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Mark 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Mark 9:0


Transfiguration of JesusJesus Transfigured on the MountThe TransfigurationThe TransfigurationThe Transfiguration
Mark 9:2-8Mark 9:2-13Mark 9:2-8Mark 9:2-6Mark 9:2-8
Prophesies about ElijahMark 9:7-8The Question about Elijah
Mark 9:9-13 Mark 9:9-13Mark 9:9Mark 9:9-13
Mark 9:10-11
Mark 9:12-13
The Healing of a Boy with an Unclean SpiritA Boy is HealedEpileptic Child HealedJesus Heals a Boy with an Evil SpiritThe Epileptic Demonic
Mark 9:14-29Mark 9:14-29Mark 9:14-29Mark 9:14-16Mark 9:14-29
Mark 9:17-18
Mark 9:19-20a
Mark 9:20-21a
Mark 9:21-22
Mark 9:23
Mark 9:24
Mark 9:25
Mark 9:26-27
Mark 9:28
Mark 9:29
Jesus Again Foretells His Death and ResurrectionJesus Again Predicts His Death and ResurrectionThe Passion ForetoldJesus Speaks Again About His DeathSecond Prophecy of the Passion
Mark 9:30-32Mark 9:30-32Mark 9:30-32Mark 9:30-31Mark 9:30-32
Mark 9:32
Who is Greatest?Who is Greatest?True GreatnessWho is Greatest?Who is Greatest?
Mark 9:33-37Mark 9:33-37Mark 9:33-37Mark 9:33Mark 9:33-37
Mark 9:34-37
He Who Is Not Against Us is For UsJesus Forbids SectarianismThe Unknown ExorcistWhoever Is Not Against Us is For UsOn Using the Name of Jesus
Mark 9:38-41Mark 9:38-41Mark 9:38-41Mark 9:38Mark 9:38-40
Mark 9:39-41Generosity Shown to Christ's Disciples
Mark 9:41
Temptations to SinJesus Warns of OffensesWarnings of HellTemptations to SinOn Leading Others Astray
Mark 9:42-50Mark 9:42-48Mark 9:42-48Mark 9:42-48Mark 9:42-50
Tasteless Salt is WorthlessSalty Disciples
Mark 9:49-50Mark 9:49-50Mark 9:49
Mark 9:50a
Mark 9:50b

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Mark 9:2-8 is paralleled in Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36.

B. Mark 9:9-13 is paralleled in Matthew 17:9-13 and Luke 9:36.

C. Mark 9:14-29 is paralleled in Matthew 17:14-20 and Luke 9:37-43.

D. Mark 9:30-32 is paralleled in Matthew 17:22-23 and Luke 9:43-45.

E. Mark 9:33-37 is paralleled in Matthew 18:1-5 and Luke 9:46-48.

F. Mark 9:38-50 is paralleled in Matthew 18:6-14 and Luke 9:49-50.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was Jesus "transformed?"

2. How is this incident related to the OT?

3. Why were the disciples confused about Elijah?

4. Why did the disciples still not understand about Jesus' death and resurrection?

5. Is it wrong for a Christian to be ambitious?

How did Jesus define greatness?

6. Is Jesus talking about children in Mark 9:35-37 and 42 or using them as an example for adults?

7. Are there degrees of judgment?

8. Should Mark 9:43-47 be taken literally?

9. What does salt symbolize?

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 8:34-1 34And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. 36For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. 9:1And Jesus was saying to them, 'Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."

Mark 8:34 "summoned the crowd with His disciples" Mark is the only Gospel that records the presence of the crowd at Caesarea Philippi. Usually this event is seen as a private teaching time, but obviously others were present. This crowd would have included may non-Jews and probably no Pharisees or religious leaders because it was out of the traditional promised land in a Gentile area. It is to this crowd that Jesus reveals the true cost of discipleship, the radical, total surrender needed to follow Him. He bids them follow, but clearly states the cost!

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed true from the author's perspective or for his literary purpose.

"anyone wishes to come after Me" Notice the universal invitation to be Jesus' disciples. But there is a cost (i.e., salvation is free, but discipleship is necessary and very expensive personally). It is interesting that Jesus' very words to Peter in Mark 8:33 (hupage opisô mou) are now used again (opisô mou), but in the sense of "come after me" (i.e., discipleship). There is an inappropriate followship (Peter as Satan's surrogate) and an appropriate followship (i.e., selfless service). The very thing Peter rebukes Jesus for thinking is now clearly stated as the goal for all, "take up your cross"!

"he must deny himself" This is an aorist middle imperative of a term which implies "to deny," "to disown," "to renounce," or "to disregard" (cf. Matthew 16:24; 20:35,75; Mark 8:34; Mark 14:30, Mark 14:32, Mark 14:72; Luke 9:23; Luke 12:9; Luke 23:34,61; John 13:38).

