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In private, Jesus was able to share with his disciples the true meaning of his teachings. In the passage, 9:42-47, Jesus was able to express the different emotions to his disciples that are not commonly expressed throughout the Gospel. This particular passage is interesting because it is one of the few times Jesus shows negative emotion and is vulgar in the messages He sends to his disciples. Mark’s passage, 9:42-47 revolves around Jesus teaching his disciples about the dangers the temptation of leading others as well as yourself into sin.
In this particular passage, Mark quotes Jesus as He explains to his disciples the severity of sin and how it should be avoided.
In the previous chapter, Jesus began the foreshadowing of his passion (MK 8:27-38). The death brought about in this passage is a way to foreshadow the death of Jesus. Mark also brought up death another time as Jesus describes to the disciples his death and resurrection (MK 9:31).
Mark is able to continue this foreshadowing that he presented earlier by showing that Jesus will die in order to save humanity from sin (MK 9:42-47). To do this, Mark connected the idea of sin and death within this particular passage (MK 9:42-47). Mark later brings up the death of resurrection in the next chapter, 10:34, in order to continue the message.
At the beginning of this passage of 9:42-47, Jesus uses a dark tone towards the disciples (MK 9:42). Throughout the other parts of the gospel, Jesus refrains from using negative words towards his disciples and people.
Normally, Jesus speaks of his people by saying that everyone has a responsibility towards others and people should pray and help each other. Jesus sends the message that we are all one from the body of Christ and we are here to help one another. George Martin describes the first few lines in this passage, “Little ones who believe [in me] to include the weaker members of the Christian community, those with tender conscience or uncertain faith.” (Martin 239). The Bible refers to those with little faith as “little ones” (The Catholic Study Bible, MK 9:42). Mark calls them little ones to represent the level of maturity and knowledge that these people who are just entering the faith have. Martin believes that Jesus is showing his disciples how delicate the new members can be and this shows that everything that a person does affects how they will view the word of God (Martin 239).
Sharyn Echols Dowd somewhat disagrees with Martin, as she believes Jesus is hinting at the disciples when he references the “little ones”. Dowd writes how the disciples should not immediately assume they are the strong believers, “Furthermore, those who are confident of their status as insiders may put themselves outside by their treatment of weak believers or be self-indulgent behavior.” (Dowd 98). At times in the previous chapters, the disciples have been shown as ignorant and Dowd is expressing their need to be careful because Jesus says that the ignorant people are the types of people who sin greatly (Dowd 97). Mark begins this passage by describing how people can be foolish when it comes to understanding their faith.
Mark later continues to show a different side to Jesus as he writes, “ it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (The Catholic Study Bible, MK 9:42). Jesus is teaching his disciples that it would be better to die the worst death imaginable before you should lead another human being into sin (MK 9:42). This also shows what is so unique about Mark’s gospel; Mark uses real emotions, such as anger and fear, which are not usually depicted within other gospels in order to describe Jesus. In this, Jesus is also using a more radical attack towards one’s sinful life by incorporating death. As the passage continues, Mark describes the severity of leading the foolish to sin (MK 9:42-47).
After describing the harshness of leading another into sin, Mark describes what happens when you sin. Mark uses three sayings that are parallel on oneself in order to convey this message:
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,” (The Catholic Study Bible, MK 9:43-9:47)
Eugene Boring believes that the parallel sayings are a warning to Jesus’ followers, “These three sayings, all in the same form and all with the same eschatological warning, then turn the threat of verse 42 to the individual who allows himself or herself to fall away. (Boring 284). These three lines put some of the responsibility of how to live properly within the disciples whom Jesus is talking to. The disciples understand what aspect of their life is causing them to sin and therefore, they should avoid it completely (Boring 284). This helps reinforce the importance and necessity of staying away from sin due to the serious consequences that Jesus has the power to enforce (Healy 191). In these sayings that Jesus speaks, the hand represents what you do, the foot represents where you go, and the eye represents what you see.
These lines teach the audience, of all aspects of your life, you must do whatever you can possibly do in order to completely eradicate sin. Healy believes that Jesus is just using this to represent how serious he is, “Jesus is not advocating physical self-mutilation but ruthless action against all our sinful drives, temptations, and attachments ¬¬–– even the ones that seem to be an inseparable part of ourselves.” (Healy 191). This shows the reader that Jesus was not being literal in terms of cutting off your body, rather he is using a simile. Jesus wants people to understand that if a part of your life is causing harm, go on without it (MK 9:43-47). George Martin agrees with Healy, saying that Jesus was not being literal in these teachings, “Jesus used vivid comparisons or parables to talk about the seriousness of our actions in light of their long-term consequences.” (Martin 242). Martin discusses how the sins people do that are preventable have very serious repercussions (Martin 242). Therefore, people must turn away from sin in order to avoid consequences.
Mark included this passage to express that not only is Jesus able to perform miracles, and is able to heal, but rather he is serious about sin and doesn’t want any of his disciples to lead followers toward sin.
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