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Friday, July 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 9

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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This chapter includes the transfiguration of Jesus on a high mountain (2-8), Jesus’ explanation concerning Elijah (9-13), the healing of an epileptic boy (14-29), the second prophecy of the Passion (30-32), a discussion of true greatness (33-37), the mysterious wonder-worker (38-42), and teachings concerning "little ones" and yielding to temptation (43-50).

Verse 1

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

There has been a great deal of discussion as to the specific reference Jesus is making in this verse. Many scholars believe this verse should be connected with verse 38 of chapter eight and that Jesus is still referring to His second coming. Other scholars believe Jesus is referring to His transfiguration when He speaks of some of His disciples’ living to see the kingdom come with power. There are numerous other opinions by commentators as to what Jesus has in mind when He makes this statement. It is my conviction that the establishment of the church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the only event that satisfies all the teachings in this verse.

The failure of some scholars to understand that the expression "kingdom of God" is sometimes used interchangeably with "the church" is responsible for much of the confusion about this verse.

Jesus says there would be "some of them that stand here" alive at the coming of the kingdom. Judas hanged himself before the prediction is fulfilled. He is the only one of the Twelve who does not live to see the kingdom come with power.

The kingdom is to come with power, and the power is to come with the Spirit:

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

The Spirit came on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

Since the kingdom was to come with power, and the power was to come with the Spirit; and since the Spirit and power came on Pentecost, it follows the kingdom came on that day.

Before that day of Pentecost, when references are made to the kingdom or the church, they are always made as though they are still in the future, such as, "The kingdom of God is at hand"; "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you;" and Jesus said, "I will build my church." But beginning with Pentecost, references are made to the kingdom and church as though they are now in existence. John says:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:9).

John says he is in the kingdom. Paul declares the kingdom is the place where God translates His redeemed ones: "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13).

Luke describes the events that take place on Pentecost and concludes by saying "the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

The expression "the kingdom of God came with power" is tantamount to the expression "the church was established on Pentecost." No other explanation satisfies all the teachings of this verse.

Verse 2

And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.

And after six days: Luke places this event "about eight days after these sayings" (9:28). There is really no contradiction here. It is the equivalent to our saying, "About a week after." As Coffman says:

In counting up a week, Sunday to Sunday, one gets eight days if he counts the Sundays and six days if he counts between the Sundays. Both styles of time reckoning were in vogue in those days (181).

This event takes place six days after Peter’s confession and Christ’s first prediction of the Passion and resurrection.

Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John: It has already been mentioned that these three enjoy a more intimate relationship with Jesus than the other disciples (5:37). Cole offers this observation:

A number of times in the course of the ministry these three are drawn into incidents in a way that the others are not. It is quite unlikely that Jesus made any formal distinction between his disciples. Yet there were differences. In all likelihood, any distinction that was recognized would have been so on the basis of inherent ability (108).

and leadeth them up into an high mountain: This mountain is most probably Mt. Hermon, which is over nine thousand feet high, and could be reached easily from Caesarea Philippi in a day or two. Everett Harrison, in his book, A Short Life of Christ, offers this deduction:

Information is scanty about the place. Matthew and Mark simply speak of it as a high mountain. Mount Hermon answers well to this description, and it has the advantage of being in the general region of Caesarea Philippi. A possible drawback is the mention of the presence of scribes at the healing of the epileptic boy (9:14). But this could have occurred near Caesarea Philippi rather than at the base of the mountain. The narrative gives no help at this point. Another possible site with some tradition behind it is Mount Tabor, on the northern edge of the plain of Esdraelon. But it could hardly be called a high mountain. Furthermore, one would expect the Gospel writers to indicate a journey from Caesarea Philippi to this area if this was indeed the chosen spot (153-154).

Harrison is right about Mt. Tabor not being a "high mountain." It is not much more than one thousand feet in height. Further, Jesus is looking for seclusion as He ascends the mountain in order to pray. On the top of Tabor, there is a fortified city and an armed camp, the ruins of which still exist, making it a very unlikely place for the events of the transfiguration.

apart by themselves: They are taken apart from the other nine disciples.

And he was transfigured before them: The word "transfigured" is from metemorphein and means "to change into another form" (Thayer 404). Matthew, in his account (17:1-13), says Jesus is transfigured, the passive form of the verb, serving to emphasize that what He experiences is something granted to Him by God the Father. Luke, in his account (9:28-36), is content to say that the appearance of His countenance is altered.

Verse 3

And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.

And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow: For a brief moment, the veil of His humanity is lifted; and Jesus’ body presents itself in the form of bright light. It is entirely possible the snowcapped summit of Mt. Hermon is visible on this very night and provides an appropriate comparison. The word "shining" is from stilbein and is used for the glistening gleam of burnished brass or gold or of polished steel or of the golden glare of the sunlight (Barclay 210). Matthew adds, "...and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light" (17:2). Harrison explains:

The mysterious change was not from without, as though some giant spotlight became focused on him, but from within. His countenance was affected first, then his garments. The "form of God," which had been veiled through incarnation, was permitted for this little while to shine forth, as it was seen by Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3) and by the seer of Patmos (Revelation 1:16). What appealed to the sight of men as light expressed the inward perfection that could be described in terms of fullness of grace and truth (John 1:14) (154).

so as no fuller on earth can white them: A "fuller" is comparable to our launderer. Fullers specialize in shrinking and thickening cloth, especially wool. But fullers also cleaned and "whitened" clothes. "A fuller was one who rubbed ’fuller’s earth’--a kind of white clay--into the stains on a garment that they might not be seen" (McMillan 109). This observation by Mark is made to show the contrast between earthly and heavenly whiteness. No earthly fuller could have produced such a dazzling whiteness. Cole adds:

The abiding impression was one of unearthly purity. So, too, when men see God’s spiritual ministrants in human form, they wear white robes (Mark 16:5). In spite of modern biblical illustrations, white was not a common colour for working clothes in biblical days: it soiled too easily in a workaday world. If it had not been somewhat unusual for a young man to wear gleaming white garments, the detail would not have been recorded, for the Bible makes but sparse reference to colour in any case (142).

