Eternal God, may I listen attentively to Your words, come to know the truth, and be set free by it.
Read MARK 9:42-50
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Jesus didn’t call us to be sugar; he called us to be salt. Salt irritates sometimes but it also preserves. He called us to make a difference” (Haddon Robinson).
The conversation between master and disciples in the house at Capernaum continues. The topic is at first stumbling, and then seasoning. Stumbling is a metaphor for falling into unbelief, serious sin, or false teaching. Jesus warns against causing disciples young in years or in faith to lapse (42). It is not hard to imagine actions and attitudes on our part that might prompt spiritual disaster in the lives of others. Jesus doesn’t leave to conjecture the punishment that will be meted out for such spiritual child abuse. Large millstones were so heavy they required a donkey to turn them. Tying a great stone around the necks of criminals and throwing them into the sea was a Roman punishment. Jews viewed such punishment with horror. For them, death without proper burial was the worst way to die.
From offenses against others Jesus turns to offenses against one’s self (43-48). He warns us of letting ourselves be led into sin by hand, foot or eye. The hyperbole underlines the fact that following Jesus is worth any sacrifice. The thrice-repeated consequences are painful and eternal, and couldn’t be more serious. The figures of “worm” and “fire” suggest destruction from within and without (Isa. 66:24).
Jesus next moves from the seriousness of stumbling to the desirability of seasoning (49,50). Salt both seasons and preserves food, but it can lose its saltiness. Jesus may be contrasting pure salt with the impure mixture available from Dead Sea deposits. He is urging us to guard against our witness becoming bland and stale. Spiritual staleness is avoided by spending time in Scripture and in prayer, alone and with others. Jesus also draws on salt as a symbol of perpetual friendship (Arabs still say, “There is salt between us”) to highlight the importance of peacemaking and peacekeeping in the wider fellowship of his followers.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”” (Matt. 5:9). Ask God to make you a peacemaker and peacekeeper today.
Gracious Lord, may my words make others stronger and not stumble. May they build up and not drag down.
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