From: Busy Person’s Guide to Mark 9 to 16 Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2019
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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:
Quickly Understanding Mark
(Volume 2: Chapters 9 to 16)
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
Copyright © 2019 by author
The “Cross” of Discipleship Is Well Worth Its Pains Because of the Rewards That Are Ultimately Gained (8:34-9:1): 34 Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it.
36 For what benefit is it
for a person to gain the whole world, yet
forfeit his life? 37 What can a person give in exchange for his life? 38 For if anyone 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.” 1 And he said to them,
“I tell you the truth, there are some
standing here who will not experience death before
they see the
9:1: And he said
to them, “I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not
experience death before they see the
Which leads to the question of what event our verse refers to. It can’t refer to the eternal kingdom in heaven itself since this world still exists and all those Jesus spoke to are long dead. And it is they who are promised the seeing of it before dying.
In Matthew these words are found () immediately before the Transfiguration (17:1-13) and this has led some to insist that the Transfiguration is under consideration. However the Transfiguration, we are explicitly told, was “six days” after the promise (17:1) and it would be odd if any of them had died by then. Hence “some standing here” is incompatible with this kind of scenario.
The language also makes it difficult to apply it to the establishment of the kingdom at Pentecost in Acts 2. However there is this possibility: Mark 9:1 is the conclusion of remarks beginning at 8:34: “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ ” In other words the apostles were now supplemented by a far larger audience. The apostles would be “some” when contrasted to the much larger body of listeners. They could be the “some” who would literally see the kingdom come with power when they were visibly baptized by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Though this would fulfill the limitation of the experience to “some” there remains the rest of the description, “some standing here who will not experience death” before the event occurs, i.e., there will be those--at least a multiple number would be the most natural reading--who had died prior to the event. Of the apostles only one (Judas) was dead by Pentecost though some might consider the language intentionally vague to avoid having to discuss that topic.
The only remaining
possibility would seem to be to those who would live through the destruction of
Jesus Transfigured in the Presence of Peter, James, and John; They Are Cautioned To Be Silent About It (9:2-13): 2 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John and led them alone up a high mountain privately. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiantly white, more so than any launderer in the world could bleach them.
4 Then Elijah appeared before them along with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 So Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 (For they were afraid, and he did not know what to say.)
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my one dear Son. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this statement to themselves, discussing what this rising from the dead meant.
11 Then they asked him, “Why do the experts in the law say that Elijah must come first?” 12 He said to them, “Elijah does indeed come first, and restores all things. And why is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has certainly come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written about him.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
9:2 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. “After six days” is not just a durational comment, but it implies that for this entire period of time He had been concentrating on teaching and healing. He left the other apostles behind, where a large crowd was gathered again when He returned (verse 14). But these three of the apostles He especially wanted to be with Him, surely anticipating that something very special that they needed to see was about to occur. So far as the other apostles and the larger crowd, it seems likely that He simply explained He needed some time alone to pray since Luke’s account identifies this as the purpose of the separation (9:28). Indeed it was during prayer that the transformation occurred (Luke ).
9:3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. There is white and there is intense white, bright white, dazzling white--as if brighter than the eyes can handle. We occasionally see a milder version of this in fashion. Earlier this week I saw a young lady wearing bright orange shoes. I couldn’t resist asking her, “Do they glow in the dark?” No, was the answer, but I still think they should have due to their startling brightness: It is that kind of a visually overpowering color that Mark is referring to.
9:4 And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. How the apostles knew who they were, we aren’t told. Since “they were talking” it was likely from historical allusions to events in their own lives that were made as they spoke together. The two great divisions of the Old Testament were “Mosaical” and “prophetic” and these two were visual exemplars of those two pillars. Furthermore Elijah had been removed from earth without death. So far as Moses was concerned, no one could actually prove his death since God made a point to make sure that His burial site was hidden from them: Elijah had directly escaped death and Moses had symbolically. Appropriate forepromises that Jesus would escape death through the resurrection.
9:5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— If the two newcomers were to stay--and Peter clearly wished them to--they would need quarters of some type. The simply constructed huts as used at the yearly Feast of Tabernacles would certainly meet the need at least in the short term. Truth be told, on the conscious level, he really wasn’t certain what to say (verse 6), but this would provide opportunity to think about it and assure that the splendid current moment continued.
9:6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. We would say “he gave a gut reaction because he didn’t have the slightest idea what he should say; awe and deepest worry had overwhelmed his conscious thought.” How severe an emotional reaction this was can be found in the only other passage where the Greek underlying “greatly afraid” is also used: Of the physical appearance and manifestations at Mount Sinai we read, “And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling’ ” (Hebrews 12:21). Not fearful so much of personal consequence but a shocked mind wondering, “What in the world is happening?”
9:7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” The image is that of a cloud descending and covering Jesus, Moses, and Elijah so that none of them could be seen by the three apostles. But just as Jesus’ garments shined a radiant white (verse 3) this mist shared such an intensity because it was “a bright cloud” (Matthew 17:5). After it covered them, a voice spoke out declaring two important facts:
(1) this is my Son--in fact, “My beloved Son” . . . something even stronger than mere sonship;
(2) what He said should and must be obeyed: “Hear Him!” “Listen to Him” (CEV, ESV, and many others). They wanted to know truth? Well, Jesus had it.
9:8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Who the voice was speaking of was immediately obvious as they realized that Jesus was the only one left.
Peter later recalled this event in 2 Peter 1 and stressed the lessons his listeners should learn from it:
16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
9:9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. The natural instinct would be to share the dramatic things they had seen with the other apostles and everyone else. But they were ordered to keep it to themselves rather than doing so. At the worst, it could have spurred envy; at the best, the repeated request for it to happen again so that all could share in beholding it.
