Study Notes

Mark 9:30-50

Remember the context of where we left off in chapter 9... Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a mountaintop where they saw Him transfigured. Moses and Elijah came for a brief visit, then left. When the four of them went down the mountain, they encountered a situation - a demon-possessed son whom the other disciples could not cast the spirit out of.

When the disciples asked why they could not cast it out, Jesus said, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."

9:30-32 Not Understanding

Now Jesus begins to focus His teaching not to the multitudes, but to the disciples. He wanted to travel as secretly as possible, so as to have the time to communicate to them the terrible faith-testing things which were going to happen. He has already begun to tell them,

Mark 8:31-32 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

Mark 9:9-10 And as they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man should rise from the dead. And they seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean.

Obviously, this hasn't been well-received or even understood. First, Peter rebuked Him. Second, the guys interpreted it parabolically or symbolically. Now, they just don't get it at all, and are afraid to ask Him.

9:33-35 Who Is The Greatest?

One the way to Capernaum, there had been a discussion among the disciples - a discussion about which one of them was the greatest. It is very possible that Peter, James, or John were feeling pretty full of themselves after that Mount of Transfiguration experience. "Well, you know, Jesus picked me to see the kingdom coming in glory." "I saw Moses and Elijah face to face." "You poor fools couldn't even cast the demon out of that boy." "Have you noticed that there always seems to be a bigger crowd around me than the rest of you?"

Jesus deals with the nonsense right away, saying,

Mark 9:35 ..."If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all."

"Guys, that's how to be great - being the servant of all." Too many people in the kingdom of God are looking to be served. Even the people who call themselves "ministers." The word "minister" actually means "servant." How twisted that "ministers" insist on being served!

In 1Corinthians 4, Paul was addressing that some ministers were being looked at like celebrities instead of servants. So he says,

1Cor. 4:1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ...

The word "servants" he uses there is "hoop-ay-RET-ace." The word comes from galley ships. It is literally "underrowers," the guys who were on the bottom level of a ship, just pulling the oars. Where is the boasting in that? Where is all the glory? Where are the gold rings and Mercedes?

Now, it's not just the leadership who are called to be servants, but every disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul tells us,

Gal. 5:13 ...through love serve one another.

As a matter of fact, one of the main reasons for the church is for us to learn to serve one another.

Eph. 4:11-12 And He gave some {as} apostles, and some {as} prophets, and some {as} evangelists, and some {as} pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

And Peter wraps it all up for us:

1Pet. 4:8-11 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a {special} gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, {let him speak,} as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, {let him do} {so} as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Let us serve one another.

9:36-37 Receiving A Child

Now He gives them instruction practically. "You guys are so worried about building your own kingdoms, about who is the greatest. Learn to be a servant. Pick up a child and wrap him in your arms."

Jesus gives us stern encouragement to minister to children. There are so many kids in the world that are hungry or homeless, abused or abandoned - when we minister to them and meet their needs, we are doing it to Jesus, and to His Father in heaven.

9:38-40 Against Us Or For Us

John seems to come to the conclusion that since they shouldn't be bickering amongst themselves, then at least they had done right by telling someone who wasn't a disciple to quit using the name of Jesus to cast out demons.

As we have discussed in the study of chapter 5, there were exorcists casting out demons before Jesus came on the scene. But they weren't always successful. Justin Martyr writes that Jewish exorcisms often failed when the exorcist tried to cast out the demon "by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." But they were very successful when the Jewish exorcist would cast the demon out "by the name of the Son of God, who was born of a virgin, and crucified under Pontious Pilate."

Jesus tells John that this too was wrong. When any Christian person or group begins to stake an exclusive claim on spirituality, they have fallen into the same sin as the Pharisees.

This jealousy of "they're not in our group" is nothing new. Remember back in the book of Numbers, we have a similar incident.

Moses gathered 70 elders of the people, and the Lord placed the Spirit upon them. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. Meanwhile, two guys in the camp, Eldad and Medad, also received the Spirit and began to prophesy.

Num. 11:27-29 So a young man ran and told Moses and said, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, answered and said, "Moses, my lord, restrain them." But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD'S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!"

Are you an Independent Baptist? There are lots of extreme Pentecostals that are just as saved as you. Are you a Methodist? There are plenty of Lutherans on their way to heaven - just like you. No single Christian group has exclusivity on salvation.

Notice too, that Jesus makes a direct statement against neutrality:

Mark 9:40 "For he who is not against us is for us.

He also said the inverse in Matthew,

Matt. 12:30 "He who is not with Me is against Me"

There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus Christ. You must be either with Him or against Him.

9:41 Giving To Followers Of Christ

God is going to bless anyone that blesses His kingdom. They guy casting out demons may not have been one of the disciples, but in using the name of Christ powerfully, he was helping the kingdom, for people who saw power in that name would doubtlessly be attracted to Jesus Himself. Even such a small thing as giving a cup of water to a disciple of Jesus will result in blessing.

9:42 Causing Stumbling

Conversely, anyone who hinders the kingdom of God by making people stumble - even one tiny child - will be ripe for terrible judgment.

9:43-48 Cut It Off

Now Jesus directs His teaching towards causing yourself to stumble in sin. You know the things that lead you into sin. They're usually very obvious. If you're spending all your time watching television shows that are making you sin in lust, slothfulness, greed, or other such things, you know what you need to do - get rid of it. Don't sit there and fight against it, saying, "I know I can get victory over this." Guess what? You won't! Cut it off! In the Old Testament, it came to Ezra's attention that the people had sinned against God by marrying foreign wives.

Ezra 10:10-12 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel. Now, therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives." Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, "That's right! As you have said, so it is our duty to do."

The book of Ezra ends with a listing of 107 men that put away their foreign wives.

Whatever it is that's causing you to sin, cut it off, get rid of it, cast it away from you. What are you going to allow to take you to hell?

Their Worm Does Not Die

Jesus has quoted Isaiah 66 here:

Isa. 66:24 "Then they shall go forth and look On the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, And their fire shall not be quenched; And they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind."

Think about the implication: worms typically consume flesh and then die. Fire consumes the flesh and then dies out. But in hell, the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

When Jesus says, "hell", it is literally "Gehenna." Gehenna is the place called "outer darkness" where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." A place of eternal torment and separation from God.

9:49-50 Fire

Everyone's going to be salted with fire. What does He mean? Well, "fire destroys the perishable and purifies the imperishable." (Morgan) Not everyone will go to Gehenna, but everyone will be salted with fire. There is the fire that punishes, and the fire that purifies. We can allow God's refining fire to burn out our impurities, or we are tormented eternally in the fires of Gehenna.


Jesus' use of the word salt is strange to us. What does the Bible say about salt? It first appears in Judges 9...

Judg. 9:45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day, and he captured the city and killed the people who {were} in it; then he razed the city and sowed it with salt.

Abimelech sowed the city with salt so that nothing would grow there anymore. So lesson #1 is that salt is a restrainer.

The next occurrence is in 2Kings 2. The men of Jericho say to Elisha that the water there is bad.

2Kgs. 2:20-21 And he said, "Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it." So they brought {it} to him. And he went out to the spring of water, and threw salt in it and said, "Thus says the LORD, 'I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.'"

So lesson #2 is that salt purifies.

To be the salt of the earth then is to be a restrainer of evil and a purifier. Jesus tells the disciples,

Mark 9:50 "...Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Keep evil from growing. Purify yourself and others. As Paul told the Colossians,

Col. 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, {as it were,} with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.

Salt is the seasoning that you can bring to this world.

Go to next study

Go to previous study