Chapter 13: Mark 8–10

New Testament Student Manual, 2014


Introduction and Timeline for Mark 8–10

Chapters 8–10 represent a turning point in the Gospel of Mark. Up to this point in the Savior’s ministry, most people had failed to understand who He was—the Pharisees had called Him a blasphemer, the scribes had accused Him of having the power of the devil, and the Gadarenes had feared Him and asked Him to leave their territory (see Mark 2:7; 3:22; 5:15–17). Though many followers regarded Jesus as a powerful teacher or one who could work miracles (see Mark 1:40; 5:23, 28; 6:56), even those closest to Him were slow to understand Him (see Mark 1:22; 4:41; 6:2, 51–52). This confusion regarding Jesus’s identity can indicate a “spiritual blindness,” sometimes seen in the Gospel of Mark, among those whom the Savior taught. The events and teachings recorded in chapters 8–10 show how people gradually came to see Jesus Christ as the Messiah who would ultimately overcome man’s spiritual enemies through His atoning suffering and death.

Mark 8–10 records three occasions when the Savior taught His disciples about His impending suffering, death, and Resurrection (see Mark 8:31–33; 9:30–32; 10:32–34). After each foretelling, the Savior clarified the “vision” of His disciples by teaching them more about their own role. Just as Jesus Christ’s mission involved humility, suffering, and death, the missions of His disciples would involve taking up their crosses, losing their lives for His sake, and becoming servants of all (see Mark 8:34–38; 9:32–37, 43–48; 10:35–45).

lesson 13 timeline

Commentary for Mark 8–10

Mark 8:1–9. The Feeding of the Four Thousand Prefigured the Gospel Going to the Gentiles (see also Matthew 15:29–38)

According to Mark 7:31, the feeding of the four thousand occurred in the largely Gentile Decapolis region, which was on the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. There had been people in this area who believed in Jesus Christ from at least the time of the healing of the man out of whom the Savior cast a legion of devils (see Mark 5:19–20; Matthew 4:25), and the number of believers had grown to a “very great” multitude (Mark 8:1).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the feeding of the four thousand among the Gentiles foreshadowed the blessings of the gospel going forth to all nations of the world: “This miraculous feeding of the four thousand is not a mere duplication or repetition of the feeding of the five thousand which took place a short time before near Bethsaida. Then our Lord was mingling with his own kindred of Israel; now he is teaching other hosts who in substantial part, being inhabitants of Decapolis, are presumed to be Gentile. Then he was laying the foundation for his incomparable sermon on the Bread of Life; now he is prefiguring the future presentation of the living bread to the Gentile nations. And significantly, this mixed multitude from the east of the Jordan were more receptive, and took a more sane and sound view of the matchless miracle of feeding thousands by use of the creative powers resident in him, than did the members of the chosen seed” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:375).

Mark 8:4–6. “He Took the Seven Loaves, and Gave Thanks”

The disciples had witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, yet a short time later, faced with a smaller multitude, they asked the Savior, “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” (Mark 8:4). Why would they ask such a question after what they had earlier witnessed? One consideration is that even though the disciples had witnessed the earlier miracle, they were still somewhat weak in their faith. The Savior reproved them on this occasion for their lack of perception and hardness of heart (see Mark 8:17–21).

The disciples also may not have known whether the Savior would perform such a miracle for Gentiles, and, as Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles proposed, they may have “deemed it beyond their duty or privilege to suggest a repetition of the miracle” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 358).

President Thomas S. Monson taught that the feeding of the four thousand illustrates how expressing gratitude to God invites the power of God:

“‘[The Savior] took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.’

“Notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had—and a miracle followed: ‘And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full’ [see Matthew 15:32–38; italics added; see also Mark 8:1–8]. …

“Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings. … To live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 88, 90).

Mark 8–10. Commentary Found Elsewhere in This Manual

Many of the teachings and events in the Savior’s ministry that are found in Mark 8–10 are also found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The following chart identifies where you can find student manual commentary for these teachings and events:

Location of Topic in Mark

Commentary in This Manual

Mark 8:10–12. Pharisees seek a sign.

