In this chapter, we have,
I. Christ's transfiguration upon the mount,
II. His casting the devil out of a child, when the disciples could not
III. His prediction of his own sufferings and death,
IV. The check he gave to his disciples for disputing who should be
and to John for rebuking one who cast out devils in Christ's name, and
did not follow with them,
V. Christ's discourse with his disciples of the danger of offending one
of his little ones
and of indulging that in ourselves, which is an offence and an occasion
of sin to us
most of which passages we had before,
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 a 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.
I. A prediction of Christ's kingdom now near approaching,
That which is foretold, is,
1. That the kingdom of God would come, and would come so
as to be seen: the kingdom of the Messiah shall be set up in the
world by the utter destruction of the Jewish polity, which stood in the
way of it; this was the restoring of the kingdom of God among men,
which had been in a manner lost by the woeful degeneracy both of Jews
2. That it would come with power, so as to make its own way, and
bear down the opposition that was given to it. It came with
power, when vengeance was taken on the Jews for crucifying Christ,
and when it conquered the idolatry of the Gentile world.
3. That it would come while some now present were alive; There
are some standing here, that shall not taste of death, till they
see it; this speaks the same with
This generation shall not pass, till all these things be
fulfilled. Those that were standing here with Christ, should see
it, when the others could not discern it to be the kingdom of God, for
it came not with observation.
II. A specimen of that kingdom in the transfiguration of Christ, six
days after Christ spoke that prediction. He had begun to give
notice to his disciples of his death and sufferings; and, to prevent
their offence at that, he gives them this glimpse of his glory, to show
that his sufferings were voluntary, and what a virtue the dignity and
glory of his person would put into them, and to prevent the offence
of the cross.
1. It was on the top of a high mountain, like the converse Moses
had with God, which was on the top of mount Sinai, and his prospect of
Canaan from the top of mount Pisgah. Tradition saith, It was on the top
of the mount Tabor that Christ was transfigured; and if so, the
scripture was fulfilled, Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy
Dr. Lightfoot, observing that the last place where we find Christ was
in the coasts of Cæsarea-Philippi, which was far from mount
Tabor, rather thinks it was a high mountain which Josephus speaks of,
2. The witnesses of it were Peter, James, and John; these were the
three that were to bear record on earth, answering to
Moses, Elias, and the voice from heaven, the three that were to
bear record from above. Christ did not take all the disciples with him,
because the thing was to be kept very private. As there are
distinguishing favours which are given to disciples and not to the
world, so there are to some disciples and not to others. All the saints
are a people near to Christ, but some lie in his bosom. James
was the first of all the twelve that died for Christ, and John survived
them all, to be the last eyewitness of this glory; he bore record
We saw his glory: and so did Peter,
2 Peter 1:16-18.
3. The manner of it; He was transfigured before them; he
appeared in another manner than he used to do. This was a change of the
accidents, the substance remaining the same, and it was a miracle. But
transubstantiation, the change of the substance, all the accidents
remaining the same, is not a miracle, but a fraud and imposture, such a
work as Christ never wrought. See what a great change human bodies are
capable of, when God is pleased to put an honour upon them, as he will
upon the bodies of the saints, at the resurrection. He was transfigured
before them; the change, it is probable, was gradual,
from glory to glory, so that the disciples, who had their eye upon him
all the while, had the clearest and most certain evidence they could
have, that this glorious appearance was no other than the blessed Jesus
himself, and there was no illusion in it. John seems to refer to this
(1 John 1:1),
when he speaks of the word of life, as that which they had
seen with their eyes, and looked upon. His raiment became
shining; so that, though probably, it was sad-coloured, if not
black, yet it was now exceeding white as snow, beyond what the
fuller's art could do toward whitening it.
4. His companions in this glory were Moses and Elias
They appeared talking with him, not to teach him, but to
testify to him, and to be taught by him; by which it
appears that there are converse and intercourse between glorified
saints, they have ways of talking one with another, which we understand
not. Moses and Elias lived at a great distance of time one from
another, but that breaks no squares in heaven, where the first shall
be last, and the last first, that is, all one in Christ.
