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.
Notice in these verses that after Jesus told His disciples that He would be killed and rise again on the third day, they once again did not understand what He was referring to and were afraid to ask Him.
In Mark 9:33–37, we learn that when Jesus came to Capernaum, He taught His disciples that those who humbly serve others will be considered the greatest, or have the most honorable status, 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]).
If you encountered a group of people who were looking and pointing up toward something, how would you respond? Would you look up also, to see what the people were looking at?
People’s behaviors often can influence others, leading them to adopt similar words, actions, or attitudes. When have you seen someone change his or her words, actions, or attitudes because of the influence of others?
As you study Mark 9:38–50, look for truths that can help you consider your influence on others’ efforts to follow the Savior as well as the influence others have on you.
Read Mark 9:38, looking for the situation the Apostle John told the Savior about.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the Apostles forbade this man from casting out devils because he was not a traveling companion of the Twelve Apostles: “He was not one of the inner circle of disciples who traveled, ate, slept, and communed continually with the Master. … But from the 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” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:417).
The Savior told the Apostles not to forbid the man and taught that people who help His representatives will be rewarded (see Mark 9:39–41).
Read Mark 9:42, looking for the Savior’s warning. In this context, offend means to lead astray or influence someone to sin.
The “little ones that believe in [Jesus]” include the Savior’s humble, trusting disciples of any age. This also includes those who are young in the faith, such as youth and new converts.
Elder McConkie explained that “it is better to die and be denied the blessings of continued mortal existence than to live and lead souls from the truth” and having to experience the intense suffering and separation from God that our actions would bring (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:420).
Ponder ways in which someone might influence people who believe in Jesus Christ to sin.
Consider your influence on people who believe in Jesus Christ. Are you influencing them to direct their lives toward Him or to turn away from Him?
In your scripture study journal, list ways in which you can influence others to believe in Jesus Christ and to avoid sinning. Circle one of your ideas, and set a goal to act on it.
Try to untie and retie a shoe, necktie, or knot using only one hand.
What challenges would you experience if you lost one of your hands? When might it be better to lose one hand than to keep both?
Amputation is the intentional removal of a body part, such as a hand or a leg, that has become seriously damaged, diseased, or infected. Although the amputation and subsequent recovery may be very painful and traumatic, it prevents the disease or infection from spreading and causing further damage or death.
Read Mark 9:43, looking for what the Savior taught about when it would be better to lose one hand than to keep both.
The Savior figuratively taught that it would be better to lose one hand than to keep both when one of our hands has influenced us to sin and would continue to influence us to sin. He was not saying that we should literally cut off one of our hands; he used a figure of speech to emphasize the importance of what He was teaching. Jesus used the image of cutting off a hand to show how important and difficult it may be to separate ourselves from some unrighteous influences.
The Joseph Smith Translation increases our understanding of the Savior’s teachings in Mark 9:43–48. 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.
Draw an image of a person in your scripture study journal. Circle a hand, a foot, and an eye on the image you drew. Read Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 9:40–48 (in the Bible appendix), looking for what the Savior likened to a hand, a foot, and an eye that have “offended” someone, or influenced someone to sin. Label the hand, foot, and eye that you circled on your drawing with what they each represent. The word life in these verses refers to eternal life.
As the Savior taught, 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. Ponder the ways in which separating ourselves from unrighteous influences, or influences that lead us to sin or lose faith, might be similar to removing a hand or foot. According to the verses that you read, what can happen if we do not separate ourselves from unrighteous influences?
Consider writing the following truth in your scriptures next to Mark 9:43–48: It is better to separate ourselves from unrighteous influences than to end up being separated from God.
Elder Walter F. González of the Seventy taught about other influences we should separate ourselves from: “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).
Separating ourselves from unrighteous influences does not mean treating others rudely, condemning others, or refusing to associate with people who are not 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.
Consider the challenges we might experience by separating ourselves from unrighteous influences. How can we know the appropriate way to separate ourselves from unrighteous influences?
Read the following scenarios. Answer the accompanying questions in your scripture study journal.
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. What type of relationship should I have with them? What should I say and do to appropriately separate myself from these friends?
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 is only music and words, right? So, what is the danger of continuing to listen to their music and following them on social media?
I keep hearing about a popular show, and I am interested in watching it. I have been told it has some bad language and immoral and violent content, but it is not like I’m going to go and imitate the bad things I hear or see. So, what is the problem with me watching it?
Even though separating ourselves from influences that lead us to sin can sometimes be difficult, why are the rewards, which include eternal life, worth this sacrifice?
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
When have you, or someone you know, chosen to separate from unrighteous influences? (Avoid writing anything that is too personal or private.)
What blessings came from doing so?
Ponder whether any influences in your life might be leading you to sin. On a separate piece of paper, write how you will separate yourself from these influences. Put the paper where you will see it often.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Mark 9:30–50 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: