Pseudo-Jerome: Capernaum means the city of consolation, and agrees with the former sentence, which He had spoken: “And after that He is killed, He shall arise the third day.”
There follows: “And being in the house He asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Matthew however says that the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [Mat_18:1]
The reason is, that He did not begin the narrative from its commencement, but omitted our Saviour’s knowledge of the thoughts and words of His disciples; unless we understand Him to mean, that even what they thought and said, when away from Christ, was said unto Him, since it was as well known to Him as if it had been said to Him.
It goes on: “For by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.” But Luke says [ed. note: Luk_9:46, Vulgate] that “the thought entered into the disciples which of them should be the greatest;” for the Lord laid open their thought and intention from their private discourse according to the Gospel narrative.
Pseudo-Jerome: It was fit also that they should dispute concerning the chief place by the way; the dispute is like the place where it is held; for lofty station is only entered upon to be quitted: as long as a man keeps it, it is slippery, and it is uncertain at what stage, that is, on what day, it will end.
Bede: The reason why the dispute concerning the chief place arose amongst the disciples seems to have been, that Peter, James and John, were led apart from the rest into the mountain, and that something secret was there entrusted to them, also that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were promised to Peter, according to Matthew.
Seeing however the thoughts of the disciples, the Lord takes care to heal the desire of glory by humility; for He first, by simply commanding humility, admonishes them that a high station was not to be aimed at.
Wherefore it goes on: “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.”
Jerome: Where it is to be observed, that the disciples disputed by the way concerning the chief place, but Christ Himself sat down to teach humility; for princes toil while the humble repose.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The disciples indeed wished to receive honour at the hands of the Lord; they also had a desire to be made great by Christ, for the great a man is, the more worthy of honour he becomes, for which reason He did not throw an obstacle in the way of that desire, but brought in humility.
Theophylact: For His wish is not that we should usurp for ourselves chief places, but that we should attain to lofty heights by lowliness. He next admonishes them by the example of a child’s innocence. Wherefore there follows, “And He took a child, and set him in the midst of them.”
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc. see Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 58: By the very sight, persuading them to humility and simplicity; for this little one was pure from envy and vain glory, and from a desire of superiority. But He does not only say, If ye become such, ye shall receive a great reward, but also, if ye will honour others, who are such for My sake.
Wherefore there follows: “And when He had taken him in His arms, He said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in My name, receiveth Me.”
Bede: By which, He either simply shews that those who would become greater must receive the poor of Christ in honour of Him, or He would persuade them to be in malice children, to keep simplicity without arrogance, charity without envy, devotedness without anger. Again, by taking the child into His arms, He implies that the lowly are worthy of his embrace and love.
He adds also, “In My name,” that they might, with the fixed purpose of reason, follow for His name’s sake that mould of virtue to which the child keeps, with nature for his guide. And because He taught that He Himself was received in children, lest it should be thought that there was nothing in Him but what was seen, He added, “And whosoever shall receive Me, receiveth not Me, but Him that sent Me.;” thus wishing that we should believe Him to be of the same nature and of equal greatness with His Father.
Theophylact: See, how great is humility, for it wins for itself the indwelling of the Father, and of the Son, and also of the Holy Ghost.
It is evident from the other two Evangelists, that the disciples did not come to Christ of their own accord, but that, having secretly disputed on the road, they were brought out of their lurking-places, and dragged forth to light. There is nothing inconsistent with this in the account given by Matthew, who hastens to Christ’s reply, and does not relate all the circumstances of the case, but passes over the commencement, and relates in a summary manner the reason why Christ rebuked the foolish ambition of his disciples for the highest rank. When Christ makes inquiry about a secret conversation, and forces the disciples to acknowledge what they would willingly have kept back, this teaches us that we ought to beware of all ambition, however carefully it may be concealed. We must also attend to the time at which this occurred. The prediction of his death had made them sad and perplexed; but as if they had received from it unmingled delight, as if they had tasted of the nectar which the poets feign, they immediately enter into a dispute about the highest rank. How was it possible that their distress of mind vanished in a moment, but because the minds of men are so devoted to ambition, that, forgetful of their present state of warfare, they continually rush forward, under the delusive influence of a false imagination, to obtain a triumph? And if the apostles so soon forgot a discourse which they had lately heard, what will become of us if, dismissing for a long period meditation on the cross, we give ourselves up to indifference and sloth, or to idle speculations?
But it is asked, what occasioned the dispute among the disciples? I reply, as the flesh willingly shakes off all uneasiness, they left out of view every thing that had given rise to grief, and fixed on what had been said about the resurrection; and out of this a debate sprung up among idle persons. And as they refuse the first part of the doctrine, for which the flesh has no relish, God permits them to fall into a mistake about the resurrection, and to dream of what would never take place, that, by mere preaching, Christ would obtain a kingdom, an earthly kingdom, and would immediately rise to the highest prosperity and wealth.
There were two faults in this debate. First, the apostles were to blame for laying aside anxiety about the warfare to which they had been called, and for demanding beforehand repose, and wages, and honors, as if they had been soldiers that had served their time. The second fault is, that, instead of laboring with one consent, as they ought to have done, to render mutual assistance, and to secure for their brethren as large a share of honors as for themselves, they strove with wicked ambition to excel each other. If we wish that our manner of life should receive the approbation of the Lord, we must learn to bear patiently the burden of the cross that has been laid on us, till the proper time arrive for obtaining the crown, and, as Paul exhorts, in honor preferring one another, (Rom_12:10.) To the first of these faults is closely allied the vain curiosity of those persons in the present day, who, leaving the proper duties of their calling, eagerly attempt to fly above the clouds. The Lord, who in the Gospel invites us to his kingdom, points out to us the road by which we are to reach it. Fickle persons, who give themselves no concern about faith, patience, calling on God, and other exercises of religion, dispute about what is going on in heaven; as if a man who was about to commence a journey made inquiry where a lodging-place was situated, but did not move a step. Since we are commanded by the Lord to walk on the earth, those who make the condition of departed saints in heaven the subject of eager debate will be found, in so doing, to retard their own progress towards heaven.
And being in the house – That is, Peter’s house, where he ordinarily lodged. This has been often observed before.
In the house (en tei oikiai). Probably Peter’s house in Capernaum which was the home of Jesus when in the city.
What were ye reasoning in the way? (Timothyen tei hodoi dielogiszethe). Imperfect tense. They had been disputing (Mar_9:34), not about the coming death of the Master, but about the relative rank of each of them in the political kingdom which they were expecting him to establish. Jesus had suspected the truth about them and they had apparently kept it up in the house. See note on Mat_18:1 where the disciples are represented as bringing the dispute to Jesus while here Jesus asks them about it. Probably they asked Jesus first and then he pushed the matter further and deeper to see if this had not been the occasion of the somewhat heated discussion on the way in.
Who is the greatest – Could these disciples have viewed the kingdom of Christ in any other light than that of a temporal one? Hence they wished to know whom he would make his prime minister – whom his general – whom his chief chancellor – whom supreme judge, etc., etc. Is it he who first became thy disciple, or he who is thy nearest relative, or he who has most frequently entertained thee, or he who is the oldest, merely as to years? Could this inquiry have proceeded from any but the nine disciples who had not witnessed our Lord’s transfiguration? Peter, James, and John, were surely more spiritual in their views! And yet how soon did even these forget that his kingdom was not of this world! See Mar_10:35, etc.; Joh_18:10, etc. The disciples having lately seen the keys delivered to Peter, and found that he, with James and John, had been privileged with being present at the transfiguration, it is no wonder if a measure of jealousy and suspicion began to work in their minds. From this inquiry we may also learn, that the disciples had no notion of Peter’s supremacy; nor did they understand, as the Roman Catholics will have it, that Christ had constituted him their head, either by the conversation mentioned Mat_16:18, Mat_16:19, or by the act mentioned in the conclusion of the preceding chapter. Had they thought that any such superiority had been designed, their present question must have been extremely impertinent. Let this be observed.
But they held their peace (Hoi de esiopon). Imperfect tense. Put thus to them, they felt ashamed that the Master had discovered their jealous rivalry. It was not a mere abstract query, as they put it to Jesus, but it was a canker in their hearts.
