Mark 9:1. Some that stand here shall not taste of death, &c. — See on Matthew 16:28; till they see the kingdom of God come with power — So it began to do when three thousand were converted to God at once.
Mark 9:2-10. Jesus taketh with him Peter, &c., apart by themselves — That is, separate from the multitude, apart from the apostles; and was transfigured before them — The word μετεμορφωθη, here used, seems to refer to the form of God, and the form of a servant, mentioned by St. Paul, Philippians 2:6-7, and may intimate that the divine rays, which the indwelling Deity let out on this occasion, made the glorious change from one of these forms into the other. White as snow, as no fuller on earth can whiten — Such as could not be equalled either by nature or art: And there appeared Elias — Whom they expected: Moses — Whom they did not. See the whole paragraph explained and improved, Matthew 17:1-13.
Mark 9:12-13. Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things, and how it is written — That is, And, he told them, how it is written. As if he had said, Elijah’s coming is not inconsistent with my suffering. He is come; yet I shall suffer. The first part of the verse answers their question concerning Elijah; the second refutes their error concerning the Messiah’s continuing for ever.
Mark 9:14-19. When he came to his disciples he saw a great multitude — Probably this multitude had remained there all night, waiting till Jesus should return from the mountain, and the scribes questioning — Greek, συζητουντας, disputing with them, namely, with the nine who remained on the plain. Doubtless they took the opportunity of their Master’s absence to expose and distress them. And all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed — At his coming so suddenly, so seasonably, so unexpectedly: perhaps, also, at some unusual rays of majesty and glory, which yet remained on his countenance; as, it seems, Moses’s face shone several hours after he had been with God on the mount. And running to him, saluted him — With the greatest marks of respect and affection. The scribes and Pharisees, however, without regarding his return, continued their ill-natured attacks on his disciples. And he asked the scribes — Namely, when the salutations of the multitude were over. What question ye with them? — What is the subject of your dispute with them? What is the point you are debating so warmly? The scribes gave no answer to our Lord’s question. They did not care to repeat what they had said to his disciples: but one of the multitude said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, &c. — From the narrative which this man gives, in answer to what Jesus said to the scribes, it appears that they had been disputing about the cure of this youth, which the disciples had unsuccessfully attempted. And probably their want of success had given the scribes occasion to boast that a devil was found that neither the disciples nor their Master was able to cast out. See notes on Matthew 17:14-21. Which hath a dumb spirit — A spirit that takes his speech from him; and wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him — Or rather convulseth him, and he foameth — At the mouth; and gnasheth with his teeth — In extremity of anguish; and pineth away — Though in the bloom of his age. And I spake to thy disciples — Entreated them to cast him out; and they could not. The Lord Jesus permitted this for wise reasons, chiefly, perhaps, to keep them humble, and sensible of their entire dependance on him for all their power to perform cures, or do any manner of thing that was good.
Mark 9:20-22. And when he saw him — When the child saw Jesus, being brought to him by his father: when his deliverance was at hand; immediately the spirit tore him — Made his last, grand effort to destroy him. Is it not generally so, before Satan relinquishes his power over a soul of which he has long had possession? And he (Christ) asked, How long is it, &c. — The Lord Jesus made this inquiry for the same reason for which he suffered Satan to make the violent attack upon the youth just mentioned, namely, that the spectators might be impressed with a more lively sense of his deplorable condition. And he said, From a child — Greek, παιδιοθεν, from his childhood, or, as some render it, from his infancy. And ofttimes it — The evil spirit; hath cast him into the fire, &c., to destroy him — Such is the power it has over him, and such its infernal rage and malice! But if thou canst do any thing — In so desperate a case; have compassion on us — On me as well as him; and help us — The afflicted father, greatly discouraged by the inability of our Lord’s disciples, and dispirited by the sight of his son’s misery, and by the remembrance of its long continuance, was afraid this possession might surpass the power of Jesus himself, and therefore spoke thus, expressing his doubts and fears in a manner very natural, and yet strongly pathetic, and obliquely interesting the honour of Christ in the issue of the affair.
