Mark 9

 

 

1  And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some

of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the

kingdom of God come with power.”  In Matthew 16:28 the words run thus: “Till

they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.” In Luke 9:27, “Till they see

the kingdom of God.” All these evangelists connect their record of the Transfiguration

of Christ with these predictive words — a circumstance which must not be lost sight

of in their interpretation. The question, therefore, is whether or how far the

Transfiguration is to be regarded as a fulfillment of these words. One thing seems

plain, that the Transfiguration, if a fulfillment at all, was not an exhaustive fulfillment

of the words. The solemnity of their introduction forbids us to limit them to an event

which would happen within eight days of their utterance. But there was an event

impending, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, involving the overthrow of the

Jewish polity, which, coming as it did within forty or fifty years of the time when our

Lord uttered these words, might reasonably have been expected to take place within

the lifetime of some of those then standing there. And that great catastrophe was

frequently alluded to by our Lord as a type and earnest of the great judgment at the

end of the world. What relation, then, did the Transfiguration hold to these two

events and to the prediction contained in this verse? It was surely a prelude and

pledge of what should be hereafter, specially designed to brace and strengthen the

apostles for the sight of the sufferings of their Master, and to animate them to

endure the toil and the trials of the Christian life. So that the Transfiguration was an

event, so to speak, parenthetic to this prediction — a preliminary manifestation, for

the special advantage of those who witnessed it; though given also “for our

admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (I Corinthians 10:11)

Such were the views of St. Hilary, St. Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, and others. “When

our Lord was transfigured,” says St. Jerome, “he did not lose His form and aspect,

but He appeared to His apostles as He will appear at the day of judgment.” And

elsewhere He says, “Go forth a little out of your prison, and place before your eyes

the reward of your present labor, Which “the eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard,

neither hath it entered into the heart of man.”  (Isaiah 64:4, I Corinthians 2:9)

 

                        THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS CHRIST

 

2 “And after six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James, and

John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and

He was transfigured before them.  3 And His raiment became shining, exceeding

white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.”   After six days. Luke 9:28

says, "About eight days after these sayings." There is no real discrepancy here. There

were six whole days that intervened between our Lord's words and the Transfiguration

itself. Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James, and John. He chose these three, as

the leaders amongst the disciples, and He showed to them His glory, because He

intended also to show them afterwards His bitter agony in the garden. This

magnificent splendor - this "excellent glory," as II Peter 1:17 describes it –

this, together with the voice of the Father, “This is my beloved Son," would assure

them that Christ was truly God, but that His essential Deity was hidden by the veil

of the flesh; and that, although He was about to be crucified and slain, yet His

Godhead could not suffer or die. It was an evidence beforehand, a prospective

evidence, that He underwent death, even the death of the cross, not constrained by

infirmity or necessity, but of His own will, for the redemption of man. It was

plain that, since He could thus invest His body with this Divine glory, He could

have saved Himself from death if He had so willed. He taketh with him Peter, and

James, and John. Peter's reference to the transfiguration (just alluded to) shows

what a deep and abiding impression it made on his mind. James, too, was there,

as one who was to be amongst the first to die for His sake. John also was with them,

who, having seen the glory of the Son of God, which is subject to no limits of time,

might be bold to send forth his grand testimony, "In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)  And bringeth

them up into a high mountain apart by themselves. "It is necessary for all," says

Remigius, "who desire to contemplate God, that they should not grovel amidst low

thoughts and desires, but ever be lifted up to heavenly things. And thus our Lord

was teaching His disciples that they must not look for the brightness of the Divine

glory in the depths of this world, but in the kingdom of heavenly blessedness.

And He leads them apart, because holy men are in intention and desire separated

from evil, as they will be altogether separated from it in the world to come. For they

who look for the glories of the resurrection ought now in heart and mind to dwell

on high, and to seek these glories by continual prayer." Into a high mountain. A

tradition of the time of Jerome identifies this mountain with Tabor, in Galilee.

But there are two weighty objections to this view:

 

(1) that our Lord was at this time in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, a

      considerable distance from Tabor, and

 

(2) that there is strong reason for believing that Tabor had at this time a fortress

      on its summit.

 

It must be remembered that Caesarea Philippi was at the foot of Libanus; and the spurs

of Libanus would present several eminences answering to the description, "a high

mountain (ὄρος ὑψηλὸν – oros hupsaelon)." The Mount of Transfiguration was in

all probability Hermon, a position of extreme grandeur and beauty, its snowy peaks

overlooking the whole extent of Palestine. "High up," says Dean Stanley, "on its

southern slopes there must be many a point where the disciples could be taken

'apart by themselves.' Even the transient comparison of the celestial splendor with

the snow, where alone it could be seen in Palestine, should not, perhaps, be wholly

overlooked. At any rate, the remote heights above the sources of the Jordan witnessed

the moment when, His work in His own peculiar sphere being ended, “He set His face

for the last time to go up to Jerusalem." (Luke 9:51) Although compelled to dismiss

from our minds the old tradition of Tabor as the scene of the Transfiguration, we still

think of that mountain as near to Nazareth, where our Lord was brought up; and of

Hermon, where he was transfigured, as we rejoice in the fulfillment of the old

prophecy, "Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy Name." (Psalm 89:12)  And He

was transfigured (μετεμορφώθη – metemorphothae – He was transformed) before

them. The fashion of His appearance was changed. It was no illusion, no imaginary

appearance, but a real transformation. It was the Divine glory within Him manifesting

itself through His humanity; and yet not that glory of Deity WHICH NO MAN HATH

SEEN NOR CAN SEE  but such a manifestation that the disciples might in some degree

behold the glory and majesty, of Deity through the veil of His flesh. Nor, we may

believe, did our Lord in His transfiguration change the essence or form of His

countenance. But He assumed a mighty splendor, so that, as  Matthew 17:2 tells us,

"His face did shine as the sun." This splendor was not in the air, nor in the eyes

of the disciples, BUT IN THE PERSON OF THE SON OF GOD - a splendor which

communicated itself to His raiment, so that His garments became glistering (στίλβοντα –

stilbonta – glistening), exceeding white; so as no fuller on earth can whiten them.

This figure is taken from natural things. The first idea of "fuller" from the Latin fullo,

is that of one who cleanses by "stamping with the feet." His business is to restore the

soiled cloth to its natural whiteness. The evangelist uses an earthly thing to represent

the heavenly. The heavenly Fuller gives a purity and a brightness infinitely

exceeding the power of any "fuller on earth." It would almost seem as if the figure

was one specially supplied by  Peter.

 

4 “And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with

Jesus.”  And there appeared unto them Elijah with Moses. Moses and Elijah were

there because Moses was the lawgiver of the old covenant, and Elijah was conspicuous

among the prophets; so that they were the representatives, the one of the Law, and the

other of the "goodly fellowship of the prophets. They appear together to bear witness

to Christ as the true Messiah, the Savior of the world, prefigured in the Law, and

foretold by the prophets. They appear to bear witness to Him, and then to resign

their offices to the great Lawgiver and Prophet whom they foreshadowed. Then,

further, Moses died, but Elijah was translated. Moses, therefore, represents the dead

saints who shall rise from their graves and come forth at His coming, while Elijah

represents those who shall be found alive at His advent. Our Lord brought with

Him, at His transfiguration, Moses who had died, and Elijah who had been translated,

that He might show His power over both "the quick and the dead." (Acts 10:42;

I Peter 4:5)  St. Luke 9:31 says that Moses and Elijah "appeared in glory, and

spake of His decease (τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ - taen exodon autou – the exodus of Him)

which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." They appeared in glory; the Divine

splendor irradiated them. They "spake of His decease," literally, His departure –

His departure not only out of Jerusalem, but out of this life, by His death upon

the cross. The death of Christ was thus shown to be the ultimate end to which the

Law and the prophets pointed. Even in that hour of His glory, on the Mount of

Transfiguration, this was their theme; and thus the disciples were nerved to look

with hope and faith to that which they had contemplated with dismay.

 

5 “And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and

let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

Peter answereth, and saith to Jesus. We learn from Luke 9:33 that this happened just

as Moses and Elijah were departing. Peter was excited, and there was fear mingled

with his excitement. He was bewildered. His first idea was to seek that they might

remain, for he saw that they were just preparing to depart. Theophylact says upon

this, "Do not say with Peter, 'It is good for us to be here;' for it behoves us ever,

whilst in the flesh, to be advancing, and not to remain in one stage of virtue and

contemplation, but to pass on to other degrees" It is, perhaps, too curious a question

to ask how the three disciples knew them to be Moses and Elijah. The same Divine

power which presented them with a vision of the other world gave them an intuitive

knowledge on the subject. And we may, perhaps, infer from hence that in that world

to come there will be not only recognition, but knowledge, at once imparted, of those

whose faces we have not seen "in the flesh." (ibid. v. 32 says that Peter and his

companions "were heavy with sleep (βεβαρημένοι ὕπνῳ - bebaraemenoi hupon –

having been heavied to sleep)." It is probable that the Transfiguration took place

at night. The whole manifestation would be rendered more conspicuous and

striking amidst the darkness and stillness of night. But Luke is careful to add,

"when they were fully awake (διαγρηγορήσαντες – diagraegoraesantes – through

rousing; becoming alert)." This word might be rendered, "having remained awake."

But whichever translation be adopted, the intention of the evangelist is evidently

to show that it was not in a dream or a vision of the night that they saw this. It was

a great reality, on which they looked with open eyes.

 

6 “For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.”  They became sore afraid.

There is a slight change of reading here. Instead of ῆσαν γὰρ ἔκφοβοιaesan gar

ekphoboi – for they were terrified - the best authorities give ἔκφοβοι γὰρ ἐγένοντο –

ekphoboi gar egenonto – for they were become very afraid. A sense of great awe and

terror overpowered the bliss and brightness of the scene. All the revelations of the

other world strike terror, even though abated as this manifestation was by the presence

of their dear Lord and Savior.

 

7 “And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of

the cloud, saying, This is my  beloved Son: hear Him.”  There came a cloud

overshadowing them. The cloud enfolded them all, so that they could not be seen,

it was so ample and dense, and yet so bright and shining. Matthew (Matthew 17:5)

says it was "a bright cloud”. The cloud was a symbol of the grandeur and

unapproachable glory of God. The disciples were admitted within this cloud

that they might have a foretaste of future glory, and that they might be witnesses

of what took place under the cloud, and especially that they might be able to give

evidence throughout all ages of the voice which they heard come out of the cloud

from "the excellent glory" (the expression is equivalent to the Hebrew "Shechinah,"

and Peter says (II Peter 1:18), it came from heaven), This is my beloved Son:

hear ye Him. But at the same time that this cloud was the symbol, it was also the

veil of Deity, of the glory of Deity. "He maketh the clouds his chariot," says the

psalmist (Psalm 104:3). Moreover, the cloud abated and subdued the splendor of

Christ's appearance, which otherwise the mortal eyes of the disciples could not

have borne. It will be observed that Mark omits the words, found in Matthew

(Matthew 17:5), "in whom I am well pleased." So does Luke. But it is remarkable

that they are found in Peter (II Peter 1:17); from whence we might have expected

to find them here. In Luke (Luke 9:35) the most approved readings give, "This is

my Son, my chosen (ἐκλελεγμένος – eklelegmenos – my chosen out; my selected)."

The words, "my beloved Son," are impressed upon us in order that epithets so sweet

and endearing might kindle our love and devotion. "Hear ye him" - not Moses, who

has now departed, but Christ Himself, the new Author of a new Law. "Hear ye Him"

was not said when our Lord was baptized, because He was then only just proclaimed

to the world. But now these words signify the abolition of the old dispensation, and

the establishment of the new covenant in Christ.

 

8 “And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more,

save Jesus only with themselves.”  Matthew here says (Matthew 17:6), "When the

disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and

touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid." Mark omits this; but in his

characteristic manner states that which implies what Matthew has recorded. It was

the "touch" of Jesus that caused them to look round about; and then in a moment

they perceived that they were alone with Jesus, as they were before this manifestation

began. The order of incidents in the Transfiguration appears to have been this: Our

Lord is praying. The disciples, fatigued with the ascent of the mountain, are heavy

with sleep; and Christ is transfigured. Then appear Moses and Elijah; and they are

talking with Jesus about His exodus - His decease to be accomplished at Jerusalem.

The disciples roused from their sleep by the supernatural brightness, and by the

conversation, and now, fully awake, behold the glory of Jesus, and Moses and Elijah

talking with Him. As Moses and Elijah are preparing for their departure, Peter,

excited, enchanted, bewildered, and yet grieved to see that they were going, seeks to

detain them by the proposal to make some temporary resting-place for them. Then

comes the bright overshadowing cloud, and a voice out of the cloud, "This is my

beloved Son: hear ye Him." At the sound of this voice the disciples fall terrified

to the earth. But they are soon comforted by Christ, and, looking up, they see Him

 alone with themselves

 

9 “And as they came down from the mountain, He charged them that they

should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen

from the dead.”  He charged them that they should tell no man what things they

had seen, save when the Son of man should have risen again from the dead. They

were not even to tell their fellow-disciples, lest it might cause vexation or envy

that they had not been thus favored. The time of our Lord's resurrection would

be a fitting opportunity for revealing this mystery; and then the disciples would

understand and believe it, when, after His passion and death, which were an offense

to them, they should see Him rising in glory, of which event the Transfiguration was

a type. For, by the Resurrection they would certainly know that Christ underwent

the death of the cross, not by constraint, but of His own accord, and out of His great

love for us.

 

10 “And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another

what the rising  from the dead should mean.  11 And they asked Him, saying,

Why say the scribes that Elias must first come?”  12 And He answered and

told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is

written of the Son of man, that He must suffer many things, and be set at

naught.  13 But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done

unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.”  Questioning among

themselves what the rising again from the dead should mean; that is, His own rising

from the dead, of which our Lord had just been speaking. No doubt the general

resurrection at the end of the world was an article of faith with which the disciples

were familiar. But they could not understand, when He spake of His own immediate

rising from the dead. So their perplexities led them at last to ask him the question; or

rather to make the remark to Him, The scribes say that Elijah must first come; with

a view to obtaining some clearer understanding. They had just seen Elijah in the

Transfiguration, and they had seen him disappear. They wondered why he should

have departed. They thought, it may be, that he ought to have remained, that he

might be the forerunner of Christ and of His kingdom and glory, according to the

prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 4:6). This the scribes taught; but they erred in the

confusion of times, for they did not distinguish the first coming of Christ in the flesh

from His second advent to judgment. The thought upon the mind of the disciples

appears to have been this: They heard Christ speak of His own resurrection as close at

hand, and they had seen the type of it in His transfiguration; and they thought that

immediately after that, Christ's kingdom would come, and He would reign gloriously.

Why, then, had not Elijah remained, that he might be His precursor? Matthew

(Matthew 17:13) tells us that our Lord's words which follow showed the disciples

that when He said that Elijah was to come first and restore all things, He meant

them to understand "that He spake unto them of John the Baptist." Upon the question

of a future coming of Elijah, it seems safest to confess our ignorance. The prophecy

of Malachi was no doubt in part fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist; but it

would be rash to affirm that it may not receive another and more literal fulfillment

before the second advent. A host of ancient Christian expositors have held that Elijah

will appear in person before the second advent of Christ. St. Augustine, in his 'City

of God' (20:29), says, "Not without reason do we hope that before the coming of our

Judge and Savior Elias will come, because we have good reason to believe that he

is now alive; for, as Holy Scripture distinctly informs us, he was taken up from this

life in a chariot of fire. When, therefore, he is come he shall give a spiritual explanation

of the Law which the Jews at present understand carnally, and will turn the hearts of the

fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers; that is, the Jews who are the

children will understand the Law in the same sense as their fathers the prophets

understood it." Indeed, this is one of the principal reasons assigned by the Fathers for

this appearance of Elijah, that he may convert the Jews.