Mar 9:35 And he sat down,…. As their master, as one having authority; and in order to examine into this matter, and pass judgment upon it:
and called the twelve; all the disciples, who though they might not be all engaged in this dispute, nor equally criminal, yet were all, possessed of the same notion; and therefore Christ calls them all unto him, what he had to say, being pertinent unto them all:
and saith unto them, if any man desire to be first; to have the pre-eminence, and be in the chief place in the kingdom of the Messiah,
the same shall be last of all, and servant of all: his pride and vanity shall be checked; his ambitious views shall be frustrated; instead of being first, he shall be last; and instead of having superior reverence and respect, he shall be debased, and treated with neglect and contempt; and instead of being the master over others, shall be the servant of all. Some copies read, “let him be”; and so the Persic version, “let him be last, and minister to every one”; and the Ethiopic thus, “let him subject himself to all, and be servant to all”; for the only way to preferment in Christ’s kingdom, or in the Gospel dispensation, is humility and meekness, and performing the lowest services to all, with diligence and cheerfulness.
Rev., minister. Probably from διώκω to pursue; to be the follower of a person; to attach one’s self to him. As distinguished from other words in the New Testament meaning servant, this represents the servant in his activity; while δουλος, slave, represents him in his condition or relation as a bondman. A διάκονος, may be either a slave or a freeman. The word deacon is an almost literal transcription of the original. See Phi_1:1; 1Ti_3:8, 1Ti_3:12. The word is often used in the New Testament to denote ministers of the gospel. See 1Co_3:5; Eph_3:7; 1Th_3:2, and elsewhere. Mark uses δουλος, in Mar_10:44.
He sat down and called the twelve (kathisas ephonesen tous dodeka). Deliberate action of Jesus to handle this delicate situation. Jesus gives them the rule of greatness: “If any man would be first (protos) he shall be last (eschatos) of all, and minister (diakonos) of all.” This saying of Christ, like many others, he repeated at other times (Mar_10:43.; Mat_23:8.; Luk_22:24.). Mat_18:2 says that he called a little child, one there in the house, perhaps Peter’s child. Luk_9:47 notes that he “set him by his side.” Then Jesus taking him in his arms (enagkalisamenos, aorist middle participle, late Greek word from agkale as in Luk_2:28) spoke again to the disciples.
Mar 9:36 And he took a child,…. Which was in the house, and which he called unto him, and set by him, as the other evangelists observe:
and set him in the midst of them; his disciples, that all might see and learn from this instance;
and when he had taken him in his arms; and embraced him, to show his great regard to humility, and humble persons:
he said unto them; the following words.
Wyc. renders ordained.
When he had taken him in his arms (εναγκαλισάμενος)
The verb is found only in Mark, and only he records this detail.
Mar 9:37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children,…. That is, any believer, who is like to such a child for humility, meekness, and lowliness of mind; and so the Syriac version renders it, טליא איך הנא, “one like to this child”: and so the Arabic and Persic versions; for it cannot be thought that Christ’s meaning is, that whoever takes up any little child, embraces, and takes notice of it, as he did, does what is after related; but that whoever shows respect, and performs the least office of love and kindness to the meanest believer, comparable to a little child, for the above excellent qualities, and he does this, says Christ,
in my name; on account that he belongs to Christ, is one of his, bears his image, partakes of his grace, is loved by him, and shall be glorified with, him: such is Christ’s great regard to his humble followers, that he takes it all one as if done to himself:
he receiveth me; this humble believer, being a member of his, and like unto him, and respected by him;
and whosoever shall receive me; Christ, in any of his members:
receiveth not me; that is, not him only; for he does receive him, otherwise there would be a contradiction in the words; but his meaning is, that he does not hereby receive him, by receiving one of his, nor him so much, as his Father:
but him that sent me; for as showing respect to one of Christ’s members, is showing respect to him; so showing respect to Christ, is showing respect to his Father, from whence he came, by whom he was sent, in whose name he acted, and whose work and service he was concerned in.
One of such little children (hen ton toiouton paidion). Mat_18:5 has “one such little child” and Luk_9:48 “this little child.” It was an object lesson to the arrogant conceit of the twelve apostles contending for primacy. They did not learn this lesson for they will again wrangle over primacy (Mar_10:33-45; Mat_20:20-28) and they will be unable to comprehend easily what the attitude of Jesus was toward children (Mar_10:13-16; Mat_19:13-15; Luk_8:15-17). The child was used as a rebuke to the apostles.
Mar 9:38- 41
Bede: John, loving the Lord with eminent devotion, thought that He who performed an office to which He had no right was to be excluded from the benefit of it.
Wherefore it is said, “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.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: For many believers received gifts, and yet were not with Christ, such was this man who cast out devils; for there were many of them deficient in some way; some were pure in life, but were not so perfect in faith; others again, contrariwise.
Theophylact: Or again, some unbelievers, seeing that the name of Jesus was full of virtue, themselves used it, and performed signs, though they were unworthy of Divine grace; for the Lord wished to extend His name even by the unworthy.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: It was not from jealousy or envy, however, that John wished to forbid him who cast out devils, but because he wished that all who called on the name of the Lord should follow Christ and be one body with His disciples. But the Lord, however unworthy they who perform the miracles may be, incites others by their means to believe on Him, and induces themselves by this unspeakable grace to become better. Wherefore there follows: “But Jesus said, Forbid him not.”
Bede: By which He shews that no one is to be driven away from that partial goodness which he possesses already, but rather to be stirred up to that which he has not as yet obtained.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: In conformity to this, He shews that he is not to be forbidden, adding immediately after, “For there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name, that can lightly speak evil of Me.” He says “lightly” to meet the case of those who fell into heresy, such as were Simon and Menander, and Cerinthus [ed. note: Irenaeus, cont. Haer. 2, 31, seems to imply that the early heretics actually worked wonders, but that these differed from Christian miracles in that they were done by magic through the aid of the devil, and were not works of mercy; he contrasts with these the ecclesiastical miracles of his day.]; not that they did miracles in the name of Christ, but by their deceptions had the appearance of doing them.
But these others, though they do [p. 184] not follow us, cannot however set themselves to say any thing against us, because they honour My name by working miracles.
Theophylact: For how can he speak evil of Me, who draws glory from My name, and works miracles by the invocation of this very name. There follows, “For he that is not against you is on your part.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 4, 5: We must take care that this saying of the Lord appear not to be contrary to that where He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” [Luk_11:23] Or will any one say that the difference lies in that here He says to His disciples, “For he that is not against you is on your part,” but in the other He speaks of Himself, “He who is not with Me is against Me?” As if indeed it were possible [ed. note: St. Augustine has here quasi vero, instead of quasi non, which hardly makes sense; the latter reading has also been found in an old edition of the Catena Aurea, A.D. 1417.] that he who is joined to Christ’s disciples, who are as His members, should not be with Him.
How if it were so, could it be true that “he that receiveth you receiveth Me?” [Mat_10:40] Or how is he not against Him who is against His disciples? Where then will be that saying, “He who despiseth you, despiseth Me? [Luk_10:16] But surely what is implied is that a man is not with Him in as far as he is against Him, and is not against Him in as far as he is with Him.
For instance, he who worked miracles in the name of Christ, and yet did not join himself to the body of His disciples, in as far as he worked the miracles in His name, was with them, and was not against them; again, in that he did not join their society, he was not with them, and was against them.
Be because they forbade his doing that in which he was with them, the Lord said unto them, “Forbid him not:” for they ought to have forbidden his being without their society, and thus to have persuaded him of the unity of the Church, but they should not have forbidden that in which he was with them, that is, his commendation of the name of their Lord and Master by the expulsion of devils.
Thus the Church Catholic does not disapprove in heretics the sacraments, which are common, but she blames their division, or some opinion of theirs adverse to peace and to truth; for in this they are against us.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else, this is said of those who believe on Him, but nevertheless do not follow Him from the looseness of their lives. Again, it is said of devils, who try to separate all from God, and to disperse His [p. 185] congregation.