Mark 9:23-27. Jesus said, If thou canst believe, &c. — As if he had said, The question is not respecting my power, but thy faith. I can do all things: canst thou believe? If thou canst believe — Canst rely with confidence on my power, love, and faithfulness, and be persuaded that I can and will grant thy request, the deliverance which thou desirest will surely be effected; for all things are possible — To God, and all things of this kind, such as the deliverance of a person’s soul or body from the power of Satan, or the recovery of a person from sickness, or from any calamity or trouble, are possible to him that believeth — In the power and goodness of God, and makes application to him in prayer, lifting up holy hands, as without wrath, and every unkind temper, so without doubting. And straightway the father — Touched to the very heart to think that his dear son might possibly lose the cure through the weakness of his faith; cried out with tears, Lord, I believe — That thy power and goodness are unlimited; yet such is my frailty, that when I look on my child, and consider the miserable condition he is in, my faith is ready to fail me again: therefore, help thou mine unbelief — That is, help me against my unbelief, by mitigating the circumstances of the trial, or communicating suitable strength to my soul. The Greek is, βοηθει μη τη απιστια, which Dr. Campbell renders, Supply thou the defects of my faith, observing, “It is evident from the preceding clause, that απιστια denotes here a deficient faith, not a total want of faith. I have used the word supply, as hitting more exactly what I take to be the sense of the passage.” Grotius justly expresses it, Quod fiduciæ meæ deest, bonitate tua supple: “What is wanting to my faith, supply by thy goodness.” When Jesus saw the people running together — The vehemence with which the father of the child spake, occasioned by the greatness of his grief, brought the crowd about them. Jesus, therefore, to prevent further disturbance, immediately commanded the unclean spirit to depart from the youth, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit — So termed because he made the child deaf and dumb: when Jesus spake, the devil heard, though the child could not: I charge thee — I myself, now; not my disciples; come out of him, and enter no more into him — Leave him instantly, and presume not any more to trouble or disquiet him as long as he lives. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, &c. — Scarcely had Jesus uttered the word when the devil came out of the child, making a hideous howling, and convulsing him to such a degree, that he lay senseless and without motion, as one dead, till Jesus took him by the hand, instantly brought him to life, and then delivered him to his father perfectly recovered.
Mark 9:28-29. When he was come into the house, his disciples asked him, &c. — See notes on Matthew 17:19-21. This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting — “Some doubts have been raised in regard to the meaning of the words, this kind. The most obvious interpretation is, doubtless, that which refers them to the word demon, immediately preceding. But as in the parallel passage in Matthew 17:19, mention is made of faith, as the necessary qualification for dispossessing demons, Knatchbull and others have thought that this kind, refers to the faith that is requisite. But it is an insurmountable objection to this hypothesis, that we have here the same sentiment, almost the same expression, and ushered in with the same words, this kind, though, in what goes before, there is no mention of faith, or of any thing but demon, to which it can refer. It would be absurd to suppose, that the pronouns and relatives in one gospel refer to antecedents in another. Every one of the gospels does indeed give additional information, and in various ways serves to throw light upon the rest. But every gospel must be a consistent history by itself; otherwise, to attempt an explanation would be in vain. Now the argument stands thus: The story related in both gospels is manifestly the same: that the words in question may refer to demon in Matthew, no person who attentively reads the passage can deny; that they cannot refer to faith, but must refer to demon, in Mark, is equally evident. Either, then, they refer to demon in both, or the evangelists contradict one another. Some have considered it as an objection to the above explanation, that it supposes different kinds of demons; and that the expulsion of some kinds is more difficult than that of others. This objection is founded entirely on our own ignorance. Who can say that there are not different kinds of demons? or that there may not be degrees in the power of expelling? Revelation has not said that they are all of one kind, and may be expelled with equal ease.” — Campbell.
Mark 9:30-32. And they departed thence — From the country of Cesarea Philippi; and passed through Galilee — Not through the cities, but by them, in the most private ways; for he would not that any man should know it — Lest the important conversation into which he then intended to enter with his disciples should be interrupted by company; for he purposed to converse freely with them, and instruct them fully concerning his sufferings. For he taught his disciples, &c. — The evangelist here assigns this as the reason why he desired his journey to be private, namely, that he might have an opportunity to talk over this subject at large. And said, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men — It is as sure as if it were done already. This declaration, according to Luke, he prefaced with saying, Let these sayings sink down into your ears, signifying hereby, not only their certain truth, but their unspeakable importance, and that they ought to be seriously considered and laid to heart. But they understood not that saying — They could not comprehend how he, who was to abide on earth for ever, and was to deliver others from the universal destroyer, should himself fall under his stroke: Or, they could not reconcile his death, nor consequently his resurrection, which supposed his death, with their notions of his temporal kingdom: Luke says, And it was hid from them, namely, by their own prejudices and misconceptions concerning the Messiah. For, seeing he spake of rising again the third day, they were not able to divine any reason for his dying at all, being ignorant, as yet, of the nature and ends of his death. And they were afraid to ask him — Taking no comfort from the mention that was made of his resurrection, the prediction raised such fears in their minds, that they durst not ask him to explain it; especially as they remembered that he had often inculcated it, and had reprimanded Peter for being unwilling to hear it.
