Mark 9:30-50: Triumph with Jesus Means Being the Last, Least, and Lowest

These last passages in the 9th chapter of the Gospel of Mark may seem disjointed, but the really all fit together. Jesus is preparing His disciples for His capture, trial, death and resurrection, but they just don’t get it yet. Because we already know the outcome, we have great insight into what He’s saying here. Let’s dig in…

Mark 9:30-50

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

30 Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

The Greatest in the Kingdom

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf (in my name) welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Using the Name of Jesus

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.

42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin (stumble), it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’

49 “For everyone will be tested with fire (salted with fire and every sacrifice will be salted with salt). 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

Mark 9:30-50 NLT

Let’s Take These One by One…

Verses 30-32

Jesus is slowly, bit by bit, telling them — preparing them — for what’s going to happen. They didn’t get it. Moreover, they won’t get it until He gives them the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). They didn’t get it at the cross — only John was there. They didn’t get it after the resurrection, they also didn’t get it when He ascended to Heaven. It wasn’t until they received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, that they were literally enlightened. Likewise, when we surrender our lives to Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, we are enlightened to His Truth, Grace, Joy, Hope and Peace. Things we could NEVER find in this world.

Verses 33-37

The disciples thought that Jesus’ Kingdom was going to be an earthly one and that they’ll have royal positions in His realm. Consequently, Jesus put them in their place. He changed what greatness looks like. If you want to be great, you must be humble — the least, the last and the lowest.

Pastor Sandy Adams Comments…

I read of a Cincinnati pastor who wanted to serve the Lord outside his church, so he loaded his car with supplies and went to businesses and offered to clean their restrooms. At one truck stop the manager warned, “Pastor, I’ve got 20 toilets.” The pastor said, “I’ll just clean a couple.” The gruff manager replied, “No, you’ll clean all twenty or get out of my store.” The pastor thought for a moment, and agreed to clean them all.

That’s when the manager told him, “Pastor, I really only have two toilets, but I wanted to see what kind of a Christian you were.” And that’s the test… it’s not how many songs you sing, or sermons you preach, or boards you sit on… but whether you’ll clean a toilet. In God’s kingdom we descend into greatness.

Sandy Adams

Related: Jesus Humbles Himself

When you welcome Jesus into your life, you also welcome God, the Father. Notice He doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit. That’s because they’re not ready for that yet. Now, the moment we repent of our sins and surrender our lives to Jesus, we receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Verses 38-42

Back then, they weren’t called Christians yet. They were “followers of Jesus” or “followers of the Messiah”. Today, when you become born again — in His Name — we all are brothers and sisters in Christ.

When He refers to “little ones”, He’s not talking about children, but people less mature in the faith — baby Christians. Baby Christians are very vulnerable to the temptations of the devil. That’s why it’s up to us more mature Christians to help them avoid temptation. For instance, you wouldn’t leave a recovering alcoholic in front of a bar just to test them. That would be cruel. They’ll get enough opportunities to be tested down the line as part of their maturing.

An interesting thing I learned, the Greek word for “stumble” is skandalizō — yes, it’s where we get our word — “scandal”. That should clear up any doubts!

Verses 43-48

Does Jesus really want us to cut off body parts? No! In preparing for today’s lesson, I discovered that people back in the early centuries actually did maim themselves! Jesus very often spoke in extremes — it’s called hyperbole — truth by exaggeration! It’s meant to make us think.

Some time ago, I developed gout in my right wrist. The pain was excruciating. I told my doctor, “I feel like when Jesus said to cut off your right hand if it offends you.”

He assured me that we could get to the source of the problem and fix it. We did, I had to get off the Keto diet and it eventually went away.

Jesus is warning them about the Final Judgment. It’s not the body part that sins, it’s the heart. Once I was born again, the Holy Spirit helped me cut out everything from my life that offended HIM — my boyfriend, secular music, most TV shows, R-rated movies, cheating, etc.

Danny Saavedra, in the next part of “The Gospel of Mark” Bible study plan, writes…

Now, Jesus doesn’t expect nor is He commanding you to cut off your hands or gouge out your eyes! The fact is that wouldn’t be enough anyway. Sin is not a matter of the limb or even of the eye, but the heart. No matter what we cut off if we don’t deal with the heart, our sinful nature will find a way. If we cut off one hand, we still have another with which to sin. If we cut off all limbs, we can still sin in our minds and heart. 

Now, hear me clearly: As followers of Jesus who are seeking to live godly lives, serve Him, and draw people to His kingdom, we should take steps to avoid temptation. If scrolling through Instagram is leading to bitterness or covetousness in you, pray, surrender this struggle to Christ, and by all means, cut off your exposure to it or delete it WHILE dealing with the heart matter in play—finding one’s contentment, fulfillment, and identity in Christ. If your phone, computer, or streaming services are causing you to stumble into porn, surrender the struggle to Him and create boundaries, safeguards, and accountability WHILE seeking help from a counselor, support group, or pastor, to deal with the heart issue. It’s logical to trim off the branches as you work on removing the root, but if you only trim the branches and think that’s enough, the firm root will find a way to grow. 

Jesus’ notable point here is about sacrifice. He’s essentially reiterating the cost of discipleship (Matthew 16:24–26, Mark 8:34-35). To follow Jesus means to pick up our cross and follow Him, to be willing to lay down everything to live for Him who laid down everything to save us. As His disciples, we must be willing and ready to sacrifice and surrender everything for Christ and His kingdom! Because at the end of the day, what will it profit us to keep both hands or eyes, or gain the whole world and lose our soul? These things are not worth it! 

Instead, we must be willing to leave everything at the feet of Jesus, who purifies and remolds our heart, mind, and life and transforms us from the inside out!

Pause: What is Jesus’ vital message here? Why do we need to understand it?

Practice: If you’re reading this and you don’t yet know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I must ask you, is losing your soul worth the fleeting and temporary, self-focused pleasure sin brings? No! So, turn away and come to Jesus! In Him, you’ll find true peace, joy, purpose, salvation, fulfillment, freedom, and hope. 

If you’re a believer, is that habit you’ve found yourself trapped in (the Greek word for “stumble” in Mark 9:43, 45, and 47 is skandalizē, which means to set a snare, trap, hindrance, or stumbling-block, to fall into a trap) worth the destructive consequences that are guaranteed to come with it eventually? No! So, turn away, repent, take steps to avoid it, and seek help from the Lord in prayer and from pastors and trusted Christian friends and mentors to overcome this struggle. 

Pray: Father, as Jesus showed me to pray, I ask that You lead me away from the temptation to sin. I ask that You help me in my struggles with sin, that You give me the strength by the Holy Spirit to flee from and overcome sin in my life. Sanctify me daily so I may be more like Jesus and less like my sinful nature. I want to be willing to sacrifice all things for the sake of Your kingdom and glory. Help me, Father, to be about Your kingdom. Amen.

Danny Saavedra, The Gospel of Mark (Part Five):

Finally, Verses 49-50 – Salted with Fire

Back in the day of temple sacrifices, the priests salted the sacrificial meat before burning it. In Matthew 5, He says that we believers are the salt of the earth. But what’s with the fire? And NO, it’s not purgatory! Purgatory doesn’t exist!

Peter explains it best…

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:6-9 NLT

So, are YOU ready to trust JESUS with YOUR life completely?

Here’s what you have to do. Simply…

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

In Christ Alone

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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