There follows, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of cold water to drink in My name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Theophylact: Not only will I not forbid him who works miracles in My name, but also whosoever shall give you the smallest thing for My name’s sake, and shall receive you, not on account of human and worldly favour, but from love to Me, shall not lose his reward.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 4, 6: By which He shews, that he of whom John had spoken was not so far separated from the fellowship of the disciples, as to reject it, as a heretic, but as men are wont to hang back from receiving the Sacraments of Christ, and yet favour the Christian name, so as even to succour Christians, and do them service only because they are Christians. Of these He says they shall not lose their reward; not that they ought already to think themselves secure on account of this good will which they have towards Christians, without being washed with His baptism, and incorporated in His unity, but that they are already so guided by the mercy of God, as also to attain to these, and thus to go away from this life in security.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: And that no man may allege poverty, He mentions that of which none can be destitute, that is, a cup of cold water, for which also he will obtain a reward; for it is not the value of the gift, but the dignity of those who receive it, and the feelings of the giver, which makes a work worthy of reward.
Master, we saw one.Hence it is evident that the name of Christ was at that time so celebrated, that persons who were not of the number of his intimate disciples used that name, or perhaps even abused it, for I will not venture to avouch any thing on this point as certain. It is possible that he who is here mentioned had embraced the doctrine of Christ, and betaken himself to the performance of miracles with no bad intention; but as Christ bestowed this power on none but those whom he had chosen to be heralds of his Gospel, I think that he had rashly taken, or rather seized upon, this office. Now though he was wrong in making this attempt, and in venturing to imitate the disciples without receiving a command to do so, yet his boldness was not without success: for the Lord was pleased, in this way also, to throw luster around his name, as he sometimes does by means of those of whose ministry he does not approve as lawful. It is not inconsistent with this to say, that one who was endued with special faith followed a blind impulse, and thus proceeded inconsiderately to work miracles.
I now come to John and his companions. They say that they forbade a man to work miracles Why did they not first ask whether or not he was authorized? For now being in a state of doubt and suspense, they ask the opinion of their Master. Hence it follows, that they had rashly taken on themselves the right to forbid; and therefore every man who undertakes more than he knows that he is permitted to do by the word of God is chargeable with rashness. Besides, there is reason to suspect the disciples of Christ of ambition, because they are anxious to maintain their privilege and honor. For how comes it that they all at once forbid a man who is unknown to them to work miracles, but because they wish to be the sole possessors of this right? For they assign the reason, that he followeth not Christ; as much as to say, “He is not one of thy associates, as we are: why then shall he possess equal honor?”
Ver. 38-40. Here a question arises worthy of our discussion a little: Seeing these miraculous operations were performed by a Divine power, and for such an end as the confirmation of Christ’s Divine power, how could any one cast out devils in the name of Christ, and yet not follow him and his disciples?
1. It is apparent that this person was no enemy to Christ or his gospel, by what our Saviour saith, both in Mar_9:39 and in Mar_9:40.
2. It is evident that the casting out of devils was no saving effect of the Holy Spirit. Christ saith, Mat_7:22, that some should say, In thy name have we cast out devils, to whom in the day of judgment he would say, Depart from me, I know you not, ye that work iniquity.
3. It is plain that this man was no such person as Sceva’s sons, of whom we read Act_19:14-16, for the devils resisted them, though they also used the name of Christ.
It was a time exceedingly famous for some of the more extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, and it is not to be wondered if some in this time, for the glory of God, received some crumbs of that plentiful benevolence, though they were but imperfect disciples, yet being no enemies. Caiaphas prophesied, Joh_11:51,52; and though I do think that the children of the Pharisees, mentioned, Mat_12:27, as persons that cast out devils, is best interpreted of those sent out by Christ, (the twelve and the seventy), yet some are of another mind. Some think this man, though he did not follow Christ and his disciples as a constant companion, yet was one who favoured and had received the gospel; or else one of John’s disciples, and so one who, though he was not formally joined with the followers of Christ, yet was a friend of that great Bridegroom. So as John and the rest, forbidding him, seemed to be guilty of two no small errors:
1. Envying for Christ’s sake, as Joshua did for Moses’s sake, Num_11:28, as John’s disciples did for their master’s sake, Joh_3:26, willing that Christ, and those whom he sent out, should have all the honour of those miraculous operations.
2. Limiting the grace of Christ to that congregation which followed Christ, and the twelve; a thing that good men are too prone unto.
How much better was the spirit of Paul, who tells us, Phi_1:15,18, that although some preached Christ of envy and strife, yet he rejoiced, and would rejoice, that Christ was preached, whether in pretence, or in truth. Christ would have all his people of such a spirit, as not to hinder, but commend, not to envy, but to rejoice in the doing of good by any, whether they did follow him or did not. Some think that at that time it pleased God, that, for the honour of his Son Jesus Christ, he did concur with those that named his name in such miraculous operations. Sure we are that Christ reproveth John, and commandeth them not to forbid this man, giving this for a reason, That his owning the name of Christ, so far as to use it in such an operation, had at least so much kindness for him as he was no enemy, he would not curse him, nor speak evil of him; which cometh up to that of the apostle, 1Co_12:3,
No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and no man can say Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. For he that is not against us is on our part: if a man be not an open enemy to Christ, he ought to be presumed to be his friend, at least so far as not to be discouraged in doing a good work.
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.
[We saw one casting out devils in thy name.] I. Without doubt he truly did this work, whosoever he were. He cast out devils truly and really, and that by the divine power; otherwise Christ had not said those things which he did, “Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me,” etc.
II. Whence then could any one that followed not Christ cast out devils? Or whence could any one that cast out devils not follow Christ?
I answer: We suppose,
I. That this man cast not out devils in the name of Jesus, but in the name of Christ, or Messias: and that it was not out of contempt that he followed not Jesus, but out of ignorance; namely, because he knew not yet that Jesus was the Messias.
II. We therefore conjecture that he had been heretofore some disciple of John, who had received his baptism in the name of the Messias now speedily to come, (which all the disciples of John had) but he knew not as yet that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messias: which John himself knew not until it was revealed to him from heaven.
III. It is probable, therefore, that God granted the gifts of miracles to some lately baptized by John, to do them in the name of the Messias; and that, to lay a plainer way for the receiving of the Messias, when he should manifest himself under the name of ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’
See Mar_9:41; In my name, because ye belong to Christ; and Mar_13:6, “Many shall come in my name”; not in the name of Jesus, but in the name of the Messias: for those false prophets assumed to themselves the name of the Messias, to bring to nought the name of Jesus. That, Joh_16:24; “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name,” differs not much from this sense: ‘The apostles poured out their prayers, and all the holy men theirs, in the name of the Messias; but ye have as yet asked nothing in my name Jesus;’ etc.
We saw one casting out devils in thy name – It can scarcely be supposed that a man who knew nothing of Christ, or who was only a common exorcist, could be able to work a miracle in Christ’s name; we may therefore safely imagine that this was either one of John the Baptist’s disciples, who, at his master’s command, had believed in Jesus, or one of the seventy, whom Christ had sent out, Luk_10:1-7, who, after he had fulfilled his commission, had retired from accompanying the other disciples; but as he still held fast his faith in Christ, and walked in good conscience, the influence of his Master still continued with him, so that he could cast out demons as well as the other disciples.
He followeth not us – This first clause is omitted by BCL, three others, Syriac, Armenian, Persic, Coptic, and one of the Itala. Some of the MSS. and versions leave out the first; some the second clause: only one of them is necessary. Griesbach leaves out the first.
We forbade him – I do not see that we have any right to attribute any other motive to John than that which he himself owns – because he followed not us – because he did not attach himself constantly to thee, as we do, we thought he could not be in a proper spirit.
Mar 9 Ver. 37. John answered Him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, who followeth not us, and we forbade him. It is as though he said, “Have we done well or ill?” John asks this question not out of envy, as Calvin would have it, but out of love and zeal for the honour of Christ. And it was occasioned by what He had said in the preceding verse, Whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. As though he said, If he who receives a little one in Thy name receiveth Thy Father and Thyself, what must we think concerning him who works miracles in Thy name, and yet followeth not us, that is, is not Thy attendant and disciple, as we are? “Because,” says Cyril (in Catena in Luk 11:49), “the Saviour had given power to His Apostles to cast out unclean spirits, they thought that it had been conceded to none others save themselves to enjoy such dignity.” So Theophylact and Victor.
