This is a Bible study on Mark 9:2-29.

7 pages.

Mark 9:2-29 - Join Christ in His Self-Denying Ministry

Read Mark 9:2-29.


In the summer of 1991, Shelly and her family took a vacation out west. They had been traveling for hours through the state of Utah, when Dad finally decided it was time to stop for lunch. They pulled off of the highway into a rest area with green grass, trees, and picnic tables.

There Mom and the kids unpacked their lunch from the cooler and set the table, preparing to enjoy a pleasant lunch amidst the cool mountain breezes and the majestic mountain scenery. Dad, meanwhile, had wandered off in search of bathrooms.

When he came back to join the family, he was not alone. There was a man walking along side of him; a man who looked like a bum. Dad had invited this man to join them for lunch, interrupting their pleasant family picnic!

This unkempt man sat directly across the picnic table from Shelly. He was dirty and smelly. When he greeted her with a smile, she noticed that half his teeth were missing. As they shared their lunch together, Shelly discovered that this unkempt stranger had a name (John), and he had a life story. A long time ago his wife had died; he now had grown children, but he had lost contact with them.

Shelly began to see this stranger in a different light. She tried to imagine him sitting at another table and at another time: a time when John and his family were sitting around their dinner table, a time when they were together. Shelly began to see this stranger as a person: a man with memories and heartaches and sins and the need to meet the Savior and experience His love and mercy.

On that sunny afternoon amidst the mountain beauty of Utah, Shelly would have preferred to have done the comfortable thing: enjoy a quiet, undisturbed lunch with her family. But her father did the right thing: he joined the Lord Jesus in carrying out a self-denying ministry to some poor soul who needed to experience the Savior’s love and grace.1

Because we, as Christians, have been called to follow Him as faithful disciples, let us, too, join Christ in His self-denying ministry.

Join Christ in His Self-Denying Ministry, rather than Remaining on the “Mountain Top”🔗

Jesus takes with Him three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, and together they retreat up into a high mountain. There, atop that mountain, Jesus is suddenly transfigured before their very eyes: His whole appearance was transformed. His garments glistened with a brilliant, heavenly light. His face shone like the sun (according to Matthew 17:2); this was the divine glory that radiated from His countenance.

The disciples now found themselves in a heavenly place. They were alone with Christ, far from the world; and God the Father caused the eternal glory of His Son to come shining through the humiliation of His incarnate human form.

As they behold the wonder of this divine revelation, two men who played a prominent role in the history of Israel appeared beside the Savior: Elijah and Moses. As the N.T. commentator, Wm. Lane, explains, Moses appears as the representative of the old covenant with all of its eschatological promises,2 which are about to become fulfilled by the work of Jesus the Messiah. The presence of Elijah, in accordance with the prophecy of Malachi 4:5, further indicated that the great moment of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises had arrived. The prophecy of Malachi 4:5 proclaimed, “Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”

Later, when they have descended from the mountaintop, the disciples inquire, “How is it that the scribes say that Elijah must first come?” In light of the prophecy of Malachi, the Jews anticipated a re­appearance of the Old Testament prophet, Elijah the Tishbite. But Jesus now proceeds to explain to them that the prophecy of Elijah’s coming to prepare the way for the Messiah is actually fulfilled in the person and ministry of John the Baptist:

Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him whatever they desired. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.' 13Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist. Matt. 17:11-13

In this passage of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus explains how the Old Testament figure, Elijah the Tishbite, was prophetically foretelling and revealing the New Testament figure, John the Baptist. But notice that in referring to John the Baptist, (the prophetic person whom the Old Testament prophet Elijah typified), Jesus continues to use Old Testament terminology, identifying John the Baptist as “Elijah.” Thus, we find that Old Testament figures in their person and ministry are prophetically representing future persons who will carry out the same type of ministry, but in a far greater way. Furthermore, when such New Testament figures appear in history to carry out their ministry, they are often times referred to by the Old Testament figure with whom they are identified; hence, our Lord identifies John the Baptist as “Elijah.”

Mark, and the other gospel writers, inform us that the Lord Jesus, together with Elijah and Moses, are discussing Jesus’ impending departure to glory via the cross: “They spoke about his departure [the Greek text literally reads, “his exodus”], which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:31).

