Hope In Suffering

Hope In Suffering: Mark 9:9-13
Pastor John Nicholas
Sunday September 6, 2020

Here they come.  Peter, James, John, and Jesus.  They had just experiences something miraculous.  They had seen the glorified Moses and Elijah.  And…the glorified Christ.  Not only had they seen fathers of the faith.  Patriarch and prophet.  But, they had seen the future glory of Christ.  What an experience.  And not only that, but they had been told by God to listen to the Son.  The blazing white robes of Christ and the voice of the Father on top of the mountain.  And the talk of the exodon, the exodus, the leaving of Christ.  Moses, Elijah, and Jesus speaking about when Christ would leave. And they head down the mountain.  It’s time to leave.

As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead.

Now this somewhat overwhelming experience is obviously fresh in their minds.  I mean it just happened.  Can you imagine their excitement?  “Wait till the others hear about this!” they would be saying.  But this is not to be.  Jesus gives them time bound instructions.  “Don’t tell anyone until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”  Interesting isn’t it.  Why let them experience this if you aren’t going to let them tell anyone about it?

Hopefully, we will be able to piece this together and get behind the reasoning for these instructions.  First of all a few things.  The three were there because they were of Jesus’ inner circle.  The ones that were closest to Him.  So it was purposeful that He took them to the mountaintop.

Secondly, they saw a living Moses and a living Elijah, both talking with Jesus.  Moses died approximately 1500 years ago and Elijah approximately 800 years ago.  But here they were standing and talking with Christ.  That certainly has to leave an impression that is implied and not specifically stated in the text.  They are seeing Elijah and Moses glorified.  Alive.  So to them the resurrection has become real.  They are seeing these two men alive and in front of them.  Everything that they had previously heard growing up in the synagogue, from their parents, and from the rabbis now became real.  They had not only seen these historical figures of the Jewish faith but they were alive!

Thirdly, they saw Jesus in glorified form, embodied and glorified.  Blazing white.  And they knew that they were seeing something special.  Jesus wasn’t shown as merely outwardly changed but the transfiguration shows the full inward and outward change.  Not a shadow.  But the real thing both here and now and to come.  It was the prolepsis of the resurrection.

And don’t tell anyone until after I have risen from the dead.

Again with the rising from the dead.  The phrase they probably didn’t hear when Jesus rebuked Peter.  But here it is again.  The Son of Man must rise from the dead.

They have witnessed amazing things and they are now told to keep their mouths shut.  Even to the other disciples.  There must be a reason.  I don’t think it will take much to see what is happening.  They have the idea that the Messiah will come and save the Jews from oppression.  He will establish a new Kingdom.  He will make all things right.

And this fits to a point with what they have seen.  Jesus has called Himself the Son of Man and we just saw Him in blazing glory.  But…this talk of rising from the dead doesn’t seem to fit.  He was just glorified and now the talk of dying?  It doesn’t make sense to them.  And this leads to Jesus’ instructions.

They have been given a gift that will not make sense in part; they must know the whole story before it comes together.  And that is why Jesus says you must wait until after My resurrection.  To tell about this now will not make sense.  It may encourage others to take Me off the path to the Cross.  They may hear part of the story and not that the Christ must suffer and die.  They may only hear the glory if you tell them now.  This is the warning.  They were shown this for their future witness.

One can almost hear Jesus saying to them (and Peter specifically), “I know it doesn’t make complete sense to you now, you must trust Me and believe.”  To a degree they have been told to keep a secret until it can be kept no more.

10 They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.

This doesn’t mean that they fully understand.  Remember the word prolepsis – they have seen something now that will also be in the future.  And they can’t make sense of this rising from the dead even though they have just seen Elijah and Moses who obviously died yet are alive.  Yet Jesus was just shown as glorified yet He is talking about rising from the dead.  And they keep talking about this among themselves.  Maybe Jesus is a little in front or a little behind them.  Maybe he doesn’t hear the conversation.  Either way they are confused by what they have seen and what He has said.  To their ears it makes no sense.

Ek nekron – rising from the dead.  And Elijah is here too.  Wasn’t he supposed to come beforehand.  The confusion is great and the bewilderment is real.  You see they are bringing their teachings alongside of what Jesus has taught and what He has now shown them.  Something doesn’t make sense to them.  The could be thinking we all know about future resurrection (we just saw Moses and Elijah to make the case) but what is this about You rising from the dead after three days?  It just isn’t in their thinking.

