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Jesus is transfigured: he instructeth his disciples concerning the coming of Elias: casteth forth a dumb and deaf spirit: foretelleth his death and resurrection: exhorteth his disciples to humility: bidding them not to prohibit such as are not against them, nor to give offence to any of the faithful.
Anno Domini 31.
Mark 9:1. Come with power.— This was in some degree verified in the transfiguration which follows; but see the last note of the preceding chapter.
Mark 9:5. It is good for us to be here:— To stay here. Heylin. Who observes, "I understand it of staying, from the proposal which Peter makes of setting up tents for their continuance there."
Mark 9:6. He wist not— He knew not.
Mark 9:10. With themselves,— To themselves. And they kept the matter secret; yet they questioned, or debated, &c. Heylin. Dr. Doddridge renders it, And they laid hold on that word, disputing among themselves, &c. See Matthew 9:25; Matthew 14:3. Mar 12:12 and Revelation 20:2. Sir David Dalrymple observes, that it should not be here, "what the rising of the dead should mean,"—for in those days that tenet was received; but "what this resurrection signified;"—what was meant bythis rising of the Son of man from the dead. Being much surprised at the sudden departure of Elias, and of their Master's ordering them to keep this transaction a secret, the disciples had no sooner finished their dispute about what the rising from the dead should mean, than, addressing themselves to Jesus, theyproposed this doubt, Mark 9:11. "Since Elias is so soon dismissed, and since thou hast ordered us to keep his appearance a secret, how come the scribes to teach on all occasions that Elias must appear, before the Messiah erects his kingdom?" Supposing that Elias was to have an active hand in modelling and settling the kingdom, they never doubted that he would have abode awhile on earth; and knowing that the scribes affirmed openly that Elias was to appear, they could see no reason for concealing the thing. That this is the connection of the disciples' question is plain from Matthew 17:9-10. Jesus not only acknowledged the necessity of Elias's coming before the Messiah according to Malachi's prediction; but he assured his disciples, that he was already come; and described the treatment that he had already met with from the nation in such a manner as to make them understand that he spake of John the Baptist, Mar 9:12-13 and Matthew 17:13. At the same time he told them, that though the Baptist's ministry was excellently calculated for producing all the effects ascribed to it by the prophets, they needed not be surprised to find, that it had not had all the success which might have been expected from it, and that the Baptist had met with much opposition and persecution, since both the person and preaching of the Messiah himself was to meet with the same treatment. Our Saviour, in the 12th verse, alludes to Mal 4:6 where see the note. What is meant by the restoring of all things, is shewn by the angel, Luk 1:16-17 and that this was the true restoration of all things, to be accomplished by Elias, is evident from the LXX, who, in translating the original passage, make use of the word found here in the Evangelists, αποκαταστησει καρσιαν, Reducet Cor, He will restore the heart. Nevertheless, by the restoration of all things, the Jews seem to have understood the revival of the kingdom of David in their nation, to be accomplished by the assistance of Elias. Hence the Apostles' question to Jesus before his ascension into heaven, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore— αποκαθιστα νεις — the kingdom to Israel? Acts 1:6. Some render the 12th and 13th verses thus:—ver. 12. It is true, Elias is to come first, to rectify all things; and it is written, &c. Mark 9:13.—Elias is indeed come as it is written of him; and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, Dr. Heylin renders the 12th verse, He answered, it is true that Elias must first come, and set all things to right; and that he must suffer much, and be despised, as it is also written concerning the Son of man. See Wetstein.
Mark 9:14. Questioning with them.— Συζητουντας, "Disputing by asking questions in the Socratic way." See the former chapter, Mark 9:11. The Scribes had taken the opportunity of their Master's absence to interrogate and confound the disciples
Mark 9:15. Were greatly amazed,— When the people looked on him as he was coming, they were struck into astonishment at those unusual rays of majesty and glory which yet remained on his countenance. It seems, that as Moses's face shone several hours after he had been with God on the mount, so something of the glory of the transfiguration remaining inour Lord's countenance, and on his raiment, might astonish the multitude, and attract their veneration. See Heylin.
