Mark Chapter Nine

Matters of Life & Death

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In our study of Mark chapter nine, we learn of Jesus' teachings about matters of life & death. Everyone wants to know what happens after death and the best place to find the answers is in the words spoken by Jesus Christ. At the end of chapter 8, Jesus began telling His disciples of His coming death, burial and resurrection. Now, He will continue filling in details about what comes after death.

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Mark 9:1

And he said to them, 'I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'

Jesus had started to tell His disciples of the things to come including His death, burial and resurrection. Now, He speaks of the fact that He is going to show some of them what resurrection looks like. This verse has been misinterpreted from the beginning as the disciples did not even understand what Jesus was telling them. There are those who say that he was talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Day of Pentecost but it is in this part of Jesus' teachings for a reason as we shall see.

Mark 9:2a

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.

We remember that, throughout the Bible, the number six is associated with work and the number three is associated with God's will. We see that Jesus waited six days (until the end of man's work) to take three of His disciples to see God's will for man displayed. Why did Jesus take those three disciples and not others? Were they super saints? The simple answer is that they were not super saints but quite the opposite as they were the weakest of the apostles. As we look back on these events, we can clearly see the grace of God put on display. This is the power that Jesus was referring to as man does not have the power to attain the kingdom through our work but only through His work (grace).

Mark 9:2b & 3

There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.

The word "transfigured" comes from the Greek word metamorphosis which in modern terms is morphed. Jesus changed in front of their eyes and we see that the light that was inside Him shone out very bright and "dazzling white". Many people want to know what we are going to look like when Jesus returns and, here, we see the answer. He was showing the disciples what He would look like and we will be changed to be like Him when He returns.

Mark 9:4

And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Have you ever wondered why Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus? Elijah represented all of the prophets while Moses represented the Law. The purpose of both the prophets and the Law were to point people to the need for Jesus as their Savior. The Law has never saved anyone and the words of men have no power to save. It is only through faith in the work of Jesus that we can be saved. We must remember that the disciples that were looking on were all Jews and would have known about the Law and the prophets.

Mark 9:5 & 6

Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Peter was well-known for saying things just off the top of his head and he did in this case as well. Isn't it good for us to see that these apostles were still men with quirks like the rest of us?

Mark 9:7

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: 'This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!'

A cloud appeared and God spoke from it because mortal men cannot see the face of God and live. The Father acknowledged Jesus as His Son and told the apostles to listen to Him. The message was clear as the Father was telling them that Jesus is the only way to be saved and not the Law or the words of a man. This teaching would be crucial in the early life of the church as men would have to resist their desire to add works to grace and to follow the latest teachings of a so-called prophet. It is just as important for us today as it seems that every little denomination holds onto a piece of the Law and hold it up as a sort of test of salvation. In the same way, we are told that, in the last days, man will follow all kinds of false prophets. We have the power to overcome this through the Holy Spirit that resides in us.

Mark 9:8

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

The Law (represented by Moses) and the prophets (represented by Elijah) disappeared and all that was left was Jesus. This is a reminder to us that He is the only way to salvation.

Mark 9:9 & 10

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what 'rising from the dead' meant.

Jesus told the men to keep what they had seen to themselves until His resurrection. Even though they had seen Moses and Elijah on the mountain, they still did not understand what Jesus meant about His resurrection. They were still thinking of the Messiah riding in and establishing His kingdom in Jerusalem.

Mark 9:11

And they asked him, 'Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?'

In trying to understand what was going on, the men went with what they had been taught. The teachers of the law taught that Elijah would come back before the Messiah based on the words from the prophet Malachi (see Malachi 4:5). Although they did not say so, they were probably wondering if what they had seen was a fulfillment of those words.

Mark 9:12 & 13

Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.'

We learn much from Jesus' answer to their question. First, we see His patience with them as He answers their question. We also see that His answer does not contradict the word that was given to Malachi. He explains that it has happened but not in what they saw on the mountain. When He spoke of Elijah restoring things, Jesus was speaking of the fact that he had come in the form of John the Baptist calling Israel to repentance. This was a necessary first step for them to see that they needed a Savior. He also tells them of what lies ahead for Him in Jerusalem.

Mark 9:14 & 15

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

The group from the mountain (Mount Hermon) joined the other disciples but there was an argument going on. The teachers of the law who should have been in Jerusalem were out keeping an eye on the disciples. The crowd of people ran to Jesus and that was why the teachers of the law were there. They were concerned about losing their power and position and were trying to find a charge against Him.

Mark 9:16

'What are you arguing with them about?' he asked.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked questions where He already knew the answer? The simple reason is that He did so for our benefit as we see here. If He had just rushed in and fixed the problem, we would be missing out on important teaching.

Mark 9:17 & 18

A man in the crowd answered, 'Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.'

A man in the crowd tells the Lord that he brought his son to be cured of demon possession. He went on to explain that the disciples had tried but were unable to make the demon spirit leave.

Mark 9:19

'You unbelieving generation,' Jesus replied, 'how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.'

You can almost feel the disappointment that Jesus felt with His disciples. He had told them as well as showing them the power that comes through faith in Him and yet, when put to a test, they failed. As Christians, we sometimes forget how big a sacrifice it would have been for Jesus to leave His Father's side in heaven and come to this earth. It is just as disappointing to see people today that say they have faith in Jesus Christ but do not walk in His power.