If they had not been so convinced that the Messiah could not possibly die, they would have recognized what the event proved: That even if He did die, God was so fully behind Him that even death itself could not hold Him captive. It was a demonstration of the raw power God was willing to exhibit in and through His Son. And would do so again in the physical resurrection of the Lord.
So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. Silence they kept but not among the three observers themselves, who discussed what in the world the language could mean. But they were crippled in their analysis because they were convinced that the Messiah would never be killed in the first place--and since Jesus was the Messiah, how in the world could this possibly apply to Him? It neither would nor could happen.
And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Note the use of the plural “scribes” rather than the singular: In other words, this was a standard assumption of scribal teaching, the consensus judgment if you will. The Biblical text they were misunderstanding can be found in Malachi 4:5-6.
Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? They wanted to talk about Elijah. They would be far better served if they considered those Old Testament passages--especially Isaiah 53--dealing with how the Messiah would be physically mistreated (“suffer many things”) and scorned (“treated with contempt”). The prediction about Elijah had already been fulfilled; that of the directly Messianic prediction lay in the future. Their problem was that they thought someone had to be going around in the world calling themselves “Elijah” and physically being the historic Elijah. . . .
But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.” They failed to recognize that the Elijah prophecy had already been fulfilled--fully accomplished as to its true intent and purpose.
Sidebar: Oddly enough this clear cut repudiation of any physical coming of Elijah was revived later in the post-apostolic church. The Pulpit Commentary quotes Augustine’s City of God (20:29) as an example: “Not without reason do we hope that before the coming of our Judge and Savior Elias will come, because we have good reason to believe that he is now alive; for, as Holy Scripture distinctly informs us, he was taken up from this life in a chariot of fire. When, therefore, he is come he shall give a spiritual explanation of the Law which the Jews at present understand carnally, and will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers; that is, the Jews who are the children will understand the Law in the same sense as their fathers the prophets understood it.”
The Apostles Fail to Heal a Possessed Man and Jesus Is Successful (-29): 14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and experts in the law arguing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran at once and greeted him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
17 A member of the crowd said to him, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that makes him mute. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able to do so.”
19 He answered them, “You unbelieving generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I endure you? Bring him to me.” 20 So they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 Then Jesus said to him, “‘If you are able?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
25 Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was quickly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 It shrieked, threw him into terrible convulsions, and came out.
The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus gently took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 Then, after he went into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” 29 He told them, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. As soon as they descended from the mountain they could see that a large crowd had already assembled and that the other apostles were in discussion and debate with them.
Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. However interesting the behavior of the apostles might be, it was Jesus personally where the interest lay--with His teaching and His healing. “Greatly amazed” seems an odd remark. They might have been surprised at His timing, expecting the absence to be far longer. Or it could have been startling to have Him reappear exactly when the apostles were so befuddled by the failure of the apostles to successfully carry out the exorcism they had attempted (verses 17-18).
It is common to find people seeking a supernatural element in their amazement, that some of the bright radiance Jesus had exhibited during the Transfiguration (verses 2-3) remained with Him. Others suggest a kind of psychological side effect: His way of moving, acting, and speaking somehow seemed more intense and powerful.
Sidebar on the precedent of Moses
coming down from
And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” Why does Jesus choose to ask the scribes rather than the apostles? Is it because they are physically closer? Or could it be that He is concerned about the apostles being too embarrassed to give a concise and candid explanation for what is going on? Most likely He does so since it would be the scribes who would want to demean anything connected with Jesus and His movement. Hence it was natural to seek out how they would attempt to present the situation in the way most designed to embarrass Him. Their “spin” on the events would have to be dealt with sooner or later.
Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. Oddly enough it is not one of the scribes who immediately responds, but the one who had precipitated the situation by bringing his demon possessed son for healing. (He had both demons within and demon caused physical ailments as well.) Since it was his son--indeed his “only child” (Luke )--he immediately moves to present the situation to the One who had already an established reputation for both healings and expelling of demons. The apostles might fail for unknown reasons, but the Lord Himself never had.
And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” Unable to express himself in words, whenever the evil spirit took over, it tormented the boy physically. Mark’s account describes the actions while Luke’s adds in the physical results, “And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him” (Luke 9:39). Here we have not epilepsy in its normal medical form but demonic caused epilepsy.
He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Frustrated with the lack of faith even among His apostles, He orders that the boy be brought to Him so He can deal with the matter. The failure had been in front of everyone including the unfriendly and hostile scribes (verses 14 and 16); the success will occur in front of them as well.
Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. The demon could not harm Jesus, but he still could demonstrate powerful rage by tormenting the poor boy he possessed. Since he couldn’t win any argument with the Lord he settled for painfully distressing the young man. Note that this happened as soon as he “saw Him” approaching; he knew the “ball game” was already over.
So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. We don’t know how old the child was at this point, but this verse does tell us that the condition had been long lasting. Hence it was not something that began recently. In one sense this information was needless, but it did allow the apostles and the other listeners to better grasp just how profound and lengthy an affliction the boy had endured--and by doing so demonstrate how unlimited the Lord’s healing power actually was.
And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The evil spirit was so destructive that it wasn’t even concerned with destroying his own involuntary “host:” He attempted to kill him by having him fall into both fire and water. Either would work quite well if no one were keeping a close eye on him. Contrast this attitude with the demons who were even enthusiastic to be sent into pigs in the hope of having a bodily refuge in this life (Mark 5:9-13).
Note the “if you can:” there are calamities that bring you anguish and there are calamities that make you despair that anyone, anywhere, at any time can do anything about it. This one had lasted so long that the father was in the latter category. Furthermore we should not forget that he is probably thinking something along the lines of: “Since the disciples He taught could not do it, is it likely that even their Teacher can?”