Mark 9:17-19. And one of the multitude answered and said,— From the man's narrative before us, in answer to what Jesus said to the scribes, What question ye with them? it appears that the scribes had been disputing with the disciples about the cure of this youth, which they had unsuccessfully attempted. Perhaps their want of success had given the scribes occasion to boast, that a devil was found, which neither the disciples nor their Master were able to cast out; but the disciples affirming that this devil, however obstinate, was not able to withstand their Master, the debate was drawn out to some length: and to say the truth, as Jesus had already given many undeniable demonstrations of his power, the behaviour of the scribes in this, as in every instance, discovered the most criminal infidelity: wherefore he treated them no worse than they deserved, in calling them a faithless and perverse generation, altogether intolerable, because they had resisted demonstrations of his power sufficient to have convinced the most abandoned. He answereth him and saith;—He answered the man by saying to the scribes, O faithless and perverse generation! (see Luke 9:41.) how long shall I be with you ere you be convinced? How long shall I suffer you? Must I always bear with your infidelity?—A reproof much more applicable to the scribes than to the disciples, whose wrong notions proceeded rather from weakness of capacity, than from perverseness of disposition; though even in them there was much unbelief. At the same time, that he might give a fresh demonstration of the greatness of his power before them all, and put the folly of the scribes in particular to shame, he ordered the youth to be brought to him. Compare Luke 9:41.
Mark 9:20-24. The spirit tare him— Cast him into convulsions. Doubtless Jesus could easily have prevented this attack; but he wisely permitted it, that the minds of the spectators might be impressed with a more lively notion of the young man's distress. It was for the same reason also that he asked his father how long he had been in that deplorable condition? who informed him, that he had been so even from his childhood. 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 that this possession might surpass the power even of Jesus himself, as the scribes averred; and so could not help expressing his doubts and fears, If thou canst do any thing, &c. Wherefore, to make him sensible of his mistake, Jesus said unto him, Mar 9:23 in allusion to the expressions of diffidence which he had uttered, If thou canst believe, &c. The father, hearing this, cried out with tears, that he believed; and besought Jesus to supply, by his goodness and pity, whatever deficiency he might find in his faith, Mark 9:24. As Christ's miracles were the proof of his mission, it may seem strange that on this and several other occasions, (see Matthew 9:28.) before he would work the desired miracles, he required the subjects of them to believe on him. Perhaps these were the reasons: 1. His enemies frequently desired to see signs or miracles, feigning a disposition to believe (Matthew 16:1.): but the persons they brought to be cured, and the signs that they demanded, being generally such as they hoped would prove superior to his power, their true intention was, that, failing in the attempt, he should expose himself. For Jesus, therefore, to have wrought miracles in such circumstances, would have served scarcely any purpose, unless it was to gratify the unreasonable curiosity of his enemies, or rather their malignant disposition; a conduct, which instead of convincing must have enraged them, and prompted them to contrive, if possible, some more speedy method of destroying him. We know that Lazarus's resurrection had this effect; which is an incontestable demonstration that the obstinacy of Christ's enemies was not to be overcome by any evidence, how clear or strong soever; and therefore he in his divine wisdom avoided performing miracles before this sort of persons, who could not be profited by them; as for instance, in his own country, where he did not many mighty works, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58. For the same reason, when any came to him begging miraculous cures, whether for themselves or others, it was very proper to ask, if the cure was sought to gratify a vain curiosity, and with secret hopes that Jesus would fail in the attempt, or from a real persuasion that he was able to perform it. Our Lord, it is true, was intimately acquainted with the thoughts and intentions of all men, and so had no needto put this question for his own information; but he did it to signify, that he would not work miracles merely to gratify the evil dispositions of unreasonable men. 2. It should be considered, that while the secular power did not interpose its authority to support the credit of our Lord's miracles, the more universally the faith of them prevailed in the country, where, and at the same time when they were wrought, the greater must their evidence be to us in after-times. Because such a general persuasion demonstrates, that our Lord's miracles were publicly performed; that many persons were present at them; that the eye-witnesses entertained no doubt of them; and that they related them to others, who, giving their testimony, believed them to be real. In this view of the matter, it concerns us not a little to know the opinion which our Lord's countrymen entertained of him, and of his works. We may therefore justly suppose, that one of the reasons of his asking those who came to him, if they believed that he was able toperform the cures they solicited, might be, to make us, who live in after-times, sensible how far the reports of his miracles were spread, how firmly they were believed, how great was the number of those who believed them, and how highly he himself was reverenced on account of them. This observation shews the wisdom and propriety of the expression which our Lord often made use of in conferring his miraculous cures; Matthew 8:13. As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. Matthew 9:22. Thy faith hath made thee whole. Luke 8:50. Believe only, and she shall be made whole. Luke 18:42. Thy faith hath saved thee. For the cures following leave us no room to suspect, that the declarations which they gave of their faith in his miracles were feigned or doubtful. See Luke 8:48. But, 3 and especially, it must be added, that faith in the goodness and power of Christ, tended so much to the glory of the Creator, and the humiliation of the creature, that above all things it prepared the poor petitioner to receive the benefitofourLord'smiraculousinterference;which,consistentlywithhisownhonour and perfections, he could in this case exert to the uttermost.
