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David Guzik Commentary on the Bible

Mark 9

 

 

Verses 2-50

Mark 9:1-50 - THE TRANSFIGURATION

A. Jesus is transfigured.

1. (Mark 9:2-3) Jesus is transfigured before His disciples.

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

a. Peter, James, and John: Most people assume that Jesus took these three aside on this and other occasions because they were special favorites of the Lord. It could have also been because they were the three most likely to get into trouble, so He kept them close so He could keep a close eye on them.

b. Led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves: What started as a mountain retreat quickly changed as the glory of Jesus shined forth and Jesus was transformed right before the eyes of the disciples (He was transfigured before them).

i. What exactly happened here? Matthew says that Jesus’ face shone like the sun (Matthew 17:2), and both Matthew and Mark use the word transfigured to describe what happened to Jesus. For this brief time, Jesus took on an appearance more appropriate for the King of Glory than for a humble man.

c. He was transfigured before them: Mark does his best to describe for us - no doubt, through the eyes of Peter - what Jesus looked like. Basically, Jesus’ whole appearance shined forth in glorious, bright light - his clothes became shining, and whiter than anything seen on this earth.

i. If we’re not careful, we think of the transfiguration as just a bright light shined on Jesus. But this wasn’t a light coming on Jesus from the outside. “The word transfigured describes a change on the outside that comes from the inside. It is the opposite of ‘masquerade,’ which is an outward change that does not come from within.” (Wiersbe)

ii. How did this happen? This was not a new miracle, but the temporary pause of an ongoing miracle. The real miracle was that Jesus, most of the time, could keep from displaying His glory.

iii. “For Christ to be glorious was almost a less matter than for him to restrain or hide his glory. It is forever his glory that he concealed his glory; and that, though he was rich, for our sakes he became poor.” (Spurgeon)

d. Why did Jesus do this, and why at this time? Because Jesus just told His disciples that He was going the way of the cross (Mark 8:31), and that spiritually they should follow Him in the way of the cross (Mark 8:34-38). It would have been easy for them to lose confidence in Jesus after such a “negative” statement.

e. But now, as Jesus displays His glory as King over all God’s Kingdom, the disciples know that Jesus knows what He is doing; if He is to suffer, be rejected and killed, He is still in control.

f. Jesus also shows in a dramatic way that cross bearers will be glory receivers. The goal isn’t the cross. The cross is the path to the goal, and the goal is the glory of God.

2. (Mark 9:4) Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus.

And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

a. Elijah appeared to them with Moses: Why Elijah and Moses? Because they represent those who are caught up to God (Jude 1:9; 2 Kings 2:11). Moses represents those who die and go to glory, and Elijah represents those who are caught up to heaven without death (as in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

i. They also represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). The sum of Old Testament revelation comes to meet with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration.

ii. They also figure together in the future fulfillment of prophecy. Elijah and Moses are likely the witnesses of Revelation 11:3-13.

iii. Right in front of them, the disciples saw evidence of life beyond this life. When they saw Moses and Elijah, they knew that Moses had passed from this world 1,400 years before and Elijah had passed some 900 years before. Yet there they were, alive in glory before them. It gave them confidence in Jesus’ claim to resurrection.

iv. How did the disciples know that it was Elijah and Moses? It seems that they just knew. This shows us that we will know each other when we get to heaven. After all, do you think we’ll be more dumb in heaven than we are on earth?

b. They were talking with Jesus: What did they talk about? Elijah and Moses were interested in the outworking of God’s plan through Jesus. They spoke about what Jesus was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31).

3. (Mark 9:5-10) Peter’s unwise offer to build three tabernacles to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, and the Father’s response.

Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”; because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.

a. Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah: When Peter saw Jesus in His glory he must have said to himself: “All right! This is how it should be! Forget this business about suffering, being rejected, and crucified! Let’s build some tabernacles so we can live this way with the glorified Jesus all the time.”

b. Because he did not know what to say: We often get into trouble when we speak like Peter did, not knowing what to say. We also see that Peter spoke out of fear (for they were greatly afraid). We say many foolish things without thinking and out of fear.

i. “Peter was openhearted, bold, enthusiastic. To my mind, there is something very lovable about Peter; and, in my opinion, we need more Peters in the church of the present day. Though they are rash and impulsive, yet there is fire in them, and there is steam in them, so that they keep us going.” (Spurgeon)

ii. Luke tells us that Peter, James, and John were all asleep, and when they awoke they saw Jesus transfigured with Elijah and Moses. “Peter, suddenly awakened from sleep in time to see the glory fade, was garrulous in his terror, as some men are.” (Cole)

iii. What Peter said was so foolish because he put Jesus on an equal level with Elijah and Moses - one tabernacle for each! But Jesus isn’t just another Moses or Elijah, or even a greater Moses or Elijah. Jesus is the Son of God.

iv. For they were greatly afraid: Being in the presence of God’s glory isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience - especially when we are like Peter, not really glorifying God. Sometimes the glory of God is shown in the way that He corrects us.

c. And a cloud came and overshadowed them: This is a familiar cloud, the cloud of God’s glory traditionally known as the Shekinah.

