“And they were Astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?”
Many skillfully orchestrated events came to pass which brought the disciples of Jesus to this most astounding question. These events happened in their lives as testimony to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation, beginning with Peter, James and John accompanying Jesus to the top of a mountain. The scriptural account indicates that there was a six day period in which nothing which Jesus said or did was recorded. There are no conflicting events which could have persuaded the minds of these three men nor are there any distractions, such as a multitude of people or belligerent Pharisees accosting the assembly, which could have occupied their hearts and minds. These men were chosen of God to observe His glory and power while at the same time they were not given to understand the meaning of what they witnessed.
These few days of inactivity would seem to indicate that the disciples were well rested as they ascended the mountain, yet “Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep” (Luke 9:32). There is no indication of the time of day that this trip took place, the height of the ascent or the duration of the walk but the power of Almighty God enabled them to walk the walk and then to fall asleep as His glory was being manifested. God did not need their assistance as His appearance in the likeness of sinful flesh was changed into the brilliance of His glory. Nor did He require their cooperation or recognition as Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus. They were brought along to bear witness to this wondrous manifestation but when it was over, “they kept it close and told no man in those days and of those things which they had seen” (9:36).
How did these men identify Moses and Elijah? It could be concluded that the Anointed One was the only one shinning and therefore it was obvious which one was Jesus but there were no visual records of Moses or Elijah and certainly no one living who could identify either of them. So, when these three men awoke from their sleep, how ever long it was, the raiment of Jesus was so bright that “no fuller on earth can white them, and there appeared unto them Elias, Moses and they were talking with Jesus” (Mk. 9:3b-4). The men who represented the Law and the prophets were speaking with the Elect Servant of Yehovah God who had come in the fullness of time to manifest, “that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms concerning Me” (Lk. 24:44). They were not briefing Him as to what came next or preparing Him for the work that lay before Him. He came to make an open demonstration of the work of God which was finished from the foundation of the world and so the Spirit revealed to Peter, James and John the identity of these men. This understanding did not come by the power of man, nor of the wisdom of the flesh “but My Father which is in heaven” gave them this spiritual understanding.
This event was taking place just a few short days after Jesus asked the question, “Who do men say that I am?” Peter was given of the Holy Spirit to answer that He is Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus assures Peter that this revelation was not of Adam or of anything to do with this world, yet a few days later, when He was beginning to tell the disciples of the upcoming events, Peter rebukes Him saying; “Be it far from you Lord, this shall not be unto you”. Jesus rebuked Peter for his inability in the flesh to know or understand the things of God and now this same man was standing amazed and frightened at the sight of the glorified Messiah with Moses and Elijah. The same Spirit which revealed the truth about Messiah to him had also revealed the true identity of these other men and the significance of their presence.
The Holy Spirit gave these men this understanding, contrary to any natural ability, and He caused them to be exceedingly afraid. Along with the knowledge of the identity of these men came the understanding of what they represented and a most amazing representation. When Moses went into the mountain and met with Yehovah God, the glory of God caused his face to glow. This was so frightening to the people and Aaron to the point that they could not steadfastly look upon his face and were afraid to come near him (Ex. 34:29ff). Jesus, however, was not reflecting the light of the glory of God, for He was the fullness of the Godhead, bodily. He was changed in form and appeared altered to manifest the authority of God in, through and over all that He did and to verify the truth. The Law demands that at the minimum two witnesses were required for a matter to be established (Deut. 19:15). Jesus bore witness to the truth in that He came as the chosen servant of God (Is. 42:1). He fulfilled the sign of the prophesy as the Son being given and, even though He is the King of Peace (Solomon), He was manifested as the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). He humbled Himself and took on the form of the servant to do the work assigned unto Him and He came as that prophet to speak the Word of Yehovah. Moses, the prophets and the Psalms all speak of the coming of the Anointed One and Jesus was revealed unto these three men, in His glory, speaking of all things which must needs come to pass.
The excitement of this moment enticed Peter to venerate this momentous occasion. He immediately wanted to raise a monument to the three figures which he was given to see according to all that he was taught of men was about to come to pass. The coming of Elijah signified the coming of the end and the disciples knew it (Mal. 4:5). When they descended off the mount they asked Jesus concerning this but His answer was not according to the dogma they had been taught. The natural man had seen a visible event and had carnally concluded that the earthly kingdom was to be revealed. The answer that Jesus gave them seemed to support their anticipation as He said that Elijah must indeed come and He added to “restore all things” (Matt.17:11). The prophet said that Elijah must come before ‘the great and dreadful Day of Yehovah’ which was in the end of the world and even today at the ‘Sedar’ meal in celebration of the Passover, there is an empty chair for the immanent return of Elijah. Peter believed that this day was come, Messiah was to set up His kingdom on earth, Israel was to once again be the most powerful nation and he was to sit upon one of the twelve thrones and rule over Israel. This is what they had been taught, this is what they believed and so when the Lord ascended back into heaven they asked Him; “Will you now at this time restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts. 1:6).
