These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 8:34-9:9 Bible Study Commentary And Discussion Questions
Cost of being a true disciple (34-38)
Jesus’ transfiguration (9:1-9)
I. Verses 34-38 Discussion Questions
Who could be Jesus’ disciple? Had the disciples done this?
List out all the qualifications or signs of being a disciple listed in the gospels you can think of.
What do verses 35-37 mean? What principle can we learn here?
How might we try to “save our life?” What things might we do if we lose our life for His sake?
What will you give in exchange for your soul? Are you for sale? Is there anything which you are not willing to let go of for the sake of following Christ? Is there are anything you are holding onto that you shouldn’t?
What does verse 38 have to teach us about confessing Christ in front of people?
What does this verse say about those who are afraid to identify with Christ?
In what kind of situation are you afraid to identify with Christ? Based on this verse, what should you do?
Luke 14:25-35 – Passage on the cost of being a true disciple.
Luke 9:23 – If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
John 8:31-32- If you abide in my word you are truly my disciples.
John 13:34-35 – By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Luke 6:40- Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
John 15:8 – The one who bears much fruit proves to be His disciple.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. He summoned the crowd – This phrase makes it seem like Jesus is getting ready to teach them something important. And indeed He was as the next passage is one of the key passages on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
2. If anyone wishes to come after Me – Do you wish to follow Jesus? Perhaps the crowd thought that following Jesus meant witnessing lots of miracles and receiving lots of benefits. Jesus is going to show them that there is more to it than just making a wish or thinking it would be good to follow Jesus. It requires real commitment and sacrifice. This verse is a reminder that “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
3. He must deny himself…and follow Me – This is a key part of being a disciple. It requires sacrifice. It requires submitting ourselves, our goals, our desires, and our plans to Christ. It requires making Christ the Lord of our life. While salvation is free because we cannot earn it, there is a very real cost to following Christ. There will be some things that we want to do, which Christ will say “No, you cannot.” A true disciple doesn’t merely follow Christ when he feels like it or when he wants the same thing that Christ does. For example confessing our sins to God is something we should do, but we also want to receive forgiveness. At times it may be more difficult to forgive others. When Jesus tells us to forgive that person who has hurt us so deeply our flesh might say, “I don’t want to.” And that is when we have a decision to make. Do we want to follow Christ. If the answer is “yes” then there is only one real alternative and that is obedience. Denying ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean giving up all things that we like and becoming a monk. It doesn’t mean we inflict pain or discomfort on ourselves for no reason. It doesn’t mean I can’t eat the cake because it is too enjoyable and God doesn’t want me to have anything nice. What it does mean is subjecting my desires to His. If God asks me to move to a rural area (like the Henry’s), I have to be willing to say “yes.” If I am overweight and I know God wants me to honor Him with my body then I may need to say “no” to the cake. Everyday there are many opportunities to apply this. What choices did you face today where there was a cost to following Christ? Some daily choices include giving up our time to pray and read the Word, giving up our “rights” by showing patience or compassion to those who don’t deserve it, giving up ourselves to serve others and love the unlovable. Jesus’ disciples were not perfect. They had many weaknesses and flaws. But did they deny themselves in order to follow Christ. Absolutely.
4. Take up his cross – What does this mean? In that culture, a cross was not yet a symbol of grace or salvation or forgiveness. It was a symbol of death. The Romans performed many crucifixions so the Jews listening to Jesus would have been very familiar with it and probably have personally seen many people hanging on the cross. What they didn’t know was that following Christ meant that they would face a very real danger of persecution, some to the point of death. What Jesus is saying is that “To follow Me, You have to be prepared even to die.” We know that all of the disciples except for John did indeed give their lives for Jesus. Many other Christians in the early church did as well. This is something that the crowds wouldn’t have expected. Wouldn’t the Messiah save them from the Romans? Wouldn’t He make them rich and prosperous? Wouldn’t He set up His own kingdom? Why would following Jesus bring death? And if it did, what is the point? Recently I overheard a young lady at a seeker study ask why she should believe in Jesus if it meant that she would face persecution. How would you answer this question? The night before I heard a guy ask if he believed in Jesus would Jesus help him immigrate to New Zealand. How would you answer this question? This is the expectation that many people have when they are considering whether to believe in God or not. They don’t care so much about if it is true or not (the guy asking about New Zealand even said he didn’t care if it was true or not as long as he could successfully immigrate.) They care what they can get out of it. What can they get from believing in Christ? Jesus emphatically answers these questions, “If you believe in Me, it may cost you your life.” Wow! That doesn’t sound very attractive. But in the next verse, there is more.