5. The great delight that the disciples took in seeing this sight, and
hearing this discourse, is expressed by Peter, the mouth of the rest;
He said, Master, it is good for us to be here,
Though Christ was transfigured, and was in discourse with Moses and
Elias, yet he gave Peter leave to speak to him, and to be as free with
him as he used to be. Note, Our Lord Jesus, in his exaltation and
glory, doth not at all abate of his condescending kindness to his
people. Many, when they are in their greatness, oblige their friends to
keep their distance; but even to the glorified Jesus true believers
have access with boldness, and freedom of speech with him. Even in this
heavenly discourse there was room for Peter to put in a word; and this
is it, "Lord, it is good to be here, it is good for us to
be here; here let us make tabernacles; let this be our rest for
ever." Note, Gracious souls reckon it good to be in communion
with Christ, good to be near him, good to be in the mount with
him, though it be a cold and solitary place; it is good to be here
retired from the world, and alone with Christ: and if it is good to be
with Christ transfigured only upon a mountain with Moses and Elias, how
good it will be to be with Christ glorified in heaven with all the
saints! But observe, While Peter was for staying here, he forgot what
need there was of the presence of Christ, and the preaching of his
apostles, among the people. At this very time, the other disciples
wanted them greatly,
Note, When it is well with us, we are apt to be mindless of others, and
in the fulness of our enjoyments to forget the
necessities of our brethren; it was a weakness in Peter to
prefer private communion with God before public usefulness. Paul is
willing to abide in the flesh, rather than depart to the
mountain of glory (though that be far better), when he sees it needful
for the church,
Peter talked of making three distinct tabernacles for Moses, Elias, and
Christ, which was not well-contrived; for such a perfect harmony there
is between the law, the prophets, and the gospel, that one tabernacle
will hold them all; they dwell together in unity. But whatever was
incongruous in what he said, he may be excused, for they were all
sore afraid; and he, for his part, wist not what to say
not knowing what would be the end thereof.
6. The voice that came from heaven, was an attestation of Christ's
There was a cloud that overshadowed them, and was a shelter to
them. Peter had talked of making tabernacles for Christ and his
friends; but while he yet spoke, see how his project was
superseded; this cloud was unto them instead of tabernacles for their
while he spoke of his tabernacles, God created his tabernacle
not made with hands. Now out of this cloud (which was but a
shade to the excellent glory Peter speaks of, whence this
voice came) it was said, This is my beloved Son, hear him.
God owns him, and accepts him, as his beloved Son, and is ready to
accept of us in him; we must then own and accept him as our beloved
Saviour, and must give up ourselves to be ruled by him.
7. The vision, being designed only to introduce the voice, when that
was delivered, disappeared
Suddenly when they had looked round about, as men amazed to see
where they were, all was gone, they saw no man any more. Elias
and Moses were vanished out of sight, and Jesus only remained with
them, and he not transfigured, but as he used to be. Note, Christ doth
not leave the soul, when extraordinary joys and comforts leave it.
Though more sensible and ravishing communications may be withdrawn,
Christ's disciples have, and shall have, his ordinary presence with
them always, even to the end of the world, and that is it we must
depend upon. Let us thank God for daily bread and not expect a
continual feast on this side of heaven.
8. We have here the discourse between Christ and his disciples, as they
came down from the mount.
(1.) He charged them to keep this matter very private, till he was
risen from the dead, which would complete the proof of his
divine mission, and then this must be produced with the rest of the
And besides, he, being now in a state of humiliation, would have
nothing publicly taken notice of, that might be seen disagreeable to
such a state; for to that he would in every thing accommodate himself.
This enjoining of silence to the disciples, would likewise be of use to
them, to prevent their boasting of the intimacy they were admitted to,
that they might not be puffed up with the abundance of the
revelations. It is a mortification to a man, to be tied up from
telling of his advancements, and may help to hide pride from him.
(2.) The disciples were at a loss what the rising from the dead
should mean; they could not form any notion of the Messiah's dying
and therefore were willing to think that the rising he speaks
of, was figurative, his rising from his present mean and low estate to
the dignity and dominion they were in expectation of. But if so, here
is another thing that embarrasses them
Why say the Scribes, that before the appearing of the Messiah in
his glory, according to the order settled in the prophecies of the Old
Testament, Elias must first come? But Elias was gone, and Moses
too. Now that which raised this difficulty, was, the scribes taught
them to expect the person of Elias, whereas the prophecy intended one
in the spirit and power of Elias. Note, The misunderstanding of
scripture is a great prejudice to the entertainment of truth.
