Mark 9:9-13 (ESV)
And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.  And they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?"  And he said to them, "Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?  But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him."
A rather curious section here, the disciples are asking what this rising of the dead might mean. At first blush, you get the impression they are questioning if it is possible for someone to rise from the dead. But Jesus starts talking to them about Elijah’s death, that is the death of John the Baptist, and the fact that the Son of man will suffer many things and be treated with contempt. It’s not that the son of man will rise from the dead, it is that right now they are confronted with the fact that he will die.
They just witnessed Christ in all his glory, saw him for who he is, God incarnate. Now they are certain he is the Christ, and they know he refers to himself when he speaks of the son of man. But they have peculiar ideas as to what this means. The Jews knew the Christ, the Messiah was coming. The Pharisees ask john the Baptist about him. There whole culture is consumed with this. Probably even more than our culture is, with all its bill boards, and the bestselling “Left Behind Series” that gets rewritten in a different form every 10 to fifteen years, flooding the news every time a Palestinian throws a rock and hits a Jew in the head, or a presidential candidate opens his mouth concerning the middle east. The time was ripe, the fig tree had budded, and the Jews knew the messiah was at hand. People walk for miles around to be baptized by John the Baptist, so conspicuous was this, John the Baptist could point to Gentiles in their midst and tell the Pharisees that God could raise up Sons of Abraham from these stones. (Stones, was even more a pejorative term than Gentile for a Gentile. Seems the writers of scripture knew little to nothing of political correctness. One wonders if those stones had felt the cut of a flint knife before they were baptized, but that would lead to nothing but speculation over and issue settled definitively later on. )There was a fevered pitch surrounding the coming of the messiah, you see it culminate with Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And the disciples knew Jesus was it. What they couldn’t process was that Jesus would die.
Of course there are still those who have a hard time processing this. As I told my Son earlier this summer. When a church has a problem with a crucifix, I have a hard time considering them Christian. When a “Church” can’t seem to even tolerate a cross, well then it’s simple, they aren’t Christian. There are too many out there trying to say “Jesus, Jesus” who have no room for his cross. These are not churches. The church is made of sheep, and sheep look to the cross, they follow Jesus to the slaughter, to the sacrifice. Goats talk of Jesus and forsake the cross, and not only theologically, but in their life as well. These are they who reject forgiveness, and tell people that repentance is the turning away from sin, and this is what is needed for salvation. These are people who think the gospel is about Jesus coming back to set up a new kingdom, where those who have attained righteousness by their own efforts, the saints, shall rule over all others like the tyrants of Utah do over the population here. This is not Christianity, Jesus tells us not to Lord it over others like the gentiles do. But in the name of Christ, they lord it over others worse than the gentiles would ever consider. And why? Because they understand nothing of the cross.
The Jews expected a lot concerning the coming of the Messiah, they didn’t expect the cross. Only a few of the pious could consider it. But the cross was what Jesus came for. And here he explains to the disciples, not that he would rise from the dead, but first and foremost that he would die. He prepares them for this event as best he can. The messiah came to die, so that dying he might rise, and rising he might give to you and I eternal life.