The fall (cf. Genesis 3:0) has made mankind's independence and self-centeredness the goal of life, but now believers must return to selfless dependence on God. Salvation is the restoration of the image of God in humanity, damaged in the fall. This allows intimate fellowship with the Father, which is the goal of creation.

"take up his cross" This is an aorist active imperative. This phrase "take up your cross" referred to a condemned criminal having to carry his own crossbar to the place of crucifixion. This was a cultural metaphor for a painful, shameful death. In this context it refers to "death to our old sin nature." The gospel is a radical call for once-and-for-all followship, discipleship (cf. Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27; Luke 17:33; John 12:25). As Jesus laid down His life for others, so we must follow His example (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 3:16). This clearly demonstrates that the results of the fall have been removed.

"and follow Me" This is present active imperative. This is the language of rabbinical discipleship. Christianity is a decisive choice followed by continual discipleship (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Mark 8:35-37 "save his life. . .lose his life" This is a play on the Greek word for "self," psuchç. In this context there is a contrast between spiritual living (Kingdom focused) and selfish living (earthly, self-centeredness). The Williams translation of the NT has "higher life. . .lower life." If we live for Christ we shall live eternally; if we live for self we are spiritually dead (cf. Genesis 3:0; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 5:18-19; Romans 7:10-11; Romans 8:1-8; Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13; James 1:15) and one day will be eternally dead (cf. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8). This truth is similar to the parable of "the rich fool" (cf. Luke 12:16-20).

Mark 8:35 "gospel's" This is a compound of eu (good) and angelos (message). It originally meant proclaim good tidings, but it came to be used for the message about Jesus as the Messiah bringing salvation (and all its connected doctrines). It stands for the truths of Christianity and the proclaiming of those truths. Mark's Gospel may have been the first to use it in this sense (cf. Mark 1:1, Mark 1:14-15; Mark 8:35; Mark 10:29; Mark 14:9).

Mark 8:36 "'to gain the whole world'" This also was one of Satan's temptations to Jesus (cf. Matthew 4:8-9).

"'and forfeit his soul'" This is an aorist passive infinitive of a term used to describe the loss of something which one previously possessed (cf. Matthew 16:26; Acts 27:10).

Mark 8:37 This is a powerful question. Where is the priority, present life or eternal life? Selfish living robs one of the joy of life and the gift of life! This life is both a gift and a stewardship.

Mark 8:38; Mark 8:38Mark 8:38 "'whoever is ashamed of Me and My words'" This refers to the time when each person is confronted with the gospel. This same truth is expressed in a different way in Matthew 10:32-33 and Luke 12:8-9. What people decide today about the gospel determines their future. Jesus is the gospel!

This phrase is a third class conditional sentence, which introduces a contingency (cf. TEV and NJB).

"'in this adulterous and sinful generation'" The Jews in the interbiblical period developed a theology of two ages. The current age was dominated by sin, self, and unrighteousness. See Special Topic: The Two Jewish Ages at Mark 13:8. However, God was going to send the Messiah and establish a new age of righteousness. Jesus is stating that He Himself was inaugurating this new day and that this new righteousness depends (i.e., is contingent upon, cf. John 1:12; John 3:16) on one's personal faith and trust in Him, not one's human performance (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 5:20).

"'the Son of Man'" This is Jesus' self-designation; it had no nationalistic, militaristic, or exclusivistic implications in first century Judaism. The term comes from its typical usage in Ezekiel 2:1 and Psalms 8:4,where it meant "human being" and Daniel 7:13, where it implies Messiah and Deity (i.e., riding on the clouds of heaven, approaching God and receiving the eternal kingdom). The term combines the twin aspects of Jesus' person, fully God and fully man (cf. 1 John 4:1-3).

"when He comes" The OT clearly reveals one coming of the Messiah. However, Jesus' earthly life showed that Genesis 3:15; Psalms 22:0; Isaiah 53:0; and Zechariah 9-14 also refer to a suffering of the Messiah. The second glorious coming of the Messiah as Lord and Judge of the cosmos will be exactly the way the Jews were expecting Him to come the first time. Their closed-minded, theological dogmatism caused them to reject Jesus.

The Second Coming is a major and oft repeated NT truth (cf. Matthew 10:23; Matthew 16:27-28; Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:37; Matthew 26:64; Mark 8:38-39; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; John 21:22; Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:8; James 5:0:;7-8; 2 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 3:4, 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 2:28; Revelation 1:7).

"'in the glory of His Father with the holy angels'" This is an OT prediction from Daniel 7:10 (cf. Matthew 16:27; Mark 13:20; Luke 9:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:7). This refers to the Second Coming. This was another way of asserting the deity of Jesus. Several times in Matthew the angels are the eschatological gatherers and dividers of humanity (cf. Mark 13:39-41,49; 24:31).

