Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Verily I say ... - See the notes at Mat 16:28. This verse properly belongs to the preceding chapter and the preceding discourse.
And after six days ... - See this passage explained in the notes at Mat 17:1-9.
No fuller - Rather, no "scourer." The office of the person here mentioned was to "scour" or "whiten" cloth; not to "full" it, or to render it thicker.
He wist not - He "knew not." He was desirous of saying something, and he knew not what would be proper.
Why say the scribes ... - See the notes at Mat 17:10-13.
See this passage explained in the notes at Mat 17:14-21.
Questioning with them - Debating with the disciples, and attempting to confound them. This he saw as he came down from the mount. In his absence they had taken occasion to attempt to perplex and confound his followers.
Were greatly amazed - Were astonished and surprised at his sudden appearance among them.
Saluted him - Received him with the customary marks of affection and respect. It is probable that this was not by any "formal" manner of salutation, but by the "rush" of the multitude, and by hailing him as the Messiah.
What question ye? - What is the subject of your inquiry or debate with the disciples?
A dumb spirit - A spirit which deprived his son of the power of speaking.
And wheresoever - In whatever place - at home or abroad, alone or in public.
He teareth him - He rends, distracts, or throws him into convulsions.
He foameth - At the mouth, like a mad animal. Among us these would all be considered as marks of violent derangement or madness.
And pineth away - Becomes thin, haggard, and emaciated. This was the effect of the violence of his struggles, and perhaps of the want of food.
If thou canst do any thing - I have brought him to the disciples, and they could not help him. If thou canst do anything, have compassion.
If thou canst believe - This was an answer to the request, and there was a reference in the answer to the "doubt" in the man's mind about the power of Jesus. "I" can help him. If thou" canst believe," it shall be done. Jesus here demanded "faith" or confidence in his power of healing. His design here is to show the man that the difficulty in the case was not in the want of "power" on his part, but in the want of "faith" in the man; in other words, to rebuke him for having "doubted" at all whether he "could" heal him. So he demands faith of every sinner that comes to him, and none that come without "confidence" in him can obtain the blessing.
All things are possible to him that believeth - All things can be effected or accomplished - to wit, by God - in favor of him that believes, and if thou canst believe, this will be done. God will do nothing in our favor without faith. It is right that we should have confidence in him; and if we "have" confidence, it is easy for him to help us, and he willingly does it. In our weakness, then, we should go to God our Saviour; and though we have no strength, yet "he" can aid us, and he will make all things easy for us.
Said with tears - The man felt the implied rebuke in the Saviour's language; and feeling grieved that he should be thought to be destitute of faith, and feeling deeply for the welfare of his afflicted son, he wept. Nothing can be more touching or natural than this. An anxious father, distressed at the condition of his son, having applied to the disciples in vain, now coming to the Saviour; and not having full confidence that he had the proper qualification to be aided, he wept. Any man would have wept in his condition, nor would the Saviour turn the weeping suppliant away.
I believe - I have faith. I do put confidence in thee, though I know that my faith is not as strong as it should be.
Lord - This word here signifies merely "master," or "sir," as it does often in the New Testament. We have no evidence that he had any knowledge of the divine nature of the Saviour, and he applied the word, probably, as he would have done to any other teacher or worker of miracles.
Help thou mine unbelief - Supply thou the defects of my faith. Give me strength and grace to put "entire" confidence in thee. Everyone who comes to the Saviour for help has need of offering this prayer. In our unbelief and our doubts we need his aid, nor shall we ever put sufficient reliance on him without his gracious help.
See the notes at Mat 17:22-23.
Is delivered - Is given to men to make an atonement by his sufferings and death, and will in due time be taken and killed.
See the notes at Mat 18:1-5.
We saw one ... - There is no improbability in supposing that this might have been one of the disciples of John, or one of the seventy whom Jesus had sent out, and who, though he did not "personally" attend on Jesus, yet had the power of working miracles. There is no evidence that he was merely an "exorcist," or that he used the name of Jesus merely as a pretence.
Forbid him not - Do not prevent his doing good. If he can work a miracle in my name, it is sufficient proof of attachment to me, and he should not be prevented.
Can lightly speak evil of me - The word here rendered "lightly" means quickly or "immediately." The meaning of the passage is, that he to whom God gave the power of working a miracle, by that gave evidence that he could not be found among the enemies of Jesus. He ought not, therefore, to be prevented from doing it. There is no reason to think here that John had any improper designs in opposing the man. He thought that it was evidence that he could not be right, because he did not join them and follow the Saviour. Our Lord taught him differently. He opposed no one who gave evidence that he loved him. Wherever he might be or whatever his work, yet, if he did it in the name of Jesus and with the approbation of God, it was evidence sufficient that he was right. Christians should rejoice in good done by their brethren of any denomination. There are men calling themselves Christians who seem to look with doubt and suspicion on all that is done by those who do not walk with them. They undervalue their labors, and attempt to lessen the evidences of their success and to diminish their influence. True likeness to the Saviour would lead us to rejoice in all the good accomplished. by whomsoever it may be done - to rejoice that the kingdom of Christ is advanced, whether by a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, a Baptist, or a Methodist. Compare Phi 1:18.