(3.) Christ gave them a key to the prophecy concerning Elias
"It is indeed prophesied that Elias will come, and will restore all
things, and set them to rights; and (though you will not understand
it) it is also prophesied of the Son of man, that he must
suffer many things, and be set at nought, must be a
reproach of men, and despised of the people: and though the scribes do
not tell you so, the scriptures do, and you have as much reason
to expect that as the other, and should not make so strange of
it; but as to Elias, I tell you he is come; and if you consider
a little, you will understand whom I mean, it is one to whom they have
done whatsoever they listed;" which was very applicable to the
ill usage they had given John Baptist. Many of the ancients, and the
Popish writers generally, think, that besides the coming of John
Baptist in the spirit of Elias, himself in his own person is to be
expected, with Enoch, before the second appearance of Christ, wherein
the prophecy of Malachi will have a more full accomplishment than it
had in John Baptist. But it is groundless fancy; the true Elias, as
well as the true Messiah promised, is come, and we are to look for
no other. These words as it is written of him, refer not
to their doing to him whatever they listed (that comes in a
parenthesis), but only to his coming. He is come, and hath been, and
done, according as was written of him.
The Expulsion of an Evil Spirit.
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
19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how
long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him
20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him,
straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and
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
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
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.
We have here the story of Christ casting the devil out of a child,
somewhat more fully related than it was in
&c. Observe here,
I. Christ's return to his disciples, and the perplexity he found them
in. He laid aside his robes of glory, and came to look after his
family, and to enquire what was become of them. Christ's glory above
does not make him forget the concerns of his church below, which he
visits in great humility,
And he came very seasonably, when the disciples were embarrassed and
run a-ground; the scribes, who were sworn enemies both to him and them,
had gained an advantage against them. A child possessed with a devil
was brought to them, and they could not cast out the devil, whereupon
the scribes insulted over them, and reflected upon their Master, and
triumphed as if the day were their own. He found the scribes
questioning with them, in the hearing of the multitude, some of
whom perhaps began to be shocked by it. Thus Moses, when he came down
from the mount, found the camp of Israel in great disorder; so soon
were Christ and Moses missed. Christ's return was very welcome, no
doubt, to the disciples, and unwelcome to the scribes. But
particular notice is taken of its being very surprising to the people,
who perhaps were ready to say, As for this Jesus, we wot not what is
become of him; but when they beheld him coming to them
again, they were greatly amazed (some copies add, kai
exephobethesan--and they were afraid); and running to
him (some copies for prostrechontes, read
proschairontes--congratulating him, or bidding
him welcome), they saluted him. It is easy to give a reason why they
should be glad to see him; but why where they amazed, greatly
amazed, when they beheld him? Probably, there might remain
something unusual in his countenance; as Moses's face shone when
he came down from the mount, which made the people afraid to come
So perhaps did Christ's face, in some measure; at least, instead of
seeming fatigued, there appeared a wonderful briskness and
sprightliness in his looks, which amazed them.
II. The case which perplexed the disciples, brought before him. He
asked the scribes, who, he knew, were always vexatious to his
disciples, and teazing them upon every occasion, "What
question ye with them? What is the quarrel now?" The scribes made
no answer, for they were confounded at his presence; the disciples made
none, for they were comforted, and now left all to him. But the father
of the child opened the case,
1. His child is possessed with a dumb spirit; he has the
falling-sickness, and in his fits is speechless; his case is
very sad, for, wheresoever the fit takes him, the spirit tears
him, throws him into such violent convulsions as almost pull him to
pieces; and, which is very grievous to himself, and frightful to those
about him, he foams at his mouth, and gnashes with his
teeth, as one in pain and great misery; and though the fits go off
presently, yet they leave him so weak, that he pines away, is
worn to a skeleton; his flesh is dried away; so the word
This was a constant affliction to a tender father.
2. The disciples cannot give him any relief; "I desired they would
cast him out, as they had done many, and they would willingly have
done it, but they could not; and therefore thou couldest never
have come in better time; Master, I have brought him to
III. The rebuke he gave to them all
O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall
I suffer you? Dr. Hammond understands this as spoken to the
disciples, reproving them for not exerting the power he had given them,
and because they did not fast and pray, as in some cases
he had directed them to do. But Dr. Whitby takes it as a rebuke to the
scribes, who gloried in this disappointment that the disciples met
with, and hoped to run them down with it. Them he calls a faithless
generation, and speaks as one weary of being with them, and
of bearing with them. We never heard him complaining, "How long
shall I be in this low condition, and suffer that?" But, "How long
shall I be among these faithless people, and suffer them?"