Witnessing this scene of glory, and seeing that Elijah and Moses are about to depart (Lk. 9:33), Peter speaks up: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.” Peter testifies that it is a blessed and desirable experience to be in communion with the Lord and these Old Testament saints in this heavenly setting. He then offers the suggestion, “Let us erect three shelters.” Seeing Elijah, and knowing his appearance heralded the coming of the LORD’s kingdom, Peter suggests the construction of three "shelters," or, tents, temporary structures where they may await the coming of the kingdom of God, which is now imminent. Peter speaks out of ignorance and holy dread (Mk. 9:6); in his opinion, this is the correct thing to do, the pious response to this scene of heavenly glory. Peter may have also been concerned about the fact that the Lord had been discussing with Elijah and Moses His imminent departure that was about to take place at Jerusalem, unaware that that “departure,” which was by way of the cross, was an absolute necessity for our salvation.

But as Peter spoke these words, God the Father made His presence known (by means of the overshadowing cloud), overruling and correcting Peter’s suggestion with the command, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Lk. 9:34). The disciples are instructed to listen to Jesus, and what does He say? Apparently, God the Father is referring us back to the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 8:34, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, ‘If anyone desires to be my disciple, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” This seems to be confirmed by the fact that as they came down from the mountain Jesus reminded them, “it is written that the Son of man must suffer many things” (Mk. 9:12b).

By His example, Jesus leads His disciples down from the mountaintop and back into a world that desperately needs His saving grace. Let us join Christ in His self-denying ministry, rather than remaining on the “mountain top.” Rather than isolate ourselves in a “Christian ghetto” in which we are only surrounded by Christian people and never come into contact with the world, we must follow Christ into the world and live for Christ before the world. The Apostle Paul exhorts us as Christians,

...become blameless and pure, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a perverse and depraved generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe, 16holding forth the word of life. Phil. 2:15-16a

Let us consider and imitate the testimony of a Christian lady named Jan:

Like many, I had allowed my deep attachments and love for the family of God to isolate me from unbelievers. I had unconsciously joined the 'Christian ghetto.' Jesus didn’t submerge Himself in a cloistered Christianity as we do. He mixed easily.

Our church was willing to give money to missions, but refused to leave an insulated Christian world. Some Christians fear that associating with unbelievers will drag them down spiritually. They are so afraid the world will taint them that they never taint the world.

To climb out of the Christian ghetto, I mapped out the following escape plan; taking a cue from other Christians who had the same intention:

Renew former acquaintances. When Susan decided to widen her circle of friends to include more non-Christians, she telephoned a former co-worker. The woman invited Susan and her children to the public library's story hour every Monday. This gave Susan a chance to re­establish contact with her co-worker and then talk with her about Christ.

Befriend neighbors. When Jeff and Carol moved, they vowed to make friends in the community, not only at church. They took time to talk with everyone who stopped by to welcome them.

Join a community group. When Denise quit her job to have a baby, she soon realized that she had no friends outside her church. To make friends, she joined a childbirth group, took parenting classes, and joined a food co-op. Her new friends supported her in mothering, and she talks with them about the Lord.

At first Jan thought, 'I’m too shy to do any of these things,' but I’ve learned that it doesn’t take an extrovert to make friends. Now I view every new situation, such as a new job, neighborhood, or night class, as an opportunity to meet non-Christians.3

With regard to any “world-infiltrating” strategy we may seek to employ, we must always bear in mind the following: pray that the LORD will lead you to people whom He is preparing for Himself; lovingly listen to the individuals whom the LORD brings into your life; do not view such persons as “objects of evangelism,” view them as precious souls who need the Savior; finally, even if you never see anyone come to Christ, realize that you have sown the gospel seed and, perhaps, at a later date, the LORD will produce the harvest of conversions unto Christ.

Join Christ in His Self-Denying Ministry, to Those Oppressed by the Devil🔗

When Jesus and His three disciples descend to the foot of the mountain, they encounter a situation in which the devil is vividly asserting his oppression. A desperate father explains to Jesus the plight of his son: he is possessed by an evil spirit who throws him to the ground in convulsions and seeks to destroy him; often the child would be cast into the fire or into the water (vs. 22).

The whole scene is permeated by an atmosphere of hopelessness and despair. For a long time, the father explains, he has endured seeing his son subjected to this demonic oppression (vs. 21). The father had sought to have Christ’s disciples exorcise the demon, but they were unable to do so (vs. 18).