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” In spite of the duration of the affliction, healing was still possible if he was fully convinced that Jesus could do it. That he had some hope of this is argued from the fact that he had taken the time to bring the son. But there is a profound difference between having a token hope and having a powerful, vibrant faith.
Sidebar: The allegedly best manuscripts have a different reading at the beginning of Jesus’ remark commonly resulting in a translation along this line: “If you can?” (NASB) or “If You can!” (ESV). In other words the right answer to the man’s question is beyond doubt. And then He provides it.
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” The desperate father was so distressed that he answered with tears flowing from his eyes. Yet he is also simultaneously honest in acknowledging the difficulty of having full belief after all the son had suffered for so many years. (Not to mention the apostolic failure to provide relief.)
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” In other words, permanent healing: “Don’t even think about trying to re-enter this boy again. It’s forbidden--now and forever.” Not temporary relief but permanent relief from the affliction would be the result. Jesus once spoke of the desire of demons to return where they had once been lodged (Matthew -45) and here He explicitly prohibits it.
Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” One final set of severe convulsions and the demon unwillingly left. The boy’s body had gone through so much turmoil that he lay so still that he looked like death had taken the place of the demon.
But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. Doing this was both common courtesy for someone lying on the ground and because the boy was probably weak from the turmoil of the demon leaving and from the physical collapse that made him look like he was dead. But with Jesus’ assistance, he was able to stand up and move about. Whatever problems he might have in the future they would never involve a demon making his life miserable.
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” They do not deny they failed nor make excuses. They simply want to know the reason behind their failure. After all, He had given them the power to miraculously heal and to cast out demons when He appointed them apostles (Mark -15). During their preaching tour when He sent them out in groups of two (6:7) they exercised that power and “cast out many demons” (). So what was now the problem?
So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Jesus does not deny the importance of faith such as the father had (verse 23), but from anyone except Jesus Himself successful exorcism also required the supplement of “prayer and fasting.” Although a limited number of translations retain the reference to “fasting” (such as Holman and ISV), the perceived better quality Greek manuscripts normally omit it.
Jesus notes that “this kind” of demon--the particular kind they were dealing with on this occasion--required a different kind of approach than they normally used. Why that was the case, He doesn’t explain; just the fact that it was necessary.
Passes Through Galilee, Avoiding Public Attention So
He Can Privately Teach His Apostles
(-32): 30 They went out from
there and passed through
Then they departed from there and passed through
For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” The rendition “was teaching” (widely adopted in place of “He taught”) conveys the idea better: The reason He sought privacy was so He could repeatedly teach about His coming death; talking about it in depth. But they should not despair because the resurrection was just as surely to follow.
But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him. They did not comprehend what He was saying for how could the Messiah--as they understood the subject--possibly be murdered? But Jesus’ repetition and seriousness made them unwilling to probe further. Today we would say they had the “gut reaction” that they would not like further information any better than what they were already hearing.
The Apostles Privately Argue About Who, Besides Jesus
Himself, Was The Most Important Member Of
The Group (-37): 33 Then they came to
35 After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
Then He came to
But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. Sometimes you can’t say anything because anything you say is going to be indefensible--and they know it. So when challenged, they quietly refuse to answer the question. Rather than let them think they are getting away with anything, He simply provides the teaching that points out the folly of their argument.
And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” If they want to talk about “importance” and “significance” inside their movement, they need to understand how it is legitimately gained: Their degree of importance would grow out of the degree to which they attempted to benefit one and all. It was what they earned rather than were given.
Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, This child was utterly insignificant in himself: He couldn’t do anything for the apostles. He had nothing to financially contribute; he had nothing yet to intellectually contribute. Therefore he was easy to dismiss as unimportant. But the truth was the exact opposite. . . .
“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” The humility to accept those who are (at the moment) insignificant in the larger scheme of things is pivotal to Divine acceptance--not only that of Jesus personally but of God as well who sent Him to earth. If they count the least societally important individuals this way, how could they possibly do differently? The child has nothing to contribute to the apostles’ welfare but through their example and teaching they have the potential to add much to his.
Not All Advocates Of Jesus Were in Jesus’ Traveling Party of Apostles (-41): 38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say anything bad about me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For I tell you the truth, whoever gives you a cup of water because you bear Christ’s name will never lose his reward. --New English Translation (for comparison)
Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” This was a logical question since Jesus had personally commissioned them to do such things (Mark -15; 6:7, 13). Where did this other guy get the right from? They had not considered the possibility that God had commissioned him with such power as well: It was quite arguable that the very successes were verification of this.
Not to mention that there may have been a lot of offended personal ego in this as well: note the “we forbade him because he does not follow us”--not “follow You,” but “not follow us.” Under the worst interpretation, because he was not an apostle he had no right to be doing this; under a kinder interpretation, because he was not part of Jesus’ traveling company ruled out the propriety. Beyond this one wonders whether their own failure to successfully exorcise a demon earlier in this chapter (verses 18, 28-29) led to envy at his success and “provoked” their rebuke of the man’s actions.
But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. Whether he was part of their traveling company or not, his confidence in Jesus’ power underlay his healing capacity. Such a sincere soul would never think of saying anything bad about the Lord. He was with them in sentiment, if not in body.
Sidebar: This man contrasts vividly with the would be self-serving exorcists Paul encountered who tried to heal by invoking the name of Jesus without having any faith in him (Acts -17). To them the power was in the word “Jesus” and not within the Lord Himself. Hence their effort failed.