Mark 9:20

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

We see the demon react to the presence of Jesus and are reminded that the devil and his demons know who Jesus is and they tremble at His name.

Mark 9:21 & 22

Jesus asked the boy's father, 'How long has he been like this?' 'From childhood,' he answered. 'It has often thrown him into the fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'

Why are children (or anyone else) afflicted with illness or other stuff like this? As we see here, the demon had often tried to kill the child. The survival of this child and his being presented to Jesus was so that others could see the power of God and believe.

Mark 9:23

'"If you can"?' said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for one who believes.'

The man did not understand who he was talking to just as the disciples did not fully understand. Jesus explained that it was not a matter of whether He could heal the boy but a matter of whether the man had the faith to ask.

Mark 9:24

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'

The man had the faith to bring the boy to Jesus but needed the help of Jesus to overcome his doubts about the healing of the boy. We all have some small part of us that limits what God can or will do and it is only through Him that those limits (in our minds) can be lifted. That is a big part of walking and growing in our faith.

Mark 9:25-27

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. 'You deaf and mute spirit,' he said, 'I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.' The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, 'He's dead.' But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

As Jesus saw a crowd forming, He quickly cast out the spirit. Jesus was trying to proceed with His Father's business and did not want any further public notice. The religious leaders were already very jealous and He knew that it was not the time for their wrath to come. The unclean spirit immediately left but the boy was left in such a state that those around him thought that he was dead.

Mark 9:28 & 29

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, 'Why couldn't we drive it out?' He replied, 'This kind can come out only by prayer.'

The disciples had forgotten the source of their power and they had neglected prayer. We, too, must remember that our power comes through our relationship with Him and a healthy relationship will include conversation with God (prayer).

Mark 9:30 & 31a

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.

Jesus wanted time alone with His disciples so that He could prepare them for what was ahead. His ministry in the vicinity was done and He was beginning the journey to Jerusalem. Just as the disciples needed time alone with Jesus to learn, we do as well so that we are prepared for what is ahead in our lives.

Mark 9:31b & 32

He said to them, 'The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.' But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

This is the second time that He predicted His death and resurrection. The disciples still did not see it as they were probably still caught up in their own thinking about the Messiah and the kingdom He would establish. They were afraid to ask Jesus to explain it more. That is why it is so important for us to let the Holy Spirit speak to us through the study of God's word.

Mark 9:33 & 34

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

The disciples were so close to Jesus and yet they were still just men. On the way to Capernaum, they had argued about who was the greatest. It is interesting to note that Jesus knew that they were arguing but did not stop on the road to settle the matter. When He asked them about it, they were ashamed and kept quiet.

Mark 9:35-37

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, 'Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.' He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, '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.'

Jesus answered their question by using the example of a little child. A child cannot give anything in return for helping them except love. A man that will serve those who cannot do anything for him is held in the highest regard by Jesus. God knows our hearts and can see whether we are doing things out of love or in hopes of personal gain.

Mark 9:38

'Teacher,' said John, 'we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.'

John tells Jesus of an incident in which the disciples stopped a man from casting out demons in the power of Jesus. This seems rather strange when we remember that, in the place where they just left, the disciples had not been able to drive out a demon. We see that the reason that they told him to stop was because he was not one of their group. The same type of thing happens even today within the church. Instead of working together, local bodies of believers will actually compete with each other. They will even go so far as to attempt to eliminate another ministry or to claim the work that another has started.

Mark 9:39 & 40

'Do not stop him,' Jesus said, 'For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.'

Jesus' reaction was to explain that it is not about their group but about His power. John and the disciples had lost sight of the goal of proclaiming the way of salvation. As we saw with their arguing over who was the greatest, they were more concerned with their pride than with the work of the kingdom. Sadly, this same pride is even more rampant today as we see the huge number of divisions and denominations in the body of Christ. This could all be eliminated if we would only remember the answer that Jesus gave to John.

Mark 9:41

'Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.'

Jesus' answer is simple in the fact that He reminds John that He is in charge and is the one that will hand out the rewards. As Christians, we will all answer for our words and actions. This will not be a judgement of punishment but a judgment of rewards. Believers should not think that they will be rewarded for trying to steal the rewards of another believer. That is, in effect, what John was describing and it was based on pride.

Mark 9:42

'If anyone causes one of these little ones - those who believe in me - to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.'

The Hebrew word that is used here for stumble is kashal which means to totter or waver. Jesus tells his disciples that it would be better to die a horrible death than to cause a believer to waver in their faith. There has been much confusion about what this means but it simply means causing someone to doubt the sufficiency of Jesus for their salvation. There are many that try to add a certain part of doctrine or tradition to distinguish them as the "true Christians". That is, in fact, why there are so many denominations and a lack of unity in the church as a whole. Jesus is speaking about them and the fact that they cause people to doubt whether they are truly saved.

Mark 9:43-48

'If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where "the worms that eat them do not die and the fire is not quenched."'

Now, Jesus speaks to the people that are teaching this legalism to others. He lists parts of the body that can be used for work and says that it is better to not have them than to have them and trust that you can add anything to His sacrifice for your salvation. The reason that Jesus does this is because He wants us to understand that it is through His grace alone that we are saved.

Mark 9:49 & 50

'Everyone will be salted with fire. "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other."'

Salt is a preservative and fire speaks of refinement. Jesus is saying that we all will face doubts and testing of our faith but we must hold onto Him and His grace. He also speaks of peace among the believers and that only comes with freedom to have differences.

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