"glory" In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kabod) was originally a commercial term (which referred to a pair of scales) meaning "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. Often the concept of brightness was added to the word to express God's majesty (cf. Exodus 15:16; Exodus 24:17; Isaiah 60:1-2). He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold (cf. Exodus 33:17-23; Isaiah 6:5). God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. Jeremiah 1:14; Matthew 17:2; John 14:8-9; Hebrews 1:3; James 2:1).

The term "glory" is somewhat ambiguous.

1. it may be parallel to "the righteousness of God"

2. it may refer to the "holiness" or "perfection" of God

3. it could refer to the image of God in which mankind was created (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 9:6), but which was later marred through rebellion (cf. Genesis 3:1-22)

It is first used of YHWH's presence with His people in the cloud of glory during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:23; Numbers 14:10).

Mark 9:1 There have been many theories to explain Jesus' statement. It may have referred to

1. Jesus' ascension

2. the Kingdom already present in Jesus

3. the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost

4. the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70

5. the expectation of Jesus' early return

6. the rapid spread of Christianity

7. the transfiguration.

These theories focus on different phrases in the text: (1) "some of the people standing here"; (2) "the Kingdom of God"; or (3) "come in its power." The best guess is #7 because of the immediate context of Mark 9:2-13 and 2 Peter 1:16-18. Also, no other theory can explain all three aspects of the text. But realize if it does, then it only referred to Peter, James, and John.

"Truly" This is literally "amen." See Special Topic at Mark 3:28.

"will not taste death" This is a strong double negative used as a metaphorical phrase (i.e., experience cessation of life).

"the kingdom of God" See note at a Mark 1:15.

"it has come with power" This is a perfect active participle, which implies the full and complete coming of the kingdom. This is in contrast to the fact that the kingdom, in some real sense, was inaugurated with Jesus' coming (i.e., incarnation), but a future event is to be expected (i.e., Second Coming).

Verses 2-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:2-8 2Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 5Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!" 8All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.

Mark 9:2 "six days" Luke 9:28 has "eight days." Such a specific time designation is very unusual in Mark's Gospel.

"Peter and James and John" This is the inner circle of disciples who were always present at major events (cf. Mark 5:37). This event was as much for them as for Jesus.

"on a high mountain" Tradition (i.e., the non-canonical Gospel of Hebrews) says it was Mt. Tabor, but probably it was one of the foothills of Mt. Hermon.

One wonders if this experience was a typological way of mirroring Moses' Mt. Sinai experience.

1. a high mountain

2. the cloud

3. faces glorified (Exodus 34:29)

4. a six-day period (cf. Exodus 24:16)

This Exodus motif (i.e., Jesus as the new Moses, giving the new covenant, bringing His people out of the slavery of sin) is a recurrent allusion in Mark. In Luke's Gospel, it says Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discussed Jesus' exodus.

"by themselves" Luke 9:28 states the purpose as "to pray." Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds to teach the disciples privately. In this instance it was this inner circle of leadership.

"He was transfigured before them" This is an aorist passive indicative of a compound term meta (i.e., after) and morphoô (i.e., form), with the resulting meaning of "to change one's appearance." We get the English term "metamorphosis" from this Greek term. Jesus' radiant pre-existent glory shows through His fleshly body. The radiance of His true divine self was visible to these disciples (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-18). The term morphç (cf. Philippians 2:6-7) denotes the unchanging essence of something or someone (the opposite of schçma, cf. Philippians 2:8, the changing outward form).

This same transformation is possible for His followers (cf. Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). In a sense this refers to the restoration of the divine image in mankind, damaged in the Fall of Genesis 3:0. Jesus enables us to become truly human, truly Christlike.

Mark 9:3

NASB"His garments became radiant and exceedingly white" NKJV"His clothes became shining, exceedingly white" NRSV"his clothes became dazzling white" TEV"his clothes became shining white" NJB"his clothes became brilliantly white"

Matthew 17:2 adds that "His face shone like the Sun." This is surely an aspect of Jesus' glory, which often has a brightness component (cf. fuller notes at Mark 8:38).

NASB, NKJV"no launderer on earth can whiten them" NRSV"such as no one on earth could bleach them" TEV"whiter than anyone in the world could wash them" NJB"whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them"

This refers to a worker who cleaned cloth.

It is in verses such as this that history books are so helpful. Let me mention several that have helped me understand Ancient Near Eastern culture.

1. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, two vols.

2. Fred H. Wright, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands

3. James M. Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible

4. Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, two vols.