Note that in the immediate presence of Jesus the demon does not meekly acquiesce to departing from the child; on the contrary, he throws the boy into violent convulsions (vs. 20). The devil, being tormented in the divine presence of Christ, viciously expresses his own torment in the body of his poor victim.

Jesus’ victory over the demon is not without a struggle and is only accomplished by means of a “death and resurrection:”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to him, You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never again enter into him. 26After crying out, and violently convulsing [the boy], he came out. [The boy] looked so much like a corpse that most [of those present] said, He is dead. 27But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him up; and he arose. vs. 25-27

At the command of Jesus, the demon does come out, but only after screaming in agony and violently convulsing the boy. The demon’s departure is so violent that the boy is left like a lifeless corpse, many remark, “He is dead.” But Jesus “raised him up” and “he arose.”

This is what Jesus and His disciples encounter at the foot of the mountain: lives affected by the awful tyranny and oppression of the devil; an atmosphere permeated by a sense of hopelessness and despair; the violent resistance of the devil to the divine presence of Christ; and spiritual victory that is only secured by means of “death and resurrection.” Nevertheless, let us join Christ in His self-denying ministry to those who are oppressed by the devil.

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, saw a vision one day:

Dark clouds and lightning hovered over a billowing, stormy ocean filled with thousands of people screaming for help, struggling for safety. A huge rock rose up out of the ocean into the clouds.

Around the rock stretched a platform filled with people. A few of them tried to help the drowning ones, using ropes, ladders, and boats. But most of the people on the platform went about their business, oblivious to those in the sea.

Though they heard the cries, the platform people spent their time tending flower gardens, raising families, and begging God for comfort and assurance that they would one day reach security at the top of the mountain.

Like the platform people, many Christians have forgotten their purpose. They are afraid to obey the command to make disciples, fearful that obedience would mean associating with and befriending non-Christians.4

Join Christ in His Self-Denying Ministry, Relying upon His Daily Supply of Grace to Do So🔗

In Mark 6:7 we are told that the Lord Jesus gave His disciples “authority over the unclean spirits.” But now we hear the testimony of the desperate father: “I requested your disciples to cast out this unclean spirit, and they were not able to do so” (vs. 18). The disciples themselves were perplexed and disturbed by their inability to cast out this demon, and they look to Christ for the answer (vs. 28).

Jesus replies, “This kind can only be cast out by prayer.” Prayer in this case is nothing other than coming directly to the Lord and soliciting His divine grace and power.

It appears that the disciples were continuing to rely upon a past supply of grace; and that was their mistake. Remembering the divine authority Jesus had given them on a previous occasion (Mk. 6:7), they assumed that they could call upon that reservoir of grace whenever they might need it. But they found that such is not the case. We cannot “stockpile” grace; we need a fresh supply for each new encounter of spiritual combat. We need to stay in continuous contact and fellowship with the Lord Jesus, the divine Dispenser of grace:

Abide in me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Jn. 15:4­-5

Let us join Christ in His self-denying ministry, relying upon daily supplies of His divine grace. By way of illustration, consider the testimony of a Christian lady named Marlys:

When we slid the new batteries into our daughter’s tape recorder, it worked fine. For two days. Then her recorded voice gradually shrank from a childish soprano to an alto bass, and finally disappeared altogether. The batteries had to go back into the recharger for another energizing.

The next afternoon we loaded the batteries back into the tape recorder. Her voice came out crystal clear, for another two days. Then back into the re-charger for another energy boost.

I realized that somehow I’d come to think of my Christian joy [and supply of grace] as a bottomless well when, in fact, it operates almost exactly like a rechargeable battery. I need consistent recharging, just like my batteries.

It took my daughter’s tape recorder to teach me that God equips us with rechargeable batteries, but it’s up to me to plug into my Energy Source often enough and long enough to transfer His energy into my own life.5


What the disciples needed to learn was not only the necessity of Jesus’ own self-denying ministry for the sake of our salvation; but also the need to join Him in carrying on such a ministry of grace to others in His name.

Like Shelly, we prefer to do the comfortable thing: enjoy a quiet, undisturbed lunch (or life) with our Christian family amidst serene and heavenly mountain beauty.

