How to Get Along with Others

Explore the Bible Series

January 24, 2010


Background Passage: Mark 8:34-10:31

Lesson Passage: Mark 9:33-43, 47-50




The title of this week’s lesson indicates that we might encounter some of Jesus’ teachings on interpersonal relationships, but Mark’s text, I think, has other concerns in mind.  This Gospel emphasizes the gradual revelation of the fullness of Jesus person and work, and these chapters play a critical role in that revelation. This, above all, is a Christo-centric passage that focuses on the humiliation and glorification of the Savior, and it builds on the poignant statements in Mark 8:31-33 concerning the Lord’s death and resurrection, “... 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 again.”  Clearly, Mark’s narrative is rising to a crescendo, a crescendo that will culminate in the crucifixion and resurrection.


Lesson Outline:


I.                   The Call and Cost of Discipleship (8:34-9:1)

A.    The universal call to discipleship (8:34a): Jesus called the crowds attention to the demands of discipleship.  He did not limit his offer of grace to a small group of men; rather, he extended a genuine invitation to discipleship for all who would come to him. 

B.     The cost of discipleship (8:34b-37): Many evangelicals offer Christ as a one-stop “salvation”, deliverance for a canned prayer—“just repeat after me.”  The popular religious celebrities hawk a “gospel” that appeals to American individualism and consumerism. Jesus demanded a very different understanding of discipleship.  Salvation cannot be separated from the grace of dying to self and following Jesus.  If I understand the Lord’s words, salvation does not so much come as a momentary event; instead, it involves a process of self-denial, taking up the cross, and following Jesus.

C.    The promise of discipleship (9:1): Jesus promised that all who embrace the demands of discipleship would not taste death until they saw the Kingdom of God.  As I see it, this promise may refer to three events, each in the near-future for the first disciples: the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and Pentecost. 


II.                The Transfiguration (9:2-13): This event confirmed the identity of Jesus, and, no doubt, buoyed the faith of Peter, James, and John, especially in light of the difficult demands of Mark 8:34-9:1.

A.    The Lord’s miraculous transformation (vv. 2-4 and 7-8): All three of the Synoptic Gospels record this important event, but, surprisingly, John leaves the story untold.  Jesus led three of the Twelve to a high mountain (perhaps Mount Hermon) and there his countenance changed dramatically.  Mark highlights the glory of Christ’ garments, and Luke and Matthew emphasize the transformation of Jesus’ face.  In addition, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus.  The three men carried on a conversation, but the Gospels do not reveal the nature or content of their words.  The glorious event concluded with the voice of the Heavenly Father’s voice confirming the sonship and suitability of the Savior.    

B.     Peters’ proposition (vv. 5-8); Peter, impetuous as always, suggested that the disciples erect dwelling places for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  Probably, the poor-bewildered fisherman wanted to prolong the wonder of this experience, but the Father’s voice reminded the impulsive disciple to listen to the words of the Son.  Modern worshippers may learn a valuable lesson in this story, the lesson of silence before the glory of the Lord.

C.     Jesus’ conversation with the disciples (vv. 9-13): As Jesus and his three friends descended from the mountain, the disciples asked the Lord about the scribal conviction that Elijah would return as a precursor of the arrival of the Kingdom.  Jesus assured his troubled followers that Elijah, indeed, had come, and it appears that the Lord, in this claim, made a tacit reference to John the Baptist.


III.             The Healing of a Demon Possessed Boy (9:14-29)

A.    The ineffective ministry of the disciples (vv. 14-18): As Jesus’ returned from his transfiguration, he encountered an animated crowd arguing with the nine disciples Jesus left behind.  The stir was caused by the nine’s inability to help a demon possessed boy, a youngster deeply troubled (convulsions, deafness, dumbness, and suicidal behavior) by an evil spirit.

B.     The Lord’s ministry to the suffering boy (vv. 19-29): After rebuking the unbelief of his disciples, he questioned the boy’s father about the length of time the demon had tormented the lad, and he asked the poor dad if he believed in the Lord’s power to exorcize the evil spirit.  I find the father’s confession touching.  He assured the Lord that he believed, but he also asked Jesus to help his unbelief.  Doubt and faith may dwell in the same heart, but despite this man’s faltering faith, Jesus healed the little boy.


