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MARK CHAPTER 9
Mark 9:2-10 The transfiguration of Christ.
Mark 9:11-13 He instructs his disciples concerning the coming of Elias.
Mark 9:14-29 He casteth out a dumb and deaf spirit.
Mark 9:30-32 He foretells his own death and resurrection,
Mark 9:33-37 checks the ambition of his disciples,
Mark 9:38-50 bidding them to hinder no one from working miracles in his name, and warning them to avoid offences.
To taste of death, is the same with to die, or to begin to die, or to experience death: compare with this text Psalms 34:8; Luke 14:24; John 8:52; Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 6:4,Hebrews 6:5; 1 Peter 2:3.
Till they have seen the kingdom of God come: our evangelist addeth, with power. It cannot be meant of the day of judgment, unless in the type of it, which was in the destruction of Jerusalem, (of which many understand it), for some of the apostles, more doubtless of Christ’s disciples, outlived the fatal ruin of that once famous city. Others understand here by the kingdom of God Christ’s resurrection from the dead, when Christ’s kingdom began to be fully made known, Acts 10:42.
Both Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, bear record to the truth of this history:
See Poole on "Matthew 17:1", and following verses to Matthew 17:9. Our Saviour was pleased thus to fortify these three of his disciples against his passion, which they were soon to see; and also to confirm their faith as to his Divine nature. Why Moses and Elias, rather than any others, appeared, is but a curious question, of no great use to us if resolved, and not possible to be resolved. These three disciples, by this apparition, saw our Saviour owned by Moses, who gave the law, and by Elias, both of them in great repute with the Jews. The three disciples could know neither of them (dead many hundreds of years before they were in being) but by revelation: probably Christ told them who they were. What their discourse with Christ was in the general Matthew telleth us. There is no considerable thing in this evangelist’s relation which we did not meet with in Matthew, which may supersede any further labour about it here.
Christ had been telling his disciples that he should suffer. The Jews had a prophecy, not only that the Messias should come, but that he should be cut off, but not for himself, Daniel 9:26. Only this hindered the certainty of their persuasion that Christ was he, because Elias was not yet come, whom they did expect, Malachi 4:5; for they expected the coming of Elias in person, whereas the prophecy was to be understood of one in the spirit and power of Elias, as the angel expounded it, Luke 1:17. They also expected that Elias, when he came, should make a great change in their world, and bring all things again into order; but still their eye was upon a secular change, and a restoring of them to that liberty of their country which they formerly enjoyed, whereas the prophecy, Malachi 4:6, is expounded by the angel, Luke 1:16,Luke 1:17, And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. —to turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. The disciples, being Jews, were under the prejudices of these notions about Elias, so commonly received by the doctors of their church and the generality of their people. To this our Saviour answers, The thing was true, Elias (that is, one in the spirit and power of Elias) was, according to the prophecy of Malachi, to come before the Messias; but they had overlooked him, for indeed this Elias was come, Matthew 11:14, and by his preaching the doctrine of repentance for the remission of sins had endeavoured to restore all things, that is, to make a great change in the hearts and lives of the Jews, but they had put him to death. He further telleth them, that John had told them of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought. He did indeed tell them so, when he pointed to him passing by, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away (or taketh up or beareth) the sins of the world, John 1:29. So that this was no just prejudice to their believing that he was the true Messiah.
When Christ came down from the mountain of transfiguration to his disciples, whom he had left at the foot of the mountain, he saw a great multitude got together about them, and discerned some scribes (companions of the Pharisees and teachers of the law) mixing themselves with his disciples, and arguing with them. They had often attempted our Saviour to no purpose but their own shame and confusion; in his absence they fall in with his disciples, who were yet raw in the faith; over them they hope to get a great conquest. The evangelist doth not plainly tell us what the subject matter of their discourse was. Though there be no question but the scribes in this discourse pursued their design to expose and vilify Christ and his disciples, and to that purpose, taking advantage of our Saviour’s absence, discoursed with them about many things, yet Mr. Calvin doth (not improbably) judge that a great part of their discourse was about our Saviour’s casting out of devils, and their power in that thing derived from him, they being at the present nonplussed, and not able to exert that power in the casting out of a devil, with which one was possessed, who in our Saviour’s absence was brought to them. That which maketh this probable is, not only that this act of our Saviour more troubled and galled them than any other, and put them to that miserable refuge, (out of which our Saviour had lately beaten them), to say, That he cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils; but also that when our Saviour, coming in to the timely rescue of his disciples, asked the scribes, What question ye with them?
