Lesson 40: Mark 9:30–50

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

Jesus told His disciples of His approaching death and Resurrection and taught them about who will be the greatest in God’s kingdom. He warned of the consequence of leading others to sin and instructed His disciples to separate themselves from influences that would lead them to sin.

Suggestions for Teaching

Mark 9:30–37

Jesus foretells His death and Resurrection and teaches about who will be the greatest in God’s kingdom

Bring to class an item that has a strong aroma that students will recognize (such as a freshly cut orange or onion, or fresh bread). Before class, place the item in the classroom out of students’ sight.

Begin the lesson by asking students whether they noticed a new aroma when they entered the classroom.

  • What, if anything, did this aroma influence you to think about or do once you recognized it?

Point out that similar to how an aroma can influence us, we can influence others’ thoughts and behaviors. Invite students to look for truths in Mark 9:30–50 that can help them consider their influence on others’ efforts to follow the Savior as well as the influence others have on them.

Explain that after casting an evil spirit out of a young man (see Mark 9:17–29), the Savior traveled through Galilee with His disciples. Invite a student to read Mark 9:31–32 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the events the Savior prophesied of.

  • What events did the Savior prophesy of?

Summarize Mark 9:33–37 by explaining that when Jesus came to Capernaum, He taught His disciples about who will be the greatest in the kingdom of God. He also instructed them to receive into the Church people who humble themselves like children and who receive Him (see Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:34–35 [in Mark 9:37, footnote a]). (Note: These teachings will be discussed in greater depth in the lesson for Mark 10.)

Mark 9:38–50

Jesus warns against influencing others to sin and not separating oneself from evil influences

Invite a student to read Mark 9:38. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the situation the Apostle John told the Savior about.

  • What did John report to the Savior?

Explain that the Apostles forbade this man from casting out devils because he was not a traveling companion of the Twelve Apostles. However, the Savior told them not to forbid the man (indicating he was a righteous man who had authority) and taught that people who help His representatives will be rewarded (see Mark 9:39–41).

Invite a student to read Mark 9:42 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the Savior’s warning. Explain that in this context the word offend means to influence others to stumble, to lead astray, or to influence someone to sin or abandon their faith.

  • What group of people did the Savior warn against influencing to sin? (You may need to explain that the “little ones that believe in [Jesus]” include those who are young in the faith, such as youth and new converts, as well as His humble, trusting disciples of any age.)

  • What was Jesus’s warning against influencing His disciples to sin? (He indicated it would be better to die than to experience the intense suffering and separation from God that we will experience if we influence others to sin.)

  • What principle can we learn from the Savior’s warning in verse 42? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we influence people who believe in Jesus Christ to sin, we will be held accountable before God.)

  • In what ways might someone influence people who believe in Jesus Christ to sin?

Remind students of the aroma in the classroom and of the fact that like an aroma, we have a positive or negative influence on others. Ask students to ponder their influence on people who believe in Jesus Christ.

To prepare students to identify another principle taught by the Savior, ask for a volunteer who is wearing shoes with laces to come to the front of the class. Instruct the student to untie and retie one of his or her shoes using only one hand. While the student tries to do this, ask the class:

  • What challenges would you experience if you lost one of your hands?

  • What, if anything, would be worth losing your hand for?

Explain that the deliberate removal of a body part is known as amputation and may be performed if a body part becomes seriously damaged, infected, or diseased. Although amputation and subsequent recovery can be painful and traumatic, this process can prevent an infection from spreading to the rest of the body and causing further damage or death.

Invite a student to read Mark 9:43 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior taught about when it would be better to lose one hand than to keep both.

  • When would it be better to lose one hand than to keep both?

  • Do you think we should take this teaching literally and cut off a hand that has “offended” us, or influenced us to sin? (You may need to explain that the Savior was not saying that people should literally cut off their hands. Rather, He was using a figure of speech to emphasize the importance of what He was teaching.)

