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Summary —The Coming of the Kingdom. The Transfiguration. Moses and Elias. The Elias That Must Come. The Boy with the Dumb Spirit. The Condition of Receiving Christ's Help. The Disciples Taught of Christ's Sufferings. Who Shall Be Greatest? The Narrowness of the Disciples Rebuked. A Cup of Cold Water in the Name of Christ. The Offending Hand or Eye.
1. Till they have been seen the kingdom of God come with power. Compare Matt. 16:28 and Luke 9:27. Matthew says, “Till they have seen the Son of man coming in his kingdom;” Luke, “Till they have seen the kingdom of God.” A comparison shows that the reference is to “the coming of the kingdom in power” on the day of Pentecost. Of the twelve, one at a time was dead; the others had not tasted of death.
2. After six days. After six days intervening. Luke says, “About eight days,” he counting the one before and after the six days that intervened. For notes on the Transfiguration see Matt. 17:1–13, and compare Luke 9:28–36. 192
14. And when he came to his disciples. After the transfiguration. He saw a great multitude. For notes on this miracle, see Matt. 17:14–21. Compare Luke 9:37–42. Mark's account is the fullest. According to the Revision, Matthew says that the youth was an epileptic, and the symptoms given by Mark are those of epilepsy. Mark also states that he had been afflicted from childhood.
24. Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief. The spark of faith has been kindled; if his faith is not strong, he prays the Lord to give him stronger faith. So should always pray the doubting Christian. If your faith is weak, cry for help.
26. The spirit cried and rent him sore. The evil spirit obeys most reluctantly and seeks to destroy one whom it can no longer use. The paroxysm of departure was fearful, and left the boy exhausted and as dead. The touch of Jesus completed the cure.
28, 29. Why could we not cast him out? His answer first was, according to Matthew (17:20), “Because of your belief.” The whole difficulty centered in their want of faith. No demon could defy them if only they had faith enough. And then Jesus illustrates the power of faith by showing that even a small amount of active, living faith, like a grain of mustard-seed, could remove “this mountain,” perhaps pointing to Mount Hermon, at whose base they were, and which towered in its grandeur above them. Can come forth by nothing, but by prayer. (Fasting is omitted in the New Version, but placed in the margin.) The faith which will be effectual must be a faith exercised in prayer. The work of the Church is still to cast out devils, the unclean spirits of worldliness, selfishness, greed, infidelity, lust, intemperance, Sabbath-breaking. These still defy the ordinary efforts and faith of God's people. We have faith enough for ordinary duties, for some giving, for prayer-meetings, for building churches; but there is a work which ordinary faith cannot do. How shall we get that higher faith? By prayer and fasting. By such an earnestness that we forget the needs of the body.
38. John answered him, we saw one. The disciples had shortly before returned to Christ from their first missionary tour, in which they were empowered to cast out devils (Matt. 10:8). The man here referred to they probably met during this tour. He must have been a disciple of Christ, who was enabled by his faith, yet without a commission, to cure the possessed—Abbott. Casting out devils in thy name. Really, and not in a wrong spirit, as did the Jewish exorcists (Acts 19:13, 14); for it was done in thy name. Such workers as this man believed in him, or they would not have used his name. He followeth not us. Did not join himself to the apostles as one of their followers.
39. Forbid him not. He neither praises nor blames him for following an independent course, and not working with his disciples. He simply declares that he must not be forbidden, and that those who work the same kind of work that we do should be regarded, not as enemies, but allies. Thousands, in every period of church history, have spent their lives in copying John's mistake. They have labored to stop every man who will not work for Christ in their way from working for Christ at all.—Ryle.
42. Cause one of these little ones … to stumble.. See notes on Matt. 18:6–10.
43. The fire that never shall be quenched. See note on Matt. 5:29. The fires that were occasionally lit in the literal Gehenna, or Tophet, were necessarily only temporary. They died out for want of fuel. It was to be otherwise with the “fire” of the other and ulterior Tophet. The “fire” referred to is, of course, a mere symbol of the sum total of certain dreadful realities, for which there are no adequate representations in human language. 195
48. Worm dieth not, … fire is not quenched. An expression borrowed from the last verse of Isaiah, and probably in current use among the Jews of our Savior's time, as applied to the state of future retribution.
49. For. Our Lord is alluding to the pervading idea of verses 45–48. These sacrifices of hand, foot, eye, must be made; for—every one shall be salted with fire. Fire is used in the Scripture to denote suffering, persecution, trial, distress of any kind. Salt is used to denote permanence, preservation from corruption. Every one, good and bad, must suffer.
50. Have salt in yourselves. The spirit of self-sacrifice, and thus you will “have peace with one another.” 195
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