5. James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era

6. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and the Old Testament

7. Edwin M. Yamauchi, The Stones and the Scriptures

Mark 9:4 "Elijah. . .Moses. . .Jesus" This shows God's continuing revelation. Notice they apparently already had their resurrection bodies, which is surprising in light of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. These were two major figures in the Old Testament who had an eschatological prophetic aspect (i.e., Elijah before the Messiah and Moses, a Prophet like Jesus).

"appeared" This term is used of angelic appearances in Mark 9:1 and 22:43, and of Jesus in Luke 24:34.

"they were talking with Jesus" This is a periphrastic imperfect, which implies a long conversation. Luke 9:31 says they were discussing Jesus' departure (i.e., exodus) from Jerusalem. There is an amazing corollary between this passage and Exodus 24:12-18.

1. the time element of "six days" (Mark 9:2)

2. the place, "on a high mountain" (Mark 9:2)

3. the presence of a cloud and God's speaking from it (Mark 9:7)

4. the mention of glory on Moses' face and here Jesus' face (Luke 9:29; Exodus 34:29-30)

Mark 9:5 "Peter said to Jesus" Luke 9:32 says the three disciples were asleep after a long day and a hard climb and Peter woke up just in time to see Elijah and Moses departing.

"'Rabbi'" The Matthew parallel has "Lord" and the Luke parallel has "Master."

"it is good for us to be here" What an awesome spiritual and physical experience this must have been; what a confirmation of the person of Jesus as the promised OT Messiah.

"tabernacles" This would have been a structure similar to the temporary thatch huts used during the Festival of Booths. The implication of Peter's statement was that if the glorified OT visitors would stay a while, they could stay a while longer, too!

Mark 9:6 Whenever Peter did not know what to do, he talked!

Mark 9:7 "cloud" This was the symbol of YHWH's presence in the exodus (cf. Exod. 13-14). The rabbis called this "the Shekinah cloud of Glory," meaning YHWH dwelt visibly and permanently with Israel.

"overshadowing them" This term reflects the OT sense of the special cloud of YHWH's presence providing shade (i.e., protection) and guidance to the people of God during the Wilderness Wandering period (i.e., 38 years). This cloud reappears three times related to Jesus.

1. at His conception Mary is overshadowed by the Spirit (cf. Luke 1:35)

2. at His baptism Jesus is addressed by a voice from heaven (the cloud itself is not specifically mentioned, cf. Matthew 3:17)

3. at the Transfiguration a voice is heard (cf. Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:34)

This term is used two other times in the NT, once in relation to Peter's shadow falling on people and resulting in their healing (cf. Acts 5:15) and a compound form of the term in Hebrews 9:5, referring to the Cherubim overshadowing the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the covenant.

"a voice" This is either (1) related to YHWH speaking out of the cloud in the wilderness or (2) a Bath Kol (i.e., a voice from heaven), which was God's way of revealing YHWH's will during the intertestamental period when there was no prophet (cf. Mark 1:11).

"My beloved Son" The term "son" in this OT phrase was used for (1) Israel as a whole; (2) the Israeli King as YHWH's representative; and (3) the promised, coming Messiah (cf. Psalms 2:7). This is the second time that the Father has addressed the Son in this special way, by this special title (cf. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). See fuller note at Mark 1:11 and Special Topic at Mark 3:11.

"listen to Him" This is a present active imperative, which reflects the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15. The Father's ultimate revelation is to be acknowledged and obeyed (cf. Luke 6:46).

Mark 9:8 This verse implies either that (1) this experience was a vision or (2) a rapid change back to the visible realm occurred.

Verses 9-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:9-13 9As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. 10They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant. 11They asked Him, saying, "Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 12And He said to them, "Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him."

Mark 9:9 "He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead" This was the only occurrence where a time factor is linked to Jesus' repeated warnings about their silence (cf. Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36; Mark 8:30). This restriction is related to the fact that the gospel was not yet complete. At a future time, their memory of this event would be clearly understood in light of all the other gospel events (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-18).

Mark 9:10 "discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant" The disciples did not understand the distinction between "the Second Coming" (Mark 8:38) and "the Resurrection" (Mark 9:9). The Jews of Jesus' day expected only one coming of the Messiah into history and this coming was related to the military victory and supremacy of national Israel on a global scale. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE RESURRECTION at Mark 8:31.

Mark 9:11 "the scribes" These were the culturally respected OT interpreters who explained the OT and how it applied to their day. In this time most of the scribes were Pharisees. See Special Topic at Mark 2:6.