 

 

                                                The Transfiguration (vs. 2-13)

 

Observe the crisis of our Lord’s ministry at which this  marvelous and memorable

incident took place. The period of novelty, of popularity, of prosperity, was past and

gone; the period of hostility, of persecution, of endurance, was commencing. Already

Jesus had forewarned his disciples of the speedy approach  of His death at the hands

of his enemies. (ch. 8:31)  And it seems as though this  unique and impressive display

of His proper majesty, and of the affection and confidence of his Father, came exactly

at the needed conjuncture. It was for His own sake, that a vivid consciousness of Divine

favor might go with Him to the scenes of ignominy and of suffering which awaited Him.

It was for the sake of the nearest and dearest among His friends, that they might carry

with them, especially in those trials of their faith and attachment which were coming

upon them, a conviction concerning their master’s nature and mission which might

support them and preserve them, if not from weak defection, still from shameful

apostasy. The close connection between the glories of the Transfiguration and the

shame and woe of Calvary, is evident both from the narrative itself and from the

central and critical position it occupies. Regarding the Mount of Transfiguration

as a mount of witness, we observe:

 

  • THE WITNESS CHRIST HERE BEARS TO HIMSELF. The sun in

            heaven is his own witness, shines by his own light, tells of his own nature

            and power. So with the Lord Christ. When, amidst the darkness of the

            night, upon the slopes of Hermon, His garments glistened, and His face

            shone with a dazzling radiance, His proper glory shone through the disguise

            of His human weakness and humiliation. For once He appeared to be what

            He really was — the Son of the Father, and the Lord of the world. It was

            testimony very powerful and very effective, and produced its impression

            upon those who were privileged to behold that “great sight.”  It was an

            evidence beforehand, a prospective evidence, that He underwent death, even

            the death of the cross, not constrained by infirmity or necessity, but of His

            own will, for the redemption of man. It was plain that, since He could

            thus invest His body with this Divine glory, He could have saved

            Himself from death if he had so willed.

 

  • THE WITNESS HERE BORNE TO CHRIST BY THE LAWGIVER AND

            THE PROPHET.  After Abraham, no personages in their history were more

            honored and venerated by the Jews than Moses and Elijah:

            Moses the giver of their Law, and Elijah the head and leader of their

            prophets. These two had not only in life fulfilled the will of God, they had

            at the close of their life-service been taken to Himself by their Lord in very

            remarkable and singular circumstances. From the seats of the blessed, and

            in their vesture of immortality, these illustrious and glorified saints came to

            converse with the Son of God regarding the decease which he was about to

            accomplish at Jerusalem. They had foretold Him, they had prefigured Him,

            they now gave place to Him; and what more appropriate than that they

            should thus tender to Him their homage and their admiration?

 

ü      They manifested interest in His mission, for this gave the meaning to

                        their own — explained in the old economy much which would

                        otherwise have been inexplicable.

 

ü      They acknowledged His authority, for they had already testified to a

                        Greater than themselves who should come, and their appearance on

                        this occasion was an evidence of the reverential honor in which they

                        held the Divine lawgiver, the Divine Prophet.

 

ü      They anticipated His decease; the event which He had so recently

                        foretold (ch. 8:31), and for which He was now so deliberately, so

                        sacredly preparing — an event of stupendous magnitude in the

                        history of our sinful humanity.

 

·         THE WITNESS BORNE TO CHRIST BY HIS FRIENDS AND APOSTLES.

 

            Why was it appointed that the Transfiguration should be witnessed by so small

            and select a group, and in so secluded a spot?  Why were not multitudes

            permitted to behold a spectacle so amazing in itself, and so fitted to bring

            conviction to the minds of all beholders?  Surely, it might be urged, no

            unbeliever, no caviler, could   have withstood the evidence of our Lord’s authority

            which such a scene afforded! It is recorded that the leaders of the Jews,

            the Pharisees, asked from Jesus a sign from heaven  (ch.8:11-12). This

            He refused them. But He allowed three favored friends to behold His       

            glory, when the customary veil was in some measure withdrawn. What

            is the explanation of this? It may be replied that it was not in harmony       

            with the plans of our Lord Jesus to overpower the senses of the people      

            with some irresistible display of supernatural power and glory. This

            would not have been to secure a moral result by moral means.  Jesus           

            would not have valued the admiration which was withheld from His

            moral character and His benevolent life, but which was accorded to

            the effulgence of celestial glory, striking all eyes with amazement.

            But there was another reason for the limitation of the witnesses of our

            Lord’s transfiguration. The highest revelations of God’s wisdom and          holiness and love are for those only who are prepared to receive them.         

            You may walk round the outside of a vast domain, a splendid palace;

            you may make the circuit of the walls, you may see the tree-tops

            shaken by the wind, you may catch glimpses of the lofty roofs and

            towers of the lordly edifice. But how little do you know of the

            imposing palace and its enchanting environments!  If, however, you

            are permitted to enter the gates, to tread the stately gardens, to explore

            the mansion, to look through the library, to admire the sculptures and          paintings, and, above all, to spend hours and days in converse with the  

            choice spirits who make the abode their home, — then you can form a        judgment, and cherish an appreciation which, so long as you were on

            the outside, you would never have been able to do. So with the

            knowledge of every high and pure and noble soul. Such a one is only to

            be known by those who have sympathy with Him, and opportunities of

            fellowship with Him. It cannot be otherwise than that the ignorant, the

            vulgar, the selfish, should misunderstand Him. In like manner, but in

            the highest degree, it needed some sympathy with the Lord Christ in

            order to judge aright of Him. It seems likely that when Jesus took with      

            Him only His three most intimate and congenial friends to behold His        

            glory upon the holy mount, He did so because none others were     

            sufficiently advanced in spiritual knowledge and appreciation to be           

            capable of partaking and profiting by the privilege. Even the bulk of

            His own twelve disciples would have been, at that time, out of place

            upon the Mount of Transfiguration. As for the scribes and Pharisees,

            and all the vulgar formalists who desired a sign, they had no spiritual

            eyes with which to see the vision which was then and there vouchsafed

            to three lowly fishermen, whose hearts the Lord had touched, and          

            whose sight the Lord had cleansed and quickened.

 

ü      The emotions with which the favored three were affected, when they

                        beheld Christ’s glory, deserve attention. There was awe: and this was

                        honorable to them, that they experienced the feeling of trembling

                        reverence in a presence so august, and before evidence so majestic

                        and convincing. There was delight: hence the exclamation and the                                       proposal of Peter. They felt it “good” to be in such a scene and in such                          society, and they would fain have prolonged the precious opportunity,

                        and dwelt for a season upon the mount.  To the three disciples, this

                        was a sign from heaven which the Pharisees had desired and a

                        corresponding revelation will take place in the experience of every

                        true child of God, (a la Isaiah 6:1) whereby his faith shall be

                        confirmed, and he shall be “sealed unto the day of redemption”

                        (Ephesians 4:30)  Notice, “They asked him” (v. 11)  - and He

                        cleared away the difficulty to the extent to which they made it known.

                        To the praying soul the light will come in ever-increasing fullness.

                        More light will break forth from the book of earthly experience,

                        and from the written Word of comfort and revelation. And when

                        the mystery still remains insoluble, the Spirit of Jesus will give us

                        faith and patience until “the day dawn, and the day-star arise in

                        our hearts,” (II Peter 1:19) and then “we shall know even as we

                        are known” (I Corinthians 13:12)

 

ü      The convictions which they formed may be known from the language

                        of II Peter 1:16-18 – For we have not followed cunningly devised                                  fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of

                        our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

                        For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there

                        came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my

                        beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which

                        came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy                                 

                        mount.” - from which it is apparent that the Transfiguration produced                                upon the minds of the witnesses a profound and ineffaceable

                        impression concerning their Master’s dignity and authority.

 

·         THE WITNESS BORNE TO CHRIST BY THE FATHER HIMSELF.

      In the voice which came from the Father we observe:

 

ü      A declaration to be believed:This is my beloved Son,” Jesus

      was beloved:

 

Ø      For the relation He sustained to the Father; for He was “the

      only begotten,” (John 3:16) and was by nature what no other         

      human being can be affirmed to have been.

 

Ø      For His congenial character; for He pleased the Father alway

      (John 8:29); His character embodied every moral excellence.

 

Ø      For His willing obedience; for, as He had undertaken His

      mission in the spirit of the prophetic language, “Lo, I come ...

      to do thy will, O my God,” (Psalm 40:7)  He acted throughout

      His ministry in a manner conformable to the just and holy will

      of God the Father.

 

Ø      For His perfect submission; for He “learned obedience by the

      things which He suffered,” (Hebrews 5:8) and shrank not from

      any sufferings appointed, and refused not the cup which the

      Father gave. Luke 9:51 says “He steadfastly set His face to go

      to Jerusalem and Isaiah 50:7 says “For the Lord God will

      help me; therefore shall I not be confounded:  therefore

      have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not

      be ashamed”.  As God’s beloved Son, He was “obedient

      unto death, even the death of the cross.”  (Philippians 2:8)

 

ü      An appeal to be obeyed: “Hear ye him!” As in the former clause the

                        address is to the intelligent nature, so in this clause it is to the practical

                        nature, of men. It is a Divine imperative. The appeal is to the sense

                        of human obligation. Hear His teachings as your Master! Hear His                                       promises as your Friend and Savior! Hear His commands as your

                        Leader and Lord!  Hear to rejoice, to respond, to obey!

 

Reader, will you not receive this witness concerning Christ. It is the witness of the

most trustworthy of men and it is the witness of the Eternal Father, of Him who

cannot lie.   Then repeat this witness concerning Christ. It is the vocation of the

disciple to give testimony to the master. The Church is Christ’s witness to the

world. It is ours to tell who Jesus is and what He has done; it is ours to invite the

faith, to require the allegiance of all mankind to Him who is the Son of God.

 

“The scribes say that Elijah must first come”. The disciples had just seen Elijah in

the Transfiguration, and they had seen him disappear. They wondered why he should

have departed. They thought, it may be, that he ought to have remained, that he might

be the forerunner of Christ and of his kingdom and glory, according to the prophecy

of Malachi 4:6. The prophecy of Malachi was no doubt in part fulfilled in the coming

of John the Baptist; but it would be rash to affirm that it may not receive another and

more literal fulfillment before the Second Advent. A host of ancient Christian

expositors have held that Elijah will appear in person before the Second Advent of

Christ. (Marion Duncan, a former pastor of the church which  I am a member

said that he thought that Billy Graham was the Elijah to come – a very interesting

thought – regardless, it behooves us to be READY to meet Christ when He

comes – the Bible ends with these words “even so come Lord Jesus”- CY – 2010)

 

14 “And when He came to His disciples, He saw a great multitude about them,

and the scribes questioning with them.”  And when he came to His disciples,

He saw a great crowd around them. High authorities support the reading adopted by

the Revisers, when they came to the disciples, they saw a great multitude about them.

"They" would thus mean our Lord and the three chosen disciples who had been with

Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. "They" came to the other disciples who had

been left below. Luke (Luke 9:37) adds "On the next day, when they were come down

from the mountain." This would seem to confirm the supposition that the transfiguration

took place in the night. All the synoptists agree in placing the following immediately

after the transfiguration. Scribes were questioning with the disciples who had been

left behind. As usual, they had assembled in the neighborhood where Jesus was,

for the purpose of watching Him. Their object in questioning with the disciples

was doubtless to throw discredit upon Jesus, because they, disciples, had failed

to work the miracle.

 

15 “And straightway all the people, when they beheld Him, were greatly

amazed, and running to Him saluted Him.”  The multitude were favourably

disposed towards Jesus, and were glad that He had returned at an opportune moment

to defend His disciples against the scribes. But why were they greatly amazed? The

word in the Greek is ἐξεθαμβήθη – exethambaethae – was overawed. It seems most

probable that they saw in His countenance, always heavenly and majestic, something

even yet more Divine, retaining some traces of the glory of His transfiguration, even

as the face of Moses shone when He came down from the mount (Exodus 34:29).

It hardly seems likely that the amazement of the people was simply caused by our

Lord having arrived at an opportune time to relieve His disciples of their difficulty.

The Greek word expresses something more than would be satisfied by the fact of

our Lord having come upon the scene just when He was wanted. Even if there

were no remains of the transfiguration glory upon His countenance, the vivid

recollection of the scene, of the conversation with Moses and Elijah, and the

subject of it, and the voice of the Father, must have invested His countenance

with a peculiar majesty and dignity. The same word, though without its compound

(ἐθαμβοῦντο – ethambounto – they were awed), is used further on in Mark 10:32

to express the amazement of the disciples, as He pressed eagerly onwards before

them on His way to Jerusalem and to His cross. There was no doubt something then

in His countenance which astonished them. The multitude running to Him, saluted

Him. The scribes had not been able to shake their faith. In their view He was still

"that Prophet that should come into the world."  (John 6:14)

 

16 “And He asked the scribes, What question ye with them?”  And He asked

them; that is, the multitude. The context shows this. The reading here is αὐτούς =

autous - them, not τοὺς γραμματεῖςtous grammateis – the scribes.

 

17 “And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto

thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;”  One of the multitude answered Him,

Master I brought - the Greek is ἤνεγκαanegka – I bring -  unto thee my son.

He brought his son, expecting to find Jesus; but failing in this, he applied to our

Lord's disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they could not.  Matthew

(Matthew 17:14) says that the man came kneeling to Christ, "and saying, Lord,

have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic." The word in the Greek there is

σεληνιάζεται – selaeniazetai – he is a lunatic. Etymologically, no doubt, "lunatic"

conveys the meaning of the word most nearly. But the graphic description here

of Mark corresponds exactly to epilepsy, and to epilepsy acted upon by an unclean

spirit, who in this instance deprived the sufferer of his speech. Lunatics were so

called from the prevailing impression, not without foundation, that the light and

the changes of the moon have an influence upon the body, and so act through the

body upon the mind. This influence seems to be recognized in Psalm 121:6,

"The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night."

 

18 “And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and

gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that

they should cast him out; and they could not.”  Wheresoever it taketh him

(καταλάβη – katalabae – it may be getting down); literally, it seizeth hold of him.

This is the Greek word from which comes our "catalepsy," the active form of

"epilepsy." It teareth him (ῤήσσει - rassei – it is tearing). This is doubtless the

literal meaning. But there is much evidence to show that it means here "it

striketh or throweth him down." This is the reudering of the Peshito Syriac,

and of the Vulgate. The same interpretation is also given by Hesychius as one

of the meanings of the word. Luke (Luke 9:39) describes the symptoms thus:

"A spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out, and it teareth him (σπαράσσει αὐτὸν –

sparassei auton – it is convulsing him) that he foameth (μετὰ ἀφροῦ - meta aphrou –

with froth), and it hardly departeth from him, bruising him sorely." This it will be

remembered is the record of one who was himself a physician. He grindeth his

teeth, and pineth away (ξηραίνεται – xaerainetai – he is withering), as though the

springs of his life were dried up. The father of the boy is here minutely describing

the symptoms when the fit was upon him. He seems here to express the stiffness

and rigidity of the body in the approaches of the malady. And I spake to thy disciples

that they should cast it out; and they were not able. They had tried and failed. This

failure is attributed by our Lord (see Matthew 17:20) to their want of faith; or rather

to their "little faith (διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν – dia taen oligopistian humon)

 

19 “He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be

with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.”  O faithless generation.

These words were no doubt intended primarily as a rebuke to the Jews and their scribes;

though not without a glance at the weakness of faith of His own disciples. The words

are the complaint of one weary of the unbelief of the masses and of the weakness of

faith in even His own. Bring him unto me (φέρετε – pherete – be ye bringing);

literally, Bring ye him to me.

 

20 “And they brought him unto Him: and when He saw him, straightway

the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.:

And they brought him unto Him. The father, it would seem, was not able of

himself to bring him, so fierce and violent were the paroxysms of the disorder.

And when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him (συνεσπέραξεν –

sun esperaxen) - it might be rendered, convulsed him - grievously. Observe the

Greek construction (καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν τὸ πνεῦμα – kai idon auton to pneuma –

in perceiving him the spirit), masculine participle with neuter noun. The sight

of Christ stirred the evil spirit dwelling in the child. He was irritated by the

presence of Christ; for he knew His power, and feared lest he should be cast out.