5. Verse 35 – This verse shows that there is a certain irony in following Christ. You have to give up something in order to get it. I think it is helpful to understand a verse by giving an example from our everyday life. As you know, I have two sons. Although I teach them to share, they don’t always do it. From time to time I can hear one of them shouting, “It’s mine!!!” When I hurry into the room I may see JoJo running away from Caleb with his hands clenched around a toy. He desperately wants to keep this toy for his own and is not willing to share. What do you think I will do in this situation? I will tell JoJo to give it to me. As I take the toy I explain that neither of them can have it because they are both being selfish. This is what this verse is talking about.
Many people go through their life saying, “I will not deny myself. It is my life, my money, my house, my career, and my time. I will use them how I want to because I earned them.” Jesus says that this person loses his life. His soul has been forfeited, sold because he lives his life for himself rather than for the God he was created to serve. The harsh reality is that his money cannot be taken with him, his house will collapse and rot one day, and he will have all the time in the world for eternity in judgment remembering how he wasted his time on his own desires. But there is another choice. Going back to my example, sometimes Caleb and JoJo play nicely together. I have seen them happily sharing and rolling a car back and forth. It looks like when they roll the car away, it is gone and they lost their chance to play with it. And then it is rolled back. Because they “give up” this car they can keep playing with it. If we deny ourselves (Romans 12:1-2), that is the evidence that our relationship with God is real. Not only do we have eternal life, but this life on earth can be filled with joy just as the classic verse, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
6. Verse 36 – Luke 12:13-21 (Parable of the Rich Fool). This verse reminds me of many famous, evil rulers in history (Herod the Great, Hitler, etc.) They spent their entire lives killing and scheming to further their own ambitions. For a time they gained power and wealth, but it cost them their soul. This verse doesn’t only apply to the most evil rulers we can think of. It applies to everyone, even the poorest farmer in rural China. Unfortunately a love of money and materials has corrupted many people. I have recently talked with a lady who openly admitted that she sold fake eggs to people. She herself said she would not eat them. The people that bought them from her did not do it.
Why did she do it? Money. Perhaps 100 yuan, perhaps 1000 yuan. She also said that she purposely added a little bit of water into bottles when taking them to the recycling place because she could make a little bit more money on them. The last time she went there, she sold bottles for 57 yuan. So her integrity probably netted her 3-5 yuan. In that verse you can substitute anything for the “whole world.” The point is that if the whole world is not enough to give up our soul, our relationship with Christ (and it is not, Christ Himself denied Satan’s offer of the world when He was tempted to worship Satan), then anything less than the whole world is certainly not enough either.
7. Verse 37 – What will give in exchange for your soul? Are you for sale? Will you give up your integrity for 100 yuan, 1000 yuan, 1,000,000 yuan, 100,000,000 yuan? A true disciple of Christ should be willing to put God first no matter how much it costs them. This is the principle of the movie Flywheel. If you haven’t seen it, I would strongly suggest it, as it shows the principle of this verse in action.
8. Verse 38 – This verse is very clear and very sobering. If we deny Christ before people, He will deny us before the Father. Are you ashamed of your belief in Christ? A true disciple is not ashamed of this. Romans 1:16. We should not only deny ourselves, be willing to follow Christ even to death, give up our own time and money and ambitions to follow Christ, but we must openly confess our belief in Christ in front of others. Do not hide it. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
The Transfiguration (9:1-9) Discussion Questions
Who was Jesus saying this to (9:1)?