Mark 9:12-13 "Elijah does first come. . .Elijah has indeed come" Jesus asserts that John the Baptist had fulfilled the prophetic role of Elijah found in Mark 9:1 and 4:5. There has been much discussion about the answer which Jesus gave. He stated specifically that Elijah had already come in the ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 11:10, Matthew 11:14; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17). However, when the Pharisees asked John the Baptist, himself, in the Gospel of John (John 1:20-25) if he was Elijah, he flatly denied it. This seeming contradiction can be handled by the fact that John denied that he was a resuscitated Elijah, but Jesus affirmed that John symbolically fulfilled the preparation ministry of Elijah. They both dressed and acted in similar ways, so the identification would be obvious in the minds of the Jews who knew about Elijah and who heard and saw John the Baptist (Luke 1:17).

Mark 9:12 "will suffer many things and be treated with contempt" This was so shocking to the Jewish people of Jesus' day who expected a powerful deliverer like the OT judges and were not expecting a suffering savior. They had missed several OT clues (i.e., Genesis 3:15; Psalms 22:0; Isaiah 52:13-12; Zechariah 9-14). It took the twelve disciples years to comprehend; even they did not fully understand until the special ministry of the Spirit at Pentecost (cf. John 16:13-14) revealed it to them.

Notice that Jesus is trying to involve the twelve disciples in theological reasoning. He is forcing them to see the relationship between two different prophecies. They were not officially "scribes," but soon they must function like them.

Jesus surprised them with an unexpected fulfillment which was not literal, but typological (i.e., John the Baptist functioned as the fulfillment of Elijah's coming and preparing the way for the Messiah).

Jesus took every private moment to teach His disciples. Even on the way down the mountain He brings up a related issue (i.e., Malachi's prophecy about Elijah). This taking advantage of every opportunity for religious training is reflected in Deuteronomy 6:7 and Mark 11:19.

Mark 9:13 "as it is written of him" Elijah had persecution from Jezebel (cf. 1 Kings 19:2, 1 Kings 19:10, 1 Kings 19:14) as John did from Herodias.

Verses 14-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:14-29 14When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16And He asked them, "What are you discussing with them?" 17And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." 19And He answered them and said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" 20They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" 23And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." 24Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." 25When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." 26After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" 27But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?" 29And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."

Mark 9:14 "When they came back to the disciples" Jesus had left the rest of the disciples at the bottom of the mountain. Luke 9:37 says they returned the next day.

"a large crowd. . .scribes arguing" Both of these things characterized Jesus' ministry and now the disciples were experiencing a foreshadowing of Jesus' existential situation and also their coming ministry. These were recurrent problems, but also opportunities.

Mark 9:15 "immediately" See note at Mark 1:10.

"they were amazed" Some see this amazement as referring to Jesus' face still glowing related to Exodus 34:29-30, but the context seems to imply that Jesus' appearance came at an opportune moment for ministry and teaching.

NASB"began running up to greet Him" NKJV"running to Him, greeted Him" NRSV"they ran forward to greet Him" TEV"ran to him and greeted him" NJB"ran to greet him"

This is an imperfect tense, which can mean (1) the beginning of an action (cf. NASB) or (2) a repeated action in past time. This crowd was excited to see Jesus and one after another ran up and greeted Him.

Mark 9:16 "What are you discussing with them" Jesus addresses this question to the crowd. The scribes were not concerned with the young boy, but with the theological aspect of the disciples' inability to effect a cure.

Mark 9:17 "possessed with a spirit" The Gospels make a definite distinction between demon possession and physical illness. In this particular case there seems to be a blurring of this distinction. The symptoms described by the father and the implication of several Greek words in the text imply epilepsy, especially a grand mal seizures. This physical element was aggravated or instigated by demonic possession. See Special Topic: The Demoniac at Mark 1:23.

Mark 9:18 "stiffens out" This is a description of a grand mal seizure.

"I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it" The disciples were surprised also. Jesus gave them the power over the demonic in Mark 6:7, Mark 6:13, but in this case their attempts failed!

Mark 9:19 Jesus uses two rhetorical questions in Mark 9:19 to express His disappointment at the lack of faith of the disciples, the crowd, and the scribes.

Mark 9:20 "when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion" This was demonic possession manifesting itself in epilepsy.

Mark 9:21 There are several accounts in the Gospels of demon possession of children. How and why this occurred is never stated.

Mark 9:22 The destructive nature of the demonic is clearly seen in the father's description of this boy's life.

"destroy" See Special Topic: Apollumi at Mark 3:6.

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence that is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. This was the father's affirmation of faith in Jesus' ability to heal.

"'take pity on us and help us'" This father had faith in Jesus even when the disciples failed to deliver his son.

In Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1. p. 113, M. R. Vincent makes the point that this father identified completely with his son's problems, as did the Syro-Phoenician woman to her daughter (cf. Matthew 15:22).

Mark 9:23 "'If You can'" This is a repeat of the man's statement of Mark 9:22. It is another first class conditional sentence. This man affirmed Jesus' ability; now Jesus tests his faith.