Whosoever shall give you a cup ... - How easy it is to be a Christian! What is easier than to give a cup of cold water to a thirsty disciple of Jesus! But it must be in his name - that is, because he "is" a Christian, and therefore from love "to the Saviour." This is very different from giving it from a mere motive of common kindness. If done from love to Christ, it will be rewarded; and hence we learn that the humblest acts of Christians - the lowest service that is rendered - will be graciously noticed by Jesus and rewarded. None are so humble in his kingdom as not to be able to do good, and none so poor that he may not show attachment to him. The feeblest service will be accepted, and acts of love that may be forgotten by man, will be remembered by Him, and rewarded in heaven.
See the notes at Mat 18:7-9. Millstone. See Mat 18:6.
Their worm - This figure is taken from Isa 66:24. See the notes at that passage. In describing the great prosperity. of the kingdom of the Messiah, Isaiah says that the people of God "shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men who have transgressed against God." Their enemies would be overcome. They would be slain. The people of God would triumph. The figure is taken from heaps of the dead slain in battle; and the prophet says that the number would be so great that their worm - the worm feeding on the dead - would not die, would live long - as long as there were carcasses to be devoured; and that the fire which was used to burn the bodies of the dead would continue long to burn, and would not be extinguished until they were consumed. The figure, therefore, denotes great misery, and certain and terrible destruction. In these verses it is applied to the state beyond the grave, and is intended to denote that the destruction of the wicked will be awful, widespread, and eternal.
It is not to be supposed that there will be any "real" worm in hell - perhaps no material fire; nor can it be told what was particularly intended by the undying worm. There is no authority for applying it, as is often done, to remorse of conscience, anymore than to any other of the pains and reflections of hell. It is a mere image of loathsome, dreadful, and "eternal" suffering. In what that suffering will consist it is probably beyond the power of any living mortal to imagine. The word their, in the phrase "their worm," is used merely to keep up the "image" or "figure." Dead bodies putrefying in that valley would be overrun with worms, while the "fire" would not be confined to them, but would spread to other objects kindled by combustibles through all the valley. It is "not" meant, therefore, that every particular sufferer has a special worm, or has particular sins that cause remorse of conscience. That is a truth, but it does not appear that it is intended to be taught here.
Every one shall be salted with fire - Perhaps no passage in the New Testament has given more perplexity to commentators than this, and it may be impossible now to fix its precise meaning. The common idea affixed to it has been, that as salt preserves from putrefaction, so fire, applied to the wicked in hell, will have the property of preserving them in existence, or they will "be" preserved amid the sprinkling of fire, to be continually in their sufferings a sacrifice to the justice of God; but this meaning is not quite satisfactory. Another opinion has been, that as salt was sprinkled on the victim preparatory to its being devoted to God (see Lev 2:13), so would "the apostles," by trials, calamities, etc., represented here by "fire," be prepared as a sacrifice and offering to God. Probably the passage has no reference at all to future punishment; and the difficulty of interpreting it has arisen from supposing it to be connected with the 48th verse, or given as a "reason" for what is said in "that" verse, rather than considering it as designed to illustrate the "general design" of the passage. The main scope of the passage was not to discourse of future punishment; that is brought in incidentally. The chief object of the passage was -
1. To teach the apostles that "other men," not "with them," might be true Christians, Mar 9:38-39.
2. That they ought to be disposed to look favorably upon the slightest evidence that they "might be true believers," Mar 9:41.
3. That they ought to avoid giving "offence" to such feeble and obscure Christians, Mar 9:42.
4. That "everything" calculated to give offence, or to dishonor religion, should be removed, Mar 9:43. And,
5. That everything which would endanger their salvation should be sacrificed; that they should "deny" themselves in every way in order to obtain eternal life. In this way they would be "preserved" to eternal life.
The word "fire," here, therefore denotes self-denials, sacrifices, trials, in keeping ourselves from the gratification of the flesh. As if he had said, "Look at the sacrifice on the altar. It is an offering to God, about to be presented to him. It is sprinkled with "salt, emblematic of purity, of preservation and of fitting it, therefore, for a sacrifice." So "you" are devoted to God. You are sacrifices, victims, offerings to him in his service. To make you "acceptable" offerings, every thing must be done to "preserve" you from sin and to "purify" you. Self-denials, subduing the lusts, enduring trials, removing offences, are the proper "preservatives" in the service of God. Doing this, you will be acceptable offerings and be saved; without this, you will be "unfit" for his eternal service and will be lost."
Lost its saltness ... - See the notes at Mat 5:13.
Have salt in yourselves - Have the preserving, purifying principle always; the principles of denying yourselves, of suppressing pride, ambition, contention, etc., and thus you will be an acceptable offering to God.
Have peace - Avoid contention and quarrelling, struggling for places, honors, and office, and seek each other's welfare, and religion will be honored and preserved in the world.