Mark 9

#Mr 9:1| There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power. The mention of his final coming suggested one nearer at hand which was to be accomplished during the life of most of those present, since none but Jesus himself and Judas were to die previous to that time. The kingdom was to come and likewise the King. The former coming was literal, the latter spiritual. Those who refer this expression to the transfiguration certainly err, for no visible kingdom was established at that time. The expression refers to the kingdom which was organized and set in motion on the Pentecost which followed the resurrection of Jesus. It was set up with power, because three thousand souls were converted the first day (#Ac 2:41|), and many other gospel triumphs speedily followed. (TFG 417) #Mr 9:2| LXX. THIRD WITHDRAWAL FROM HEROD'S TERRITORY. D. THE TRANSFIGURATION. CONCERNING ELIJAH. (A Spur of Hermon, near Caesarea Philippi.) #Mt 17:1-13 Mr 9:2-13 Lu 9:28-36| And after six days. Mark agrees with Matthew in saying six days. Luke qualifies his estimate by saying "about" (#Lu 9:28|). But if we regard him as including the day of the "sayings" and also the day of the transfiguration, and the other two as excluding these days, then the three statements tally exactly. Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John. These three, as leaders among the apostles, needed the special encouragement which was about to be given. For further comment, see TFG "Mr 5:37". And bringeth them up into a high mountain apart by themselves. A tradition dating from the fourth century fixes upon Mt. Tabor as the site of the transfiguration, but this is unquestionably a mistake. Mt. Tabor is in Galilee, while Jesus was still in the region of Caesarea Philippi (#Mr 9:30|). Moreover there is little doubt that at that time and for centuries previous there was an inhabited fortress upon Mt. Tabor (#Jos 19:12|; Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 1.8.7; The Life of Flavius Josephus, 37). Moreover, Mt. Tabor is not a high mountain, its elevation above the sea being but 1,748 feet. Hermon, on the contrary, is the highest mountain in Palestine, its elevation, according to Reclus, being 9,400 feet. It was Jesus' custom to withdraw for prayer by night (#Mt 14:23,24 Lu 6:12 21:37 22:39|) and the transfiguration took place at night. And he was transfigured before them. That is, transformed; the description shows to what extent. (TFG 418) #Mr 9:3| And his garments became glistering, exceeding white. We may conceive of the body of Jesus becoming luminous and imparting its light to his garments. The Christian looks forward to beholding such a transfiguration and also to participating in it (#1Jo 3:2|). (TFG 419) #Mr 9:4| There appeared unto them Elijah with Moses. The three apostles could identify Moses and Elijah by the course of this conversation, though it is possible that miraculous knowledge may have accompanied miraculous sight. (TFG 419) #Mr 9:5| Let us make three tabernacles. Booths, or arbors, made of the branches of trees. One for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. By thus speaking, Peter placed Jesus upon the same level with Moses and Elijah--all three being worthy of a booth. (TFG 419-420) #Mr 9:6| For he knew not what to answer; for they became sore afraid. Peter's fears overcame his discretion, but did not silence his tongue. Though he trembled at the fellowship of Moses and Elijah, he also realized the blessedness of it and could not let them depart without an effort to detain them, though the best inducement that he could offer was to build three booths for their and Christ's accommodation. (TFG 419) #Mr 9:7| And there came a cloud overshadowing them. Clouds often roll against the sides of Mt. Hermon, but the brightness of this cloud and the fear which it produced suggests that it was the Shekinah, or cloud of glory, which was the symbol of God's peculiar presence (#Ex 13:21,22 19:9,18 24:16 40:34,35 1Ki 8:10|). This is my beloved Son: hear ye him. This command contains the chief significance of the entire scene. Spoken in the presence of Moses and Elijah, it gave Jesus that pre-eminence which a son has over servants. He is to be heard. His words have pre-eminence over those of the lawgiver and the prophet (#Heb 1:1,2|). Peter recognized Jesus as thus honored by this voice (#2Pe 1:16-18|). (TFG 420) #Mr 9:8| They saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves. Leaders and prophets depart, but Christ abides (#Heb 3:5,6|). (TFG 420) #Mr 9:9| He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen. The people were not ready for the publication of such an event. To have told it now would only have been to raise doubts as to their veracity. (TFG 420) #Mr 9:10| Questioning among themselves what the rising from the dead should mean. Jesus spake so often in parables and made so frequent use of metaphors that the apostles did not take his words concerning the resurrection in a literal sense. They regarded his language as figurative, and sought to interpret the figure. (TFG 421) #Mr 9:11| How is it that the scribes say that Elijah must first come? They were puzzled by the disappearance of Elijah. They looked upon him as having come to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi (#Mal 4:5,6|), but they marveled that, having come, he should so soon