Mark 9 Commentary

vv.2-13 “Mark wants his first readers to see that the suffering of Jesus is not incompatible with his glory. Moses and Elijah may have escaped death according to Jewish tradition; the Messiah will not. Jesus offers no explanation why the Son of Man must suffer except that it is written and that it is necessary. We may surmise that God purposed the Son of Man to suffer and raise him up in glory so that humans could see more clearly God’s love, God’s strength, and the example of perfect obedience to God.

“To convey Mark’s message faithfully one must present the glory and suffering of Jesus in stereo and not overemphasize one at the expense of the other. The two go hand in hand. The suffering of the Messiah will be far greater than imagined, but so will his glory. The text invites the interpreter to reflect on how weakness and humiliation go with power and glory. […] It also should make us ponder how we may fail to listen to Jesus and how our received traditions from our teachers cause us to be confused about how God works in our world.”[1]

v.4 “Moses and Elijah met with him. Now Moses was the supreme law-giver of Israel. To him the nation owed the laws of God. Elijah was the first and the greatest of the prophets. Always men looked back to him as the prophet who brought to men the very voice of God. When these two great figures met with Jesus it meant that the greatest of the law-givers and the greatest of the prophets said to him, ‘?Go on!?’ It meant that they saw in Jesus the consummation of all that they had dreamed of in the past. It meant that they saw in him all that history had longed for and hoped for and looked forward to. It is as if at that moment Jesus was assured that he was on the right way because all history had been leading up to the Cross.”[2]

v.7 “In Jewish thought the presence of God is regularly connected with the cloud. It was in the cloud that Moses met God. It was in the cloud that God came to the Tabernacle. It was the cloud which filled the Temple when it was dedicated after Solomon had built it. And it was the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the cloud of God’s presence would return to the Temple. (Exodus 16:10, 19:9, 33:9, 1 Kings 8:10, […]) The descent of the cloud is a way of saying that the Messiah had come, and any Jew would understand it like that.”[3]

v.10 “The disciples obeyed Jesus’ injunction. But they were puzzled by his statement about the resurrection of the Son of Man. As Jews they were familiar with the idea of a general resurrection of the dead. But this special resurrection of the Son of Man baffled them, as their discussion of it showed.” [4]

vv.11-13 “The disciples appeal to the authority of scribal opinion (based on Mal. 4:5-6) that Elijah was to appear first, before the great and terrible Day of the Lord that they hope will launch an earthly kingdom of messianic splendor. They are confused how the Son of Man’s rising from the dead fits into this timetable. If Elijah comes before the Day of the Lord, when the Messiah is to be made manifest, how can the Messiah be dead and need to be resurrected? Their bewilderment reveals that Jesus must continue to drill into their heads that God’s plan entails that the Son of Man must suffer and die.

“It may appear that Jesus agrees with the scribal doctrine about Elijah’s coming (9:12), but he gives it a twist by announcing that Elijah has already come. Clearly, he has John the Baptizer in mind, whom Mark has described as coming in the garb of Elijah (1:6). Matthew 17:13 makes the connection explicit, but Mark leaves it ambiguous, allowing readers to reason things out for themselves. Jesus’ statement means that, contrary to received opinion, Elijah’s return does not herald the approach of messianic happy days. If Elijah has indeed come, the disciples must rethink that it means for him to ‘restore all things.’ They can no longer think in terms of eschatological triumphalism.”[5]

vv.28-29 “Why were the nine disciples powerless to act in behalf of this boy (v. 28)? Here Mark gives us the answer. In private the disciples went to Jesus and asked him why they had failed. The question expressed their deep concern. They had been given authority over evil spirits (6:7) and had successfully cast out many demons before this incident (6:13). Why their failure now? Jesus answered, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer’ (9:29). Apparently they had taken for granted the power given them or had come to believe that it was inherent in themselves. So they no longer depended prayerfully on God for it, and their failure showed their lack of prayer.”[6]

“Lane comments, ‘The disciples had been tempted to believe that the gift they had received from Jesus (6:7) was in their control and could be exercised at their disposal.’ This attitude springs from a subtle form of unbelief. When one has success, it encourages trust in oneself and one’s techniques rather than in God.”[7]

v.29 “The prayer that Jesus has in mind is ‘not merely a pious exercise,’ rather it is ‘the sense of complete dependence on God from which sincere prayer springs.’  A life of prayer goes hand in hand with effective ministry.  It makes one receptive to the action of God.  One cannot get ready for the moment by quickly uttering a special prayer; one has to be ready through a prayerful life when the moment comes.  One cannot separate professional ministry to others from one’s own spiritual condition.  ‘Ministry is not an eight-to-five job but primarily a way of life.’ That way of life must be permeated with prayerfulness.”[8]

v.49 “This is admittedly one of the most difficult verses in Mark. Over a dozen different interpretations are found in the commentaries. Of these, two commend themselves; and both take their clue from the insertion by a copyist (see Mark 9 Notes) of the words ‘and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.’ This is a reference to Leviticus 2:13: ‘Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.’

“One interpretation sees in the sacrificial salt a symbol of the covenant relationship the children of Israel had with God. For every disciple of Jesus, the salt of the covenant is the Divine Fire (cf. Matt 3:11), ‘which purifies, preserves and consummates sacrifice—the alternative to the Fire that consumes’ (Swete, p. 213). The fire is the Holy Spirit.

“Another interpretation sees in the fire the trials and persecutions of the disciples of Jesus. The previous verses relate to the dedication of the various members of the body (hand, foot, eye) to God. These must be sacrificed, if need be, to enter into the kingdom of God. Here in v. 49 the total self is in mind. Every true disciple is to be a total sacrifice to God (cf. Rom 12:1); and as salt always accompanied the temple sacrifices, so fire—i.e., persecution, trials, and suffering—will accompany the true disciple’s sacrifices (cf. 1 Peter 1:7; 4:12).”[9]

v.50 “In this verse salt must be understood in a domestic setting and not in a religious or ritual one as in v. 49. Salt played an important role in the ancient world. The rabbis considered it necessary to life. ‘The world cannot survive without salt’ […] It was also used as a preservative to keep food from spoiling. But salt could lose its saltiness. Jesus is warning his disciples not to lose that characteristic in them that brings life to the world and prevents its decay. But what is that characteristic that, if lost, will make the disciples of Jesus worthless? It is the disciples’ spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice (cf. v. 49) to Jesus Christ and his gospel. It will only be possible for disciples to be at peace with one another where that kind of devotion instead of self-interest prevails (cf. v. 34).”[10]

“So then in this saying Jesus was challenging the Christian. ‘The world,’ he said, ‘needs the flavour and the purity that only the Christian can bring. And if the Christian himself has lost the thrill and the purity of the Christian life, where will the world ever get these things?” Unless the Christian, in the power of Christ, defeats world-weariness and world corruption, these things must flourish unchecked.”[11]


[1] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 349-350.

[2]William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark CD version, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975).

[3]William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark CD version, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975).

[4] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).

[5] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 347.

[6] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).

[7] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 359.

[8] David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 361-362.

[9] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).

[10] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).

[11] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark CD version, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975).

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2 Responses to “Mark 9 Commentary”

  1. Tony Kim says:

    Just wanted to thank the editors of this page for the commentaries. They’ve been a great help.

    Tony Kim
    Gracepoint Berkeley

  2. Rachel says:

    I agree with the commenter above. Here I am, nearly 5 years after these have been posted and I come to them almost daily after I’ve read a chapter on my own. These notes are SO HELPFUL with my attempt to understand the Word and grow. Thank you!!!

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