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Bible Commentaries
Mark 9

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

SEE notes on Matthew 16:13-28. Mark omits the blessing bestowed on Peter, and the subsequent promise, but inserts the rebuke. A significant fact, showing the humility of Peter. The reference to the institution of the Church as a separate communion, is also wanting. Hence the Passion of Christ is the central truth, involving the active and passive confession of His people, and not the institution of the Church, much less the primacy of Peter. It is remarkable that this fundamental confession of faith was called forth by our Lord, not in Galilee or Judea, but near Cesarea Philippi (Banias), a Roman settlement on the extreme northern boundary of Palestine.

Verse 2

Mark 9:2. Six days. So Matthew. Luke more generally, or perhaps including the day of Peter’s confession: ‘about an eight days’ ( i.e., a week).

By themselves . Not simply in private (‘apart’), but actually ‘alone.’ The immediate purpose was ‘to pray’ (Luke), the ultimate purpose this revelation.

Verses 2-13

ON the connection and locality, see notes on Matthew 17:1-13. Mt. Tabor, the scene of the Transfiguration, according to tradition, is presented in the subjoined cut. Mark’s account presents several independent details, in his graphic style.

Verse 3

Mark 9:3. And his raiment. All three Evangelists speak of this, but Mark gives the most vivid description of it, omitting the other details.

Became. This graphic touch brings out ‘the glistening of each separate portion of His clothing’ (Alford).

Such (garments) that no fuller on earth can so whiten. This indicates that the splendor was preternatural. The fuller’s business was to wash soiled white garments, and make them clean and glistening. Persons of high rank were often distinguished by the brightness of their white garments. Beyond all these efforts of human splendor was the glory of our Lord’s raiment. An anticipation of His future glory as the Son of man.

Verse 4

Mark 9:4. Elijah with Moses. Elijah is more prominent in this account, and probably was in the scene as witnessed by Peter.

Verse 6

Mark 9:6. For they became more afraid. All three Evangelists speak of this fear, or religious awe: Mark here, Luke: ‘as they entered into the cloud.’ Matthew: when ‘they heard ‘the voice. This indicates a continued and growing awe. It is placed earliest by Mark, who thus accounts for Peter’s words.

Verse 7

Mark 9:7. The account of Mark is the more vivacious, according to the correct readings. Mark and Luke omit: ‘in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew).

Hear him. The great practical lesson of the whole occurrence.

Verse 8

Mark 9:8. And suddenly, etc. Mark omits some details here. The withdrawal itself was not necessarily sudden, but their perception of it was.

Save Jesus only. His authority suffices; His love redeems; His glory is the great end.

With themselves. Peculiar to Mark; it hints at the self-consciousness of an eye-witness, and suggests that our Lord was near them as they looked. Matthew tells that they looked up after He touched them.

Verse 10

Mark 9:10. And they kept the saying. Probably this particular saying about the resurrection as the limit of their silence about what they had seen on the mount. Obedience to the command of Mark 9:9, is assumed in the account of Matthew, and asserted in that of Luke, and is of course implied here.

Questioning among themselves, etc. The perplexity was about this Resurrection, ‘What is the shall have risen again from the dead,’ would be a literal rendering. However much they believed in a general resurrection, it was difficult for them to conceive of a resurrection after which they could tell of these things.

The unexampled fact, now the basis of our faith in a Living Saviour, could not be understood in advance. They doubtless continued wondering when and how the time would come when they could speak. Mark derived his exact information from Peter, who also alludes to this event in his second Epistle.

Verse 11

Mark 9:11. The question is the same as in Matthew 17:10 (see notes there). Three renderings are possible: ‘saying, The scribes say,’ etc., ‘How is it that the scribes,’ etc., ‘Why,’ etc. The last is probably the sense here. See on Mark 9:28.

Verse 12

Mark 9:12. The punctuation is in dispute. The E.V. does not give ‘how ‘its proper meaning. Most later scholars take the first half only as a question: And how is it written of the Son of man? then the answer: That he should suffer, etc. Others take the whole as one question. The next verse shows that the main point is not so much to prove that the Son of man must soon suffer, as that the predicted Elijah had come, and, like the Old Testament. Elijah, had suffered as the Messiah also would, hence that this Elijah was John the Baptist (Matthew 17:13).