Then came a cloud which overshadowed them and a voice proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God and commanded that these men “hear Him”. As if there was not enough fear, wonder and amazement happening God spoke in the thickness of this cloud, just as He did at Mt. Sinai when He gave Moses the Law (Lk. 9:36). When the voice had ceased and the cloud was withdrawn, they saw only Jesus and as they descended the mount they asked Him why people say Elijah must come first. He confirmed that the prophesy stated that Elijah must come and added that Elijah had already come, in the person of John the baptizer; they logically expected the kingdom to follow. The holy Spirit gave them knowledge in the recognition of the men, the voice of God declared the identity of Jesus and His authority and Jesus told them not to speak of what they saw until after He was delivered up, crucified and risen from the dead; “And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one another what the rising from the dead should mean” (Mk. 9:10). Neither Peter, James nor John were given to write about this encounter as it stands as a testimony to the fact that God does not need Adam to help Him with His work; Adam is His work.
“And when He came to disciples, He saw a great multitude about them and the scribes, questioning with them” (Mk. 9:14).
Moses was ordered to descend off the mount to find that the children of Israel had risen up to play and there was a noise of war in the camp (Ex. 32:17) so when Jesus came off the mount He found the adversary had surrounded the camp. There was one who had brought his infirmed son to the disciples for them to cast out the demon within while the scribes were accosting them because they could not do it. Jesus rebukes them all as being an ‘incredulously corrupt’ generation because they did not believe the truth nor seek after Him. They sought a quick fix of all their problems and the disciples could not help for they too were of this generation. They did not have faith, for Adam is devoid of this gift, they sought to ingratiate themselves as they attempted to cast out without authority and they demonstrated the pride of Edom as they thought to be in the place of God to this man with the possessed child.
This was not a small gathering as the decree of Yehovah God demanded that this testimony be given in open session with many witnesses. It was full of emotion on all sides as it demonstrated that without faith it is impossible to please God or to come to the knowledge of the truth. The disciples could not extricate the spirit within because they had not the faith in Adam to do such things. They acted according to the flesh in their attempt to ‘witness for God’ and they manifested the impotence of man. Jesus said; “if you had faith the size of a grain of mustard seed” (Matt. 17:20), which signifies that the natural man is lacking even this diminutive quantity of that which is the fruit of the Spirit.
Prayer and supplications are not catalysts which prompt God into action or grant Him the liberty to perform His Holy will, they are the evidence of the Spirit within. The Spirit of Almighty God knows the mind of Almighty God and thusly the prayers of the saints ascend before the throne of the Father continually “with groanings which cannot be uttered, and He that searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to God” (Rms. 8:26f).
Jesus casts out the devil and restores the child to his father. “They were all amazed at the mighty power of God, but while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did” (Lk 9:43) He continued to teach the disciples how that He must go to Jerusalem and be betrayed by the hands of man “and they should kill Him and the third day He shall be raised again; and they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Matt. 17:23). The concept of death was not foreign to them nor was the resurrection from the dead. They knew the story of the man who when he touched the bones of Elisha rose from the dead (II Kings 13:21), they had recently witnessed the resurrection of the widows son at Nain and the daughter of Jairus in Galilee but the concept of the Messiah dying was not in their Sabbath School materials. They expected a powerful military leader who would come and deliver them from the tyranny of man, restore the kingdom of Israel here on earth and reward them as rulers and leaders in this newly established government.
“Then arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest” (Lk. 9:46)
The power and majesty of Almighty God was being openly manifested in the sight of these great multitudes and the men whom Jesus called to be His disciples were arguing which one of them was greater than the others. He openly demonstrated that they are weak and confused in the flesh but their minds were filled with the idea of the kingdom. They could not keep their eyes open when He was transformed, they could not cast out the demon in the child, they could not answer the scribes and instead of being humbled for their incompetence, they were jousting for prominence and power. Jesus, perceiving the thoughts of their hearts, took a child and set him before Him. He was not impressed with the perfection or innocence of the small child who had not yet arrived at the age of accountability nor was He blessing all little children who are caught up into heaven if they die at a young age; He was setting before His disciple an example. The child had not yet learned the customs, traditions and corruption of the flesh. He carried no baggage of doctrines or creeds and he did not care about his worth before God.
The Jews claimed their heritage in Abraham as their right of inheritance into the kingdom of God. The work mongers cry out, ‘Lord, Lord’ as they recite the list of accomplishments they have performed and the religionists lift up their water baptisms, church member ships and, of course, their prayer of faith as reasons for God to be impressed with man. God is not impressed. He is not a respecter of persons nor does He react to the actions of His creations. His ways are beyond finding out and His wonders are too spectacular for the naked eyes of man to behold. The arrogance of the disciples, as to how great they were, was further demonstrated when they saw one casting out demons and they rebuked him. Jesus said; “Do not forbid him for he that is not against us is for us” (Lk. 9:49). When the question of sin came up they were not abased as to their own inability but rather asked how many times they should forgive when their brother sins against them (Matt. 18:15ff). Jesus again rebukes them by telling them that they should forgive as they have been forgiven. This concept will prompt the child of grace to consider his own sin against God and his brother before he demands contrition of another, for if Yehovah should mark iniquity, “who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3).