Here observe that those who thus cast out devils in the name of Christ, and yet did not follow Him, were believers, but imperfect ones, forasmuch as they shrank from the rugged poverty and renunciation of their goods, such as was the lot of the Apostles. They shrank from following Christ in His evangelical labours and His persecutions. Still they have some faith in Christ, by virtue of which they cast out devils. So S. Ambrose (in Luk 11:49). And in so doing Christ wrought and co-operated with them, that His power and glory might be the more made manifest, which wrought such great things by means of those who were so imperfect, and, as it were, aliens.
Observe, in the next place, that the Apostles did not forbid such people through hatred, but out of zeal for Christ, as though they were detracting from the glory of Christ and His ordinance, according to chap. iii. 15, where Christ gives to His Apostles only the power of casting out devils. But this zeal of theirs was indiscreet, especially because they had rashly, without consulting Christ, forbidden them. And Christ showed them that this was so for a double reason. The first is what He brings forward in the next verse. In a similar manner, when Joshua saw Eldad and Medad prophesying, he wished to forbid them, as if they were detracting from the glory of Moses, in that they had not received the spirit of prophecy from Moses. But Moses checked him by saying, “Enviest thou for my sake? Would that all the people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num_11:29). This is the Spirit of Christ, the spirit of love and of the Holy Ghost, which makes large the heart, and envieth none, but rejoices in all good things, by whomsoever and in what way soever they are wrought (see 1Cor 13.).
We saw one … – There is no improbability in supposing that this might have been one of the disciples of John, or one of the seventy whom Jesus had sent out, and who, though he did not “personally” attend on Jesus, yet had the power of working miracles. There is no evidence that he was merely an “exorcist,” or that he used the name of Jesus merely as a pretence.
Because he followed not us (hoti ouk ekolouthei hemin). Note vivid imperfect tense again. John evidently thought to change the subject from the constraint and embarrassment caused by their dispute. So he told about a case of extra zeal on his part expecting praise from Jesus. Perhaps what Jesus had just said in Mar_9:37 raised a doubt in John’s mind as to the propriety of his excessive narrowness. One needs to know the difference between loyalty to Jesus and stickling over one’s own narrow prejudices.
39.Forbid him not.Christ did not wish that he should be forbidden; not that he had given him authority, or approved of what he did, or even wished his disciples to approve of it, but because, when by any occurrence God is glorified, we ought to bear with it and rejoice. Thus Paul, (Phi_1:18,) though he disapproves of the dispositions of those who used the Gospel as a pretense for aggrandizing themselves, yet rejoices that by this occurrence the glory of Christ is advanced. We must attend also to the reason which is added, that it is impossible for any man who works miracles in the name of Christ to speak evil of Christ, and therefore this ought to be reckoned as gain; for hence it follows, that if the disciples had not been more devoted to their own glory than anxious and desirous to promote the glory of their Master, they would not have been offended when they saw that glory heightened and enlarged in another direction. And yet Christ declares that we ought to reckon as friends those who are not open enemies.
Forbid him not – If you meet him again, let him go on quietly in the work in which God owns him. If he were not of God, the demons would not be subject to him, and his work could not prosper. A spirit of bigotry has little countenance from these passages. There are some who are so outrageously wedded to their own creed, and religious system, that they would rather let sinners perish than suffer those who differ from them to become the instruments of their salvation. Even the good that is done they either deny or suspect, because the person does not follow them. This also is vanity and an evil disease.
Mar 9:39 Jesus said – Christ here gives us a lovely example of candour and moderation. He was willing to put the best construction on doubtful cases, and to treat as friends those who were not avowed enemies. Perhaps in this instance it was a means of conquering the remainder of prejudice, and perfecting what was wanting in the faith and obedience of these persons. Forbid him not – Neither directly nor indirectly discourage or hinder any man who brings sinners from the power of Satan to God, because he followeth not us, in opinions, modes of worship, or any thing else which does not affect the essence of religion.
Forbid him not – Do not prevent his doing good. If he can work a miracle in my name, it is sufficient proof of attachment to me, and he should not be prevented.
Can lightly speak evil of me – The word here rendered “lightly” means quickly or “immediately.” The meaning of the passage is, that he to whom God gave the power of working a miracle, by that gave evidence that he could not be found among the enemies of Jesus. He ought not, therefore, to be prevented from doing it. There is no reason to think here that John had any improper designs in opposing the man. He thought that it was evidence that he could not be right, because he did not join them and follow the Saviour. Our Lord taught him differently. He opposed no one who gave evidence that he loved him. Wherever he might be or whatever his work, yet, if he did it in the name of Jesus and with the approbation of God, it was evidence sufficient that he was right. Christians should rejoice in good done by their brethren of any denomination. There are men calling themselves Christians who seem to look with doubt and suspicion on all that is done by those who do not walk with them. They undervalue their labors, and attempt to lessen the evidences of their success and to diminish their influence. True likeness to the Saviour would lead us to rejoice in all the good accomplished. by whomsoever it may be done – to rejoice that the kingdom of Christ is advanced, whether by a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, a Baptist, or a Methodist. Compare Phi_1:18.
40.For he who is not against us is for us.He does not enjoin us to give a loose rein to rash men, and to be silent while they intermeddle with this and the other matter, according to their own fancy, and disturb the whole order of the Church: for such licentiousness, so far as our calling allows, must be restrained. He only affirms that they act improperly, who unseasonably prevent the kingdom of God from being advanced by any means whatever. And yet he does not acknowledge as his disciples, or reckon as belonging to his flock, those who hold an intermediate place between enemies and friends, but means that,. so far as they do no harm, they are useful and profitable: for it is a proverbial saying, which reminds us that we ought not to raise a quarrel till we are constrained.
He that is not against us, is on our part – Or rather, Whosoever is not against You, is for You. Instead of ημων, us, I would read υμων, you, on the authority of ADSHV, upwards of forty others, Syriac, Armenian, Persic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Gothic, Slavonic, Vulgate, Itala, Victor, and Opt. This reading is more consistent with the context – He followed not us – well, he is not against You; and he who is not against you, in such a work, may be fairly presumed to be on your side.
There is a parallel case to this mentioned in Num_11:26-29, which, for the elucidation of this passage, I will transcribe. “The Spirit rested upon Eldad and Medad, and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua, the servant of Moses, said, My lord Moses, forbid them! And Moses said unto him, Enviest Thou for My sake? Would God, that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them.” The reader will easily observe that Joshua and John were of the same bigoted spirit; and that Jesus and Moses acted from the spirit of candour and benevolence. See the notes on Num_11:25-29 (note).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
For he that is not against us is on our part — Two principles of immense importance are here laid down: “First, No one will readily speak evil of Me who has the faith to do a miracle in My name; and second, If such a person cannot be supposed to be against us, ye are to consider him for us.” Let it be carefully observed that our Lord does not say this man should not have “followed them,” nor yet that it was indifferent whether he did or not; but simply teaches how such a person was to be regarded, although he did not – namely, as a reverer of His name and a promoter of His cause.
Mar 9:40 For he that is not against you, is for you – Our Lord had formerly said, he that is not with me, is against me: thereby admonishing his hearers, that the war between him and Satan admitted of no neutrality, and that those who were indifferent to him now, would finally be treated as enemies. But here in another view, he uses a very different proverb; directing his followers to judge of men’s characters in the most candid manner; and charitably to hope that those who did not oppose his cause wished well to it. Upon the whole, we are to be rigorous in judging ourselves, and candid in judging each other.
Whosoever shall give you a cup … – How easy it is to be a Christian! What is easier than to give a cup of cold water to a thirsty disciple of Jesus! But it must be in his name – that is, because he “is” a Christian, and therefore from love “to the Saviour.” This is very different from giving it from a mere motive of common kindness. If done from love to Christ, it will be rewarded; and hence we learn that the humblest acts of Christians – the lowest service that is rendered – will be graciously noticed by Jesus and rewarded. None are so humble in his kingdom as not to be able to do good, and none so poor that he may not show attachment to him. The feeblest service will be accepted, and acts of love that may be forgotten by man, will be remembered by Him, and rewarded in heaven.