This famous history is also recorded by two other evangelists, Matthew and Luke; we have opened it in our notes on Matthew 17:14-21;
(See Poole on "Matthew 17:14", and following verses to Matthew 17:21) and considered what Mark and Luke have to complete it. For our instruction we may learn several things from the consideration of it:
1. The great goodness of God in preserving us from the power of evil spirits, as also the daily working of his providence for our preservation. What but this kept this man from being destroyed by the fires and the waters into which he had been often thrown by the evil spirit?
2. That the shorter the devil’s time is, the more he rageth, Mark 9:20. This is true, both as to the devil himself, and his instruments: Revelation 12:12, The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Thus, in the moment of conversion Christians often meet with the strongest conflicts of temptation.
3. The fault is not in Christ, but in ourselves, if we receive not that mercy from him which he hath, and which we stand in need of, and beg from him—If (saith Christ) thou canst believe.
4. God rewardeth weak faith where it is attended with a sincere desire of increase. This poor man showed a very imperfect faith in saying, If thou canst do any thing; but it being in some degree sincere, the Lord rewardeth it, though weak, he desiring an increase of it, and that God would from his goodness supply what was defective in his faith.
5. The great cures both of our bodies and souls in some cases, require more extraordinary and importunate addresses and applications unto God, more especially where evils are more inveterate. For other things relating to this history;
See Poole on "Matthew 17:14", and following verses to Matthew 17:21.
Our Saviour, as the time of his suffering approached more nearly, did more frequently inculcate it to his disciples, that being forewarned, they might also be forearmed against the temptation of it; and we learn from Luke 24:21, that all was too little, for when they saw these things come to pass they began to flag as to their faith: they said, But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel. Our Saviour
said unto them, The Son of man is delivered; which is expounded by Matthew 17:22,Matthew 17:23, The Son of man shall be betrayed. He was already delivered in the sure counsel of God, and what God hath revealed shall be done, because of the certainty of the effect, is often in Scripture spoken of as a thing already done. That phrase, Mark 9:31, the third day, τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, expounds that other phrase which we meet with, Mark 8:31. μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας, which we translate after three days, and makes the meaning of the evangelists plain to have been as we determined it.
This ambition of the disciples we have had occasion before to discourse of;
See Poole on "Matthew 18:1". It has founded upon their mistake of the true nature of the kingdom of the Messiah, which they at this time, and a long time after, (even to the time of Christ’s ascension, as appeareth by Acts 1:6), understood of a temporal, secular kingdom, in the administration of which he should deliver the Jews from all slavery and bondage: this made their minds so often run of dignities and places which he should, in that administration, have a power to dispose of. This made the mother of Zebedee’s children petition for places for her two sons.
Matthew’s recital of this passage expounds Mark; he saith Christ said, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of God. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. Luke also relates this passage something more shortly, but without any contradiction to what is said by the other evangelists. The sense is plain: our Saviour’s design was to check the ambition and ignorance of his disciples, never more unseasonably showed than now, when a suffering time was so hard at hand. He at first did it by word of mouth, telling them,
If any man desire to be first, he shall be last of all, the least valuable in the eyes of God, and he would have them value such a person least. Humility is that which most exalts a soul in the eyes of Christ, and setteth it highest in his esteem. But it is observable our Lord doth not say, he that is the first, but he who desireth to be first. God is a God of order, not of confusion; there can be no order without a first as well as a last. But Christians (ministers especially, for he is here speaking to the twelve) ought to be sought out for, not to seek places of preeminence and dignity: he that is first in seeking them, is usually last as to any true worth deserving them, and ought last to obtain them. Then he teacheth them humility by the type of a little child, which he setteth in the midst of them, telling them they must be like that little child, (saith Matthew,) not in all things, but in the want of ambition, in a carelessness as to the great things of this life. And whosoever entertained or showed kindness to such a one, Christ would take it as done to himself; and what kindness was showed him, reached not to him only, but to his Father who sent him. There are also other things in little children commended to us in holy writ, but this is manifestly what our Saviour here intends.