Then came the last and most violent convulsion. He wallowed foaming. The word

"to wallow" is probably from the Latin volvo. He rolled about in his agony. St.

Gregory, quoted by Trench ('Miracles,' p. 397), shows how true all this is to nature;

and that "the expulsion of a deadly evil from our spiritual being is not accomplished

without a terrible struggle, followed in some cases by extreme prostration."

 

21 “And He asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him?

And he said, Of a child.  22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire,

and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have

compassion on us, and help us.”   Our Lord asks the father, not the sufferer,

which in this case would have been useless - he was but a lad, and he was dumb.

Our Lord's question, How long time is it since this hath come unto him? was

intended, not of course for His own information, but to inspire the father with

hope and confidence. The father briefly answers, From a child; and then turns

to a description of the perils to which his child was continually exposed through

these paroxysms. And then, half doubting, half in despair, he says, If thou canst

do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. It is as though he said, "Thy

disciples have failed, perhaps thy power may be greater."

 

23 “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that

believeth.  24  And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with

tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  The most approved reading here

is, not εἰ δύνασαι πιστεῦσαι – εἰ dunasai pisteusai – if you are able to believe, but

simply  εἰ δύνασαι - εἰ dunasaiif you are able. So that the English rendering is,

If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth. Our Lord takes up the

father's words. It is as though He said, "Thou sayest to me, 'If thou canst do anything!'

Ah, that 'If thou canst!' All things are possible to him that believeth." In other words,

our Lord said to him, "Believe in me, and your child shall be healed." It was right

that Christ should demand faith in Himself; for it was not fitting that He should

confer His special benefits on those who disbelieved or doubted Him - that He

should thrust His blessings on those who were unworthy of them. The answer

of the father is touching and beautiful. Greatly agitated, he cried out and said

(we might well suppose (μετὰ δακρύωνmeta dakruon - with tears, although

the weight of evidence is against this addition being retained in the text), I believe;

help thou mine unbelief. It is as though he said," I do believe; but my faith is weak.

Do thou, therefore, increase and strengthen it; so that whatever there is in me of

doubt or remaining unbelief may be taken away, and I may be counted worthy to

obtain from thee this blessing for my son." Nor can we doubt that Christ heard a

prayer so humble and so fervent, and took away from him the last remains of

doubt and unbelief.

 

25 “When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the foul

spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of

him, and enter no more into him.  26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and

came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.  28 And when

He was come into the house, His disciples asked Nim privately, Why could not we

cast him out?  29 And He said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but

by prayer and fasting.”  The multitude had been much excited by the dispute between

the scribes and our Lord's disciples. And now, when they noticed that He had taken the

father apart, as no doubt He had done, to question him they came running together

(the word is ἐπισυντρέχει – episuntrechei – is racing on together, an unusual word,

meaning "they ran together to the place") where He was, crowding upon Him. Then

He came forward, and with a voice of sublime authority He said, Thou dumb and

deaf spirit, I command thee, come out of him and enter no more into him. The rest

of the narrative shows how malignant and powerful this evil spirit was, who dared

so to resist and defy Christ that, in his departure out of the afflicted boy, he almost

robbed him of life. "Most unwillingly," says Archbishop Trench, "does the evil spirit

depart, seeking to destroy that which he can no longer retain." (Very Satan-like,

who will do to you likewise if you allow him!   Remember that “Greater is He that

is in you than he that is in the world.”  I John 4:4 - CY – 2019)  And he quotes Fuller,

who says that he is "like an outgoing tenant, that cares not what mischief he does to

the house that he is quitting." Some have supposed that this was an evil spirit possessed

of more than ordinary power as well as malignity, and that this was the reason why

our Lord's disciples could not cast him out; so that this expulsion needed the mighty

arm of One stronger than the strong. The words in the Greek are powerful, severe,

and authoritative: "He rebuked (ἐπετίμησε – epetimaese – He rebukes) the unclean

spirit, ... Thou dumb and deaf spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἄλαλον καὶ κωφὸν – to pneuma

to alalon kai kophon – the spirit of the dumb and deaf mute), I command thee

(ἐγώ σοι ἐπιτάσσω – ego soi epitasso – I am enjoing you), come out of him, and

enter no more into him." This explains our Lord's words when the disciples

remarked afterwards, We could not cast it out... This kind can come out by

nothing, save by prayer; that is, this particular kind of malicious spirit. For

there are different degrees of malice and energy in evil spirits as in evil men.

The words "and fasting" are added in many ancient authorities.

 

 

                       

               THE HEALING OF THE  EPILEPTIC BOY (vs. 14-29)

 

 

In Raphael’s picture of the Transfiguration, which has often been called the greatest of

all paintings, the foreground is occupied by a  vivid representation of this marvelous

miracle wrought by our Lord upon his descent from the mountain. The conjunction of

the two incidents, which are in such striking contrast with each other, seems

suggestive. The native glory of the Redeemer shone forth in the presence of the three

favored disciples upon the holy mount. But the redemptive work of the Son of God

is brought out most prominently by his mighty work of healing, in which He

shows Himself able to deliver a human sufferer from the agonies of a terrible disease,

and from the clutches of a cruel foe. The one incident serves to bring out the other into

a bolder relief; and the two must be taken together, in order that we may obtain a fair

and complete view of the nature, and especially of the ministry, of Jesus.

 

                  The Transfiguration of Christ by Raphael

 

 

·                     OBSERVE THE DISTRESSING CASE OF HUMAN MISERY HERE

            PORTRAYED. Mark has depicted this whole incident with a graphic

            minuteness that cannot fail to impress itself upon the reader’s mind.

           

ü      The case itself is unique in the wretchedness of its symptoms. An

                        epileptic boy, speechless, often convulsed and sometimes flung into

                        the fire and the water, a sufferer in this way from childhood, and

                        now wasting away from long-continued disease, — can a more

                        affecting picture of human misery be painted than this? Add to

                        all the particulars related the possession by an evil spirit; and the                                          hopelessness of the case, the powerlessness of all human endeavors,                                    becomes apparent.  Far more awful are the effects of sin on the soul

                        than the plight of this poor epileptic!

 

ü      The anguish of the father’s heart is beyond description; his attitude, his

                        language, declare his distress and his dejection.  The man asks “If

                        thou canst?”  The Savior repeats in grieved astonishment.  “I believe,

                        help thou my unbelief”.  Does this not reveal a low spiritual state?

                        But the man at least knows his short-coming and asked for its

                        removal.  It is because Christians live habitually on such a worldly

                        plane that they lack power. Oneness in heart and life with God would                                remove “mountains.” This power should be sought by all.

 

 

ü      The interest of the multitude is evident; a spectacle such as this could

                        not fail to excite the commiseration and compassion of every feeling

                        heart.  Observe in this case a striking figure of the condition of the

                        sinner as a captive of Satan, and of the state of this ungodly and sin-                                  accursed humanity!  There are situations like this in every age of the

                        church.  Moral phases of individual, social, and national life which

                        seem to defy remedy or even improvement.  Like the epileptic in

                        this account, not only the body but the spirit may be evilly

                        charmed.  Christ laments their want of faith and slowness to receive

                        the things of God.  They had the highest reasons for faith – they had

                        His works and Himself in their midst and yet they would not believe.

 

·                     REMARK THE INABILITY OF ALL HUMAN MEANS AND AGENCIES

      TO RELIEVE THIS CASE OF WRETCHEDNESS. All that a father’s           

      watchfulness and care could effect had long been tried. Doubtless the best

      known and most skillful physicians had exhausted the resources of their art.

      But all had been in vain. And now the disciples of our Lord had been appealed

      to with earnest entreaties. In the absence of their Master upon the mountain they  

      had put forth their endeavors, had exercised their authority. But all was in vain.

      It was the assertion of the father; it was the confession of the disciples

            themselves: “They could not cast out” the demon. And yet           

            there is no power on earth that can deal effectually with the sinner’s case

            that can expel from this humanity the spirit of evil that has so long ruled,

             afflicted, and defiled it. 

 

·               THE REMEDY  The immediate occasion for the Master’s admonition

      probably was the increasing laxity of the disciples in personal prayer,

      their outwardness, and their failure to grasp the essential principles

            of His kingdom. But there was a more profound reason for the advice. The

            servant of God should be in complete sympathy and oneness with his

            Master, and that can only be cultivated by frequent acts of devotion and

            the exercise of a constant faith. It is not in his own strength that difficulties

            are to be met, but in Christ’s. But that can only be imparted through

            fellowship with His spirit, which depends for its efficiency and depth upon

            repeated acts of the spiritual nature. The disciple by this rule is called into

            conscious personal fellowship with God, whose power will only then be

            granted. Oneness with God is the secret of spiritual power.  True

            success depends upon vital spiritual effort, upon conscious co-operation

            with God, and consequent fasting from self. If we would not be taken at

            unawares we must be watchful, in constant actual exercise of faith, and

            uninterrupted personal communion with God. We are in danger of making

            too much of the external and accidental element in religion; we can never

            make too much of him who “worketh in” and through “us to will and to

            do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

 

·               CONSIDER THE APPLICATION WHICH WAS MADE TO JESUS

            AS TO THE DIVINE HEALER. How spiritually significant and

            instructive is the approach of the suppliant father to the Christ! The

            importance attached to faith comes out in this narrative perhaps more

            prominently than in any other part of the Gospel. We recognize:

 

ü      The demand for faith. The father states his case, describes the sufferings

                  of his son, implores compassion, and entreats help. His qualification,

                  “If thou canst do anything,” calls forth Christ’s marvelous and                                          memorable utterance: “If thou canst believe!  All things are possible

                        to him that believeth.” (v. 23)  This is, indeed, a repetition of the                                       teaching of Scripture in every page. Faith is the posture of the heart

                        which God approves, and which renders those who assume it capable

                        of being blessed. Faith is the cry of the heart which God will never

                        disregard or reject. And this condition comes out in a very impressive

                        manner in this dialogue.  (Reader, remember that “Without faith it is

                        impossible to please Him,  for he that cometh unto God must believe

                        that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek

                        Him” – Hebrews 11:6)

 

ü      The assertion of faith. The poor father was driven to faith by need and

                        suffering, by sympathy and despondency, by his repeated failures to

                        obtain relief. He was drawn to Christ by His gracious and majestic                                      presence as He came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. The

                        leper had doubted the will of Christ to save; this father seems to have

                        had confidence in the disposition and readiness of the Divine Teacher

                        and Healer, and upon the suggestion and requirement of the Redeemer

                        he exclaims, with fervor and with earnestness, “Lord, I believe.”

 

ü      The confession of unbelief. He doubts, or until now has doubted,

                        Christ’s power to save, as appears from his “If thou canst,” and as

                        he himself acknowledges in his cry, “Help thou mine unbelief.” If he

                        had not believed at all, he would not have come to Jesus; if he had                                      believed firmly, he would have come with other words and in another                                   spirit. This combination is very true to nature. There are degrees of

                        faith even in the faithful Where is perfect faith in Jesus? Who has not

                        had reason to cry, Help thou mine unbelief;” “Increase my faith”?

                       

ü      The cry for help. The earnest applicant did not wait until his faith was

                        stronger — until more assurances and encouragements were given.

                        He pleads as for his life, for he pleads for his child. Hating his unbelief,

                        he struggles against it. His appeal is the utterance of his heart, which

                        has no hope and no resource save in Immanuel, the Son of God.

                        An example this to all hearers of the gospel, and especially to the

                        penitent, the doubting, the timid, and the tempted.  With such a

                        picture before our eyes, who need hesitate to come to Jesus, in

                        any need whatsoever?

 

·               REMARK THE HEALING GRACE AND POWER OF JESUS.

 

ü      His compassion was excited. He might pause to call forth the father’s

                        faith; but He would not withhold his sympathy from the suffering.

 

ü      His authority was exercised over the evil spirit; for He rebuked and

      bade the demon to come out, and this with a commanding voice,

      which even so potent an agent of evil could not resist.  This is an

      example of what Christ came to do, “to destroy the works of the

                        devil” (I John 3:8) “For our wrestling is not against flesh and

                        blood, but against principalities, against the powers, against the                         world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of

                        wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). It is due to

                        this permanent characteristic of evil in human nature that such

                        difficulties are met with as the text explains.

 

ü      His healing, gracious aid was extended to the boy. When the sufferer

                        seemed as if dead, by reason of the exhausting convulsions in which

                        the departing demon displayed his malicious power, the Lord of life

                        took him by the hand and raised him up, and he arose. How beautiful

                        and encouraging an illustration of our Lord’s personal interest in, and                                 spiritual contact with, those whom he commiserates, relieves, and saves!

                        There is no case of need, sin, and wretchedness beyond the power of

                        Christ to aid.  There is no faith, however feeble, which will not justify

                        an approach to Christ, and elicit His compassion and His willingness to                               help.  The weakest child of God can secure His aid.  “If God be for

                        us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31)  The work of faith is

                        ever blessed.  The prayer of faith is never denied; for if the answer do

                        not assume the form expected, it will nevertheless prove to be                                           substantially, and under the best form, the blessing that is required.

                        And fervent, earnest, repeated prayer is unmistakably encouraged by

                        the teaching of Christ. It is for Christians not to pray less, but more

                        and more importunately, only leaving the particular mode in which

                        the answer is to come to the wisdom and love of God.  (I have

                        heard that “When it is hardest to pray, pray hardest” – CY – 2010)

                        The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a magnificent confirmation of the

                        promises of the Lord; and there can be no better exercise than the

                        study of the answers to prayer recorded in the Word of God and the

                        lives of saints.

 

·               THE FAITHLESS GENERATION  (v. 19) – The disciples, the scribes,

      the father of the afflicted boy, the multitudes, were all a part of that

            “faithless generation”.  The distressed father, earnest as he was, and

            eloquent as he was in his appeal, betrayed much weakness of faith, saying,

            “If at all thou canst” — if in any way thou canst,” or “if thou canst do

            anything.” This refers the matter of cure to the power of Christ; the leper

            resolved the cure in his case into the will of Christ, “If thou wilt, thou

            canst.” (ch. 1:40)  How prone we are to circumscribe the Savior by our own          

            narrow conditions! and yet he shows us demonstratively that He is above and       

            independent of all such limitations. He proved to the leper His possession of

            the will, and to the demoniac’s father His possession of the power; and to us,        

            through both, His ability as well as willingness to do to us and in us and for us      

            “exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

            The limitations are all on one side — all on our side, and are owing to the        

            weakness of our frail and naturally faithless humanity.  The cure, therefore,     

            which our Lord effected in this seemingly hopeless, certainly desperate case,         

            holds forth encouragement to the weakest and the worst — those morally so —

           

 

                                    WILL YOU NOT APPLY TO HIM?

 

·               THE ELEMENT OF TIME.  Great importance attaches to the element of time.

      The demon got possession early of this sorely distressed boy, and the demoniac

      power seems to have grown with the child’s growth, and to have strengthened

            with his strength, so that dispossession had become next to an impossibility.

            The apostles were not competent to the task, and when our Lord, in the exercise   

            of his almighty power, expelled him, it was only after he had made horrid havoc   

            of the lad’s system, frightfully convulsing him and leaving him half-dead. So,

            if Satan unhappily gain the ascendant in a young heart, he will do his best to         

            blight the whole life; he will hold his dominion with tenacity, and, if possible,

            to the end; he will seat himself firmly on the throne of the affections, and

            exercise a despot’s sway; (I once read on a Hopkinsville church marquee

            that “If you give the devil a ride, he will end up wanting to drive”  - CY –

            2010) his dethronement will be attended with the greatest difficulty; and

            if, by Divine mercy, his power is at last overthrown, it will cost pain of

            body, distress of mind, and grief of heart. Oh, how careful young persons          

            should be to guard against the solicitations of the evil one, and to resist

            his power! How determined not to yield to his temptations, and to

            vanquish youthful lusts that war against the soul! (II Timothy 2:22,

            I Peter 2:11)  How resolved, by the aid of Divine strength, to keep him out,        

            remembering how difficult it is to get him out once he has gained an entrance,

            and especially if he has gained it early!