Matthew 16:1–4

Mark 8:14–21. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.

Matthew 16:6–12

Mark 8:27–30. “Thou art the Christ.”

Matthew 16:13–19

Mark 8:31. “Son of man.”

Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40

Mark 9:1–13. Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.

Matthew 17:1–13 and Matthew 17:2 and Matthew 17:3 and Matthew 17:3–5 and Matthew 17:3–9 (Peter, James, and John Were Given Priesthood Keys) and Matthew 17:3–9 (What Took Place on the Mount of Transfiguration)

Mark 10:13–16. Suffer the little children.

Matthew 19:13–15

Mark 10:2–12. Teachings about marriage and divorce.

Matthew 19:1–12 and Matthew 19:9

Mark 10:17–31. The rich young man.

Matthew 19:16–22

Mark 8:22–25. The Gradual Healing of a Blind Man

He Anointed the Eyes of the Blind Man

He Anointed the Eyes of the Blind Man, by Walter Rane

Elder Bruce R. McConkie pointed out truths we can learn from this miracle:

“This miracle is unique; it is the only recorded instance in which Jesus healed a person by stages. It may be that our Lord followed this course to strengthen the weak but growing faith of the blind man. It would appear that the successive instances of physical contact with Jesus had the effect of adding hope, assurance, and faith to the sightless one. Jesus personally (1) led the blind man by the hand out of the town, (2) applied his own saliva to the eyes of the sightless one, (3) performed the ordinance of laying on of hands, and (4) put his hands a second time upon the man’s eyes.

“Certainly the manner in which this healing took place teaches that men should seek the Lord’s healing grace with all their strength and faith, though such is sufficient for a partial cure only.” Following the receipt of this partial cure, “they may then gain the added assurance and faith to be made whole and well every whit. Men also are often healed of their spiritual maladies by degrees, step by step as they get their lives in harmony with the plans and purposes of Deity” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:379–80).

Mark 8:27–32. “Peter Took Him, and Began to Rebuke Him”

It may seem surprising that Peter, the senior Apostle, would ever rebuke the Savior, especially so soon after testifying, “Thou art the Christ” (Mark 8:29). A key to understanding this event is to notice what happened between Peter’s testimony recorded in Mark 8:29 and his rebuke of the Savior recorded in Mark 8:32. As recorded in Mark 8:31, Jesus prophesied that the Son of Man would suffer and be killed. Because of the popular Jewish expectations of a conquering Messiah, it was difficult for Peter, as well as for many Jews of that time, to understand and accept the idea of a Messiah who would suffer and die.

Paul wrote that the preaching of “Christ crucified”—that is, a Messiah who suffered and died—was “unto the Jews a stumblingblock” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Many Old Testament passages that we now clearly recognize as prophecies about the Savior’s Atonement were not as clearly understood prior to the Resurrection. For example, the prophecies in Isaiah 53 do not mention “the Messiah” and do not specify who is described in the prophecies. These and other prophecies about the Atonement of Christ became clear to Peter and the other disciples only after the Resurrection (see Luke 24:13–27, 36–47; 1 Peter 2:21–25).

Mark 8:30. Why Did Jesus Instruct His Apostles Not to Tell People He Was the Messiah?

In the synoptic Gospels, and particularly in Mark, we read of instances when Jesus Christ instructed His disciples and others not to speak about miracles He had done or about who He was (see Mark 1:34, 44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30). The scriptures suggest several possible reasons why the Savior might have asked for secrecy or silence on certain occasions:

  1. 1.

    Mark relates that Jesus’s fame grew so great that it created difficulties. At times Jesus could not enter certain villages, people who wanted to see Him could not get through the crowds, and He and His disciples were so beset by throngs of people that they could not even find time or space to eat (see Mark 1:45; 2:2; 3:20). Instructing people not to tell others about His miracles may have been one way the Savior carefully managed such difficulties so as not to hinder His overall mission.

  2. 2.

