<i>The True Nature of Discipleship</i> - Mark 9:33-50

Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Mark 9:33-50

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The True Nature of Discipleship - Mark 9:33-50

Just as in 8:34-9:1 Jesus followed his prediction of his own death with a description of what it means to be a follower of the suffering Messiah.

The greatest - Mark 9:34

While Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die, the disciples argued about who was the greatest. The dramatic contrast must have troubled Jesus deeply. Just as the disciples misunderstood what kind of a messiah Jesus was, they misunderstood what a follower of Jesus was to be. They imagined a powerful messiah with powerful followers. They still had to learn the lessons of a suffering messiah with suffering followers. The disciples' silence shows that even they understood how wrong they were.

God judges greatness differently - Mark 9:35

The path to greatness is the life of a servant, not a ruler. God judges greatness differently than human beings do. Jesus walked the path of a servant (10:45) and if his disciples wanted to follow him, they had to learn to walk that path too.

A little child - Mark 9:36

The path to greatness is the life of a servant, not a ruler. God judges greatness differently than human beings do. Jesus walked the path of a servant (10:45) and if his disciples wanted to follow him, they had to learn to walk that path too.

A threat to the egos of the disciples - Mark 9:38

The disciples had stopped an unnamed exorcist from casting out demons because he was not one of their small group following Jesus. Probably this man's success in conquering evil spirits in Jesus' name was a threat to the egos of the disciples who had recently failed in their efforts to do the same (9:17, 18).

Proud sense of importance - Mark 9:39-40

Jesus condemned them for denying that God could work through others. The disciples' narrowness and proud sense of importance were the opposite of the humility that is a part of true greatness.

Humility and godly intentions - Mark 9:41

Jesus added that his true followers were not measured by how amazing their works were. Even the giving of a cup of water contributed to the work of the kingdom. Again, humility and godly intentions were the measure of greatness.

Millstone - Mark 9:42

When Jesus spoke of these little ones he was referring to both the little child of verse 36 and the unnamed exorcist of verse 38. The disciples must not cause either one of them to stumble. To cause someone to stumble is to cause them spiritual harm. The phrase translated millstone could also be literally translated millstone of an ass, since it was typically worked by donkey-power. This was a large millstone (maybe as large as 4-5 feet in diameter) rather than a smaller (12-15 inch) hand-held stone.

Strong warnings - Mark 9:43-48

Jesus continued his strong warnings as he made clear to his followers that the demands of discipleship were great. Jesus told them to cut off an arm or a leg or tear out an eye if it was a cause of sin. These were all exaggerations Jesus made to communicate how serious dealing with sin had to be. The literal cutting off of a hand could never save from the danger of hell because sin comes from the heart not from the hand (7:20-23). See WLC 29, 83.

Fiery torment - Mark 9:47-48

Jesus quoted Isa. 66:24 to stress the eternal fiery torment of hell. The description was derived from the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem where the city's trash was burned.

Salted with fire - Mark 9:49

Jesus continued to refer to fire, but he began to talk about not only those condemned to hell, but also his own people. He said, everyone will be salted with fire. Old Testament sacrifices were salted (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24). Jesus warned them that his sacrificing disciples would be tried with fire. This was not a surprise to Christians in Rome for whom this Gospel was written.

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