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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Mark 9

 

 

Verses 1-13

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

For the exposition, see the notes at Luke 9:27-36.


Verse 14

And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.

And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. This was "on the next day, when they were come down from the hill" (Luke 9:37). The Transfiguration appears to have taken place at night. In the morning, as He came down from the hill on which it took place-with Peter, and James, and John-on approaching the other nine, He found them surrounded by a great multitude, and the scribes disputing or discussing with them. No doubt these cavillers were twitting the apostles of Jesus with their inability to cure the demoniac boy of whom we are presently to hear, and insinuating doubts even of their Master's ability to do it; while they, zealous for their Master's honour, would no doubt refer to His past miracles in proof of the contrary.


Verse 15

And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.

And straightway all the people [`the multitude' ho (G3588) ochlos (G3793)], when they behold him, were greatly amazed, [ exethambeethee (G1568) - or 'were astounded'] and running to him saluted him. The singularly strong expression of surprise, the sudden arrest of the discussion, and the rush of the multitude toward Him, can be accounted for by nothing less than something amazing in His appearance. There can hardly be any doubt that His countenance still retained traces of His transfiguration-glory. (See Exodus 34:29-30.) So Bengel, DeWette, Meyer, Trench, Alford. No wonder, if this was the case, that they not only ran to Him, but saluted Him. Our Lord, however, takes no notice of what had attracted them, and probably it gradually faded away as He drew near; but addressing Himself to the scribes, He demands the subject of their discussion, ready to meet them where they had pressed hard upon His half-instructed, and as yet timid apostles.


Verse 16

And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them? Ere they had time to reply the father of the boy, whose case had occasioned the dispute, himself steps forward and answers the question; telling a piteous tile of deafness, and dumbness, and fits of epilepsy-ending with this, that the disciples, though entreated, could not perform the cure.


Verse 17

And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;

And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son - "mine only child" (Luke 9:38),

Which hath a dumb spirit - a spirit whose operation had the effect of rendering his victim speechless, and deaf also (Mark 9:25). In Matthew's report of the speech (Matthew 17:15), the father says "he is lunatic;" this being another and most distressing effect of the possession.


Verse 18

And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him; and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away , [ xeerainetai (Greek #3583)] - rather, 'becomes withered,' 'dried up,' or 'paralyzed;' as the same word is everywhere else rendered in the New Testament. Some additional particulars are given by Luke, and by our Evangelist below. "Lo," says he in Luke 9:39, "a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that be foameth again, and bruising him hardly (or with difficulty) departeth from him."

And I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. Our Lord replies to the father by a severe rebuke to the disciples. As if wounded at the exposure before such a multitude, of the weakness of His disciples' faith, which doubtless He felt as a reflection on Himself, He puts them to the blush before all, but in language fitted only to raise expectation of what Himself would do.


Verse 19

He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

He answereth him; and saith, O faithless generation - "and perverse," or 'perverted' [ diestrammenee (Greek #1294)] (Matthew 17:17; Luke 9:41), How long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? - language implying that it was a shame to them to want the faith necessary to perform this cure, and that it needed some patience to put up with them. It is to us surprising that some interpreters, as Chrysostom and Calvin, should represent this rebuke as addressed, not to the disciples at all, but to the scribes who disputed with them. Nor does i much, if at all, mend the matter to view it as addressed to both as most expositors seem to do. With Bengel, DeWette, and Meyer, we regard it as addressed directly to the nine apostles who were unable to expel this evil spirit. And though, in ascribing this inability to their 'want of faith' and the 'perverted turn of mind' which they had drank in with their early training the rebuke would undoubtedly apply, with vastly greater force, to those who twitted the poor disciples with their inability; it would be to change the whole nature of the rebuke to suppose it addressed to those who had no faith at all, and were wholly perverted. It was because faith sufficient for curing this youth was to have been expected of the disciples, and because they should by that time have gotten rid of the perversity in which they had been reared, that Jesus exposes them thus before the rest. And who does not see that this was fitted, more than anything else, to impress upon the bystanders the severe loftiness of the training He was giving to the Twelve, and the unsophisticated footing He was on with them?