Because ye are Christ’s (hoti Christou este). Predicate genitive, belong to Christ. See Rom_8:9; 1Co_1:12; 2Co_10:7. That is the bond of universal brotherhood of the redeemed. It breaks over the lines of nation, race, class, sex, everything. No service is too small, even a cup of cold water, if done for Christ’s sake. See note on Mat_18:6. for discussion on stumbling-blocks for these little ones that believe on Jesus (Mar_9:42), a loving term of all believers, not just children.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: There follows: “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:” as though He would say [ed. note: see Chrys., Hom. in Matt. 58], All who honour you for My sake have their reward, so also those who dishonour you, that is, offend you, shall receive the worst of vengeance.
Further, from things which are palpable to us, He describes an intolerable torment, making mention of a millstone, and of being drowned; and He says not, let a millstone be hanged about his neck, but, it is better for him to suffer this, shewing by this that some more heavy evil awaits him. But He means by “little ones that believe on Me,” not only those [p. 186] who follow Him, but those who call upon His name, those also who offer a cup of cold water, though they do not any greater works. Now He will have none of these offended or plucked away; for this is what is meant by forbidding them to call upon His name.
Bede: And fitly the man who if offended is called a little one, for he who is great, whatever he may suffer, departs not from the faith; but he who is little and weak in mind looks out for occasions of stumbling. For this reason we must most of all look to those who are little ones in the faith, lest by our fault they should be offended, and go back from the faith, and fall away from salvation.
Greg., in Faeceh., 1, Hom. 7: We must observe, however, that in our good works we must sometimes avoid the offence of our neighbour, sometimes look down upon it as of no moment. For in as far as we can do it without sin, we ought to avoid the offence of our neighbour; but if a stumblingblock is laid before men in what concerns the truth, it is better to allow the offence to arise, than that the truth should be abandoned.
Greg, de eura, past. p.i.v.2: Mystically by a millstone is expressed the tedious round and toil of a secular life, and by the depths of the sea, the worst damnation is pointed out. He who therefore, after having been brought to a profession of sanctity, destroys others, either by word or example, it had been indeed better for him that his worldly deeds should render him liable to death, under a secular garb, than that his holy office should hole him out as an example for others in his faults, because doubtless if he had fallen alone, his pain in hell would have been of a more endurable kind.
Bede: Because the Lord had taught us not to offend those who believe on Him, He now as next in order warns us how much we should beware of those who offend us, that is, who by their words or conduct strive to drag us into the perdition of sin; wherefore He says, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off.”
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 59: He says not this of our limbs, but of our intimate friends, whom as being necessary to us we look upon as our limbs; for nothing is so hurtful as mischievous society.
Bede: That is, He calls by the name of hand, our intimate friend, of whose aid we daily stand in need; but if such an one should wish to do us a hurt in what concerns our soul, he is to be driven away from our society, lest by choosing a portion in this life with one who is lost, we should perish together with him in that which is to come. Wherefore there follows, “It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to enter into hell.”
Gloss.: By maimed He means, deprived of the help of some friend, for it is better to enter into life without a friend, than to go with him into hell.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, “It is better for thee to enter into life maimed,” that is, without the chief place, for which you have wished, than having two hands to go into eternal fire. The two hands for high station are humility and pride; cut off pride, keeping to the estate of lowliness.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Then He introduces the witness of prophecy from the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” [Isa_65:24] He says not this of a visible worm, but He calls conscience, a worm, gnawing the soul for not having done any good thing; for each of us shall be made his own accuser, by calling to mind what he has done in this mortal life, and so their worm remains forever.
Bede: And as the worm is the pain which inwardly accuses, so the fire is a punishment which rages without us; or by the worm is meant the rottenness of hell, by the fire, its heat.
Augustine, de Civ. Dei, 21, 9: But those who hold that both of these, namely, the fire and the worm, belong to the pains of the soul, and not of the body, say also that those who are separated from the kingdom of God are tortured, as with fire, by the pangs of a soul repenting too late and hopelessly; and they not unfitly contend that fire may be put for that burning grief, as says the Apostle, “Who is offended, and I burn not?” [2Co_11:29]
They also think that by the worm must be understood the same grief, as is said: “As a moth destroys a garment, and a worm wood, so grief tortures the heart of man.” [Pro_25:20 Vulgate]
All those who hesitate not to affirm that there will be pain both of body and soul in that punishment affirm that the body is burnt by the fire. But although this is more credible, because it is absurd that there either the pains of body or of soul should be wanting, still I think that it is easier to say that both belong to the body than that neither: and therefore it seems to me that Holy Scripture in this place is silent about the pains of the soul, because it follows that the soul also is tortured in the pains of the body.
Let each man therefore choose which he will, either to refer the fire to the body, the worm to the soul, the one properly, the other in a figure, or else both properly to the body; for living things may exist even in fire, in burnings without being wasted, in pain without death, by the wondrous power of the Almighty Creator.
But whosoever shall offend one of those little ones.This appears to be added for the consolation of the godly, that they may not be rendered uneasy by their condition, if they are despised by the world. It is a powerful obstruction to the voluntary exercise of modesty, when they imagine, that by so doing they expose themselves to contempt; and it is hard to be not only treated disdainfully, but almost trodden under foot, by haughty men. Christ therefore encourages his disciples by the consoling truth, that, if their mean condition draws upon them the insults of the world, God does not despise them.
But he appears to have had likewise another object in view; for a dispute had arisen amongst them as to the first place of honor, from which it might naturally have been inferred that the Apostles were tainted with sinful ambition. Every man who thinks too highly of himself, or desires to be preferred to others, must necessarily treat his brethren with disdain. To cure this disease, Christ threatens a dreadful punishment, if any man in his pride shall throw down those who are oppressed with poverty, or who in heart are already humbled.
Under the word offend he includes more than if he had forbidden them to despise their brethren; though the man who gives himself no concern about offending the weak, does so for no other reason, than because he does not render to them the honor to which they are entitled. Now as there are various kinds of offenses, it will be proper to explain generally what is meant by offending. If any man through our fault either stumbles, or is drawn aside from the right course, or retarded in it, we are said to offend him. Whoever then desires to escape that fearful punishment which Christ denounces, let him stretch out his hand to the little oneswho are despised by the world, and let him kindly assist them in keeping the path of duty; for Christ recommends them to our notice, that they may lead us to exercise voluntary humility; as Paul enjoins the children of God to condescend to men of low estate, (Rom_12:16,) and again says that we ought not to please ourselves, (Rom_15:1.)
To hang a millstone about a man’s neck, and drown him in the sea, was the punishment then reckoned the most appalling, and which was inflicted on the most atrocious malefactors. When our Lord alludes to this punishment, we are enabled to perceive how dear and precious those persons are in the sight of God, who are mean and despised in the eyes of the world.
Mar 9:42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me,…. Whosoever shall do the, least injury to the meanest person that believes in Christ, who are mean both in their own eyes, and the eyes of others; for Christ is not speaking of little children in age, who are neither capable of believing in Christ, nor are they ready to take offence; but of such as belong to him; his disciples and followers, of whom he is speaking in the preceding verse:
it is better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea; and drowned there: the allusion is to the drowning of malefactors, by tying a stone, or any heavy thing about their necks, and casting them into the sea. Casaubon, and others, have shown out of Heathen writers, that this has been a practice of some nations, particularly the Grecians: Jerom says, Christ speaks according to the custom of the country; this being a punishment of the greatest crimes among the Jews; but I have no where met with it in their writings: Christ’s sense is, that such who give offence to any of his ministers or people, how mean soever they may appear, shall undergo the severest punishment; See Gill on Mat_18:6.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Mar_9:42-50. Continuation of teaching suggested by the disciples’ strife.
What follows appears to have no connection with the incidental reproof of John immediately preceding. As that had interrupted some important teaching, our Lord hastens back from it, as if no such interruption had occurred.
For whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me — or, shall cause them to stumble; referring probably to the effect which such unsavory disputes as they had held would have upon the inquiring and hopeful who came in contact with them, leading to the belief that after all they were no better than others.
it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck — The word here is simply “millstone,” without expressing of which kind. But in Mat_18:6 it is the “ass-turned” kind, far heavier than the small hand-mill turned by female slaves, as in Luk_17:35. It is of course the same which is meant here.
and he were cast into the sea — meaning, that if by such a death that stumbling were prevented, and so its eternal consequences averted, it would be a happy thing for them. Here follows a striking verse in Mat_18:7, “Woe unto the world because of offences!” (There will be stumblings and falls and loss of souls enough from the world’s treatment of disciples, without any addition from you: dreadful will be its doom in consequence; see that ye share not in it). “For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (The struggle between light and darkness will inevitably cause stumblings, but not less guilty is he who willfully makes any to stumble).
Whoso shall offend – That is, cause to fall, or to sin; or who should place anything in their way to hinder their piety or happiness. See notes at Mat_5:29.
These little ones – That is, Christians manifesting the spirit of little children, 1Jo_2:1, 1Jo_2:12, 1Jo_2:18, 1Jo_2:28.
It were better for him that a millstone … – Mills, anciently, were either turned by hand (see the notes at Mat_24:41), or by beasts, chiefly by mules. These last were of the larger kind, and the original words denote that it was this kind that was intended. This was one mode of capital punishment practiced by the Greeks, Syrians, Romans, and by some other nations. The meaning is, it would be better for him to have died before he had committed the sin. To injure, or to cause to sin, the feeblest Christian, will be regarded by Christ as a most serious offence, and will be punished accordingly.
Mar 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off,…. I have observed on Mat_5:30 that by the Jewish canons, cutting off of the hand was ordered in some cases there mentioned; which, though literally enjoined, must not be understood, as though the Jewish sanhedrim had a power of inflicting such a punishment, on persons found guilty of the things instanced in; or that it was required they should do this to themselves; but such rules were delivered in such language, to show the heinousness of the crimes committed, to express an abhorrence of them (g), and to deter persons from them; and to show, as the gloss (h) on one place observes, that it is better that the hand be cut off; or it should be more eligible to the person himself, to have it cut off, than to be guilty of such evil: and in like manner, Christ there and here, directs to what is most proper and fit to be done; even to part with what is ever so near and dear, rather than be drawn into evil by it: and his sense in this place is, that the dearest friends and acquaintance, or be they what they will, though ever so near and dear, like a right hand, the instrument of action, that obstruct the spiritual welfare of men, are to be renounced and parted with, and treated as real enemies, and of the most pernicious consequence; See Gill on Mat_5:29, Mat_5:30.
It is better for thee to enter into life maimed: not that there will be any such thing, as upon the resurrection, going into heaven without a limb; for the words are to be understood, not literally, but figuratively; and the sense is, it is better to part with every thing here, that is detrimental to a man’s doing, or enjoying, what is spiritually good, and enter into eternal life,
than having two hands, to go into hell; than by enjoying such persons and things, agreeable to the flesh, to the ruin of the soul, and be cast into hell;
into the fire that never shall be quenched. This is a periphrasis of hell, and is an allusion to the valley of Hinnom, from whence hell has its name, here and elsewhere; where a constant fire was kept, for the burning of polluted things: one of the Jewish writers says (i), that it
“was a place in the land near to Jerusalem, and was a place contemptible: where they cast things defiled, and carcasses; and there was there, אש תמיד, “a continual fire”, to burn polluted things and bones; and therefore the condemnation of the wicked, in a parabolical way, is called “Gehinnom”.”
And says another of them (k),
“Gehinnom is a place known, near to Jerusalem, and a valley, שאין האש נכבית, “whose fire is never quenched”; and in which they burn bones of defilement, and carcasses, and other polluted things.”
This whole clause is left out in the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; and the phrase, “that never shall be quenched”, is not in the Arabic version.
(g) Maimonides in Misn. Nidda, c. 2. sect. 1. (h) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 108. 2. (i) Kimchi in Psal. xxvii. 13. (k) R. Isaac Saugari, Sepher Cosri, fol. 57. 2.
Mar 9:43 And if a person cause thee to offend – (The discourse passes from the case of offending, to that of being offended) if one who is as useful or dear to thee as a hand or eye, hinder or slacken thee in the ways of Cod, renounce all intercourse with him. This primarily relates to persons, secondarily to things. Mat_5:29; Mat_18:8.
Into hell, into the unquenchable fire (eis ten geennan, eis to pur to asbeston). Not Hades, but Gehenna. Asbeston is alpha privative and sbestos from sbennumi to quench. It occurs often in Homer. Our word asbestos is this very word. Mat_18:8 has “into the eternal fire.” The Valley of Hinnom had been desecrated by the sacrifice of children to Moloch so that as an accursed place it was used for the city garbage where worms gnawed and fires burned. It is thus a vivid picture of eternal punishment.
Mar 9:47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out,…. Than which, nothing is dearer to man, it being very tender, and exceeding useful: this metaphor the Lord sometimes makes use of, to show how dear his people are unto him, and what a tender concern he has for them, Deu_32:10. And here it may design such, as are most beloved by men, and are their most intimate acquaintance, and bosom friends; and yet these are to be parted with, when they prove snares and stumbling blocks, or give offence, by endeavouring to draw into sin, and from Christ:
it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye; that kingdom, which God has prepared for his people, from the foundation of the world, and of his rich grace, gives unto them, and in which they will enjoy him to all eternity;
than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. In the two instances before it is added, “that never shall be quenched”.
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Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched — See on Mat_5:30; The “unquenchablesness” of this fire has already been brought before us (see on Mat_3:12); and the awfully vivid idea of an undying worm, everlastingly consuming an unconsumable body, is taken from the closing words of the evangelical prophet (Isa_66:24), which seem to have furnished the later Jewish Church with its current phraseology on the subject of future punishment (see Lightfoot).
Their worm (ho skolex auton). “The worm, i.e. that preys upon the inhabitants of this dread realm” (Gould). Two bold figures of Gehenna combined (the gnawing worm, the burning flame). No figures of Gehenna can equal the dread reality which is here described. See Isa_66:24.
Bede: He says, therefore, “Every one shall be salted with fire,” because all the elect ought to be purged by spiritual wisdom, from the corruption of carnal concupiscence. Or else, the fire is the fire of tribulation, by which the patience of the faithful is proved, that it may have its perfect work.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Similar to this is that which the Apostle says, “And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” [1Co_3:13]
Afterwards he brings in a witness from Leviticus: which says, “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt.” [Lev_2:13]
Pseudo-Jerome: The oblation of the Lord is the race of man, which is here salted by means of wisdom, whilst the corruption of blood, the nurse of rottenness, and the mother of worms, is being consumed, which there also shall be tried by the purgatorial fire. [ed. note: On the subject of the purgatorial fire, see Fluery’s Hist., xix, 31, p. 102, note i, and Chrysostom, de Statuis, vi, 10, p. 130, note c, Oxford trans.]
Bede: We may also understand the altar to be the heart of the elect, and the victims and sacrifices to be offered on the altar are good works. But in all sacrifices salt ought to be offered, for that is not a good work which is not purged by the salt of wisdom from all corruption of vain glory, and other evil and superfluous thoughts.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. in Cat.: Or else it is meant, that every gift of our victim, which is accompanied by prayer and the assisting of our neighbour, is salted with that divine fire, of which it is said, “I am come to send fire on earth.” [Luk_12:49] Concerning which it is added: “Salt is good;” that is, the fire of love.
“But if the salt have lost his saltness,” that is, is deprived of itself, and that peculiar quality, by which it is called, good, “where with will ye season it?” For there is salt, which has saltness, that is, which has the fulness of grace; and there is salt, which has no saltness, for that which is not peaceful is salt unseasoned.
Bede: Or the good salt is the frequent hearing of God’s word, and the seasoning the hidden parts of the heart with the salt of spiritual wisdom.