Invite a student to draw an image of a person on the board. While the student is drawing, explain that the Joseph Smith Translation of Mark 9:43–48 can increase our understanding of the Savior’s teachings in this passage. In these verses, we learn that the Savior used the hand, foot, and eye to symbolize influences in our lives that can lead us to sin. Instruct the student who is drawing on the board to circle a hand, a foot, and an eye on the image he or she drew. Then invite the student to return to his or her seat.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:40–48 (in the Bible appendix). Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior likened to a hand, a foot, and an eye that have “offended” someone, or influenced someone to sin. You may need to explain that the word life in Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:40–41, 43 refers to eternal life.

  • According to this translation, what do the offending hand, foot, and eye represent? (The hand represents our family members and friends, the foot represents people we look to as an example of how to think and act, and the eye represents our leaders.)

Label these parts with their interpretations on the image the student drew on the board.

  • What did the Savior teach us to do with unrighteous influences, or influences that lead us to sin?

  • In what ways might separating ourselves from unrighteous influences be similar to amputating a hand or foot?

  • What can happen if we do not separate ourselves from unrighteous influences? Why?

  • What truth can we learn from the Savior’s teachings in these verses? (Students may use different words but should identify a truth similar to the following: It is better to separate ourselves from unrighteous influences than to end up being separated from God. Using students’ words, write this truth on the board.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Walter F. González of the Seventy. Ask the class to listen for other influences we should separate ourselves from.

Elder Walter F. González

“It follows that such cutting off refers not only to friends but to every bad influence, such as inappropriate television shows, Internet sites, movies, literature, games, or music. Engraving in our souls this principle will help us to resist the temptation to yield to any bad influence” (“Today Is the Time,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 55).

  • What challenges might we experience by separating ourselves from unrighteous influences?

  • How can we know the appropriate way to separate ourselves from unrighteous influences?

Explain that separating ourselves from unrighteous influences does not mean treating others rudely, condemning others, or refusing to associate with people who are not faithful Church members. Rather, we should separate from, or avoid interacting closely with, people who would lead us to sin. Although we may not be able to remove or avoid every influence that can lead us to sin, the Lord will bless us as we try to separate ourselves from any evil influence we can and as we try to develop self-discipline to avoid influences that we cannot completely remove.

To help students further understand this truth, invite two students to come to the front of the class. Instruct each student to read aloud one of the following scenarios and to ask the associated questions to the class. Invite the class to respond to the questions based on the truth identified in Mark 9:43–48.

Scenario 1. I have friends who often encourage me to participate in activities that break God’s commandments. However, I think I can be a good influence on them if I continue to spend time with them.

  • Won’t I lose my ability to influence these friends for good if I separate myself from them? What type of relationship should I have with them?

  • What should I say and do to appropriately separate myself from these friends?

Scenario 2. I have been a fan of a popular band for several years. In some of their recent music and interviews they have encouraged behaviors and ideas that oppose the Lord’s standards and teachings.

  • It’s only music and words, right? So what is the danger of continuing to listen to their music and following them on social media?

Thank the volunteers for their help, and invite them to return to their seats. Ask the class:

  • Even though separating ourselves from influences that lead us to sin can sometimes be difficult, what can we gain through this sacrifice? (Many blessings, including eternal life.) Why is this reward worth any sacrifice?

  • When have you or someone you know chosen to separate from unrighteous influences? (Remind students not to share anything that is too personal or private.) What was difficult about separating from that influence? What blessings came from doing so?

Ask students to ponder whether there are any influences in their lives that might be leading them to sin. Invite them to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how they will separate themselves from these influences.

Summarize Mark 9:49–50 by explaining that the Savior instructed His disciples to have peaceful relationships with each other.