withdraw, and that they should be forbidden to tell that they had seen him, since the sight of him would be some sign of Jesus' Messiahship. (TFG 421) #Mr 9:12| Elijah indeed cometh first, and restoreth all things. This sentence leads some to think that Elijah will appear again before the second coming of our Lord, but the words are to be interpreted in connection with the rest of the passage. And how is it written of the Son of man, that he should suffer many things and be set at nought? If the writings concerning Elijah perplexed the apostles, those concerning the Messiah perplexed them also. From one set of prophecies they might learn something about the other. Elijah came, but the Scriptures concerning him were so little understood that he was put to death. The Messiah also came, and the prophecies concerning him were so little understood that he, too, would be set at naught. (TFG 421) #Mr 9:13| Elijah is come, and they have also done unto him whatsoever they would, even as it is written of him. Malachi used the name of Elijah figuratively to represent John the Baptist. See TFG "#Joh 1:21|" and see TFG "Mt 11:13". That there shall be a second coming of Elijah in fulfillment of this prophecy is hardly possible, for the office of Elijah is prophetically outlined as that of the restorer. But Elijah could not restore Judaism, for that dispensation had been done away with in Christ. He could hardly have chosen to restore Christianity, for even if it should need such a restoration, a Jewish prophet would be ill-suited to such an office. One of the apostles would be vastly preferable. (TFG 422) #Mr 9:14| LXX. THIRD WITHDRAWAL FROM HEROD'S TERRITORY. E. HEALING THE DEMONIAC BOY. (Region of Caesarea Philippi.) #Mt 17:14-20 Mr 9:14-29 Lu 9:37-43| And when they came to the disciples. The nine apostles which had been left behind. They saw a great multitude about them. We last heard of the multitude at #Mr 8:34|. It had no doubt been with Jesus until he ascended the mount and had remained with his apostles until he came down. And scribes questioning with them. These scribes had caught the apostles in one and perhaps the only case where they had failed to cure, and they were making full use of the advantageous opportunity to discredit Christ and his apostles before the people by asking sneering and sarcastic questions. (TFG 422) #Mr 9:15| And straightway all the multitude, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. Why were the multitude amazed? Most commentators answer that it was because the face of Jesus shone with remaining traces of transfiguration glory, as did that of Moses (#Ex 34:29|), but this can hardly have been so, for it would have been at variance with the secrecy which Jesus enjoined as to his transfiguration. Moreover, so important a feature could hardly have escaped from the narratives of all three evangelists. Undoubtedly the amazement was caused by the sudden and opportune return of Jesus. Those who urge that this was not enough to produce amazement show themselves to be poor students of human nature. The multitude had been listening to and no doubt enjoying the questions of the scribes. The unexpected appearance of Jesus therefore impressed them with the sudden sense of having been detected in wrong-doing which invariably leads to amazement. Moreover, those who remained loyal to Jesus would be equally amazed by his approach, since they could not but feel that an exciting crisis was at hand. (TFG 422-423) #Mr 9:16| What question ye with them? He surprised the scribes by this demand and they saw at once that he knew all and they felt rebuked for their unwarranted exultation, and so kept silent. (TFG 423) #Mr 9:17| And one of the multitude answered him, Teacher, I brought unto thee my son, who hath a dumb spirit. When the scribes did not answer, the father of the demoniac boy broke the embarrassing silence by telling Jesus about the matter in question. His child was deaf, dumb, and epileptic, but all these physical ailments were no doubt produced by the demon or evil spirit which possessed him. (TFG 423) #Mr 9:19| O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I bear with you? As there was no reason to accuse the apostles of perversity, it is evident that the rebuke of Jesus is addressed generally to all and not particularly to the disciples. The perverse faithlessness and infidelity of the scribes had operated upon the multitude, and the doubts of the multitude in turn had influenced the apostles, and thus, with the blind leading the blind, all had fallen into the ditch of impotent disbelief. The disbelief of the people was a constant grief to Jesus, but it must have been especially so in this case, for it fostered and perpetrated this scene of weakness, mean-spiritedness, misery, and suffering which stood out in such sharp contrast with the peace, blessedness, and glory from which he had just come. (TFG 424) #Mr 9:20| When he saw him. Saw Jesus. (TFG 424) #Mr 9:21| From a child. By causing the long-standing nature of the case and the malignity of it to be fully revealed, Jesus emphasized the power of the cure. (TFG 424) #Mr 9:23| If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth. Jesus echoed back the "if thou canst do any thing" which the man had uttered (#Mr 9:22|). If Jesus marveled at the faith of a Gentile which trusted the fullness of his divine