But, by the grace of God, let us be like her father and do the right thing: let us join the Lord Jesus in self-denying ministry to those poor souls whom God brings across our path and who need the Savior’s grace.

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. What did the disciples witness on the mountaintop? See Mk. 9:2-3; note 2 Pet. 1:16-17 Why did Jesus reveal His glory to them at this time; what was about to happen in the very near future? Note Mk. 8:31 How does the Lord prepare us to face trials?

Six days, later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and brought them up onto a high mountain, off by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. 3His garments became radiant and dazzling white, whiter than anyone on earth could bleach them. Mk. 9:2-3

We were not following cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and [glorious] appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ; on the contrary, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17He received honor and glory from God the Father when such a word as this was spoken to him by the Majestic Glory: 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.'2 Pet. 1:16-17

Then [Jesus] began to teach them that 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. Mk. 8:31

  1. What suggestion does Peter offer the Lord? See Mk. 9:4-5 What does the presence of Elijah (cf. Mal. 4:5) and the fact Peter wants to erect three shelters (i.e. temporary lodging structures) tell you Peter expected to happen very soon? Do we, like Peter, desire to await the coming of the kingdom of God in a “mountaintop” environment, far removed from the trials and persecutions of this life?

Elijah [together] with Moses appeared to them; and they were speaking with Jesus. 5Then Peter responded and said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Mk. 9:4-5

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. Mal. 4:5

  1. Rather than remaining on the mountaintop, where does Jesus lead His disciples, and what do they encounter? See Mk. 9:17-18a What commandment does the Lord give to His church? See Matt. 28:19/Mk. 16:15 How does the Apostle Paul describe what the Christian life should be? See Phil. 2:15-16a What assurance (cf. Matt. 28:18) and what promise (cf. Matt. 28:20) does the Lord give us?

When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them... 17One of the crowd responded, Teacher, I brought my son to you. He is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech; 18and whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams [at the mouth] and grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I spoke to your disciples, requesting them to cast it out; but they were not able. Mk. 9:14, 17-18

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations... Matt. 28:19

Go into all the world and preach the gospel... Mk. 16:15

...become blameless and pure, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a perverse and depraved generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe, 16holding forth the word of life... Phil. 2:15-16

Then Jesus came and spoken to them saying, 'All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth...20...and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.' Matt. 28:18, 20b

  1. How does the Lord Jesus deliver the young man? See Mk. 9:20, 25b-27 What does the language of verses 26b-27 suggest? What was required for our salvation and the defeat of the devil? See Lk. 24:46-47,

Then they brought him to [Jesus]. When [the spirit] saw [Jesus], he immediately threw [the boy] into a convulsion; he fell to the ground, rolling around and foaming [at the mouth]... 25When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to him, You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never again enter into him. 26After crying out, and violently convulsing [the boy], he came out. [The boy] looked so much like a corpse that most [of those present] said, He is dead. 27But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him up; and he arose. Mk. 9:20, 25-27

[Jesus] said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Lk. 24:46-47

  1. What perplexing question do the disciples ask Jesus? See Mk. 9:28 (vs. 18b) On a previous occasion, had not the disciples received divine authority over the demons? See Mk. 6:7 What answer does Jesus give them, and what does His answer imply? See Mk. 9:29 Do we, as Christians, like the disciples, tend to rely on past dispensation of grace, rather than a daily renewed supply of grace? What does our Lord tell us? Note Jn. 15:5,

When [Jesus] had come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, How is it that we could not cast it out? Mk. 9:28

The father informed Jesus,
I spoke to your disciples, requesting them to cast it out; but they were not able. Mk. 9:18b

[Jesus] called the Twelve to himself and began to send them out two by two. He gave them authority over the unclean spirits.Mk. 6:7

And he said to them, This kind can only be cast out by prayer. Mk. 9:29

Did the disciples’ failure result from their reliance on a past dispensing of divine grace, rather than continually looking to Jesus (as is implied in His mention of prayer) for a daily measure of grace to meet whatever challenge they presently faced?

I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who abides in me and I in him, he is the one who bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. Jn. 15:5


  1. ^ POWER, 6/5/94.
  2. ^ William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publish. Co., 1974), 319.
  3. ^ POWER, 12/4/93.
  4. ^ POWER, 12/4/93
  5. ^ POWER, 12/15/91.

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