Mark 9:38-50 and Waldenström's Commentary

by Paul Peter Waldenström and translated by Tommy Carlson

Verse 38 — John1 said to him: Teacher, we saw someone, who in your name,2 drove out evil spirits who does not follow us3 and we prevented4 him, since he did not follow us.5

  1. This story is also told in Luke 9:49-50.
  2. That is to say, by saying your name and by using the power in it to command the evil spirits to go out. The man was not a deceiver, but one who really believed in the power of Jesus' name even if it was only as a good incantation.
  3. Because the man did not follow with the disciples, they reasoned that when he used it, it was a misuse of Jesus' name.
  4. That is to say, we forbade him — same word as in chapter 10:14. The Greek base word in the original text indicates that they did it several times, The man obviously did not heed their request.
  5. That John just now brings forward this matter, can be explained in several ways. One explanation is that John, when the Lord spoke about humility (v35), had a bad conscience about it because he and the others had not approached the man with real humility. Another explanation is: when the Lord said that he who in his name receives a child also receives himself (v37), then John was reminded that he and the others had pushed back a man who was doing miracles in Jesus' name. And, he thought, perhaps we should look on him as one who has accepted Jesus, even though he does not follow us. This later explanation is more likely than the first. It is conceivable that John, with this little story, wanted simply to change the subject.

Verse 39 — But Jesus said: Do not prevent him; for there is no one who has power in my name that shall soon abuse1 me. (I Cor. 12:3)

  1. Same word as in Matt. 15:4, Mark 7:10. It means actually to speak viciously TO someone and even to speak viciously ABOUT someone or something (Acts 19:9). The faith that the man had in Jesus' name was a security that he would not soon bring himself to abuse or speak evil about that person whose name he used in this manner and with such success. Jesus' answer suggests that the disciples were afraid that this man could, through his work, cause Jesus' name harm.

Verse 40 — For he who is not against us, is for us.1

  1. 1. The man was looked upon as one of Jesus' supporters. Even if he did not directly follow the circle of the disciples, he was FOR Jesus. His activity was only to make Jesus' name known and honored. Completely different was the situation with the pharisees about whom the Lord says in Matt. 12:30: "He who is not with me is against me." They were in their hearts enemies of Jesus' name and spoke ill about it. This man, however, did, by the work itself, promote a common cause with Jesus.

Verse 41 — For whoever has given you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ,1 in truth I say to you: He shall not lose his reward.2

  1. Note the emphasis the Lord places on a person' s motives. When two people do the same deed, it is not always the same. The appearance of the deed may be the same, but the motives are different. In the motive is where the essence of the deed lies. (This is the same position Peter Abailard took. Abailard stated that ethics is a matter of intention.— Eds.)
  2. See Matt 10:42 where these words occur in a different context. Such words as these the Lord has probably spoken on several occasions. In this place the context is the following: They who are not against us are for us, including the person who brings you a cup of water because you belong to me, that person must be regarded as our supporter; how much more then, the one who drives out evil spirits in my name.

Verse 42 — And1 whosoever has been an offence to just one of these little2 ones who believe, for him it is better that a millstone lies around his neck and he is thrown3 in the sea.

  1. For verses 42-50 see Matt. 18:6-9. Compare Luke 17:1, 2. Here the Lord returns to speak about the small children.
  2. When the Lord says "these little ones," he points to one of the little children who had snuck forward among them (v36) and still remained there. Other Bible interpreters say that the Lord still means the aforementioned man and presents him as a frail beginner, a child in the faith, whom they should not offend. In the context in Matthew it appears also that he means the small children.
  3. The Lord says: "lies" and "is thrown" and thereby describes that thing as if he had such an example before his very eyes.

Verse 43 — And if your hand has caused you to offend,1 cut it off. It is better that you come into life incomplete than that you, having both hands, go away to hell, to the unquenchable fire.2 (Luke 16:24)

  1. From that circumstance, that one person can be of offence to another, the Lord goes further by saying that something that a person has can be offensive to the self. Transition from one to the other is established by Mark's surrender of person and of Matthew's expressive words: "Woe to the world for the offenders, for it is necessary that the offenders come," etc, (Matt. 18:7).
  2. To this verse and verses 45 and 47, see Matt. 5:29, 30. After verse 43 in our regular Bibles, verse 44 is missing in the oldest and best documents. The same is true of verse 46. Both of these verses are a later verbatim reiteration of verse 48.

Verse 45 — And if your foot causes you to offend, so cut it off. It is better that you come into life limping than, having both feet, you are thrown into hell.

Verse 47 — And if your eye causes you to offend, throw it out. It is better that you come into God's kingdom1 one-eyed than, having two eyes you are thrown into hell.

  1. Note how in verses 43 and 45 it is said go into life and here it is said go into God's kingdom. With life is meant the eternal life in the coming Messianic kingdom. See Mark 10:30.

Verse 48 — where their1 worms do not die and the fire never burns out.2

  1. That is to say the worms of those who come to hell.
  2. Compare Isaiah 66:24. That the Lord's word must be comprehended graphically is clear among other things because no real worm can survive in a real fire. The Lord wants through the picture to express the horrible pain that awaits the unbelievers.

Verse 49 — For each and every one shall with fire be seasoned.1

  1. This verse is very difficult to understand and is explained by Bible interpreters in different ways. Some understand the words to be closely tied to verse 48. That means the fire is the same fire that is mentioned in v48, namely the fire of hell (see v43); and with "each and everyone" means each and everyone who goes to hell. Others, however, believe that the Lord's word SEASONED has, one way or another, a different meaning. If the fire is the sufferers' cleansing fire, then the seasoning is like the salt making food pleasing for peoples' enjoyment and so are the believers, through the cleansing fire pleasing to God. Is the fire, on the other hand, a fire of damnation? Then the seasoning represents the irretrievable judgement of the condemned. This illustration is borrowed from the Old Testament. That covenant-salt used often at offerings expressed the immortality, the irretrievable covenant God had with Israel both regarding the promises and the judgements that they contained. Compare Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:24; Numbers 18:19; II Chronicles 13:5. As can be seen, these two understandings are directly opposite each other. For both give reasons and both contain important truths. The first named is the one that the context most closely presents. When, in our regular Bibles, the addition: "and each and every offer shall be seasoned with salt" occurs, the oldest and best documents are missing and this shall therefore be regarded as false. Compare Leviticus 2:13.

Verse 50 — Good1 is the salt,2 but if the salt has lost its salinity, with what shall you restore it?3 Have the salt4 in yourselves5 and peace among you.6

  1. Verbatim: beautiful. The Greek word "beautiful" is used often to express that which is good, useful, excellent, etc., just as we would say about something: "It was lovely"; for example, it was a lovely (beautiful) swim. Compare Matt. 13:8, 23; 17:4, and others. How the word is used to express the moral/ethical good see comments to Matt. 26:10.
  2. Here the word is understood in its natural meaning
  3. So that it regains its saltiness. There is nothing with which to salt it.
  4. Here now follows the application of the metaphorical talk. The words could either be understood to mean that the disciples should be thM salt of the world or that they should preserve that steadfastness that prevented them from degenerating into spiritual flabbiness and apathy. When in this case it is not a question about the disciples' relationship to the world, it appears that the latter understanding is more probable and it is so much more probable since the Lord just before has warned them against being offensive and being seduced to unbelief and defection.
  5. In your own conscience.
  6. This is said with regard to the fight about rank that began this whole talk to them (v34). Compare Gal. 5:26. "Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another."