See Poole on "Matthew 18:1" and following verses to Matthew 18:5.
Here a question arises worthy of our discussion a little: Seeing these miraculous operations were performed by a Divine power, and for such an end as the confirmation of Christ’s Divine power, how could any one cast out devils in the name of Christ, and yet not follow him and his disciples?
1. It is apparent that this person was no enemy to Christ or his gospel, by what our Saviour saith, both in Mark 9:39 and in Mark 9:40.
2. It is evident that the casting out of devils was no saving effect of the Holy Spirit. Christ saith, Matthew 7:22, that some should say, In thy name have we cast out devils, to whom in the day of judgment he would say, Depart from me, I know you not, ye that work iniquity.
3. It is plain that this man was no such person as Sceva’s sons, of whom we read Acts 19:14-16, for the devils resisted them, though they also used the name of Christ.
It was a time exceedingly famous for some of the more extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, and it is not to be wondered if some in this time, for the glory of God, received some crumbs of that plentiful benevolence, though they were but imperfect disciples, yet being no enemies. Caiaphas prophesied, John 11:51,John 11:52; and though I do think that the children of the Pharisees, mentioned, Matthew 12:27, as persons that cast out devils, is best interpreted of those sent out by Christ, (the twelve and the seventy), yet some are of another mind. Some think this man, though he did not follow Christ and his disciples as a constant companion, yet was one who favoured and had received the gospel; or else one of John’s disciples, and so one who, though he was not formally joined with the followers of Christ, yet was a friend of that great Bridegroom. So as John and the rest, forbidding him, seemed to be guilty of two no small errors:
1. Envying for Christ’s sake, as Joshua did for Moses’s sake, Numbers 11:28, as John’s disciples did for their master’s sake, John 3:26, willing that Christ, and those whom he sent out, should have all the honour of those miraculous operations.
2. Limiting the grace of Christ to that congregation which followed Christ, and the twelve; a thing that good men are too prone unto.
How much better was the spirit of Paul, who tells us, Philippians 1:15,Philippians 1:18, that although some preached Christ of envy and strife, yet he rejoiced, and would rejoice, that Christ was preached, whether in pretence, or in truth. Christ would have all his people of such a spirit, as not to hinder, but commend, not to envy, but to rejoice in the doing of good by any, whether they did follow him or did not. Some think that at that time it pleased God, that, for the honour of his Son Jesus Christ, he did concur with those that named his name in such miraculous operations. Sure we are that Christ reproveth John, and commandeth them not to forbid this man, giving this for a reason, That his owning the name of Christ, so far as to use it in such an operation, had at least so much kindness for him as he was no enemy, he would not curse him, nor speak evil of him; which cometh up to that of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 12:3,
No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and no man can say Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. For he that is not against us is on our part: 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.
We meet with the same in substance, Matthew 10:42; there the phrase is, in the name of a disciple; here it is expounded, because ye belong to Christ. In my name; upon my account, believing you have a relation to me.
See Poole on "Matthew 18:6".
See Poole on "Matthew 5:29-30", where the same things occur. Matthew only mentions the hand and the eye. All have the same significance, viz. that it is better to deny ourselves in some particular satisfaction, than to hazard eternal salvation for the gratifying the appetite in it.
The phrase of this text is so difficult, and the sense of it so necessary to be understood, that it hath deservedly exercised the parts of many interpreters, and given them a latitude to abound in interpretations. Those who would rightly understand it,
1. Must have a retrospection to the six verses immediately preceding, where our Lord had persuaded to the mortification of our most beloved and profitable or pleasant lust, under the notion of cutting off the right hand or foot offending, and plucking out the right eye, under the penalty of going into a fire that shall never be quenched: as also to the law, Leviticus 2:13, which runs thus: And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.
