• Alpha – Beginning
31…“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”
42 – 48 Dire Warnings & Results
V48 “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ [Isaiah 66:24]
• Omega – Finale
49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other. ”
Alpha (Α) and omega (Ω) are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and a title of Christ and God in the Book of Revelation.
This red thread begins with Jesus telling his disciples once again of what’s in store for him…coming death and resurrection. V31 sounds like an ending, but Christ is the beginning of our journey to God and that’s how the Alpha and Omega came to my mind. ..but there’s that in-between.
We live today with the same life circumstances Jesus was cautioning them about in Mark 9. “Our” life in-between Alpha and Omega is packed with arguing, ambition, acceptance, tolerance and the reality of how critical our choices are. They’re so critical in fact some versions quote Isaiah three times in verses 44 and 46 and 48.
That in-between life is not just filler. It’s time the Alpha has given us for salt and fire to purify our choices and teach us how to be “salt among [ourselves], and be at peace with each other” while we look forward to the last word, the Omega, an eternity lived in the presence of God the Son, God the Spirit and God the Father.
Mark 9 The Red Thread
16 “What are you arguing with them about?
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”…“You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
29… This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Here are the characters of the story:
• Religious leaders hassling the disciples for being ineffective
• The frustrated disciples because they’re ineffective
• A devoted father unable to get help for his son
• A frustrated Jesus
It seems studying a red letter version of Mark requires going through the book more slowly to experience how the little parts tucked in along with the big deal parts are tied together with that same red thread of Jesus’s words.
Chapter 9 seems to be about recognizing the challenge that faith is greater than what you currently comprehend. That certainly happened to Peter, James and John on the mountain with Jesus. That challenge continues with the words of the devoted father, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” and even the disciples own frustrated words “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Faith wasn’t the issue. It was an issue of maintenance that frustrated Jesus enough to confront them with this truth. It’s prayer that maintains the connection of faith to the power of God…”only by prayer.”
The Red Thread verses
1… And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
12… “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
The Rest of the Story
V2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone…there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus…V7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
I’ve read over this scripture many times with such a casual acceptance of its truth that I totally missed the importance of the small red thread of Jesus’s words that begins the chapter. The first verse seems like it should have been attached to the end of chapter 8. The drama of the story that follows overshadowed the question I hadn’t even thought to ask; Who was Jesus talking about? All those guys are dead. Then I read the chapter in The Message version. The “some who are standing here” that would see the Kingdom of God come into power with their own eyes were Peter, James and John.
It’s one little detail of truth that’s been pulled from the recesses of casual acceptance into the light to become dramatic for me. That’s the point isn’t it?
27…“Who do people say I am?”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
33…“Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34…“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Who? Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Right answer but which was the right question: “Who do people say I am?” or “Who do you say I am?” The right question mattered to Jesus not just the right answer.
“Who do people say I am?” The cultural heritage of the Jewish people was that Messiah would come as a warrior-like king in a battle to redeem their long history of oppression and remake their world. That was a powerful and appealing identity any Jew would recognize about Messiah
Jesus presses on with a far more personal question. “Who do you say I am?” It was an identity destined to be an uphill battle for their mind. Jesus was talking about being killed and rising from the dead…for heaven’s sake! Messiah WOULD redeem their long history of oppression and remake their world…BUT by giving up his own life in exchange for their souls and asking them to deny themselves and lose their life for him.
It’s no wonder Peter was worried about the messaging. It’s no wonder Jesus called him on it! “Who do you say I am?” is still the right question. It’s still an uphill battle to keep “in mind the concerns of God,” and not just settle for knowing the right answer.
* 2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
* 5 “How many loaves do you have?”
* 12…“Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”
* “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
* 17…“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
* 20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
* 21…“Do you still not understand?”
* 23… “Do you see anything?”
* 26…“Don’t even go into the village.”
It seems like all Jesus has been doing is miraculous signs and yet the Pharisees still want him to prove himself with a sign they recognize. I wonder about recognizing signs. Did the crowd of 4000 realize what had actually happened to provide them food? Probably not. I’m guessing as that basket passed by they we’re just grateful that they’d been able to sit close enough so there was still food in it for them. It all seemed completely normal.
Barclay: “The whole tendency of the age in which Jesus lived was to look for God in the abnormal… They wished to see some shattering event blazing across the horizon, defying the laws of nature and astonishing men…”
The crowd, his own disciples, the Pharisees and even those Jesus healed all understood the greater miracles. The challenge for Jesus was to open their ears and eyes to recognize the greater purpose that God was revealing himself to them across the spectrum of life’s needs. That’s still his challenge and purpose. “Do you see anything?”
Jesus is still traveling in the area most Jews considered pagan. It was in that area of the 10 cities [Decapolis] some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk. “…They begged Jesus to place his hand on him. 33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.”
Imagine how confusing this whole situation must have been to this man. He certainly hasn’t “heard” about Jesus. His life must have been like our watching TV with the sound off; the visual chaos of a lot of unexplained activity. That makes it easier for me to imagine his situation. Bless those people that brought him to Jesus.
Bless Jesus for his kindness and sensitivity to remove this man from that visual chaos he must have been experiencing and to protect him from the audible chaos of the crowd at the moment his ears were opened. Away from the distraction of the crowd Jesus could use his hands to show the man what he would do in a silent mime. Jesus’s voice would be the first one heard. It’s a marvelous story of physical healing with just that one word spoken,..“Ephphatha!”
It was interesting to discover that one word, “Ephphatha!” was in Aramaic but the word that explained it was the Greek version “dianoigō,” It seems this healing was too big for just one language. It took both languages to convey the purpose Jesus had in mind as he stood face to face to heal this man…”to open so as to connect.”
Jesus had an even greater purpose for this man’s life…and ours….to understand when he speaks in our lives it’s ”to open so as to connect.”