 

                                    “Restraining prayer we cease to fight;

                                    Prayer keeps the Christian’s armor bright;

                                    And Satan trembles when he sees

                                    The weakest saint upon his knees.”

 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” –

(Philippians 4:13)

 

(I highly recommend I Corinthians ch. 7 v. 29 – The Time is Short – Sermon by CH Spurgeon

# 440a – CY – 2019)

 

                                                                

                                    JESUS FORETELLS HIS DEATH

 

 

30 “And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and He would not that

any man should know it.”  This verse informs us that our Lord and His disciples now

left the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi. Their route would be across the Jordan

above the Sea of Galilee, and so by the usual track through Galilee down to

Capernaum. Our Lord now wished for privacy, that He might farther instruct His

disciples with regard to His sufferings and death.

 

31 “For He taught His disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered

into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and after that He is killed, He

shall rise the third day.”  For he taught his disciples (ἐδίδασκε γὰρ τοὺς μαθητὰς

αὑτοῦ - edidaske gar tous mathaetas autou – He taught for the disciples of Him);

literally, for He was teaching (imperfect) His disciples. The Son of man is delivered

(παραδίδοται – paradidotai – is being given up) The whole is present to His mind,

as though it were now taking place. And they shall kill him (ἀποκτενοῦσιν –

apoktenousin – they shall be killing). This is a stronger form of κτείνωkteino –

to slay, kill or murder. And when he is killed, after three days he shall rise again

(ἀναστήσεται – anastaesetai – He shall be up-standing; rising); literally, He shall

rise up. Our Lord repeats this prediction, in order that, when these events actually

took place, His disciples might not be alarmed or offended, or abandon their faith

in Him, as though He could not be the Messiah because He underwent so terrible

a death. It will be remembered that, notwithstanding these repeated warnings

from their Lord, when these events actually took place, "they all forsook Him

and fled." (ch. 14:50; Matthew 26:56)  It was therefore necessary that this coming

event of His crucifixion should be repeatedly impressed upon them, that they might

thus be assured that He was willing to undergo this bitter death; that He was not

going to His cross by constraint, but as a willing Sacrifice, that He might do the

will of His Father, and so redeem mankind. Therefore He repeated all this in

Galilee, when He returned from His transfiguration, and after He had cast out

the evil spirit from the epileptic child, and so had gained to Himself great renown.

He would thus restrain the excited feelings of His disciples, and impress upon them

the reasons for His journey to Jerusalem, and prepare them for the dread realities

which were awaiting Him there.

 

32  But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask Him.”

But they understood not the saying, and were afraid (ἐφοβοῦντο – ephobounto –

they feared) to ask Him; Matthew (Matthew 17:23) says, "They were exceeding sorry."

They saw that something very dreadful was about to happen. Their Master's words

and looks showed them this. But it was a mystery to them. All His words staggered

them, but especially those which spoke of His rising again. They did not understand

whether it was an entrance into a higher state or a restoration to a common life.

They did not understand why He was to die, and how these words of His about

His death could agree with those in which He had told them that His kingdom

was at hand. Perhaps, on the whole, they inclined to the view most pleasing to

them, that Christ would not die; for this was what they wished and most desired.

And so they tried to persuade themselves that His words respecting His sufferings

and death had some other hidden meaning; and were to be understood in a

figurative sense and not a literal. But anyhow, they dreaded to ask Him.  (Men,

often, still do so today in preferring their own wishes to what God has said in

His Word!  CY – 2019)

 

 

 

                                                Death Foretold (vs. 30-32)

 

The evangelists have recorded that on several distinct occasions our Lord

foretold, in the hearing of His disciples, what would be the close of His

earthly career. It is evident, accordingly, that these predictions, though only

partially comprehended at the time, nevertheless made a deep impression

on the minds of those who listened to them. After all that Jesus had

foretold had been fulfilled, His apostles naturally enough recalled His

sayings, and pondered them in the light of actual events, and published

among their fellow-disciples the communications which have been

recorded in the Gospels.

 

·               THE OCCASION OF THESE REVELATIONS. This second declaration

      by the Son of man of His approaching death and resurrection was made not

            long after the first.  ( see ch. 8:31) 

 

ü      It was in the course of the journey from Caesarea Philippi through

                        Galilee to the most ordinary scenes of His ministry that Jesus thus

                        spoke to His disciples. They were apart from the multitude and the

                        busy towns, where the great Healer was continually beset by applicants

                        for relief and healing. There was quiet leisure, of which opportunity

                        was taken by the Master to unfold anew to His disciples facts of                                         tremendous import.  (This was why Jesus came to the earth, a

                        plan that had been put in place before the creation of the worlds -

                        Revelation 13:8)

 

ü      It was soon after the Transfiguration upon the mount — a display of

      His glory which must have enlightened the minds of His friends with        

      regard to His nature, and must have disposed them to receive with

      deeper reflectiveness declarations concerning Himself. That a Being

      so glorious and so remarkably in correspondence with celestial        

      intelligences, and so intimately in the fellowship and the favor or the         

      Eternal, should look forward to a fate so dread — this was indeed likely

      to provoke them to profound inquiry and meditation.  (Remember,

      angels loved to delve into the plan of redemption – I Peter 1:12 – CY –

      2010)

 

·               THE SUBSTANCE OF THESE REVELATIONS. The matter of these

            very remarkable and repeated communications was threefold:

 

ü      He foretold His apprehension by His enemies. That there were among

      the ruling classes at Jerusalem many who were violently opposed to

      His teaching and to His claims, must have been known to His disciples

      as well as to Himself. But hitherto Jesus had eluded the efforts of His

      foes, and had always proved Himself able both to refute them in

      argument and to defy their efforts to seize and kill him. But the Lord’s      

      express words assured them that the time was at hand when the foes,        

      whose enmity and malice had hitherto been defeated, should          

      prevail against the Holy One and the Just.

 

ü      He foretold the violent death which His enemies should inflict upon

      Him.  He had saved many from death, and had raised some from the

      dead; strange it must have seemed to them that He Himself should

      submit to be put to death by the violence of men! (see John 10:15-18)

      Why should he submit to power which He was evidently capable of           

      defying? (ibid. 18:6)  Why should He endure treatment from

                        which He could certainly save Himself? Why should He endure a fate                               

                        which He might easily avert?

 

ü      He foretold His resurrection after three days’ submission to death.

      This must have perplexed them still more. To what purpose need He

      die if He intended so soon to revive? Why not rather avoid death than,

      first submitting to it, then prove Himself superior to its power? Yet

      such a prediction was fitted to enhance their conceptions of His

      majesty and authority.

 

·               THE EFFECT OF THESE REVELATIONS UPON THE MINDS

            OF THE DISCIPLES. Very simply are we informed that:

 

ü      They understood not the saying. The words which the Lord had used

                        were simple and unmistakable; the events He had foretold were such

                        as were familiar to their observation, or such as they were acquainted

                        with from the Old Testament narrative. What was it that they failed to

                        understand? Probably the consistency between such a prospect and the

                        view they were forming of Jesus’ Messianic character and glory, and the

                        expectations they were cherishing of his speedily approaching kingdom.

                        Their minds were utterly confused by declarations which accorded

                        neither with their primitive nor their more mature apprehensions of

                        their Master’s nature and ministry.  (Are we in a quandary today

                        in our understanding of the meaning of, and readiness for, the

                        Second Coming of Jesus Christ? – CY – 2010)

 

ü      They were afraid to ask Him. There seem to have been times when

      the disciples stood in awe of their Master. It could not well be

      otherwise.  Sometimes His grace and friendliness drew them to Him,

      and the intimacy was as that subsisting among brothers; at other times

      the superiority of Jesus seemed to cleave a chasm of separation which

      they had not confidence or courage to bridge over by their approaches.      

      They could not then even question him concerning the import of His

                        own language. 

 

·               THE REASON OF THESE REVELATIONS.

 

ü      Jesus intended thus to open the eyes of His companions to His own

                        character. Such sayings as these must have awakened their renewed

                        inquiry, “What manner of man is this?” Thus Jesus would impress

                        upon them the fact that His nature and character, His kingdom and                                                 mission, were altogether unique.

 

ü      Jesus intended, in some measure, to prepare them for the events which

                        were about to happen. This was effected but partially; yet it would be a

                        mistake to suppose that such teaching was lost upon the twelve. The

                        events of the Passion did indeed amaze and dismay Christ’s disciples,

                        yet not to that extent which would have been the case had no such

                        communications been vouchsafed.

 

ü      Jesus designed to open their minds to the spiritual nature of His

                        kingdom. What He foretold could not happen without dispelling, or at                              

                        least weakening, many preconceived notions and expectations; and

                        even before these things came to pass, some light regarding the

                        unworldly and spiritual kingdom must have streamed into their dim

                        minds.

 

ü      Jesus purposed that, after He should have arisen from the dead, they

                        should call to memory the sayings they had heard from Him, (the

                        work of the Holy Spirit who would recall these to the disciples

                        and explain them – John 16:7-14) and that their faith should thus be                                  

                        confirmed in His superior knowledge, and in the divinity of His

                        purposes, so clearly conceived and so gloriously accomplished. Thus

                        was provision made for their thinking aright of Him who laid down

                        His life for the sheep, and in due time and of His own accord

                        took to Him that life again.

 

 

                                    THE LESSON ABOUT GREATNESS

 

 

33 “And He came to Capernaum: and being in the house He asked them, What

was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?  34 But they held their

peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be

the greatest.”  They have now reached Capernaum. And when He was in the

house - the house, that is, which He frequented when staying in Capernaum

He asked them, What were ye reasoning in the way? The words "among

yourselves," of the Authorized Version, are not found in the best authorities.

Matthew (Matthew 18:1) does not record this question of our Lord, which brings

to light the fact that they had been disputing by the way which of them should be

the greatest. The Greek is (τίς μείζων – tis meizon – who greatest) who was greater,

that is, than the rest. It has been well noticed that this passage, given in substance

in all the synoptic Gospels, is a striking evidence of the truthfulness and impartiality

of the disciples. This dispute of theirs might easily have been suppressed as scarcely

creditable to them. But in writing the Gospels the evangelists thought more of what

exalted the Savior than what abased themselves. This dispute of the disciples shows

how thoroughly they realized the nearness of His kingdom, and at the same time

how much they had yet to learn as to the qualifications necessary for admission

to it. It is not unlikely that the preference given by our Lord to Peter, James, and

John may have given occasion for this contention.

 

 

 

The Tribute Money (v. 33)

                                        Parallel passage: Matthew 17:24-27.

 

·         ANOTHER OMISSION. In the first line of the thirty-third verse we

approach the subject of the tribute money; but in Mark’s narrative we

only approach it, and that in the statement, “He came to Capernaum;” but

in the parallel section of Matthew we read of the demand for the tribute

money, of Peter being commissioned to procure it from “the fish that first

cometh up,” of the exemption Jesus might have claimed but waived, and

the reason of His doing so. Here, again, Mark omits the part of the

narrative which relates to the honor conferred on Peter by our Lord, when

He commissioned him to work the miracle by which the tribute money was

procured from the fish’s mouth. But, though Mark omits this portion of

the recital, the preceding and succeeding portions are coincident with those

of Matthew. The peculiar relation of the apostle to the evangelist,

already considered, can alone account for the omission.

 

·         GROUND OF LEGITIMATE EXEMPTION.  In Matthew 17:24-25,

we read, “When they were come to Capernaum, they that received

tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay tribute?”

Then at the last clause of the twenty-fifth verse, our Lord asked Peter,

“What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take

custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?” A slight amount

of archaeological knowledge makes this plain. The word “tribute” in the

twenty-fourth verse is τὰ δίδραχμα - ta didrachma - two drachma; double

drachma; the word "tribute" in the twenty-fifth is κῆνσον - kaenson - poll tax;

while "custom," a word of kindred meaning, is τέλη - telae - tribute; custom.

Also in the twenty-seventh verse, the word στατὴρ - stataer - stater  or “shekel,” rendered “piece of money” in the English version, occurs. The stater, or shekel,

equivalent to two shillings and sixpence of our currency, was the exact

amount of tax payable by two. Now, there is a very wide and important

distinction: between these terms, and a distinction necessary to be kept in

view for the right understanding of the passage. For:

 

(1) the δίδραχμα were equal in value to the Jewish half-shekel, or some

fifteen pence of our money, and may be called a sacred tribute or annual

contribution paid by every male among the Jews, from twenty years of age

and upwards, for the support of the temple at Jerusalem — to defray the

general expenses, to provide the sacrifices and other things required for the

service. The persons who collected it were not the civil tax-gatherers,

called publicani, or rather portitores; nor, indeed, was the tax a civil one at

all, but a sacred one. From overlooking this fact, the point of the argument

is liable to be missed, as it actually has been by several of the Fathers. It is

briefly, though correctly, developed by Alford, in the following sentence:

— “If the sons are free, then on me, being the Son of God, has this tax no

claim.” It requires, however, to be somewhat more fully and plainly

exhibited. In order to set the matter in a clear light, we premise:

 

(2) that the κῆνσον, for which St. Luke employs the classical Greek   

term fo>rov. He was a poll or capitation tax, like the Roman tributum;

while by τέλη are to be understood the toll or customsduties, which are

identical with the vectigal of the Romans. Further, let it be borne in mind

that Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the

living God,” had been made, being recorded in the sixteenth chapter, and

so had preceded the present conversation. Our Lord now argues from

analogy that He was entitled to, and might fairly claim, exemption. In doing

so, He asks Peter this question, “What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do

the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own sons, or of

strangers?” It is here admitted by implication that civil rulers have a right to

impose taxes for the support of civil government, but that, in exercising

this right, they impose taxes on the other members of the state, not on the

members of their own household. When kings levy taxes, or have them

levied in the ordinary constitutional way, they impose them on their

subjects, not on their sons. Peter had confessed Jesus to be the Son of

God; the tax demanded was for the support of God’s house; according to

the principle of action among earthly kings, God, the great King of heaven

and of earth, while requiring contributions for the maintenance of His

service from His subjects, would exempt His own Son, for, from His position

of Sonship, which the apostle had recently acknowledged, and from the

principle of taxation in which He had just acquiesced, it was necessarily

inferred, “then are the sons free.” Not as a mere member of the Hebrew

race, or as an ordinary Jew, but from HIS DIGNITY AS THE SON OF GOD

is in the highest and most exalted sense, our Lord might have claimed exemption

from the tax in question. This was the gist of His reasoning: but He waived

His right; and proceeds to explain to Peter the ground on which He foregoes

His privilege, saying, Lest we should offend them,” or more plainly in the

Revised Version, “Lest we cause them to stumble;” in other words, lest He

and His disciples should be regarded as indifferent to, or be charged with,

neglect of the house of God and the maintenance of its service.

 

35 “And He sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man

desire to be first, the same shall be  last of all, and servant of all.” And He sat

down, and called the twelve. He sat down, with the authority of the great Teacher,

to inculcate solemnly a fundamental principle of the Christian life. If any man

would be first he shall be last of all, and minister of all. These words are capable

of two interpretations. They might be regarded as analogous to our Lord's words

elsewhere, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased" (Matthew 23:12), as though

they indicated the penalty which attaches to unworthy ambition. But it is surely far

more natural to regard them as pointing out the way to real greatness, namely,

by humble service for Christ's sake.

 

36 “And He took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when He had taken

him in His arms, He said unto them,”  And he took a little child (παιδίον – paidion –

little boy or little girl), and set him in the midst of them. Mark adds, what is not

recorded by the other synoptists, that He took him in His arms. And taking him in

His arms (ἐναγκαλισάμενος – enagkalisamenos – and clasping in His arms); literally,

folding him in His arms; embracing him. It is probable that the house where He was

was the house of Simon Peter; and it is possible that this little child might have been

Simon's. A tradition not earlier than the ninth century says that this child was Ignatius.