Verse 13

Mark 9:13. Even as it is written of him. There is no direct prophecy of the sufferings of the predicted Elijah. But as the prophet Elijah suffered, it might be inferred from the Old Testament, that the forerunner of the Messiah (called Elijah) would suffer, especially in view of the predicted sorrows of the Messiah Himself. So the disciples understood it. See Matthew 17:13.

Verse 14

Mark 9:14. And when they came. ‘The next day’ (Luke).

The scribes questioning with them. The disciples were not yet prepared to defend themselves, and their failure to cure the lunatic boy was probably used, not only against them, but against their master.

Verses 14-29

Mark’s account is most detailed and vivid. He alone mentions the contention with the scribes, the amazement of the people, their running to Jesus. The wretched state of the possessed youth is most vividly represented, and the effect of the presence of Jesus upon him. The description of the interview with the father (Mark 9:21-25) is as valuable as it is touching. The report of the subsequent conversation with the disciples is brief, and no mention is made of the effect upon the people (Luke 9:43).

Verses 14-50

MARK alone tells us that the journey from the mount of Transfiguration to Capernaum was private (Mark 9:30). The education of the disciples called for this, and the hostility of the Pharisees had in fact closed Galilee against His labors. The incident about the temple-tribute (Matthew 17:24-27) is omitted, probably on account of Peter’s desire not to make himself too prominent in the narrative. See the notes on Matthew 17:22 to Matthew 18:14.

Verse 15

Mark 9:15. Were greatly amazed. Our Lord’s countenance may have retained some traces of the glory on the mount, as in the case of Moses. The word here used (struck with awe) indicates more than surprise at His sudden coming.

Running to him. Luke: ‘Much people met Him; ‘see note on Matthew 17:14.

Sainted Him. Welcomed Him, whatever had been the influence of the debate with the scribes. Christ’s presence put an end to this debate. The evidence of Christ’s presence and the exhibition of His power always produce a similar effect.

Verse 16

Mark 9:16. Asked them. Probably the scribes. The opposition was thus transferred from the disciples to our Lord.

What question ye with them? About what, what is the subject of discussion?

Verse 17

Mark 9:17. One of the multitude. The scribes were silent, but the person most deeply interested answers. The subject of dispute was connected with the cure of the lunatic boy. The scribes feared to repeat their objections, lest our Lord should convict them in the presence of the multitude by working a miraculous cure. The hostility to our Lord was always cowardly!

I brought. He actually brought his son, expecting to find Christ, to thee, not knowing of His absence. It was his only son (Luke 9:38.)

A dumb spirit. A spirit causing the boy to be speechless; not that the demon was a silent one.

Verse 18

Mark 9:18. Wheresoever it seizeth him. The symptoms, as described here and by the other Evangelists, are those of epilepsy. The fits were sudden, but the dumbness seems to have been continuous.

Verse 19

Mark 9:19. Saith to them. Not to the man alone (as the incorrect reading implies), though he was included, but to the multitude, whom our Lord addresses as representing that faithless, or, ‘unbelieving,’ generation.

How long, etc.? This indicates ‘holy impatience of their hardness of heart and unbelief. In this the father, disciples, scribes, and multitude are equally involved’ (Alford).

Verse 20

Mark 9:20. And when he saw him. When the lad saw Jesus, the spirit convulsed him. But the original gives a stronger hint of the intimate connection between the demon and the possessed person. ‘The kingdom of Satan, in small and great, is ever stirred into a fiercer activity by the coming near of the kingdom of Christ Satan has great wrath, when his time is short’ (Trench).

Verse 21

Mark 9:21. And he asked his father. To bring out his faith.

Verse 22

Mark 9:22. To destroy him. The father describes the case still further, representing the demon as a malignant enemy seeking to kill his only son.

If thou canst do anything. The father’s sense of need is stirred by the recital, but his faith is very weak. Not strong at first, it had probably been weakened by the failure of the disciples.

Have compassion on us, and help us. The father’s feelings are intense, as he naturally and properly identifies himself with the misery of his son. (comp. Matthew 15:25). But intense feeling is not faith!