Plus this discussion proves the point that they shouldn’t be telling anyone since they cannot make sense of it.  How would they respond to questions or criticisms?  Without the full story they are incapable of understanding all that they have been shown and all that has been said to them.  They will need to wait and trust what is going to happen.

11 They asked Him, saying, “Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

Now as they process the information and what they have seen a particular question arises, “why do the grammeteis (scribes) say that Elijah must come first?”   This is where we find their confusion.  There is difficulty for them in a number of areas, not the least of which has to do with the suffering of the Son of Man (note that the scripture in Malachi does not forbid this).  And they have just seen Elijah.  And Jesus came before Elijah was seen.  They are trying to put this all together with scribal teaching about the return of Elijah and the messiah, not the scriptural teaching.  Along with Malachi 4:5-6, that Elijah must come before the Lord comes.  That Elijah will restore everything.  That Elijah will restore the hearts of the fathers and the children.  The way they are wording the question indicates that the scribes teaching is being held above the scripture.  So there are misunderstandings via the scribes about the messiah and the day of the Lord.

In other words if the scripture is true you shouldn’t need to die (even though we don’t necessarily understand all that this means).  Why must you suffer because isn’t Elijah supposed to accomplish this.  And we just saw him and he hasn’t come yet either.  And where is the Elijah of Malachi 3:1 who will prepare the way of the Lord.  We are confused by what we have been previously taught and what you are saying.

Malachi 3:1(NASB)

The Purifier

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.

We have been taught by the grammateis that Elijah will come before the day of the Lord.  The day of judgment.  That this is the time when Elijah will appear.  And when the Lord comes He will come in victory.  Not suffering and dying.  They are having problems with their eschatology.  Help us teacher.  We want to understand and believe. If you are Lord, and you must suffer and die, then the scripture must be wrong (based on what we have been taught).

12 And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

13 But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.”

At this point in the narrative Jesus works on their thinking.  Correcting misplaced ideas.  And He works from the scripture in Malachi and Isaiah to show them that the things He is speaking about are from the scripture – right and true.

First and foremost He does say that Elijah does come first and restore all things.  And we must take care to look at what Jesus is saying and how He is looking at the text of the Old Testament.  And how the text of the Old Testament fulfilled.

Firstly Jesus does address the issue with Elijah and common teaching.  He says that Elijah does come v12, and in v13 he states that Elijah has come.  There is now the implication that the thing which the scribes have been looking for has occurred.  But when?

We will deal with the first part of v12 and v13 together.  If Elijah has already come, and not the glorified Elijah on the mountain, but eschatologically how did we not hear about it.  Jesus has identified Elijah and so has the scripture.  And in these terms we need to think of Elijah as a representative of something and not just a specific person with a specific name.

Look with me a Malachi 3:1 again.  What does it say, that one is coming who will clear the way before Me.  This passage is also linked to Malachi 4:5.  But where have we heard these words of one who will clear the way before the Lord.  Mark 1:2 tells us about the one – John the Baptist.  And look at Luke 1:16-17 – Where John the Baptist has the spirit and power of Elijah.  Here is our answer.  In the last of the Old Testament prophets – John the Baptist.

Malachi 4:5 (NASB)

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.

Luke 1:16-17 (NASB)

16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.

17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

This is the Elijah that is to come.   The one crying out from the wilderness to repent and seek forgiveness of sons.  The one calling on the hearts of the people to be pierced and to turn to back to God.  The one making straight the pathway to the Lord.  The precursor to the Christ.  The straight paths as with the kings of old visiting their outlying towns.  Hills cut down, paths made smooth and straight.  No barriers to the way.  And so it was with John the Baptist.  With the spirit of Elijah – making straight the way to Jesus.  So that there was no confusion that Jesus was the one.

John the Baptist was the Elijah to come and the call to restoration the people of the Lord.  He is the purifier that comes before the one who will come, Jesus.  It is the spiritual restoration of the people.  The people without shepherds that John is speaking to.  And look at how it continues on Matthew 17:10.  Jesus states specifically that Elijah has come and they did to him what they wanted.

Matthew 17:10 (NASB)

10 And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus is standing the teaching that they have received on their heads.  John is the Elijah of Malachi who has come.  He made straight the way for me.  And they did to him what they wanted just as it was done before.  1 Kings 19:1-310 tells us about the pursuit of Jezebel against Elijah.  And we find in the New Testament, Matthew 14, that they killed the one with the spirit of Elijah.  They beheaded him.  This what happened to the Elijah to come.

1 Kings 19:1-3 (NASB)

Elijah Flees from Jezebel

Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.

Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”

And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

So lets see if we can bring this all together.  Elijah the prophet was called to lead the people through renewal and repentance, to turn back to God.  Malachi states that Elijah is coming again, to make straight the way of the Lord, before the day of the Lord.  And Christ tells them that this has happened.  There is no issue with the timeline.  It has occurred just as the scripture said it would.  He who has ears to hear let him hear.  John the Baptist is the one with the spirit of Elijah.  The one who called the people to repentance and to turn back to God.  The one who administered the baptism of the Lord.  Here is your Elijah.

12 And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

And you must understand just as they did to the prophet Elijah whatever they wanted so too must the Son of Man suffer many things and die.  As the prophecies in the Old Testament state, Isaiah 53:3-9, that the Christ must suffer many things before He is glorified.

Isaiah 53:3-9 (NASB)

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the [i]living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

This is the point of the passage the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Not the Elijah timeline.  They are focused on one thing and He wants them to understand what must happen for the glorification of the Son of Man.

They have been given a gift in seeing the prolepsis of the incarnation.  They must hold on to this until the ascension, the thing they cannot imagine.  Hence he tells them you must not speak of this until I have risen.  Then your understanding will be greater.  Then you will be witnesses to all things in my name.

Suffering is because of sin.  As John Stott says it is an alien intrusion into God’s good work.  All because of sin that entered due to the fall of man.

Hear this, Jesus must suffer.  Why?  Because of sin.  Not His sin, because He was sinless, but because of our Sin Jesus must suffer 2 Cor 5:21.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)

21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus pointing to the fact that He must suffer, because of man’s sin, is because this must precede His glorification.

That the faith that we have in Him as a savior is because He will be lifted up like the bronze serpent of Moses.  The thing upon whom the afflicted Israelites look and have faith in God and are saved.

The same goes with Jesus.  It is Him lifted up upon the blood soaked cross that our hope is fixed.  It is there are Calvary that the forgiveness of sins is complete.

This is the suffering Christ that suffers for us.

This is the hope which we have.  Peter, James, and John saw the prolepsis of that hope.  They had not yet viewed the agony of the cross nor how they would scatter.  Up until the cross they had seen the miracles and heard the teaching.  They had not experienced the loss.

Jesus was showing them the mountaintop so that they would be prepared.  So that they would be witnesses.  So that they would understand the prophecy of Isaiah 53.  That although He would be crushed by the inequities of man He would be glorified by the Father.

Now what does this mean for us?

It is narrative of the present suffering to come and the future hope in Christ.

You could almost hear Jesus saying something of this nature, showing compassion to them:

I am showing you this to help you later.  You won’t get it yet but you will get it in a number of months.  What is going to happen will be hard.  It will be difficult.  You most certainly will die because of my name and the message I bring.  But you have not only seen Moses and Elijah but you have seen Me glorified.

Hold on to this image.  It will be so important for you in the near future.  But tell no one because you don’t quite get it yet and you won’t be able to explain it.

Trust and have faith.

They are seeing these things and hearing Jesus all in preparation for the cross.  All in preparation to the be the foundation of the church.  The witnesses to the Jesus.

We should find hope here too.

Look at what Paul says in Colossians 1 starting in v21

Colossians 1:21 (NASB)

21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,

You were formerly an enemy

You were engaged in evil

But through Christ’s suffering

But Through His death

You are now holy

You are now blameless

You are now beyond reproach

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

Because of Him

We can rejoice in suffering

We can uplift the body which is the church

All for His glory

Imagine these three

At the empty tomb

Remembering the mountaintop

Could it be true

Is He alive?

The one who was dead risen again?

Then to see Him

The pierced hands and feet

The Joy must have been unimaginable

And we should have that same joy

For our risen savior

Trusting that this life is merely fleeting

To bear our own cross

That to suffer for Him is to gain

Philippians 1:21 – To live is Christ to die is gain

Philippians 1:21 (NASB)

To Live Is Christ

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

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