 

37 “Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and

whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but Him that sent me.” Whosoever

shall receive one of such little children in my name, receiveth me. Whosoever shall

"receive;" that is, show Him offices of kindness and charity. One of such little children;

that is, such in simplicity, in innocence and humility, such as this little child is in age

and stature. In my Name, that is, with special regard to my Name. He thus seems to

link all that is good and beautiful with His Name; as all that is really good and

excellent in man is a reflection of His goodness. Luke (Luke 9:48) says, 'Whosoever

shall receive this little child in my Name receiveth me." Our Lord, therefore, speaks

first, literally of a little child, and secondly, in a mystical sense, of those who are

like little children; making that little child in His arms the figure and type of all

those who are like little children. The sense, therefore, of His words is this:

"Humility, which is the foundation and the measure of spiritual perfection, so

pleases me that I delight in little children. And all who would be my disciples

must become as little children, and so will they deserve to be received by all; for

men will think that they receive me in them, because they receive them for my sake."

 

           

 

The Lesson of Humility (vs. 33-37)

     Parallel passages: Matthew 18:1-5; Luke 9:46-48

 

The exquisite lesson of humility taught in the remainder of this section (the

first clause, of the thirty-third verse, as it stands in Mark, having been

already considered, may be appropriately taken up in connection with the

section of next chapter, where the lovely comparison of childhood is again

employed.

 

 

                                                True Greatness (vs. 33-37)

 

Our Lord’s ministry was not only to the people generally, but to His own

disciples and friends; and even to these He had occasion sometimes to

address language, not only of instruction, but of rebuke and expostulation.

On the occasion here referred to, a serious fault was displayed among the

·         chosen circle, which called for the Lord’s interference and reprimand. At

the same time the great Teacher pointed out to the erring a more excellent

way. Ambition was the fault, and its appearance among the twelve

occasioned our Lord’s lesson in true greatness.

 

 

·                     AMBITION AMONG THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST.

 

ü      Notice its occasion. It seems as if recent events gave rise to the desire

                        for preeminence among the friends and disciples of Jesus. The special

                        commendation of Peter which the Master had recently pronounced,

                        and the selection of the same apostle, with James and John, to witness

                        the Transfiguration, probably prompted the aspiration and the

                        discussion here recorded.

 

ü      The exact form this disposition assumed.  The twelve looked

      forward to the Messianic kingdom, of which they had come to regard

      Jesus as the divinely appointed Head, and in which they all expected

      to occupy posts of dignity and power. But who should be greatest?

      Who should be the chief minister under the Messianic King?

      Such was the matter in dispute, and that it should be

      so shows us how much the apostles had yet to learn.

 

ü      The evil fruits of this ambition. It is quite in accordance with

      human nature that such a disposition should lead to disagreement and

      to contention. The twelve not only reasoned, they disputed; rivalry

      took the place of brotherhood. It is ever so; when the desire for      

      preeminence and supremacy takes possession of men’s hearts, farewell

      to contentment, harmony, and peace!

 

·               CHRIST’S REBUKE AND REMEDY FOR AMBITION. The observant eye

      of Jesus had remarked the wrangling which had gone on among His disciples,

      and His heart was pained. When He inquired into what had happened, they

      were ashamed and silenced; and He proceeded to unfold a principle which

      should operate, not in this company only, but throughout all periods of His            

      Church.

 

ü      Christ reveals the new and Christian law of greatness. Only those

      who are willing to be last of all, and ministers of all, shall be foremost

      in His kingdom. This was paradoxical, altogether in contradiction to

      the prevalent plan and principle among men in all grades of society,

      and in all communities, civil and ecclesiastical. It was exemplified

      most illustriously in the Lord Jesus Himself. “Though He was rich,

      He became poor;” (II Corinthians 8:9) - “He took on Him the form

      of a servant;” (Philippians 2:7) -  “The Son of man came not to be

                        ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life for a ransom

                        for many.” (Mark 10:45)  In His own person — in His incarnation,

                        His humiliation, His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross —

                        our Lord furnished the one incomparable example of humility and                                       self-denial, and laid the axe to the root of the tree of self-seeking and                            pride. The cross of Christ has been the great moral power which has                          changed human society, and is now the ONE HOPE of human                                           regeneration.

 

ü      Christ enforces His new law of greatness by a striking symbol. Our

      Lord often taught by act, thus enforcing the lessons embodied in His         

      words. On this occasion He took a little child, and preached an ever-         

      memorable sermon from this beautiful and touching text. The infant

      was in himself a living and evident illustration of submissiveness,

      teachableness, and humility. And not only so; the infant furnished

      the great Teacher with the lesson He needed: “Whosoever shall

      receive one of such”  Instead of seeking to be preferred above

      their brethren, Christians are here taught to seek out, and to minister to,

      the lowliest and the feeblest; and the inspiriting assurance is added,

      that those who in the Master’s spirit receive and aid the least of His           

      disciples — the lambs of His flock, the babes of His household —

      shall be regarded as having rendered a service to the Christ

                        himself; nay, as having “received” the Creator and Lord of all,

                        even Him who sent and gave His Son for the salvation of mankind!

 

 

·                     APPLICATION.

·          

ü                  * Dispositions which we are ashamed to bring into the presence and under

            the notice of Christ, are by that very fact condemned, and must be at once

            repressed and checked.

 

ü                  *Towards one another it behoves the disciples of Jesus to cherish

            sentiments of esteem and honor.

 

            *Towards the feeble and the obscure they should display the tenderest

            consideration, remembering that those who serve Christ’s lowliest people

            serve Christ Himself.

 

The way to greatness is through service to and for Christ!  Christ says

that all who would be His disciples must become as little children in

attitude, submissiveness, teachableness and humility. 

 

 

            THE COMPREHENSIVENESS OF CHRIST’S SERVICE

 

38 “And John answered Him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy

name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.”  

This verse, according to the best authorities, should begin simply, John said unto Him

although in Luke (Luke 9:49) they stand, "And John answered and said" - Master, we

saw one casting out devils in thy name: and we forbade him, because he followed

not us. The casting out of evil spirits was one of the foremost signs of apostleship;

and what surprised John was that one who followed not Christ should have been

able to work this miracle - a miracle in which, it will be remembered, the disciples

had recently failed. It thus appears that our Lord's teaching had been so influential,

that some, not reckoned amongst His disciples, had shown this proof of a strong

and overpowering faith. We know that there were those in our Savior's time, of

Jewish race, who cast out devils (Matthew 12:27). And Justin Martyr, in his

'Dialogue with Trypho the Jew,' states that while exorcism, as practiced by the

Jews, often failed when it was attempted to be exercised "by the God of Abraham,

Isaac, and Jacob," was eminently successful when administered "by the name of

the Son of God, who was born of a virgin and crucified under Pontius Pilate" (c. 85).

That spirit has power over spirit in many mysterious ways is one of those truths which

science has not yet been able to explain (see Dr. Morison on St. Mark, in loc.). To return,

however, to the instance here alluded to by John, it should be observed that they who

acted thus had faith in Christ; and that by thus acting with Him and for Him, though

not amongst His recognized followers, they contributed towards His honor who, by

means of these imperfect instruments, carried out the great purpose of His manifestation,

namely, "to destroy the works of the devil." (I John 3:8)  Then further, the disciples

forbade them not out of envy or hatred, but out of zeal for Christ, as though they

were thus serving His cause and upholding His honor. But this was “a zeal, not

according to knowledge." (Romans 10:2)  They had forbidden them, without

having first taken counsel of their Master.

 

 39 “But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle

in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.”  But Jesus said, Forbid him not.

It is as though our Lord said, "Do not forbid him; do not hinder him from a good work –

a work which does honor to me and to my cause; because, although he does not

actually follow me as you do, he is nevertheless engaged in the same cause; he is

celebrating my Name by the casting out of evil spirits. Therefore he is not opposing

my Name; on the contrary, he is publishing and recommending it." Here is a warning

against that exclusive spirit, which is eager for its own ends rather than for Christ's

glory, and would limit the exercise of His gifts and graces to its own system or school,

instead of inquiring whether those whom it condemns are not working in Christ's

name and for the promotion of His glory, although it may be allowable to think

that in some instances they might find a more excellent way.

 

40 “For he that is not against us is on our part.”  For he that is not against us is

for us. In Matthew (Matthew 12:30) we find our Lord using a somewhat similar

expression, only in an inverted order. He there says, "He that is not with me

IS AGAINST ME.” The lesson which both these apothegms teach is the same,

that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS NEUTRALITY in reference to Christ

and His cause. We must be either with Him or against Him. Dr. Morison on

Mark in this place says, "When in applied morals we sit in judgment on ourselves,

we should in ordinary circumstances apply the law obversely and stringently,' he

who is not with Christ is against him.' But when we are sitting in judgment on

others, into whose hearts we cannot look directly, we should in ordinary circumstances

apply the law reversely and generously, ' He that is not against Christ IS WITH HIM!

 

41 “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye

belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall  not lose his reward.”  In my name,

because ye belong to Christ. The reading adopted in the Revised Version is, ἐν ὀνόματι

ὅτι χριστοῦ ἐστέ - en onomati hoti christou este - literally, in name, that ye are Christ's;

or, because ye are Christ's. The force of this observation seems to be this: "If he who

gives you a cup of water to drink in my Name, and out of regard for me, does well,

and shall be rewarded of God, much more shall he be rewarded who casts out devils

in my Name." The disciples are thus taught that it is contrary to the whole spirit of

Christianity to disparage works of beneficence, or to suggest unworthy motives

for them (see 'Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.).

 

The connection with what preceded is to be sought in John’s keen sense of having transgressed the spirit of the beautiful words just uttered. Christ would acknowledge

all who professed His name; John had to confess that he had forbidden such a one

from working. This leads to Christ’s indicating:

 

·               MARKS OF HIS TRUE SERVANTS  -  If a man does not oppose him,

      he is to be considered as an ally and a friend. There is no neutrality in

      man’s relations to Christ. This was especially the case in that age: the

      devil was too active in human nature to suffer any opposition

            to be undeveloped. The powers of darkness and of light were in deadly

            antagonism, and all who were aware of the conflict were certain to have

            their sympathies engaged for the one side or the other. This seems a

            dangerous principle, and apt to lead to entanglement or disaster. “Divinely

            dangerous.” Yet is it the teaching of the Spirit of God, and beautifully

            harmonious with it.

 

·               THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THESE ARE TO BE REGARDED. The

            child of grace is to be trustfully disposed, and ready to put a charitable

            construction upon the merely negative behavior of men. And, moreover, it

            is to be recollected that the principle is not one of judgment, but of policy.

            “Jesus would impress it upon his disciples that they must honor and protect

            the isolated beginnings or germs of faith to be found in the world” (Lange).

            Towards all who do not oppose Christ there is to be an attitude of hopeful

            and trustful encouragement (Matthew 10:42).

 

ü      Christian acknowledgment. “Forbid them not.” Involving:

     

Ø      brotherly recognition — not mere toleration:

Ø      fostering and protecting care;

Ø      devout thankfulness and humility.

 

ü      Remembering their retaliation to the same Master.

 

Ø      He acknowledges them;

Ø      He will afterwards reward them;

Ø      we shall be sternly and awfully judged if we “cause them to

                                    stumble.”

 

It thus appears that our Lord’s teaching had been so influential, that some, not

reckoned amongst His disciples, had shown this proof of a strong and overpowering

faith.  Though not among the recognized followers of Christ, they contributed

towards His honor who, by means of these imperfect instruments, carried out

the great  purpose of His manifestation “to destroy the works of the devil”. 

(I John 3:8)    “Forbid him not” - Here is a warning against that exclusive

spirit, which is eager for its own ends rather than for Christ’s glory, and

would limit the exercise of His gifts and graces to its own system or school,

instead of inquiring whether those whom it condemns are not working in Christ’s

name and for the promotion of His glory.  For he that is not against us is for us.”

 In Matthew 12:30 we find our Lord using a somewhat similar expression, only in

an inverted order. He there says, “He that is not with me is against me.” The

lesson which both these sayings teach is the same, that there is no such thing as

neutrality in reference to Christ and His cause. We must be either with Him or

against him. Dr. Morison says, “When in applied morals we sit in judgment on

ourselves, we should in ordinary circumstances apply the law obversely and

stringently, he who is not with Christ is against Him.’ But when we are

sitting in judgment on others, into whose hearts we cannot look directly,

we should in ordinary circumstances apply the law reversely and

generously, ‘ He that is not against Christ is with Him.’  Let us be stricter

with ourselves, and more charitable with others, and we shall the better

please our righteous and gracious Lord.  The disciples are thus taught that

it is contrary to the whole spirit of Christianity to disparage works of

beneficence, or to suggest unworthy motives for them.  “in my name,

because ye belong to Christ”  - What are we to understand by the expression,

“in Christ’s Name”? It is an idiom which involves more than lies upon the surface.

The Name of Christ implies His nature, His character, His claims, His mission.

What is done truly in His Name, is done from reverence towards Him, from

faith in Him, from love to Him, in reliance upon His grace, and with a view

to His honor and His approval. Now, our Lord teaches us that they whose

life is animated and governed, controlled and guided, by a constant

reference to Himself, are to be honored and encouraged. Such may have an

imperfect acquaintance with the Lord Jesus, an insufficient apprehension of

His nature or His work, an indisposition to consort with His professed

followers. In all this it is possible they may be inferior to ourselves, though

it is not certain. But this must not rouse us to bigotry, to conceit, and

opinionated self-complacency. Let us recognize and admire the spirit which

such “outsiders” may display, and wish them God-speed, and rejoice in

their witness and in their work!

 

 

“The word for millstone indicates the larger stone-mill, in working which

an ass was generally employed, as distinguished from the smaller hand-mill

of Luke 17:35. The punishment was not recognized in the Jewish Law,

but it was in occasional use among the Greeks (Diod. Sic., 16:35), and had

been inflicted by Augustus (Sueton., ‘Aug.,’ 67.) in cases of special infamy.

Jerome states (in a note on this passage) that it was practiced in Galilee,

and it is not improbable that the Romans had inflicted it upon some of the

ringleaders of the insurrection headed by Judas of Galilee. The infamy of

offending one of the ‘ little ones’ was as great as that of those whose

crimes brought upon them this exceptional punishment. It was obviously a

form of death less cruel in itself than many others, and its chief horror, both

for Jews and heathen, was probably that it deprived the dead of all rites of

burial” (Plumptre, in ‘New Test. Com.’). This punishment, such as it was,

was but a shadow of the more terrible penalties of the spiritual state.

 

42 “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in

me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he

were cast into the sea.”    This verse stands out as the severe antithesis to what has

gone before. As he who receives and encourages Christ's little ones and those who

are like little children and believe in Him, receives Him, and so shall receive from

Him the glorious rewards of Heaven; so, on the contrary, whosoever shall offend

one of these little ones that believe in Christ is guilty of deadly sin; and it were better

for him if a great millstone (μύλος ὀνικόςmulos onikos - ) - literally, a millstone so large as to require to be turned by an ass - were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

 

43 “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:”  The hand, or the foot, or the eye represents any instrument by which sin may be committed; and it applies to those who may be the means of drawing us into sin. If your relative or your friend, (***Deuteronomy 13:6-11***) who is useful or dear to you as your hand, your foot, or your eye, is drawing you into sin, cut him off from

you, lest he should draw you into hell, into the “unquenchable Gehenna”.          

Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, lay to the south of Jerusalem. Originally

a pleasant suburb of the city, it became in later times the scene of the worship

of Molech, “the abomination of the children of Ammon.”  (I Kings 13:34,

II Kings 23:1-28)   On this account the valley was polluted by King Josiah.

It thus became the receptacle of everything that was vile and filthy (a

fitting picture of hell). These noisome accumulations were from time to

time consumed by fire; and the things which were not consumed by fire

were the prey of worms. Hence “Gehenna” became the image of the place

of eternal punishment, where “the worm dieth not and the fire is not       

quenched.” (Isaiah 66:24)  Normally, the worm feeds upon the

disorganized body, and then dies.  There fire consumes the fuel, and          

then itself expires.  But here the worm never dies, the fire never goes out!

