Gospel of Mark: Chapter 9

Gospel of Mark

Commentary on Mark 9


  • v. 1 – This passage is difficult to interpret. In what way did Christ’s Kingdom come in power during the lifetime of His disciples? Several interpretations have been offered (1) the transfiguration, (2) Christ’s resurrection, (3) the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost, and (4) the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. If these the transfiguration seems most likely as Mark immediately progresses from this statement to describing the transfiguration – which was seen by some but not all the disciples.
  • v. 4 – Moses is traditionally considered the author of the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) and Elijah is considered the greatest of the prophets.
  • v. 5 – Peter is offering equal glory and honor to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
  • v. 7 – God the Father rebukes Peter’s statement, demonstrating that Jesus is alone in His unique sonship to the Father.
  • v. 8 – This may have been a visual way of representing Christ’s superiority over all that had come before.
  • v. 9 – Once Christ had been crucified and resurrected all hope for a militant Messiah would be crushed and Christ could be publicly proclaimed for who he was.
  • v. 11 – The scribes believed that Elijah would return and prepare the way for the Messiah.
  • v. 12 – While Elijah was to come again, Jesus highlighted that the Scriptures also predicted the suffering of the Messiah (see Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
  • v. 13 – John the Baptist fulfilled the second coming of Elijah, but rather than accept him, he was rejected and beheaded.
  • v. 15 – Jesus had been on the top of a mountain and now he had returned. People were not expecting his return and thus were amazed.
  • v. 29 – The disciples were using authority-based proclamations to cast out demons – and this failed. Jesus indicated that there are different types of demons and whatever type this was required more than a proclamation – it required prayer.
  • v. 35 – Sitting was an officially teaching stance. Jesus is providing formal teaching as opposed to informal conversation.
  • vv. 36-37 – Ancient understanding of children was different from ours. They understood children as essentially miniature adults but liable to make foolish decisions. Jesus makes significant changes in the way people thought – the place of women, children, slaves, and foreigners are all elevated by Jesus.
  • vv. 41-42 – There is a sharp contrast here. One can rejoice in how even a small deed is rewarded by God, but one fears lest they cause someone else to fall into sin, for the punishment is dire.
    • When speaking of “little ones” this is a reference to children, but it is also a reference to the simple – to anyone who is becoming or could become part of the kingdom and is caught up in the lies and behavior of others.
    • This millstone would not be the kind used to grind grain by hand but the kind used with a donkey – it was a very large stone and would pull one irrevocably into the depths of the sea.
  • v. 43 – Jesus is telling us that any sacrifice is worthwhile to rid sin from our lives, he is not teaching us to literally self-mutilate. As we have already seen in Mark (7:1-23) – it is not our limbs that cause us to sin, nor external stimuli, but the internal – what is in our heart.
    • Origen, an early Christian leader, is believed to have taken this command literally and castrated himself in order to avoid sexual temptation. He would later renounce this literal interpretation of the passage.
    • The word “hell” translates the Greek “Gehenna” which means “Valley of Hinnom.” It was a valley outside of Jerusalem in which children has been sacrificed to false gods. The area was turned into a garbage dump for Jerusalem and symbolically this place became representative of a place of spiritual punishment.
  • v. 48 – Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 66:24.
    • This is likely in one sense literal – in a place where there is constantly garbage, the worm never dies. That is not that no single worm dies, but that there are always worms to be found.
    • On the other hand, this is likely figurative, possibly describing the torment a person experiences within themselves when the depths of their wickedness are exposed to their own mind. Who does not have some memories in this life we would rather forget? And what if these memories were constantly before our eyes?[1]
  • v. 49 – This likely refers to the suffering[2] which we experience in this lifetime and its effects upon us.
  • v. 50 – The Christian is not only made “salty” in many elements of suffering but is also salt to the the world. We are not to become like the world or we have lost our “saltiness” which makes us different from the world.

Author: David Mackey

Revision: 1.0 5/6/13

[1] D.L. Moody, George MacDonald, and Randy Alcorn are all Christians who tend to define hell in this more “spiritual” sense.

[2] That is not to say that suffering is God’s desire for His children, but that God utilizes our suffering to purify us. Nor does this mean that we should not seek to alleviate the suffering of others. There is inevitable suffering (that which will come no matter what is done) and avoidable suffering (that which can be avoided by certain actions). There is no need to undergo more suffering than is inevitable – for there is enough of that alone to test us with fire.

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