Mark 9:30. Passed through— Travelled about through.
Mark 9:38. Master, we saw one, &c.— Some commentators have supposed, that this was one of the Baptist's disciples, who, though he did not follow Christ with the rest, had been taught by his Master to acknowledge him as the Messiah, and entertained so great a veneration for him, that he attempted to cast out devils in his name. Or if the character given of this person, he followeth not with us, (see Luke 9:49.) and the apostles' prohibition, we forbad him, are thought inconsistent with the above mentioned opinion, we may suppose that he was an exorcist, like the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14.); who, having seen the miracles which the apostles had performed in their Master's name, while out on their first mission, thought there might be some great occult virtue in it, and so made use of it in his exorcisms, as Sceva's sons did in theirs, but with better success; for God might see reason now to grant that efficacy to such adjurations, which he afterwards denied, when the evidences of the Gospel were proposed so much more distinctly and fully after the descent of the Holy Spirit. See on Mark 9:40.
Mark 9:39. Lightly— Readily. Campbell.
Mark 9:40. For he that is not against us, &c.— This is one of those maxims which take different senses, as they are applied to different subjects. The circumstances determine the signification. Our Lord had formerly said, Matthew 12:30. He that is not with me, is against me; thereby giving his hearers a just and necessary admonition, that on the whole, the war between him and Satan admitted of no neutrality, and that those who were indifferent would finally be treated byhim as his enemies. But here, in another view, he very consistently uses a different and seemingly opposite proverb, the counterpart of the former; directing his followers to judge of men's characters in the most candid manner, and charitably to hope, that they who did not oppose his cause, wished well to it; a conduct peculiarly reasonable, when his cause lay under so manydiscouragements. Probably, many who now concealed their regard to him, were afterwards animated courageously to profess it, though at the greatest hazard. See Doddridge and Heylin.
Mark 9:42. Whosoever shall offend.— Whosoever shall insnare. Campbell.
Mark 9:43. Offend thee,— Make thee offend.
Mark 9:44. Where their worm dieth not,— These expressions seem to be borrowed from Isaiah 66:24. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. In this 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 than 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 way 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 shall not be 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. Dr. Doddridge observes, that there may indeed be an allusion here to Isa 66:24 but that the expression would have been just and proper without it. Dr. Rymer supposes, that both the worm and the fire are meant of the body, and refer to the two different kinds of funerals among the ancients, interment and burning. So that our Lord may seem here to prevent an objection against the permanent misery of thewicked in hell, arising from the frail constitution of the body; as if he should have said, "The body will not then be as it is at present, but will be incapable of consumption or dissolution. In its natural state, theworms may devour the whole, and die for want of nourishment; thefire may consume it, and be extinguished for want of fuel: but there shall be perpetual food for the worm that corrodes it; perpetual fire for the fuel that torments it." The most superficial reader must be sensible that our Lord's repeating so frequently his declaration concerning the duration of future punishment, (see Mark 9:46; Mark 9:48.) has in it something very aweful, and implies that mankind should attend to it, as a matter of infinite importance to them. It likewise affords a lesson to all ministers of the gospel, directing them to enforce the principles of religion which they inculcate, by frequently and earnestly holding forth to the view of their hearers, the terrors of a future judgment.
Mark 9:47. It is better, &c.— From what has been said, Mar 9:42 our Saviour infers, that it is better to deny oneself the greatest earthly satisfactions, and to part with every thing most precious,—represented by the figures of a hand, a foot, an eye, than by these things to cause the weakest of his friends to stumble, as some of the disciples had lately done. The amputation of our hands and feet, and the plucking out of our eyes, when they cause us to offend, import also that we should deny ourselves such use of our members and senses 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 tempting others to sin, as well as sinning ourselves, we are exposed to the eternal punishments of hell. See on Matthew 5:29. It is observable, that what is called the kingdom of God in this verse, is called life in those preceding; whence it appears, that this kingdom, and life, are the same.