It seems as though the gospel writers were at a loss for the proper superlatives to describe a change so marvelous and glorious. Matthew says, "White as the light"; Mark says, "shining, exceeding white as snow"; Luke says, "white and glistering"--white and flashing forth as lightening.

In the Bible the glory of God is always conceived as shining brilliance or bright light. When John sees Jesus in the apocalyptic vision (Revelation 1:14), His head and hair are "white like wool, as white as snow." Ages before, when Daniel sees Jesus in prophetic vision as the Ancient of days, His garments are white as snow. When Jesus appears to Saul on the way to Damascus, a light above the brightness of the midday sun shines round about Saul so that Saul is blinded. It is obvious, then, that Jesus in the heavenly region wears an appearance of surpassing glory, and now Jesus gives His disciples a glimpse of that glorified or spiritual state. According to John, the transfiguration is also an indication of what the follower of Jesus will become in the future realm:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

Paul adds:

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3:21).

Verse 4

And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

And there appeared unto them: The word "appeared" is from ophthe and means the three disciples actually "saw with their eyes" Elias and Moses (Analytical Greek Lexicon 291). The same word is used when referring to the appearances of Christ after the resurrection (Luke 24:34; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:31; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Peter, James, and John are not dreaming as they see Elias and Moses, but they actually see these two great men from the past talking with Jesus.

Elias with Moses: "Elias" is the Greek form of "Elijah." Elijah is mentioned first, not necessarily because he is more important than Moses but because of his special significance in connection with the coming of the Messiah, which is to be discussed later (verse 9). Elijah is expected to return (6:15; 8:28), but Moses is an unexpected addition.

Moses dies in the land of Moab (Deuteronomy 34:6). Elijah does not experience death in the natural sense but is "translated" into heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 3:11). Jesus, who has not yet died, is to be the first-born from the dead; consequently, Moses and Elijah are still from the realm of the dead; having not yet been raised. Luke 9:31 says they "appeared in glory," meaning the same halo of glory and of light that shines from Jesus emanates from Elijah and Moses.

Is there some special reason these two men and not others (such as Abraham and Enoch, for example) should have been chosen for this appearance with the Savior? Most authorities believe their roles are as representatives. Elijah is the first and the greatest of the prophets. Men always look back to him as the prophet who brought to men the very voice of God. Moses is the supreme lawgiver of Israel. The Israelites owe the law of God to him. Here are the representatives of the "Law and the Prophets." They are here to pay homage to Jesus as the true Messiah, the Savior of the world, prefigured in the law and foretold by the prophets. "They appear to bear witness to him, and then to resign their offices to the great Lawgiver and Prophet whom they foreshadowed" (Bickersteth, Vol. II 2). Coffman adds:

When the bright cloud, symbolical of the presence of God Himself, caught away the great prophet and the great lawgiver, leaving only Jesus visible, it was God’s way of saying, "There is only one authority now, and that is Christ!" "This is my beloved Son; hear ye him!" (183).

As mentioned above, Moses dies and Elijah is translated; thus, another possible reason for their presence at the transfiguration could have been to represent in Moses the dead saints who shall rise from their graves at the second coming of Christ while Elijah could represent those who shall be alive at that time. Paul explains:

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

And they were talking with Jesus: Luke adds the interesting detail that the subject of the discussion among Jesus, Elijah, and Moses is the Lord’s coming death in Jerusalem--"they spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem" (9:31). The word "decease" is from exodos and literally means "departure" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 147). The word is reminiscent of the initial triumph of God in Israel’s history--the exodus from Egypt to the promised land. At the cross, resurrection, and ascension, there is a new exodus, a new "saving act" of God; and only in its light can the first exodus be understood as a "type" of redemption.

Therefore, Moses and Elijah have a personal reason as well as an official reason for being on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses the lawgiver is also the lawbreaker. He needs that forthcoming death on Calvary as much as anyone. Elijah, in the very heyday of his success as a prophet, turns and runs before the threats of Jezebel. His forgiveness cannot be final until that sacrifice has been made on the cross by the Son of man.

No explanation is given as to how the disciples recognize Moses and Elijah. It is possible that Jesus identifies the two men to his disciples. It is also possible they know intuitively who these representatives of the law and the prophets are, just as Saul recognizes Ananias in a vision (Acts 9:12). Bickersteth adds these observations:

The same Divine power which presented them with a vision of the other world gave them an intuitive knowledge on the subject. And we may, perhaps, infer from hence that in that world to come there will be not only recognition, but knowledge, at once imparted, of those whose faces we have not seen ’in the flesh’ (Vol. II 3).

Verse 5

And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

And Peter answered and said to Jesus: Peter’s "answer" is not to a question directed at him but to the facts that appeal to him. Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah are departing, and Peter apparently does not want them to leave. Mark and Luke both state that Peter does not really know what he is saying, implying that in his excitement he just blurts out his remarks spontaneously.

Master: The word "Master" is from Pabbi and is literally translated "Rabbi" (Marshall 178). In the parallel passages, Matthew 17:4 uses the word "Lord" (kurie); and Luke 9:33 uses "Master" (epistata). These three terms must be considered synonymous, all having the intent of exalting the nature of the Savior. But Mark alone preserves the original Aramaic words Peter must have used (11:21; 14:45; 10:51).

it is good for us to be here: It is a beautiful coincidence that we are here.

and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: It is entirely possible that Peter makes these remarks with the intent of trying to preserve this wonderful event. They would build temporary dwellings so the interview with Moses and Elijah could be prolonged. It is also possible Peter has in mind the prophecy Jesus has made earlier about His death in Jerusalem. Offering to build tents may have been Peter’s determination to keep Jesus there, far from Jerusalem, and forestall, if possible, Jesus’ death.