power, he also marveled at the disbelief of this Jew which thus coolly and presumptuously questions the sufficiency of that power. In the remainder of his answer Jesus shows that the lack of power is not in him, but in those who would be recipients of the blessings of his power, for those blessings are obtained by faith. (TFG 424-425) #Mr 9:24| I believe; help thou my unbelief. He confessed his faith, but desired so ardently to have the child healed that he feared lest he should not have faith enough to accomplish that desire, and therefore asked for more faith. (TFG 425) #Mr 9:25| When Jesus saw that the multitude came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I command thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. Jesus had found the multitude when he came down from the mountain, but the excitement in this multitude was evidently drawing men from every quarter, so that the crowd was momentarily growing greater. A longer conversation with the man might have been beneficial, but to prevent the gathering of any larger company Jesus acted at once and spoke the words of command. Since the demon was manifestly of a most daring, impudent, and audacious nature, Jesus took the precaution to forbid it attempting to re-enter its victim, a precaution which the conduct of the demon abundantly justified. On unclean spirits, see TFG "Mr 1:23". (TFG 425) #Mr 9:26| And having cried out, and torn him much, he came out. The malicious effrontery and obstinacy displayed by this demon stands in marked contrast to the cowed, supplicating spirit shown by the Gergesene legion. See #Mr 5:6,7|. (TFG 425) #Mr 9:27| But Jesus took him by the hand, and raised him up. See TFG "#Mr 1:31|". #Mr 9:29| This kind can come forth by nothing, save by prayer. Prayer was the means of increasing faith. Demons, like spirits in the flesh, have different degrees of will force, some being easier to subdue than others, and this once, being particularly willful and obstinate, required more faith to expel it. See TFG "#Mt 17:20|" for comparison. (TFG 426) #Mr 9:30| LXXI. RETURN TO GALILEE. THE PASSION FORETOLD. #Mt 17:22,23 Mr 9:30-32 Lu 9:43-45| And they went forth from thence. From the region of Caesarea Philippi. And passed through Galilee. On his way to Capernaum. And he would not that any man should know it. He was still seeking that retirement which began on the journey to Tyre. See TFG "#Mr 7:24|". This is the last definite mention of that retirement, but we find it referred to again at #Joh 7:3,4|. See notes there. (TFG 426) #Mr 9:31| For he taught his disciples. The reason for his retirement is here given: he wished to prepare his disciples for his passion. The Son of man is delivered up into the hands of men. The present tense is used for the future to express the nearness and certainty of the event. See TFG "#Mt 17:22|". After three days he shall rise again. For comment on similar language see TFG "Mt 12:40". (TFG 427) #Mr 9:32| But they understood not that saying. What was told to them was not for their present but their future benefit, and therefore they were left to puzzle over the words of Jesus. And were afraid to ask him. Not so much from any awe with which they regarded him, as from the delicacy of the subject itself, and their own sorrow, which shrank from knowing it more fully. (TFG 427) #Mr 9:33,34| LXXIII. FALSE AMBITION VERSUS CHILDLIKENESS. (Capernaum, Autumn, A.D. 29.) #Mt 18:1-14 Mr 9:33-50 Lu 9:46-50| And they came to Capernaum: and when he was in the house. Probably Simon Peter's house. He asked them, What were ye reasoning on the way? The Lord with his disciples was now on his way back to Galilee from Caesarea Philippi, where, some ten days before, he had promised the keys of the kingdom to Peter (#Mt 16:19|), and where he had honored Peter and the sons of Zebedee by a mysterious withdrawal into the mount (#Mt 17:1 Mr 9:2 Lu 9:28|). These facts, therefore, no doubt started the dispute as to which should hold the highest office in the kingdom. The fires of envy thus set burning were not easily quenched. We find them bursting forth again from time to time down to the very verge of Christ's exit from the world (#Mt 20:20-24 Lu 22:24|). (TFG 430) #Mr 9:35| If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all. The spirit which proudly seeks to be first in place thereby consents to make itself last in character, for it reverses the graces of the soul, turning love into envy, humility into pride, generosity into selfishness, etc. (TFG 430) #Mr 9:37| Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name, receiveth me, etc. Greatness does not consist in place. Disciples who receive those of a childlike spirit and disposition that they may thereby honor the name of Christ are honored of Christ as the greatest. The words "in my name" probably suggested to John the incident which follows. See TFG "#Mt 18:4|". (TFG 431) #Mr 9:38| Master, we saw one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followed not us. Was not one of our immediate company. This man's actions had excited the jealousy of John. Jealousy as to official prerogative is very common. His zeal for Jesus reminds us of the friends of Moses (#Nu 11:27-29|). (TFG 431) #Mr 9:39| Forbid him not: for there is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. But Jesus shows that one who knows enough of him to use his power