    The Savior may also have asked for silence in order to forestall the opposition that would lead to His Crucifixion—until the time was right (see Mark 9:30–31; compare John 7:1–10 with Matthew 26:18). The more people learned about Jesus, the more the chief priests increased their opposition to Him, for they did not want Him to undermine their place in society. After Jesus entered Jerusalem in a way that clearly and publicly proclaimed Him as the Messiah, less than a week passed before He was arrested and put to death (see Mark 11:8–11; 14:1–2; 15:22–25; 2 Nephi 10:5).

  3. 3.

    Some of the Savior’s commandments for silence were directed at devils, who vocally acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God (see Mark 1:24, 34; 3:11–12; compare Acts 16:16–18). Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that Jesus “consistently refused to permit [devils] to bear record of his divinity. Converting testimony comes from God, not from Lucifer. Had Jesus let unclean spirits go unrebuked, or had he acquiesced in their testimony of him (though in fact it was true), the Jews would have claimed greater justification for their false charge against him, ‘He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?’ (John 10:20.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:168).

  4. 4.

    The Savior knew that most Jews of His day were expecting the Messiah to put an end to Israel’s political enemies and reign as a Jewish king. It is clear that Jesus wanted to avoid presenting Himself as the Messiah of popular expectation. Therefore, one likely reason the Savior instructed His disciples not to tell people He was the Christ (see Matthew 16:20; Mark 8:29–30) was that He wanted to teach people a new understanding of what kind of salvation He had come to bring. He had come not to overthrow Rome but to conquer the eternal enemies of mankind—death, sin, and suffering.

Mark 8:31–33; 9:30–32; 10:32–34. Three Foretellings of the Savior’s Suffering, Death, and Resurrection

Golgotha

Golgotha, by Scott M. Snow. “He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, … and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).

Mark 8–10 records three foretellings of the Savior’s suffering, death, and Resurrection (see also Matthew 16:21–23; 17:22–23; 20:17–19; Luke 9:22, 44–45; 18:31–34). Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated: “Jesus knew who He was—the Son of God. He knew His purpose—to carry out the will of the Father through the Atonement. His vision was eternal—‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39)” (“Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure,” Ensign, May 1998, 75).

Mark 8:33. Why Did the Savior Rebuke Peter by Saying, “Get Thee Behind Me, Satan”? (see also Matthew 16:23)

By focusing only on the Savior’s coming death, Peter failed to understand Jesus Christ’s true mission—the redemption of all mankind. When the Savior rebuked Peter and referred to him as “Satan” (Mark 8:33), He was not implying that Peter was Lucifer. The Hebrew word satan means “adversary or tempter.” Thus, Christ recognized that at that moment Peter had put himself in an adversarial role, in opposition to the Savior’s ultimate saving mission.

Peter probably meant well when he objected to the teaching that Jesus Christ would have to suffer and be killed (see Matthew 16:22; Mark 8:32). However, if Jesus had accommodated Peter’s wishes by avoiding the suffering of the Atonement, there would have been no redemption from sins and no Resurrection conquering death. All mankind would unavoidably have perished (see Alma 34:9), and God’s work of bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39) would not have been fulfilled. All this would have served the destructive aims of Satan. In the moment of his impulsive protest, Peter was unwittingly siding with the adversary.

Satan’s rebellion in the premortal world was essentially an attempt to alter Heavenly Father’s plan to accommodate his own wishes (see D&C 29:36–39; Moses 4:1–4; Abraham 3:27–28). Seen in this light, the Savior’s rebuke can serve as a reminder to us that we cannot alter God’s plan to fit our own wishes; we must “reconcile [ourselves] to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil” (2 Nephi 10:24).

Mark 8:34–38. Taking Up Your Cross and Losing Your Life to Follow the Savior

Even before the Savior’s Crucifixion, the image of “taking up one’s cross” (see Mark 8:34) would have been a familiar and perhaps troubling one for the disciples. Crucifixion was a common means of execution in the Roman Empire, and its victims were made to carry their own crossbeams to the place of execution (see John 19:16–17). By using this imagery, the Savior vividly taught His disciples what they must be ready for and called upon them to follow His example by submitting to the will of the Father in their lives. Luke 9:23 adds that we should be willing to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. The Joseph Smith Translation explains: “And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 16:26 [in Matthew 16:24, footnote e]).