Conclude by encouraging students to act on any promptings they received during this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Mark 9:31. “The Son of man”

The “Son of man” is “a title that Jesus Christ used when speaking of Himself (Luke 9:22; 21:36). It meant the Son of the Man of Holiness. Man of Holiness is one of the names of God the Father. When Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, it was an open declaration of His divine relationship with the Father. This title is found frequently in the Gospels. Latter-day revelation confirms the special meaning and sacredness of this name of the Savior (D&C 45:39; 49:6, 22; 58:65; Moses 6:57)” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Son of Man,” scriptures.lds.org).

Mark 9:38–40. The man who cast out devils in the Savior’s name

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the Apostle John was concerned about the man who cast out devils in the Savior’s name possibly because the man “was not one of the inner circle of disciples who traveled, ate, slept, and communed continually with the Master. Luke has it: ‘He followeth not with us’; that is, he is not one of our traveling companions. But from our Lord’s reply it is evident that he was a member of the kingdom, a legal administrator who was acting in the authority of the priesthood and the power of faith. Either he was unknown to John who therefore erroneously supposed him to be without authority or else John falsely supposed that the power to cast out devils was limited to the Twelve and did not extend to all faithful priesthood holders. It is quite possible that the one casting out devils was a seventy. There is no New Testament record of the calling of the first quorum of seventy, but when Jesus (at a later day) called a second quorum of seventy into the ministry, he expressly gave them the power to cast out devils. (Luke 10:1–20.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:417).

“The Savior’s answer to John, recorded in Mark 9:40, reassured John and the Twelve that the man was a disciple with authority, though not an Apostle” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 125).

Mark 9:42. “It is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the Savior’s warning in Mark 9:42:

“Few crimes are as gross and wicked as that of teaching false doctrine and leading souls away from God and salvation. … If eternal joy is the reward given those who teach the truth and bring souls to salvation, shall not those who teach false doctrines and lead souls to damnation receive as their reward eternal remorse? (D&C 18:10–16.)

“… It is better to die and be denied the blessings of continued mortal existence than to live and lead souls from the truth, thereby gaining eternal damnation for oneself” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:420).

Mark 9:43–48. Separating ourselves from influences that would lead us to sin

President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about when it is appropriate to separate ourselves from those would lead us to sin:

“With whom will you choose to associate?

“You will mingle with many good people who also believe in God. Whether they be Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim, believers know that there actually is absolute truth. …

“As you move along life’s journey, you will also become acquainted with people who do not believe in God. Many of them have not yet found divine truth and don’t know where to look for it. But you youth of the noble birthright are coming to their rescue. …

“As you mingle with nonbelievers, be aware that there may be a few who do not have your best interest at heart (see D&C 1:16; 89:4). As soon as you discern that, flee from them quickly and permanently (see 1 Timothy 6:5–6, 11)” (“What Will You Choose?” Ensign, Jan. 2015, 33, or Liahona, Jan. 2015, 21).

Mark 9:43–48. Going “into hell … where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”

The word hell in Mark 9:43, 45, 47 is a translation of the word gehenna, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew words ge hinnom, meaning “valley of Hinnom.” In this deep valley on the south side of Jerusalem, “idolatrous Jews offered their children [as sacrifices] to [the pagan god] Moloch (2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; 19:2–6)” (Bible Dictionary, “Hell”). After King Josiah ended this practice, the valley was “used as a place for burning the refuse of the city (2 Kgs. 23:10) and in that way became symbolic of the place of torment (Matt. 5:22, 29–30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Expressions about ‘hell-fire’ are probably due to the impression produced on men’s minds by the sight of this ceaseless burning and are figurative of the torment of those who willfully disobey God” (Bible Dictionary, “Hell”).

Mark 9:44, 46 refer to the rebellious having a worm that “dieth not.” Some types of worms gnaw through refuse. Parasitic worms infest living bodies, causing various ailments and intense pain. Thus, the worm that “dieth not” represents the memories and remorse of conscience of the rebellious that will continually gnaw at and torment them in the next life.