The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Jesus, Only Jesus (for 02.26.06, Mark 9:2-9)

with 3 comments

I am awed by Jesus’ masterful teaching.

Think of where he starts: All the Bible known is the Hebrew Scriptures. Moses and Elijah are rightly revered as God’s great spokesmen. But now that he’s come, things have begun to change. Sometimes, he doesn’t keep all the laws. How does he fit with what’s come before? How can he show them what matters most?

Oh-ho, watch the Master teach:

[see Mark 9:2-9 here]

1. He takes the three most influential disciples, and gets away from the crowd.

2. He sets them down to watch, then he begins to be changed – whitened – from the inside out. And hasn’t he been inviting them to be changed – purified – from the inside out?

3. He talks deeply with Moses (regarded by Jews as the emblem of the law part of the Hebrew Scriptures) and Elijah (regarded as the representative of the prophets of Hebrew Scriptures). Though the Pharisees have argued with Jesus, apparently Moses and Elijah don’t. And hasn’t he been telling his disciples that he is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible?

4. Now Peter interrupts with a plan to commemorate the moment (to make it outside-in), as if rejoicing that their guy Jesus, was blueblood enough to hobnob with Moses and Elijah. Jesus needs to take it one step further.

5. Watch the metaphor of God unfold:

Moses and Elijah withdraw.

God identifies Jesus as his son –

God instructs them to listen now to Jesus!

And they see is “Jesus, only Jesus.”

See the enormity of it? Moses and Elijah have withdrawn, and God directs them – and us – to Jesus.

“Wow!” sounds so small as to seem like “Duh.”

* * *

I wonder if the inerrancy wars of the last generation left us with a distorted view of Scripture.

Good people longed to defend all the Bible as “God-breathed,” or, as sometimes translated, “inspired.” (2 Timothy 3:16) An extra-biblical theory developed that God had dictated the Bible, and those who wrote it were mere scribes, and that this was what “God-breathed” meant. Then a corollary sprang to life: every word of the Bible – since “dictated” by God – must be as critically important as every other word.

The result was the downsizing of Jesus. Red-letter Bibles became unfashionable – every word is equally inspired, right? Moses and Elijah became equally – if sometimes confusingly – co-authoritative with Jesus himself. Being “Biblical” – which came to mean “having the details of theology correct according to teacher X” – often replaced being Christlike as the goal of Christian life (never mind how theology came to have equal authority with the Bible, that’s another story).

I think of my own argumentative experience: I’ve had debates from A to Z about what was “Biblical” (let’s say, Apparel to Zionism – Amy reminded me of Zionism). But few of them started and ended with Jesus, “the best picture of God we’ll ever get.”

The Master Teacher woos me away from all that and into himself. I find him changing me from the inside out. I find myself attracted to behaving in ways I once could not muscle up.

All I can figure is that somehow Jesus has got inside me. Falteringly, wonderfully, I participate in change. The arguments fade; Jesus grows ever more bright.


Written by Monte

February 24, 2006 at 1:16 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Makes total sense. I’ve lived both extremes: Bible as authority; church (Mennonite, in particular) as authority, so I know for sure both invite a misplacement of trust.


    February 28, 2006 at 1:26 pm

  2. Yes, that makes sense to me. I recently read the suggestion that modernism’s tweak on the Reformation resulted in the Bible replacing the Church as the absolute authority.

    A few years ago, I might have said, “Well, yeah, sure.”

    But lately, both directions seem like extremes that displace the central reality of our faith: “This is my Son. Listen to Him.” Perhaps I have sometimes seen fidelity to the Bible as the End. Now, I want to see the Bible as a means to God-who-alone-is-the-End.

    Does this make sense?


    February 27, 2006 at 4:54 pm

  3. Hey, Marty,

    I was trapped badly in the inerrancy wars, very into literalism. Then someone said to me, “The Bible isn’t the word of God; Jesus is the Word of God.” It was the key to open a series of prison doors for me. Though I don’t think I’m all the way out into the freedom and sunshine, I’m liking where I’m headed.
    (By the way, I like Regulus a lot better. Thanks.)


    February 27, 2006 at 10:06 am

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