Chapter nine begins with one of the few cases in which Mark notes a specific time. In this case, it was “six days later,” after Jesus’ teaching on truly following him, that he allowed Peter, James, and John to see something they would never forget (Mark 9:2-13). Although John’s brother, James, never wrote any recorded Scripture, seeing Jesus in his full divine glory in the Transfiguration most certainly affected these three men in a significant way. Both Peter and John later wrote of their experience as a transformational event (2 Peter 1:16-18; John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-4). They witnessed Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah (how did they recognize them?), which must have been exciting. Most importantly, though, they heard the voice of God himself. It was one thing for Peter to declare, “You are the Christ”; it was another matter completely to hear the Father say, “This is my Son!”
While Jesus and the other three were on the mountain, a man had approached the remaining nine disciples with his demon-possessed son, hoping they could heal him, but they could not (Mark 9:14-29). Mark is the only of the Synoptic writers to mention that this had caused the disciples to get into an argument with “experts in the law” (Mark 9:14). It is easy to speculate that the religious leaders had used this as an example to prove that Jesus and his disciples were not as powerful as they claimed. When Jesus came, he chided the man for his faltering belief, but he compassionately healed the boy immediately. When the disciples asked about their inability to do it, Jesus told them that only prayer could drive out this kind of demon. This provides a little insight into the hierarchy of the demons and a reminder that God’s work requires God’s power.
After this Jesus told the disciples again that he would be killed and resurrected, but they did not understand (Mark 9:30-32). Instead, the recent events of Peter’s declaration of faith, the Transfiguration, and the inability of the nine to cast out the demon led the disciples into a quiet argument about who was the greatest among them (Mark 9:33-37). When Jesus called them out on it, he reminded them that being great comes with humility and service and, most importantly, our connection to Jesus. In response, John pointed out that some people were using Jesus’ name for their own ministry instead of his (Mark 9:38-41). Jesus noted that one cannot serve in Jesus’ name without genuineness for long. This is similar to Paul’s note that he did not care why Jesus was being preached, as long as it was the true gospel message (Philippians 1:12-18). However, it will be harsh judgment for those who lead people away from Christ, especially young people (Mark 9:42-50).