Mark 9:30-32… And from there they went out and began to go through Galilee, but Jesus did not want anyone to know about it. 31 For he was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he has been killed, he will rise three days later.” 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask him.
After Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ (8:29), Jesus and the Twelve made their way to Caesarea Philippi in the north. As they later made their way back towards Galilee Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John upon a mountain and revealed his glory to them as the Son of God (9:1-13). When they came back down the mountain they started south towards Jerusalem where Jesus had told the disciples he needed to go in order to be rejected by the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes, be killed, and rise up after three days (8:31). He also made mention of his passion to Peter, James, and John as they descended the mountain of transfiguration (9:9). It was “from there” that the thirteen men began to walk through Galilee making their way to Jerusalem for the upcoming Passover. And Jesus wanted no one to know about it so that he could press on without hindrance and also to be able to teach his disciples without interruption.
As they made their way through Galilee from Caesarea Philippi Jesus was teaching the disciples, once again, that he was going to be delivered into the hands of men, be killed, and after dying he would rise three days later. This particular prophecy concerning Jesus’ passion in Mark 9:31 is a bit different than the one in Mark 8:31 which emphasized the certainty that he would die. He said in 8:31 that his death was so certain that he “is delivered.” Lane says, “It is also briefer in formulation, referring to abandonment to the will of men, violent death, and resurrection.” There was no stress on suffering in 8:31, but in 9:12 Jesus does refer to his humiliation (previously prophesied in Isaiah 53) in addition to being preceded by Elijah.
But in Mark 9:31 Jesus adds a new component to his passion: he would be “delivered into the hands of men.” The term “delivered up” actually expresses God’s will in Scripture – chiefly when it’s used of martyrdom (cf. John 18:30; 2 Cor. 4:11). And when it’s used of martyrdom it is always God who allows or hinders the handing over of the one who will die for his beliefs – all for God’s sovereign purposes. In other words, even though Judas is later revealed to be the traitor who delivers Jesus into the hands of the Jews, it is actually the ultimate purpose of God to do so. Even Jesus said as much in predicting his horrific death, for he told the disciples in v. 31 that he would be delivered “over to men” – a statement that seems to exacerbate his abandonment. But the entire prophecy about his passion, and the fact that he marches into Jerusalem knowing all that will transpire, attests to God’s sovereign will and His redemptive plan through His Son.
The disciples, however, did not understand, and they didn’t want to ask Jesus to elaborate. Possibly they thought knowing would prove more painful than understanding what lay before them. They must have believed in the resurrection because Daniel 12:2 speaks of it, but clearly Jesus was speaking of something else, for he said he would rise three days later.
Food for Thought
The death of Jesus didn’t take God by surprise. All events leading up to his death and resurrection were carefully planned and orchestrated from the foundation of the world. Jesus had to come to the earth, minister his Word, die a painful death, and come back to life. He had to do die because we are sinful, and sin brings death. He took that death for us, and he lives today because he is God Almighty. That is what makes Christianity superior to all other religions.
Mark 9:33-37… And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house, he began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 35 And sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” 36 And taking a child, he set him before them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives me; and whoever receives me does not receive me, but Him who sent me.”
The disciples, in essence, were clueless about what Jesus had been teaching them about his eventual death and resurrection. He spoke plainly about it, but they were afraid to even ask. So, the disciples, instead of dwelling upon Jesus’ difficult teachings and seeking to understand them, went to a more familiar topic – the topic about who among them was the greatest. In light of the fact that Jesus had been predicting his death, the disciples might have been arguing about which one would rule over them after he died. For the society itself, then as now, amidst the self-centered mentality, was consumed with self, authority, and rank among its people groups.
When the men arrived in Capernaum they entered once again into a house in v. 33. It was there that Jesus began to question the disciples about what it was they were discussing along the way. And like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar the disciples hung their heads in shame. They obviously knew that their conversation along the way was immature and self-serving, and it appears that they had attempted to keep their arguments hush-hush. Jesus, however, was not duped by their stealth, for he knew their hearts and every other conniving thought that went through their minds. Throughout the Gospels when Jesus asks pointed questions to guilty parties they respond with silence, not knowing what to say.