Mark 9:49. For every one shall be salted— This difficult text has been interpreted very variously: I shall lay before the reader only such explanations of it as appear to me most reasonable. I. The proper translation of this passage, says Dr. Macknight, is, Every one shall be salted for the fire, πας πυρι αλισθησεται, namely, by you my apostles; for πυρι here is the dative, not the ablative; as it is likewise 2Pe 3:7 where the same construction is found, πυρι τηρουμενοι, reserved for the fire.—"Every one shall be salted for the fire of God's altar;" that is to say, shall be prepared to be offered a sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable: For though the proposition be universal, it must be limited by the nature of the subject, thus, "Every one who is offered a sacrifice unto God, shall be salted for the fire, as every sacrifice is salted with salt;" nor is it any objection against this interpretation, that the word αλισθησεται will thus stand construed with different cases in the same sentence; for both sacred and profane writers make use of such constructions; nay, they often affix different senses to the same word in one sentence. See James 4:8. But the reader will have no doubt of the meaning of the passage, when he considers that our Lord is not giving a reason of the unquenchableness of hell-fire, as is commonly supposed, but a reason why his apostles and followers should cut off their hands, and pluck out their eyes, if these members prove the occasion of sin, either to themselves or others. This I think is plain from the clause that follows: If the salt have lost its saltness; if you, who are the salt of the earth, and whose office it is to season others, have lost your saltness, that is to say, your grace and goodness, wherewith will you season it?—Have salt in yourselves, &c. According to this interpretation, the argument stands thus: "That ye, my apostles, do mortify yourselves, is absolutely necessary, not only on account of your future well-being, but for the sake of mankind, who are to be salted by you for the fire;" that is, seasoned with piety, holiness, and virtue, by means of your doctrine and example, and so put into a fit condition for being offered unto God; in opposition to the condition of the wicked, who, being an abhorrence unto all flesh, must be consumed by the worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched. The necessity of men's being thus seasoned with grace, in order to their becoming acceptable sacrifices unto God, you may learn from its being typically represented under the law, by the priest's salting the sacrifices for the fire of the altar with salt. Having therefore this high honour, of salting mankind for the altar of heaven, conferred upon you, it is fit that you contain in yourselves the spiritual salt of all the graces, and particularly the holy salt of love and peace, in order that you may be, as much as possible, free from the corruption of ambition and pride, contention, and every evil work. II. Dr. Doddridge, following many learned commentaries, translates and paraphrases the passage thus: "For as the flesh burned on the altar has salt rubbed upon it, in consequence of which it burns so much the more fiercely; so every one of those unhappy creatures, the victims of divine justice, shall be, as it were, salted with fire; and instead of being consumed by if, shall, in those wretched abodes, continue immortal in the midst of their flames. Whereas every acceptable sacrifice shall be seasoned with another kind of salt, even that of divine grace, which purifies the soul, and preserves it from corruption." Sinners are represented as victims of divine justice, Isaiah 34:6. Jeremiah 12:3; Jeremiah 46:10; Jer 46:28 and good men, as in this place, are exhibited as acceptable sacrifices, consecrated to God. See Romans 12:1; Romans 15:16; Romans 15:33. The version of 1729 translates this verse, Such a one shall be consumed by fire; but the offering that is salted, shall be preserved from corruption: but it does not any where appear that αλισθησεται, bears the sense of consumed. The learned reader will find in Wolfius a multitude of different interpretations of this text.
Mark 9:50. But if the salt have lost, &c.— But if the salt is become insipid. See on Mat 5:13 and on Leviticus 2:13. The ancients looked upon salt, as the symbol of friendship and peace; in reference to which Eschines speaks of the salt of the city, meaning thereby the public peace and prosperity; and hence, says Eustathius, to imitate the peace and friendship which should subsist between all those who partook of the same feast, salt, before all other, was set before the guests; for, continues he, as salt things, being compacted in many drops of water, every one in itself fluid and unsteady, becomes one solid body; so they, who from distant places unite in a league of friendship, meet together both in the same place and in the same friendly disposition. See Hammond.
Inferences drawn from the transfiguration of Christ on the Mount. How glorious and delightful must have been the view which the apostles had of our blessed Redeemer, when he was transfigured before them; clothed, as it were, with the divine Schechinah, and shining with a lustre like that of the sun! how pleasing and how edifying must it have been to them, to see with him Moses and Elijah, those two eminent saints, who had so many ages ago quitted our world, and whose names they had often read in the sacred records with wonder and reverence! and how great a happiness was it for these two illustrious prophets to see that glorified Saviour, who before his incarnation had spoken to them! to speak to that Man of God by whom they were glorified, and to become prophets, not to men, but in some sense to God: and what consolation, what confirmation was it to the disciples, to behold such examples of their future glory! They saw in Moses and Elijah what they themselves should be: how could they ever fear to be miserable, who saw such precedents of their ensuing happiness! How could they fear to die, who saw in others the blessedness of their own change! In this believing view, how truly may we say to death, Rejoice not mine enemy; though I fall, yet shall I rise; yea, I shall rise in falling! We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, says St. Paul: Elijah was changed, Moses slept. When therefore, O faithful Christian, thou shalt receive the sentence of death on mount Nebo; or when the fiery chariot shall come, and sweep thee from this vale of mortality; remember thy glorious and future appearance with thy Saviour, and thou canst not but be comforted, and cheerfully triumph over that last enemy.