More probable, though, is the line of reasoning connected with the word "tabernacles." The word "tabernacles" is from skenas and is the word used to describe the tents, or booths, in which the people of Israel dwelt briefly during the annual feast of Tabernacles, possibly being celebrated at this time in Jerusalem. This feast is a memorial of Israel’s sojourning in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:42-43). Lane says:

The desire to erect new tents of meeting where God can again communicate with men implies that Peter regards the time of the second exodus as fulfilled and the goal of the sabbath rest achieved. He is anxious to find the fulfillment of the promised glory now, prior to the sufferings Jesus had announced as necessary. His comment reflects a failure to appreciate that the transfiguration was only a momentary anticipation of the glory of the consummated kingdom. The blessings of the new age, which will be shared by all people of God (13:26f), cannot be secured until Jesus has accomplished the sufferings which are integral to his appointed task, culminating in his death (319).

Verse 6

For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.

For he wist not what to say: Peter really does not know what to say; yet with his usual impulsiveness he says something. It is usually best under such circumstances not to say anything as Peter is to learn.

for they were sore afraid: This phrase means "for they had become exceedingly afraid." In other words, the fear has preceded the statement of Peter and explains the reason for his ill-advised words.

Verse 7

And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: According to Matthew and Luke, Peter is still speaking when the cloud appears; so it seems as if the appearance of the cloud is in answer to him--a censure. Matthew 17:5 calls the cloud "bright" (luminous), which seems a little out of harmony with Mark’s "overshadowed." The idea, though, is that the cloud hangs over them and rests above them. The luminous cloud represents the Shechinah, the Divine glory and presence of God, and is a marked contrast to the flimsy shelter suggested by Peter. [Compare this cloud with the one at the ascension (Acts 1:9) and at the second coming (Luke 21:27).]

and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him: This cloud is, at the same time, a symbol of the Divine Presence and a veil of the Divine Presence. No eye can behold God and live. The psalmist says, "He maketh the clouds his chariot" (104:3). There are four reports of this Voice, those of the Synoptists and that of 2 Peter 1:17. No two of them agree in wording. These differences are not as significant as the differences between this Voice and the Voice at Jesus’ baptism. On that occasion, the Voice is directed to Jesus; and on this occasion, to the disciples. The message to the disciples is that the law and the prophets are consummated in Christ; and from now on, they are to listen to Him. "Hear him"--not Moses, who has now departed, but Christ Himself, the new author of a new law.

Whether he realizes it or not, Peter is putting Jesus on the same plane with these Old Testament servants of God ("one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"). Peter’s suggestion is completely unacceptable. God spoke in the past to the fathers through the prophets, but now He speaks through His Son. It is imperative the disciples understand and respect the difference.

Verse 8

And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.

Matthew says, "And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid" (17:6-7). When the disciples hear the Voice from the cloud, they fall to the ground, terrified. It is the "touch" of Jesus that causes them to look up and around and to see they are alone with Him as they had been before the transfiguration begins.

Suddenly, there is a return to normal conditions. Moses and Elijah are withdrawn from the scene. As necessary as they are to the pre-Christian ages, humanity is no longer required to heed the systems they represented. They remain important to Christianity only in the sense of pointing the way to Christ. They have fulfilled their purpose; and in order to dramatize that fulfillment, they have been removed from the scene so that the disciples see no man except Jesus.

Verse 9

And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.

And as they came down from the mountain: Luke’s account (9:37) implies the transfiguration takes place at night, and the descent from the mountain occurs the next morning. The expression "from the mountain" is from ek tou orous and is better translated "out of the mountain," which indicates they come out of some secluded part of the mountain.

he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead: This is not the first time Jesus has "charged" (ordered) His disciples to be silent about something they have witnessed, but it is the first time He sets a limit to the silence..." till the Son of man were risen from the dead." This command agrees with His prohibiting the disciples from proclaiming Him as the Messiah (8:30). The disciples still have a fundamental misunderstanding of Jesus’ role as the Messiah. They believe Him to be the Messiah and the transfigured Son of God, but at this point the thought of His suffering and dying is incomprehensible to them. If the disciples tell of the glorious transfiguration, it would just intensify erroneous ideas about Him. This principle of concealing His Messiahship runs throughout Mark (3:12; 8:30; 9:9; 10:18).

Luke 9:36 says, "...And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen." Later, after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter understands the significance of the Transfiguration and refers to it:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount (2 Peter 1:16-18).

Verse 10

And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.

And they kept that saying with themselves: The word "kept" is from krateo and means "to keep carefully and faithfully" (Thayer 359). It is a strong word and means the disciples not only remember what Jesus says, but they obey it. They keep silent and tell no one of what they have seen.

questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean: They ask each other questions as to what Jesus means when He speaks of the "rising from the dead." They are familiar with the idea of rising from the dead, but the special resurrection of the Son of Man perplexes them. It has been only a week since Jesus tells the disciples He will soon die and rise again. They do not understand His meaning at that time, and Peter even rebukes Jesus for it; and even now they cannot comprehend His meaning.

Verse 11

And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come?

And they asked him: The verb is imperfect, which indicates a con­tinuous questioning. They keep on questioning Him.

saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come: The appearance of Elias (Elijah) after the appearance of the Messiah has puzzled the disciples. They remember that Malachi 4:5 has been interpreted by the scribes to mean that Elijah would appear before the Messiah comes.

Verse 12

And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.

And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first: The word "verily" is from men and is concessive. It means "it is true" (Wuest 179). Jesus is saying the scribes are correct in their doctrine that Elijah would appear before the coming of the Messiah.

and restoreth all things: This expression means Elijah would put things in a proper state. He would, to some extent, reform the people and restore in them some measure of proper anticipation of the Messiah, preparing them for His coming.

and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought: The expression "set at nought" means "to treat with contempt and scorn" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 148). Jesus is saying the scribes are right in their interpretation of the prophecy concerning Elijah; but there is another very important prophecy, not to be ignored, concerning the suffering of the Messiah. Jesus does not quote any specific passage but could have been easily thinking of such prophecies as Isaiah 53:3 and Psalms 22:1-18. The predictions have been clear enough, but they have been overlooked.

Verse 13

But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.

But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come: Matthew’s parallel account states:

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:11-13).