Biblically we have no idea of how common genuine exorcists existed outside of the Jesus movement. We do know that Jesus conceded that even His enemies’ kin sometimes claimed the ability (Matthew ). Outside the scriptures, Josephus indicates the claiming of the power was quite common: “God gave Solomon skill against demons for the help and cure of men. And he arranged certain incantations whereby diseases are assuaged, and left behind him forms of exorcism, wherewith they so put to flight the overpowered evil spirits that they never return. And this method of curing is very prevalent among us up to the present time.” (Antiquities viii. 2, 5, as quoted by Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Acts 19:13)
For he who is not against us is on our side. One can be on the side of the Lord without always being within the immediate fellowship of the Lord. Their very lack of hostility and their attempting to do right because they think so highly of the Lord should be given full credit regardless of their limitations. This doesn’t mean to pretend that those don’t exist; it does mean recognizing what is praiseworthy as well.
Sidebar: There are, of course, times when the opposite reaction is needed as well; hence the proper reaction varies from person to person and the reasons and intent with which they are acting. Hence we find the same Jesus who spoke these approving words, speak these condemnatory ones as well: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew ).
One way these opposite pleas play out in our lives can be seen in a commentary of a Dr. Morison that is quoted by the Pulpit Commentary: “When in applied morals we sit in judgment on ourselves, we should in ordinary circumstances apply the law obversely and stringently, ‘he who is not with Christ is against him.’ But when we are sitting in judgment on others, into whose hearts we cannot look directly, we should in ordinary circumstances apply the law reversely and generously, ‘He that is not against Christ is with him.’ ”
9:41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. Demon exorcism was, obviously, a “big” thing, but the principle of good intentions applies even in minor ones: Even the person who gives us needed water to drink because we are followers of Christ will be remembered favorably by the Lord. The unstated supplemental reason is found in the judgment day scene in Matthew 25:40: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ”
Self-Control In How One Acts Is an Absolute Essential For
All Christians--Even Leaders Like the
Apostles (9:42-50): 42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe
in me to sin, it would be better for
him to have a huge millstone tied around his neck and to be thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes
you to sin, cut it off! It is
better for you to enter into life crippled than to have two hands and go into hell, to the unquenchable
fire. 45 If your foot causes you to sin,
cut it off! It is better to enter life lame
than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out! It is
better to enter into the
--New English Translation (for comparison)
9:42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. One of the obligations of being a faithful Christian is the same one as a good doctor: “Do no harm.” In diametrical opposition to this principle are those who, instead, do overt harm to the young--and the language could logically be applied to both the bodily and the spiritually young. Causing “these little ones” to “stumble” in their moral behavior or beliefs, one has done something so horrible that if the infliction of a physical harm were involved, suicide would be the only proper response.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it
off. It is better for you to enter into
life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that
shall never be quenched— Not only must we take very seriously the harm we do to
others, similarly we must beware of tolerating the harm we might do to ourselves
by various forms of “sin.” If it were
possible to avoid the transgression by mutilating a body organ it would be to
our benefit to remove it rather than to face an eternity in the fires that burn
in “hell” (Greek: Gehenna). This parallels the local
The reference to the “hand” is because we use our hands to do things. Remove one and you have drastically reduced the range of things you are capable of doing.
That the action would be a near absurdity to do on a literal basis can be seen in the fact that the same mind remains that motivated our body to do the sin in the first place. Is God really going to save us when our heart constantly earns for the sin and it is only what has been done to our body that keeps us from actually committing the act?
Sidebar: What the
Jerusalem Gehenna was like. “The
‘Ravine of Hinnom,’ also called ‘Topheth’ (2
Kings ; Isaiah 30:33), is described in Joshua (Joshua
), as on the south of
This common interpretation has been challenged on the grounds that there is no archaeological evidence supporting it and that the earliest references come from later
(rather than earlier) rabbis. The alternative would be that since this location had once been used for the fiery destruction of the young, that it was adopted as the most appropriate way of describing the place of punishment for the adults who do harm to themselves and others.
where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ A significant number of modern translations only retain this expression in verse 48 because they do not regard there to be adequate evidence from the surviving “best” ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament for it to belong here as well. The penalty in eternity is too great to do otherwise.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— Jesus throws out a second blunt image: If removing your “hand” won’t stop you from doing a specific wrong while removing the foot will, then cut the foot off instead. In short: Whatever is causing the sin, remove it.
(Just as cutting off the hand will keep you from doing many tasks, removing the foot cripples your ability to get there to carry out the evil. Yet the inner desire has been removed by neither. The root problem has not been solved.)
where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ This second usage of these words are found in the majority of Greek manuscripts but are viewed as inadequately documented in the earliest “best” manuscripts.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— He provides yet a third hypothetical option to removing our sin. “Hands” with which we do things (verse 43); “feet” which give us the mobility to get to where the sin is carried out (verse 45); and now the “eyes” which enable us to see what it is that we do.
‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ In this third usage of
the expression both the “critical” and “majority” texts are in concurrence that
Jesus presented this as a solemn warning of the seriousness of what He had been
saying. In the temporal Gehenna outside
In this future state the fact that “their worm does not die” stresses the unending nature of what is happening. Some would give it a secondary reference to the fact that their now fully aware guilt can never be extinguished from their minds; their situation strips away all the delusions--permanently. The “fire is not quenched” further reinforces the idea of unending painful punishment. It will never end; it will never cease.
Sidebar on Old Testament precedent: In the closing words of Isaiah (chapter 66) this same imagery is used in connection with the rejoining of all of God’s people--both close and distant together (verse 20) --and that everyone would worship God while the corpses of the evil would be a perpetual manifestation of God’s wrath:
22 “For as the new
heavens and the new earth / Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, / “so shall
your descendants and your name remain. 23 And
it shall come to pass / that from one New Moon to another, / and from one Sabbath to another, / all flesh
shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord. 24 “And
they shall go forth and look / upon the corpses of the men / who have transgressed against
“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. The majority of translations today retain only the first half of this verse, replacing “seasoned” with “salted” as well. The contrast in verses 42-50 is between the “fire” that the evildoer fully encounters only in eternity with that faced by the true believer, which only occurs in the pains and anguish of the current life. Beyond this life there is none.