  • It was the pillar of cloud that stood by Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22)

  • It was the cloud of glory that God spoke to Israel from (Exodus 16:10)

  • It was from this cloud of glory that God met with Moses and others (Exodus 19:9; Exodus 24:15-18, Numbers 11:25; Numbers 12:5; Numbers 16:42)

  • It was the cloud of glory that stood by the door of the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:9-10)

  • It was from this cloud that God appeared to the High Priest in the Holy Place inside the veil (Leviticus 16:2)

  • It was from this cloud God appeared to Solomon when the temple was dedicated, so filling the temple that the priests could not continue ministering (1 Kings 8:10-11, 2 Chronicles 5:13-14)

  • It was the cloud of Ezekiel’s vision, filling the temple of God with the brightness of His glory (Ezekiel 10:4)

  • It was the cloud of glory that overshadowed Mary when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)

  • It was the cloud of glory that received Jesus into heaven at His ascension (Acts 1:9)

  • It was the cloud that will display the glory of Jesus Christ when He returns in triumph to this earth (Luke 21:27)

d. This is My beloved Son. Hear Him! The voice from the cloud of glory makes it clear that Jesus is not on the same level as Elijah and Moses. He is the beloved Son - so Hear Him!

i. “There are thousands of priests in the world who say, ‘Hear us’; but the Father says ‘Hear him.’ Many voices clamor for our attention: new philosophies, modern theologies, and old heresies revived, all call to us and entreat us to hearken, but the Father says, ‘Hear him.’” (Spurgeon)

ii. This word from heaven answered the disciples’ doubts after the revelation of the suffering Messiah. It assured them that the plan was all right with God the Father also.

iii. “The disciples wished to detain Moses and Elijah that they might hear them: but God shows that the law which had been in force, and the prophets which had prophesied, until now, must all give place to Jesus; and he alone must now be attended to, as the way, the truth, and the life.” (Clarke)

e. He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead: After it was all over, Peter, John and James kept this word to themselves - after all, who would believe them?

i. But the event left a lasting impression on these men. Peter relates what happened in 2 Peter 1:16-18, how the voice from God saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” still rang in his ears, confirming who Jesus was.

ii. As impressive as this experience was, it in itself did not change the lives of the disciples as much as being born again did. Being born again by the Spirit of God is the great miracle, the greatest display of the glory of God ever.

iii. “It is a better thing for a man to live near to Christ, and to enjoy his presence, than it would be for him to be overshadowed with a bright cloud, and to hear the divine Father himself speaking out of it.” (Spurgeon)

4. (Mark 9:11-13) The problem of Elijah coming first: a question based on Malachi 4:5-6.

And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.”

a. Why do the scribes say: The coming of Elijah before the Messiah is clearly prophesied in Malachi 4:5-6. So the disciples wonder, “If Jesus is the Messiah, then where is Elijah?”

b. Elijah does come first: Jesus tells them that the Elijah prophecy in Malachi will indeed be fulfilled. Though Jesus does not say this here, the prophecy of Elijah’s coming had to do with Jesus’ second coming, not His first, and Elijah will likely return as one of the two witnesses as Revelation 11:2-13.

i. How is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer: Jesus draws attention to the contrast between His first and second comings here. The disciples were well aware of the prophecies concerning the glory of the Messiah; Jesus asked them to consider the prophecies concerning His suffering and that He must be treated with contempt.

c. But I say to you that Elijah has also come: While it is true that Elijah is yet to come in reference to the second coming of Jesus, there is also a sense in which Elijah has also come - in the person of John the Baptist.

i. John was not a reincarnation of Elijah, but he did minister in the role and spirit of Elijah. John the Baptist was a type or a picture of Elijah.

B. Jesus casts out a difficult demon from a boy.

1. (Mark 9:14-18) The disciples are unable to cast out a demon.