IV.             The Pride of the Disciples (9:30-50)

A.    The second prediction of Jesus’ death and resurrection (vv. 30-32): Again, the Lord unmistakably predicted his violent death and resurrection, but, as before, the disciples did not comprehend the meaning of the Savior’s words.

B.     The disciples’ debate about the greatest in the Kingdom of God (vv. 33-50): Clearly, the disciples’ discussion centered on their ambitions for prominence in the Lord’s Kingdom; indeed, this conversation is reminiscent of the desire of John and James to sit in the positions of honor when Christ entered his Kingdom (See Mark 10:35-45). They highlighted their self-sacrifice in following Jesus, but the Lord promised them that they had received more than they had given.  In the conclusion of the paragraph, Mark continued the theme of humility as the narrative discloses Jesus’ encouragement for his followers to promote humility by receiving a little child, the most needy and helpless of people.


V.                Jesus’ Attitude Towards Other Disciples (9:38-41): The Apostle John observed someone casting out demons, but the man did not follow Jesus like the Twelve did.  John tried to stop the man, but Jesus affirmed the nameless man’s efforts to help people, in Jesus’ name.  Perhaps we modern believers should exercise a more pen and affirming attitude toward those who serve the Lord Jesus, but do so in somewhat different ways than we do.  We cannot know how this man came to Christ, but he did not share the privileged position of the Twelve.  John bristled at the man’s ministry to demon possessed people, probably because he thought such authority rightly belonged only to the immediate followers of Jesus.  The Lord told John, and the others apostles, that they should not cause other people to stumble, and they should make every effort to affirm anyone who loved the gospel and did good things for suffering people.


VI.             Jesus’ Ministry in Judea (10:1-31)

A.    Confrontation with the Pharisees about divorce (vv. 1-12): As the Lord neared Jerusalem, the Pharisees again went on the attack, this time by confronting Jesus about the controversial issue of divorce.  Under the Mosiac Law, men were allowed to divorce their wives (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  The ESV Study Bible rightly concludes that the Pharisees may have wanted to draw Jesus into the debate about the sinful marriage relationship of Herod Antipas.  The Lord told the religious leaders that God had allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts, and that God never intended to affirm divorce; indeed, Jesus claimed that divorce and remarriage is tantamount to adultery.

B.     Jesus blessed the children (vv. 13-16): For a second time, Jesus received and blessed small children, no doubt, as a means to teach his disciples compassion and ministry to the least of God’s creatures.

C.     Encounter with the Rich Young Ruler (vv. 17-31): During Jesus ministry in Judea, a prominent young man came to Jesus to ask about eternal life.  At first glance the man seems sincere and ardent about his soul, but Jesus sensed that something wasn’t right.  When the man asked Jesus about how to find eternal life, the Lord answered him in a seemly odd manner, “You know the commandments… go and sell all you have and give to the poor.”  We know that people do not find eternal life by keeping the Law, but Jesus wanted this man to understand the seriousness of sin, falling short of the demands of the Law.  The arrogant young man affirmed his righteousness, and Jesus, in an effort to awaken the man, told him to sell his belongings for the sake of the poor.  Sadly, the man balked at the Lord’s direction, thus demonstrating that covetousness still possessed his heart.  He had not, after all, kept the Law perfectly, and he went away.  Jesus let the man go, and told the disciples that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, as difficult as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. These words astonished the Twelve, and Jesus told them that even a rich man could come to the Lord, by a powerful, gracious act of God.  Peter needed to learn humility too.  He pointed out to Jesus that the Twelve had left their possessions to follow the Lord, but Jesus assured his friend that Peter had received more than he had sacrificed. He also promised Peter, in addition to receiving great blessings, that the disciples would encounter severe persecution for their faith.





Personal note: Please forgive the lateness of this outline.  I have not felt well the last couple of days, and classes began this week.