Theophylact: For as salt preserves flesh, and suffers it not to breed worms, so also the discourse of the teacher, if it can dry up what is evil, constrains carnal men, and suffers not the undying worm to grow up in them.
But if it be without saltness, that is, if its virtue of drying up and preserving be gone, with what shall it be salted?
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. in Cat.: Or, according to Matthew, the disciples of Christ are the salt, which preserves the whole world, resisting the rottenness which proceeds from idolatry and sinful fornication. For it may also be meant, that each of us has salt, in as far as he contains in himself the graces of God.
Wherefore also the Apostle joins together grace and salt, saying, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.: [Col_4:6]
For salt is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was able to preserve the whole earth, and made many to be salt in the earth: and if any of these be corrupted, (for it is possible for even the good to be changed into corruption,) they are worthy to be cast out.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or otherwise; That salt is saltless which loves the chief place, and dares not rebuke others. Wherefore there follows, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”
That is, let the love of your neighbour temper the saltness of rebuke, and the salt of justice season the love of your neighbour.
Greg., De cura past., iii, e.22: Or this is said against those whom greater knowledge, while it raises above their neighbours, cuts off from the fellowship of others; thus the more their learning increases, the more they unlearn the virtue of concord.
Greg., De cura past., ii, 4: He also who strives to speak with wisdom should be greatly afraid, lest by his eloquence the unity of his hearers be thrown into confusion, lest, while he would appear wise, he unwisely cut asunder the bonds of unity.
Theophylact: Or else, he who binds himself to his neighbour by the tie of love, has salt, and in this way peace with his neighbour.
Augustine, de. Con, iv. 6: Mark relates that the Lord said these things consecutively, and has put down some things omitted by every other Evangelist, some which Matthew has also related, others which both Matthew and Luke relate, but on other occasions, and in a different series of events. Wherefore it seems to me that our Lord repeated in this place discourses which He had used in other places, because they were pertinent enough to this saying of His, by which He prevented their forbidding miracles to be wrought in His name, even by him who followed Him not together with His disciples.
Every man shall be salted with fire.I have connected these words of Mark with the passage in Matthew which we have just considered: not that I look upon them to have altogether the same meaning, or to have been spoken at the same place and time, but rather to enable the reader to understand better, by means of comparison, the different applications of the same sentence. According to Mark’s narrative, our Lord, having spoken of eternal fire,(Mar_9:48,) exhorts his own people, on the contrary, to offer themselves now to God to be seasoned with fire and salt, that they may be devoted sacrifices, and that they may not draw upon themselves, by their sins, that fire which is never extinguished. To be salted with fire is an incorrect phrase; but as salt and fire possess the same quality of purifying and refining, Christ applied the same term to both. Such was the occasion on which this sentiment was uttered. It was, that believers may not refuse to be purified by fire and salt; since, without this seasoning, they cannot be holy to God. He alludes to an enactment of the Law: “Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt, neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt,” (Lev_2:13.) But now he shows, that believers are salted by the word of the Gospel, that they may be sanctified.
He next adds, salt is good This extends generally to all, whom God has once been pleased to season with his own word. He exhorts them to retain always their savor. To give the name of salt to what is salted is rather a harsh metaphor, but it creates no doubt as to the meaning. When men have lost, by their carelessness, that savor which they obtained by the grace of God, there is no farther remedy. Those who lose their faith, by which they were consecrated to God, and become without savor, are in a desperate condition: for the good savor cannot be acquired by any other seasoning. Besides, those who have become corrupted, by making void the grace of God, are worse than unbelievers, as salts poils the land and the dunghill
The phrase of this text is so difficult, and the sense of it so necessary to be understood, that it hath deservedly exercised the parts of many interpreters, and given them a latitude to abound in interpretations. Those who would rightly understand it,
1. Must have a retrospection to the six verses immediately preceding, where our Lord had persuaded to the mortification of our most beloved and profitable or pleasant lust, under the notion of cutting off the right hand or foot offending, and plucking out the right eye, under the penalty of going into a fire that shall never be quenched: as also to the law, Lev_2:13, which runs thus: And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.
2. They must next consider the nature of salt and fire. It is of the nature of salt, by drying up the over much moisture in meats, to preserve them from putrefaction; and to cause smart to living flesh. And of fire, to separate things not of the same kind in compounded bodies, and also to cause pain and smart.
3. They must know, that every one in the former part of the verse is the same with every sacrifice in the latter part; for every man and woman living will, or shall, be a sacrifice to God. Godly men are not only priests, 1Pe_2:5,9 Re 1:6 5:10, but sacrifices, Rom_12:1.
Wicked men, though indeed they be no priests, (voluntarily giving up themselves unto God), yet they shall be sacrifices, like the sacrifice in Bozrah, Isa_34:6, or in the north country by the river Euphrates, Jer_46:10: see also Eze_39:17 Zep_1:7. The saints are both priests and sacrifices. These things premised, the difficulty of the text is not great. Our Lord had been in the former verses persuading the mortification of men’s dearest lusts, under the notions of cutting off the right hand or foot, and plucking out the right eye; and pressing this exhortation, from the eligibility of it, rather than (keeping them) to be thrust into hell, where the worm never dies, and where the fire never goeth out. Now saith he in this verse, For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. God hath a fire, and a salt, which every man must endure. He hath a purging fire, to take away men’s dross and tin. Some he baptizeth with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, Mat_3:11 Luk_3:16. And he hath a consuming, tormenting fire, a fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries, Heb_10:27. It is true, the Lord’s sacred fire of his Holy Spirit will, like fire and salt, cause smart while it purgeth out our lusts, like the cutting off of a right hand or foot; but judge you whether it be not better to endure that smart than to endure hell fire, for every one must endure one of these. Yea, and every one must be salted with fire. The saints shall be seasoned with influences of grace, Eph_4:29 Col_4:6; and they shall by the Holy Spirit of God be preserved by faith through the power of God to salvation, till their purity of heart and holiness of life shall issue in an incorruptibility of being and blessed state, 1Co_15:52-54. They shall be salted in or with fire, that is, preserved in or by the holy fire of God’s Holy Spirit; (nor is salting with fire so hard a metaphor as being baptized with fire seems to be, nothing being so contrary to fire as water is); others, viz. wicked and ungodly men, who will not endure this fire, nor be salted with this salt, shall yet be salted with another fire, and with another salt, which is the fire that never goes out mentioned Mar_9:44,46,48, which will cause them a much greater pain and smart, and in which, being separated from all their comforts and satisfactions, they shall be salted, that is (as to their beings) preserved, that they may be the objects of the eternal wrath and justice of God; for every one must go through one or the other fire, every soul must be seasoned with the one or other salt. Now judge you then whether it be not more advisable for you to be seasoned with this salt, though you indeed shall endure some smart in your acts of mortification and self-denial, than to endure hell fire, where you will be salted too, as well as burned; that is, not tormented only, but preserved in torments, so as you shall never consume, but be ever dying; for with one or other of these fires every person, every man or woman breathing, must be salted and seasoned, as of old every sacrifice was to be with salt.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt — A difficult verse, on which much has been written – some of it to little purpose. “Every one” probably means “Every follower of mine”; and the “fire” with which he “must be salted” probably means “a fiery trial” to season him. (Compare Mal_3:2, etc.). The reference to salting the sacrifice is of course to that maxim of the Levitical law, that every acceptable sacrifice must be sprinkled with salt, to express symbolically its soundness, sweetness, wholesomeness, acceptability. But as it had to be roasted first, we have here the further idea of a salting with fire. In this case, “every sacrifice,” in the next clause, will mean, “Every one who would be found an acceptable offering to God”; and thus the whole verse may perhaps be paraphrased as follows: “Every disciple of Mine shall have a fiery trial to undergo, and everyone who would be found an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God, must have such a salting, like the Levitical sacrifices.” Another, but, as it seems to us, farfetched as well as harsh, interpretation – suggested first, we believe, by Michaelis, and adopted by Alexander – takes the “every sacrifice which must be salted with fire” to mean those who are “cast into hell,” and the preservative effect of this salting to refer to the preservation of the lost not only in but by means of the fire of hell. Their reason for this is that the other interpretation changes the meaning of the “fire,” and the characters too, from the lost to the saved, in these verses. But as our Lord confessedly ends His discourse with the case of His own true disciples, the transition to them in Mar_9:48 is perfectly natural; whereas to apply the preservative salt of the sacrifice to the preserving quality of hell-fire, is equally contrary to the symbolical sense of salt and the Scripture representations of future torment. Our Lord has still in His eye the unseemly jarrings which had arisen among the Twelve, the peril to themselves of allowing any indulgence to such passions, and the severe self-sacrifice which salvation would cost them.
