TODAY’S READING: Matthew 17; Mark 9
In missions, we must have eyes for Jesus only. The transfiguration reminds us that while law (Moses) and prophecy (Elijah) are not to be despised, they are not to be the focus either. We must be careful to look to Jesus, not experiences, and we must be careful to let Jesus frame and interpret our experiences. Peter, endearingly, didn’t know what to say (Mark 9:5–6); this is endearing because it’s so common to us all. The transfiguration is a classic example of the dirt and divinity principle. A bit of Jesus’ glory was revealed and Peter didn’t know how to handle it so he reacted emotionally. The Father corrected him, and us all, reminding us not to be enamored with experiences or rapturous revelations. We are to fixate on Jesus alone.
When we focus on Jesus, He says things we don’t like. He refers to Himself as the Son of Man who has to die for the sins of the world. The disciples wanted to understand what just happened (Matt. 17:10); Jesus wanted them to focus on what will happen (v. 12). The disciples continued to struggle with the spiritual component of Jesus’ messianic mission, and Jesus continue to tell them it meant death and suffering before glory. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around it. They were still thinking national and parochial deliverance and missed the grand scope—all the nations of the world. Part of this is ignorance, part is prejudice, and part is faithlessness. Ignorance because it blew their expectations, prejudice because they didn’t want to share the Messiah, and faithlessness because they didn’t believe Jesus could work through them to cast a demon from a little boy, much less from a Gentile people group. Jesus’ frustration with the faithless goes beyond one small encounter with a demonized boy to the greater challenge of demonized peoples spiritually freed by the Messiah globally.
Lest we are too harsh on the disciples, let us bring our own discipleship and faith to reckoning. We can no longer say we’re ignorant about God’s grand design to redeem all peoples to Himself. That leaves prejudice and faithlessness. Do we really want Arabs and Africans in our heavenly home? Do we really have faith that Jesus can save the Saudi king? Are we more enamored with Moses and Elijah (tradition and charisma) than we are with Jesus going to the cross? Would we have things remain as they are and seek internal reform than pay the price of dying to self so the world might be saved, and does that posture lead us to say ridiculous things?
The Father made Moses and Elijah disappear and thundered from heaven that we focus on His beloved Son who came to suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. Jesus thunders through the Gospels that He expects us to have the faith to follow Him to the cross, to lay down our lives for unreached peoples. Jesus gets frustrated when we don’t believe His mighty power can use us to set demonized peoples of earth free. Let’s not frustrate Jesus.