IV. The deplorable condition that the child was actually in, when he
was brought to Christ, and the doleful representation which the father
made of it. When the child saw Christ, he fell into a fit; The
spirit straightway tore him, boiled within him, troubled him (so
Dr. Hammond); as if the devil would set Christ at defiance, and hoped
to be too hard for him too, and to keep possession in spite of him. The
child fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. We may
put another construction upon it--that the devil raged, and had so much
the greater wrath, because he knew that his time was
Christ asked, How long since this came to him? And, it seems,
the disease was of long standing; it came to him of a child
which made the case the more sad, and the cure more difficult. We are
all by nature children of disobedience, and in such the evil
spirit works, and has done so from our childhood; for
foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, and nothing but
the mighty grace of Christ can cast it out.
V. The pressing instances which the father of the child makes with
Christ for a cure
Ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to
destroy him. Note, The devil aims at the ruin of those in whom he
rules and works, and seeks whom he may devour. But, if thou
canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. The leper
was confident of Christ's power, but put an if upon his will
If thou wilt, thou canst. This poor man referred himself to his
good-will, but put an if upon his power, because his disciples,
who cast out devils in his name, had been non-plussed in this
case. Thus Christ suffers in his honour by the difficulties and follies
of his disciples.
VI. The answer Christ gave to his address
If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that
1. He tacitly checks the weakness of his faith. The sufferer put it
upon Christ's power, If thou canst do any thing, and reflected
on the want of power in the disciples; but Christ turns it upon him,
and puts him upon questioning his own faith, and will have him impute
the disappointment to the want of that; If thou canst believe.
2. He graciously encourages the strength of his desire; "All things
are possible, will appear possible, to him that believes the
almighty power of God, to which all things are possible;" or "That
shall be done by the grace of God, for them that believe in the promise
of God, which seemed utterly impossible." Note, In dealing with Christ,
very much is put upon our believing, and very much promised it.
Canst thou believe? Darest thou believe? Art thou willing to
venture thy all in the hands of Christ? To venture all thy spiritual
concerns with him, and all thy temporal concerns for him? Canst thou
find in thy heart to do this? If so, it is not impossible but that,
though thou has been a great sinner, thou mayest be reconciled; though
thou art very mean and unworthy, thou mayest get to heaven. If thou
canst believe, it is possible that thy hard heart may be softened,
thy spiritual diseases may be cured; and that, weak as thou art, thou
mayest be able to hold out to the end.
VII. The profession of faith which the poor man made hereupon
He cried out, "Lord, I believe; I am fully persuaded both of thy
power and of thy pity; my cure shall not be prevented by the want of
faith; Lord, I believe." He adds a prayer for grace to enable
him more firmly to rely upon the assurances he had of the ability and
willingness of Christ to save; Help thou my unbelief. Note,
1. Even those who through grace can say, Lord, I believe, have
reason to complain of their unbelief; that they cannot so readily apply
to themselves, and their own case, the word of Christ as they should,
no so cheerfully depend upon it.
2. Those that complain of unbelief, must look up to Christ for grace to
help them against it, and his grace shall be
sufficient for them. "Help mine unbelief, help me to a pardon
for it, help me with power against it; help out what is wanting in my
faith with thy grace, the strength of which is perfected in our
VIII. The cure of the child, and the conquest of this raging devil in
the child. Christ saw the people come running together,
expecting to see the issue of this trial of skill, and therefore kept
them in suspense no longer, but rebuked the foul spirit; the
unclean spirit, so it should be rendered, as in other places.
1. What the charge was which Christ gave to this unclean spirit;
"Thou dumb and deaf spirit, that makest the poor child dumb and
deaf, but shalt thyself be made to hear thy doom, and not be
able to say any thing against it, come out of him
immediately, and enter no more into him. Let him not only be
brought out of this fit, but let his fits never return." Note, Whom
Christ cures, he cures effectually. Satan may go out himself,
and yet recover possession; but if Christ cast him out, he will
keep him out.
2. How the unclean spirit took it; he grew yet more outrageous, he
cried, and rent him sore, gave him such a twitch at
parting, that he was as one dead; so loth was he to quit his
hold, so exasperated at the superior power of Christ, so malicious to
the child, and so desirous was he to kill him. Many said, He is
dead. Thus the toss that a soul is in at the breaking of Satan's
power in it may perhaps be frightful for the present, but opens the
door to lasting comfort.