Bring him unto me. The order to bring the patient to Him was instantly obeyed; when, lo! as if conscious of the presence of his divine Tormentor, and expecting to be made to quit, the foul spirit rages and is furious, determined to die hard, doing all the mischief he can to this poor child while yet within his grasp.


Verse 20

And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him. Just as the man with the legion of demons, "when he saw Jesus, ran and worshipped Him" (Mark 5:6), so this demon, when he saw Him, immediately "tare him." The feeling of terror and rage was the same in both cases.

And he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. Still Jesus does nothing, but keeps conversing with the father about the case-partly to have its desperate features told out by him who knew them best, in the hearing of the spectators; partly to let its virulence have time to show itself; and partly to deepen the exercise of the father's soul, to draw out his faith, and thus to prepare both him and the bystanders for what He was to do.


Verse 21

And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.


Verse 22

And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him. Having told briefly the affecting features of the case, the poor father, half dispirited by the failure of the disciples and the aggravated virulence of the malady itself in presence of their Master, yet encouraged too by what he had heard of Christ, by the severe rebuke He had given to His disciples for not having faith enough to cure the boy, and by the dignity with which He had ordered him to be brought to Him-in this mixed state of mind, he closes his description of the case with these touching words:

But if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us - "us," says the father; because it was a severe family affliction. Compare the language of the Syrophoenician woman regarding her daughter, "Lord, help me." Still, nothing is done; the man is but struggling into faith; it must come a step further. But he had to do with Him who breaks not the bruised reed, and who knew how to inspire what He demanded. The man had said to Him, "If Thou canst do;"


Verse 23

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Jesus (retorting upon him), said unto him, If thou canst believe: The man had said, "If Thou canst do any thing;" Jesus replies,

All things are possible to him that believeth - `My doing all depends on thy believing.' To impress this still more, He redoubles upon the believing: "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." Thus, the Lord helps the birth of faith in that struggling soul; and now, though with pain and sore travail, it comes to the birth, as Trench, borrowing from Olshausen, expresses it. Seeing the case stood still, waiting not upon the Lord's power but his own faith, the man becomes immediately conscious of conflicting principles, and rises into one of the noblest utterances on record.


Verse 24

And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. - q.d., ''Tis useless concealing from Thee, O Thou mysterious, mighty Healer, the unbelief that still struggles in this heart of mine; but that heart bears me witness that I do believe in Thee; and if distrust still remains, I disown it, I wrestle with it, I seek help from Thee against it.' Two things are very remarkable here: First, The felt and owned presence of unbelief, which only the strength of the man's faith could have so revealed to his own consciousness. Second, His appeal to Christ for help against his felt unbelief-a feature in the case quite unparalleled, and showing, more than all protestations could have done, the insight he had attained into the existence of a power in Christ more glorious than any he had besought for his poor child. The work was done; and as the commotion and confusion in the crowd was now increasing, Jesus at once, as Lord of spirits, gives the word of command to the dumb and deaf spirit to be gone, never again to return to his victim.


Verse 25

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.


Verse 26

And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. The malignant, cruel spirit, now conscious that his time was come, gathers up his whole strength, with intent by a last stroke to kill his victim, and had nearly succeeded. But the Lord of life was there; the Healer of all maladies, the Friend of sinners, the Seed of the woman, "the Stronger than the strong man armed," was there. The very faith which Christ declared to be enough for everything being now found, it was not possible that the serpent should prevail. Fearfully is he permitted to bruise the heel, as in this case; but his own head shall go for it-his works shall be destroyed (1 John 3:8).


Verse 27

But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.


Verse 28

And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?


Verse 29

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting - that is, as nearly all good interpreters are agreed, 'this kind of evil spirits cannot be expelled,' or 'so desperate a case of demoniacal possession cannot be cured, but by prayer and fasting.' But since the Lord Himself says that His disciples could not fast while He was with them, perhaps this was designed, as Alford hints, for their later guidance-unless we take it as but a definite way of expressing the general truth, that great and difficult duties require special preparation and self-denial. But the answer to their question, as given by Matthew (Matthew 17:1-27), is more full: "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief" [ apistian (Greek #570). Tregelles, on insufficient authority, as we think, substitutes what appears, to be a mere interpretation - oligopistian (G3639a), 'because of your little faith.' Tischendorf adheres to the received text.] "For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you" (Mark 9:20). See on Mark 11:23. "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:21): that is, though nothing is impossible to faith, yet such a height of faith as is requisite for such triumphs is not to be reached either in a moment or without effort-either with God in prayer or with ourselves in self-denying exercises. Luke (Luke 9:43) adds, "And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God" [ epi (Greek #1909) tee (Greek #3588) megaleioteeti (Greek #3168) tou (Greek #3588) Theou (Greek #2316)] - 'at the majesty' or 'mightiness of God,' in this last miracle, in the transfiguration, etc.; or, at the divine grandeur of Christ rising upon them daily.