For every one shall be salted with fire – Every one of those who shall live and die in sin: but there is great difficulty in this verse. The Codex Bezae, and some other MSS., have omitted the first clause; and several MSS. keep the first, and omit the last clause – and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. There appears to be an allusion to Isa_66:24. It is generally supposed that our Lord means, that as salt preserves the flesh with which it is connected from corruption, so this everlasting fire, το πυρ το ασβεστον, this inconsumable fire, will have the property, not only of assimilating all things cast into it to its own nature, but of making them inconsumable like itself.
Scaliger supposes, that instead of πας πυρι, πασα πυρια, every sacrifice (of flour) should be read, “Every sacrifice (of flour) shall be salted, and every burnt offering shall be salted.” This, I fear, is taking the text by storm. Some take the whole in a good sense, as referring to the influence of the Spirit of God in the hearts of believers, which shall answer the same end to the soul, in preserving it from the contagion that is in the world, as salt did in the sacrifices offered to God to preserve them from putrefaction. Old Trapp’s note on the place pleases me as much as any I have seen: – “The Spirit, as salt, must dry up those bad humours in us which breed the never-dying worm; and, as fire, must waste our corruptions, which else will carry us on to the unquenchable fire.” Perhaps the whole is an allusion to the purification of vessels, and especially such metallic vessels as were employed in the service of the sanctuary. Probably the following may be considered as a parallel text: – Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shalt make go through the fire, and it shall be clean; and all that abideth not the fire, ye shall make go through the water, Num_31:23. Ye, disciples, are the Lord’s sacrifice; ye shall go through much tribulation, in order to enter into my kingdom: but ye are salted, ye are influenced by the Spirit of God, and are immortal till your work is done; and should ye be offered up, martyred, this shall be a means of establishing more fully the glad tidings of the kingdom: and this Spirit shall preserve all who believe on me from the corruption of sin, and from eternal perdition. That converts to God are represented as his offering, see Isa_66:20, the very place which our Lord appears to have here in view.
If this passage be taken according to the common meaning, it is awful indeed! Here may be seen the greatness, multiplicity, and eternity, of the pains of the damned. They suffer without being able to die; they are burned without being consumed; they are sacrificed without being sanctified – are salted with the fire of hell, as eternal victims of the Divine Justice. We must of necessity be sacrificed to God, after one way or other, in eternity; and we have now the choice either of the unquenchable fire of his justice, or of the everlasting flame of his love. Quesnel.
Albert Barnes Mar 9:49
Every one shall be salted with fire – Perhaps no passage in the New Testament has given more perplexity to commentators than this, and it may be impossible now to fix its precise meaning. The common idea affixed to it has been, that as salt preserves from putrefaction, so fire, applied to the wicked in hell, will have the property of preserving them in existence, or they will “be” preserved amid the sprinkling of fire, to be continually in their sufferings a sacrifice to the justice of God; but this meaning is not quite satisfactory. Another opinion has been, that as salt was sprinkled on the victim preparatory to its being devoted to God (see Lev_2:13), so would “the apostles,” by trials, calamities, etc., represented here by “fire,” be prepared as a sacrifice and offering to God. Probably the passage has no reference at all to future punishment; and the difficulty of interpreting it has arisen from supposing it to be connected with the 48th verse, or given as a “reason” for what is said in “that” verse, rather than considering it as designed to illustrate the “general design” of the passage. The main scope of the passage was not to discourse of future punishment; that is brought in incidentally. The chief object of the passage was –
1. To teach the apostles that “other men,” not “with them,” might be true Christians, Mar_9:38-39.
2. That they ought to be disposed to look favorably upon the slightest evidence that they “might be true believers,” Mar_9:41.
3. That they ought to avoid giving “offence” to such feeble and obscure Christians, Mar_9:42.
4. That “everything” calculated to give offence, or to dishonor religion, should be removed, Mar_9:43. And,
5. That everything which would endanger their salvation should be sacrificed; that they should “deny” themselves in every way in order to obtain eternal life. In this way they would be “preserved” to eternal life.
The word “fire,” here, therefore denotes self-denials, sacrifices, trials, in keeping ourselves from the gratification of the flesh. As if he had said, “Look at the sacrifice on the altar. It is an offering to God, about to be presented to him. It is sprinkled with “salt, emblematic of purity, of preservation and of fitting it, therefore, for a sacrifice.” So “you” are devoted to God. You are sacrifices, victims, offerings to him in his service. To make you “acceptable” offerings, every thing must be done to “preserve” you from sin and to “purify” you. Self-denials, subduing the lusts, enduring trials, removing offences, are the proper “preservatives” in the service of God. Doing this, you will be acceptable offerings and be saved; without this, you will be “unfit” for his eternal service and will be lost.”
Have salt in yourselves– This word may be taken in a different sense from what it had in the former verse, as meaning that seasoning of good odor, which is obtained by faith, or rather the wisdom of the Spirit. When Paul enjoins, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt,” (Col_4:6,) he means, that we ought to be holy, and purified from all profane follies and corruptions, and filled with spiritual grace, which edifies all who hear it, and diffuses over them its sweet odor. If this exposition is adopted, it may be necessary to understand the latter clause as referring to the mutual peace, which is promoted by that salt. Yet, as it is more probable, that this last sentence depends on the former discourse, I think that Christ is exhorting his own people to maintain the rigor of faith, which may serve also to purify others. “You must do your endeavor, not only to be salted within, but likewise to salt others.” But as salt bites by its sharpness, he immediately admonishes them to regulate the seasoning in such a manner, that peace may be preserved entire with one another
If the salt have lost his saltness – See on Mat_5:13 (note).
Have salt in yourselves – See that ye have at all times the preserving principle of Divine grace in your hearts, and give that proof of it which will satisfy your own minds, and convince or silence the world: live in brotherly kindness and peace with each other: thus shall all men see that you are free from ambition, (see Mar_9:34), and that you are my disciples indeed. That it is possible for the salt to lose its savor, and yet retain its appearance in the most perfect manner, see proved on the note on Mat_5:13 (note).
Mar 9:50 Such salt is good indeed; highly beneficial to the world, in respect of which I have termed you the salt of the earth. But if the salt which should season others, have lost its own saltness, wherewith will ye season it? – Beware of this; see that ye retain your savour; and as a proof of it, have peace one with another. More largely this obscure text might be paraphrased thus: – As every burnt offering was salted with salt, in order to its being cast into the fire of the altar, so every one who will not part with his hand or eye, shall fall a sacrifice to Divine justice, and be cast into hell fire, which will not consume, but preserve him from a cessation of being. And on the other hand, every one, who, denying himself and taking up his cross, offers up himself as a living sacrifice to God, shall be seasoned with grace, which like salt will make him savoury, and preserve him from destruction for ever. As salt is good for preserving meats, and making them savoury, so it is good that ye be seasoned with grace, for the purifying your hearts and lives, and for spreading the savour of my knowledge, both in your own souls, and wherever ye go. But as salt if it loses its saltness is fit for nothing, so ye, if ye lose your faith and love, are fit for nothing but to be utterly destroyed. See therefore that grace abide in you, and that ye no more contend, Who shall be greatest. Mat_5:13; Luk_14:34.
Lost its saltness … – See the notes at Mat_5:13.
Have salt in yourselves – Have the preserving, purifying principle always; the principles of denying yourselves, of suppressing pride, ambition, contention, etc., and thus you will be an acceptable offering to God.
Have peace – Avoid contention and quarrelling, struggling for places, honors, and office, and seek each other’s welfare, and religion will be honored and preserved in the world.