3. How the child was perfectly restored
Jesus took him by the hand, kratesas--took
fast hold of him, and strongly bore him up, and he arose and
recovered, and all was well.
IX. The reason he gave to the disciples why they could not cast out
this devil. They enquired of him privately why they could
not, that wherein they were defective might be made up another
time, and they might not again be thus publicly shamed; and he told
This kind can come forth by nothing but prayer and fasting.
Whatever other difference there really might be, none appears between
this and other kinds, but that the unclean spirit had had possession of
this poor patient from a child, and that strengthened his
interest, and confirmed his hold. When vicious habits are rooted
by long usage, and begin to plead prescription, like chronical diseases
that are hardly cured. Can the Æthiopian change his
skin? The disciples must not think to do their work always with a
like ease; some services call them to take more than ordinary pains;
but Christ can do that with a word's speaking, which they must prevail
for the doing of by prayer and fasting.
The Apostles Reproved.
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
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.
I. Christ foretels his own approaching sufferings. He passed through
Galilee with more expedition than usual, and would not that any
man should know of it
because he had done many mighty and good works among them in vain, they
shall not be invited to see them and have the benefit of them, as they
have been. The time of his sufferings drew nigh, and therefore he was
willing to be private awhile, and to converse only with his disciples,
to prepare them for the approaching trial,
He said to them, The Son of man is delivered by the determinate
council and fore-knowledge of God into the hands of men
and they shall kill him. He had been delivered into the hands of
devils, and they had worried him, it had not been so strange; but that
men, who have reason, and should have love, that
they should be thus spiteful to the Son of man, who came to
redeem and save them, is unaccountable. But still it is observable that
when Christ spoke of his death, he alway spoke of his resurrection,
which took away the reproach of it from himself, and should have taken
away the grief of it from his disciples. But they understood not
The words were plain enough, but they could not be reconciled to the
thing, and therefore would suppose them to have some mystical meaning
which they did not understand, and they were afraid to ask him;
not because he was difficult of access, or stern to those who consulted
him, but either because they were loth to know the truth, or because
they expected to be chidden for their backwardness to receive it. Many
remain ignorant because they are ashamed to enquire.
II. He rebukes his disciples for magnifying themselves. When he came to
Capernaum, he privately asked his disciples what it was they
disputed among themselves by the way,
He knew very well what the dispute was, but he would know it from
them, and would have them to confess their fault and folly in it.
1. We must all expect to be called to an account by our Lord Jesus,
concerning what passes while we are in the way in this state of passage
2. We must in a particular manner be called to an account about our
discourses among ourselves; for by our words we must be justified or
3. As our other discourses among ourselves by the way, so especially
our disputes, will be all called over again, and we shall be called to
an account about them.
4. Of all disputes, Christ will be sure to reckon with his disciples
for their disputes about precedency and superiority: that was the
subject of the debate here, who should be the greater,
Nothing could be more contrary to the two great laws of Christ's
kingdom, lessons of his school, and instructions of his example, which
are humility and love, than desiring preferment in
the world, and disputing about it. This ill temper he took all
occasions to check, both because it arose from a mistaken notion of his
kingdom, as if it were of this world, and because it tended so directly
to be debasing of the honour, and the corrupting of the purity, of his
gospel, and, he foresaw, would be so much the bane of the church.
(1.) They were willing to cover this fault
they held their peace. As they would not ask
because they were ashamed to own their ignorance, so here they would
not answer because they were ashamed to own their pride.
(2.) He was willing to amend this fault in them, and to bring
them to a better temper; and therefore sat down, that he might
have a solemn and full discourse with them about this matter; he
called the twelve to him, and told them,
[1.] That ambition and affectation of dignity and dominion, instead of
gaining them preferment in his kingdom, would but postpone their
preferment; If any man desire and aim to be first, he
shall be last; he that exalteth himself, shall be abased, and
men's pride shall bring them low.
[2.] That there is no preferment to be had under him, but an
opportunity for, and an obligation to, so much the more labour and
condescension; If any man desire to be first, when he is so, he
must be much the more busy and serviceable to every body. He that
desires the office of a bishop, desires a good work, for he must,
as St. Paul did, labour the more abundantly, and make himself the
servant of all.