Verse 23

Mark 9:23. If thou canst! The sense of the passage is: ‘The question is, not what is possible on my part, but on yours.’ The best authorities omit the word ‘believe.’ The man’s words were repeated by our Lord either as a question; ‘Did you say; if thou canst?’ or as an exclamation: ‘As to thy words, if thou canst, all depends upon faith,’ etc.

All things are possible, etc. The fundamental law of the kingdom of God. The measure of faith is the measure of our ability, because according to our faith Christ’s power is ours. Christ is the object of faith; faith can only be omnipotent as Christ is omnipotent.

Verse 24

Mark 9:24. And straightway the father of the child cried out. A touching description, true to nature and drawn from life. The full form; ‘the father of the child,’ not only implies that the son was a child in years, but suggests the spiritual connection between ‘father ‘and ‘child ‘in this matter, and the effect of the faith of the former upon the cure of the latter. When the father’s faith had been sufficiently tested, the helpless child was healed.

I believe, help thou mine unbelief, i.e., want of faith. The man’s faith is further awakened by the challenge of our Lord; but this increase of faith only shows him how great his doubt is; and he at once adds to his confession of belief a new prayer for help, help for himself, that thus help might come to his only son. This will seem natural to all who have any faith, and paradoxical only to outright unbelievers. Weak faith is yet faith and when it leads to prayer it becomes stronger. Alford: ‘Nothing can be more touching and living than this whole most masterly and wonderful narrative. The poor father is drawn out into a sense of the unworthiness of his distrust and” the little spark of faith which is kindled in his soul reveals to him the abysmal deeps of unbelief which are there” (Trench).’

Verse 25

Mark 9:25. A multitude came running together. Our Lora would avoid too great publicity (comp, Mark 9:30); the father’s faith had been sufficiently tested, hence the command to the evil spirit was now uttered. The words are preserved by Mark only: I (emphatic, I although my disciples could not cast thee out) command (authoritatively) thee.

Enter no more into him. These unusual words show the unusual malignity of this kind of a spirit (Mark 9:29).

Verse 26

Mark 9:26. Crying out, uttering an inarticulate cry. Spoken of the demon, but with the same hint of intimate connection alluded to in Mark 9:20.

And he became as one dead. Exhaustion followed the excitement, but this very quietude was a token that the demon was gone.

The most part, lit., ‘the many,’ according to the correct reading. This was the general verdict.

Verse 27

Mark 9:27. Took him by the hand. The usual external act which connected His person with the subject of a miracle.

And he arose, ox ‘stood up.’ The cure was now complete, the child’s own activity appearing. Mark alone tells of the successive steps. This mode of healing would serve to strengthen the father’s faith, and by showing the difficulty of the case, make the more powerful impression on the multitude, before whom the failure of the disciples and the debate with the scribes had occurred. The effect of the miracle is described by Luke (Luke 9:43). The vivid and detailed narrative must have been obtained from the recollections of an eye-witness.

Verse 28

Mark 9:28. Into the house. Peculiar to Mark. The question may mean: ‘We could not,’ etc., since the word with which it begins is often a mere mark of quotation. But it sometimes means ‘why.’ In that case the E.V. is correct. Others paraphrase: ‘How is it that we,’ etc. The same difficulty occurs in Mark 9:11, but the word ‘saying ‘there, renders the first view less abrupt than here.

Verse 29

Mark 9:29. Matthew’s account is fuller, but the answer here given is to be omitted there.

This kind. Probably evil spirits in general. The disciples had cast out evil spirits before, their failure in this case of remarkable malignity was for their admonition.

By prayer. On the part of those who would exorcise the demon. The words ‘and fasting’ are to be omitted. Even if retained, they cannot refer, as the sermon on the mount shows, to stated or ceremonial observances, but to proper spiritual discipline, in which fasting (private and personal) holds an important place. Of course nothing is implied about the power to cast out evil spirits and work miracles in later times. The ‘prayer and fasting’ would not work the miracle, but were necessary to sustain the faith which would successfully call upon Christ’s power in such a case.

Verse 30

Mark 9:30. Passed through Galilee ; probably over by-ways, that opportunity might be given for instructing the disciples about His approaching sufferings.

Verse 31

Mark 9:31. For he taught, or, ‘was teaching,’ habitually, during this private journey.

