Mark 9 Part 3

30.  Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it.

They leave His house and pass through Galilee.  Once again, the Lord seeks to travel unannounced, desiring a lack of notoriety.  His mission was not to garner followers, but to do what His Father willed.

31.  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.”

It seems that part of His desire to avoid being known in His travels was because of His upcoming betrayal, and His desire to teach His disciples about it.

32.  But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.

Once again the Lord predicts his coming death, and once again the disciples fail to understand.  They are afraid, in this case, to ask for clarification.  Perhaps they feared what the answer would be.

33.  Then He came to Capernaum.  And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?”

They return again to Capernaum, and enter the Lord’s house.  Now it seems that the Lord had noticed that His disciples were disputing with each other along the road.  It seems they had sought to keep the topic of their quarrel hidden from Him.  Now He asks them about it, however, asking them to reveal what it was they were disputing about.

34.  But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.

It seems that, when faced by their Lord with it, the disciples were less than proud of what their topic of conversation had been.  Thus they avoid His question by keeping silent.

35.  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.”

In spite of their refusal to answer, the Lord knew what they had been disputing about, of course.  Thus, He sits down, as teachers always did back then before they taught.  Then, He rebukes their selfishness.  It was not pride but rather humility and servanthood that would distinguish them in God’s sight.  This is how to be great before Him, not by exalting yourself.

36.  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,

It seems there was a child present, and the Lord takes him in His arms.  He is going to use this child as an example in teaching the disciples.

37.  “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Little children hold a special place in the sight of God.  Christ tells His disciples that whoever receives one of these children in His name receives Him.  “Receiving” them, of course, intimates much more than that.  Moreover, in Christ’s name indicates for Christ’s sake.  It would seem that good done to children for the sake of the Lord is a thing most commendable in His sight.

38.  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.”

It seems that the Lord’s rebuke affects John, for he thinks back to a prior event and confesses what they had done to the Lord.  Perhaps the Lord’s illustration pricked his conscience, as he may have felt guilty for not receiving this one who cast out demons.  Maybe he was wondering if perhaps he should have.

39.  But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.

Christ rebukes him, telling him that no one who worked a miracle in His name could quickly turn against Him.  That he could turn against Him in time is demonstrated by the case of Judas Iscariot, who worked the same miracles as the rest of the twelve but ended up betraying Him.

For one to work a miracle in the name of the Lord Jesus would almost prove that he must have received a commandment from the Lord to do so.  One cannot simply decide to work a miracle in the name of the Lord and then do it.  Rather, the Lord must give you permission to do such a miracle, and the power to do so as well.  We can clearly see this in the story of the men who tried to cast out a demon in Christ’s name without a commandment to do so in Acts 19:13-17.  If the disciples had thought, they would have realized that the Lord must have commanded this man to do this work, or else he would have failed to work any miracle just as the disciples had failed a little while before.

40.  “For he who is not against us is on our side.

Indeed, how could anyone who cast out demons in the Lord’s name not be on His side?

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.

Anyone who gave anything to one of the disciples because of their connection to the Lord would receive a reward.  This is not necessarily true of all believers today.  One could give cold water to a believer in Christ, but he would not be giving water to someone who truly does “belong to Christ” in all the ways these disciples did.  Belonging here implies much more than just salvation.  These men were identified with Christ as His disciples while He was on earth.  They were almost like His “employees,” which we cannot be since He is not currently dwelling on the earth.

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.

This is a grim warning to anyone who would destroy the faith of a child.  Many work to do this today in such places as in school and on television.  Such men will have to face the wrath of God someday for their actions.

43.  “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–
44.  “Where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’

The word translated “hell” here is GehennaGehenna was a valley in Israel within a mile of the capital city of Jerusalem.  It was basically the garbage dump for all the city of Jerusalem.  It had not always been this, however.  At one time, it had been the site of the heathen worship of Molech, where parents passed their newborn children through the fire to see if Molech thought they were worthy of living or dying.  If they came out of the fire alive, it was thought that Molech found them worthy.  If they came out dead, however, Molech had rejected them, and they did not deserve to live.  This is what had happened there in the past, but at the time of Christ this place had been defiled by dead bodies, and was a refuse heap.  Moreover, it was used in the cases of the most despised criminals, who, when they were slain for their crimes, were cast on the burning refuse heaps of Gehenna as a symbol of the utter abhorrency of their actions.  There were fires constantly burning in Gehenna to destroy the refuse, and the places where the fire did not burn were filled with worms.  Therefore, any body thrown into Gehenna would soon be destroyed, either burned by fire or eaten by worms.  It seems that Christ is using this valley as a figure for what God will do to those who are considered unworthy to enter His kingdom, and warning His disciples against the actions that would garner for them such a fate.

45.  “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–
46.  “Where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’

The Lord did not literally mean, of course, that one should maim himself to keep from sinning.  The figure means to cut out of your life things that cause you to sin.  If you cut out body parts through which you sin, of course, you would soon end up with none left!  This figure has an easily understood meaning, however, and we know that what the Lord said is true.  If something in our lives causes us to sin and yet we refuse to get rid of it, we then have no excuse for our sin.  We need to remove things from our lives that turn us away from the Lord.

47.  “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–
48.  “Where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’

Notice that “enter life” in verses 43 and 45 are parallel with “enter the kingdom of God” in verse 47.  “Life” here means resurrection life, and life not to “heaven” but to the future kingdom on the earth.  Of course it is better to enter that life maimed than to not enter that life at all!  This is even more true when we consider that we will have new, resurrection bodies at that time, so any maiming that happens to our bodies now will be reversed then.  What, then, in our lives could be so precious that we could not cut it out for the sake of that time?

49.  “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.

Sacrifices were salted prior to being burned, as the salt helped in the burning.  Salting your life with things that cause you to sin, then, will only result in aiding the judgment fires against you in the future.  Far better to cut out those things that would lead to such a fate!

50.  “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.”

Christ compares them to salt, and warns them against losing their flavor.  They were to salt the world, improving it in God’s sight just like salt improves the flavor of food.  Apparently, though, they could lose their flavor, and thus fail to do the job of salt.  Losing their flavor here meant not keeping the peace with each other.  Indeed, it is often the case that unbelievers look down upon the idea of following God because they have seen how believers are constantly bickering with one another.  There is no easier way to lose our appeal in the sight of the world than to constantly be at war with each other.  It seems, then, that it was the things that cause division that He was warning them to cut out of their lives in the previous verses.  How easy it is to let pride and selfishness divide us from other believers even today!  Let us ever strive to cut such damaging things out of our lives, so that we can be the salt that our Lord wants us to be.