[3.] That those who are most humble and self-denying, do most resemble
Christ, and shall be most tenderly owned by him. This he taught them by
a sign; He took a child in his arms, that had nothing of pride
and ambition in it. "Look you," saith he; "whosoever shall
receive one like this child, receives me. Those of a humble,
meek, mild disposition are such as I will own and countenance, and
encourage every body else to do so too, and will take what is done to
them as done to myself; and so will my Father too, for he who thus
receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me, and it shall be placed
to his account, and repaid with interest."
III. He rebukes them for vilifying all but themselves; while
they are striving which of them should be greatest, they will not allow
those who are not in communion with them to be any thing. Observe,
1. The account which John gave him, of the restraint they had laid upon
one from making use of the name of Christ, because he was not of their
society. Though they were ashamed to own their contests for preferment,
they seem to boast of this exercise of their authority, and expected
their Master would not only justify them in it, but commend them for
it; and hoped he would not blame them for desiring to be great, when
they would thus use their power for maintaining the honour of the
sacred college. Master, saith John, we saw one casting out
devils in thy name, but he followeth not us,
(1.) It was strange that the one who was not a professed disciple and
follower of Christ, should yet have power to cast out devils, in
his name, for that seemed to be peculiar to those whom he called,
But some think that he was a disciple of John, who made use of the name
of the Messiah, not as come, but as near at hand, not knowing that
Jesus was he. It should rather seem that he made use of the name of
Jesus, believing him to be the Christ, as the other disciples did. And
why not he receive that power from Christ, whose Spirit, like
the wind, blows where it listeth, without such an outward call
as the apostles had? And perhaps there were many more such. Christ's
grace is not tied to the visible church.
(2.) It was strange that one who cast out devils in the name of
Christ, did not join himself to the apostles, and follow Christ with
them, but should continue to act in separation from them. I know
of nothing that could hinder him from following them, unless because he
was loth to leave all to follow them; and if so, that was an ill
principle. The thing did not look well, and therefore the disciples
forbade him to make use of Christ's name as they did, unless he
would follow him as they did. This was like the motion Joshua made
concerning Eldad and Medad, that prophesied in the camp, and went not
up with the rest to the door of the tabernacle; "My lord Moses,
restrain them, silence them, for it is a schism." Thus apt are we to
imagine that those do not follow Christ at all, who do not follow him
with us, and that those do nothing well, who do not just as we
do. But the Lord knows them that are his, however they are
dispersed; and this instance gives us a needful caution, to take heed
lest we be carried, by an excess of zeal for the unity of the church,
and for that which we are sure is right and good, to oppose that which
yet may tend to the enlargement of the church, and the advancement of
its true interests another way.
2. The rebuke he gave to them for this
Jesus said, "Forbid him not, nor any other that does likewise."
This was like the check Moses gave to Joshua; Enviest thou for my
sake? Note, That which is good, and doeth good, must not be
prohibited, though there be some defect or irregularity in the manner
of doing it. Casting out devils, and so destroying Satan's
kingdom, doing this in Christ's name, and so owning him to be
sent of God, and giving honour to him as the Fountain of grace,
preaching down sin, and preaching up Christ, are good things, very good
things, which ought not to be forbidden to any, merely because they
follow not with us. If Christ be preached, Paul therein doth,
and will rejoice, though he be eclipsed by it,
Two reasons Christ gives why such should not be forbidden.
(1.) Because we cannot suppose that any man who makes use of Christ's
name in working miracles, should blaspheme his name, as the scribes and
Pharisees did. There were those indeed that did in Christ's name
cast out devils, and yet in other respects were workers of
iniquity; but they did not speak evil of Christ.
(2.) Because those that differed in communion, while they agreed to
fight against Satan under the banner of Christ, ought to look upon one
another as on the same side, notwithstanding that difference. He
that is not against us is on our part. As to the great controversy
between Christ an Beelzebub, he had said, He that is not with me is
He that will not own Christ, owns Satan. But as to those that own
Christ, though not in the same circumstances, that follow him, though
not with us, we must reckon that though these differ from us,
they are not against us, and therefore are on our part, and we
must not be any hindrance to their usefulness.
Pain to Be Preferred to Sin.
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.
I. Christ promiseth a reward to all those that are any way kind to his
"Whosoever shall give you a cup of water, when you need it, and
will be a refreshment to you, because ye belong to Christ, and
are of his family, he shall not lose his reward." Note,
1. It is the honour and happiness of Christians, that they belong to
Christ, they have joined themselves to him, and are owned by him;
they wear his livery and retainers to his family; nay, they are more
nearly related, they are members of his body.