These terrible images are conclusive as to the eternity of future punishment,

so far as our nature is concerned and our knowledge reaches. They are the           

symbols of certain dreadful realities; too dreadful for human language to           

describe or human thought to conceive.  (To this I add the Psalmic term

Selah” – [a pause to reflect] CY – 2010)  The words of Cornelius

a Lapide on the original passage in Isaiah are well worth recording here: “I

beseech you, O reader, by the mercies of our God, by your own salvation,

by that one little life entrusted to you and committed to your care, that

you will ever keep before your eyes the living memory, as of eternity and

of eternal torments, so also of the eternal joys on the other side offered to

you by God, and concerning which you here cast the die, and that        

irrevocable.  Let these two things never depart from your mind. In this

world, ‘Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Oh, what a

void there is in earthly things! Oh, how vain is all our life WITHOUT

CHRIST!  In the world to come, truth of truths, and all is truth; stability

of stabilities, and all is stability; eternity of eternities, and all is eternity.

An eternity in heaven most happy, in hell most miserable, ‘ Where their           

worm dies not, and the. fire is not quenched.’” St. Bernard says “the

worm that never dies is the memory of the past, which never ceases to

gnaw the conscience of the impenitent.”

 

44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.  45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two

feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:  46Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not  quenched.  47 And if thine eye offend thee,

pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye,

than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:  48 Where their worm dieth not,

and the fire is not quenched.” Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. (Three times the Saviour refers to this.  Take heed because truly,

repetition is a way to learn –CY – 2010)  These words are a quotation from Isaiah 66:24, and they are repeated three times in the Authorized Version. But the best ancient authorities omit them in the two first places, retaining them at v. 48. The metaphor is

very striking as well as awful. Ordinarily the worm feeds upon the disorganized body, and then dies. The fire consumes the fuel, and then itself expires. But here the worm never dies; the fire never goes out. The words of Cornelius a Lapide on the original passage in Isaiah are well worth recording here: "I beseech you, O reader, by the mercies of our God, by your own salvation, by that one little life entrusted to you and committed to your care, that you will ever keep before your eyes the living memory, as of eternity and of eternal torments, so also of the eternal joys on the other side offered to you by God, and concerning which you here cast the die, AND THAT IRREVOKABLE!

Let these two things never depart from your mind. In this world, 'Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.' (Ecclesiastes 1:2)  Oh, what a void there is in earthly things! Oh, how vain is all our life without Christ! In the world to come, truth of truths, and all is truth; stability of stabilities, and all is stability; eternity of eternities, and all is eternity. An eternity in heaven most happy, in hell most miserable, ' Where their worm dies not, and the. fire is not quenched.'" St. Bernard says "the worm that never dies is the memory of the past, which never ceases to gnaw the conscience of the impenitent."

 

49 “For every one shall be salted with fire,  and every sacrifice shall be

salted with salt.”   According to the most approved authorities, the

second clause of this verse should be omitted, although it is evident that

our Lord had in His mind the words in Leviticus 2:13, “Every oblation of

thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt.” Every one shall be salted

with fire. “Every one.” The statement is general in its application. There is

no limitation. The good and the evil alike shall be “salted with fire.” There

is an apparent incongruity here. But it must be remembered that both the

salt and the fire are here used in a metaphorical sense; and there is a fire

which is penal, and there is a fire which purifies. In the case of the wicked

the fire is penal; and the salting with fire in their case can only mean the

anguish of a tormented conscience, which must be commensurate with its

existence in the same moral condition. But there is a fire which purifies.

Peter, addressing the Christians of the Dispersion (1 Peter 4:12), bids

them not to think it strange concerning the “fiery trial” which was among

them. This was their “salting with fire.” Those persecutions which they

suffered were their discipline of affliction, through which God was

purifying and preserving them. This discipline is necessary for all

Christians. They must arm themselves with the same mind, even though

they may not live in a time of outward persecution. He who parts with the

hand, or the foot, or the eye; that is, he who surrenders what is dear to him

— he who parts with what, if he was only to confer with flesh and blood,

he would rather keep, for the sake of Christ (ch. 8:35) is going through the

discipline of self-sacrifice, which is often painful and severe, but

nevertheless purifying. He is salted with fire; but he is preserved by the

power of God through faith unto salvation.

 

50 “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye

season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” 

“Salt is good” -  that is, it is useful and beneficial. This is true of

the literal salt. Its wholesome antiseptic properties are universally

recognized. But our Lord has before His mind in this whole passage the

spiritual meaning. He is thinking of the salt of Divine grace, of the salt of a

spirit informed and influenced by the Holy Spirit. He had already told His

disciples that they were “the salt of the earth.” Not, indeed, that they could

deliver the earth from corruption — that was beyond their power. But

when Christ had delivered it by His mighty sacrifice and the gift of His

Spirit, it was their business, as it is the duty of all Christians, to keep it in a

healthy state; so that by their wisdom and purity, their holy lives and holy

teaching, they might season the whole world. “But if the salt have lost its

saltness (ἐὰν τὸ ἅλας ἄναλον γένηταean to halas analon genaeta – if ever

the salt be becoming savorless), wherewith will ye season it?”

This insipid, tasteless condition of salt is familiar to travelers in the East

Examples are to be found of large masses of salt which “has lost its savor.”

Our Lord here applies this in a spiritual sense to His disciples. “If ye, my

disciples, who are the salt of the earth, — if ye lose the true properties of

salt; if your Christianity loses its heart, its quickening, stimulating

influence; so that on account of the love of the world, or the fear of man,

or through lust or ambition, you fall away from the heavenly doctrine and

life; — who shall restore you to your former spiritual health and vigor?

With what can salt itself be seasoned when its own chemical energies are

lost?” Our Lord plays upon this figure of salt, and cautions His disciples,

lest by any means they should lose the qualities of this mystic salt. “Have

salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another”. This sentence fitly

winds up the whole. Have the salt of wisdom and purity, and of a Christian

life, namely, humility, charity, contempt of the world, and especially peace.

Do not be idly contending about place or position, as not long ago you

were disputing (v. 33). Our Lord foresaw that this kind of contention,

these rivalries, and these ambitious aims, would prove a great scandal and a

great hindranee to the progress of His Church in the future ages of the

world. But He also knew that if His disciples in every ago would endeavor

to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3)

their influence would be irresistible, and they would draw all men to them

 and to Himself, the great Centre of attraction, and “the confidence of

all the ends of the earth” (Psalm 65:5).

 

 

                                   

                                    WARNINGS (vs. 42-50)

 

WITH THESE SOLEMN WORDS OUR LORD CLOSED HIS

ARDUOUS AND FAITHFUL MINISTRY IN GALILEE.   Christ’s

language was usually language of grace and encouragement; but there were

occasions, like the present, when He spoke words of faithful warning in tones

of severity. Yet it should be noted that these admonitions were addressed to His

own disciples, and were intended to quicken their spiritual sensibility, and to induce

them to use with diligence the privileges with which they were favored, especially

through their association with Himself.

 

 

 

·         POWERS AND MEANS OF USEFULNESS MAY BECOME

OCCASIONS OF SPIRITUAL OFFENCE. This is a very serious

consideration. Increased privilege brings increased responsibility, and

none can possess powers of body or of mind without being exposed by

such possession to liability to unfaithfulness and to consequent

deprivation.

 

ü      Social intercourse and influence come under this general principle.

      Our Lord speaks of His disciples, and especially of the inexperienced

      and immature, as “His little ones who believe on Him.” We cannot be      

      associated with such without affecting them for good or for evil. To

      cause them to stumble, to betray them into errors or into sin, is an

      offense against our Lord, and it would be better for a man to be flung

                        with a millstone about his neck into the deep water, than so to offend                                 against the Lord of the little ones.  The word for millstone indicates

                        the larger stone-mill, in working which an ass was generally employed,

                        as distinguished from the smaller hand-mill of Luke 17:35. The                                           punishment was not recognized in the Jewish Law, but it was in                                                 occasional use among the Greeks (Diod. Sic., 16:35), and had

                        been inflicted by Augustus (Sueton., ‘Aug.,’ 67.) in cases of special

                        infamy.  Jerome states (in a note on this passage) that it was practiced

                        in Galilee, and it is not improbable that the Romans had inflicted it

                        upon some of the ringleaders of the insurrection headed by Judas of                                   Galilee. The infamy of offending one of the ‘little ones’ was as great

                        as that of those whose crimes brought upon them this exceptional                                        punishment. It was obviously a form of death less cruel in itself than

                        many others, and its chief horror, both for Jews and heathen, was

                        probably that it deprived the dead of all rites of burial” (Plumptre, in

                        ‘New Test. Com.’). This punishment, such as it was, was but a shadow

                        of the more terrible penalties of the spiritual state.

 

ü      Our active powers may become occasions of offense. The hand and

      the foot may be taken as emblematical of these pewees, the proper

      and intended purpose of which is undoubtedly their employment in

      works of justice and of charity and helpfulness. Yet these good

      faculties may cause their possessors to offend. The hands may work

      deeds of violence, the feet may lead into the way of sinners; and in

      such a case the purpose of the Creator is frustrated, and condemnation

      is incurred.

 

ü      Sense and intelligence may be productive of harm as well as of good.

                        The eye may fairly be taken as representing sense generally, and the

                        apprehensive faculty.  When the eyes wander where they should not,

                        are closed when they should be open, or are open when they should be                               closed, they are an offense. When the intellect is directed to the

                        wrong topics, or to the right topics in the wrong temper, its glory is                                     dimmed, for its intention is thwarted, and it becomes a curse instead

                        of a blessing.

 

·         THE ABUSE OF POWERS AND MEANS OF USEFULNESS WILL

INVOLVE PUNITIVE SUFFERING AND RUIN. Under the rule of a

righteous God, it cannot be that faithfulness and unfaithfulness,

watchfulness and remissness, obedience and rebellion, will be treated alike.

From the lips of the Lamb of God, the “meek and lowly in heart,” language

such as that which our Lord here employs is doubly impressive. Nevertheless,

it is in mercy that the fruits of sin are shown to be apples of Sodom, that

the wages of sin are expressly declared to be DEATH.  The figurative    

representations of the doom of the sinful are indeed terrific. This

doom is worse than the vengeful overwhelming in the Lake of Galilee;

it is compared to the casting out of corpses into Gehenna, below the walls

of Jerusalem, where the fire consumed or the worms gnawed the unburied

bodies of the dead. Such teaching leaves us in no doubt as to the view

which the omniscient and most gracious Savior takes of the future and

eternal prospects of those who desecrate their powers and misuse their

opportunities IN THE SERVICE OF SIN. 

 

·         On the other hand, WATCHFULNESS AND SEVERITY WITH

SELF WILL ENSURE THE BLESSING OF THE ETERNAL LIFE,

AND THE HONOURS OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM. Even

supposing that self is denied and crucified, that pleasures are foregone, that

privations are incurred, — is all this worth thinking of with regret when the

recompense of the faithful is borne in mind? What is this recompense? The

Giver of life himself promises “entrance into life”, the Sovereign of the

spiritual kingdom promises “entrance into the kingdom of God.” (II Peter          

1:11)  If in some sense the saved are, in the process, exposed to a thousand

ills and sorrows, still, though they enter lame and maimed and halt-sightless

into the kingdom of life, of God, they do enter, and entering are for ever

glorious and for ever blessed.  It is promised that through much tribulation          

Christ’s followers shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.  (John 16:33,

Acts 14:22)

 

 

 

The Judgment of Charity (vs. 38-43)

 

It is clear, from this passage, that the influence of our Lord Jesus was

wider than was known by his own immediate friends, and that his work

was, even during his lifetime, advancing in directions of which they were

not aware. Accidentally, as it were, we gain an insight into the progress of

the kingdom of Christ outside the immediate circle of his acknowledged

and professed disciples; and the incident which affords us this insight, at

the same time presents to us truths and lessons of vast practical

importance.

 

·         BIGOTRY IS HUMAN, AND CHARITY IS DIVINE. If any one of the

twelve might have been deemed free from all suspicion of bigotry, surely it

would have been John, often called” The Apostle of Love.” Yet from this

incident, and from his wishing upon another occasion to call down fire

from heaven upon unbelievers, it is plain that, at all events during the

Lord’s ministry, he was wont to give way to an ardent, impetuous, violent

spirit. In the view of a bigot, one who does not work in his own way is

censured and condemned as unfit to work for God at all. The Lord Jesus

proved his superiority to human infirmity by permitting and encouraging

service which his followers would have forbidden.

 

·               OUTWARD UNITY AND CONFORMITY ARE NO SUFFICIENT

TEST OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP. Men are naturally prone to lay

great stress upon this. The complaint, “He followeth not with us,” has not

been confined to the first followers of Jesus. The “following,” in such

cases, means outward association and agreement in language, usages,

forms of policy and of worship. But two considerations should check that

narrowness which would limit discipleship to those who conform to

established custom:

 

Ø      Some conform, who prove themselves to be lacking in the mind and

spirit of Jesus Christ.

Ø      Some refuse, or neglect to conform, who display such spirit, and whoso

actions show them to be Christ’s.

 

·               ONE TEST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS THE SPIRIT IN WHICH MEN

WORK FOR CHRIST. The stranger, to whom reference is made, is said to

have done what he did it, Christs Name, and the Lord declares that the

presumption is markedly in the favor of one whose practice may be so

denoted. What are we to understand by the expression, “in Christ’s

Name”? It is an idiom which involves more than lies upon the surface. The

Name of Christ implies his nature, his character, his claims, his mission.

What is done truly in his Name, is done from reverence towards him, from

faith in him, from love to him, in reliance upon his grace, and with a view

to his honor and his approval. Now, our Lord teaches us that they whose

life is animated and governed, controlled and guided, by a constant

reference to himself, are to be honored and encouraged. Such may have an

imperfect acquaintance with the Lord Jesus, an insufficient apprehension of

his nature or his work, an indisposition to consort with his professed

followers. In all this it is possible they may be inferior to ourselves, though

it is not certain. But this must not rouse us to bigotry, to conceit, and

opinionated self-complacency. Let us recognize and admire the spirit which

such “outsiders” may display, and wish them God-speed, and rejoice in

their witness and in their work!

 

·              ANOTHER TEST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS THE WORK WHICH

MEN DO FOR CHRIST, This passage reminds us that:

 

Ø      It may be a mighty work or a power. This is not necessarily miraculous;

it may be moral. The mark of God’s finger may be upon the work. In our

own state of society this “note” of true Christianity may sometimes be

recognized among those who are unassociated with our Churches, and

even among the “unorthodox.”

 

Ø      It may be the casting out of demons. In the Gospel narrative this was

literally the case. And in modern life there are many demons of ignorance,

impurity, sloth, and selfishness, which need expulsion. And those who

devote their time and energies to combating these ills, are doing the work

of our Master, and will not be able quickly to speak evil of him. Let us

rejoice, not only in their work, but in themselves.

3. It may be the giving era cup of cold water to Christ’s people in Christ’s

Name. Not the magnitude, but the moral tendency, the inner motive of the

act, is of importance in the sight of our Lord. If the act itself be kind and

beneficent, that is sufficient to recommend it to us, and to make it

acceptable to the Lord. There is an obvious harmony between a good work

and the good spirit in which the work is performed.

 

·               A CANON OF JUDGMENT. It may be determined that the rule of ver.

40, “He that is not against us is for us,” refers to our judgment of others

and of their actions. It is a wise as well as a charitable principle. It is a

preservative against bigotry, and it is fitted to ensure equitable and

considerate treatment of our neighbors. The rule elsewhere recorded,” He

that is not for us is against us,” applies to ourselves, and warns us against

lukewarmness in our piety and negligence in our service. Let us be stricter

with ourselves, and more charitable with others, and we shall the better

please our righteous and gracious Lord.

