CHAPTER VI (CONTINUE)
Final Period of the Galilean Ministry (Continue)
7. Christ Begins to Foretell His Death and Resurrection
References: Matt. 16:21-28; Mk. 8:31-9:1; Lk. 9:22-27
This passage marks a natural division in the Gospel of Matthew. The two divisions are marked by the expression: “From that time forth Jesus began,” (Matt. 4:17 and 16:21). In the first half the King is presented: in the second half He is rejected. Of course, we see indications of His rejection before this, but now the fact is sealed by the revelation that He is actually going to be put to death.
One would have thought that Jesus would have commended Peter for his loyalty in defending Him from those who would dare to lay a hand on Him, but instead He speaks as though Peter were Satan and rebukes him for being a stumbling block and for not minding the things of God. It is evident from this passage, as well as others, that the primary purpose of the first coming of Jesus into the world was to die a redemptive death. Anything that would turn Him aside from that purpose was Satanically inspired. There are some dispensationalists who teach that the purpose of His first coming was to establish the Kingdom of Israel, but there could be no possibility of the Kingdom being established until Christ had first suffered. In Scripture the order is always, “First the Cross and then the Crown,” (Lk. 24:26; Acts 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 1:11).
Jesus then called unto Him the multitude with His disciples and laid down the rule for those who would follow Him. Before this it was apparently easy to follow Jesus, to get healed, to be fed, but now He is entering upon a dangerous period when violence will come upon Him and His followers. Therefore, He says a man must take up his own cross and be ready to lay down his life for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Those who seek to save their lives would lose them, but paradoxically those who laid down their lives would in reality save them. And it was at this point He uttered the familiar words: “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own life (soul), or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” He ended this discourse with a “verily,” that some standing there would not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom. The statement contains the conditional particle “an” (cf. comments on Matt. 10:23), but the primary reference seems to be to what happened six days later (Matt. 17).
8. The Transfiguration
References: Matt. 17:1-13; Mk. 9:2-13; Lk. 9:28-36
Both Matthew and Mark state that the Transfiguration took place six days later, while Luke states it was about eight days. There is no contradiction. The six days are exclusive; the eight are inclusive. As remarked in the last lesson, the statement that some in that audience would not die until they saw the Son of man coming in His kingdom, contains the untranslatable particle “an” which requires a condition to be fulfilled to make the promise come to pass. We believe that condition was Israel’s national acceptance of Jesus. There was still the possibility that Israel would repent and be converted after the predicted death and resurrection of Christ. However, in view of His impending death Jesus took the inner circle of the disciples up into the mount where He was transfigured before them. Peter refers to this incident in his second epistle (1:16-18):
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”
The word transfigured is the Greek “metamorphosed,” which indicates a change of form, as a pupae is metamorphosed into a butterfly. The essential inner nature is revealed in a new form. When Jesus was metamorphosed His face shone as the sun and His garments became white as the light, glistering and dazzling. This reminds us of Paul’s statement that God dwells in the light which no man can approach unto (1 Tim. 6:16), and of the blinding light which struck him down on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3). This outshining of His glory is surely an evidence of His Deity. The Hebrews writer describes Him as “being the brightness or effulgence of His glory” (Heb. 1:3).
Luke informs us it was while Jesus was praying that He was transfigured, and further, that the two men who appeared with Him in glory, Moses and Elijah, spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. We would not speak of death as an accomplishment, but for Jesus it was the main work He had come to accomplish. He was born to die. We can only wonder what Moses and Elijah said, but apparently that death was the chief topic of conversation in heaven. And on the side, the appearance of these two men with Jesus is proof that there is a conscious existence after death. Although Elijah was translated without dying, we know that Moses did die and was buried by the Lord (Deut. 34:5,6).
Some commentators criticize Peter for being impulsive and brash, but we wonder what we might have said under the circumstances. The Scripture says that Peter really didn’t know what he was saying when he said: “If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles (booths); one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Although Peter put Jesus before Moses and Elijah, it was not God’s purpose to place these two great men of God on a par with Jesus, for while he was yet speaking they were engulfed in a bright cloud of light and the Voice from the cloud declared: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.” Suddenly they looked around and saw no one, save Jesus only.
Luke informs us that they held their peace and told no man in those days of the things which they had seen. Matthew and Mark state as they were coming down from the mountain Jesus told them to tell no man of the vision until the Son of man be risen from the dead. They as yet did not understand the truth of the resurrection, for they questioned among themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean. In fact, they did not understand and believe until Jesus actually appeared and showed them his pierced hands and feet and side and ate in their presence (Lk. 24:36-45 cf. Mk. 16:11-13).
The disciples must have been perplexed by all that was going on. They asked Jesus why the scribes say that Elijah must first come? Jesus replied that Elijah would come first and restore all things, and that Elijah had come and the rulers had done unto him whatsoever they listed, and that He, Jesus would suffer a like fate. Then the disciples understood He was speaking about John the Baptist. (See notes on Matt. 11:13,14.)