This transfiguration of our Lord is one of the most surprising occurrences that ever befel him: the four following may be reckoned up as the principal wonders of his life; his incarnation, temptation, transfiguration, and agony.—The first, worthy of all admiration, that God should become also man; the second, that the God-man should be tempted, and transported by Satan; the third, that man should be glorified upon earth; the last, that he who was man and God, should sweat blood, under the sense of God's wrath for man: and all these either had the angels for witnesses, or the immediate voice of God; that it may be no wonder that the earth marvels at those things whereat the angels of heaven stand amazed.
O Saviour! if thou wert such in Tabor, what art thou in heaven? If this were the glory of thy humanity, what is the presence of thy Godhead? But how glorious the reflection! he shall change our vile bodies, that they may be like his glorified body: Behold thy pattern, faithful soul, and rejoice. These very bodies, that are now like the earth, shall, if we be faithful, be bright as the sun; and we, who now see clay in one another's faces, shall then see nothing but heaven in each other's countenances. We who now adorn our perishing bodies with clothes, shall then be clothed upon with immortality, out of the wardrobe of heaven. Let us therefore look upon this flesh, not so much with contempt of what it was and is, as with a joyful hope of what it shall be; and when our courage is assaulted with a change of these bodies, from healthful to weak, from living to dead, let us comfort ourselves with the assurance of this change from dull to incorruption for every persevering believer. The faithful are not so sure of death, as of transfiguration.
Well might St. Peter say, It is good for us to be here! well might he be contented to resign his entertainments and his hopes elsewhere, that they might prolong these delightful moments, feasting their eyes with these divine visions, and their minds with these more than human discourses. But if a glimpse of this heavenly glory did so ravish this great disciple, how shall the faithful be affected with the contemplation, yea, fruition of the divine presence! here was but Tabor, there is heaven; here were but two saints, there many millions of saints and angels; here was Christ transfigured, there he sits at the right hand of Majesty; here was a representation, there a gift and possession of blessedness. Oh that we could now forget the world, and, fixing our eyes upon this better Tabor, say, It is good to be here! Alas, how has our corruption bewitched us, to be affected with the shipwrecks of this world, to doat upon the misery of this fading life, rather than fly up to that blessed contemplation, wherein we shall see God in himself; God in us; ourselves in Him. There shall be no sorrow, no pain, no complaint, no fear, no death. There will be no malice to rise against us, no misery to afflict us. There, O there, one day is better than a thousand: there is rest from our labours, peace from our enemies, freedom from the possibility of sinning. How many clouds of discontent, in regard to too many of us, darken the sunshine of our joy, while we are here below: complaint of evils past, sense of present, fear of future, have too much shared our lives among them. There the saints shall be always joyful, always satisfied with the vision of that God, in whose presence there is fullness of joy. Shall we see that heathen Cleombrotus abandoning his life, and casting himself down from the rock, upon an uncertain notion of immortality?—And shall not we, Christians, abandon the tempting superfluities of life and the pleasures of sin, for that life which we are most assured the righteous shall obtain? At what do we hesitate?—Is there a heaven, or is there none?—Have we a Saviour there, or have we none?—We know that there is a heaven, as sure as that there is an earth below us; we know we have a Saviour there, as sure as there are men whom we converse with upon earth. Miserable then will be our folly and infidelity, if we do not despise the best offers of the world, and, lifting up our eyes and hearts to heaven, say, It is good to be there.
We may easily conceive with what astonishment the three disciples stood compassed in the bright cloud, expecting some miraculous event from so heavenly a vision; (Mark 9:7.) when suddenly they heard a voice sounding out of that cloud, This is my beloved Son: hear him. They need not be told whose that voice was; the place, the matter evinced it; no angel in heaven could or durst have said so. How gladly does St. Peter, many years after, and but a little before his death, speak of it! 2 Peter 1:16-18. Twice had God spoken these words to his Son from heaven, once in his baptism, and now again in his transfiguration. Other sons are beloved as of favour; this is the beloved, as in the unity of his essence. O incomprehensible and extensive love of God the Father to the Son, that for his sake he is pleased with all that believe! O happy complaisance! out of Christ, there is nothing but enmity betwixt God and the soul; in him there can be nothing but peace: when the beams are met in one centre, they do not only heat but burn. Our weak love is diffused to many; God hath some of it; the world perhaps some, and generally too much; and therein wives, children, and friends; but this infinite love of God has all the beams united in one infinite object, the Son of his love; neither does he love any thing but in the participation of his love, or in the derivation from him. O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, let me be found in thy beloved Son, and how canst thou but be pleased with me?
This one voice proclaims Christ at once the Son of God, the Reconciler of the world, the teacher and lawgiver of his church: as the Son of God, he is essentially interested in his love; as the Reconciler of the world, in whom God is well pleased, he most justly demands our love and adherence; as the teacher and lawgiver, he justly claims our attention, our obedience: even so, Lord, teach us, to hear and obey thee as our teacher, to love and believe in thee as our Redeemer, and to adore thee as the eternal Son of the Father!
Suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man, save Jesus only, Mar 9:8 and that doubtless in his usual form; all was now gone; Moses, Elias, the cloud, the voice, the glory. Tabor itself cannot be long blessed with that divine light, and those shining guests. Heaven will not allow earth any long continuance of glory: only above is constant glory to be looked for and enjoyed, where the faithful shall ever see their Saviour in his unchangeable brightness, where the light shall never be either clouded or varied. Moses and Elias are gone; only Christ is left. The glory of the law and the prophets was but temporary, that only Christ may remain unto us entire and conspicuous. They came but to give testimony to Christ; when that is done, they are vanished.
Neither could these disciples find any loss of Moses and Elias, when they had Christ still with them. Had Jesus been gone, and left either Moses or Elias, or both, that pretence, though glorious, could not have comforted them. Now that they are gone, and he is left, they ought not to be discomforted. O Saviour, it matters not who is away, while thou art with us. Thou art God all-sufficient; what can we want, when we want not thee? Thy presence shall make Tabor itself a heaven; yea, no place of deepest distress can make us miserable, if accompanied with the fruition of thee.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The first verse of this chapter should properly, as in St. Matthew, have closed the preceding; as it is the conclusion of that discourse, and an argument to engage the fidelity of Christ's disciples, from the view of the nearness of his coming with power and glory, to punish the persecutors of his people by the destruction of the Jewish state and nation; and, by the mighty effusion of his spirit, to erect his church in the world, and bless the labours of his faithful ministers with the most astonishing success: and these events some of those then present should live to see.
Six days after the former discourse, we have an account,
1. Of his transfiguration on the Mount, in the presence of three of his disciples, (see Matthew 17:1-2.) This glimpse of his glory would serve to prevent the offence of the cross, and enable them, when they reflected on what they how saw and heard, to stand fast, unmoved under all the discouragements which their faith might afterwards encounter.
2. Of the discourse which passed between Christ and his disciples as they came down from the mountain. However desirous Peter was of dwelling there, the glorious scene was transient. Our Lord, as they returned from the mount, particularly charged them to take no notice of what they had seen and heard; at least, not till after his resurrection from the dead, when this vision would gain the more ready credence, and serve to prove his divine glory even in the midst of his humiliations. What this resurrection from the dead should mean, they were at a loss to conceive; whether it was to be taken literally, or to be applied metaphorically to his exaltation from his present state of poverty and indigence, to the throne of that glorious temporal kingdom which their prejudices still expected. And as they had been taught by their scribes, that Elias was to prepare the way for the Messiah's coming and kingdom, they inquired of him whether there was any real ground for such an expectation, especially as Elias had made so short a stay with them on the mount, and had not appeared at all in public. Christ clears up their doubts: the person spoken of by the prophet Malachi, was not to be Elias personally, according to the traditions taught by the scribes, but one in his spirit and power; and he had already appeared, and been rejected; plainly pointing them to John the Baptist, in whom the prophesy was fulfilled. And the same inspired writings that foretold the coming of John, predicted also the sufferings and indignities which the Messiah should suffer; these therefore also they may assuredly expect to see accomplished in their season.
2nd, At the return of Jesus with his three disciples from the mount, he found their companions in no small perplexity:
1. The cause of it was, their being unable to heal a youth possessed of a devil, who was brought to them for cure, during their Master's absence; whereupon the scribes triumphed over them, and probably were now disputing against them concerning their Master's doctrine and miracles, and the authority which they pretended to derive from him. In this juncture Jesus himself appeared; and, struck with surprise at his critical arrival, the people with eagerness ran to him, congratulating him on his return, and giving him a hearty welcome. Note; (1.) They who have ever tasted the sweetness of communion with Jesus, cannot but mourn his absence, and welcome his return. (2.) Frequently when we are most at a loss what to say or do, the Lord then appears peculiarly gracious in coming to our help, and ordering our goings.
2. Addressing himself to the scribes on the cause of the dispute, they dared not answer him; but the father of the youth represented the piteous case, and the unsuccessfulness of his application to the disciples. His son was possessed of a dumb spirit, under whose malicious influence he was often thrown into terrible convulsions, foaming at the mouth, gnashing his teeth, and pining away under the frequent and violent returns of these diabolical agitations. And he had brought him to the disciples, who had in vain attempted to cure him.
3. With a sharp rebuke to the malicious scribes, and all others who had joined them in their dispute with the disciples, (among whom probably the father of the youth might be included, on being disappointed in his application) he brands them as a faithless generation, wilfully blind to all the stupendous evidences of his power which he had shewn, a people who wearied out his patience; but he would give them, notwithstanding, a fresh evidence of that divine mission which they disputed, and therefore bids the father bring his son to him. If they will not believe, they shall, at least, be left without excuse.
4. No sooner was the lad brought within sight of Jesus, than the spirit, enraged at being about to be dispossessed, threw him to the ground in the most violent agonies, as if he would have torn him in pieces; and there he lay wallowing and foaming. To make the cure appear more singular, Jesus hereupon asked, how long he had been thus afflicted? The father answered, from his very infancy; and representing the imminent dangers to which he was frequently exposed, of being drowned or burnt, by this malicious spirit, who had often cast him into the fire, and into the water, he importunately begs, if this be not a case beyond the power of Jesus, that he would compassionate a parent as well as a child so distressed, and help them out of their miseries. Note; (1.) The possession of inveterate corruption is from the womb, and nothing but the Almighty grace of Jesus can cure the deeply-rooted evil. (2.) Sometimes we doubt Christ's power, sometimes his willingness to help us, and both shew the unbelief of our hearts: this is the case, more or less, with all believers who do not live up to the glorious privileges of their dispensation.
5. In answer to his suggestion, Christ replied, If thou canst believe, all things are possible, &c. He had said, If thou canst do, as if he suspected Christ's want of power; therefore our Lord retorts upon him:, and bids him suspect his want of faith; yet, to encourage his trust, assures him, that this and every other case is possible, when the application is made in faith. With eagerness and tears, between fear and hope, the afflicted father cried out, Lord, I believe thy all-sufficiency, and, grieving over the hardness and infidelity of my heart, beg thee to help mine unbelief, and enable me confidently to trust thee. Note; (1.) If ever we come short of any of our requests for the good of our souls, we may assuredly impute it to our unbelief. (2.) It is a sure sign of some faith, when a man is convinced of, and realty cries to be delivered from, the unbelief of his heart. (3.) The strongest in faith need every day to pray for an increase of this most necessary grace.
6. Christ performs the wondrous cure. The people came running to see how the affair would end, and whether Jesus or Satan would prevail; when with a voice of authority our Lord bids the foul fiend, who had made the child dumb and deaf, to depart, and never more return to him: nor dared the devil disobey, though with the deepest reluctance and most violent struggles quitting his hold, insomuch that the lad lay breathless and motionless, so that many verily thought him dead. But Jesus, stretching out his hand, lifted him up; and immediately he arose perfectly well.
7. When the disciples inquired privately why they had miscarried, our Lord lets them know that it was through want of this kind of faith, and their having neglected the instituted means for obtaining it—prayer and fasting. Note; If we continue to neglect the means, our graces will necessarily decay, languish, and die away.
3rdly, Being in haste to go towards Jerusalem, and designing to be alone with his disciples, he travelled through Galilee with all secrecy, to prevent any interruption from the people assembled around him. And by the way, we are told,
1. The repeated notices which he gave to his disciples of his approaching sufferings, death, and resurrection; but they understood not his meaning, clear as the words were. Their prejudices concerning his temporal kingdom spread a veil over their hearts, and they were ashamed and afraid to ask him, lest they should meet with a rebuke for their dulness. Note; Many live and die in ignorance, because they are ashamed to own it, and to inquire of those who would instruct them.
