Scripture: Mark 9:9 As (Jesus along with his disciples Peter, James, and John) were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”
Observation: Sometimes Jesus intends to be taken literally (“on the third day I will rise from the dead”) while at other times he speaks in parables, metaphors, or analogies (“But I tell you Elijah has come…” referring to John the Baptist). And he generally doesn’t tell the disciples which of his teachings are literal and which are not. No wonder his disciples were confused much of the time.
Application: This business of literal or not literal has been a challenge for the church from the first days. Some traditions take Jesus literally when he says of the bread which was broken at the last supper “this is my body” (which informs practices of the Lord’s Supper), while others believe Jesus was speaking metaphorically of his physical body which was to be broken on the cross.
Or, what did Jesus mean when in v.1 he said, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power.” If Jesus was referring to his triumphant return after his resurrection, all the people listening at the time are long dead yet we continue to wait. Or perhaps Jesus was referring to specific demonstrations of Kingdom power he manifested many times via healing, multiplying fishes and loaves of bread, casting out demons, and more. Or perhaps he was referring to his own resurrection occurring three days after his death.
I don’t know.
Prayer: Jesus, like your first disciples, present-day believers spend a lot of time guessing at what you mean now and what you meant in the past. Give us grace to live in the tension of the unknown as we await your promised return. Amen.