His disciples. The twelve, as is indicated by the parallel passages. Others may, however, have been included.

Is delivered up. Matthew: ‘shall be delivered up;’ hence the present tense here is prophetic. The delivery was into the hands of men, i.e. , by God. See on Matthew 17:22-23.

Verse 33

Mark 9:33. When he was. Literally, ‘being;’ but in the singular number. It was immediately after their entrance.

In the house. Probably a particular house, where He usually resided.

In the way. Probably during the journey to Capernaum.

Verse 34

Mark 9:34. But they held their peace. In shame and contusion. The thought of their heart had been perceived (Luke 9:47).

Who was the greater. The dispute was occasioned by the preference given to Peter, James, and John, rather than by the promise to Peter (Matthew 16:18-19). They probably thought that their rank now would determine their rank in the future kingdom. The question of Matthew 18:1, may have been put after the saying of the next verse and before the child was brought (Mark 9:36). In any case it was more humble than the dispute had been.

Verse 35

Mark 9:35. If any one would, or, ‘desires to,’ etc. See Matthew 20:26; Matthew 18:4; Matthew 23:12. If the desire is selfish, the plan will fail, he shall be last of all; if he would be truly first then he will take this lower position voluntarily, and be servant of all.

Verse 36

Mark 9:36. And taking him in his arms. Peculiar to Mark. The child seems not to have been brought in, but to have been a member of the household. Tradition says it was the martyr Ignatius, of Antioch, who was therefore called Christophorus (borne by Christ). The little one may have been the child of one of the Apostles, perhaps of Peter, whose house this may have occurred.

Verse 37

Mark 9:37. Comp. Matthew 18:5; and also Matthew 10:40.

Verse 38

Mark 9:38. John said to him. Luke: ‘answered,’ so the E. V. here also. It was an answer in the wide sense; for the command to receive a child in His name would suggest the question of John.

We saw. Probably on their missionary tour.

One casting out demons in thy name. This unknown man had wrought such miracles as the Apostles did and by the same power, though it had not been directly committed to him as to them. He was not a follower of Jesus, yet he believed in the power of our Lord sufficiently to attempt this exorcism. The needed power was given him; undoubtedly to teach the lesson here recorded.

We forbade him. This forbidding may have so disturbed his faith, that he could no longer exorcise.

Because he followeth not us. This repetition is characteristic of Mark. They probably demanded that the man should either stop his activity or join them. How natural!

Verse 39

Mark 9:39. Forbid him not, i.e., such a man.

For there is no one, etc. The success of the miracle would strengthen the faith, the germs of which were manifested in the attempt to work it in the name of Christ

Be able quickly to speak evil of me (the word is usually rendered ‘revile’). The use of so strong a word points to a sharp distinction between the two classes: ‘for’ and ‘against us.’ This is a warning against limiting ‘the work of the Spirit of God to any sect, or succession, or outward form of church’ (Alford). The Apostles lost no authority from this exceptional case. The two mistakes have been: either, denying that such exceptions exist; or, regarding these cases as the rule not the exceptions. While the Apostles were taught this lesson in toleration, the man receives only negative praise. There are always earnest Christian laborers who decline to be orderly in their methods. Their irregularity calls for toleration, not approval.

Verse 40

Mark 9:40. Against us is for us. Matthew 12:30;

‘He that is not with me, is against me.’ As regards Christ and His people, there is no neutrality. In certain cases, the absence of hostility is a proof of friendship; in others, the failure to cooperate is the proof of enmity; and both might occur in the experience of the same person. But in all cases there is either friendship or enmity. The apparently contradictory proverbs suggest the need of discrimination in applying them. The saying in Matthew refers more to inward unity with Christ; this one to outward conformity with His people. The former may exist independently of the latter, and its existence unites real Christians, whatever their name and outward differences.

Verse 41

Mark 9:41. For whosoever shall give you, etc. Comp. Matthew 10:42. Here the lesson is intended directly for the Apostles.

In this name that ye are Christ’s, i.e., because ye belong to Christ. It may include a reference to the recognition of Christ’s name on the part of the giver. He always recognizes what is done to His people, but His people are so slow to recognize what is done for Him, if not done by them and in their way!