Christ confirms the belief that Elijah must come, but He goes even further by saying he has already come. Jesus does not mean the actual Elijah of the Old Testament has reappeared; but rather He is referring to John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the hearts of Israel for the first coming of the Messiah. Jesus teaches them a second time that Malachi uses the name of Elijah figuratively to represent John the Baptist.

and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed: The word "listed" means "desired." They have done to John whatever they pleased. They forget about God’s will and arbitrarily apply their own will to John. Jesus is referring to the imprisonment and execution of John at the hands of Herod Antipas.

as it is written of him: John is foreshadowed in the Old Testament by Elijah. Herod Antipas and Herodias are foreshadowed by King Ahab and Jezebel. Elijah is persecuted by Jezebel, just as John is beheaded at the request of Herodias. The writing to which Jesus refers begins with 1 Kings 19:2; 1 Kings 19:10. The expression found there, "they seek my life, to take it away," applies to all three men...Elijah, John, and Jesus. Barclay offers this observation:

Jesus was overturning all the preconceived notions and ideas of his disciples. They looked for the emergence of Elijah, the coming of the Messiah, the irruption of God into time and the shattering victory of heaven, which they identified with the triumph of Israel. He was trying to compel them to see that in fact the herald had been cruelly killed and the Messiah must end on a Cross. They still did not understand, and their failure to understand was due to the cause which always makes men fail to understand--they clung to their way and refused to see God’s way. They wished things as they desired them and not as God had ordered them. The error of their thoughts had blinded them to the revelation of God’s truth (213-214).

Verse 14

And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.

And when he came to his disciples: They now come down from the mountain and join the other disciples who have not witnessed the transfiguration.

he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them: Jesus and the three disciples arrive from a place of peace and glory on the mountain top to a scene of conflict below. It is easy to picture the situation. The disciples try to heal an afflicted boy and fail. The scribes are delighted with the failure and taunt them with it. The word "questioning" is from suzetountas and means "debating; disputing" (Marshall 177). They have been successfully attacking the nine disciples in Jesus’ absence. The presence of the scribes in the region of Caesarea Philippi, which is farther north than they usually venture, is evidence of their diligent watchfulness of Jesus.

The contrast between the peace and glory on the mountain top and the conflict below is strikingly similar to the scene of Moses’ communing with God on the mount and the children of Israel disputing with Aaron for idolatry below.

This dispute is the very sort of thing Peter wants to avoid. While on the mountain top and in the presence of glory, Peter has said, "It is good for us to be here." He wanted to build three tabernacles...one for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, respectively, and to stay there. Life is so much better there on the mountain top, so much closer to God, why ever come down again?

Verse 15

And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.

The expression "were greatly amazed" is found in Mark only three times. In Mark 14:33, it is used with reference to the agony of Christ in the garden, and in Mark 16:5 it is used in connection with the appearance of the angel at the resurrection. On all three occasions, the expression "greatly amazed" refers to an emotional shock. Whether caused by sorrow or joy, it is a stunning surprise. There is no reason to believe there are traces of the brightness of the transfiguration still on Jesus or that that is the reason for the crowd’s amazement. Jesus has commanded silence about that, and such traces would have made silence almost impossible. The crowd and the nine disciples are not expecting Jesus. They have seen Him ascend the lonely slopes of Mount Hermon, and they are apparently so engrossed in their efforts to heal the afflicted boy and their subsequent dispute with the scribes that they do not see Jesus return. But, just at the perfect moment, He returns. It is His sudden, unexpected, and perfectly timed arrival that surprises them. Bruce has this valuable note:

The Master reappears, when He is not looked for, when He is needed, and when his name is being taken in vain, perhaps not without a certain sympathy on the part of the volatile crowd not accustomed hitherto to miscarriage of attempts at healing when the name of Jesus was invoked. In that case their feeling would be a compound of confusion and gladness--ashamed and yet delighted to see Him, both betrayed in their manner (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 401-402).

Verse 16

And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

Jesus apparently does not use His divine omniscience; and, therefore, to find out what is happening, He pointedly asks the scribes, "What are you debating with them?"

Verse 17

And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;

And one of the multitude answered and said: The crowd is momentarily silent. But, soon, one who has a special interest in the situation, steps forward to speak to Jesus. It is the father of the boy whom the disciples have tried unsuccessfully to heal.

Master, I have brought unto thee my son: The father tells Jesus much more than He asks. The word "Master" is Didaskale, which is literally "teacher" (Marshall 177). The man does not know Jesus is absent; but thinking He is with the disciples, he brings his son to Him. In the absence of Jesus, the disciples undertake to do His work.

which hath a dumb spirit: The spirit is called "dumb" either because it affects the boy’s ability to speak or because it refuses to answer when spoken to, the former being most likely. In verse 25, the spirit is called "deaf." Hence, the boy is possessed by a demon that not only deprives him of his ability to speak but also of his ability to hear.

Verse 18

And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

And wheresoever he taketh him: The word "taketh" is from katalambano and means:

...to lay hold of so as to make one’s own, to seize upon, take possession of. The picture in the word is that of seizing something and pulling it down. Our word "katalepsy" comes from the Greek word. Greek writers used it when speaking of fits (Wuest 181).

he teareth him: "Teareth him" is from regnumi and means "convulses him" (Wuest 182). It is used of a demon causing con­vulsions in the person possessed.

and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth: Obviously, the father wants Jesus to know the severity of the case. The symptoms the father describes--seizures, convulsions, falling to the ground, foaming at the mouth, teeth grinding--are indicative of a case of epilepsy. This is an extremely complex case. The boy is deaf, dumb, and an epileptic, all of which is brought about by demon possession.

and pineth away: "The verb is xeraino ’to dry up, to wither,’ of members of the body, ’to waste away, pine away.’ It speaks of the final stage of motionless stupor" (Wuest 182).

All three of the Synoptists describe the symptoms differently. Matthew 17:15 points out, "...ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water." Luke 9:39 gives a medical description when he says, "bruising him hardly departeth from him."

and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not: The tasks of casting out demons and healing the sick have earlier been assigned to the disciples (6:7), and they have been successful to a certain extent (6:13, 30). But on this occasion, they fail--for a reason Jesus reveals later (9:29).

