This is a commentary for you and me. It isn’t complicated, because Jesus wants you to understand it, so you can be healed physically and even more importantly, in your relationship with God, which was broken by sin.
So what’s the main point the Holy Spirit wants to make in this group of verses? He wants us to see what it means for the kingdom of God to come with power.
Verse 1 — Jesus says some who are with Him at this time in history will see the kingdom of God come with power, before they physically die. What does He mean? Is this a natural kingdom? Jesus says in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Where is this kingdom? “In your midst” — that is, inside of you (Luke 17:21).
What will be the sign of this kingdom’s arrival? Miracle-working power. But don’t the disciples already have authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons? Yes.
But Jesus does not yet rule and reign in His disciples’ hearts. When that happens, they will have not just His externally given authority, but His power residing within them. When will that happen? It will happen at Pentecost (Acts 2).
Then He will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire, their hearts will be totally His, and His Spirit will perform miraculous signs and wonders from within them, literally. That will be the sign of His kingdom coming with power into their hearts. It will happen while they are still alive. The kingdom of God will come with power.
Do you want the kingdom of God to come in power while you are still alive? Put your self-interest to death, and ask Him to baptize you with the Holy Spirit so He rules and reigns in you.
Verse 2-8 — Jesus takes Peter, James and John up onto a high mountain. Suddenly, He is transfigured. The Greek word is the one from which we get the word “metamorphosis.” He becomes very different in appearance. His garments are brilliantly lit with a heavenly light. They are able to see with their own eyes that He truly is not of this world.
Then Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. How did Peter, James and John recognize them? They are speaking with Jesus. He calls them by name. Peter has no idea what to do and is as the others — terrified by the change in Jesus’ appearance and the sudden appearance of Elijah and Moses. So Peter foolishly suggests erecting sacred tents (tabernacles) where Jesus, Moses, and Elijah can live. But that’s not why Peter, James and John are being shown this manifestation.
A cloud suddenly appears. God the Father’s voice comes from the cloud, “This My beloved Son, listen to Him!” God the Father makes it clear what this terrifying heavenly manifestation is about.
Important point: When you first see God the Son manifested before you, your reaction will not be jumping and running and shouting and laughing. It will be terror, because it will be so powerful and so different from anything you have ever seen. You will be convinced that Jesus is much more than you first thought, and you will be afraid. But when He has filled you with the Holy Spirit, you will no longer fear (1John
God the Father explains why Peter, James and John are being shown this terrifying manifestation —
First, this is My Son, the Son of God, this is God in the flesh. This is the one sent by Me. I am confirming it, here and now.
Second, because He is My Son give constant heed to Him — don’t just hear His words with your natural ears, don’t just let them go in one ear and out the other. Be doers of His words. Obey Him! He is not a man like you — He is God in the flesh.
IMPORTANT POINT: The Word of God is not a book of suggestions. It is not some form of philosophy or psycho-babble. It is inspired by God, and contains His commands.
After the Father’s explanation, Jesus suddenly returns to His normal appearance, and Moses and Elijah are no longer seen. The Father has revealed the truth to Peter, James and John.
Verses 9-10 — As they descend from the mountain, Jesus commands Peter, Paul and James not to tell anyone what they have just seen. Why would Jesus want to keep this heavenly event a secret? Why doesn’t He want the world to know, here and now, that He is the Son of God?
He tells them. My time has not yet fully come (John 7:8). He commands them to wait until after He has died and has risen from the dead. Then tell them. When He has risen, it will be obvious that He is the Son of God. Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain will be another eyewitness account that He is the Son of God.
As usual, the disciples can’t imagine what He means by “raised from the dead.” They think His kingdom is a natural one — even after seeing this heavenly manifestation. He’ll ride into Jerusalem on a white horse, with an army behind Him, and conquer the Romans. He can’t do that if He’s dead.
And what is this raising? Half of the religious leaders don’t believe in resurrection.
Jesus’ words don’t fit into His disciples’ idea of the kingdom that is coming with power. Again, their lack of understanding is because the kingdom of God has not yet come with power into their hearts.
Verses 11-13 — Since they don’t understand what He just said, the disciples take a stab at the possible reason for Jesus not wanting His Sonship to be revealed.
They remember a teaching of the scribes. Elijah has to come before the kingdom can be established. Isn’t that right, Jesus? Yes, Elijah has to come to restore. The religious system in Israel has strayed far from God’s plan. The first step back is repentance. That’s what Elijah preached to Israel, in the Old Testament.
But Jesus asks them this: If the coming of the kingdom of God with power means repentance, John the Baptist has already done that.
Why, then must Jesus suffer many things and be treated with contempt? Why must He die and rise from the dead?
Here is the reason. He dies, rises again to life, goes to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is poured out. Now mankind is able to ask Jesus to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire, establishing His kingdom with power, within them.
He also informs them that John the Baptist is the Elijah of this time (Malachi 4:5). He has preached repentance, and they (men) have done with him just as it is written. Just as with all the prophets sent to them (Matthew 5:12), Israel’s religious and political leaders rejected John and he has suffered by being imprisoned and beheaded at the hands of King Herod.
Verses 14-23 — They arrive in the valley and immediately come upon a chaotic scene. The rest of the disciples are surrounded by a large crowd, the scribes are arguing with them, and a young man is writhing on the ground.
The crowd runs to Jesus to greet Him. He asks them to explain what is happening. He already knows, but He wants a particular person to speak.
One in the crowd says his son is possessed with a spirit. He says he told the disciples to cast it out, but they could not do it. The kingdom of God has not yet come in power, in the disciples’ hearts. They have Jesus’ authority. But they do not yet have the kingdom inside them.
Jesus rebukes the disciples for their unbelief. They do not have faith to deliver this young man, and they do not have the spiritual discernment to understand that prayer is required to cast out this particular kind of spirit.
He commands that the young man be brought to him. The spirit in the young man reacts violently to Jesus.
Jesus asks how long the young man has been this way. From childhood, the father says. “If you can do anything, he says, take pity on us and help us!”
Jesus says, “IF you can? All things are possible to him who believes.”
IMPORTANT POINT: There are no IFs in the kingdom of God. IF Jesus will heal me, IF it is Your will, Jesus . . . no! All things are possible to him who believes, Jesus says.
Do you believe, or are you still in “IF mode?” Say, as the young man’s father says, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” He will.
And so Jesus commands the spirit to come out, and it comes out, leaving the young man looking like a corpse. The crowd thinks he’s dead. He probably is. But Jesus takes him by the hand, and raises him, and the young man gets up.
Even death has no power over God. He has power over death!
Privately, the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn’t drive out the demon. He says, this kind cannot come out by anything but prayer. They have looked to what they have been able to do in the past, and expected to be able to do the same. They do not yet have the power to discern when a spirit must be prayed out. The kingdom of God has not yet come with power, inside them.
Verses 30-32 — Because the disciples still think Jesus’ kingdom will be in Jerusalem and He will overthrow Rome, they do not understand Jesus’ next statement. He tells them he will be delivered into the hands of men, killed, and rise three days later. They are afraid to ask Him what He means. It is so contrary to the way they think, and their previous guesses have been wrong, so they are afraid to ask Him.
Verses 33-37 — The disciples argue among themselves. Which one of them will be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom in Jerusalem?
IMPORTANT POINT: I often see this in today’s church, much to the grief of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why does the church argue about who is the greatest? Why the power plays and politics? They have their own self-interests in mind, just as with the disciples. They have not yet had the kingdom of God come with power inside them. They have not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus asks the disciples what they are discussing, and they are too embarrassed to tell Him. The church should feel the same when He questions her!
He says this to the disciples and to today’s church: If you want to be first in My kingdom, serve everyone else before yourself. Your self interest and your desires and your needs and your ambitions are not to be considered at all, ever.
He says you must believe as a child for the kingdom of God to enter you (Mark 10:15). You must trust and believe He is able to establish His kingdom with power, inside of you. If you do, He will!
Then, when you encounter someone who is a child in the faith, someone others would consider to be insignificant and unworthy, you will receive (that is, accept and take in) and you will serve them.
By doing that, you will show that you have received Jesus, and indeed, have received God the Father, and the very kingdom of God is established with power, in your heart.
Verses 38-40 — The disciples encounter a man who is not following Jesus with them, but he is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They try to prevent him.
But Jesus corrects them. If the man is doing a miracle in Jesus’ name, he surely won’t speak evil of Jesus.
He is not defaming Jesus’ name. He is not rejecting Jesus, as the Jewish leaders do. So he is not against Jesus, but for Jesus.
Do not stop him! The disciples do not understand because the kingdom of God has not yet come in power, in their hearts.
IMPORTANT POINT: Do not try to prevent someone from doing miracles in Jesus’ name. If they are doing the miracles in His name, He will be glorified. He will judge false prophets at the proper time (Matthew 7:15-23). In the meantime, you will know them by their fruits.
Verses 38-47 — Do you want to be rewarded? Give Jesus’ followers a time of refreshment and rest. But if you cause these little (that is, humble) followers of Him to be tripped up or enticed to sin, you might as well have a heavy stone hung around your neck and be cast into the sea.
And regarding sin, Jesus commands you to cut off anything from yourself that causes you to be enticed to sin. Better to enter heaven crippled than cast into hell. Just as heaven is real, so is hell, according to Jesus. And in hell, the worm never dies — that is, suffering never ends. And the fire never goes out — it is an everlasting burning (Isaiah 33:14).
Who sends people to hell? They send themselves, by not repenting. God doesn’t desire that any should perish, but all should come to repentance (2Peter 3:9).
Verse 49 — Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt purifies. The fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit purifies the heart, its motives, and there is only one love in such a heart — God’s actual love.
Verse 50 — The Jewish leaders may have been flavored with God’s salt at one time, but they no longer have that saltiness. Like the salt from the Dead Sea, there are impurities mixed in, and those impurities have caused their saltiness to fade.
Jesus commands His disciples to have God’s salt in them, to be pure salt, so their saltiness will not fade. When the kingdom of God comes into their hearts with power, they will have Christ’s peace inside them, and will be at peace with each other.
IMPORTANT POINT: When the kingdom of God comes into the hearts of those in today’s church, they will have Christ’s peace inside them, and they will be at peace with each other.