Verse 42

Mark 9:42. See on Matthew 18:6. The connection is probably with Mark 9:37, as there represented, but the question of John and the answer to it prepared for this advance of thought. By their conduct in that case they had been in danger of giving such offence.

One of these little ones. The actual child was probably still in His arms.

Verses 43-48

Mark 9:43-48. See on Matthew 16:8-9; Matthew 5:29-30. The account before us is fuller, though the best authorities omit Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46.

Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. There is a reference to Isaiah 66:24. These awful words plainly point to a future state of never-ending punishment.

Verses 49-50

Mark 9:49-50. These verses, which have no parallel, form the most difficult passage in this Gospel. The difficulty is perhaps lessened, by following the most ancient authorities and omitting the second clause. It is agreed that the interpolated clause, ‘every sacrifice,’ etc., refers to Leviticus 2:13. As the salt is there expressly called ‘the salt of the covenant of thy God,’ a good sense was designed to be given by the interpolation, and Mark 9:50 equally requires such a good sense. As to the ‘fire’ the immediate connection would point to eternal fire, but as there is a refiner’s fire also, this sense is not absolutely necessary; nor on the other hand must the ‘fire’ and ‘salt’ be regarded as two different figures for exactly the same thing. Nor will any interpretation be satisfactory which does not fully bring out the meaning of the word ‘for.’

Explanations: ( 1 .) For (giving a reason why it is better to cut off, etc.) every one (all without exception, those who thus deny themselves and those cast into hell) shall be salted with fire (as the symbol of Divine purity which either purifies or consumes, so that both refining fire and eternal fire are included under the same figure). The interpolated clause will then be explained: ‘And every sacrifice’(those accepted of God are here referred to, not those rejected) ‘shall be salted with salt’ (with ‘the salt of the covenant of thy God’). All must enter the fire of God’s purity in some way; those who offer themselves ‘a living sacrifice’ are seasoned with salt, are preserved in the fire; while others are salted only with fire, the same fire of Divine purity becoming eternal fire of judgment to them. This is a strong reason why the self-denials just enjoined should be made, while the connection with the next verse becomes plain.

Salt is good (see Matthew 5:13, and in this case it is the preservative salt, whether the doubtful clause be omitted or not, the salt of the covenant, so that the ‘fire’ only purifies): but if the salt have lost its saltness (if you profess to be in the covenant and are not, if the failure to cut off the offending member shows this to be the case) wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves (‘this grace of God, this spirit of adoption, this pledge of the covenant’), and (as a fruit, with a reference now to the strife with which the conversation began, Mark 9:34) have peace one with another. This view is unaffected by the omission of the doubtful clause. ( 2 .) Another interpretation agrees with this, except in making the salt and fire identical: this difference appears only in the clause: ‘and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt,’ which is thus interpreted: this very fire with which every one shall be salted, becomes to God’s people a preserving salt. The objection to this is that it takes ‘and’ as = just as, and makes two figurative expressions identical. ( 3 .) Another view takes the two clauses of Mark 9:49 as opposed: ‘Every one’ ( i.e., of those condemned) ‘shall be salted with fire, and’(on the contrary) ‘every sacrifice’(God’s people) ‘shall be salted with salt.’ This unnecessarily limits the words ‘every one,’ and does not account for the use of the word ‘salted’ in the same clause. Such a direct opposition would be expressed by ‘burned with fire’ and ‘salted with salt’ Further, the idea of purification is obscured, and the reason presented for the preceding exhortations is less forcible. ( 4 .) The most objectionable view is that which applies the whole of Mark 9:49 to the lost ‘For,’ in that case, introduces merely a reason for the eternal punishment. This view too takes ‘and’ as just as: ‘Every one’ (condemned)’ is salted with fire’ (preserved from annihilation, so that the punishment can be eternal), ‘just as every sacrifice,’ etc. The connection with Mark 9:50 is very forced on this view: ‘Salt is good’ ( i.e., although thus used as a figure for preservation to punishment, it is also a figure for what is good), etc. Besides, ‘the salt of the covenant,’ which is the most obvious reference, is thrown out of view, and meanings given to the figures which are contrary to the analogy of Scripture. The first view is to be preferred, as most grammatical, most true to the correct reading, and most in keeping with the context.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 9". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/mark-9.html. 1879-90.
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