What does Mark 9 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
In Mark 9, among other things, Jesus teaches the disciples about leadership in His kingdom. Leadership starts with knowing whom you follow. Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:14), due all the honor and glory of God. He is Daniel's Son of Man (Daniel 7:13–14), the Jewish Messiah. But He is also Isaiah's suffering servant (Isaiah 53) who would be tortured and murdered by His creation (John 1:3). Jesus' kingdom will not yet be a mighty earthly political force, but a great sacrifice and then a quiet work in the hearts of His followers. The disciples need to set aside dreams of political grandeur and learn how to lead through service.

Since Mark 7:24, Jesus has mostly been in Gentile territory, both northwest (Mark 7:24) and east (Mark 7:31) of Galilee. He then took the disciples north (Mark 8:27), still trying to avoid the crowds so He could train the disciples without distraction.

Peter, James, and John join Jesus on a high mountain for special training. There, Jesus is transfigured, His holiness displayed in such a grand way the three followers are terrified to look at him. Elijah and Moses meet Jesus on the hill, and God affirms that Jesus is His Son. After Moses and Elijah leave, the disciples ask about Elijah. Both the Old Testament and rabbinical teaching say that the Old Testament prophet will return at the end of days, but Jesus explains that Elijah has already come, in the form of John the Baptist. An event that should have revealed to the disciples that Jesus is God leaves them more confused than ever about why Jesus is there. (Mark 9:2–13).

Jesus, Peter, James, and John come down from the mountain to see the remaining disciples arguing with Jewish scribes. Despite their experience expelling demons earlier (Mark 6:7–13), the disciples cannot rescue a possessed child. Jesus reveals that the entire situation is marked by a lack of faith and the disciples' neglected prayer life. (Mark 9:14–29).

In the remainder of the chapter, Jesus basically tries to impress upon the disciples what His followers should look like. First, He must be killed and raised again, a prophecy which completely clashes with their victorious end-times beliefs. Unable to comprehend what He is saying, the disciples cling to the belief that He, the Messiah, will rescue Israel and install a new kingdom. To that end, they start vying for position in that kingdom. Jesus cuts them short, telling them leadership in His kingdom is not about power but service to those who are weaker. (Mark 9:30–37).

The point is expanded when John tells him they tried to stop a man who was casting out demons in Jesus' name because he was not known to them. Jesus explains that the fact the man had enough faith to call on His name proves he is not an outsider to the kingdom, even if the disciples don't recognize him. The disciples, particularly Peter (Galatians 2:11–14), will continue to struggle with this truth when Gentiles join the church. (Mark 9:38–41).