Following Jesus Christ may not require us to literally lose our lives as martyrs like Peter, Paul, or the Prophet Joseph Smith, but we can demonstrate that willingness by giving our lives in service to the Lord (see Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 8:37–38 [in the Bible appendix]).

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) listed some ways modern-day followers of Jesus Christ can “lose their lives” as the Savior taught: “Opportunities to lose oneself for the good of others present themselves daily: the mother who serves her children’s needs; the father who gives his time for their instruction; parents who give up worldly pleasure for quality home life; children who care for their aged parents; home teaching service; visiting teaching; time for compassionate service; giving comfort to those who need strength; serving with diligence in Church callings; community and public service in the interest of preserving our freedoms; financial donations for tithes, fast offerings, support of missionaries, welfare, building and temple projects. Truly, the day of sacrifice is not past” (“This Is a Day of Sacrifice,” Ensign, May 1979, 34).

The Joseph Smith Translation provides additional insights into the Savior’s teaching about losing our lives for His sake: “For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; or whosoever will save his life, shall be willing to lay it down for my sake; and if he is not willing to lay it down for my sake, he shall lose it” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 8:37 [in the Bible appendix; compare Mark 8:35]). President Ezra Taft Benson described what happens in the lives of those who “lose their lives” for the Savior: “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 20).

Mark 8:38. Consequences of the Choice to Follow the Savior

The Joseph Smith Translation provides additional information about the Savior’s teaching concerning the consequences of our choices to “be ashamed of” Him or to lay down our lives for Him:

“And they [who have been ashamed of the Savior] shall not have part in that resurrection when he cometh.

“For verily I say unto you, That he shall come; and he that layeth down his life for my sake and the gospel’s, shall come with him, and shall be clothed with his glory in the cloud, on the right hand of the Son of man” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 8:42–43 [in the Bible appendix; compare Mark 8:38]).

Mark 9:4. Elias

The Joseph Smith Translation indicates that John the Baptist also appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:3 [in Mark 9:4, footnote a]). John’s appearance to Jesus, Peter, James, and John foreshadowed his role in the latter days when he would come to restore the Aaronic Priesthood. Many things happened on the Mount of Transfiguration that are not recorded in our scriptures (see 2 Peter 1:16–19; D&C 63:21). For insights into the term “Elias,” see the commentary for Matthew 17:3.

Mark 9:17–29. “Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief”

All things are possible for those who believe—no matter how small that belief may be. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drew upon the New Testament account of the father who cried to the Savior, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). From this account Elder Holland stressed three lessons to be learned:

“Observation number one … is that when facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: ‘Lord, I believe.’ I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. …

Christ with man carrying son

“Master, I Have Brought unto Thee My Son,” by Walter Rane (Mark 9:17)

“The second observation is a variation of the first. When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your ‘unbelief.’ … I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle. …

“Last observation: when doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of ‘real intent,’ pursued ‘with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God’ [2 Nephi 31:13]. I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief” (“Lord, I Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 93–94).

Mark 9:18, 28–29. Prayer and Fasting Increase Our Spiritual Power (see also Matthew 17:19–21)

When the Savior cast a devil out of a deaf and dumb child, he used the occasion to teach His disciples about the power of fasting and prayer, as recorded in Mark 9:28–29 (see also Matthew 17:19–21). The booklet True to the Faith explains how this experience can apply to each of us: “This account teaches that prayer and fasting can give added strength to those giving and receiving priesthood blessings. The account can also be applied to your personal efforts to live the gospel. If you have a weakness or sin that you have struggled to overcome, you may need to fast and pray in order to receive the help or forgiveness you desire. Like the demon that Christ cast out, your difficulty may be the kind that will go out only through prayer and fasting” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 66–67). For additional information on the role that fasting and prayer can play in overcoming our weaknesses and lack of faith, see the commentary for Matthew 4:2.

Mark 9:33–37; 10:35–45. The Savior’s Teachings about Service and Leadership (see also Matthew 18:1–5; 20:20–28; Luke 22:24–26)

On the occasions described in Mark 9:33–37 and Mark 10:35–45, the Apostles revealed a lack of understanding about leadership in the kingdom of God. In each instance, the Savior patiently taught them that their callings were not about receiving glory and honor, but about humbly serving others.