2. They who belong to Christ, may sometimes be reduced to such straits
as to be glad of a cup of cold water.
3. The relieving of Christ's poor in their distresses, is a good deed,
and will turn a good account; he accepts it, and will reward it.
4. What kindness is done to Christ's poor, must be done them for
his sake, and because they belong to him; for that is it
that sanctifies the kindness, and puts a value upon it in the sight of
5. This is a reason why we must not discountenance and discourage those
who are serving the interests of Christ's kingdom, though they are not
in every thing of our mind and way. It comes in here as a reason why
those must not be hindered, that cast out devils in Christ's name,
though they did not follow him; for (as Dr. Hammond paraphrases it) "It
is not only the great eminent performances which are done by you my
constant attendants and disciples, that are accepted by me, but every
the least degree of sincere faith and Christian performance,
proportionable but to the expressing the least kindness, as giving a
cup of water to a disciple of mine for being such, shall be accepted
and rewarded." If Christ reckons kindness to us services to
him, we ought to reckon services to him kindnesses to us,
and to encourage them, though done by those that follow not with
II. He threatens those that offend his little ones, that
wilfully are the occasion of sin or trouble to them,
Whosoever shall grieve any true Christians, though they be of the
weakest, shall oppose their entrance into the ways of God, or
discourage and obstruct their progress in those ways, shall
either restrain them from doing good, or draw them in to commit sin, it
were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and
he were cast into the sea: his punishment will be very great, and
the death and ruin of his soul more terrible than such a death and ruin
of his body would be. See
III. He warns all his followers to take heed of ruining their own
souls. This charity must begin at home; if we must take heed of doing
any thing to hinder others from good, and to occasion their sin, much
more careful must we be to avoid every thing that will take us off from
our duty, or lead us to sin; and that which doth so we must part with,
though it be ever so dear to us. This we had twice in Matthew,
and ch. xviii. 8, 9.
It is here urged somewhat more largely and pressingly; certainly this
requires our serious regard, which is so much insisted upon.
1. The case supposed, that our own hand, or eye, or
foot, offend us; that the impure corruption we indulge is
as dear to us as an eye or a hand, or that that which is to us as an
eye or a hand, is become an invisible temptation to sin, or
occasion of it. Suppose the beloved is become a sin, or the sin
a beloved. Suppose we cannot keep that which is dear to us, but it will
be a snare and a stumbling-block; suppose we must part with it, or part
with Christ and a good conscience.
2. The duty prescribed in that case; Pluck out the eye, cut off the
hand and foot, mortify the darling lust, kill it, crucify it,
starve it, make no provision for it. Let the idols that have been
delectable things, be cast away as detestable things;
keep at a distance from that which is a temptation, though ever so
pleasing. It is necessary that the part which is gangrened, should be
taken off for the preservation of the whole. Immedicabile vulnus
ense recidendum est, ne pars sincera trahatur--The part that is
incurably wounded must be cut off, lest the parts that are sound be
corrupted. We must put ourselves to pain, that we may not bring
ourselves to ruin; self must be denied, that it may not be
3. The necessity of doing this. The flesh must be mortified, that we
may enter into life
into the kingdom of God,
Though, by abandoning sin, we may, for the present, feel ourselves as
if we were halt and maimed (it may seem to be a force put
upon ourselves, and may create us some uneasiness), yet it is for
life; and all that men have, they will give for their lives: it
is for a kingdom, the kingdom of God, which we cannot
otherwise obtain; these halts and maims will be the
marks of the Lord Jesus, will be in that kingdom scars of
4. The danger of not doing this. The matter is brought to this issue,
that either sin must die, or we must die. If we will lay this
Delilah in our bosom, it will betray us; if we be ruled
by sin, we shall inevitably be ruined by it; if we must keep our
two hands, and two eyes, and two feet, we must
with them be cast into hell. Our Saviour often pressed our duty
upon us, from the consideration of the torments of hell, which we run
ourselves into if we continue in sin. With what an emphasis of terror
are those words repeated three times here, Where their worm dieth
not, and the fire is not quenched! The words are quoted from
(1.) The reflections and reproaches of the sinner's own conscience are
the worm that dieth not; which will cleave to the damned soul as
the worms do to the dead body, and prey upon it, and never leave it
till it is quite devoured. Son, remember, will set this worm
gnawing; and how terrible will it bite that word
How have I hated instruction! The soul that is food to this
worm, dies not; and the worm is bred in it, and one with it, and
therefore neither doth that die. Damned sinners will be to eternity
accusing, condemning, and upbraiding, themselves with their own
follies, which, how much soever they are now in love with them, will at
the last bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.