Verse 30

And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it.

And they departed thence, and passed , [ pareporeuonto (Greek #3899)] - 'were passing along' Through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. By comparing Matthew 17:22-23, and Luke 9:43-44, with this, we gather, that as our Lord's reason for going through Galilee more privately than usual on this occasion, was to reiterate to them the announcement which had so shocked them at the first mention of it, and thus familiarize them with it by little and little, so this was His reason for enjoining silence upon them as to their present movements.


Verse 31

For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.

For he taught his disciples, and said unto them - "Let these sayings sink down into your ears" (Luke 9:44); not what had been passing between them as to His grandeur, but what He was now to utter, "for"

The Son of man is delivered , [ paradidotai (Greek #3860)]. The use of the present tense expresses how near at hand He would have them to consider it. As Bengel says, steps were already in course of being taken to bring it about.

Into the hands of men. This remarkable antithesis - "the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men" - it is worthy of notice, is in all the three Evangelists.

And they shall kill him: - q. d., 'Be not carried off your feet by all that grandeur of Mine which ye have lately witnessed, but bear in mind what I have already told you and now distinctly repeat, that that Sun in whose beams ye now rejoice is soon to set in midnight gloom.'

And after he is killed, he shall rise the third day.


Verse 32

But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

But they understood not that saying - "and it was hid from them, [so] that they perceived it not" (Luke 9:45),

And were afraid to ask him. Their most cherished ideas were so completely dashed by such announcements, that they were afraid of laying themselves open to rebuke by asking Him any questions. But "they were exceeding sorry" (Matthew 17:23). While the other Evangelists, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, notice their ignorance and their fear, Matthew, who was one of them, retains a vivid recollection of their sorrow. Remarks:

(1) When the keen-edged rebuke which our Lord administers to his apostles (Mark 9:19, and Matthew 17:17) is compared with the almost identical language of Yahweh Himself to His ancient people, on an occasion of the deepest provocation (Numbers 14:11; Numbers 14:27), who can help coming to the conclusion, that He regarded Himself as occupying the same position toward His disciples which the Lord God of Israel did toward His people of old? Let this be weighed. And it tends greatly to confirm this, that never once do we find anything approaching to a rebuke of them, or a correction of mistake in them or any others, for attributing too much to Him or conceiving of Him too loftily. Here, as everywhere else, it is the reverse. He takes with every charge of His "making Himself equal with God," and what He says in reply is but designed to make that good. Here, He is hurt at His disciples because their confidence in His power to aid them, even when at a distance from them, was not such as to enable them to grapple successfully even with one of the most desperate manifestations of diabolical power.

(2) Our Lord thinks such attachment to Him and confidence in Him as is found in all genuine disciples from the first, is not enough. As there are degrees in this-from the lowest to the highest, from the infancy to the manhood of faith-so He takes it ill when His people either make no progress, or inadequate progress; when, "for the time they ought to be teachers, they have need that one teach them" (Hebrews 5:12); when they do not "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

(3) How often have we to remark that distress and extremity in honest hearts does more toward a right appreciation of the glory of Christ than all teaching without it! (See, for example, the notes at Luke 7:36-50; Luke 23:39-43.) Here is a man who, without any of the advantages of the Twelve, but out of the depths of his anguish, utters a speech more glorifying to Christ than all which they ever expressed during the days of His flesh-protesting his faith in the Lord Jesus, but in the same breath beseeching Him for help against his unbelief! To be conscious at once both of faith and of unbelief; to take the part of the one against the other; yet to feel the unbelief, though disowned and struggled against, to be strong and obstinate, while his faith was feeble and ready to be overpowered, and so to "cry out" even "with tears" for help against that cursed unbelief-this is such a wonderful speech, that, all things considered, the like of it is not to be found. The nearest to it is that prayer of the apostles to the Lord, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). But besides that this was uttered by apostles, whose advantages were vastly greater than this man's, it was said a good while after the scene here recorded, and was evidently but an echo, or rather an adaptation of it. So that this man's cry may be said to have supplied the apostles themselves with a new idea, nay perhaps with a new view altogether of the power of Christ. And is it not true still, that "there are last which shall be first"?

(4) Signal triumphs in the kingdom of grace are not to be won by an easy faith, or by stationary, slothful, self-indulgent believers: they are to be achieved only by much nearness to God and denial of ourselves. As to "fasting," if the question be, Whether and how far is it an evangelical duty? there is a preliminary question, What is its proper object? Evidently the mortification of the flesh; and generally, the counteracting of all earthly, sensual, grovelling tendencies, which eat out the heart of our spirituality. Hence it follows, that whatever abstinence from food is observed without any reference to this object, and for its own sake, is nothing but "bodily exercise" (1 Timothy 4:8); and whatsoever abstinence is found by experience to have an exhausting, stupefying effect upon the spirit itself, is, so far as it is so, of the same nature. The true fasting is the opposite of "surfeiting" (Luke 21:34), which destroys all elasticity of spirit and all vigour of thought and feeling. And while Christians should habitually keep themselves far from this, by being sparing rather than otherwise in the satisfaction of their appetites, the lesson here taught us is that there are sometimes duties to be done and victories to be achieved, which demand even more than ordinary nearness to God in prayer, and more than ordinary denial of ourselves.


Verse 33

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?

And he came to Capernaum: and, being in the house, he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? From this we gather that after the painful communication He had made to them, the Redeemer had allowed them to travel so much of the way by themselves; partly, no doubt, that He might have privacy for Himself to dwell on what lay before Him, and partly that they might be induced to weigh together and prepare themselves for the terrible events which He had announced to them. But if so, how different was their occupation!


Verse 34

But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. From Matthew 18:1 we should infer that the subject was introduced, not by our Lord, but by the disciples themselves, who came and asked Jesus who should be greatest. Perhaps one or two of them first referred the matter to Jesus who put them off until they should all be assembled together at Capernaum. He had all the while "perceived the thought of their heart" (Luke 9:47); but now that they were all together "in the house," He questions them about it, and they are put to the blush, conscious of the temper toward each other which it had kindled. This raised the whole question afresh, and at this point our Evangelist takes it up. The subject was suggested by the recent announcement of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19-28), the transfiguration of their Master, and especially the preference given to three of them at that scene.


Verse 35

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all - that is 'let him be' such; he must be prepared to take the last and lowest place. See the notes at Mark 10:42-45.


Verse 36

And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,

And he took a child , [ paidion (Greek #3813)] - 'a little child' (Matthew 18:2); but the word is the same in both places, as also in Luke 9:47.

And set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms. This beautiful trait is mentioned by our Evangelist alone.

He said unto them. Here we must go to Matthew (Matthew 18:3-4) for the first part of this answer: "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven:" - q. d., 'Conversion must be thorough; not only must the heart be turned to God in general, and from earthly to heavenly things, but in particular, except ye be converted from that carnal ambition which still rankles within you, into that freedom from all such feelings which ye see in this child, ye have neither part nor lot in the kingdom at all; and he who in this feature has most of the child, is highest there.' Whosoever, therefore, shall "humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven;" "for he that is (willing to be) least among you all, the same shall be great" (Luke 9:48).

Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. And "whosoever shall receive one of such children" - so manifesting the spirit unconsciously displayed by this child, "in my name" - from love to Me, "receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me." See the note at Matthew 10:40.


Verse 37

Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 38

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. The link of connection here with the foregoing context lies, we apprehend, in the emphatic words which our Lord had just uttered, "in My name." 'O,' interposes John-young, warm, but not sufficiently apprehending Christ's teaching in these matters-`that reminds me of something that we have just done, and we should like to know if we did right. We saw one casting out devils "in Thy name," and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. Were we right, or were we wrong?' Answer-`Ye were wrong.' 'But we did it because he followeth not us?' 'No matter.'


Verse 39

But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly , [ tachu (Greek #5035)] - or, 'soon,' that is, 'readily,' "speak evil of me."


Verse 40

For he that is not against us is on our part.

For he that is not against us is on our part. Two principles of immense importance are here laid down: 'First, No one will readily speak evil of Me who has the faith to do a miracle in My name; and Second, If such a person cannot be supposed to be against us, ye are to hold him for us.' Let it be carefully observed that our Lord does not say this man should not have "followed them," nor yet that it was indifferent whether he did or not; but simply teaches how such a person was to be regarded, although he did not-namely, as a reverer of His name and a promoter of His cause.


Verse 41

For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. See the note at Matthew 10:42. What follows appears to have no connection with the incidental reproof of John, immediately preceding. As that had interrupted some important teaching, our Lord hastens back from it, as if no such interruption had occurred.


Verse 42

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

And whosoever shall offend, [ skandalisee (G4624)] one of these little ones that believe in me - or, shall cause them to stumble; referring probably to the effect which such unsavoury disputes as they had held would have upon the inquiring and hopeful who came in contact with them, leading to the belief that after all they were no better than others.

It is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck. The word here is simply 'millstone' [ lithos (Greek #3037) mulikos (Greek #3457)], without expressing of which kind. But in Matthew 18:6, it is the donkey-turned kind [ mulos (Greek #3458) onikos (Greek #3684)], far heavier than the small hand-mill turned by female slaves, as in Luke 17:35. It is of course the same which is meant here.

And he were cast into the sea - meaning, that if by such a death that stumbling were prevented, and so its eternal consequences averted, it would be a happy thing for them. Here follows a striking verse in Matthew 18:7, "Woe unto the world because of offences!" - `There will be stumblings and falls and loss of souls enough from the world's treatment of disciples, without any addition from you: dreadful will be its doom in consequence; see that ye share not in it.' "For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" 'The struggle between light and darkness will inevitably cause stumblings, but not less guilty is he who willfully makes any to stumble.'


Verse 43

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell. See the notes at Matthew 5:29-30, and Remark 8 on that section. The only difference between the words there and here is, that there they refer to impure inclinations; here, to an ambitious disposition, an irascible or quarrelsome temper, and the like: and the injunction is, to strike at the root of such dispositions and cut off the occasions of them.

Into the fire that never shall be quenched;


Verse 44

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.


Verse 45

And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell. See, as above, the notes at Matthew 5:29-30, and Remark 8 there.

Into the fire that never shall be quenched;


Verse 46

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.


Verse 47

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire;


Verse 48

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. [We cannot but regret that the words of the 48th verse-which in the received text are thrice repeated, with a thrilling and deeply rhythmical effect-are in Tischendorf's text excluded in Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46, as being genuine only in Mark 9:48; while Tregelles brackets them, as of doubtful genuineness. The manuscripts by whose authority they are guided in this case are of formidable weight; but those in favour of the received text are far more numerous, and one (A) equal perhaps in value to the most ancient; while the authority of the most ancient and best versions is decidedly in favour of the received text. To us it seems not difficult to see how, though genuine, the repetition should have been excluded by copyists, to avoid an apparent tautology and to conform the text to that of Matthew, but very difficult to see how, if not genuine, it should have found its way into so many ancient manuscripts. Lachmann adheres to the received text, and even Fritzsche contends for it; while Alford says the triple repetition gives sublimity, and leaves no doubt of the discourse having been thus uttered verbatim.] See the note at Matthew 5:30; and on the words "hell" [ geenna (Greek #1067)] and "hell-fire," or 'the hell of fire' [ hee (Greek #3588) geenna (Greek #1067) tou (Greek #3588) puros (Greek #4442)]: see the note at Matthew 5:22. The "unquenchableness" of this fire has already been brought before us (see the note at Matthew 3:12); and the awfully vivid idea of an undying worm, everlastingly consuming an unconsumable body, is taken from the closing words of the Evangelical prophet (Isaiah 66:24), which seem to have furnished the later Jewish Church with its current phraseology on the subject of future punishment (see Lightfoot).


Verse 49

For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.

For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. [It is surprising that Tregelles should bracket the last clause, as doubtful-against very preponderating authority, and nearly all critics.] A difficult verse, on which much has been written-some of it to little purpose. "Everyone" probably means, 'Every follower of mine;' and the "fire" with which he "must be salted." probably means 'a fiery trial' to season him, (Compare Malachi 3:2, etc.) The reference to salting the sacrifice is of course to that maxim of the Levitical law, that every acceptable sacrifice must be sprinkled with salt, to express symbolically its soundness, sweetness, wholesomeness, acceptability. But as it had to be roasted first, we have here the further idea of a salting with fire. In this case, "every sacrifice," in the next clause, will mean, 'Everyone who would be found an acceptable offering to God;' and thus the whole verse may perhaps be paraphrased as follows: 'Every disciple of Mine shall have a fiery trial to undergo, and everyone who would be found an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God, must have such a salting, like the Levitical sacrifices.' Another, but, as it seems to us, far-fetched as well as harsh, interpretation-suggested first, we believe, by Michaelis, and adopted by Alexander-takes the "every sacrifice which must be salted with fire" to mean those who are "cast into hell," and the preservative effect of this salting to refer to the preservation of the lost not only in but by means of the fire of hell.

Their reason for this is that the other interpretation changes the meaning of the "fire " and the characters too Their reason for this is that the other interpretation changes the meaning of the "fire," and the characters too, from the lost to the saved, in these verses. But as our Lord confessedly ends His discourse with the case of His own true disciples, the transition to them in the preceding verse is perfectly natural; whereas to apply the preservative salt of the sacrifice to the preserving quality of hell-fire, is equally contrary to the symbolical sense of salt and the Scripture representations of future torment. Our Lord has still in His eye the unseemly jarrings which had arisen among the Twelve, the peril to themselves of allowing any indulgence to such passions, and the severe self-sacrifice which salvation would cost them.


Verse 50

Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his saltness - its power to season what it is brought into contact with,

Wherewith will ye season it? How is this property to be restored? See the note at Matthew 5:13.

Have salt in yourselves - `See to it that ye retain in yourselves those precious qualities that will make you a blessing to one another, and to all around you;'

And - with respect to the miserable strife out of which all this discourse has sprung, in one concluding word --

Have peace one with another. This is repeated in 1 Thessalonians 5:13.

Remarks:

(1) How little suffices to stir unholy jealousies and strifes, even in genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus and loving friends! In the present case they were occasioned, it would seem, by the recent extraordinary manifestations of their Master's glory, opening up to the half-instructed minds of the Twelve the prospect of earthly elevation, coupled with the preference shown to three of them on several occasions, and particularly to one; stirring the jealousy of the rest, and leading probably to insinuations that they were taking too much upon them-which, in the case of the two sons of Zebedee, was probably not quite groundless. The traitor, at least, though his real character had not yet come out, would probably be ready enough to resent any appearances of presumption among the rest. The flame, thus kindled, would soon spread; and this journey to Capernaum-probably their last in company with their blessed Master, who left them to travel part of the way by themselves-was embittered by dissensions which would leave a sting behind them for many a day! And did not the scene between Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, though of a very different nature, show how easily the holiest and dearest fellowships may be interrupted by miserable misunderstandings? See the notes at Acts 15:37-40; and at Matthew 18:10-35, Remark 1.

(2) Of all the forms in which the great Evangelical Lesson is taught by our Lord-`that Humility is the entrance-gate into the kingdom of heaven, and that the humblest here is the highest there'-none is more captivating than this, under the lowly roof in Capernaum, when, surrounded by the Twelve and with a little child in His arms, He answered their question, Which of them should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, by saying, 'He that is likest this unassuming child.' And what a Religion is that, at the foundation of which lies this divine principle! What a contrast to all that Paganism taught! Some bright manifestations were given of it under the ancient economy (Genesis 13:8-9; Numbers 12:3; Psalms 131:1-2, etc.), and some sublime expressions of it occur in the Old Testament, (Psalms 18:27; Psalms 113:5-6; Psalms 147:3-6; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:1-2, etc.) Nor could it well be otherwise, since the Religion of Israel was that of Christ in the bud, and the Old Testament Scriptures are the oracles of God (Romans 3:2). But as the Son of God Himself was the Incarnation of Humility, so it was reserved for Him to teach as well as exemplify it as before it had never been, nor ever again will be. See the notes at Mark 10:42-45.

(3) Alas, that with such lessons before them, the spirit of pride should have such free scope among the followers of Christ; that in particular the pride ecclesiastic should have become proverbial; and that so few who name the name of Christ should be distinguished for lowliness of mind!

(4) The disposition which prompted John to forbid the man who cast out devils in Christ's name and yet followed not with Him and the Twelve, was extremely natural. Whether he was one of that small band of John's disciples who did not attach themselves to Christ's company but yet seem to have believed in Him, or whether, though a believer in Jesus, he had found some inconveniences in attending him statedly and so did not do it, we cannot tell. Though it is likely enough that he ought to have joined the company of Christ, the man had not seen his way to that himself. But the first question with John should have been, Have I any right to decide that point for him, or to judge him by my standard? 'You had not,' says our Lord. But further, 'Supposing the man does wrong in not following with us, is it right in me to forbid him, on that account, to cast out devils in my Master's name?' 'It was not,' says Christ.

'The deed itself was a good deed; it helped to destroy the works of the Devil; and the Name in which this was done was that at which devils tremble. Thus far, then, the man was My servant, doing My work, and doing it not the less effectually and beneficially that he "followeth not us:" that is a question between him and Me; a question involving more points than you are aware of or able to deal with; a question with which you have nothing to do: Let such alone.' How instructive is this, and how condemning! Surely it condemns not only those horrible attempts by force to shut up all within one visible pale of discipleship, which have deluged Christendom with blood in Christ's name, but the same spirit in its milder form of proud ecclesiastic scowl upon all who "after the form which they call 'a sect' [ hairesin (Greek #139)] do so worship the God of their fathers" (see the note at Acts 24:14). Visible unity in Christ's Church is indeed devoutly to be wished, and the want of it is cause enough of just sorrow and humiliation.

But this is not the way to bring it about. It is not to be thought that the various ranks into which the Church of Christ is divided are all equally right in being what and where they are, if only they be sincere in their own convictions. But, right or wrong, they are as much entitled to exercise and act upon their conscientious judgment as we are, and to their own Master, in so doing, they stand or fall. It is the duty, and should be felt as the privilege, of all Christ's servants to rejoice in the promotion of His kingdom and cause by those they would wish, but cannot bring, within their own pale. Nor will anything contribute so much to bring Christians visibly together as just this joy at each other's success, although separate in the meantime; while on the other hand rancorous jealousies in behalf of our own sectional interests are the very thing to narrow these interests still further, and to shrivel ourselves. What a noble spirit did Moses display when the Spirit descended upon the seventy elders, and they prophesied and did not cease. Besides these the Spirit had come upon two men, who remained in the camp prophesying, and did not join the 70. Whereupon there ran a zealous youth to Moses, saying, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp; and even Joshua said, My lord Moses, forbid them. But what was the reply of the great leader of Israel? "Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would pour out His Spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:24-29). (5) The word "hell" thrice repeated here in the same breath is tremendous enough in itself; but how awful does it sound from the lips of Love Incarnate! And when to this He adds, thrice over in the same terms, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" - words enough to make both the ears of everyone that heareth them to tingle-what shall be thought of the mawkish sentimentalism which condemns all such language in the mouths of His servants, as inconsistent with what they presume to call 'the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus?' Why, it is just the apostle who breathed most of His Master's love whose Epistles express what would be thought the harshest things against vital error and those who hold it. It is love to men, not hatred, that prompts such severity against what will inevitably ruin them.

(6) Who that has any regard for the teaching of Christ can venture, in the face of these Mark 9:42-48, to limit the duration of future torment? See the notes at Matthew 25:31-46, Remark 4.

(7) As Christians are to present themselves a living sacrifice to God, so when the sacrifice has had the fire applied to it, and stood the fire, it is an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God. But let them not think that the only fiery trial they have to stand is persecution from without. The numberless things that tend to stir their corruptions, even in their conversations with each other, constitute an almost daily trial, and sometimes fiery enough. Then it is that a living Christianity, subduing corruption and overcoming evil with good, shows its value. This is the true salt of the sacrifice. "Let your speech," says the apostle-and the same applies to every other feature of the Christian character - "be alway with grace," or to speak sacrificially, "seasoned with salt that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:6).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Mark 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/mark-9.html. 1871-8.

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