is not apt to dishonor him. (TFG 431) #Mr 9:40| For he that is not against us is for us. The converse of this statement is found at #Mt 12:30|. The two statements taken together declare the impossibility of neutrality. If a man is in no sense against Christ, then he is for him; and if he is not for Christ, he is against him. (TFG 432) #Mr 9:41| For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink, because ye are Christ's, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Jesus here returns to the discussion of greatness, and reasserts the doctrine that the smallest act of righteousness, if performed for the sake of the King, shall be honored in the kingdom. For comment, see TFG "Mt 10:41". (TFG 432) #Mr 9:42| And whosoever shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble. Character depends upon small things. If a small act of goodness receives its reward, an act of evil, made apparently small by the trifling insignificance of the person against whom it is committed, receives just as inevitably its punishment. In short, there is no smallness in good and evil that men may rely upon, for heavy penalties may be meted out for what the world judges to be light sins. Those who cause the weak to lapse into unbelief through their ecclesiastical arrogance have a heavy reckoning for which to answer. It were better for him if a great millstone were hanged about his neck. The word indicates a large millstone which was turned by an ass. And he were cast into the sea. Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were punished by such millstone drowning. But the fate of one who, by striving for place, causes others to sin, will be worse than that. From offenses caused by a proud spirit Jesus now passes to discuss offenses or sins caused by any spirit of evil. (TFG 432) #Mr 9:43| And if thy hand causeth thee to stumble, cut it off. It is better to deny ourselves all unlawful pleasures, even if the denial be as painful and distressing as the loss of a member. Into hell, into the unquenchable fire. We see from this that "hell" and "eternal fire" (#Mt 18:8|) are interchangeable terms, and stand in contrast to eternal life. (TFG 433) #Mr 9:44| Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. The image of the worm is taken from #Isa 66:24|, and refers to those worms which feed upon the carcasses of men. The fire and worm can hardly be taken literally, for the two figures are incompatible--worms do not frequent fires. The two figures depict hell as a state of decay which is never completed and of burning which does not consume. Some regard the worm as a symbol of the gnawings of remorse, and the fire as a symbol of actual punishment. (TFG 433) #Mr 9:45| And if thy foot causeth thee to stumble, cut it off. See TFG "#Mr 9:43|". #Mr 9:46| Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. See TFG "#Mr 9:44|". #Mr 9:47| And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out. See TFG "#Mr 9:43|". #Mr 9:48| Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. See TFG "#Mr 9:44|". #Mr 9:49,50| For every one. The "every one" in #Mr 9:49| refers to the sufferers mentioned in #Mr 9:48|. Shall be salted with fire. At this point, many ancient authorities add, "and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." We have here one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. If the word "fire" were found in an isolated text it might be taken as a symbol either of purification or of punishment. But the context here determines its meaning, for it has just been taken twice as a symbol of punishment (#Mr 9:43,47|). Salt is a symbol of that which preserves from decay. Now, Jesus has just been talking about the future state, with its two conditions or states of bliss and punishment. In both of these states the souls of men are salted or preserved. Every one of the wicked is preserved by a negative or false salt--a worm which feeds but does not die, and a fire which consumes but refuses to go out. Though this state is a condition of life, it is such a negative and false condition that it is elsewhere termed a second death (#Re 2:11 20:6,14 21:8|). It is therefore rightly called a "salted" or preserved condition, yet it contradicts the symbolic idea of saltness. (TFG 434) #Mr 9:50| Salt is good: but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another. As we understand it, the difficulty of the passage lies in this contradictory sense in which the term "salt" is used--a contradiction in which the term "eternal life" also shares, for eternal life is the constant contrast to life in hell, though that life also is spoken of as eternal. The true Christian--the man who offers his body as "a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (#Ro 12:1|)--is preserved by the true salt or element of preservation, which is a divinely begotten life of righteousness within him. This is the good state of preservation which a man is counseled to obtain, and not to lose, since it will not be restored to him. The passage summarizes and contrasts the two states of future preservation, one being the salt of eternal life which preserves a man to enjoy the love of God in heaven, and the other being the salt of fire which preserves him in hell to endure the just punishment of God. See TFG "#Mt 5:13|" and see TFG "Lu 14:34". (TFG 434)
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