9

Mark continues to write long and diverse chapters. Here, in Mark 9 (link), we go from the Mount of Transfiguration all the way through casting out a demon, on to having child-like faith and finishing on gouging out your eye to not go to hell. At the very least, there’s a dozen sermons in this chapter. I will not attempt to preach them all right here.

Not that I wouldn’t like to. Let’s take a look just one part:

The Mount of Transfiguration. This is, by my estimate, the number one moment of “weird” in the earthly ministry of Jesus. The healings are great, the teaching is awesome, and the nature-controlling moments just reinforce the divinity of Christ. The Resurrection is the biggest event in history and the Virgin Birth of Jesus is close alongside.

Yet then there’s this story. Peter, James, and John go up on an undisclosed mountain with Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus and his garments become radiant and “exceedingly white” (Mark 9:3, note that “no launderer on earth” could do that). Also, Elijah and Moses show up to talk with Jesus.

That we look back and see the symbolism of Jesus talking with Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the Prophet as valuable does not truly diminish the oddity of this story. I have yet to find a single point in a Protestant Evangelical Theology that hangs solely on the Transfiguration. This despite the presence of the event in all three Synoptic Gospels.

It’s just an odd story. We don’t know much about what to do with it. The biggest point of theology here is the voice from heaven, what we would assume is the voice of God Himself. In this case, God is attesting again what was said at the Baptism of Jesus: “This is My beloved Son.” That’s not a bad reminder.

Where I find the help in this passage is in the action of Peter. In this chapter, Peter proves that he was not the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather the founder of the First Baptist Church. When faced with an amazing, once-in-eternity spiritual event, Peter wants to…

Build something. Actually, three somethings. He’d like to build three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Now, we Baptists are big fans of building stuff and this sounds just like us. There’s a moment here to be learned from, there is something amazing happens.

And Peter’s concern is to find a way to put a roof over it and hold it tight. His motives here are unknown, except Mark notes Peter’s fear. He could have wanted to note a great moment and be reminded of it for years to come. He may have thought that Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were going to be there a while and would need a place to sleep. He might have wanted to be rewarded for his building.

I think it’s safe to give Peter the benefit of the doubt and admit that I would not have known what to do either. I would have fallen into an action bias at that point as well. In case I’m making up terms, I’ll explain action bias: it is a tendency to say “let’s do something, even if it’s wrong.” It is a bias to act without thinking.

By the way, the opposite is ‘inaction bias’ which is the assumption that nothing should ever be done. That’s bad as well.

There is a time, though, to stop and learn. A time to realize that nothing that your hands can put forward will be memorial enough for the moment. A time to learn at the feet of the Master: for Peter, James, and John, they likely would have grown up with great respect for Moses and Elijah, but here is Jesus being highlighted as greater than even these two.

That’s a big deal. Don’t miss the big deal moments of life because you’re too busy trying to blog them or take pictures or make memorials. Sometimes, it is better to live the moment and let your mind do the remembering later.

Today’s Nerd Note: I’m trying to get my word count for these posts back down, it’s been creeping way up. So, the Nerd Note is more of a question:

Do you read both the Transfiguration story and the demon-casting story that follows immediately after it together? You should. This is what met Jesus coming down the mountain. Keep them together in your mind. While there are separable lessons in each, there are lessons paired here as well.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Abraham Lincoln Quoted by Jesus! Mark 3

Mark records a curious event in his third chapter (link). If you look at Mark 3:25, you'll see that Jesus quotes the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. After all, one of the highlights of the Lincoln years is his famous speech regarding slavery in the United States where he used the phrase that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." This speech was given in 1858 when he accepted the nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senate, but is still remembered as the defining speech regarding slaveholding in the United States. I recall being taught in school how brilliant and groundbreaking the speech was, how Lincoln had used such wise words to convey his thought. Yet the idea was not original to Lincoln. Rather, it was embedded in Lincoln from his time reading the Bible. Now, I have read varying reports about Lincoln's personal religious beliefs: some place him as a nearly completely committed Christian while others have him somewh…

Book: Vindicating the Vixens

Well, if Vindicating the Vixens doesn’t catch your attention as a book title, I’m not sure what would. This volume, edited by Sandra L. Glahn (PhD), provides a look at some of the women of the Bible who are “Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized.” As is frequently the case, I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my review.Let’s take this a stage at a time. First stage: book setup. This is primarily an academic Biblical Studies book. Be prepared to see discussions of Greek and Hebrew words, as appropriate. You’ll also need a handle on the general flow of Biblical narrative, a willingness to look around at history, and the other tools of someone who is truly studying the text. This is no one-day read. It’s a serious study of women in the Bible, specifically those who either faced sexual violence or who have been considered sexually ‘wrong’ across years of study.A quick note: this book is timely, not opportunistic. The length of time to plan, assign, develop, and publish a multi…