 

 

 

The Transfiguration (vs. 2-8)

 

·         THE CIRCUMSTANCES. At an interval of six or eight (Luke) days

from Peter’s confession and the teaching of the cross. “Into a high

mountain,” i.e. into some glen or secluded spot in the mountain. As there is

no mention of any movement southward, and distinct assurance that they

did not at this time go into Galilee (<410930>Mark 9:30), the notion of Tabor

being the mountain is unfounded. The slightness of its elevation, and the

circumstance that its summit has been a fortified spot from the earliest

times, render it almost certain that it was not the scene of the

Transfiguration. All the evidence is in favor of Hermon, the snow-clad,

sentinel-like peak in which the Anti-Libanus range culminates. Its name

means “the mountain,” and it is spoken of in the Old Testament as “holy.”

Its cool slopes and upland solitudes would afford congenial retirement to

the weary Christ. It was mental trouble he had to overcome, and this he

sought to do in prayer and Divine communion. For this reason, and the

signs afforded by the rest of the chapter of the day having well begun as

they descended, it has been supposed it was a night scene. He was wont to

pray during the night, and the disciples were “heavy with sleep.” It gives a

peculiar character to the occurrence to suppose this to have been the case.

But that they were fully awake when the vision appeared, Luke again

assures us. The duration of the vision is not suggested; probably, as in

dreams, time was an inappreciable element.

 

·         THE INCIDENTS.

 

Ø      Transformation. “He was transfigured before them,” etc. The change

described by the Greek word is literally one of form, but this must not be

pressed. “It was a change in the externality of the person,” says Morison;

“a kind of temporary glorification, effected no doubt from within outward,

rather than from without inward. It would reveal the essential glory of the

spirit that ‘tabernacled’ within, its glory at once in that lower sphere that

was human, and in that higher sphere that was Divine” (‘Practical

Commentary,’ in loc.). The general brightness of his appearance is noted

by the three evangelists, Matthew comparing his face to the sun, and his

garments to the light. Mark speaks of the fuller’s white in his description of

it. The face is referred to by Matthew and Luke, and all three refer to the

garments. Luke tells us it occurred “as he was praying.”

 

Ø      Association with Moses and Elias. They were seen by the apostles, but

did not purposely present themselves. They were talking with him, and

Luke tells us the subject of their converse: “his decease which he was

about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” They were representatives of the

righteous spirits in Hades, the world of the unseen, of disembodied spirits;

representatives, too, of the Law and the prophets. They had laid the

foundations of the kingdom of righteousness which he perfected. They

spoke of his death as the grand means of the fulfillment of the hopes of

immortality, they themselves having in the manner of their own “exodus”

afforded the shadow and prophetic type of which his was the substance. He

is in essential, spiritual oneness with them.

 

Ø      Peter’s suggestion. Outcome of zeal, but not according to knowledge. It

is seemingly enough for him to see his Master on terms of equality with

those great spirits of the past. There is an undiscriminating comprehension

in his proposal; a desire also to extend the duration of the ecstasy in which

he and his companions were. It breaks the grand harmony of the evolution

of the scene, and yet is full of instruction.

 

Ø      Divine attestation. The three accounts agree in the words, “This is my

Son: hear ye him.” Matthew and Mark have also “beloved,” for which

Luke substitutes “my chosen;’ and Matthew alone adds, “in whom I am

well pleased.” The words are but human renderings of the unspeakable

“voice.” They prove that the great Centre of attention and attraction for

the Church is Jesus, not Moses or Elias.

 

Ø      Restoration of Christ to his usual appearance. The distinguished

associates of his glory vanish. The vision was no “baseless fabric,” but it

was over, and now the spectators must return to common life and mundane

duties. Jesus “was found alone;” “Jesus only.”

 

·         THE LESSONS. These are innumerable, and we must content ourselves with a

few of the more prominent. There was revelation for both Christ and his disciples.

A new light was thrown upon past and future, and the fear of death was broken.

But the whole scene is best understood as a revelation and glorification of Christ.

 

Ø      The Divine Father has glorified his Son, and thereby attested him to himself and to confidence of believers. This was the “sign from heaven” vainly asked by the unbelieving Pharisees, and now granted to the thrice leaders of the apostles. And a corresponding revelation will take place in the experience of every true child of God, whereby his faith shall be confirmed, and he shall be “sealed unto the day of redemption.” The yearning, praying, aspiring spirit of the Son at last, in foretaste, attains; and he and his followers are strengthened. The personal glory, the sublime association with the precursors of the kingdom in the toast, and the transcendant commendation, leave no room for doubt in the heart of the true believer. The evidence is intuitive, but it is spiritually complete.

 

Ø      The loftiest tendencies and aspirations of the Law and the prophets are

fulfilled in the “obedience unto deathof the Divine Son. “They spake

with him of his decease;” it was evidently central to their thoughts. The

religious hopes of the past were to be satisfied in that way alone; by that

alone was the righteousness of God to be satisfied. Self-sacrifice is the

spirit of both Law and prophecy. To them the profound mystery of the

hereafter was solved in the spirit of his death and in his resurrection; “life

and immortality were brought to light” in him. It is as associated with them and representative of them that he looked forward to his dying. The

manifestation of the Divine Son is therefore of universal significance, and

relates itself to all that was highest and most spiritual in ancient religious

movements.

 

Ø      What God did for his Son on this occasion he will do for all who vitally

belong to his Body.” Even as the bodily frame of Christ was transfigured,

and partook of the inward glory of his spirit, so shall all in whose nature his grace is found appear with him in the glory of the resurrection. The

spiritual law is manifest and certain, and it is evidently the same in the

believer as in his Lord. Glory of spirit must sooner or later appear in

glory of external appearance, and the body shall partake in the

blessedness of the spirit.

 

 

                                                Jesus Only (v. 8)

 

The transition from the glory and the spiritual vision to the sober light of

common day — from the Christ uplifted in the radiance of heaven, and

waited upon by the greatest spirits of ancient Hebrew religion, to the

humiliated form of the man Jesus — was a perilous one for ordinary

mortals to pass through. But it was necessary. It is for faith to penetrate

the spiritual significance of ordinary forms and appearances, and grasp the

Divine. It is to faith, and faith alone, that God is manifest in the flesh.

 

·         JESUS OUTLIVES HIS RECOMMENDATIONS. He is ever more, far

more, than he appears to be. Some things and persons have nothing

remaining when you strip the pretense and tinsel away. The radiance

subsides into damp mist, and the glorious brightness proves but bottleglass.

It is this overmastering intrinsic worth and power of Jesus which

explains his enduring influence. Eloquent advocacy has been engaged in his

cause, great ideas have been associated with him, his claims have been

attested by miraculous powers and signs, and ever and again the

background of the Divine mystery from which he emerged has revealed

itself, and a multitude of external proofs etc., are forthcoming when

required; but he himself is greater than them all, and contains their latent

possibilities within himself. When excitement, etc., are over, there still

remains the power to elicit faith and constrain personal attachment. He

himself is the ultimate verification of the faith of his disciples.

 

·         NOT THE SIGN OR MARVEL, BUT CHRIST IT IS THAT SAVES.

The former only provisional, the latter permanent. The familiar, continuing,

sympathizing Christ. The crucified One; the risen again; and in spiritual

presence the Dweller in the heart of faith. It is this Christ whose power is

felt within, a vital energy and a moral impulse; an Interpreter of the

mysteries of life and death.

 

·         HE ALONE IS SUFFICIENT FOR OUR NEED. There is an

unhealthy longing for dainties in things spiritual as in bodily satisfactions.

His teaching, his example, his sympathy, his perfect sacrifice, are ours if we

but believe. God his testified his approval and acceptance, and commends

him to us. Our own experience will seal and confirm the prophecies and

attestations of others: “Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we

have heard him ourselves; and know that this is indeed the Christ, the

Savior of the world” (John 4:42).

 

 

 

The Saying that was Kept (vs. 9-13)

 

The disciples did not understand their Master — a common experience.

Why was this saying so difficult? It seems plain enough to us. But then we

look at it after its accomplishment; they before that. And their rabbinic

training taught them to look for something very different from what Christ

seemed to be referring to. He spoke as if he alone was to rise again. They

had been taught to think of the resurrection as universal, and altogether;

not an experience of one here and another there. Moreover, their teachers

had told them that Elias must first come. In fact, their habits of thought

were all going in one direction, and this saying of Christ’s in another. Yet,

like fair and candid men, they did not dismiss the words as impossible of

accomplishment or interpretation; but they “kept the saying.”

 

·         HOW ARE WE TO EXPLAIN THE HOLD WHICH THE HARD

SAYINGS OF CHRIST HAVE UPON THE DEVOUT MIND? Their

“keeping” the saying was doubtless for the most part a voluntary thing, yet

there was also a sense in which it was involuntary. The subject it concerned

awed and interested them, and they could not, if they had wished to do it,

throw off its fascination. And so it is with the other hard sayings; that

which is to be said of this may be said of them.

 

Ø      Because of relation with similar experiences. Many a time had the

actions of Christ, or their own spiritual history, presented enigmas that

refused to be summarily explained. They were continually stumbling upon

some new, strange thing. They had just come out of a scene of which the

wisest and soberest of them might well wonder whether it was fairyland or

fact. And they were conscious of deep yearnings and aspirations to which

the Savior’s words seemed to answer as the key to the lock. These had

evidently something in common. The doctrines of Christianity may be

difficult for the carnal mind to construe, but they appeal to a deep,

universal, albeit depraved, human consciousness, which forbids their being

at once dismissed from the thought.

 

Ø      And the sense of mystery is itself an element of fascination. The mind

goes forth freely after the infinite and eternal in speculation and fancy, if

not in serious moral interest. If there be but a substratum of apparent fact

upon which thought can build, the sense of a mystery lying beyond is

congenial to man; and he will continually return to it in efforts to penetrate

it. This is why — at least, one reason why — the world around us never

pails upon our senses. Its commonest things are steeped in wonder of the

unknowable, if we but take one or two steps onward in the study of them.

 

Ø      In addition to this, the disciples knew that no mystery was uttered by

their Master without some gracious meaning in it, which would sooner or

later be made known. The hardest doctrine was, they felt, closely

connected with their welfare, and would be seen to be so by-and-by. And

Christians have experienced the same ever since. Our daily life is, if we be

thoughtful, the best expositor of the deep things of grace, and keeps

hovering within our horizon many an angel of revelation ready to deliver

his message in due time.

 

·         HOW SHOULD THESE BE DEALT WITH? The disciples “kept,” i.e.

held fast, the saying; thus affording an example to all true Christians.

 

Ø      We should continually endeavor to understand or learn their meaning.

Sometimes simple communion with one’s own heart will be enough; or,

again, it may be necessary to discuss them with others of a kindred spirit.

Many of the happiest hours of life are so spent. Not that we shall always

succeed; very often there will remain an element of the infinite or the

unknown that will trouble us.

 

Ø      But when human wisdom fails, Divine wisdom may be invoked. “They

asked him,” and he cleared away the difficulty to the extent to which they

made it known. To the praying soul the light will come in ever-increasing

fullness. More light will break forth from the book of earthly experience,

and from the written Word of comfort and revelation. And when the

mystery still remains insoluble, the Spirit of Jesus will give us faith and

patience until “the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts,” and we

know even as we are known.

 

 

 

The Cure of the Demoniac Child  (vs. 14-29)

 

This stands out in striking contrast with the halcyon hour on the mountain

with which the three had been favored. Their brethren were experiencing a

greater difficulty than they had ever yet known. But the discussion of the

saying they had kept, formed for the three an intermediate step down into

actual life, and daily events and troubles. Christ, on the other hand, appears

to have received a greater fullness of Messianic consciousness and power

through his transfiguration, as was his wont after similar retirements into

spiritual seclusion. This incident affords a view of Christs manner of

dealing with exceptional difficulties in spiritual service.

 

·         ACCREDITED SERVANTS OF CHRIST WERE BEING DESPISED

AND DISCOURAGED. (vs. 14-18.)

 

Ø      Their spirit was being daunted. The people ceased to respect them, and

the scribes began to turn the failure to account as an argument against their

Lord. What could they say or do? Their Master was absent, and they were

at their wits’ end. A situation with its parallels in every age of the Church.

Moral phases of individual, social, and national life which seem to defy

remedy or even amelioration. Difficulties and failures in mission work, etc.

 

Ø      Their usefulness was at a standstill. The enemies of their cause had now

the upper hand, and they were pressing them with objections and sneers.

Perhaps they were even asking why their Master had gone away so

mysteriously, and left them to cope with difficulties for which they were

unequal. It was high time Jesus should come to their rescue. And lo! as the

thought arose within them almost despairingly, he appeared! “The

multitude, when they saw him, were greatly amazed.” He had come just at

the right moment, as if he divined the need for his presence.

 

·         THEIR MASTER MADE THE DIFFICULTY AN OCCASION FOR

SPIRITUAL REBUKE AND INSTRUCTION.

 

Ø      To the people, or generally. He laments their want of faith, and slowness

to receive the things of God. They had the highest reasons for faith — his

works and himself — in their midst, and yet would not believe. He gives

vent to the feeling of weariness and moral disgust which overcame him,

and in the face of which he still labored and forbore. The want of faith,

only immediately manifested towards the disciples, was in reality towards

himself. That was the root and spring of their readiness to cavil, and their

questionings and arguments.

 

Ø      To the father. His conversation with Christ is made by the latter a

perfect spiritual discipline. Already the dealings of God had been

experienced in his home and heart, and that which has been begun is

carried to a successful issue. It is amongst the compensations of great

sorrows that, if they do not themselves induce a high spirituality of mind,

they, at all events, help us to feel our need of the Savior. There was a

preparatory work already done, and Christ wastes no advantage thus

gained. Having signified his willingness to undertake the cure, he begins to question the father, partly as an expression of sympathy, partly to show the true character of the case. In this he succeeds in eliciting an expression of the skeptical spirit of the man: “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Here there is room for a commencement, and the Savior repeats in grieved astonishment, “If Thou canst!” It was a

qualification that had no business in such a request, and it showed how

poor was the spiritual life or power of the man. He then declares the grand

condition of all his cures, “All things are possible to him that believeth;”

which in this connection meant that all the blessings Christ conferred were

given only in response to faith, but where that was there was no limit with

regard to their bestowal. He did not mean that any request, of whatever

kind it might be, would be granted if it were only accompanied by faith,

but that all requests that were the outcome of a Divine faith, and

consequently subject to its conditions — as, for instance, their being

agreeable to God’s will — would be granted, however hard they might

appear to man. This remark awoke the slumbering spiritual nature of the

father, whose love for his son was also at work to quicken his

susceptibilities, and he cried out, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

There is great difference of opinion as to the true meaning of these words,

and no certainty would seem to be attainable; Yet that they reveal a low,

self-contradictory spiritual state is evident. Still, progress is perceptible. He at least knows his shortcoming, and has asked for its removal. That was probably effected by the cure of his son, which took place, not because of satisfaction with the father’s confession — a very faulty one

at best — but through desire to prevent tumult, etc.; for when “he saw that a multitude came running together,” he quickly completed the miracle. But even in his expedition there is no hurry. The whole scene is solemn and expressive, and must have had a strong influence on all who looked on.

 

Ø      To the disciples. A call to a more intense and elevated communion with

God. Prayer (and fasting) was a means to that. Faith is thus seen to be a

condition both of getting good and doing good. It is because Christians live habitually on such a worldly plane that they lack power. Oneness in heart and life with God would remove “mountains.” This power should be

sought by all.

 

·         HE MADE IT ALSO AN OCCASION FOR MORE SIGNAL

DISPLAY OF HIS GLORY. The delay, failure of disciples, gradual

extraction of all the circumstances of the case from the father, etc., all

tended to increase the moral effect of the final exercise of power. His

authority as the moral Governor of the universe, and Destroyer of the

works of the devil, is also vindicated in addressing the demon. Not less, but

far more, awful are the effects of sin upon the soul. Its expulsion is a work

of Divine power and grace, and exhaustive of the nature in which it has

dwelt. It is for Christ to raise up and revivify the poor wreck, the spiritual

impotency that survives. So are the failures of weak disciples retrieved, and

where disgrace is, humanly speaking, inevitable, the glory of God is

revealed. The servants of Christ may despair of themselves, but never of

him.