Jesus, seeing a teachable moment for the disciples, rebuked their self-serving attitudes in v. 35 by telling them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and a servant to all.” In other words, “If you want to be the greatest among your peers, become the lowest.” When Jesus told them to become a “servant” the word is literally “deacon.” This term is different than the one used for a “slave,” and it doesn’t involve the office of deacon. The word deacon here is merely a term for “one who serves.” So, one who serves is actually the greatest among those who don’t! Then he summoned a child from inside the house where they were staying and placed him in their midst to illustrate his point in v. 36. He picked the child up, held him in his arms, and explained what true discipleship is. The disciples were to become like the little child in Jesus’ arms – not concerned with greatness. Children have no aspirations for being important, but are considered ignorant, unassuming, and meek, and this is what true greatness is in God’s eyes.
In v. 37 Jesus told the disciples that receiving a child like the one he held – as a representation of meek and humble behavior – would be the same as receiving him. And receiving him was equivalent to receiving God. The child itself represented Jesus, or those sent by Jesus (i.e., Christians), just as the disciples had been representatives of Jesus when he sent them out to cure diseases and cast out demons. The emissary of the man is as the man himself.
Food for Thought
If true greatness is represented by Jesus, who came to be a servant to all and to die on behalf of others, why is it that we continue to try to be great through education and finances? True greatness is found in humility and submission to God. The world may not agree, but if we’re still trying to gain man’s approval we can’t really be servants of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:10).
Mark 9:38-42… John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in my name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 “For he who is not against us is for us. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. 42 And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
While speaking to Jesus, John asked about a man they saw casting demons out in the name of Jesus. The man’s actions angered the disciples because they felt they had exclusive access to Jesus’ powers. They even attempted to stop him because “he was not following us.” It’s ironic that while another man was successfully casting out demons in faith, the disciples, the one’s who had been given the authority to do so by Jesus, couldn’t do so for their lack of faith! This made them jealous (cf. Num. 11:27-29), for they had a narrow view of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus answered the disciples in v. 39 by telling them not to hinder those who work miracles in his name. The very fact that another person outside of the Twelve would invoke the name of Jesus to cast out demons attests to the fact that some people in and around Galilee were impacted by Jesus’ teachings. His actions in using Jesus’ name also prove that when the name of Jesus is joined with faith there is great power. He must have been a true believer, for Jesus said that no one could perform a mighty work in his name and then turn around and speak evil of him. And there is a subtle and sarcastic humor in Jesus’ words here as he distinguishes the effective ministry of the unknown exorcist to the failure of the Twelve – the very ones who walked and talked with Jesus every day. They were truly immature and hardhearted at this stage.
In v. 40 Jesus told them that those not “against us” are “for us” (cf. Matt. 12:30). This obviously leaves no room for fence-riders. Those who are for Jesus cannot at the same time work against him, and though the unknown exorcist didn’t follow Jesus like the Twelve did, his ministry was clearly of the same mindset and faith. He was for Jesus just like the Twelve.
Now the principle of v. 40 is illustrated in v. 41. For offering a man who is thirsty a drink is a kind act of hospitality, but offering a man a drink because he is a disciple of Christ is far more significant, for by giving a servant of Christ aid when he needs it he in fact gives it to Christ himself! The kind act is one of obedience and faith bringing a “reward” (i.e., God’s awareness of the act whether great or small). Those who do such are, per v. 40, said to be “for us.” But the converse is also true. Those who cause one of Christ’s “little ones” (his servants) to stumble (i.e., keep them from serving Christ effectively) are cursed. For it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a heavy stone around their neck – a common form of Roman punishment well-known in Galilee for those who rebelled against Herod Antipas. And the irony here is that the Twelve had just confessed to trying to stop another from using Jesus’ name to cast out demons. (Peter was guilty too, for he attempted to keep Jesus from his mission in 8:33).
Food for Thought
There are many servants of Christ. Some serve him abroad as foreign missionaries while others serve him through menial tasks like mowing the church lawn. Each one serves Christ however, and when others join in that task (through giving money to missionaries or giving the lawn crew a drink) they actually participate in Christ’s ministry. Vow to be a part of that, and be extra careful not to thwart the Gospel by hindering those who serve the way God called them to.