And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. “And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

a. Scribes disputing with them: From the context, it is reasonable to assume that scribes criticized the disciples for their inability to help the demon-possessed boy. “One wonders why these same scribes, instead of further embarrassing the crestfallen disciples before the crowd, did not set about exorcising the demon themselves, as a proof of orthodoxy.” (Cole)

i. This kind of conflict was exactly what Peter wanted to avoid by staying up on the mountain of transfiguration (Mark 9:5). But it couldn’t be that way. They simply had to come down off the mountain and deal with what they found.

ii. “He found disputing scribes, a distracted father, a demon-possessed boy, and defeated disciples . . . He silenced the scribes, He comforted the father, He healed the boy, He instructed the disciples.” (Morgan)

b. A mute spirit: In the eyes of contemporary Jewish exorcists, this was a particularly difficult - if not impossible - demon to cast out. This was because they believed that you had to learn a demon’s name before you could cast it out, and if a demon made someone mute, you could never learn his name.

c. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid: The boy displays signs that many today would regard as evidence of epilepsy, but Jesus perceived that they were caused by demonic possession. Surely, some of whom we diagnose as physically or mentally ill today are actually demon possessed.

i. “Jesus addresses the demon as a separate being from the boy as he often does. This makes it difficult to believe that Jesus was merely indulging popular belief in a superstition. He evidently regards the demon as the cause in this case of the boy’s misfortune.” (Robertson)

d. That they should cast it out, but they could not: This particular case of demon possession was too much for the disciples, though Jesus had given them authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7).

e. Apparently some demons are stronger - that is, more stubborn or intimidating than others. Ephesians 6:12 seems to describe different ranks of demonic beings, and it isn’t a stretch to think that some ranks might be more power than others are.

2. (Mark 9:19-27) Jesus delivers the boy.

He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

a. O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? Who does Jesus call the faithless generation? He might refer to the contentious scribes, to the desperate father, or to the unsuccessful disciples.

b. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground: When Jesus comes near, the demon inside the boy knows that his time is short. He wants to do as much damage as he can before he leaves.

i. “However, it letteth us see how hardly the devil parteth with his possession in us in any degree, and how ready he is to run the length of his line in doing us mischief.” (Poole)

c. But if you can do anything: The man seems unsure if Jesus can do anything. But the “if” isn’t in regard to what Jesus can do. The “if” is in regard to the man’s faith. So Jesus told him, if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. When we trust God as true, and all His promises as true, all things He promises are possible.

i. But we have to believe God is true: “If all the angels in heaven were to march by me in a file, and assure me that God would keep his word, I should say, ‘I did not require you to tell me that, for the Lord never fails to be as good as his word.’ God is so true that the witness of angels would be a superfluity. If my father were to make a statement, I certainly should not call in his servant to confirm it.” (Spurgeon)

d. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief: The poor father in this account is challenged by Jesus’ exhortation for faith. He did believe in Jesus’ power to deliver his boy - after all, why else would he have come to Jesus? But he also recognizes his doubts. So, he tearfully pleads with Jesus: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

i. In this case, the man’s unbelief was not a rebellion against or a rejection of God’s promise. He did not deny God’s promise; he desired it. However, it just seemed too good to be true. Thus, he says, “help my unbelief!

ii. “Help my unbelief” is something a man can only say by faith. “While men have no faith, they are unconscious of their unbelief; but, as soon as they get a little faith, then they begin to be conscious of the greatness of their unbelief.” (Spurgeon)

e. Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him: Jesus had no difficulty whatsoever in dealing the demon, even though the demon made a final display of his terrible strength. Knowing he must leave, the demon did the most damage he could before he left. But it was not lasting damage.

i. “He will do what harm he can when he cannot do us the harm he would.” (Poole)

3. (Mark 9:28-29) Why were the disciples unsuccessful?

And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

a. Why could we not cast it out? Jesus reveals the reason for their weakness: it was due to a lack of prayer and fasting.

b. It isn’t that prayer and fasting make us more “worthy” to cast out demons; it is that prayer and fasting draw us closer to the heart of God, and they put us more in line with His power. They are an expression of our total dependence on Him.

i. Jesus had already given them the authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:14-15), but “The authority that Jesus had given them was effective only if exercised by faith, but faith must be cultivated through spiritual discipline and devotion.” (Wiersbe)

ii. This total dependence on God is the remedy for many spiritual problems. To be disappointed in yourself is to have trusted in yourself.

C. On to Jerusalem.

1. (Mark 9:30-32) Jesus reminds His disciples of His mission.

Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.

a. He did not want anyone to know it: Why was it that Jesus did not want anyone to know it? Probably because Jesus did not want the Galilean multitude to “cling” to Him, and hinder this important trip to Jerusalem.

b. The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him: Jesus clearly told His disciples of this destiny back in Mark 8:31. Now, as they depart from Galilee towards Jerusalem, they head towards the destiny Jesus spoke of.

c. But they did not understand this saying: The disciples couldn’t “process” what Jesus said about His destiny in Jerusalem - to die and then rise again. Unfortunately, they were afraid to ask.

2. (Mark 9:33-34) The dispute on the road.

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.

a. They had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest: It seems that this was the favorite debating topic among the disciples. They all counted on Jesus to take over the world as “King Messiah,” and the debate was about who was most worthy to be Jesus’ chief associate.

b. But they kept silent: This was an embarrassed silence. It shows that they were ashamed of this obsession with greatness. It was a healthy sense of shame, and proved that some of the message of Jesus was sinking into their hearts.

3. (Mark 9:35-37) True greatness in the kingdom of God.

And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

a. He sat down: This is important, because by sitting down Jesus showed that he was going to teach. “When a Rabbi was teaching as a Rabbi, as a master teaches his scholars and disciples, when he was really making a pronouncement, he sat to teach. Jesus deliberately took up the position of a Rabbi teaching his pupils before he spoke.” (Barclay)

b. If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all: The question at hand was “Who would be the greatest?” Jesus could have answered the question, “Hey dummies - I’m the greatest.” But Jesus does not put the focus on Himself. For an example of greatness, Jesus puts forth the last and the servant.

i. Of course, Jesus is the greatest in the kingdom. So when He said last and servant, He was really describing Himself - and He accurately expressed His nature. He was truly first, yet made Himself last of all and servant of all for our sake.

ii. Jesus challenges us to be last of all. The desire to be praised and to gain recognition should be foreign to a follower of Jesus. Jesus wants us to embrace last as a choice, allowing others to be preferred before us, and not only because we are forced to be last.

iii. Jesus challenges us to be the servant of all. In the worldly idea of power, the great man is distinguished by how many people serve him. In ancient China, it was fashionable for wealthy men to grow their fingernails so long that their hands were unusable for basic tasks. This was to demonstrate that they did not need to do anything for themselves; there was always a servant there to wait on them. The world may think of this as greatness, but God does not. Jesus declared that true greatness is shown not by how many serve you, but by how many you serve.

iv. “It was not that Jesus abolished ambition. Rather he recreated and sublimated ambition. For the ambition to rule he substituted the ambition to serve. For the ambition to have things done for us he substituted the ambition to do things for others.” (Barclay)

v. “How easy a thing had it been for our Saviour, had he intended in any such primacy in the church as the papists contend for, to have said, Peter shall be the greatest!” (Poole)

c. He took a little child and set him in the midst of them: Jesus draws their attention to His nature by presenting a child as an example. In that day, children were regarded more as property than individuals. It was understood that they were to be seen and not heard. Jesus says that the way we receive people regarded like children shows how we would receive Him (whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me).

i. Children are not threatening. We aren’t afraid of meeting a five-year old in a dark alley. When we have a tough, intimidating presence, we aren’t like Jesus.

ii. Children are not good at deceiving; they don’t do a very good job at fooling their parents. When we are good at hiding ourselves and deceiving others, we aren’t like Jesus.

iii. Look at what the devil wants to do with children (Mark 9:17-27) and look at what Jesus does with children!

d. Because Jesus is last of all and servant of all and like a child, when we honor and receive a child - or someone who is a servant like Jesus - we honor and receive Jesus Himself.

4. (Mark 9:38-42) True greatness isn’t cliquish; it has an inclusive instinct.

Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

a. Teacher, we saw someone: It had to frustrate Jesus’ disciples that these other followers of Jesus successfully cast out demons, when they had just failed (Mark 9:18). No wonder John wanted them to stop!

i. “We may therefore safely imagine that this was either one of John the Baptist’s disciples, who, at his master’s command, had believed in Jesus, or one of the seventy, whom Christ had sent out, Luke 10:1-7, who, after he had fulfilled his commission, had retired from accompanying the other disciples; but as he still held fast his faith in Christ, and walked in good conscience, the influence of his Master still continued with him, so that he could cast out demons as well as the other disciples.” (Clarke)

b. For he who is not against us is on our side: There are many that may be wrong in some aspect of their presentation or teaching, yet they still set forth Jesus in some manner. Let God deal with them. Those who are not against a Biblical Jesus are still for Him, at least in some way.

i. Paul saw many men preaching Jesus from many motives, some of them evil - yet he could rejoice that Christ was preached (Philippians 1:15-18).