Throughout Jesus' ministry, He has condemned the Pharisees for placing unnecessary legalistic burdens on the people and even leading them into sin (Mark 7:9–13). Jesus explains that the truly godly—especially leaders—live such an ethical life they set the example for others while protecting them from sinful opportunities. His followers will be tested and purified at the end, and only the good will remain. Pure sinlessness is impossible no matter how disciplined we are. As in Matthew 5, Jesus' teaching helps the disciples—and us—realize how much they—and we—need His saving grace. (Mark 9:42–50).
Verse Context:
Mark 8:34—9:1 deals with sacrifice and rewards. To follow Jesus the disciples have sacrificed their livelihoods (Mark 1:16–20; 2:14), reputations (Mark 2:18, 23–24; 7:5), regular meals (Mark 6:30–31), and sleep (Mark 1:32–37; 6:45–48). In return, they expect glory (Mark 9:33–37) and power (Mark 10:35–45). Jesus explains that God's timing is more strategic and their roles are more important and difficult than they could imagine. To follow Christ, we must follow Him: His teaching (Mark 8:38), His life (Mark 10:42–45), and His sacrifice (John 15:20). In return, we should not expect earthly rewards, but we will get eternal life. Matthew 16:24–28 and Luke 9:23–27 also record these events.
Mark 9:2–13 occurs six days after Jesus promised that some of the disciples would see God's kingdom with power (Mark 9:1). He takes Peter, James, and John to a mountain where He is transfigured with the glory of God. The presence of Elijah leads the disciples to think the Messiah's earthly reign is imminent, but Jesus reminds them that He will suffer first. The story of the transfiguration is also recorded in Matthew 17:1–13 and Luke 9:28–36.
Mark 9:14–29 follows the transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John went up a mountain with Jesus and saw a display of His glory as God. They also saw Moses and Elijah and heard God affirm Jesus as His Son. Now the three disciples and Jesus return from the mountain and find the remaining disciples arguing with Jewish scribes. The disciples have tried to expel a dangerous demon from a young boy but have been unable despite having performed exorcisms before (Mark 6:7–13). Jesus explains that to do God's work, we need faith in Him and to be empowered by Him. This section is parallel to Matthew 17:14–20 and Luke 9:37–43.
Mark 9:30–32 is the second of three times Jesus prophesies His death and resurrection (Mark 8:31; 10:32–34). After each time, the disciples display their catastrophic inability to understand what this means by denying His words (Mark 8:32–33), arguing over who is greatest (Mark 9:33–34), or requesting places of honor in His kingdom (Mark 10:35–37). The disciples find it profoundly difficult to accept that the Jewish Messiah has not come to give Israel independence from the Roman Empire but to give individuals freedom from sin. This information is also found in Matthew 17:22–23 and Luke 9:43–45.
Mark 9:33–37 relates an argument about who is the most significant of Jesus' followers. This opens the door for a discussion on who His followers will be and what will be expected of them. While the disciples value position, Jesus values the lowly, the trusting (Mark 9:39–40), the protective (Mark 9:42), the disciplined (Mark 9:43–47), and those who are refined, consistent, and able to work together without arguing who is greatest (Mark 9:49–50). This section is also recorded in Matthew 18:1–6 and Luke 9:46–48.
Mark 9:38–41 is one of the more ironic passages of the Bible. John describes how the disciples try to stop a man from using Jesus' name to expel demons shortly after they, themselves, are unable to rescue a boy from demonic possession (Mark 9:17–18) and minutes after the disciples argue over who is the greatest (Mark 9:33–34). Jesus points out that ''enemies'' are those who attack them, not people walking in the same direction. This account is paralleled in Luke 9:49–50.
Mark 9:42–48 shows that even if we follow the letter of the law, or maim ourselves in the attempt, we cannot be good enough to get to heaven on our own. In Matthew, directly after Jesus' hard words against sinning and tempting others to sin, Jesus talks about God's forgiveness and love for us (Matthew 18:12–14) and our responsibility to forgive others (Matthew 18:15–35). The various parallels in Matthew and Luke, as well as phrasing intended to transition subjects along suggest this passage is a synopsis of several different teachings. Still, Matthew 18:7–9 gives a reasonable parallel.
Mark 9:49–50 follows Jesus' admonitions to avoid sin with a short treatise on salt. Salt was a metaphor for many cultural philosophies and spiritual truths in Jesus' time, including purity, vows, the worth of one's labor, and preservation. Neither Matthew nor Luke touch on the concepts given in Mark 9:49, but they do have parallel passages for Mark 9:50 (Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34–35).
Chapter Summary:
Mark chapter 9 contains an account of Jesus' transfiguration, where three of the disciples witness Him in a glorified form. In this passage, Jesus also heals a demon-possessed boy. His teachings in this section include a prediction of His death and resurrection, and corrections to the disciples' errors on questions of pride and temptation.
Chapter Context:
Mark 9 continues Jesus' efforts to teach the disciples who He is, what He has come to do, and what their role is in His mission. The chapter begins with the transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John catch a glimpse of Jesus' glory, and ends back in Capernaum. Jesus spends most of that time teaching. Although the disciples do quarrel with the scribes, the misconceptions and errors Jesus addresses come from the disciples, themselves, not outsiders. In the next chapter, He will leave Galilee and travel toward Jerusalem and the cross.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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