Verse 19

He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation: The word "faithless" means "unbelieving" (Marshall 177). The use of the word "generation" indicates the whole company, not just the disciples, are included in this reproach. Obviously, Jesus is dissatisfied with the scribes, who, instead of showing pity for the demon-possessed boy, are probably gloating over the disciples’ failure. Jesus is also dissatisfied with the crowd in general. It is probable they have joined the scribes in criticizing the disciples for their failure to heal the boy. Their sympathy would be with the father and his son. They have seen the disciples heal others during their mission. Why would they not heal the only son of this poor man? But Jesus is especially dissatisfied with the powerless disciples. They, of all people, should have had the necessary faith.

how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me: There is weariness and disappointment in Jesus’ voice. He probably feels like a physician whose directions have not been followed. Emphasis is placed on the word "me." Jesus has confidence in Himself; thus He commands, "Bring him unto Me."

Verse 20

And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

At the moment the demon saw Jesus, he convulsed the boy, causing him to fall and roll on the ground, foaming at the mouth. The verb "wallowed" is in the imperfect tense, which indicates that the convulsion continued for some time. As has been pointed out previously in Mark, demons immediately recognize and fear Jesus. It is possible that when this demon sees Jesus, he knows his control over the boy will soon be ended; thus he makes a last attack.

Verse 21

And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him: Jesus sounds like a sympathetic doctor asking for the history of this unusual case.

And he said, Of a child: The father does not specify the exact age, but it is from childhood.

Verse 22

And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have com­passion on us, and help us.

And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: The love and concern the father has for the son is revealed in the fact he not only answers Jesus’ question but offers further details that have not already been made known. It is also significant that it is not the falling into the fire or water that is stressed, but "the being thrown into these potential killers, with the sinister purpose on the part of the evil spirit, to destroy him" (Hendriksen 348).

but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us: When he leaves home, the father has faith that Jesus can heal His son; but the disciples’ failure has weakened his trust in Jesus’ power. The request is touching. By using the word "us," the father identifies himself with the misery of the son.

Verse 23

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe: Quickly Jesus puts the problem in the proper perspective. He says, "The question is not whether I am able, but whether you believe." Even though Jesus does not require genuine faith to be manifested on every occasion when He miraculously heals someone, He places great emphasis on faith.

all things are possible to him that believeth: It is as if Jesus says, "Look, any man who has faith will not set a limit on what God can do." The father should have had faith like that of the leper in chapter one, verse 40.

Verse 24

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears: Although the father does not feel he can completely fulfill the condition required by Jesus, he does not waste any time expressing his desire to increase his faith to the utmost. The phrase "with tears" is not in the best manuscripts. Vincent says the words "cried out" denote an "inarticulate cry, the ejaculation, followed by the words, ’Lord, I believe’" (113). Swete says, "His strength of feeling shows itself in a cry as piercing as that of the demoniac son" (200).

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief: The verb "help" is in the present imperative tense, which implies the father is asking for continuous help, moment by moment and day by day, to overcome his unbelief (Wuest 185). Swete says:

The father instantly responds to the demand for fuller trust on his part...He recognizes that the help he needs is in the first instance help for himself and not for his boy...He believes, but his faith is defective, and its defect needs the Master’s succor (200).

Thayer says the expression "unbelief" in this context can be translated by the phrase "weakness of faith" (57).

Verse 25

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

When Jesus saw that the people came running together: The words "running together" picture a rapid gathering of a crowd to Jesus and the demoniac. Apparently Jesus has withdrawn the father and the boy to a distance from the crowd; but now the cries of both, accompanied by the prospect of a miracle about to happen, bring them running to the spot.

he rebuked the foul spirit: Wuest makes this observation:

"Rebuke" is epitimao, which refers to a rebuke that is ineffectual, and which does not bring the person to see his sin and confess it. The word elegcho which means "to rebuke a person, which rebuke is followed by that individual’s confession or at least conviction," is not used here. Observe, if you will, the meticulous accuracy with which the Holy Spirit leads the Bible writers in their choice of synonyms. Demons are incorrigible. They will never repent (185).

saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him: Jesus’ order to the demon is firm and sharp. He calls the demon "dumb and deaf" because that is the condition it wrought on the boy.

and enter no more into him: This statement makes it clear the demon would try to repossess the boy without interference from Jesus. Therefore, Jesus orders the demon not only to come out of the boy but also to stay out. It must have been a wonderful reassurance to the father to hear there would be no recurrence of the boy’s pitiful condition.

Verse 26

And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: The spirit obeys the command of Jesus but apparently tries to do as much damage as possible to the boy before leaving. Mark gives the most vivid details of the boy’s cure. There is a shriek by the demon, followed by violent, prolonged convulsions of the boy.

and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead: When the spirit departs and the convulsions end, the boy collapses and lies as rigid and motionless as a corpse. The majority of the crowd is convinced the boy is dead.

Verse 27

But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up: The Master was always doing things of this nature, it mattered not whether the one in need was Peter (Matthew 14:31), Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:31), Jairus’ daughter (5:41), or whoever it might be (Hendriksen 351).

The healing touch of Jesus displays His compassionate humanity.

and he arose: This is not a lifeless body that Jesus is lifting. The boy is now miraculously vibrant and active.

Verse 28

And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

After performing this great miracle, Jesus goes indoors. We are not told whose house they enter or where it is located. He has not yet reached Capernaum, but it is possible He and His disciples have been given lodging from one of His followers in the multitude. Nevertheless, the nine disciples take advantage of the privacy of the occasion to inquire of Jesus about their failure. They want to know "Why could not we cast him out?" These men have successfully handled many cases of demon possession in the past, so it is a reasonable question.

Verse 29

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

The expression "This kind" seems to imply there are different ranks among demons, some being more powerful and malignant than others. The words "and fasting" do not appear in the best manuscripts and are probably an early interpolation in the interest of asceticism. As Plummer asks, "When a demoniac was brought to the disciples to be healed, were they to say, ’We must first fast for so many hours’?" (222).

Matthew 17:20 adds, "Because of your little faith." The whole difficulty centers around the disciples’ lack of prayer and faith. Plummer gives this further explanation:

To be effectual, prayer must be accompanied by faith, and the disciples who had proved powerless either had not prayed, or had prayed without faith. They may have thought that the power to heal was inherent in themselves, and that there was no need to pray; or they had little trust that God would hear their prayer (221).