ii. “If a man be not an open enemy to Christ, he ought to be presumed to be his friend, at least so far as not to be discouraged in doing a good work.” (Poole)

c. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name: Because of this principle of unity, it is appropriate to show kindness to others in the name of Jesus. Even a cup of water, if given in the nature of Jesus, will be rewarded.

i. Nothing could seem more petty than giving a mere cup of water. But God remembers the heart, not only the gift itself.

d. If a small act of kindness towards others done in Jesus’ name will be eternally remembered, so will any cause for stumbling. And the punishment is severe: it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were throne into the sea.

i. In that day, there were two different sizes of millstones. The smaller one was used by a woman to grind a small amount of grain. The larger one was turned by a donkey to grind a larger amount of grain. Jesus refers to the larger kind of millstone here.

ii. Most Christians don’t take this statement of Jesus seriously enough, and don’t appreciate the great danger there is in doing something to cause another to stumble - especially one of these little ones.

iii. Some Christians think nothing of drawing young, weak Christians into their own little squabbles and divisions. They themselves emerge without much damage, but the little ones they brought with them into the squabble often end up shipwrecked.

5. (Mark 9:43-48) The urgency to enter God’s kingdom.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire; where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”

a. If your hand makes you sin, cut it off: Tragically, some have taken these words of Jesus in a sense He did not intend, and have cut off their hands, or mutilated themselves in some other way in a mistaken battle against sin.

i. The problem with taking Jesus’ words literally here is that bodily mutilation does not go far enough in controlling sin. Sin is more a matter of the heart than of any particular limb or organ, and if I cut off my right hand, my left is still ready to sin. If I completely dismember my body, I can still sin in my mind and in my heart.

ii. “This was not a demand for physical self-mutilation, but in the strongest manner possible Jesus speaks of the costliest sacrifices.” (Lane)

b. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell: With this exhortation, Jesus tried to correct a big misunderstanding on the part of the disciples. They thought of the kingdom mainly in terms of reward, not in terms of sacrifice.

i. Essentially, Jesus restates what Mark recorded in 8:34-35: that if we try to save our lives, we will lose them, and to follow Jesus means to pick up our cross and follow Him.

c. To go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched: the word hell is an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew “Valley of Hinnom,” a place outside Jerusalem’s walls desecrated by Molech worship and human sacrifice, thus turned into the dump where rubbish and refuse were burned. The smoldering fires and festering worms made it a graphic and effective picture of the fate of the damned.

i. This place is also called the “lake of fire” in Revelation 20:13-15, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

ii. “A child with a spoon may sooner empty the sea than the damned accomplish their misery. A river of brimstone is not consumed by burning.” (Trapp)

d. Where their worm does not die: “This worm of conscience is worse than the fire, if worse may be: it is the very hell of hell, as being the furious reflection of the soul upon itself for all its neglected opportunities and flagitious practices.” (Trapp)

i. “It seems that every one has his worm, his peculiar remorse for the evils he did, and for the grace he rejected; while the fire, the state of excruciating torment, is common to all. Reader! May the living God save thee from this worm, and from this fire!” (Clarke)

ii. “This worm (say divines) is only a continual remorse and furious reflection of the soul upon its own wilful folly, and now woeful misery. Oh, consider this before thy friends be scrambling for thy goods, worms for thy body, devils for thy soul.” (Trapp)

e. The message of Jesus is clear: knowing how terrible hell is, it is worth any sacrifice to avoid. Therefore, we cannot think of the kingdom of God just in the context of reward; we must also think in terms of sacrifice.

i. Trapp on the terror of hell: “Where there is eternity of extremity. Of all outward torments none is more insufferable than that by fire; as of all inward, none like that of having worms ever grubbing and gnawing upon the entrails.”

6. (Mark 9:49-50) Jesus speaks of salt and fire.

“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

a. For everyone will be seasoned with fire: Jesus declared His followers will be seasoned with fire, and that every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt, that the salt must retain its flavor, and that it will bring peace among us.

b. What is Jesus talking about? This passage has led to many different interpretations.

i. The first main interpretation is that fire refers to tribulation and suffering; these things accompany the “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) of the disciple. Since Old Testament sacrifices always included salt (Leviticus 2:13), Jesus is saying “just as every sacrifice under the law required salt, so the living sacrifice My followers bring to Me must be seasoned with suffering and tribulations.”

ii. The other main interpretation is that fire refers to the Holy Spirit. As His presence in our lives “seasons” us, it purifies, preserves, and adds flavor to our lives, and so it makes our “living sacrifice” acceptable to God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Guzik, David. "Commentary on Mark 9:1". "David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/view.cgi?book=mr&chapter=009. 1997-2003.

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