[Mark 9] Does the Apostle John Yet Live Among Us? In chapter 9 of Mark, Jesus makes some very enigmatic statements about some that would live to see the kingdom come in power. Does this have meaning for us personally? At that time, some of the disciples apparently took it to mean they would never die. Is this true? What are the implications of these statements for us?
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[Mar 9:1-50 KJV] 1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. 2 And after six days Jesus taketh [with him] Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. 3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. 4 And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 6 For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. 7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. 10 And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean. 11 And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? 12 And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought. 13 But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him. 14 And when he came to [his] disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. 15 And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to [him] saluted him. 16 And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them? 17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; 18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. 19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. 20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. 21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. 22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, [Thou] dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. 26 And [the spirit] cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
Verse 1 opens with an enigmatic statement by Jesus that there were some with Him that would not taste of death till they saw the kingdom come in power. This, along with other remarks made by Jesus to Peter regarding John, that the apostle John would not see death but live forever. In John 21, Peter was questioning Jesus regarding what John’s role would be in the kingdom, and Jesus answered as follows:
[Jhn 21:22-23 KJV] 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what [is that] to thee? follow thou me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what [is that] to thee?
What is interesting is that history tells us that John is the lone disciple who did not die a martyr’s death, even after being boiled in oil and banishment to Patmos where he is regarded to have written the book of Revelation. To have heard this declaration by Jesus, if the original language statement was as unambiguous as the translation that comes down to us, could have only led the disciples to believe either than the kingdom would be consummated in their lifetime, or that there would be those among them that would never die. Regardless, for us the statement is an indicator to us that the inner life and understanding of Jesus was coming from a much greater depth than we can divine, other than in these deeply enigmatic statements, that rather than being offered in an exclusive and aloof manner are often given as utterly inclusive of those present and us as well even though they obviously point to things well beyond our understanding.
What follows after is the account, as in Matthew of the transfiguration of Christ. Jesus take Peter, James and John and takes them to a remote place and in their presence is transfigured, that is He began to radiate from His body a brilliance and a light shining out of Him, of the which we can only speculate what this must have been like. The only other example we have is that of Moses, who spending time in God’s presence would experience his face shining with supernatural light, so much so, he would cover his face to hide the fact when he would stand before the people.
What does the transfiguration mean? Is it just something unique to Christ, or what Jesus giving us a portent of things to come? In v. 5 Peter, seeking to understand what is happening makes reference to the feast of tabernacles. It is true, he didn’t know what he was saying but the general idea, perhaps based on teachings Jesus gave them that are not recorded for us, gives us a suggestion that there is a connection for us between this event and the ultimate fulfillment of the feast of tabernacles. In Passover we see the foreshadowing of the New Birth experience, affecting our human spirit and making us new creations in Christ. In Pentecost we see the baptism of the Holy Ghost, acting upon our soul (mind, will, emotions) and imparting to us the gift of speaking in other tongues. In tabernacles we see the body, putting on its glorious body and experiencing in our physicality what our spirits received in New Birth and what our souls received in the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In other words, we do not yet have everything God has for us this side of eternity, but Jesus is making manifest in this moment a foreshadowing of what that would look like.
After the experience is over, Jesus apparently looks the same as before and he returns with Peter, James and John to find the remaining disciples having a conversation based on what He said earlier about some that would not see death. The disciples are questioning what the meaning of rising from the dead was, perhaps they believed it was figurative language, or perhaps was it literal, etc. They are as well still stuck on the subject of reincarnation, asking Him about Elias that was for to come. Jesus doesn’t give a full explanation, but does confirm that Elias was to come as they Jews had universally believed, but that this had been fulfilled in John. Does this mean that the bible preaches reincarnation? No, because Luke 1:17 explains more fully that John came in the “spirit and power” of Elijah and not in the person of Elijah as many believed.
Jesus then find the disciples struggling to unsuccessfully cast out a demon, and because of their failure many scribes and Pharisees are gathered and entering into an argument with them. Imagine the sight of Jesus coming down from the mount of transfiguration and finding the disciples in a religious argument, with a distraught father, trying to contain a shrieking, demon possessed child, and they all run to Jesus to settle their disputes and Jesus exclaims with apparent exasperation “O faithless generation, how long must I be with you…” and then promptly casts the demon out. Again we see that were miracles were concerned, Jesus is consistently frustrated and amazed that His followers do not understand and have not picked up on what He apparently considered a very accessible reality that they too were able to act on and bring about miracles because He had given them power to do so. In the aptmosphere of unbelief and religious rancor, Jesus declares to the father in v. 23 “if you can believe all things are possible” to which the father eloquently responds “Lord, I believe – help my unbelief…”
This is an admonition for all of us. Behold the blanket faith statement of Jesus: “if you can believe all things are possible…” Notice there are no caveats. Today we say, yes miracles are possible, but sometimes God chooses not to allow miracles. In other words, we add to Jesus’ words our “if’s, ands or buts”. Jesus does nothing of the sort. All things ARE possible and the only qualifier is NOT whether or not it is God’s will but whether or not we choose to believe, to exercise faith that is inherent as the gift of God in every man that is born into the world. This implies that it is always God’s will to heal, and that if miracles and healings are not forthcoming, the reason for it originates elsewhere than in some alleged convoluted purpose originating in the ineffable sovereignty of God. Miracles fail to happen from a gospel standpoint because of reasons originating with us and not with God.