In regard to the “fire” we face, the apostle Peter warned Christians of the “fiery trial” that would soon be upon them (1 Peter ). Such adversity “seasons” a Christian and, though aimed to hurt us, makes us stronger. Having “paid a price,” it hasn’t “broken” us and we gain the confidence that we can remain faithful no matter what else happens. This happens to “everyone” of us Jesus warns. As the apostle Paul later cautioned: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” The fire of persecution in this world is inevitable; how we handle it is not. . . .
Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” Salt is inherently “good” because it is beneficial, but if one allows that salt to “lose its flavor”--through whatever means . . . for the method is irrelevant--it is valueless to serve its intended function. If we do not allow our faith in the Lord to remain in its pure, undiluted form--unweakened by the problems of life--how in the world are we expected to restore it? Not that it theoretically can’t be done, but because it can be so hard and because we may no longer even have the desire to.
“Have salt in yourselves:” We ourselves must take charge of our spiritual life. It is up to each of us to retain our purity both by our behavior and by increasing in the knowledge of God’s will. Others can encourage us, but in the final analysis the decision is ultimately entirely our own to make.
True faithfulness involves not just what we intellectually believe and advocate but also how we treat others. Of the various things Jesus could use to illustrate this, He chooses “peace with one another.” Don’t be combative if you can help it--remember how earlier the apostles were arguing about who was greatest within their group (verses 33-34)? So He lays out broad theory about staying spiritually “salty” and full of life but then directly applies it to them as well. Or as Paul puts it, “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians ); “pursue the things which make for peace” (Romans ).
The Pharisees Challenge Jesus on Whether
There Is A Blanket Right to Divorce
One's Spouse (10:1-12): 1 Then Jesus left that
place and went to the region of
5 But Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your hard hearts. 6 But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, 8 and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10 In the house once again, the disciples asked him about this. 11 So he told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
10:1 Then He arose
from there and came to the region of
Sidebar: A large segment of events are not discussed that occurred between chapters 10 and 11. The Cambridge Bible For Schools and Colleges suggests this outline of them:
(α) The visit of our Lord to
7:8-10), which was marked by
(a) The rebuke of the “Sons of Thunder” at the churlish conduct of
the inhabitants of a Samaritan village on their way to the
(b) Solemn discourses during the Feast, and an attempt of the
Sanhedrim to apprehend Him (John 7:11-51; John 8:12-59);
(c) The opening of the eyes of one born blind (John 9:1-41), the
revelation of Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18);
(β) Ministrations in Judća and Mission of the Seventy (Luke 10:1 to
(γ) Visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication (John -39);
(δ) Tour in Perća (Luke to Luke );
(ε) The raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46);
(ζ) Resolve of the Sanhedrim to put Him to death, and His retirement to
Ephraim (John -54).
Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
testing Him. Their motive was neither genuine interest nor idle
curiosity; it was to “test” His teaching for weakness.
There was, however, a certain danger in this because the
Pharisees were themselves divided into two great camps. That of Hillel
(died c. 10 A.D.) argued that divorce was legitimate only in the case that the
spouse had sexually betrayed the husband.
In contrast, the
10:3 And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus made the logical response: What do the Scriptures teach? After all, they claimed to be firm advocates of his teaching. Furthermore since Moses was unquestionably the great and definitive lawgiver for Jews, they should be able to find the right answer in his writings.
Moses himself had stressed this necessity: “1 Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. 5 “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’ ” (Deuteronomy 4).
10:4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” There is an interesting shift in language being used: Jesus asked about what was the Divinely given “command” (verse 3); rather than talk about commands, they respond as to what was “permitted” (or “allowed” in some translations). Jesus wanted to talk about the underlying principle; they wanted to talk about when that principle of the permanence of marriage could be ignored.
For they were unquestionably willing to ignore what Moses had commanded as the requirement for such a divorce: “she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her” (Deuteronomy 24:1). There is a profound difference between this limitation and the opinion that Deuteronomy 24 was the proverbial “blank check” for divorce for any and all reasons: Burned the dinner . . . annoyed the husband . . . wanted a younger and prettier wife . . . no such things came under the heading of the first wife’s “uncleanness!”
10:5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. Strange as it may sound, not everything God laid down rules on represents the ideal. He took into consideration the limitations of the mind and body that must operate within His laws. The ideal is permanency in marriage (verses 7-9), but God lays down rules for when we fall short of that ideal.
The writ of divorce certified that she was, indeed, free to marry someone else. It protected both her and the new spouse from the wrath of the first husband (if he was the despicable kind who wanted to pretend that a permanent separation had never been on his mind) and reassured both the wife and the new husband that the new marriage was fully recognized by God.
For that matter, in the bulk of cases it also assured that the first husband’s new marriage was acceptable to God as well: it verified that he had no other marital commitments that he should be carrying out instead. (Although we tend to center on the abundant cases of polygamy in the Old Testament, the biological percentage of males versus females inevitably required that the bulk of the population were monogamous. Polygamy was effectively reserved for the rich and powerful.)
God recognized that the natural self-centeredness of a man could easily deceive him into believing that the only thing that mattered was whether the current wife was pleasing to him. Hence the reason that a limitation on divorce and remarriage was imposed: lest they be blinded by their “hardness of heart,” to use the language Jesus invoked, and do injustice to their first spouse. The standard of sexual impropriety was set up to assure that human self-centeredness would not rule the day.
it 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ Jesus does not repudiate Moses, but He does stress that there is sometimes a vast difference between what God permits and what He desires. His original intent was permanency in marriage. It was never designed to be a temporary relationship, easily broken and replaced. Human nature seeks stability and marriage was intended to provide one form of it.