Mark 9:33-37. Being in the house — With his apostles, with a view to introduce the discourse he intended; he asked, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves, &c. — Our Lord’s late prediction concerning his sufferings had made the disciples exceeding sorry, Matthew 17:23; but their grief soon went off, or their ignorance quickly got the better of it; for in a day or two after, some of them, forming a separate company, fell a disputing about the chief posts of honour and profit in their Master’s kingdom. This debate Jesus overheard; and though he said nothing to them at the time, yet afterward, when they were alone in the house, he did not fail to inquire about it. They were at first silent, not caring to discover the matter to him. Therefore, he sat down, and called the twelve — Namely, to stand round him, and attend to what he should say and do. It is natural to suppose that twelve persons, travelling together on foot, would form themselves into two or three little companies, while some of them no doubt would be attending Christ and discoursing with him: but our Lord judged it proper, being now in the house, that all the twelve should hear this admonition, though they might not all have been engaged in the dispute which occasioned it. And saith, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be, or let him be, last of all — Let him abase himself the most: And servant of all — Let him serve his brethren in all the offices of humility, condescension, and kindness. In other words, If any man desire to be the greatest person in my kingdom, let him endeavour to obtain that dignity by preferring others in honour, and by doing them all the good in his power. This he said, to signify that in his kingdom, they who are most humble and modest, and zealous in doing good, shall be acknowledged as the greatest persons. And he took a child — That happened then to be in the house where they lodged; and set him in the midst of them — That they might all fix their eyes upon him, and attend to the instruction which Jesus was about to draw from such an emblem of simplicity, sincerity, humility, teachableness, and innocence. Luke expresses it thus: And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child. His perceiving their thought does not seem to relate to the dispute which happened some hours before, and which they had sufficiently declared in their question, but it relates to their present frame of mind. He knew that each of them ardently wished to be the greatest in his kingdom, and he proposed to cure their ambition. See the notes on Matthew 18:1-4. He said, Whosoever shall receive one of such children — Whosoever shall show kindness, even to the least of my disciples; whosoever shall encourage and assist such a one because he belongs to me; receiveth me — Thus, after showing how acceptable a grace humility is, he next declares that kindness shown to such as humble themselves, like little children, is in reality kindness shown to him, especially if it be done out of obedience to his command. Whosoever shall receive me, receiveth him that sent me — Even my heavenly Father, who is honoured or affronted as I am respected or slighted. And this regard to the meanest of my servants, I must urge upon you as of the utmost importance. For (Luke) he that is least among you all, that acts as if he were the least, or meanest, or who is most humble and condescending, the same shall be great, in my esteem, and be distinguished by peculiar marks of the divine favour. See notes on Matthew 18:4-5.
Mark 9:38-40. And John answered him — As if he had said, But ought we to receive those who follow not us? Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name — Probably this was one of John the Baptist’s disciples, who believed in Jesus, though he did not yet associate with our Lord’s disciples. And we forbade him, because he followeth not us — How often is the same temper found in us! How readily do we also lust to envy! But how ill does that spirit become a disciple, much more a minister, of the benevolent Jesus! St. Paul had learned a better temper, when he rejoiced that Christ was preached, even by those who were his personal enemies. But to confine religion to them that follow us, is a narrowness of spirit which we should avoid and abhor. Jesus said, &c. — Christ here gives us a lovely example of candour and moderation. He was willing to put the best construction on doubtful cases, and to treat as friends those who were not avowed enemies. Perhaps in this instance it was a means of conquering the remainder of prejudice, and perfecting what was wanting in the faith and obedience of these persons. Forbid him not — Neither directly nor indirectly discourage or hinder any man, who brings sinners from the power of Satan to God, because he followeth not us, in opinions, modes of worship, or any thing else which does not affect the essence of religion. For he that is not against us, is for us — Our Lord had formerly said, He that is not with me, is against me: thereby admonishing his hearers that the war between him and Satan admitted of no neutrality, and that those who were indifferent to him now, would finally be treated as enemies. But here, in another view, he uses a very different proverb; directing his followers to judge of men’s characters in the most candid manner; and charitably to hope, that those who did not oppose his cause wished well to it. Upon the whole, we are to be rigorous in judging ourselves, and candid in judging each other.