 

 

 

The Omnipotence of Faith (v. 23)

 

This is a case in which the revisers have introduced a dramatic play of

expression into what has seemed a merely conditional statement; and

apparently with the authority of the best manuscripts. The words of Christ

are seen to be those of surprise and expostulation. He sends back the

qualification which the man had uttered, and asserts the virtual

omnipotence of faith, and, at the same time, the dauntlessness of its spirit.

 

·         The SPIRIT WHICH CHARACTERIZES THE BELIEVER.

 

Ø      Confidence and fearlessness. The true believer will never say, “If thou

canst.” The greatest difficulties will not seem insuperable, and the

testimony of sight and ordinary experience will be distrusted. Inward

weakness and uncertainty will be conquered. The one thing of consequence will be, “Is this promised?” “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15; compare Habakkuk 2:17).

 

Ø      It is to be distinguished from self-confidence. There is no immediate

reference to self in such a conviction; it bases itself upon the unseen and

eternal, the laws and promises of God. Hence we may speak of the

humility of faith.

 

Ø      It is exceptional and divinely produced. Most men are guided by their

ordinary experience. When that experience is deliberately set aside or

ignored, it must be because of some fact or truth not visible to the natural

mind. But such a discovery would be equivalent to a Divine

communication. The faith which proceeds upon this must, therefore, be

supernaturally inspired. It cannot exist save in one conscious of God,

and of a peculiar relation to him.

 

·         THE POSSIBILITIES OF FAITH. If not wholly dependent upon the

actual experience of the power of faith, the confidence of the believer is

nevertheless greatly sustained and strengthened by it. Resting in the first

instance upon the consciousness of One mighty to save, whose help is

promised and assured, and concerning whom it may be said, “If God be for

us, who can be against us?” the man of faith will also prize every indication

that God has been with man. For he is assured from within and from

without that the possibilities of faith are:

 

Ø      Unlimited — because it identifies itself with the power of God. Faith is

the union of the spirit of the believer with him in whom he trusts. It ensures nothing less than his interest and help. The weakest child of God can secure his aid. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

 

Ø      Unlimited — save that it subjects itself to the will of God. Just as God is

omnipotent and yet incapable of unrighteousness, so the faith of the

believer will only avail for things pleasing to his heavenly Father. But, then, it never desires any other. The promises of God, however, declare the direction in which Divine help may be certainly expected; and there are countless instances in which the believer can plainly discern the lawfulness and propriety of the objects for which he pleads.

 

o       The work of faith is ever blessed.

o       The prayer of faith is never denied; for if the answer do not assume the form expected, it will nevertheless prove to be substantially, and under thebest form, the blessing that is required. And fervent, earnest, repeated prayer is unmistakably encouraged by the teaching of Christ. It is for Christians not to pray less, but more and more importunately, only leaving the particular mode in which the answer is to come to the wisdom and love of God.

 

Ø      Unlimited — as illustrated ia Scripture and the biographies of godly

men. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a magnificent confirmation of the promises of the Lord; and them can be no better exercise than the study of the answers to prayer recorded in the Word of God and the lives of saints.

 

 

 

 “And He said unto them, This kind can come out by

                          nothing, save by prayer.”   (v. 29)

 

The work of the Christian Church essentially the same from age to age,

although the external phase of it may change and pass away. “Casting out

devils” sounds strangely on modern ears; its associations, whilst they are

weird and picturesque, are too far away to seriously engage our attention.

We are in the habit of dismissing it in an offhand fashion, as a form of

religious activity necessarily confined to a transitional period of the

development of Christianity, and having no relation to our own or any

other age. But that is only a superficial view of the work of the gospel

which will lead to such a judgment. “Casting out devils” is a task which

belongs as much to the servant of Christ to-day as in the apostolicage. The

particular form assumed by the “possession” may not be the same, but the

fact of “possession” still continues; and the mission of the Son of God to

“destroy the works of the devil” must be fulfilled, until human souls are

freed from the thraldom to which Satan subjects them. In every sinful wish

or thought Satan gains a foothold; in every sinful habit formed he may be

said to “possess” the nature in which it exists. Until we regard sinful habits

as not mere habits, but as involving the presence and power of the evil one,

we need not expect to grasp or deal with the problem of evil in our world.

In the work of converting human souls, we are contending not merely with

those who are the immediate objects of our solicitude, but with a

supernatural antagonist, holding them in subjection, and deeply skilled in

the arts requisite for the maintenance of his influence. “For our wrestling is

not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the powers,

against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of

wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is due to this

permanent characteristic of evil in human nature that such difficulties are

met with as the text explains.

 

·         EXCEPTIONAL DIFFICULTIES IN SPIRITUAL WORK.

 

Ø      Occasioned by:

 

o        a peculiar intensity of indwelling evil. We cannot explain it, but it is full

of stubbornness, subtlety, and power of resistance. There is a mysterious

sympathy, it may be, between the sinner and the special sin that besets him,

or prevents his yielding himself to Divine grace. And this may go the length

of:

 

o        total enslavement of the nature. Like the epileptic of the story, not only

the body but the spirit may be enthralled. The will is so weak that it is

practically powerless. The external ministries of the Church are insufficient

to deliver, unaccompanied as they are by any strong desire for salvation on

the part of the sinner. It sometimes happens, too, in more general work,

that a spirit of opposition displays itself, or circumstances are persistently

unfavourable. The Christian toils on, but his efforts are like the dashing of

himself against a rock, or the ploughing of the sand. There are none of

God’s people who are strangers to such experiences, which are:

 

Ø      From their very nature unexpected. The spiritual worker goes on with

comparative or even brilliant success for a time, and then encounters

sudden breakdown. The reason of this in most instances is, that a great

proportion of Christian work is all but mechanical. It consists in a routine

of duties; its results represent a sum total of indirect and sometimes

unconscious agencies; religious institutions are originated perhaps in an

impulse once imparted but not repeated, and are carried on thus far by

“their own momentum.” There occurs all at once a check, and a sense of

helplessness and humiliation ensues, involving the baffled worker in

spiritual perplexity. Such difficulties are:

 

Ø      Not an unmitigated calamity. They have their uses in the Divine

economy. When searching of heart is induced, and hidden sins are revealed,

or absence of direct communion with God is made manifest, or pride and

self-sufficiency are brought low, they have accomplished a good and

necessary work.

 

·         HOW ARE THEY TO BE OVERCOME?

 

Ø      The means. “Prayer,” or, in the Authorized or peculiar, but general.

Could devils, then, come out by anything else than prayer, when man was

the exorciser? It would almost seem as if the disciples had done their work

hitherto by virtue of an external commission, using the name of Christ as a

sort of talisman. This was sufficient for ordinary cases, but whenever one

out of the usual occurred they were at a loss.

 

Ø      The reason for its necessity. The immediate occasion for the Master’s

admonition probably was the increasing laxity of the disciples in personal

prayer, their outwardness, and their failure to grasp the essential principles

of his kingdom. But there was a more profound reason for the advice. The

servant of God should be in complete sympathy and oneness with his

Master, and that can only be cultivated by frequent acts of devotion and

the exercise of a constant faith. It is not in his own strength that difficulties

are to be met, but in Christ’s. But that can only be imparted through

fellowship with his spirit, which depends for its efficiency and depth upon

repeated acts of the spiritual nature. The disciple by this rule is called into

conscious personal fellowship with God, whose power will only then be

granted. Oneness with God is the secret of spiritual power.

 

Ø      The came principle applies to the whole fife of the Christian. True

success depends upon vital spiritual effort, upon conscious co-operation

with God, and consequent fasting from self. If we would not be taken at

unawares we must be watchful, in constant actual exercise of faith, and

uninterrupted personal communion with God. We are in danger of making

too much of the external and accidental element in religion; we can never

make too much of him who “worketh in” and through “us to will and to do

of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). —

 

 

 

 

The Gospel a Source of ssorrow and Perplexity (vs. 30-32)

 

Something very grand and pathetic in those rehearsals of the drama of

redemption. The great heart of Christ yearning for sympathy, and yet

shrinking from the kind that was evoked; wondering, meanwhile, at the

“hardness of heart” of his disciples, who “understood not the saying.” How

inexplicable this failure to affect their moral nature! So far as words are

concerned, it was the same gospel as that which woke the nations at

Pentecost; yet it was as if still-born; an abstraction; a mystery past finding

out. It is a sad monologue; a recitative upon a minor key. Reasons for this

failure and ineffectiveness —

 

·         IT WAS NOT UNDERSTOOD. From human standpoint all but

incomprehensible; as it certainly could not have been originally conceived

by man. A mood and sentiment too elevated for ordinary moral natures. An

important consideration in determining the question as to who founded

Christianity — Christ or his disciples. The “prophet” must not discourse in

an unknown tongue.

 

·         IT COULD NOT BE UNDERSTOOD UNTIL IT WAS

ACCOMPLISHED. Intelligence, moral perception, and spiritual

illumination waited upon the finished work. It was, so to speak, a moral

creation, which beforehand only the Author could comprehend, and

afterwards still he alone perfectly. Each step in the evolution of it, up to a

certain point, only deepened the mystery. When Christ realized his work of

salvation in act, his people began to realize it in thought and experience.

 

·         AND THEN ONLY COULD IT BE UNDERSTOOD THROUGH

THE SPIRITUAL LIFE IT CALLED FORTH. Christ had to evoke the

very faculty by which the plan and spirit of his work were to be discerned.

It is “unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto

them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and

the wisdom of God” (<460123>1 Corinthians 1:23, 24). The world by wisdom

knew it not, “but we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit

which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us

by God Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,

for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they

are spiritually judged” (I Corinthians 2:12 -14). It is not until we learn

the true character of God, and, in the light of that, the nature of sin, that

we can from the heart approve of the career of Jesus as “the way of

salvation.”

 

 

 

Who Shall be Greatest?  (vs. 33-37)

 

The selection of Peter, James, and John for exceptional association with

Christ; the primacy of Peter suggested by the words of their Master on a

certain occasion; and the spirit of the sons of Zebedee, shown in the

request made by their mother, a little later, on their behalf (Mark

10:35-41), were circumstances that soon attracted the attention of the

others, and gave rise to discussion as to relative superiority. In dealing with

this unseemly dispute, our Savior showed —

 

·         THAT IT WAS A QUESTION THAT OUGHT NOT TO BE ASKED

AMONGST CHRIST’S FOLLOWERS. (vs. 33-34.)

 

Ø      His question elicited no reply. They were ashamed that he should have

detected them. It was evidently contrary to his spirit, as they felt, although

they might be unable to explain.

 

Ø      That it is foreign to the genius of Christianity is further shown by the

evils it has created within the Church. A vast percentage of the failures and

scandals of Christians has arisen from this contention, whether carried on

in silence or expressed, Nevertheless that it is deeply seated in human

nature is shown by its persistency from age to age. A motive of action we

are ashamed to confess when a sense of Christ’s presence is upon us

cannot be a right one. And in proportion as the presence of the Master’s

spirit is felt, it is suppressed or destroyed.

 

·         THE PRINCIPLE BY WHICH IT SHOULD BE SETTLED WHEN

IT ARISES. (v. 35.) “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all,

and minister of all.” This is, and probably was meant to be, slightly

enigmatical. Without altering the future of the sentence (“he shall be”) into

the imperative (“let him be”), as some, without sufficient warrant, have

done, it is still possible to read in it several distinct meanings. It might

mean that that was to be the penalty of such presumption; that God would

so regard presumptuous men; that this was a discipline to which they

should subject themselves; that the avenue to official pre-eminence was the

greatest serviceableness and humility; or, lastly, that the highest excellence

in the kingdom of God is his who abases and forgets himself altogether in

the benefit and advancement of others. It is in the last sense that Christ

should be understood, if we are to take the general spirit of his teaching for

our guide. In the Christian the Virtue and usefulness are ends in

themselves, and not stepping-stones to external, official pre-eminence. At

the same time, there is a colorable suggestion, supported by experience, in

the first three interpretations. The second last is the spirit of the Roman

curia, which in literal expression looks so like the precept it contradicts.

The sitting down of Christ, and his summons to all, prove the importance

of the lesson.

 

·         AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE PRINCIPLE. (vs. 36-37.) “A little

child,” perhaps one of Peter’s family. He gives an example in his own

behavior, simply and ingenuously, by embracing the child.

 

Ø      The lowliest in the kingdom of God should receive the purest sympathy

and consideration. This is the most disinterested and unselfish service. The

noblest deeds in God’s world are of this kind: “Pure religion and undefiled

before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their

affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

We can “receive” to the heart when we cannot to the home; to kindness

and love when we cannot to great earthly advantage.

 

Ø      The motive which distinguishes this conduct from ordinary human

tenderness and affection. It is to be “in my Name,” i.e. on account of

me,” impelled by my example and spirit, and for the sake of my cause. It is

only a “grace” or quality of the regenerate nature as he inspires it.

 

Ø      So regarded, the object of our love and compassion is really the

representative of Jesus and of God. Christ has thus commended the

children and the poet to the care of his people. And their sympathies thus

awakened and directed are to be looked upon not as supplementing the

deficient provisions of the Divine love, but only, in our own degree and

measure, expressing and executing the infinite, loving Will of “our Father

in heaven.” Herein, therefore, the lowliest service and the highest coincide.

See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in

heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in

heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

 

 

 

The Value of Deliverance from Spiritual Snares (vs. 43-49)

 

·         ILLUSTRATED BY:

 

Ø      Relative importance of float which is sacrificed and that which is saved.

They are as parts to the whole: as external limbs or members compared

with the entire nature, or central ego. “Our Savior of course specifies hand

and foot only for rhetorical purposes. It is a fine, bold, graphic way of

bringing home to the imagination and the bosom the idea of what is near

and dear to our natural feelings. He speaks in hieroglyphics” (Morison).

They represent also our natural lust, tendencies, and carnalized faculties.

 

Ø      Terrible consequences to the wicked in the world to some. “Gehenna;”

“the Gehenna of fire.” “Originally it was the Greek form of Ge-hinnom (the

Valley of Hinnom, sometimes of the “son” or the “children” of Hinnom),

and was applied to a narrow gorge on the south of Jerusalem (Joshua

15:8)” (Plumptre). It became the common cesspool and place for

consuming filth. Dead bodies of great criminals were probably cast forth

without burial into it; and fires were continually burning for the destruction

of the offal. It is, of course, only a type of the punishment of the lost.

“There is a commingled reference to two modes of destruction —

vermicular putrefaction and fire. When men’s bodies are destroyed, it is

generally either by the one agency or by the other. Both are here combined

for cumulative rhetorical effect. And the dread climax of the whole

representation is found in the ceaselessness of the twofold operation”

(Morison). There are two elements in this. destruction, viz.:

 

o       internal corruptions — “their worm;” and

o       external consuming forces — “fire.”

 

Both of these are to be understood of their spiritual analogues.

 

·         MORALLY STIMULATIVE BECAUSE OF APPEAL TO FREEWILL

AND SPIRITUAL AGENCY OF MAN. These considerations

would have no weight but for this. Just as one can cut off a hand or a foot,

and pluck out an eye, so one can restrain erring desires and affections, and

curb unruly appetites. This is the sin of the ruined one, viz. he is stir-ruined.

And all corrupting influence one exerts, returns upon himself to his own

destruction. Self-sacrifice is, therefore, the only way of salvation. The

power to do this is given by Christ. “It is better to make any sacrifice than

to retain any sin” (Godwin). “The meaning is not that any man is in such a

case that he hath no better way to avoid sin and hell [than being maimed];

but if he had no better, he should choose this. Nor doth it mean that

maimed persons are maimed in heaven; but if it were so, it were a less evil”

(Richard Baxter).

 

 

Christian Purity — Its Origin and Influence (vs. 49-50)

 

These verses have been the subject of much controversy. They are obscure

and difficult’; but the context is of great assistance, and a uniform