As we walk through today’s message, we see from the start that there are a couple of blanks that we need to fill in, to give clarity to the passage. Let us read the three opening verses, and there we will find one of the blank spots.
Mark 9:14-16, When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?”
We are going to stop right here in verse 15, at the word amazed. Why was the crowd amazed since Yeshua had not done any miracle or taught anything as of yet since His descent from the mountain? While the word amazed is found 11 times in Mark, it is taken from 4 different Greek words, and this one used here describes the highest level of amazement. It describes an alarmed and fearful reaction. One lexicon writes that it indicates a profound disarray, expressed physically before a terrifying event (Brown, ref. Marcus).
This same Greek word, (ekthambeo) is used to express Yeshua’s strong emotions when He was in Gethesmane (Mark 14:33). It is also used to describe the women’s confusion at finding Yeshua’s tomb empty on the third day (Mark 16:5,6).
So, what might have happened for the people to have immediately run up to Yeshua, in this state of amazement? It just does not say! But there is one thing that may explain this sudden amazement, this immediate drawing toward Yeshua.
From the beginning, we have seen how the events of the Exodus mirrored the account in Mark and how those events on Mount Sinai reflected the account of the Transfiguration. We see the way chapter 9 began, that after the 6th day Yeshua and the three disciples went up a high mountain, just like Moses who, after the 6th day also went up Mount Sinai to meet God.
But do you remember what happened to Moses when he came down the mountain? We read of this event in Exodus 34:30, So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Could it be that Yeshua too, still reflected some of His glory after His transfiguration? Might this have been the same kind of light which brought the people to be sore-amazed and afraid as when the Israelites saw the skin of Moses’ face shine?
This follows so well the Exodus motif. From the first to the second Exodus. While Moses came down Sinai to bring the Law, here Yeshua comes down the high mountain to fulfill the Law. And this sight might have been even more enhanced for Yeshua was angry seeing how His lambs were being treated by the Scribes. So, imagine Yeshua still reflecting God’s glory, coming in anger. This can be likened to the time of His Second coming when He will return in furious defense of His people. This then may explain this word amazed that seems lost in the text.
But, why are we given this information or lack of it? On the practical side, Jesus did not have to have His face shine like Moses’ did. But perhaps it was to show that any deep encounter with God, whether it be after daily prayer or meditation in His Word, should forcibly change a person’s countenance. Seeing this divine glow was no doubt part of the necessary training for the disciples. And one’s countenance is something that is very often underlined as important in the Scriptures. What is the countenance of a person but the reflection of his inner self, of the condition of his heart?
When Cain was angry and was already contemplating murder, it showed up all over his face, so much so that God asked him, “Why has your countenance fallen? Gen.4:6. It was just after when the Lord taught a great principal, saying, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Gen. 4:7
This was a warning before sin was to take its effects; do well and sin will not be crouching at your door. What does it mean to do well? We do well when we walk the just path, and abide by the set principals in the Word of God and if we do not call sin an accident, or a mistake or a weakness and we take full responsibility for our actions. If this is our path, wouldn’t the Lord bless us?
Here sin is seen as lying at the door like an animal, a lion or a serpent in wait, and its desire is for us. The lion is always awake, it never sleeps, always on the offense. The message then is that we always need to be in the Lord so that we can master sin’s power. I have seen some dare to sin and then live as if they are immune to it’s presence, as if they were vaccinated against it. But praise the Lord, this period of time is usually not long for the Spirit will always be there to awaken them. The point then is that our countenance will lighten up when we walk close with God for we ought to reflect His light to others, and this is what we pray every Shabbat at the end of the service.
The Aaronic Blessing in Numbers 6 says, The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.
Here the words face and countenance are the same word in Hebrew; panim, speaking of our countenance. And when we pray, the Lord make His face shine upon you, we are praying that His countenance, His Light would shine on us, like it did on Moses and Yeshua. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: The gods we worship write their names on our faces. This is true of our God as well. We also pray that His Light would shine through us as we walk the eternal path.
Hebrews 1:3 says that Yeshua is the radiance of the glory of God. And it was in His priestly prayer in John 17 when He said, The glory which You have given Me I have given to them; I in them and You in Me. vs.22-23b.
So, when Scripture gives us this word amazed, just there with no explanation attached, it forces us to investigate further and from it we can perceive that they were truly amazed at Yeshua’s countenance. We learn here that any closeness to God will be reflected in our lives.