The disciples should not have allowed their faith to wane or their prayers to become infrequent. In order for both to be effective, prayer and faith must never be separated.

Verse 30

And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it.

And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee: Jesus and the Twelve now depart from the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, at the base of Mount Hermon, and travel southward toward Capernaum. Swete says, "Their way to the north had perhaps led them through Gaulonitis and Ituraea, but they return through Galilee, i.e., along the west bank of the Jordan" (202).

and he would not that any man should know it: Jesus is still searching for privacy that would allow Him to focus His training on the Twelve.

Verse 31

For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.

For He taught his disciples: Jesus knows He does not have much more time before His crucifixion; therefore, He devotes Himself during this time to the task of training His disciples for the monumental work they are to do after His ascension. Jesus specifically emphasizes the lessons of the cross.

And said unto them, The Son of man: Jesus again refers to Himself as "The Son of man." Plummer, speaking about the Twelve, says:

They know that He is Christos (Christ), yet He does not speak of Himself by that title, which might lead them to use it inadvertently in speaking of Him to others, in violation of 8:30. He continues to use the title which veiled, while to some it suggested, His Messiahship (222).

is delivered into the hands of men: Wuest offers this analysis:

The verb is paradidomai, the simple verb meaning "to give," the prefixed preposition, "alongside," the compound meaning "to give alongside." Our "sell down the river," is the modern equivalent. The word speaks of the act of handing someone over to another, the betraying of a person. The verb is in the present tense, durative in action. Literally, "the Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men" (187).

and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day: Although he is not named yet, Judas is the one who will betray Jesus. Judas will deliver Jesus into the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes--the Sanhedrin. These religious leaders should have been the first to honor the long-awaited Messiah; but instead, they are about to kill Him.

This is the second of three consecutive lessons Jesus teaches His disciples concerning His death and resurrection, the first being recorded in Mark 8:31. This lesson is very similar to the first. In both, Jesus calls Himself the "Son of man." He also predicts He is going to be killed and then, three days later, raised from the dead. There is a significant difference, however. In the first lesson, Jesus emphasizes the necessity of His death; but on this occasion, He emphasizes the certainty of it.

Mark’s language implies Jesus is going to rise again by His own power. Matthew 17:23 says Jesus is going to "be raised up," attributing the power to the Father. There is no contradiction here. All three members of the Godhead are involved in the resurrection as They are in all the works of God. These Three are One. Jesus is quoted elsewhere as claiming resurrection power. John says:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father (10:17-18).

But it is just as accurate to refer to the Father as raising the Son from the dead (Acts 2:32; Acts 3:26; Acts 10:40; Acts 13:34; Acts 17:31; Romans 4:24-25; Romans 6:4).

Verse 32

But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

But they understood not that saying: They could not understand the Messiah’s rising again because they could not see how the Messiah could die. Luke says, "But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying" (9:45). Luke seems to imply:

...that, as in the case of the two on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:16), they were not allowed to know then, in order that they might remember it afterwards, and see that Christ had suffered with full knowledge and free will (Plummer 222).

and were afraid to ask him: Peter protests the first time Jesus teaches about His death and resurrection and is severely rebuked. The disciples remember that occasion. As mentioned above, they could not understand how the Messiah could rise from the dead because they could not understand how the Messiah could die. They are, however, afraid of being rebuked for doubting it or being told something even more distressing.

Verse 33

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?

Jesus stays in the home of Peter when He is in Capernaum. The Twelve have been arguing about what their rank will be in the kingdom they expect Jesus to establish. Jesus has been in earshot of the discussion and has overheard some of it. Bruce notes Jesus does not always walk beside His disciples but that at times "He went before, thinking His deep thoughts, they followed thinking their vain thoughts" (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 404). This time it is Jesus who asks for an explanation of what has been said. He asks for the purpose of teaching them.

Verse 34

But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

They are ashamed to confess the subject of their discussion for fear of being condemned. Some commentators believe this discussion about who is "the greatest" is caused by the preferential treatment shown to Peter, James, and John. James and John, in particular, demand to be accounted the greatest.

Verse 35

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Mark again gives vivid details. It is not uncommon for Jesus to sit while teaching (13:3), but here He may have been resting from His journey. Bruce says:

Every word here betokens a deliberate attempt to school the disciples in humility. The Master takes His seat, calls His scholars with a magisterial tone (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 405).

Jesus is not condemning the desire for greatness, but is attempting to change the disciples’ idea of true greatness.

Verse 36

And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,

And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: Here Jesus introduces an object lesson on humility. It is a parabolic demonstration of the lesson recorded in Matthew 18:4-6. Jesus, sitting in the center of the group, calls this little one to His side and places him in the midst of these men. A child is a representative of Jesus’ most humble and simple followers. Jesus is demonstrating to His disciples that true greatness is not a matter of position and power but it is the childlike qualities of innocence, trustfulness, humility, lack of prejudice, lovableness, faith, and teachableness.

and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them: Only Mark adds this delicate detail. Jesus takes the child in His arms, which would cause the boy to feel at ease, unafraid, and protected.

Verse 37

Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Whosoever shall receive: This phrase means to approve, love, or treat with kindness; to aid in time of need.

one of such children: These words refer to the most humble disciple who manifests the same meek, unambitious spirit of the little child.

in my name, receiveth me: "In my name" means the person does not do this action because He is fond of children or simple people but because they represent to Him the Christ-like character.

He who recognizes and welcomes such, because he sees in them the type of character which Christ Himself approved and exhibited, recognizes and welcomes Christ Himself--is a true and loyal disciple (Swete 206).

and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me: When we receive the representative Christ sends, we are not only receiving Christ but also His Father who sent Him. This illustrates the infinitely close relationship between Christ and the Father (Mark 12:6; Luke 10:16; John 3:16-17; John 17:10; John 17:21; John 17:24-26).

Verse 38

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

And John answered him: This is the only place in the synoptic gospels where John is quoted individually. He speaks with others later in 10:35 and 13:3. Swete comments, "...it creates an impression of candour and conscientiousness not unworthy of the future theologian" (207).

saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name: The teaching Jesus has just given about receiving "one of such children in my name" reminds John of a recent occurrence. John and one or more of the disciples, probably during their recent journey through northern Galilee, have prohibited a man from using the name of Christ for the purpose of casting out demons. Now, in view of Jesus’ teaching, he wonders if they have done the right thing. Should they have welcomed him as a brother?

and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us: John’s reason for attempting to stop the man is "because he followeth not us." He has not joined Christ and His steady followers. They are angry that the man is using the name of Christ without authority. "Unlike the juggling exorcists in Acts 19:13-16, the man was evidently (in however defective a way) sin­cere and successful" (Plummer 225).

Verse 39

But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

When a person performs a mighty work in the name of Christ--in harmony with His revealed will--he will speak well, not ill, of the One who provides the power for the miracle. Jesus is saying that the fact the man could work a miracle in His name is proof of his loyalty to Christ and he should not be prevented.

There is a very similar incident recorded in Numbers 11:26-29 involving Joshua and Moses. Moses complains that the leadership of the nation is a burden greater than he can bear. Consequently, the Lord gives direction that a council of seventy should be associated with him in it. This instruction is carried out. From among the acting elders and officers of the congregation, Moses calls out seventy; and they are solemnly set apart to the new office before the Lord and the congregation. When the seventy are being set apart, the Spirit falls upon them; and they prophesy. While this activity is going on at the tent of meeting, a young man comes running with the report that two men, Eldad and Medad, are prophesying in the camp. As it turns out, these are two of the seventy whom Moses has nominated for the council. For some reason they have not come forward with the rest to the tent of meeting. The Spirit comes on them exactly as He has come on their brethren, and they are prophesying. But, because Eldad and Medad have not joined the others in the tent, it is as though they have made a breach in the due order. It seems to Joshua they are acting independently and trying to establish a separate center of authority. Joshua exclaims, "My lord Moses, forbid them! (make them stop!)" (11:28) But Moses answers, "Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" (11:29). Moses’ reply to Joshua’s jealous advice is identical to the words of Jesus here.

Verse 40

For he that is not against us is on our part.

After confronting Jesus, neutrality becomes an impossibility. A man is either for or against Christ. Some commentators say this rule is a contradiction to the words of Matthew 12:30: "He that is not with me is against me..." Plummer gives an excellent explanation:

The two rules are perfectly harmonious, but this one (Mark 9:40) is to be used in judging other people, the other rule in judging ourselves. If we are not sure that others are against Christ, we must treat them as being for Him; if we are not sure that we are on His side, we have reason to fear that we are against Him. Both rules show that friendly action and hostility are incongruous (225).

Verse 41

For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

This verse points back to the line of Jesus’ teaching that John’s question interrupts.

For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ: The help given to Christ’s representative does not have to be extravagant. Help as humble as a drink of water will assuredly be rewarded. What makes the cup of water so precious is that it is given to the person because he belongs to Christ ("Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" Matthew 25:40).

Matthew 10:41 says, "...in the name of a prophet." The meaning is that the one who extends a kindness to a prophet or disciple because of that person’s relationship to Christ, honors Christ.

verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward: Regardless of its earthly magnitude, every gracious act shall receive its due reward. Lane offers these comments:

The reference to "his reward" carries no thought of deserving or of merit, for there is no way in which a cup of water may be conceived as meriting participation in the Kingdom. It serves rather to stress God’s awareness of all who share in the extension of Jesus’ work, and to emphasize that there are no distinctions between "trivial" and "important" tasks. There is only faith and obedience, shown in devotion to Jesus, and wherever these qualities exist they call forth the approval of God (344-345).

Also, the mention of "reward" serves as a motivating factor that would encourage the disciples to fulfill every opportunity to do good.

Verse 42

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

This verse is the negative side of verse 37. "Just in proportion to the beauty of the childlike character is the guilt of the man who knowingly spoils it" (Plummer 226).

And whosoever shall offend: The word "offend" is from skandalizo and means "to put a stumbling-block or impediment in the way upon which another may trip or fall" (Thayer 576).

one of these little ones that believe in me: This statement does not literally refer to little children; but in verses 37, 41, and 42, Jesus is referring to the simplest and the lowliest of the believers (Hebrews 8:11). Jesus is teaching that the simplest believers would be confused and possibly led astray when they witness apostles arguing about who is the greatest.

it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea: Hendriksen gives this definition of the millstone:

The millstone of which Jesus speaks is the top-stone of the two between which the grain is crushed. The reference is not to the handmill but to the much heavier stone drawn by a donkey. In the middle of the top-stone, whether of a handmill or of a donkey-drawn mill, there is a hole through which grain can be fed so as to be crushed between the two stones. The presence of this hole explains the phrase "that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck." With this millstone around his neck he will surely drown (365).

The expression "it is better for him" means that if a choice could be made, the choice of drowning would be better than causing a simple soul to sin. To sin is terrible, but to lead another to sin is infinitely worse. Drowning is a terrible thing but is a welcome alternative to what is to happen to a deceiver of those precious in the sight of Christ.

Verse 43

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: This verse, along with references to the foot and the eyes in verses 45 and 47, uses figurative language to illustrate how drastically we should deal with sin. As mentioned earlier, it is a terrible thing to deceive someone else and cause him to stumble. But it is also possible that we can deceive ourselves by letting the body lead the spirit astray. Even though the hand, foot, and eye are extremely valuable members of the human body, Jesus says it is better to get rid of any one of them than with two hands, two feet, or two eyes to perish everlastingly in hell. If any of these organs leads a person into sin, he should immediately dispose of that organ. If it is a hand or a foot, it must be cut off; if an eye, it must be plucked out.

Commentators unanimously agree Jesus’ language is not to be taken literally, as He has already made it clear that sin comes from the heart (7:20-23). Jesus often uses hyperbole to emphasize a point. He is continuously concerned about the hearts of His followers--that their inward motives be pure. No amount of self-mutilation or amputation would guarantee the proper attitude of heart. Lane says:

It was not a Palestinian custom to refer to an abstract activity but to the specific member of the body which is responsible for it. For this reason, Jesus speaks of the offending hand, foot and eye, all members which have highly important functions to fulfill. They characterize a man concretely as one who acts and who is responsible for his actions (347-348).