Mark 9:41-42. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water, &c. — Having answered John, our Lord resumes the discourse, which was broken off at Mark 9:37. And to show the apostles further, that they had been in the wrong to discourage this person, who must have entertained a great veneration for their Master, and was in a fair way to become his follower, he told them, that the lowest degree of respect which any one showed him, though it were but the giving a cup of cold water to one of his thirsty disciples, would be acceptable to him, and should not lose its reward: whereas, on the other hand, the least discouragement of his servants in their duty, come from what quarter it might, should be severely punished. For he added, Whosoever shall offend: και ος αν σκανδαλιση, whosoever shall cause to stumble one of these little ones — The very least Christian. It is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck — See note on Matthew 18:5-6.
Mark 9:43. And if thy hand offend thee, &c. — The discourse here passes from the case of offending to that of being offended. If one who is as useful or dear to thee as a hand or eye, prevent thee from walking in the ways of God, or hinder thee therein, renounce all intercourse with him. This primarily relates to persons; secondarily, to things. See the note on Matthew 5:29-30, where this subject is explained at large. The sum is, It is better to deny one’s self the greatest earthly satisfactions, and to part with any and every person and thing, however precious, represented by the figures of a hand, a foot, and eye, than by these things to cause the weakest of Christ’s disciples to stumble, or to be made to stumble ourselves. Further, the amputation of our hands and feet, and the digging out of our eyes, when they cause us to stumble, import also, that we should deny ourselves such use of our senses and members as may lead us into sin. Thus the hand and the eye are to be turned away from those alluring objects which raise in us lust and ambition. The foot must be restrained from carrying us into evil company, unlawful diversions, and forbidden pleasures. Nor can we complain of these injunctions as severe, since by causing, or even by tempting others to sin, as well as by sinning ourselves, we are exposed to the eternal punishments of hell. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched — “These expressions seem to be borrowed from Isaiah 66:24, in which passage the prophet is describing the miserable end of hardened sinners, by a similitude taken from the behaviour of conquerors, who, after having gained the battle, and beaten the enemy out of the field, go forth to view the slain. Thus, at the last day, the devil, with all his adherents, being finally and completely vanquished, the saints shall go forth to view them, doomed by the just judgment of God to eternal death. And this their punishment is represented by two metaphors, drawn from the different ways of burying the dead in use among the Jews. Bodies of men, interred in the earth, are eaten up of worms, which die when their food faileth; and those that are burned are consumed in fire, which extinguishes itself when there is no more fuel added to feed it. But it shall not be so with the wicked; their worm shall not die, and their fire is not quenched. These metaphors, therefore, as they are used by our Lord, and by the Prophet Isaiah, paint the eternal punishments of the damned in strong and lively colours.” — Macknight. To this may be added, that by the worm here spoken of, that dieth not, may be denoted, the continual torture of an accusing conscience, and the misery naturally arising from the evil dispositions of pride, self-will, desire, malice, envy, shame, sorrow, despair; and by the fire that is not quenched, the positive punishment inflicted by the fiery wrath of God. Dr. Whitby’s note on these verses deserves the reader’s particular attention. After observing that these words, Where their worm dieth not, &c., are taken from Isaiah 66:24, (where see the notes,) he adds, “It seems reasonable to interpret them according to the received opinion of the Jews, since otherwise our Lord, by using them so frequently in speaking to them, without saying any thing to show them that he did not understand the expression as they did, must have strengthened them in their error. Now, it is certain, 1st, That gehenna (hell) was by them still looked on as the place in which the wicked were to be tormented by fire. So the Jerusalem Targum, on Genesis 15:17, represents it as a furnace sparkling and flaming with fire, into which the wicked fall. And the Targum, upon Ecclesiastes 9:15, speaks of the fire of hell; and, Mark 10:11, of the sparks of the fire of hell; and, chap. Mark 8:10, of the wicked who shall go to be burned in hell. Accordingly, our Lord speaks here, Mark 9:47, and Matthew 5:22, of the wicked being cast into hell fire; and, Matthew 13:42, of their being cast into a furnace of fire. 2d, The ancient Jews held that the punishments of the wicked in hell will be perpetual, or without end. So Judith says, chap. Mark 16:17, κλαυσονται εν αισθησι εως αιωτος, they shall weep under the sense of their pains for ever. Josephus informs us that the Pharisees held that the souls of the wicked were to be punished, αιδιω τιμωρια, with perpetual punishment; and that there was appointed for them, ειργμος αιδιος, a perpetual prison. Philo saith, “The punishment of the wicked person is, ζην αποθανοντα αει, to live for ever dying, and to be for ever in pains, and griefs, and calamities that never cease: accordingly our Lord says of them, that they shall go away into eternal punishment, Matthew 25:41; that God will destroy the soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28; and here, that their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.” Whence the doctor concludes, 1st, That though it is not to be doubted that the expression, the worm dieth not, is to be understood figuratively of remorse of conscience and keen self-reflection; yet, that the bodies of the wicked shall suffer in fire, properly so called, this he thinks being suitable not only to the tradition of the Jewish and of the Christian Church, but to the constant phraseology of the Scriptures. And, 2dly, That the punishment of the wicked shall be, strictly speaking, eternal; this also being the constant opinion of the Christian Church, as he shows in a note on Hebrews 6:2; and this punishment being consistent with divine justice and goodness, as he proves in his Appendix to 2 Thessalonians 1. It is justly added here, by Dr. Macknight, “The most superficial reader must be sensible, that our Lord’s repeating so frequently his declaration concerning the duration of future punishments, has in it something very awful, and implies that mankind should attend to it as a matter of infinite importance to them. It likewise affords a lesson to all the ministers of the gospel, directing them to enforce the precepts of religion, which they inculcate, by frequently and earnestly holding forth to the view of their hearers the terrors of a future judgment.”