As recorded in Mark 10:35–45, Zebedee’s sons James and John approached Jesus with a question. They wanted to know if they could sit in the honored positions at Jesus’s right hand and left hand in the eternal kingdom. The Savior rebuked them by asking them if they could endure all that He would have to endure and then declaring that the Father would decide such things. Jesus then gathered the Twelve Apostles around Him to help them understand that they must not be like Gentile leaders, who exercised authority over others. Those who are greatest in the kingdom of God are the servants of all.

giving service

While serving as a member of the Seventy, Elder Spencer J. Condie taught that in the kingdom of God, leadership is service: “After Solomon’s forty-year reign, his son Rehoboam went to Shechem to be made the king. He sought the counsel of the elders regarding how he should rule. ‘And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.’ (1 Kgs. 12:7; italics added.) The Savior gave his disciples similar counsel when he taught them, ‘If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.’ (Mark 9:35.) Within the kingdom of God, to lead is to serve” (“Some Scriptural Lessons on Leadership,” Ensign, May 1990, 27).

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that leaders in the Lord’s Church should remember that “it does not matter where they serve, but how”:

“Position in the Church does not exalt anyone, but faithfulness does. On the other hand, aspiring to a visible position—striving to become a master rather than a servant—can destroy the spirit of the worker and the work.

“Occasionally confusion exists regarding servants and masters. The Bible reports that a group of men ‘had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest’ among them. Jesus said, ‘If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all’ [Mark 9:34–35; italics added]” (“Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods,” Ensign, May 1996, 15–16).

Mark 9:36–37. The Savior’s Promise to Those Who Receive Him

The Joseph Smith Translation expands upon the promise that the Savior gave to those who receive Him. This additional information clarifies that those who receive the Savior also receive the Father: “Whosoever shall humble himself like one of these children, and receiveth me, ye shall receive in my name. And whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me only, but him that sent me, even the Father” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:34–35 [in Mark 9:37, footnote a]).

Mark 9:38–40. “He That Is Not against Us Is on Our Part” (see also Luke 9:49–50)

Some people have wondered how to reconcile the Savior’s statement, “He that is not against us is on our part” (Mark 9:40), with His statement, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). These sayings can be understood by examining the context in which each was made. In the situation recorded in Matthew 12, the Pharisees said that the Savior cast out devils by the power of the devil. The Savior declared that He cast out devils by the power of God and that the Pharisees could not take a neutral position concerning Him: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30; see the commentary for Matthew 12:30).

The situation recorded in Mark 9:38–40 was different. Instead of Pharisees expressing their lack of belief in Jesus’s power, a man who clearly believed in Jesus was casting out devils. However, the Apostle John expressed concern about the man: “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us” (Mark 9:38).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie suggested reasons for John’s concern by explaining that 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’ [Luke 9:49; italics added]; 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 [see Luke 10:1, 17]” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 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.

Mark 9:42–48. “If Thy Hand Offend Thee, Cut It Off”

In Mark 9:42–48, “offend” comes from the Greek word skandalizō, meaning “to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way; to cause to sin.” By teaching that if our hand, foot, or brother offends us, we should cut it off, the Savior was teaching that we must eliminate from our lives any association or influence, no matter how dear, that would keep us from entering the kingdom of God. Elder Walter F. González of the Presidency of the Seventy quoted from the Joseph Smith Translation of these verses as he taught what it means to “cut off” unworthy influences in our lives:

video icon“[The Savior] said, ‘Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off’ (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:40 [in the Bible appendix]; italics added).

“Fortunately, the Savior Himself taught the meaning of cutting off our hand. It’s not about self-mutilation but rather about removing from our lives today those influences that keep us from preparing for tomorrow’s [times of adversity]. If I have friends who are bad influences for me, the advice is clear: ‘It is better for thee to enter into life without thy brother, than for thee and thy brother to be cast into hell’ (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:41 [in the Bible appendix]; italics added). The Lord applied this same principle when warning Nephi to depart from his brethren who became a dangerous influence (see 2 Nephi 5:5).