"'All things are possible to him who believes'" This is not a blank check for humanity, even believing humanity, to manipulate God, but a promise that God will do His will through believing faith (see Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels). There are two conditions: (1) God's will and (2) believing faith! See Special Topic: Effective Prayer at Mark 11:23.

Mark 9:24 "'I do believe, help my unbelief'" This is a present active imperative. Remember it is the object of faith, not the quantity, that is crucial (cf. Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6). Notice that Jesus worked with this man's doubts, as He will with ours.

Jesus deals with the father's faith, not the boy's, because he has been possessed since he was a child. One wonders if one of the reasons the disciples could not exorcize the boy was the father's lack of faith in them. Jesus often focused on parent's or friend's faith in effecting cures and deliverances. This father's words admit his need and beseeches Jesus' help to further his faith. This is a prayer we could all pray!

The Textus Receptus adds kurie (i.e., the vocative of Lord), which may be a scribal addition to show the father's faith by addressing Jesus as Lord, but this addition is not in any modern English translation besides KJV and NKJV.

Mark 9:25 "a crowd was rapidly gathering" It is uncertain how this relates to the exorcism. It is opposite of the Messianic Secret found so often in Mark. Jesus demonstrates His power and authority in a situation the disciples could not handle. The press and curiosity of the crowd was always a problem, but also an opportunity. This could be the same crowd as Mark 9:14-15 or a large number of new arrivals.

"'You deaf and mute spirit'" Apparently this was just another aspect of this boy's physical problems (cf. Mark 9:17) related to the demonic possession.

"'come out of him and do not enter him again'" This is an aorist active imperative and an aorist active subjunctive that meant "get out and do not ever start to come back."

Mark 9:26 The physical manifestations accompanying the departure of the demonic appear to have been common in NT exorcisms.

"the boy became so much like a corpse" This is another symptom of a grand mal seizure.

Mark 9:27 "Jesus took him by the hand and raised him" This procedure showed Jesus' concern and compassion (cf. Mark 1:31; Mark 5:41). He was not afraid to touch the sick and possessed!

Mark 9:28 "'Why could we not drive it out'" They were surprised! Earlier they had been able to cast out demons; why not now? Matthew 17:20 says it was because of the smallness of their faith.

Mark 9:29 "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer" Many other Greek manuscripts add "and fasting." However, this in not found in א or B, nor the Greek manuscript used by Clement. The addition of the phrase is very ancient and wide-spread, probably because of the early church's propensity from Judaism in this area. It is included in MSS P45, אcf8 i2, A, C, D, K, L, W, X, and the Diatessaron. See Special Topic on Fasting at Mark 2:18-20. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading an "A" rating (certain).

Theologically this account implies that there are different kinds of demons which require different techniques. See Special Topic at Mark 1:25.

Verses 30-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:30-32 30From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it. 31For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later." 32But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

Mark 9:30 "began to go through Galilee" This is still the setting of leaving the Mountain of Transfiguration and moving south through Galilee. Jesus wanted to personally speak to as many people as possible.

"He did not want anyone to know about it" This is another aspect of Jesus' desire not to be known as a healer or miracle worker because the press of the crowds seeking physical help made it impossible for Him to teach and preach.

Mark 9:31 "Son of Man" See note at Mark 8:38c.

"is to be delivered" This is a present passive indicative. The term means "to hand over to the authorities." This was the third time that Jesus had clearly revealed to the disciples what would happen in Jerusalem (cf. Mark 8:31; Mark 9:12).

"'He will rise'" See Special Topic at Mark 8:31.

"three days" In Jewish recording of time, it was probably about 30-38 hours (i.e., a brief time on Friday before twilight, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday before dawn). This time period is linked to Jonah's experience several times (cf. Matthew 12:39-40; Matthew 16:3; Luke 11:29-32).

Mark 9:32 "they did not understand" This is a recurrent theme in the Synoptic Gospels. Luke's Gospel reveals the situation clearly.

1. the disciples did not understand (Luke 2:50; Luke 9:45; Luke 18:34)

2. they should have because Jesus' words were interpreted for them (Luke 8:10)

3. Jesus opened the minds of the disciples (Luke 24:45)

They were as blind as the crowds until Jesus' words and the Spirit's inspiration opened their closed minds and hearts to the truth of the new covenant. The fallen human mind cannot understand except by the help of the Spirit and even then it is a slow growing process from salvation to sanctification.

Verses 33-37

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:33-37 33They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" 34But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." 36Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37"Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."

Mark 9:33 "Capernaum" This town, the hometown of Peter and Andrew, became Jesus' headquarters after the unbelief of Nazareth.

"when He was in the house" This was probably Peter's home (cf. Mark 1:29) or a rented house used by Jesus.