2. They must next consider the nature of salt and fire. It is of the nature of salt, by drying up the over much moisture in meats, to preserve them from putrefaction; and to cause smart to living flesh. And of fire, to separate things not of the same kind in compounded bodies, and also to cause pain and smart.
3. They must know, that every one in the former part of the verse is the same with every sacrifice in the latter part; for every man and woman living will, or shall, be a sacrifice to God. Godly men are not only priests, 1 Peter 2:5,1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10, but sacrifices, Romans 12:1.
Wicked men, though indeed they be no priests, (voluntarily giving up themselves unto God), yet they shall be sacrifices, like the sacrifice in Bozrah, Isaiah 34:6, or in the north country by the river Euphrates, Jeremiah 46:10; see also Ezekiel 39:17; Zephaniah 1:7. The saints are both priests and sacrifices. These things premised, the difficulty of the text is not great. Our Lord had been in the former verses persuading the mortification of men’s dearest lusts, under the notions of cutting off the right hand or foot, and plucking out the right eye; and pressing this exhortation, from the eligibility of it, rather than (keeping them) to be thrust into hell, where the worm never dies, and where the fire never goeth out. Now saith he in this verse, For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. God hath a fire, and a salt, which every man must endure. He hath a purging fire, to take away men’s dross and tin. Some he baptizeth with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16. And he hath a consuming, tormenting fire, a fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries, Hebrews 10:27. It is true, the Lord’s sacred fire of his Holy Spirit will, like fire and salt, cause smart while it purgeth out our lusts, like the cutting off of a right hand or foot; but judge you whether it be not better to endure that smart than to endure hell fire, for every one must endure one of these. Yea, and every one must be salted with fire. The saints shall be seasoned with influences of grace, Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; and they shall by the Holy Spirit of God be preserved by faith through the power of God to salvation, till their purity of heart and holiness of life shall issue in an incorruptibility of being and blessed state, 1 Corinthians 15:52-54. They shall be salted in or with fire, that is, preserved in or by the holy fire of God’s Holy Spirit; (nor is salting with fire so hard a metaphor as being baptized with fire seems to be, nothing being so contrary to fire as water is); others, viz. wicked and ungodly men, who will not endure this fire, nor be salted with this salt, shall yet be salted with another fire, and with another salt, which is the fire that never goes out mentioned Mark 9:44,Mark 9:46,Mark 9:48, which will cause them a much greater pain and smart, and in which, being separated from all their comforts and satisfactions, they shall be salted, that is (as to their beings) preserved, that they may be the objects of the eternal wrath and justice of God; for every one must go through one or the other fire, every soul must be seasoned with the one or other salt. Now judge you then whether it be not more advisable for you to be seasoned with this salt, though you indeed shall endure some smart in your acts of mortification and self-denial, than to endure hell fire, where you will be salted too, as well as burned; that is, not tormented only, but preserved in torments, so as you shall never consume, but be ever dying; for with one or other of these fires every person, every man or woman breathing, must be salted and seasoned, as of old every sacrifice was to be with salt.
We met with the former part of this verse:
See Poole on "Matthew 5:13". In that text he compared his disciples, whether preachers or others, to salt, because by their doctrine, and holy life and example, they as it were kept the world sweet. I do not see why we should not so understand him speaking here, understanding by salt, persons salted, seasoned with the knowledge of the doctrine of Christ, and who the fear and love of God. These are good. But if any appearing such, apostatize, or be lazy and inactive, what are they good for? Or what shall season them?
Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. Here salt is taken in a little different sense. In the former sense themselves were the salt, here they are commanded to keep salt in themselves. They could not have been salt to season others, if themselves had not first been salted with gracious habits of knowledge, faith, love, fear of God: now saith our Saviour, Keep this salt in yourselves, let not this holy fire die from the altar, take heed of losing your savour.
And have peace one with another. It is one thing in the nature of salt to unite and knit the parts of the body salted together, so as the upholding of a union and peace one with another will declare that you have salt in yourselves. By this (saith the apostle) we know we are translated from death to life, if we love the brethren. In order to which men must avoid envy, and emulation, and contests for superiority, &c.; a contest of which nature gave the first occasion of these discourses.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 9". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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