(2.) The wrath of God fastening upon a guilty and polluted conscience,
is the fire that is not quenched; for it is the wrath of
the living God, the eternal God, into whose hands it is a fearful thing
to fall. There are no operations of the Spirit of grace upon the souls
of the damned sinners, and therefore there is nothing to alter the
nature of the fuel, which must remain for ever combustible; nor is
there any application of the merit of Christ to them, and therefore
there is nothing to appease or quench the violence of the fire. Dr.
Whitby shows that the eternity of the torments of hell was not only the
constant faith of the Christian church, but had been so of the Jewish
church. Josephus saith, The Pharisees held that the souls of the wicked
were to be punished with perpetual punishment; and that there
was appointed for them a perpetual prison. And Philo saith, The
punishment of the wicked is to live for ever dying, and to be
for ever in pains and griefs that never cease.
are somewhat difficult, and interpreters agree not in the sense of
them; for every one in general, or rather every one of
them that are cast into hell, shall be salted with fire, and
every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Therefore have salt
[1.] It was appointed by the law of Moses, that every sacrifice should
be salted with salt, not to preserve it (for it was to be
immediately consumed), but because it was the food of God's table, and
no flesh is eaten without salt; it was therefore particularly required
in the meat-offerings,
[2.] The nature of man, being corrupt, and as such being called
some way or other must be salted, in order to its being a
sacrifice to God. The salting of fish (and I think of other
things) they call the curing of it.
[3.] Our chief concern is, to present ourselves living
sacrifices to the grace of God
and, in order to our acceptableness, we must be salted with
salt, our corrupt affections must be subdued and mortified, and we
must have in our souls a savour of grace. Thus the offering up
or sacrificing of the Gentiles is said to be acceptable,
being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, as the sacrifices were
[4.] Those that have the salt of grace, must make it appear that they
have it; that they have salt in themselves, a living principle
of grace in their hearts, which works out all corrupt dispositions, and
every thing in the soul that tends to putrefaction, and would
offend our God, or our own consciences, as unsavoury meat doth.
Our speech must be always with grace seasoned with this
salt, that no corrupt communication may proceed out of our
mouth, but we may loathe it as much as we would to put putrid meat
into our mouths.
[5.] As this gracious salt will keep our own consciences void of
offence, so it will keep our conversation with others so, that we may
not offend any of Christ's little ones, but may be at peace one with
[6.] We must not only have this salt of grace, but we must always
retain the relish and savour of it; for if this salt lose its
saltiness, if a Christian revolt from his Christianity, if he loses
the savour of it, and be no longer under the power and influence of it,
what can recover him, or wherewith will ye season him? This was
[7.] Those that present not themselves living sacrifices to
God's grace, shall be made for ever dying sacrifices to his
justice, and since they would not give honour to him, he will get him
honour upon them; they would not be salted with the salt of
divine grace, would not admit that to subdue their corrupt affections,
no, they would not submit to the operation, could not bear the
corrosives that were necessary to eat out the proud flesh, it was to
them like cutting off a hand, or plucking out an eye; and therefore in
hell they shall be salted with fire; coals of fire shall be
scattered upon them
as salt upon the meat, and brimstone
as fire and brimstone were rained on Sodom; the pleasures they have
lived in, shall eat their flesh, as it were with fire,
The pain of mortifying the flesh now is no more to be compared with the
punishment for not mortifying it, than salting with
burning. And since he had said, that the fire of hell
shall not be quenched, but it might be objected, that the fuel
will not last always, he here intimates, that by the power of God it
shall be made to last always; for those that are cast into hell,
will find the fire to have not only the corroding quality of
salt, but its preserving quality; whence it is used to signify
that which is lasting: a covenant of salt is a
perpetual covenant, and Lot's wife being turned into a pillar
of salt, made her a remaining monument of divine vengeance. Now
since this will certainly be the doom of those that do not crucify the
flesh with its affections and lusts, let us, knowing this terror of
the Lord, be persuaded to do it.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Mark' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".