Friday 24 September 2021


Mark 9  v.38/50

Turning to this week’s gospel reading, in verse 38 we find John facing a problem which he took to Jesus. At that time demons were a common problem and someone had been casting out in the name of Jesus and actually being successful in doing so. Because the person was not one of the twelve Apostles, they were trying to stop him.  The Apostles considered they were the only ones allowed to minister in the name of Jesus; there are those today who take a similar line.

 People in different Churches are inclined to think only their denomination is the authentic one.

The Roman Catholic Church declares itself as the only true Church, and the other denominations as unworthy and refuse to share Communion with other Christians. Can anyone imagine Jesus asking a person which denomination they belonged to before he helped them, or shared worship?

Some priests are more realistic however. I was once asked if a Catholic priest could pronounce the blessing at a wedding in my Church, where the bride and groom were from different Churches. The priest and I shared the whole service, and it was a most pleasant experience which pleased all present.

  The answer Jesus gives is that there must be tolerance, which means an acceptance that there are different ways of accepting something.. The fact that others do not worship as they do, does not mean they are inferior, such is sheer pride and hypocrisy. There are good and bad people in all Churches, and if we work side by side we can only make progress with our fellow brothers and sisters, no matter what Church we are members of.   We all have our own thoughts as to what is best and come to different conclusions.  Just as two people may go to the same location, they may well take different routes and arrive there; so on our journey to God, we just let Jesus be the navigation. God made many different flowers not just roses, but they all bloom in the same way.

 Everyone has a right to their own way of worship, which all should respect, and be prepared to share if it is basic biblical doctrine.  We find Jesus discussing the importance of living lives which count, and moving  amongst all manner of people. Paul stated he was all things to all people, in order to win souls for Jesus. We must recognize the need to give up anything that stands between us and salvation. No one denomination has a monopoly of salvation.  Every belief is best judged by the kind and manner of people who follow.         

 Christianity is the one organization in the world where men and women, of any ages, of any race or nationality can meet as a fellow members of one family, with one heavenly Father.  At one time I was in Kenya where Christian missionaries came from different countries, and regularly we could meet to share fellowship on greeting them; different coloured skins, genders and ages, even nationalities.

 We all desire to live purposeful lives, to accomplish significant achievements, to be known for impacting on society. So it is important how we live.  We get positive help as we study the Bible, and in this passage we hear Jesus’ words on living in a way that counts. His teaching is simple, direct and salutary.  It declares any kindness shown, or any help given to the people will be rewarded.  The people being helped and who belong to Jesus have a claim upon us, for if He had been here He would have helped them.

 Jesus speaks of two ways in which we can deal with people.  We can either deal positively by encouragement. Or destroy them by manipulation.  It is important to see that encouragement builds positive relationships.   Jesus spoke of someone giving a cup of water to a follower of His.  This may seem a small act to do, but is a very important as a basic act of encouragement. We are being shown that any act of kindness will be rewarded, and here the small drink of water is an example.

 We all need encouragement at times when our souls are weary and parched.  Our emotions thirst for someone to encourage us, which will go a long way with us.  It doesn’t cost financially, just a little time, and it has the power to help relationships as we support each other.

 I have stated before that we are to stand firm for our faith, and be ready to challenge those who confront us.  It is common to hear or find a wholehearted attack, criticizing Christianity and mocking our beliefs. On the rare instances when people in positions of influence, who are better placed to be heard than us, speak out for the Church, we should let it be known we appreciate their support. In to-day’s world we have emails and texts which make it so easy to communicate.  But just as encouragement builds up relationships, manipulation destroys them.

 Jesus warms against causing others to stumble.  To help, earns eternal reward, but to cause someone to stumble earns eternal punishment.  We all have a choice to either build up or knock down. The Apostles had to make that choice. We have the power to help people to become all that God can make them; that however does not mean we can abandon principle and put aside spiritual discipline. On the other hand we can put them off by being disinterested or unconcerned.

 Jesus spoke of placing a millstone around the necks. The millstone mentioned was a large one, so great it took an ass to turn move it. To be cast into the sea with one attached, was to have no hope of a return.  Such was a punishment in Rome and Palestine.

 To sin is bad, but to cause others to do so is infinitely more worse. God is ready to forgive a sinner, but is stern to anyone who makes it easy for another to do so. Whilst encouragement erns reward, to cause someone to stumble merits condemnation.  The stumbling blocks we place in front of other believers become millstones around our necks.  No doubt the Apostles had seen the drowned bodies of victims, and he words of Jesus would be clearly understood. Yet Jesus states that it is a better fate than that which awaits those who cause one of the little ones to stumble.  People are too important to be led astray, and there certainly are those who do lead people purposefully and fully astray.  Preachers, who use the Word of God in a deceptive way, and most definitely in deceptive ways, redefining the Scriptures to accommodate modern morality, emptying the meaning which thereby misled others.  The judgement, as the Bible warns, will be severe judgement on such people.

 In life people get an illness which causes the whole body to be infected, and extensive surgery is often needed to cure. This can happen spiritually, which is why Jesus uses such strong words to point out the infection and punishment to be taken, which should not be taken literally, but seen and understood there is a goal in life which is worth sacrifice in order to get.  The goal for a Christian is the Kingdom of God, a society in which God’s will is done. A Christian therefore has to strive by discipline and self-denial to do the will of God.

 To attain this you may need to give up some pleasures you enjoy, but are not fitting in your new life and you may find friends are less friendly. We can have an unforgiving spirit, engaging in dishonest business transactions, using crude and worthless language, engaging in judgmental gossip.  If we are to have lives that count, we have to care how we live.   The sacrifice may be painful to begin with, but you are carrying your cross as Jesus stated was necessary, and being obedient to God.

 The passage lays down in vivid Eastern language, the basic truth there is one goal worth sacrifice. It should be apparent to us that sin destroys lives, which is the point Jesus is making in this message. He is saying, that such are the devastating effects of sin, it is better to be crippled physically rather enter into hell.  It is not considered theologically proper to talk about hell these days, in case people get upset, but indeed many clergy would not accept there is such a place, One Minister asked me if I really believed there was a place called hell.  I told him Jesus said there was, so that is good enough for me, for when Jesus spoke of heaven he always mentioned the alternative as hell.

 The word Jesus used was Gehenna, which referred to Israel’s valley of Himon.  It is described by Joshua as a place outside Jerusalem.  During the reigns of Old Testament kings Ahaz and Manasseh; human sacrifices were offered to the heathen god Molech.  Later the valley was turned into a  rubbish dump, a place for burning refuse and bodies of criminals’; fires smouldered  there continuously.  It was a picture of hell, a symbol of the eternal waste of human life , results of sin, which cause us to end up on a rubbish dump for a life wasted or thrown away. 

 This is why Jesus deals so  radically with sin, because He knows what sin can do to us, so it must be dealt with ruthlessly.  It is like a cancer eating away, and in order to save our lives, part of the body must be attended to, in order to remove pressure on the whole body.  Physically it is like taking away a limb if a body is to be saved.  In the spiritual life, the same kind of situation applies, where we need to consider what we are doing, which we shouldn’t.

 The Jewish Rabbis had sayings based on the way in which some parts of the body lend themselves to sin.  The two main parts are the eyes and heart.  There are certain instincts in people and parts of our physical constitution which minister to sin. The saying of Jesus is a vivid eastern way of saying, there is a goal in life which is worthy of any sacrifice which must be made to attain it.

 Jesus is not of course wanting to pluck out the eyes of people, not damage any limb.  His point is that we must deal ruthlessly in cutting out the harmful practices, in other words if there is something which drags us down, we must exercise self-discipline and self-denial. It counts how we deal with ourselves and others.  Notice how Jesus states you are the one who has to deal with it, for you are the one who can.

 Then in the last two verses, Jesus speaks about being salted with fire which is not quenched, and the worm does not die.  Here he is speaking of judgement.  In the Old Testament times, .all the sacrifices had to be accompanied by salt, which was seen as the salt of the covenant which made the sacrifices acceptable to God.  To be salted with fire means that we shall be tested and tried in order to develop the character of Christ within us. Fire will not be quenched means there will be lasting torment, and the worm refers to sin.

Fire is connected with purification. It is fire which purifies the base metal, by which the alloy is separated and the metal is left pure.  The life that is acceptable to God is the life which has been purified by the discipline of Christian obedience and the acceptance of the guiding hand of God.

 But salt can lose its saltiness. Salt has two function; it adds flavour to our food for a dish can be tasteless if salt is left out.  Secondly, salt is the earliest of all preservatives and was used to prevent something from going rotten.  The Christian was sent into a heathen society to live and add flavour and make the society better.  It was a corrupt world, purity was gone and chastity was unknown. Into that poisonous society Christianity was an antiseptic, a cleansing purifying influence.

 Jesus is here challenging the Christian.  If the purity of life is lost, what hope is there.  He is pointing out that unless the Christian brings pure life there is nowhere else it can be found.  How dreadfully has today’s Church let the salt be wasted.  If we are honest and look at today’s Church with a clear mind, surely you can see how it is letting God down so badly.  Yes there are a lot of devoted and sincere men and women attending Churches, but for what purpose if they are not being told all that God has laid down in His Word.  Ministers are called to ‘preach the Word’.

  If you are called a bigot, it is like a badge of honour, for paradoxically you must be telling the truth of the Bible, for you are called such because you don’t subscribe to modern morality.  I have been so designated just for telling that the resurrection of Jesus was as recorded by the Bible, and witnessed by historians of the day.


If you find your Church is not fit for the purpose you believe, there are wonderful services from the United States each Sunday on Sky television where the Bible is preached as the Lord would want.


Do not be discouraged. Remember the words of the hymn, stand up, stand up, for Jesus.

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