"What were you discussing on the way" They were arguing, not just discussing. He had told them of His death (three times) and they wanted to know which one of them would take His place as leader (cf. Matthew 18:1-18; Luke 9:46-48; Luke 22:24).

Mark 9:34 "greatest" This shows the jealousy of the other groups of disciples against the inner circle of Peter, James, and John. It may also reflect their Jewish concept of a nationalistic earthly kingdom.

Mark 9:35 "sitting down" This would have denoted an official teaching session (cf. Mark 4:1; Mark 9:35; Matthew 5:1; Luke 4:20).

"If anyone wants to be first" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective. Jesus did not condemn ambition, but defined it in terms of the new ethic of the Kingdom of God. Greatness is linked to service (cf. Mark 10:31, Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:26; Matthew 19:30; John 13:5), not control or power! God's Kingdom is so different from human societies.

These words are a good example of how Jesus repeated His teachings in different settings and at different times (cf. Mark 10:43-44; Matthew 23:11; Luke 22:24-25).

"servant" Jesus spoke Aramaic. This saying (i.e., Mark 9:35-37) may be a word play on the Aramaic word talya, which means both "child" and "servant."

Mark 9:36 "Taking a child" Matthew 18:1-18, Luke 9:46-49, and here clearly show that Jesus is talking about new believers, not children.

"taking him in His arms" This is another eyewitness detail of Peter. It was even possibly Peter's house and Peter's child!

Mark 9:37 "'whoever receives one child like this in My name'" "In My Name" means "in the character of Jesus." There is no magic in the repetition of certain words. The power comes from knowing Jesus and emulating His actions. Our loving response to others because we are followers of Jesus is a way to express our love for Him (cf. Matthew 25:31-45).

From Acts 19:13-16 we know that Jewish exorcists used Jesus' name, but with surprising results. From Matthew 7:21-23 we know that it is the personal relationship with Christ that is crucial, not just the flippant or even repeated mentioning of the name.

"'and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me'" Jesus characteristically affirms the exalted position of the Father. This is repeatedly recorded in John's Gospel. This submission to the Father is not one of inequality, but functions within the Trinity.


Verses 38-41

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:38-41 38John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us." 39But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40For he who is not against us is for us. 41For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward."

Mark 9:38 "and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us" There are several variants in the Greek manuscripts. This verse is hard to interpret. This caused ancient scribes to modify it. The reading most modern English versions accept (following the UBS4) is found in MSS א and B and the Syriac translation tradition.

Mark 9:39 "'Do not hinder him'" This is a present imperative with a negative particle, which usually implies the stopping of an act in process.

Mark 9:40 "For he who is not against us is for us" Jesus often used cultural proverbs in His teaching (cf. Mark 2:17, Mark 2:21, Mark 2:22; Mark 3:27; Mark 4:21, Mark 4:22, Mark 4:25; Mark 7:15; Mark 8:35, Mark 8:36, Mark 8:37; Mark 9:40, Mark 9:50; Mark 10:25, Mark 10:27, Mark 10:31, Mark 10:43-44). Compare this with Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23.

There is an interesting discussion of the seeming contradiction between Mark 9:40 and Luke 11:23 in Hard Sayings of the Bible published by IVP, pp. 466-467. This book is a helpful resource by well-known, evangelical scholars. They assert that the contextual settings of the references remove the seeming discrepancy.

Mark 9:41 See the parallel passages in Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:40. There is a sharp contrast between Mark 9:38-41 and Mark 9:42-48. Those not officially connected with Jesus are affirmed in their good deeds, but those who know Him are warned in strong metaphors about their responsibility to new believers. This shocking paradox illustrates the truth of Mark 9:33-37.

Also this verse mentions kingdom rewards for those who faithfully serve (cf. Mark 9:41; Mark 10:21, Mark 10:28-31 and several times in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:12, Matthew 5:46; Matthew 6:5-6, Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 6:19-21). It is hard to balance a free salvation in the finished work of Christ and believers' covenant responsibilities to live out their faith.

It is also hard to balance the NT concept of degree of rewards and punishment (cf. Matt. 10:45; Matthew 11:22; Matthew 18:6; Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23; Mark 12:40; Luke 12:47-48; Luke 20:47). See Special Topic at Mark 12:40.

Verses 42-48

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:42-48 42"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 45If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 47If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."

Mark 9:42 "'Whoever causes one of these little ones'" This refers theologically to new believers. However, there may be a contextual relationship to the lesson just taught from the possessed boy. God loves children and does not want anyone to take advantage of them.

"'who believe'" This is a present active participle, which emphasizes continuing belief.

