In Mark 9.2–32, a voice from heaven tells Peter, James, and John: “This [Jesus] is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” With these words, God tells us who Jesus is and how we ought to respond to him. Let’s look closer at the who and the how.
First, who is Jesus? Mark 9.2–32 shows Jesus in five distinct relationships: with the disciples, the prophets, the Father, the crowds, and the demons. Each relationship teaches us something about Jesus’ identity.
With the disciples, Jesus is the teacher. He tells them about his impending death and resurrection. He interprets the meaning of Elijah’s prophesied coming (fulfilled in the message and ministry of John the Baptist). He explains to them why they do not have power to exorcise a particular demon.
With the prophets, Jesus is a peer. On the mountain, the disciples witness Jesus’ transfiguration and conference with Moses and Elijah, two of the great prophetic voices of the Old Testament. This is Mark’s way of indicating that Jesus is the equal, if not the superior, of the Law and the Prophets.
With the Father, Jesus is the Beloved Son. The Bible routinely speaks of believers as God’s sons (and daughters). But when it speaks of Jesus as God’s Son, the meaning is qualitatively different. We are God’s sons and daughters through the adoption of salvation. Jesus is God’s natural Son, so to speak. The transfiguration is a veiled hint of Christ’s deity.
With the crowds, Jesus is the impatient healer. He is impatient with the crowd’s lack of faith: “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” But he heals them anyway.
With the demons, Jesus is the implacable foe. There are moments in the Gospels when Jesus cannot heal (Mark 6.5). But there are never moments in the Gospel when Jesus cannot and does exorcise demonic forces from those who are oppressed by them.
Teacher. Peer. Beloved Son. Impatient healer. Implacable foe. This is who Jesus is.
How should we respond to him? First, by listening. This means we must stop talking long enough to hear. Mark tells us that the divine voice came from heaven when “Peter said to Jesus…. (He did not know what to say…).” How often have we spoken ignorantly when we should have listened patiently? How often have we sought God’s will without simply reading the Scriptures, which are his voice to us?
Second, by asking. The disciples ask Jesus two questions, about Elijah (v. 11) and about their failure to exorcise the demonic spirit (v. 28). That is what we should do when we are spiritually confused or ignorant. We should seek an answer.
Third, by praying. “This kind can come out only by prayer.” I wonder how many problems we suffer simply because we do not pray.
Through his Beloved Son, God invites us into the eternal conversation with him. Let us talk with him. But let us also listen.