What does it mean that some of them would not die until they saw the kingdom of God after it has come with power?
Why does the author put this statement right before the transfiguration, which happened 6 days later?
What does the word transfigured mean?
What did his brilliant white garments represent?
Why do you think Elijah and Moses appeared then?
What does this teach us about what the kingdom of God may be like?
Why did Peter suggest building three tabernacles? What do you think of this suggestion?
Since verse 6 says he did not know what to say, what should he have done?
What should you do when you don’t know what to say?
What do we learn about Jesus from this passage?
Why might He have revealed Himself to those three disciples in this way? Which was Jesus’ normal figure?
What did Jesus tell them when they were descending the mountain? Why do you think He told them this?
How does this passage affect your view of Christ? What should do based on what we learn of Christ here?
Hebrews 1:3 – Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God.
John 17:4-5 – Glorify Me with the glory I had with You before the world existed.
Revelation 21:23-25 – The city has no need for the sun or moon to shine in it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Proverbs 17:27-28 – Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent.
Proverbs 11:12 – A man of understanding remains silent.
James 1:19 – Be quick to listen, slow to speak…
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Verse 1 – In this verse “see the kingdom of God” seems to be a reference to the transfiguration. That is why Mark includes this event next starting in verse 2 even though it happens six days later.
2. Jesus took up His key disciples. In this verse we can see Jesus spent more personal time with these three disciples than with the others. Because a person’s time is limited, it is not possible to spend every moment with every disciple. Sometimes choices have to be made. Even Jesus invested more time in the 3 than He did in the 12 and more time in the 12 than He did the 70.
3. He brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. Often the deepest interactions were personal ones far away from the crowds. We need to have those private times alone with Christ away from others, even our own family members. It could be in those times that He would work with us even deeper.
4. He was transfigured before them – His figure was changed. He didn’t look the same. Certain aspects of His divine nature and glory were allowed to shine through (perhaps it was some of this glory that Jesus is said to have emptied Himself of in Philippians 2). These three disciples were allowed to see Jesus as He really was. And He was amazing. His glory radiated from His very clothing, which turned into the purest white imaginable. This pure white shows Jesus’ perfect and holy nature. He truly was the Lamb of God in whom there is no spot or blemish. Although He had lived on the earth for over 30 years, none of the filth, sin, and corruption of the earth tainted Him even slightly.
5. Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus – I believe this gives is one key insight in to the kingdom of God. These were saints who had died. Yet here it seems that they are very familiar with Jesus and have a close relationship with Him. They had likely had many such conversations with Jesus in heaven prior to (and subsequent to) Jesus’ incarnation. See also John 8:56. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. This verse is very exciting to me. It means that one day we too will have the opportunity to see and talk with Jesus face to face. We can have conversations together and talk with Him just as we are talking to one another now. How does that challenge and motivate you?
6. Peter suggests building three tabernacles – We see in this passage that they were terrified. This brings to mind the statement in the Chronicles of Narnia that Aslan is “not a tame lion, but a good lion.” Jesus’ divine glory is spectacular and terrifying at the same time. Peter suggests building three tabernacles. What do you think about that? This is yet another example of Peter’s propensity for speaking before thinking. What should have done since he didn’t know what to answer? There is always one good choice when we don’t know what to say and that is to say nothing. It is certainly better to say nothing than to say something foolish. See cross-references. I read an article about being silent, which had some good points in it. One point the author made was that he had tuned out political talk shows. He said that politicians debating each other sought to answer as fast as they could and respond as fast as they could. In the process they didn’t actually have time to think about the issues and give a reasoned response. Do you do that?
7. God the Father spoke from heaven telling the disciples to listen to Jesus. An amazing event became even more shocking. These words are recorded in Scripture for us and are still just as applicable today. Listen to Jesus. Even today we learned many things which Jesus taught us about discipleship that we should apply to our lives.
8. Here is another example of Jesus telling the disciples He would rise from the dead. He told them what was going to happen and didn’t keep them in the dark.