Just as it is necessary, at times, for a man to have a hand, or a foot, or an eye amputated to prevent infection from spreading throughout his entire body, so it is always necessary to get rid of anything in one’s heart or mind that prevents complete devotion to God.

Hendriksen says:

The lesson is this: sin, being a very destructive force, must not be pampered. It must be "put to death" (Colossians 3:5). Temptation should be flung aside immediately and decisively. Dillydallying is deadly. Halfway measures work havoc. The surgery must be radical. Right at this very moment and without any vacillation the obscene book should be burned, the scandalous picture destroyed, the soul-destroying film condemned, the sinister yet very intimate social tie broken, and the baneful habit discarded. In the struggle against sin the believer must fight hard. Shadow-boxing will never do (1 Corinthians 9:27) (365).

it is better for thee to enter into life maimed: The expression "better for thee to enter into life" corresponds to the expression "better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God" in verse 47. The expressions refer to eternal life in heaven with all the glory pertaining to it.

than having two hands to go into hell: The word "hell" is geenna; in English, "Gehenna." It is the name of a ravine starting from northwest of Jerusalem, which sweeps around the southwest angle of the city, then meets the Kedron below the Pool of Silvan. This valley is the traditional site of the fire-worship that began in the reign of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31). It was during that period that children were burned in sacrifice to Molech. Josiah abolished these horrors and desecrated the place by making it a garbage dump for offal and rubbish, including the carcases of animals (2 Kings 23:10-14). In later Jewish thought, it becomes a symbol of the place of future punishment. The city garbage, where worms gnawed and fires burned continually, is a vivid picture of everlasting punishment. "Gehenna" is the word used in the New Testament to designate the place of final abode of the wicked dead, the lake of fire of Revelation being the same place.

It is well known that in all English translations of the New Testament prior to the Revised Version both the words geenna and ades (hades) are translated "hell." Beginning with the Revised Version, though, this confusion has been eliminated in most English translations by translating geenna as "hell" and transliterating ades as "hades." Hades usually refers to the intermediate abode of the dead while Gehenna (geenna) always refers to the final abode of the wicked.

into the fire that shall never be quenched: "Quenched" is taken from the word asbeston and means "unquenchable." The meaning is that the punishment for those who are placed there will be everlasting (Matthew 25:46).

Verse 44

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

See comments on verse 48.

Verse 45

And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

The teaching here is identical to that of verse 43.

Verse 46

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

See comments on verse 48.

Verse 48

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Verses 44 and 46, which repeat this statement, are not found in the oldest and best manuscripts. However, this verse is a part of the true text. It is a quote from Isaiah 66:24. The "fire" indicates the punishment of the wicked will be external while the "worm" symbolizes internal punishment. The condemned will be tormented inside and out.

Some object to the thought of eternal punishment of the wicked, believing instead the condemned will experience annihilation--instant destruction that causes the person to cease to exist. However, the punishment spoken of in the New Testament is one the wicked will have to endure forever. They will never cease to be the objects of God’s wrath. We can compare these passages:

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Judges 1:6-7).

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

One of the strongest arguments against the idea that the condemned are just going to be instantly annihilated while the saved are going to live forever is the fact that in Matthew 25:46 Jesus uses the same word to describe the duration of each place. The wicked go away into everlasting (aiovion) punishment, but the righteous into life eternal (aiovion). (Although the KJV uses different words, the original Greek words are the same.)

Verse 49

For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.

This passage has given commentators much difficulty. Each of the two metaphors, "salt" and "fire," is capable of different interpretations; and the two seem to be opposed to each other. Salt preserves, and fire destroys. The word "For" at the beginning of the verse is gar and introduces the reason for the preceding statements in verses 43-48. "Every one" must be used in a limited way, referring to those who will be cast into the place where "their worm died not, and the fire is not quenched." Dorris says:

Salt was used as a preservative, and is a symbol of perpetuity. To be salted with fire is to be perpetually permeated by fire or to be kept perpetually in a state of the severest pain. If this is the correct meaning, it completely refutes the annihilation theory (224).

Another possibility is offered by Bickersteth:

It must be remembered that both the salt and the fire are here used in a metaphorical sense; and there is a fire which is penal, and there is a fire which purifies. In the case of the wicked the fire is penal; and the salting with fire in their case can only mean the anguish of a tormented conscience, which must be commensurate with its existence in the same moral condition. But there is a fire which purifies. St. Peter, addressing the Christians of the Dispersion (1 Peter 4:12), bids them not to think it strange concerning the "fiery trial" which was among them. This was their "salting with fire." Those persecutions which they suffered were their discipline of affliction, through which God was purifying and preserving them. This discipline is necessary for all Christians (Vol. II 9).

Verse 50

Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

Salt is good: The truth of this general statement is obvious. Salt is good because it preserves (inhibits corruption) and seasons, making foods more flavorful. But here Jesus uses it in a spiritual sense. He is thinking of the salt of positive influence. He has already called His disciples "the salt of the earth." They are to give of themselves in order to radiate a wholesome and redemptive effect upon the world around them.

but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it: If the salt has lost its saltness, it is good for nothing. Likewise, if the disciples lose their ability to redeem and preserve the lives of others, they are good for nothing. Swete says, "If the preserving principle embodied in the Apostles, and which was to emanate from them, should itself prove corrupt, then where could help be found?" (213). If they, the chosen ones, become selfish, if they wrangle about who should be the greatest, they would not be a beneficial salt to others, but rather a stumbling block.

Have salt in yourselves: It is useless to try to exert a good influence on others unless one has goodness within himself. These words imply the Christian’s necessity of keeping his identity with Christ and of continuing faithfully in His teachings.

and have peace one with another: If, within the brotherhood, there is nothing but quarreling and division, how can those who claim to follow after Christ win others? This same principle is reiterated by the Apostle Paul in several places (Romans 12:18; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:13). Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9). Paul further points out that peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 9". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/mark-9.html. 1993-2022.
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