28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. 30 And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know [it]. 31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. 33 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who [should be] the greatest. 35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, [the same] shall be last of all, and servant of all. 36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, 37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. 38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our part. 41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. 42 And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. 50 Salt [is] good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.
In verse 28 the disciples ask Jesus privately why they could not cast out the demon. Jesus would no doubt have answered them publically but they are apparently ashamed of their failure and the clamour and religious argument that had ensued that Jesus came upon after returning from the mount of transfiguration. In answering them, Jesus makes a statement we should consider:
“This kind comes out but by prayer and fasting…”
Does this suggest that there are some kinds of demons that are cast out more easily, that doesn’t require fasting and prayer? Had not Jesus already inferred that fasting was not necessary for His disciples, because he was with them as the bridegroom of God? He was however, separated from them while away with Peter, James and John. Nonetheless, He had sent them out previously to perform miracles and healings when He wasn’t directly in their presence so what are we to conclude from this verse? What are prayer and fasting all about? Do they move God, or do they change us? Does our fasting and prayer intimidate stubborn demons? What is Jesus meaning by this statement about fasting and prayer? We can most safely conclude that fasting and prayer does not change God’s mind but fasting and prayer is involved and necessary to spiritual warfare. There are demonic powers that remain unmoved and unfazed by our words of command unless they originate in hearts and lives that are found praying always and fasting at often times. Selah.
In v. 33, after leaving secretly to travel throughout Galilee, Jesus find the disciples having an argument out of His hearing about who would be greatest among them. He asks them like naughty school children what they were disputing about and they are ashamed to tell Him. Taking it as a teaching moment, Jesus sits down and calls a child to them from the crowd of hangers on that apparently were walking along with Jesus and the 12. In v. 37 he emphasizes that the role of the greatest among them is that of a servant, and that the example for them to follow is that of a little child, who receives without disputation but simply accepts who Jesus is and openly receives all that that implies for them personally. We must be servant minded. We must be as little children in our faith – and stop thinking so much!
John changes the subject in v. 38 and wants to tattle on a group of people who were casting out devils in Jesus name, but were not following them in their travels. John had rebuked these people but Jesus commands them to be left along, for none can do a miracle in His name that can lightly then speak evil of Him. The disciples were constantly concerned about what other people were doing, and even among themselves were putting each other under scrutiny, to take attention off themselves. Jesus simply says in v. 40 that the person that was not openly against Him was actually to be considered as an ally and not an enemy. This is an astounding statement. Denominations and differing groups about in Christianity and they all tolerate one another with vieled contempt, but Jesus is saying we shouldn’t be preoccupied with what others do in His name but to keep our attention on our own posture before God.
In verse 40-48 Jesus deals with the subject of offenses. He warns that to offend, or scandalize immature believers is to garner judgment upon one’s self. What does this tell us? It tells us we are to walk circumspectly. There are things about God and living for God that immature believers will never understand till they grow up. We are to realize this and to conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with realizing at what times our lives are under scrutiny and to act accordingly. Paul made a statement along these lines in Rom. 14 regarding the fact that some would eat meat possibly offered to idols and not be offended, but some were utterly scandalized. Paul says to learn to keep some things such as this in your private life, bearing in mind the impact it might have on younger believers:
[Rom 14:19-22 KJV] 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed [are] pure; but [it is] evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 [It is] good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor [any thing] whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have [it] to thyself before God. Happy [is] he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
This can apply to a multitude of things in our lives that we must use wisdom regarding, considering the immaturity of some, and watching for our own souls, lest we ourselves become a castaway.
Jesus goes on to speak of plucking out of our eyes or cutting off a limb if we find that having an eye or a limb is offensive to our walk with God. Is this literal? Over the centuries, many have thought it to be so. The point however that Jesus is making is reflected in v. 49 that as living sacrifices we will be salted with salt. What does this mean? If you put salt in an open wound, it stings and is very painful. If we are going to live for God we cannot do so as hedonists, and epicureans, connoisseurs of all those things that titillate and satisfy the flesh. Living for God is more than about just doing what we will satisfying the lust of the body or of the eye. There are aspects of necessary and self-imposed disciple that can at times be painful, yet endured willingly (v. 50) for the purpose of maintaining peace one with another. I cannot think of a more practical and helpful instruction by Jesus in all of the gospels than these final remarks in our chapter.