Sidebar: Note that marriage is defined as between a male and a female. The new twenty-first century scenario that two of the same sex/gender can constitute such a relationship is a human made fantasy. Love it or hate it, that is simply the way it is. Even the best of intentions can not transform it into one.
10:7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, The stage of life in which one is in the existing family is over and one leaves to establish a new one. The ideal is to not ever return there but establish our own household on a permanent basis.
Sidebar: The quotation is from Genesis 2 and the relationship between the words quoted here and the previous verse in Genesis is fascinating: “23 And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones / And flesh of my flesh; / She shall be called Woman, / Because she was taken out of Man.’ 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Originally man and woman were so much one that there was, literally, only one of them. The purpose of marriage the inspired Mosaical interpreter of Adam’s words tells us, is to create a new relationship that is so close and interlocking that it is as if that degree of oneness again exists.
By definition, in that close a relationship how can divorce be possible? If Moses wants it to be that close, how could one possibly think that his law would permit divorce for any reason one might desire? Indeed, by the standard Moses held to, it was generous to permit it at all!
10:8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. The relationship of husband and wife is so close it is as if they have become one. They no longer have separate agendas, but a shared one. Their interests are no longer separate but intimately interlinked in a thousand and one ways. They have become, paradoxical as it is, two separate individuals who have simultaneously become a new person as well.
10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Because of this close bond, no human being should do anything to separate them . . . and that includes those in the marriage itself. Instead of seeking ways out, they should both be seeking ways to maintain the relationship and make it successful. If you don’t try, there is absolutely no way you are going to accomplish that.
In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. “In the house” = in private . . . when the apostles are separate from the crowds who had been listening during the above discussion (verse 1). They weren’t sure what Jesus meant and wanted to be certain of exactly what He intended. Indeed His words probably made them a bit nervous: It would have been natural--within the societal environment in which they lived--for them to also assume an unchecked right to divorce for virtually any reason. Is that not the dominant assumption even today?
Sidebar: “Mark records several confidential household words of
our Lord to His disciples, e.g. concerning (a)
the power of casting out demons (Mark -29);
(b) the great in the kingdom of heaven (Mark -37); and (c) here,
the Christian law of marriage.” (
So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. The rule of thumb--laying aside the narrowly written exception given in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9--is that any male who divorces his wife and remarries commits adultery. In other words, divorce should be considered so repugnant that it is reserved only for the most extreme situation. The very fact that the exception is omitted here and in Luke argues strongly that the exception was assumed to represent a situation that would rarely occur among believers.
And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” The same rule is true of the woman as of her husband: If she divorces, the remarriage is also considered a matter of adultery. Under Jewish law, there was no inherent right of a woman to divorce; that was strictly a male prerogative. Under Roman law, however, it was a different matter. What Jesus tells them is that God’s law applies equally to both parties in the relationship.
Sidebar: Under Talmudic rules, however, an appropriate Jewish court could order the husband to divorce but how often this actually occurred in the first century we do not know. (Such remains the case today.)
The Disciples Reject The Importance
of Children and Jesus Rebukes Them For
It (-16): 13 Now people were
bringing little children to him for him
to touch, but the disciples scolded those who brought
them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me and do not
try to stop them, for the kingdom
of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth,
whoever does not receive the
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. We aren’t told why they did this, but since He had repeatedly manifested concern for the sick and injured, it was a quite reasonable conjecture that His “touch” would somehow benefit even the “little children” who were not actually sick. What they thought the benefit would be we don’t fully know, but one thing they could be certain of: Jesus had never harmed anyone. At the worst, it would do nothing special; at the most . . . well who knows?
Furthermore, seeking the intervention of well respected
religious leaders was a recognized custom.
In one text the Talmud describes what happened in the synagogues: “After
the father of the child had laid his hands on his child’s head, he led him to
the elders one by one, and they also blessed him, and prayed that he might grow
up famous in the Law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works.” (
Since there was nothing tangible and visible that all this could do, the apostles clearly thought it was a waste of time and criticized the adults for adding this additional “burden” to Jesus’ schedule.
But when Jesus saw it, He
was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little
children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of
such is the
In -37 He had already provided an example of child like attitudes that were needed even in adulthood: Humility rather than the desire to dominate and hold position. Furthermore “He had taken him in his arms” on that occasion (verse 36) and now they had clearly forgotten that example.
10:15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Since Jesus constantly recruited adult disciples, this can’t possibly refer to becoming a follower of Jesus as a child for that was not the age spectrum from which He recruited them. Nor is there the slightest hint that the people were bring them to the Lord for that purpose.
Furthermore if the text does refer to such, then
the passage must also mean that conversion occur exclusively at that
age: “whoever does not receive the
And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them. He happily hugged them and provided his blessing of them--His prayer for their well being and their future.
Sidebar: “The [Greek] compound rendered blessed occurs only here in the New Testament. It is stronger than the simple form, and expresses the earnestness of Christ's interest. Alford renders fervently blessed.” (Vincent’s Word Studies)
How Love of Wealth Can Compromise Even a Sincere Desire To Do God’s Will (10:17-22): 17 Now as Jesus was starting out on his way, someone ran up to him, fell on his knees, and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 The man said to him, “Teacher, I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since my youth.” 21 As Jesus looked at him, he felt love for him and said, “You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. --New English Translation (for comparison)
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” From the parallel accounts we learn that he was both young (Matthew ) and had a position of religious leadership (“ruler,” Luke ). The fact that he “came running” sounds like he wanted to be sure not to miss Jesus. The fact that he both intensely wanted to meet the Lord and was crushed by the ultimate response (verse 22), argues that, on some level, he was deeply concerned that his spirituality lacked something vital. This could have flowed out of having Pharasiac style hyper scruples in which there was a perpetual fear that something might be being left out. Or it may be that for more serious--and unknown to us--reasons he felt uncertain as to his genuine spiritual status.