2. He reproves them for their pride and affectation of superiority. He knew that the subject of their disputes in the way had been, who should possess the first honours in his kingdom; but he put a question, as if he wanted to be informed concerning it; to which, ashamed of what had passed, they returned no answer. But Jesus, to shew them that he knew the secrets of all hearts, and to check these most unbecoming desires of temporal grandeur, assured them, that this ambitious affectation of pre-eminence would be punished with the lowest degradation: while the surest way to rise, would be by entertaining the lowest thoughts of themselves, and studying how to be most serviceable to the meanest of his disciples. And to impress what he had spoken the more deeply, he took a little child into his arms, whose humility, teachableness, and unambitious simplicity they ought to imitate; assuring them, that whoever shewed regard to the lowest of his people, because of such a spirit in them, for the sake of their resemblance and relation to him, he would regard it as done to himself; yea, God the Father, who sent him, would requite it. Note; (1.) Christ observes, and is displeased with the angry disputes of his disciples, and will call them to account for them. (2.) Nothing is so contrary to the spirit of Christianity, as the affectation of pre-eminence.
3. He checks the jealousy and rashness of the beloved disciple. John, in his travels, when he was sent forth with his fellow-labourers to preach the Gospel, had seen a man casting out devils in Christ's name, perhaps one of the Baptist's disciples, who, though a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, had not constantly attended him as they had done, nor been invested with any particular commission from him. Jealous therefore for their Master's honour, or perhaps rather for their own; unwilling that others should share these miraculous powers with them, they had forbidden him, because he had not been a professed disciple, or invested with any such commission as they had received. But Jesus said, Forbid him not. One who had such faith in his name, would not easily be brought to say or do any thing dishonourable to his cause. Such a one ought rather to be countenanced than discouraged; and, as he took not part with the enemy, but rather the contrary, he was to be regarded as a friend. Note; (1.) Partial to our own opinions and party, we are apt to monopolize Christ, and to think our cause is for much his, that all who follow not with us are to be regarded as separated from him: but there may be a great diversity of opinion in lesser matters among those who together hold the Head; and therefore we should bear and forbear, think and let think, without rash and rigid censures of those who differ from us. (2.) Wherever real good is done, where Christ is preached, and souls rescued from the power of Satan, though we may count the methods pursued irregular and unauthorised, we must leave every man to stand or fall to his own Master, and beware how we oppose what is attended with a blessing from God. (3.) Where nothing appears contradictory to the faith of the gospel, Christian love ever bids us hope the best.
4thly, Christ will not suffer the least kindness done to his poorest disciples to be unrewarded, nor the least offence given to them to go unpunished. The heaviest of all judgments hangs over that guilty head which shall hinder, discourage, or grieve the weak, or do ought to turn them back from Christ. And if any corruption in our hearts, or allurement from the world, or darling idol, would se-duce us from the path of duty, and lead us and others into sin, though they were near and dear to us as a hand, a foot, or an eye, they must be cut off without pity. Eternity is at stake; and as a life of everlasting glory will amply repay us for every such sacrifice that we make, so will the endless torments in hell make us rue the indulgence of our sins, when, for a momentary gratification, we should be doomed to endure the gnashings of a guilty conscience, filled with the wrath of God, and the intolerable agonies of burnings unquenchable and eternal. For as, under the law, every burnt-offering was salted before it was laid on the altar, where the fire never went out; so every apostate shall fall a sacrifice to divine justice, and be cast into the fire of hell, preserved by the power of God from an extinction of their being, to suffer that wrath of God which is for ever wrath to come. And, on the other hand, the soul which is seasoned with divine grace, and offered daily and perseveringly as a living sacrifice to God, shall be preserved incorruptible, separated from the taint of this world's pollutions, and kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. For, as salt is good to preserve meat from putrefaction, and renders it savoury, so does the grace of God preserve the soul from the corruption of sin, and renders those who possess this inestimable gift blessings to others, by spreading the sweet savour of Christ in the world. But if the salt have lost its saltness, and they, whose hearts, lips, and lives, should be seasoned with this salt of grace, prove destitute of it, and apostatize from their profession, their fall is usually irrecoverable, and their ruin inevitable. Therefore, see that ye have salt in yourselves, the life of grace in your souls, subduing the corruptions within, and shewing itself in a savoury conversation, in every good word and work that may minister edification to others; and have peace one with another, united in the closest bonds of love and friendship, laying aside all disputes and envyings, and concurring to promote and propagate the gospel through the world. Note; (1.) The terrors and eternity of the torments of hell, if really believed, will be a powerful check to the raging passions of the soul. (2.) They who have the salt of grace, must shew it in their lips and in their lives.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29