9. Demon Possessed Boy Healed
References: Matt. 17: 14-21; Mk. 9:14-29; Lk. 9:37-43
Mark gives us the most detailed account of this healing. While Jesus was on the mountain top being transfigured before His three apostles, Satan was at work at the foot of the mountain tormenting this lad. This demon afflicted the boy with fits of epilepsy, throwing him down, causing him to foam at the mouth and to grind his teeth so that he became speechless. Satan would sometimes throw him into the fire or into the water in an effort to destroy him and this had been going on from his childhood. The father had brought the boy to the other of Jesus’ disciples, but they were unable to cast out the demon. A large crowd had gathered and certain of the scribes were questioning the disciples. When Jesus appeared and was told what was going on, He rebuked them as a faithless and perverse generation, and asked that the boy be brought to Him. While the boy was coming to Jesus the demon threw him to the ground convulsing him violently.
The father pleaded for compassion: “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus told him if he could believe, all things were possible. Whereupon the father cried, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon: “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.” As the spirit came out, he convulsed him again, crying out, and left the boy as dead, so that many said he was dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and restored him to his father.
Naturally, the disciples wondered why they couldn’t cast out the demon, and Jesus told them that this kind of demon could be exorcised only by prayer and fasting, according to Mark, but Matthew gives the additional reason, “Because of your unbelief.” While the gift of exorcism is not listed in the Pauline Church epistles as belonging to this dispensation, these epistles nevertheless tell us of our conflict with Satanic powers and the necessity of having on the whole armor of God, described in Eph. 6:13-17, in order to be victorious over Satan. “Above all,” Paul says, “take the shield of faith.” And part of that armor, or perhaps the environment in which that armor is to be used is, “Praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”
10. Christ Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection
References: Matt. 17:22,23; Mk. 9:30-32; Lk. 9:44,45
There is a very important fact to be noted in connection with these predictions about Christ’s death. We are so accustomed to making the death of Christ the central truth of the Gospel, we cannot think Gospel apart from that death. That is due to Paul’s clear definition of the gospel which he preached in 1 Cor. 15:1-3. However, earlier in this ninth chapter of Luke we read, “And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (vs. 6). They were preaching the gospel, but what gospel were they preaching? Were they telling the people about the death and resurrection of Christ as the good news of salvation? If anything could be said dogmatically about their preaching of the gospel, it is that not one word was said about the death and resurrection of Christ, apart from which we could not preach the gospel today.
How do we know this? This passage makes it plain: “But they understood not this saying (about His death and resurrection), and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not; and they feared to ask him of that saying” (Lk. 9:45). Later on He told them again of His impending death, and we read: “And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things that were spoken” (Lk. 18:34). If they understood nothing about His death and resurrection and if this truth was hidden from them, it is not likely that they were preaching about it when they were preaching the gospel.
The good news they were preaching was called the gospel of the Kingdom. It was the good news that the long promised Messianic Kingdom was near at hand and that the healing miracles were an evidence of that fact. Of course, the death of Christ was to become the basis for the establishment of that Kingdom, but as yet it was not being proclaimed. That is why we must go to the epistles to learn what the gospel of salvation really is. Those who insist on sticking with the earthly ministry of Christ and fail to go on to the Pauline revelation either confuse the message of salvation or give people a false hope. To preach the Golden Rule as the gospel is to preach salvation by works and thus frustrate the grace of God. The Sermon on the Mount was not given to show how to be saved; it was instruction for the covenant family of God.
11. Tax Money
References: Matt. 17:24-27
In the Law of Moses, Ex. 30:11-16, a half-shekel tax was imposed on rich and poor alike. The rich should not give more nor the poor less. This was called the temple tax. When Peter was asked if his Master paid the temple tax, he replied, “Yes.” When Peter came into the house, before he had opportunity to mention the matter to Jesus, Jesus asked him: “Of whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or custom? of their own children, or of strangers? Of strangers,” Peter replied. “Then are the children free,” said Jesus.
“Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a stater; take that, and give unto them for me and thee.” A stater was a shekel, sufficient to pay the half- shekel for both of them. It is evident that neither Peter nor Jesus had any money, and therefore the miracle.
Jesus in His omniscience knew someone had dropped a stater in the lake. He knew that a certain fish had picked it up while scrounging on the bottom for food. And He knew that when Peter cast in his hook and line this would be the first fish to bite. If Jesus foreknew that much about fish and about one particular fish out of the millions in the sea, how can we doubt but that He knows everything that concerns us human beings, especially those that are His. If He could so work things together with the fish, is He not also able to work all things together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose? It should be noted, however, that this is not the normal way God supplies our financial needs. He is surely able but in His present spiritual order for us today He has commanded that we work to earn for our needs, and if we won’t work neither should we eat (2 Thes. 3:10).
12. Discourse on Little Children
References: Mat t. 18:1-14; Mk. 9:33-50; Lk. 9:46-50
The discourse on little children was occasioned by a dispute among the disciples while on their way to Capernaum. They had been arguing over which one of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom when it was established. When they arrived and came into the house Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about, but they were apparently ashamed to tell Him, so they kept silent. Jesus, of course, knew what had been the subject of discussion, for He knew and still knows all things; so He took a little child in His arms and set it in their midst and proceeded to give them a lesson on humility.
The disciples had been judging greatness no doubt on such qualities as strength, courage, finesse in oratory, knowledge and wisdom. But they had to learn from this little child, which had none of these qualities, that greatness in God’s sight consists in humbleness as of an infant, helpless in itself and totally dependent upon its parents for sustenance. The disciples might have learned this from their Scriptures (cf. 2 Chron. 7:14; Prov. 16:18,19; Mic. 6:8). Jesus, of course, will be the greatest in the Kingdom, not only because He is the Son of God, but because as the Son of man He is the perfect example of humility.
Although having equality with God, He humbled Himself, even to the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:6-9), wherefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name.
Jesus not only used the little child as an object lesson of humility, but He gave a stern warning to anyone who would cause one of these little ones to stumble, to be offended, to go astray. Jesus said that in the world as it is constituted offenses must needs come, but woe to the man by whom they come. It had been better for such a man that a millstone had been hanged around his neck and he had been drowned in the depths of the sea.
Then Jesus spoke of safeguarding one’s self against committing such offenses.
When He speaks of chopping off one’s hands or feet, or plucking out one’s eyes, if these members of the body cause one to commit offenses, we believe He was using figurative language and was not advocating self-mutilation of the body. We have commented on this subject where similar injunctions are given in the Sermon of the Mount. It no doubt would be better to go through life with a maimed body than to have a perfect body and be cast into the lake of fire. For the believer in our present dispensation, he is told to mortify, to put to death his members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, and to put on the new man (Col. 3:3-10). But this is done, not by physically cutting off parts of the body, but by faith reckoning ourselves to have died with Christ and to have risen with Him in newness of life, (Rom. 6:6-13).
Christ’s statement about the angels of the little children beholding the Father’s face in heaven has been used to teach that there is a guardian angel appointed for each child born into the world. There is no other passage in the Bible which teaches such a doctrine, and from the tragic plight of millions of children during the centuries it would seem that the supposed guardians haven’t been doing much guarding. There is a similar statement in Acts 12:15, where Peter was miraculously released from prison where he was to have been beheaded, and where, coming to the door of Mary’s house in which the disciples had met for prayer, the disciples refused to believe it was actually Peter, and said: “It is his angel.” Did they mean Peter’s guardian angel, or Peter’s spirit? It seems most plausible to understand that they thought Peter had been beheaded and this was an apparition of his spirit.
Although one cannot be dogmatic, it also seems plausible to believe that Jesus was speaking about departed spirits of little children who had the closeness of relationship with the Father in heaven. The passage does not teach that children are all in a saved condition because of their innocence, for the very next verse in Matthew states the fact that the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. All humanity is lost by nature, and Jesus came to save the lost, which includes little children.
Matthew next records the parable of the one lost sheep which is applied to infants, for it is not the will of the Father “that one of these little ones should perish.” The same parable is told in Lk. 15 where it is applied to the prodigal son.
On the other hand, Mark records next the parable of the Salt, which was also told on several different occasions, which explains the different ways it is stated. In Matt. 5:13 Jesus said to His disciples: “Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” In our present passage in Mark, Jesus said: “For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost its saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” The Salt parable appears later in Lk. 14:34,35: “Salt is good, but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is fit neither for the land, nor yet for the dunghill, but men cast it out. He that hath ears, let him hear.”
Salt is used primarily in Scripture as a seasoning to make food palatable. Job asked, “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?” (Job 6:6). Mark refers to Lev. 2:13 where it is commanded that every sacrifice be salted with salt. Num. 18:19 speaks of a covenant of salt. When two men ate salt together they bound themselves in a friendship that could not be broken. Anyone who breaks such a covenant of salt is fit only to be cast out. Israel had a covenant of salt with God, but they had broken it, and according to custom and to parable, they were fit neither for the land nor the dunghill, but to be cast out.
Salt was also used as an antiseptic. Newborn babies were bathed and salted (Ezek. 16:4). Here salt takes on a purifying aspect. We know that salt is also used as a preservative for meats. Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” and “have salt in yourselves.” What did He mean? He meant that everything that salt is to the material world, His disciples were to be to the people of the world. Paul said: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). Speech seasoned with salt is just the opposite of corrupt communications out of the mouth (Eph. 4:29).
Mark and Luke both inject into this context John’s answer concerning the incident of the disciples forbidding a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name because he did not belong to the company of the disciples. John’s answer to Jesus was apparently called forth by Jesus’ words in the previous verse about receiving such “children in my name.” John said the man whom they had rebuked was casting out demons “in thy name.” John’s conscience was apparently bothered by what they had done. Jesus replied: “Forbid him not: for there is no man that shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.”
These words of Jesus are in contrast to what He said in Matt. 7:22,23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have we cast out demons? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I confess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” These statements appear to be contradictory. However, the Lord knows what is in the heart of man, and these in the latter passage He knew to be workers of iniquity, even though they claimed to have done these things in His name. The man whom the disciples had forbidden apparently was a true believer.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)