Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 9: 38-50. Brad speaks of the gravity of sin and Hell, and also points us to the hope we have in Jesus, for we do not have to endure the consequences of sin that we deserve.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he is teaching his disciples what it means to be a follower of Christ. Jesus is not doing as much with works, he is now speaking and teaching more. And by teaching his disciples, he is teaching us. In this passage, Jesus talks about people who are for Jesus and he also talks about sin and Hell. Let’s take a look.
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
- Disciples are more concerned about “us” than Jesus. They say he isn’t apart of our squad, he isn’t following us. This gives insight into some comments the disciples make later.
- Jesus give three “for” statements, which are three reasons why they should not worry about this person.
- No one who does a mighty work in Jesus’ name and sees success will be able to speak evil of Jesus. People who aren’t against Jesus and his followers are for them, and this was saying something because it seemed like everyone was against them.
- It’s interesting that Jesus uses Christ here, the term that later if people are associated with Christ they are persecuted. When Romans were persecuting Christians, they were persecuting the people of Christ. So if someone gives water to a follower of Christ and extends a simple gesture of kindness, they will be rewarded.
- The disciples will have plenty of people against them. Remember they will have to pick up their cross. Suffering and persecution will happen. So if others are doing mighty works in the name of Jesus, that is fine. If people aren’t against them, they will have to be for them. And when people extend kindness to those who follow Christ they will be rewarded. There is something different about these people.
- Jesus is talking about people who seem like they are not apart of his “squad”. There are still people who are extending a hand to people in the name of Christ. They might not seem like they are a part, but they are still using his name for mighty works. But then there are people who are part of Jesus and his followers who are causing others to stumble.
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
- Remember the little ones from last week, the most vulnerable in society. Jesus is saying that if anyone causes them to stumble it is better for them to be thrown into the sea with a huge stone around their neck. That’s how serious Jesus sees us tempting or encouraging others to sin.
- Causing others to sin and causing others to stumble and waver is a huge deal. We have to take stalk of our lives and ask ourselves, are we causing those around me to sin?
- How could you be causing someone to sin?
- Are you talking inappropriately around your friends which forces them to think sinful thoughts or say sinful things?
- Are you peer pressuring a friend into making a decision they know is sinful?
- Are you seeing someone about to sin and not stopping them or calling them out?
- This is a serious matter. Not only should we not cause others to sin, but we should look at our own life and see if there is anything causing us to sin. Look at the next few verses.
43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
- If you are causing other people to sin, it is better for you to be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea. Then Jesus turns the attention to one’s own sin. Look at your own life and see if there is anything causing you to sin. And if there is, get rid of it. Take extreme measures to remove that stumbling block from your life.
- Now this doesn’t mean we literally cut off our limbs or gouge out our eyes. But maybe we get rid of our smartphone or computer. Maybe we don’t watch the kind of movies that we like, because they cause us to stumble. Maybe we don’t go over to a certain friends house, because you know when you’re there you will be tempted to sin.
- This is a call for self reflection. Look into your life, and think about all the areas where you know there will be temptation. Where you know it will be tempting for you to sin, and you know you often fall into that temptation. Whatever that place is that you go into knowing that it will be a stumbling block, don’t go there. Whatever is causing you to sin, get rid of it.
- And Jesus has a pretty compelling reason why we should take this seriously. Because it is better for one to enter life without a hand or foot or eye than to enter hell with all your limbs and eyes.
- It is sin that takes us to hell. Sin is the reason there must be punishment in hell. So if we are willingly walking into sin without doing whatever it takes to eliminate or avoid that sin, we are walking into hell.
- Now, let’s take a look at hell. It is something we don’t talk a lot about as Christians, but we should.
- Jesus is referring to a place our of Jerusalem where people would burn like trash.
- In Jeremiah 7:32 he calls out people for worshipping false God’s and burning children, and says that one day it won’t be called that any more, because those who burned their children there will be burned there in judgment. This place then becomes the place where they burned trash outside the city of Jerusalem. It is away from the city, it is away from God.
- Jesus uses imagery from Isaiah 66 also, the place where the worm doesn’t die and the fire isn’t quenched.
- Isaiah is all about the New Jerusalem and the very last verse is about people going to the edge of the city and looking out and seeing those outside the city judged for their sin. Jesus is using prophetic imagery of judgment to talk about Hell. This place that is experienced because of sin. It is outside of the city, separated from God, judgment.
- It is better that you go into the kingdom of God with one eye, than Hell with two. The kingdom of God is the contrast to Hell. Eternal life in a kingdom where God rules and reigns forever. So how do we get there? Because I want life in the kingdom of God, but I’m stuck because Hell is what I deserve. I cause others to sin, I don’t stop them when they are going to sin. I am a sinner myself. I deserve Hell, but I would much rather be with God.
- Jesus goes outside of the city, he enters into it, to be destroyed. To be judged. To suffer. Jesus suffers the way that we were meant to suffer so that we could have life. Jesus took on Hell so that we could be in the kingdom of God. He was separated from God, tortured and punished, so that we could have life. Jesus didn’t stay there. We know that he rose again, he conquered Hell, escaped death and entered into the kingdom of God. Despite the fact that we still sin.
- So there are two applications. Don’t sin, but also take heart and recognize that Jesus has don’t something about that. Jesus has taken on our sin so that we do not die like we deserve. Because he has done this for us, to avoid sin.
49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
- In Leviticus we learned that priests would put salt on the sacrifices that they burned for God. This is a picture of offerings being salted and we are the offering that is being salted. But if the salt has lost its saltiness, it can’t become salty again. It is what makes us an offering acceptable to God. We can only be salty if we give ourselves to God, which should then produce fruit in our lives.
- You’ve been given life even though you deserve hell, so bear fruit. Be effective. Be at peace with one another and understand that our citizenship to the kingdom of God is because of the Gospel.