So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. Although being called “good” is hardly insulting (verse 17), the man is actually abusing the term: Either he is using “Good Teacher” as merely exhibiting the often empty laudatory respect given any esteemed teacher--and Jesus is deserving of far more than that; or he is glossing the language with the addition of a sense of moral elevation that can only be properly given to God Himself. So the challenge to him is: In what sense are you using it? That will determine how seriously he takes Jesus’ answer to his question.
You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” In essence: Follow the Ten Commandments. They certainly did not mention everything involved in faithfulness but they laid the moral foundation for a completer obedience.
Sidebar: “Defraud not” is conspicuously not found as part of the Ten Commandments though the other points are. This could, however, be intended to compactly summarize key elements in three commands: (1) against coveting (which leads to fraud), (2) against stealing what they have (through deception of one kind or another), and (3) against the giving of false testimony (to cover the defrauding).
This sin is prohibited by name in Leviticus 19:13: “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor” (KJV)--the language retained in NIV; “cheat your neighbor” (NKJV); commonly changed to “oppress” in other translations however.
And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” The youth assured Jesus that following these commandments had been his lifestyle since when he was young. The fact that we know from Matthew 19:20 that he was “young,” “youth” here must carry the connotation of “from childhood.” He had been laying down the pattern of a deeply rooted moral character from long before he began carrying out adult roles of leadership. In Matthew we find that having met the prerequisite was not enough: He still wanted more--“What do I still lack?” So Jesus gives it to him. (The question is not mentioned here, but Jesus’ words would still have been a natural continuation of the answer to the initial question of what did he need spiritually.)
10:21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Jesus respected him and had affection toward him (“loved him”), but the man suffered from a seriously bent set of priorities. One which Jesus wants him to tear down in such a dramatic manner that it will never plague him again: his love of physical possessions. Destroy the power of it by giving them to the needy and then take up your spiritual burdens (“take up the cross”) and follow Jesus as His disciple--meaning either remain loyal to Him after He has left the community or, far more likely, follow Him from place to place as part of the broader group of disciples that often accompanied Him and the apostles.
But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Today we would describe this as, “it broke his heart.” He simply had too many possessions for it to be regarded as a reasonable option. The fact that we see no manifestation of anger argues that he recognizes that it was a responsible demand to demonstrate full loyalty to the cause no matter how much he himself could not do it.
Sidebar: It wasn’t far in the future when the church came into existence in Jerusalem and many generously sold their properties to help out those who had little or nothing (Acts 4:32-37).
A Proper Perspective On Wealth and Sacrifice (-31): 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the
26 They were even more astonished and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but not for God; all things are possible for God.”
28 Peter began to speak to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you!” 29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
Then Jesus looked around and said
to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have
riches to enter the
And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to
them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in
riches to enter the
Sidebar: Note the affectionate label of “children” in correcting their misunderstanding. He isn’t rebuking them. It’s that on this matter they are like children who can’t yet grasp truths that are (currently) above their level of comprehension. That does not mean it has to stay that way, however.
It is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” They can not comprehend how any one could possibly be saved if the rich can’t. After all, they “have everything,” all the advantages, all the prestige, superior status and authority over the rest of society. With all those working in their favor, if they can’t be saved how could poorer folk possibly have the opportunity?
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Jesus immediately zooms in on the core of their problem: they are evaluating things on the basis of things they see in the world around them . . . where “wealth can accomplish anything.” But in the spiritual realm we are dealing where God is the deciding factor. And with Him anything is possible. He makes the rules. He makes the exceptions. He can’t be deceived. If He decides it must be done, then it will be done--inevitably and fully.
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” Light begins to dawn in the mind of Peter: Jesus had demanded the rich religious leader leave behind what he had. Peter and the other apostles had already left “all” they had as well to travel with Him and assist in His causes. These sacrifices will not be forgotten. . . .
10:29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 by who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. Everyone who has been willing to be as self-sacrificial as the apostles--no matter who or what they have left behind--will receive a dual reward. The first comes in the current world where they will receive additional homes and spiritual kin where they are welcome. The second comes in eternity when they will reap unending “eternal life”--by definition, unlike that of life on this earth, a “life” that will never cease.
Sidebar: Note that he goes out of His way not only to stress the blessings of discipleship, but to also bluntly point out the difficulty it will bring: “persecutions.” It isn’t really targeting you but the cause of Christ that you support. Since they can’t take out their anger personally and directly on the Lord, they’ll take it out on you instead.
But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” “Many” who are deemed of the greatest importance by worldly standards will be judged among the lowest rank (= “last) by spiritual criteria. Likewise those who have been at the bottom of the societal “totem pole” in this life, have the opportunity to be at the top of it in the next.
Jesus Forewarns His Apostles Again That He Will Die--In
Now they were on the road, going up to
“Behold, we are
going up to
and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” This behavior manifests not just opposition but outright contempt. They could not forgive Him for repeatedly besting them in argument. They could not forgive Him for having a wide variety of followers who far more respected His judgment and teachings than those of the official spiritual leaders of the day.
James and John Attempt To Be Recognized As The Two Most Important Apostles (-45): 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 He said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 They said to him, “Permit one of us to sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I experience?” 39 They said to him, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I experience, 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give. It is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41 Now when the other ten heard this, they became angry with James and John. 42 Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” They don’t really believe that Jesus’ warning of impending death will actually happen because they are obsessed with their own positions beneath Him during His coming reign (verse 37).
Sidebar: In Matthew’s account we learn that it was their mother who made the request though they were with her at the time (). What we don’t know is whether this advancement idea was one she came up with by herself or whether they themselves had decided to use her as being more likely to convince the Lord. Certainly Jesus responded to the sons in particular since this was all being done on their behalf regardless of who originated the scheme.
And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” A logical response. The wise person bewares of ever giving “a blank check” even to a friend. The responsible use of authority and money requires that one have a good idea of what it is going to be used for.
They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” They aren’t asking for much, are they? Only the second and third highest position in the coming kingdom! What is absent is any explanation of why they would be the best choice. Justification is simply not required in their minds. When people do these kind of things in the modern world we justly call it “cronyism,” blatant favoritism with no real reason backing it.
But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Are they able to endure what He Himself will soon go through? If they aren’t, who are they to so zealously push their claims? Since He had so recently stressed His coming death and the horrible things it would involve (verses 32-34), the “baptism” rhetoric fits well: It would pour over, totally cover His dying hours. He would be immersed in suffering. Are they prepared to endure it as well?
They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I
am baptized with you will be baptized. Jesus answers His own question:
So far as faithfulness goes, they do have the spiritual strength
to accept death out of their loyalty.
Hence they also will successfully go through a baptism of
suffering. Laying aside the traitor
Judas, James was the first apostle to die--at the hands of King Herod (Acts
12:1-2). His brother John survived his
own baptism of abuse by being imprisoned later on the isle of
10:40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” What they wished would be an abuse of Jesus’ authority. Leadership roles would be gained by a different criteria than personal friendship or family relationship. Such roles are for those “for whom it is prepared.” On the basis of analogy with 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the idea would be that they are for those who have met the criteria set by God . . . men who have the qualities and attributes that best fit them for leadership. Those are the ones for whom church leadership is reserved.
And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. It is hardly surprising that those not involved in this scheme were deeply annoyed at it. Although some translations describe their reaction as becoming “angry” (CEV, GW) or “furious” (ISV), the more common rendering is “indignant” (ESV, NASB). And who can challenge their response? James and John had even stooped so low as getting their mother involved--or allowing her to nudge their own hopes into action. Either way, it was about equally insulting to those who were not using such chicanery.
The ten had been somewhere else when the attempt had been made, but recognizing the need to deal with the ill will such had to inevitably produce, Jesus took steps to not only deal with it but to also provide positive teaching on how to gain precedence the right way. . . .
But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. One did not have to be an expert on the behavior of kings and princes who ruled in the Gentile world to have heard repeated stories of their wealth and behavior. Leadership among them went with abundant self-centeredness toward those who did not share their rank: they “lord it over them”--invoking the imagery of arrogance and snobbery. They take pride in “exercis[ing] authority over them”--invoking the imagery of people who covet rule for self-centered reasons rather than as a tool to benefit others as well.
Using the same Greek term for the second expression, Peter taught local church leaders that they also needed to avoid such behavior: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2-3). Speaking of this passage but applying it to our text in Mark as well, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes: “The preposition in the original is emphatic, and gives the force of oppressive, tyrannical rule, where the ruler uses his rights for the diminution of the ruled and the exaltation of himself. The same unfavorable sense attaches to the word rendered ‘exercise authority,’ which only occurs here and in the parallel in Matthew 20:25.”
Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. In contrast to Gentile secular leadership, among disciples of Christ directorship is to be earned through time and effort spent helping fellow followers of the Lord. It is not a matter of merely being “appointed” into authority; rather, we earn the right by our manifested actions and dedication. Hence. . . .
And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. A powerful paradox: The person who truly wants to be a leader must have the mind frame of doing what is best and most useful to everyone else. We must place providing what they need as more important than doing what we ourselves prefer. In other words, their needs must take priority over our own. Not that the latter are to be ignored, but they are never to squeeze out the former.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Drastic as what Jesus is requiring, it is not without precedent. Jesus is only demanding that others live by the same standard He Himself did. And He is going to give far more than is ever demanded of us. . . . He is going to die to “ransom” (= purchase/save) us from the sin that holds us in its chains.
A Blind Beggar Healed At
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up! He is calling you.” 50 He threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied, “Rabbi, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the road. --New English Translation (for comparison)
Now they came to
Actually there were two blind men present (Matthew -34) but Mark chooses to tell the story by centering on only one particular individual. Most likely this was done because he was well known among the contemporary Christians Mark knew. Alternatively, that his father was.
first century characteristics of
he heard that it was Jesus of
Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Efforts to silence him did no good because he knew full well that Jesus offered him the only way out of his affliction. Since he could not see Jesus, he had to rely on his voice to attract attention. Some have suggested that Jesus may have been preaching to the crowd and the listeners found the cry distracting from the message. The fact that Jesus seems to have been walking along and only “stood still” in response to the voice (verse 49) argues strongly against this.
So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” Jesus was far enough away that He could not see the afflicted but only hear his voice. So He instructed those who were closer to relay His wish for the blind man to approach closer. And they, instinctively realizing that some blessing was about to be given, assured the man that he should be happy since Jesus was calling for him to approach closer.
And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. He threw aside the loose outer garment: not “took it off” but “throwing [it] aside.” That sounds like he was using it at the time as a blanket or loose covering rather than as clothing. If clothing, why take it off at all?
So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” Although it hardly required any particular skill for those at the front of the crowd to realize that he wanted his eyesight back, a number of those further back would not see well what was going on. Both for their sake and to see whether the blind man would have the courage to say close up what he was willing to holler out at the distance, Jesus queries him directly on the blessing he seeks.
Sidebar: There were four gradations of honor in the recognition given Jewish religious teachers and here he uses the highest: Rab, Rabbi, Rabban, Rabboni.
Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight
and followed Jesus on the road. The healing was without delay and the other
disciples had the opportunity to meet him and congratulate him as they all
traveled along the same road to