“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, 54–55). Additional insight on this teaching is found in the commentary for Matthew 5:29–30.

Mark 9:49. “Every One Shall Be Salted with Fire”

Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem

Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem, by James Tissot. “They were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed” (Mark 10:32).

As recorded in Mark 9:43–48, the Savior emphasized that followers of Jesus Christ must be willing to sacrifice unworthy aspects of their lives (represented by their hands, feet, or eyes) in order to enter the kingdom. As recorded in Mark 9:49, the Savior then spoke of the entire person as a sacrifice to God (compare Romans 12:1). Sacrifices in ancient Israel were made with salt and with fire. Salt was an important symbol of the covenant between the Lord and Israel (see Leviticus 2:13), and fire was often a symbol of spiritual preservation, purification, trials, and complete dedication to God.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that Mark 9:49 teaches that “every member of the Church shall be tested and tried in all things, to see whether he will abide in the covenant ‘even unto death’ (D. & C. 98:14)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:421).

Mark 10:38–39. “Can Ye Drink of the Cup That I Drink Of?”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that the phrase “drink of the cup” was “a metaphorical expression meaning, ‘To do the things which my lot in life requires of me.’” He explained that the phrase “be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” means “to follow my course, suffer persecution, be rejected of men, and finally be slain for the truth’s sake” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:566). By asking the questions, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38), the Savior refocused the attention of James and John on carrying out the Father’s will, rather than on receiving glory and honor.

Mark 10:45. “To Give His Life a Ransom for Many”

“The Son of man came … to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) is one of the clearest statements in the Gospels about the meaning and purpose of Jesus Christ’s suffering, death, and Resurrection—they were the price He paid to redeem all mankind. “Ransom” is translated from the Greek word lutron, meaning a sum paid to secure another person’s release from bondage or captivity. In Old Testament times, when someone was in bondage, the price of his release was expected to be paid by his kinsmen (see Leviticus 25:48–49). As the Firstborn of our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ paid the ransom required to free all mankind from the bondage of sin. According to 1 Peter 1:18–19, the ransom was paid not “with corruptible things, as silver and gold, … but with the precious blood of Christ.”

sacrament bread and cup

The phrase “for many” in Mark 10:45 comes from the Greek phrase anti pollōn and means “in the place of many.” The many who would be redeemed are in contrast to the One who would pay for their redemption. This is also taught in Isaiah 53: “The Lord hath laid on him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all. … By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:6, 11; italics added).

Mark 10:46–52. The Healing of Bartimeus

The faith and persistence of the blind man named Bartimeus can be seen in how he cried out to Jesus Christ for mercy—he continued to cry out even after many people ordered him to be quiet (see Mark 10:47–48). President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) noted that Bartimeus “received his sight after his persistent, faithful efforts to reach the Lord” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Administration to the Sick,” New Era, Oct. 1981, 47).

    Points to Ponder

  • As recorded in Mark 8–10, the Savior’s disciples gradually came to see His mission more clearly. In what ways has your understanding of the Savior’s mission grown with time?

  • The Savior commanded His disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him (see Mark 8:34). What “cross” do you need to take up to follow Jesus Christ more fully? How could the Savior’s example in Mark 8:31–38 guide you if a friend were to suggest that you did not need to keep some minor commandment, follow a Church standard, or overcome a certain temptation? What can you do to help others around you carry the burden of their “crosses”?

  • Are there any unrighteous influences in your life that you need to “cut off” (see Mark 9:43–48) in order to be prepared to enter into the kingdom of God?

    Suggested Assignments

  • How does a person lose himself or herself for the sake of Jesus Christ? (see Mark 8:35). Make a list of things you have had to “lose” in order to follow Jesus Christ; then make a list of things you have gained and will yet receive in the future as you continue to follow Him faithfully. Write a few sentences about what Mark 8:35 means to you.

  • After studying Mark 9:17–29 and the commentary for Mark 9:17–29, make a plan to pray and fast to increase your faith and spiritual strength in a specific area of your life. After your fast, share with someone who you trust what praying and fasting did for you (or write your thoughts in your journal).