Mark 9:14-29 tells the story of the healing of a boy with a spirit that 'makes him mute' and causes some sort of seizure or fit. When Jesus arrives on the scene, the crowd "were greatly amazed" — but why are they amazed before he heals the boy?

14And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” ESV

2 Answers 2


Jesus causes amazement more than once in Mark's Gospel and this is the only case that I can find for which the cause is not immediately obvious1:

  • 1:27And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” ESV

  • 2:12And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” ESV

  • 5:42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. ESV

  • 10:24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! ESV

  • 15:5But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. ESV

However, although no indication is given in the immediate context as to why the appearance of Jesus caused amazement, if they'd seen Jesus on the mountain shortly before, there would certainly have been cause:

2And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. ESV

It seems likely that this effect had not entirely worn off by the time that Jesus arrived on the scene in verse 14. Not least because of the parallel with Moses up his own high mountain in Exodus 34:

29When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. ESV

1In the earlier instances the cause is what Jesus does, and in the later instances it is what Jesus says.

  • 1
    RE:Moses came down from Mount Sinai; I had the same thought. No textual support for it however. Commented May 28, 2015 at 18:24

Question Restatement: "In Mark 9, why is the crowd, (who was with the disciples as they were trying to cast out a demon), "amazed" to see Jesus--since he had not done anything yet?

Amaze, from Merriam-Webster - - obsolete : bewilder, perplex.

Mark 9:14 - When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, (they were amazed [alarmed/distressed]) and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You *my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.

Answer: The context indicates that they were not "amazed", in a "Joyful Sense", to see Jesus--but rather, they were already "in shock/distressed" because of the disciples inability to cast out the demon, and so they "ran" [translation?] to Jesus in desperation.

Greek Analysis, ἐξεθαμβήθησαν Indicates Distress

The Greek word for "Amaze", here, does not connote a positive sense, "of joy". But, rather "ἐξεθαμβήθησαν" indicates "alarmed/distress/troubled", as the disciples could not heal the boy, and so because of their distress, ran to Jesus in desperation. This is the same word used in Mark 16:5, and in Mark 14:32, (notably without a sense of joy).

NOTE: Thayer's analysis, here, is a little limited, but the complete contexts clarify the meaning.

Mark 16:5, NASB - 5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed [in Matt. 28:5, "do not be afraid", from φοβεῖσθε]; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

Mark 14:32, NASB - They *came to a place named Gethsemane; and He *said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.

  • A more modern translation might be "alarmed".
    – fumanchu
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 2:06
  • @fumanchu, Thanks! I can see how this would work in Mark 9:14, but this understanding would not consistently work/apply in Mark 14, and 16. I think "distress" works in all contexts, (agitated, vexated, etc.). Either way, I think "amazed" is completely inappropriate. Commented May 28, 2015 at 2:13
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    Re. ‘already "in shock/distressed" because of the disciples inability to cast out the demon.’: καὶ εὐθὺς πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἰδόντες αὐτὸν ἐξεθαμβήθησαν - It’s hard for me to imagine that ἐξεθαμβήθησαν there describes a pre-existing condition not directly related to ἰδόντες αὐτὸν. (I’m also doubtful that the ESV is “completely inappropriate.” ;-) )
    – Susan
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 6:23
  • @Susan (A.) The text states that when Jesus arrived, he came to them in a middle of a "debate/contest/dispute"--as they were all expecting the disciples to cast out the demon, but were frustrated. So, I do not think that a pre-existing state of "perplexity" or "despair" is out of the question. (B.) You are right, "Completely Inappropriate" was inappropriate. I looked up the etymology of "amaze", and it seems as though it does bear with it the connotation of, "bewildered, perplexed, astonished, stupefied, overwhelmed, lost", (all in a negative, rather than positive sense). Commented May 28, 2015 at 6:58
  • Also possibly relevant: the use of the related adjective ἔκθαμβος in Acts 3:11.
    – Susan
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 10:25

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