Mark 9:43-48… “And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
In v. 42 Jesus taught that anyone who would cause one of Christ’s followers (called “little ones”) to “stumble” (Greek scandalizo from whence “scandal” derives), they would suffer the consequences of thwarting God’s plan being implemented by His servants. In vv. 43-48, though, Jesus goes one step further. He claims that “if your hand causes you to stumble” (scandalizo) then it should be cut off”… “if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off”… “if you eye causes you to stumble cast it out.” Jesus reasoned that it would be better to go into eternal life crippled, lame, and blind than to have use of all body parts and yet enter into the fires of hell.
The contrast in vv. 43-48 in relation to causing another person to “stumble” is that this passages refers to causing oneself to stumble! The difficulty of a literal interpretation here is that hands, feet, and eyes are the instruments we use to sin. All are guilty of this. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet go into the eternal fires of hell? But Jesus wasn’t advocating mutilation of the flesh but mortification of self. This is the path to true holiness and discipleship, and it illustrates what it means to deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow Christ faithfully (cf. 8:34-38). Simply put, Jesus was calling for a heart that rejects sinful practices and puts them to death. Hacking one’s hand or foot off or plucking one’s eyes out does not take away the sin in the heart. It is the heart’s sinful desires that must be cut off.
In the context of Mark 9:30-50 God’s Kingdom is at stake. To cause another to stumble in relation to serving Christ is the issue at hand. But Jesus didn’t stop there, for he also calls for the sacrifice of one’s life (8:34), one’s possessions (10:21), and one’s family (10:28) if any of these things got in the way of following him faithfully. So should a Christian who sins with his hands, feet, and eyes hack them off? The answer is not necessarily. Sin begins in the heart, and murder, lying, coveting, and adultery begin there before one’s bodily parts engage in the sin. So to chop off body parts to keep from sinning is an exercise in futility because the sin will still remain in one’s heart. After all, Jesus didn’t take the disciples, after they attempted to prevent the unnamed exorcist, to the sea, tie a millstone around their necks, and push them over a cliff. Yet they seem to have deserved this for hindering the man’s ministry. Jesus exaggerated his point, it seems, in order to teach the disciples that their bodies must not be slaves to the sin which begins in the heart. They were to renounce sinful behaviors altogether. And to be overly concerned with one’s body parts and the maintenance thereof, with no willingness to renounce one’s sinful behavior, is to be preoccupied with sin over righteousness. Those are in danger of hell.
Food for Thought
What it is that makes you (or others) stumble in your walk with Christ. Materialism? Pornography? Too much television or internet at the expense of spending time with friends, family, and God? Whatever the cause, get rid of it! If you look with lust, stop! If you walk into evil, don’t! If you cheat with your hands, stop! It is far more profitable to deny ourselves some of life’s “pleasures” today in order to enter true life in eternity. The decision all humans must make is whether to live for this world in the now or to live for the world of eternity – to follow Christ.
Mark 9:47b-50… “…It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Elaborating on his previous teaching about cutting off one’s hand or foot or plucking out one’s eye if they cause one to stumble, Jesus says that it is better to enter into eternal life maimed and cripple than to enter into hell with a fully functioning body.
There are three Greek words translated “hell” in the NT. Verse 47 is “Gehenna” which is a reference to the Hebrew “Valley of Hinnom” on the south side of Jerusalem. In OT times it was used for human sacrifices to pagan gods (cf. Jer 7:31; 19:5-6; 32:35), but it was later used as a garbage dump where fires continually burned. It became a live illustration of divine retribution. Because it was a literal place outside of Jerusalem that everyone was familiar with, Jesus used it to illustrate the other side of eternity outside of heaven. It is a place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” This is a quote from Isaiah 66:24 made in reference to all those who rejected God by rejecting His Son Jesus Christ. the “worm” speaks of internal torment while the “fire” speaks of external torment. Therefore, “Gehenna” becomes a picture Jesus uses of everlasting torment. Both the worm and the fire paint a dramatic picture of the unending, conscious punishment that awaits all who reject Jesus Christ. Who is this place for? Per Isaiah’s words, it’s for those who rebel against God. Matthew 25:41 says that the eternal fire was specifically prepared for the devil and his angels, but those who reject Christ (one of those ways being the rejection of his “little ones”) will also spend their eternity there because of their own rebellion against God. Hell is called “eternal” in the same way that heaven is called “eternal.” Based upon a word study, if heaven is everlasting and eternal, having no end, then hell too would also have to be a place where its inhabitants, though destroyed, undergo their destruction for an eternity. Amazing, yet sobering, that Christ would use “hell” as the dwelling place for those who, though not wicked according to worldly standards, will dwell there nonetheless simply through causing Christ’s “little ones” to stumble. This is equivalent to rejecting Christ altogether.
Verse 49 says that “everyone will be salted with fire.” For those who reject Christ their “salt” refers to the preservation (salt being a preservative) God will shed on them to endure an eternity of fiery judgment. For God’s “little ones” living in a hostile world the “salt” is a reference to their own preservation in the hostile world and their ability to offer themselves as living sacrifices to God (cf. Rom. 12:1) – a reference to the OT where sacrifices offered to God had to be seasoned with salt (cf. Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24). Disciples of Christ obtain salt through their fiery trials (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12) – trials that God uses to flush away all impurities in a Christian’s life. That is why Jesus said, in v. 50, that “salt is good,” for he was warning them that to lose their salt-like quality, which gives life to the world, would cause them to lose their distinctive mark of being his followers. And loss of that mark would render them worthless.
Food for Thought
True greatness is not measured by rank and education. Rather, a man is set apart as great in God’s Kingdom by the quality of his/her “saltiness.” Only true believers are able to recognize such, and when they recognize this, their strife, with one another and with the world they live in, is resolved. And peace is restored only when Christians recognize each other’s greatness as it relates to their serving Christ – a service that is accomplished through serving His “little ones.”
· Lack of understanding (Mark 9:30-32)
- Sometimes we have no clue what God is doing – His will is hidden from us, and the time isn’t right for us to know.
- We typically understand God in hindsight and are able to comprehend His sovereignty.
- We must listen to and trust God in all matters – especially when we don’t understand.
· Petty Arguments Signify Petty People (Mark 9:33-34)
- When we don’t understand we tend to put it aside and go back to our comfort zone.
- Dwelling upon things we don’t understand deepens our walk, intensifies our prayer life, and causes us to forget the unimportant things in life (as well as self).
- Arguments between members of Christ’s body expose spiritual immaturity.
- Once again they argued selfishly in the face of far more important matters.
- Rivalry hinders our understanding of God’s plan (which is servant-hood)
- Contrary to what the world says, status is not a virtue
- Satan promises glory now (w/pain later); Jesus promises suffering now (w/glory later)
· True Greatness is Illustrated in a Child (Mark 9:35-37)
- Believes anything (which is why they must be taught truth!)
- Is a servant to his parents (and lowest ranking in the family)
- Has no inclination to greatness at young age
- Is unassuming and innocent
- Protected by God (as indicated by Jesus holding the child in his arms)
- Those who “hinder” the child will be punished by God (millstone) not the child himself
· Those Not Against Christ are For Christ (Mark 9:37-42)
- Those not FOR are AGAINST – there is no middle ground
- Those who help Christ’s servants help Christ
· The Danger of Hindering Oneself (Mark 9:43-48)
- No mutilation of the flesh but mortification of the heart (all things through Christ)
- Those with lustful eyes should act as if they were blind (don’t look!)
- Those with feet that run into evil must act as if they were cripple (don’t go!)
- Those with hands that cheat should act as if they had hooks (don’t do it!)
- Sin in the inner man must undergo surgery like a cancerous tumor needing removal
· The Reality and Danger of Hellfire (Mark 9:47b)
- Worm – inner torment
- Fire – external torment
- Does not die – eternal duration of destruction
- Not believing in hell causes indifference to sin and the afterlife
· A Call for Saltiness (Mark 9:49-50)
- For sinners – a preserving agent for them to endure eternal fire
- For believers – 1) preservation in a hostile world, 2) seasons the living sacrifice which comes from fiery trials that purify the believer
- Losing one’s saltiness is a loss of God’s distinctive mark upon believers rendering worthless
o Peter got the message and wrote: “But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, will make you perfect, establish you, strengthen you, and settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 5:10).