This arrogance was demonstrated again when the time was come that He should be delivered up, He turned His face as though He would go to Jerusalem and sent messengers before Him into a village of the Samaritans to make ready for Him. Yet they would not receive Him and the disciples, in light of all that was happening, asked if they should call down fire from heaven, as Elijah did, to consume these ‘infidels’ from off the earth. Jesus again rebukes them and tells them that they do not know “what manner of spirit you are, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Lk. 9:55f). This again was contrary to the commonly taught and widely accepted doctrine of the earthly kingdom of God.
Then came the questions about divorce and remarriage to which Jesus replied that Moses gave these provisions to men because of the “hardness of your hearts he wrote you this precept but from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female”. Another inquired as to how he could become a child of the kingdom and inherit eternal life. Jesus gave no altar call or told him to recite a prayer or two at the anxious bench; rather He asked him what the Law said. The man was so sure of himself that he affirmed that he had kept all these commandments from his youth upward but when Jesus told him the one thing that he lacked, he went away sorrowful for he had much wealth.
These are not indictments against these individual characters of the scriptures or against a particular race of people. They are an indictment against the guilt of the children of the dust and so when Jesus proclaims how difficult it is for those that have riches to enter into the kingdom, they are amazed and bewildered. The statement about the ease of the camel passing through the eye of the needle is not a reference to one of the gates in Jerusalem for a camel could indeed pass through that gate, howbeit with great difficult. It was however an absolute statement as to the difficulty of a live camel passing through the eye of a sewing needle which prompted the disciples to say in frustration, “Who then can be saved?”
“And Jesus looking upon them said, With men, impossible but not with God, for with God all things are possible” Mk. 10:27)
If Jesus was referring to a gate in the city which was so narrow and low that it was both impractical and of great difficulty for a camel to pass through, then His statement about salvation must bear the same comparative nature. He emphatically states that it is impossible for man to save himself or another; therefore there can be no possibility of a man stooping down, turning sideways or even crawling to curry the favour of the Lord God Almighty to deliver him. Salvation is of Yehovah and not of man.
Peter immediately begins to elaborate upon all that he and the others had done for the Lord but Jesus is not impressed. When in the final analysis it is disclosed that the sons of Adam have done all that they were bid to do by the Master, they will all at best be unprofitable servants of God and every child of the kingdom shall have the added blessing of afflictions. A person who abandoned everything for family, cause or beliefs may indeed have a feeling of nobility for their denying of the flesh and commitment to the matter but a child of grace shall receive all this in persecution. This is the identification of the stranger in the land. The children of the king of the land do not pay tribute to the king but strangers do. Jesus instructed Peter to go down to the water and cast in a hook. The first fish that he brought forth would have a coin in the mouth which Peter was to take and pay his tribute to the ruler of the land. This testifies to the power of God and His constant provisions in all things as well as the fact that His kingdom and His children are strangers in this world. The modern teaching of the earthly kingdom was shattered by the teaching of the King of the kingdom of our God. The importance and worth of the children of the dust was manifested in a series of event that happened in a short period of time and Jesus concludes this session with; “But many first shall be last and the last first” (10:31).
It is not by works of righteousness which a person may do or because of their zeal or heritage that God shows forth His grace upon them. His eternal love demands His attention and care upon those for whom He bled and died. These live by His faith and walk in the light of the Lord. They grow in the grace and knowledge of His will as they see clearer and clearer the wretchedness of this flesh and the vanity of this world. Jesus systematically dismantled every confidence that man can bring forth to show that the only hope that the Beloved has his in the Lord God Omnipotent. The proclamation of the gospel unto the nations is that Yehovah reigns, and the comfort of His people is that He has shown forth His salvation and all the world has seen it and that all flesh is grass. There can be no comfort in Adam who is deceived; his heart is desperately wicked, his mind is corrupted with the things of this world and his passions are after the needs and wants of the body of this death.
“Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12).
To be carnally minded is death and to have hope in this world is most miserable. The testimony of the Lord to His people is found in His chastening hand and the furnace of affliction. The greatest joy in this life is wormwood to the joy of the witness of the Spirit of God to the Spirit of His dear children that they are His sons, through the trying of their faith. The elite of this world are accepted of man and they have their reward. The children of the Kingdom of the Israel of our God are hated of all men for His name sake; they are despised, rejected and cast aside as fools but the Father will never leave them nor forsake them. He loves them with an eternal love and disciplines them according to the greatness of that love; there fore they love one another. “By this all men know that you are my disciples, because you have love one for another” (John 13:35).
Your servant in Christ,
(Elder) Chet Dirkes
November 15, 2015