Mark 9:49-50. For every one shall be salted with fire — These words seem to refer to the preceding, respecting the punishment of those who will not cut off the offending members, which render them obnoxious to future punishment: and so the import of them must be, that all such shall be “seasoned with fire itself, so as to become inconsumable, and shall endure for ever to be tormented, and therefore may be said to be salted with fire, in allusion to that property of salt which is to preserve things from corruption.” — Whitby. This interpretation supposes the word πας, every one, to signify the same as if the expression had been πας γαρ αυτων, for every one of them, namely, whose fire is not quenched; shall be salted with, or in the fire; that is, preserved from corruption, in and by it. So Mark 12:44, παντες γαρ, for all, that is, all they, as our translators render it, all those rich men, there spoken of. So Luke 16:16, The kingdom of God is preached, και πας, and every one, (namely, who believes,) presseth into it. And Luke 21:32, This generation shall not pass away, εως αν παντα γενηται, till all things be done, that is, παντα ταυτα, all these things, there mentioned. The reader may see many other instances in Grotius. The sense, therefore, of the clause is, Every one, who does not comply with the preceding advice, and consequently is cast into hell, shall be, as it were, salted with fire, preserved, not consumed, thereby. And every sacrifice — That is, every person who offers himself unto God in repentance, faith, and new obedience, as a living sacrifice; shall be salted with salt — Even with the salt of divine grace, which purifies the soul, (though frequently with pain,) and preserves it from corruption. It is evident that there is an allusion here to that part of the law of Moses which required every meat-offering, or sacrifice, to be seasoned with salt. See Leviticus 2:13. Salt is good — Highly beneficial to the world in many respects: But if the salt — Which should season other things; have lost its own saltness; αναλον γενηται, become insipid; wherewith will ye season it? — By what means will ye restore its saltness, or seasoning quality, to it? Thus, if you, whom I have termed the salt of the earth, (Matthew 5:13; where see the note,) and have appointed to be the chief instruments in seasoning the rest of mankind with truth and grace, with wisdom and piety, should lose your own grace, and your faith in, and relish for, the truths of my gospel, or should cease to be properly influenced thereby, wherewith can you be seasoned? Beware, therefore, of apostatizing from the truth, and of falling from grace: see that you retain your savour, and the seasoning virtue wherewith I have endued you, and, as a proof of it, have peace one with another.
More largely this obscure text might be paraphrased thus: As every burnt- offering was salted with salt, in order to its being cast into the fire of the altar, so every one who will not part with his hand or eye, shall fall a sacrifice to divine justice, and be cast into hell-fire, which will not consume, but preserve him from a cessation of being. And on the other hand, every one who, denying himself, and taking up his cross, offers up himself as a living sacrifice to God, shall be seasoned with grace, which, like salt, will make him savoury, and preserve him from destruction for ever. As salt is good for preserving meats, and making them savoury, so it is good that ye be seasoned with grace, for the purifying your hearts and lives, and for spreading the savour of my knowledge, both in your own souls, and wherever ye go. But as salt, if it loses its saltness, is fit for nothing, so ye, if ye lose your faith and love, are fit for nothing but to be utterly destroyed. See therefore that grace abide in you, and that ye no more contend, Who shall be greatest?
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 9". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany