The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Mark 9

Mar 9:1

See 2Pe 1:15-18: Peter and the others were eyewitnesses of Christ's majesty (cp also Jam 2:1; Joh 1:14; 1Jo 3:2).

BEFORE: See Lesson, AN, Conditional deferment.

Mar 9:2

AND LED THEM UP A HIGH MOUNTAIN: Climbing the mountain: a parable of our journey to the Kingdom. Poss site: Mt Nebo, where Moses died (Deu 34) and Elijah ascended (2Ki 2).

WHERE THEY WERE ALL ALONE: Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

Mar 9:4

WHO WERE TALKING WITH JESUS: About his "exodus" (Luk 9:31).

Mar 9:5

RABBI: Mark frequently uses Aramaic expressions: Boanerges (Mar 3:17), Talitha koum (Mar 5:41), Korban (Mar 7:11), Ephphatha (Mar 7:34), Rabbi (Mar 9:5; 11:21; 14:45), Bartimaeus (Mar 10:46), Abba (Mar 14:36), Golgotha (Mar 15:22), Eloi (Mar 15:34).

Mar 9:6

HE DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY: Do we always have to SAY something?

Mar 9:7

A CLOUD APPEARED AND ENVELOPED THEM: Like the cloud of the Shekinah Glory in the wilderness.

Mar 9:9

ORDERS NOT TO TELL ANYONE: Silence was his settled policy for most of his ministry (Mat 9:30; 17:9; 12:16; Mar 1:34; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; Luk 5:14), with one notable exception (Mar 5:19 -- Legion with his family). But in last days of ministry, a change of course (Mat 21:1-11; Joh 7:37; 9:3; 11:4).

Mar 9:13

THEY: The scribes (v 7), who had plotted with Herodias to kill John.

Mar 9:14

Vv 14-29: Power of faith and intercession of others: Mat 8:13; 9:32; 15:28; 17:14-18; Luk 8:50; Joh 4:49; Jos 6:17; Gen 7:1; 18:32; 19:12; Act 27:24.

A LARGE CROWD: See v 2n. Would this be likely at the foot of Mt Hermon?

Mar 9:15

THEY WERE OVERWHELMED WITH WONDER: Would the glory of the Transfiguration still be visible in his face?

Mar 9:18

"Demoniacs" suffered from: blindness, dumbness (Mat 12:22; Luk 11:14), insanity, schizophrenia (Mar 3:21; 5:1-5; Joh 10:20), epilepsy (Mar 9:17-27), and arthritis (Luk 13:11-17).

BUT THEY COULD NOT: Cp Gehazi's inability (2Ki 4:31).

Mar 9:19

BRING THE BOY TO ME: "Children are a precious gift from God, but much anxiety comes with them. They may be a great joy or a great bitterness to their parents; they may be filled with the Spirit of God, or possessed with the spirit of evil. In all cases, the Word of God gives us one receipt for the curing of all their ills, 'Bring him unto me.' O for more agonizing prayer on their behalf while they are yet babes! Sin is there, let our prayers begin to attack it. Our cries for our offspring should precede those cries which betoken their actual advent into a world of sin. In the days of their youth we shall see sad tokens of that dumb and deaf spirit which will neither pray aright, nor hear the voice of God in the soul, but Jesus still commands, 'Bring them unto me.' When they are grown up they may wallow in sin and foam with enmity against God; then when our hearts are breaking we should remember the great Physician's words, 'Bring them unto me.' Never must we cease to pray until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless while Jesus lives" (CHS).

Mar 9:22

IF: His faith was prob weakened by the initial failure of the disciples (v 18). His "if" was echoed by Jesus' "if" (v 23), as though to say: "Never mind my IF. Consider your IF. IF you can believe... THEN everything is possible!"

Mar 9:23

'IF YOU CAN'?: "A certain man had a demoniac son, who was afflicted with a dumb spirit. The father, having seen the futility of the endeavours of the disciples to heal his child, had little or no faith in Christ, and therefore, when he was bidden to bring his son to Him, he said to Jesus, 'If Thou cast do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.' Now there was an 'if' in the question, but the poor trembling father had put the 'if' in the wrong place: Jesus Christ, therefore, without commanding him to retract the 'if', kindly puts it in its legitimate position. 'Nay, verily,' he seemed to say, 'there should be no "if" about my power, nor concerning my willingness, the "if" lies somewhere else.' 'If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.' The man's trust was strengthened, he offered a humble prayer for an increase of faith, and instantly Jesus spoke the word, and the demon was cast out, with an injunction never to return. There is a lesson here which we need to learn. We, like this man, often see that there is an 'if' somewhere, but we are perpetually blundering by putting it in the wrong place. 'If' Jesus can help me -- 'if' he can give me grace to overcome temptation -- 'if' he can give me pardon -- 'if' he can make me successful? Nay, 'if' you can believe, he both can and will. You have misplaced your 'if'. If you can confidently trust, even as all things are possible to Christ, so shall all things be possible to you. Faith standeth in God's power, and is robed in God's majesty; it weareth the royal apparel, and rideth on the King's horse, for it is the grace which the King delighteth to honour. Girding itself with the glorious might of the all-working Spirit, it becomes, in the omnipotence of God, mighty to do, to dare, and to suffer. All things, without limit, are possible to him that believeth" (CHS).

Mar 9:29

"If preaching and feasting [instead of prayer and fasting] would cast out demons, there would be a general exodus."

PRAYER AND FASTING: Fasting gets a negative "press" because (1) we don't care too much about doing it, generally, and (2) it was one of the evidences of great zeal and righteousness, with which the Pharisees preened themselves -- and we don't want to appear self-righteous, do we?

The Jews fasted and "afflicted their souls" when they were engaged in special prayers, for themselves and the nation, on the Day of Atonement. It would appear, therefore, that fasting was intended to help the mind focus, and thus enhance the effect of prayer. So it sounds like Jesus is saying, "This was an especially difficult case, and you needed to concentrate especially hard on your prayers for this healing."

Mar 9:30

Jesus needs solitude for thought and prayer (cp Isa 50:4; Psa 119:147,148). A list of "solitude passages": Mar 1:35-37; 3:7,9,20,21; 4:35-38; 6:31; 7:17,18,24; 8:10,11,27; 9:30; 10:32; 14:32.

Mar 9:31

BETRAYED INTO THE HANDS OF MEN: And at the same time delivered up by the determinate counsel of God: Act 2:23; Rom 8:32.

Mar 9:32

They must have sensed enough of his message in order to be afraid to understand more plainly. See VL: Disciples, awe of Jesus.

Mar 9:33

Similar "hearings" by the Spirit in Luk 7:39,40; Mar 2:8; 9:33-37.

Mar 9:34

ABOUT WHO WAS THE GREATEST: Cp 2Ki 5:22,26: the disciple Gehazi seeks "greatness" and wealth. Don't many of our little ecclesial disputes have their roots in this question? This dispute did not cease altogether until Christ's death (Mar 10:35; Luk 22:24-30). See Lesson, Peter: The look.

Suggestion: the special three at the Transfiguration (Mar 9:2) arouse envy in others.

Mar 9:35

Cp the lesson in Mar 8:34.

SERVANT OF ALL: Mark's theme: see also Phi 2:5-11.

Mar 9:36

HE TOOK A LITTLE CHILD: This theme continues... Mar 10:15.

TAKING HIM IN HIS ARMS: A very small child -- prob Peter's house, and Peter's child.

Mar 9:37

Astounding! The smallest child = Christ, and Christ = God!

THESE LITTLE CHILDREN: "The theme of the child runs through a whole section of the Gospel of Mark, but always with the child standing as a type of the genuine believer. The child's well-being is made the measure of conduct, the child's spirit is the rule by which others are judged. Not that Jesus would idealize children; growing up in a large family, he had doubtless seen the 'foolishness' that is bound up in the heart of a child (Pro 22:15). But he saw the child as small, dependent, and therefore trusting; he saw also the child's directness and simplicity, the outward-looking to those who are loved and admired. There is a candid logic in children which can be devastating to their more complicated elders, and it is this which enables them to recognize a truth and see its consequences; and that is the frame of mind which makes faith possible. In this Jesus saw in children the type of the children of God. And it is in the service of such as these that the true disciple will find his exaltation" (SMk 133).

NOT... BUT: "Not only... but also". A Hebraism (see Hos 6:6n).

Mar 9:38

A MAN DRIVING OUT DEMONS IN YOUR NAME: Something the 9 disciples could not do (vv 18,28). A further fear for loss of status. (We may assume Christ knew the man and his mission).

NOT ONE OF US: Not one of the disciples. But he may have been a follower of Christ. Even if he did not acknowledge their precedence, he might still acknowledge Jesus.

Mar 9:39

DO NOT STOP HIM: A similar incident happened in the life of Moses in Num 11:27-29.

Mar 9:40

Ct Luk 11:23.

Mar 9:41

If you would not condemn little works of kindness done by anyone, then why condemn great works (ie v 38) just because the doer cannot produce the proper credentials?

ANYONE WHO GIVES YOU A CUP OF WATER: Cp Mat 25:35,40: the basis of judgment: "Inasmuch".

Mar 9:42

CAUSES... TO SIN: "Skandalon" = to cause to stumble, or sin. "Offend" in AV. Sw Mar 9:43,45. Related to Engl "scandal".

Mar 9:43

The body parts represent those acts which they may perform.

CUT IT OFF: Aramaic idiom, meaning simply, "Don't do it!" Cp English idiom, "Cut it out!"

Mar 9:48

WHERE THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED: Also in NIV mg for vv 44,46. Parkhurst: "This alludes to the worms that continually preyed on dead carcasses that were cast into the valley of Hinnom (ie Gehenna) and to the perpetual fire kept up to consume them." Note Jude 1:7 (Sodom, etc). Fire consumes: see Mat 3:12; 13:30; Heb 12:29; Isa 33:14; Psa 21:8,9; 37:20. Examples: Lev 10:62; Num 16:35; 2Ki 1:10; Jer 17:27.

Mar 9:49

EVERYONE WILL BE SALTED WITH FIRE: Fire destroys, but salt preserves. Fire = strife, ambition; salt = peace, purity. For salt, see Lev 2:13; Num 18:9. Salt sym incorruption, in ct leaven/yeast. All temple sacrifices were salted: we are "living sacrifices" (Rom 12:1,2). Salt is a token of the covenant: every sacrifice must be in bonds of covenant -- ie done in a proper spirit. Cp Col 4:16 with Eph 4:29.

Mar 9:50

SALT IS GOOD: "We need not be discouraged because of the stolid indifference of the people to the truth. Flesh and blood is naturally swinish and unimpressible by the thoughts of God. The world, which is choked with religion, such as it is, is made of this stiff-necked material. It is in the state of an inebriate who has caroused himself into 'delirium tremens,' or a snoring apoplexy. Its excitation or brain-congestion can only be relieved by copious depletion. To preach the truth to it is like telling fables to a deaf man; putting a jewel in a swine's snout; or casting things holy to dogs. This is the nature of the flesh and blood world -- it is only evil, and that continually. But all the individuals of this perverse race are not so absolutely controlled by the evil thereof as to be incapable of sobriety in word and deed. The race has some 'honest and good hearts' yet, which are as salt, preserving it from total and irretrievable corruption. They require, however, to be salted with wisdom, and persecution, or fire, for the truth's sake, to make them fit for the Master's use" (FLD 241).

BE AT PEACE WITH EACH OTHER: Back to v 34: do not dispute over who will be greatest.

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