Some ancient Greek manuscripts add "in Me" (cf. MSS A, B, C2, L, W, and the Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic translations). This seems to be a scribal addition from the parallel in Matthew 18:6 because these words are absent in MSS א and C. See Special Topic at Mark 1:15.

"'to stumble'" This is literally used of a baited animal trap.

"'if'" This is a first class conditional sentence. This is a strong warning to Christian leaders. The Great Shepherd cares about all the sheep, especially the new and vulnerable ones, so should they!

This is a hyperbole (cf. Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30, Matthew 5:38-46; Matthew 6:2-4; Matthew 7:3-5; Matthew 23:23-24; Matthew 10:24-25). Jesus is speaking in metaphorical language of eternal judgment. These Oriental overstatements have confused western believers for generations. Our love for the Bible and our desire to follow Jesus have caused western believers to miss the eastern genres and metaphors of the Bible.

"'a heavy millstone'" This refers to the round upper part of a large animal-drawn millstone. This is another Oriental overstatement, used to accentuate His message.

"'cast into the sea'" This is a perfect passive indicative, which denotes a permanent state. This was a powerful metaphor of judgment. Being desert people, the Jews were afraid of water.

Mark 9:43-47 This is metaphorical (i.e., hyperbolic) language, but it shows the radical commitment required by Jesus (cf. Robert H. Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings, pp. 8-11).

These verses are a good example of Hebrew poetic, synonymous parallelism, so common in the OT (cf. Mark 2:21-22; Mark 3:4, Mark 3:24-25, Mark 3:28; Mark 4:22, Mark 4:30; Mark 8:17, Mark 8:18; Mark 9:43-47; Mark 10:38, Mark 10:43-44; Mark 13:24-25). Some examples in Mark of antithetical parallelism are Mark 2:19-20; Mark 3:28; Mark 4:25; Mark 7:8, Mark 7:15; Mark 8:35 (cf. Stein, pp. 27-29).

Mark 9:43 "If" This is a third class conditional sentence, which speaks of potential action.

"'enter life'" There are two words for life in the NT: (1) bios (i.e., earthly life) and (2) zoç (i.e., spiritual life). Jesus is talking about entering the spiritual realm (i.e., eternal life). This is paralleled by the phrase "the Kingdom of God" in Mark 9:47. Believers can enter the kingdom now and, in some sense, even experience heaven now (cf. Ephesians 2:5-6).

There are several ways this is depicted in the NT.

1. the world to come, eternal life (Mark 10:17, Mark 10:30)

2. saving. . .losing life (Mark 8:35; Matthew 10:39; Luke 17:33)

3. enter life (Mark 9:43; Matthew 25:46)

4. enter the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23)

"'hell'" This is Gehenna (cf. Jeremiah 7:31). This was the location of the worship of the Phoenician fertility fire god, Molech, in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, just south of Jerusalem. This was where the firstborn children were sacrificed to the Canaanite fertility god (cf. Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 2:23; Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 32:35). The Jews were so ashamed of their ancestors' idolatry that they turned this area into the landfill, or garbage dump of Jerusalem. Jesus' metaphors for eternal separation from the Father's love (fire, worm, stench) are drawn from this garbage dump.

This term is used by Jesus many times, but only once by any other NT author (James 3:6). Hell is as much a biblical reality as heaven (cf. Matthew 25:46). See Special Topic below, II., B.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

Mark 9:44, Mark 9:46 Verses Mark 9:44 and 46 are the same as Mark 9:48. Neither are found in the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, CL, or W. It seems that an ancient scribe took the words from Mark 9:48 and inserted them into Mark 9:44 and 46.

Mark 9:48 "'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched'" This is a quote from Isaiah 66:24. The Jews were so shocked that their ancestors burned their children (2 Kings 21:6) that they turned this location into the garbage dump of Jerusalem. It is from this site that Jesus draws His metaphorical language about eternal separation from GodHell. The same term, eternal, used of heaven in Matthew 25:46, is also used in the same verse of judgment.

Verses 49-50

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Mark 9:49-50 49"For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Mark 9:49 "'salted with fire'" Salt was a means of healing, purification, and preservation. It also was used to seal covenants (cf. Numbers 18:19). It was a very important component of life for desert people. The terms salt and fire are synonymous in this context for purification. Verse Mark 9:49 has many manuscript variations. These were probably due to the uncertainty of (1) how the verse related to Mark 9:48 or (2) what the verse itself meant. Possibly a scribe saw a reference to Leviticus 2:13 and put it in the margin of the text. Jesus often used salt as an analogy to communicate spiritual truth (cf. Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34-35).

Mark 9:50 This verse, like Mark 9:49, seems to be somewhat unrelated to the previous context. As Mark 9:49 was included because of the term "fire," this verse was included because of the term "salt." It may refer to Mark 9:35. It matters how Christians live!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Mark 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.