Sermon: Have Salt In Yourselves (Mark 9:30-50)

The Local Christendom Podcast with Aaron Ventura

09-10-2023 • 31分

Have Salt In Yourselves Sunday, October 8th, 2023 Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 9:30-50

30 And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. 31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

33 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. 35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. 36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, 37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our part. 41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. 42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. 50 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

Prayer

Father, we ask now for the peace that surpasses understanding to dwell in us and amongst us. For You Holy Spirit are that kiss of peace between Father and Son, You are the breath of love that proceeds from the Father and the Son. And so we ask that You would bind us and unite us and weave us together in love, so that our unity might reflect the Divine unity, we ask this in the name of Jesus who is Christ, and Amen.

Introduction

As we pick back up in Mark chapter 9, we are still in the afterglow of Christ’s transfiguration. Peter, James, and John have beheld the divine glory, they have heard the voice of the Father from heaven, but when they come down from the mountain, they find as Moses did, a crowd of unbelief.

  • This crowd includes Jewish scribes, it includes the disciples, and it includes a demon-possessed boy, and his father who cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief.”
  • We saw that Jesus then casts out the demon and declares that some spirits can only come forth by prayer and fasting. That was how verse 29 concluded that scene.
  • Well in our passage, verses 30-50, we now receive some private instruction that Jesus gives to his disciples. We are no longer outside with the crowds, we are now in a house, back in Capernaum (their home base), perhaps even in Peter’s own home (Mark 1:29).
    • And so this section is a kind of coach’s huddle to review the game film and prepare them for the next. These disciples are supposed to be teammates, and as with any team, there can be a temptation to jockey for position, to compete, to make comparisons about who is better than who at what, and to try to show oneself as deserving the best and most prominent role. Everyone wants to be quarterback (everyone wants to be the star). We all desire the glory that comes from making the winning shot, hitting the homerun, of being the best, and beautifullest, and brightest above our peers.
    • And it this aspiration for superiority, that Jesus wants to redirect and refocus in his twelve disciples. Far from suppressing their desire for greatness, Jesus teaches them the meaning of true greatness. The problem is not with wanting to be great (Rom. 2:7), the problem is that we don’t know what greatness is. And that is what Jesus is going to unfold for us here.

Overview

And so our sermon text could be organized around five things that Jesus says we must purge from ourselves if we would become salty. He says in verse 50, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” If you want peace with God and within yourself and within the church, Jesus is going to tell you how to get it.

  1. The desire to be great in the eyes of the world.
  2. The desire to gain a following for ourselves.
  3. Sins of the hand.
  4. Sins of the foot.
  5. Sins of the eye.

Now the setup for this conversation is verses 30-32. And there Jesus describes his future death and resurrection.

30 And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. 31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

  • This is the second of three cycles wherein Jesus explicitly tells the disciples what is going to happen to him (he spells it out) and yet the disciples go away confused, not understanding.
    • We saw this earlier in Mark 8 with Peter rebuking Jesus, and then Jesus rebuking Peter (“Get behind me Satan”), and so you can imagine the disciples are not wanting to be the next object of rebuke. So they are afraid to even ask.
    • Nonetheless, they illustrate just how badly they do not understand by disputing amongst themselves about who is the greatest.

Verses 33-34

33 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

  • Mark repeats this phrase from Jesus, “by/in the way” to advert us to the fact that Jesus is literally “on his way” to Jerusalem to die and yet the disciples are arguing over who is the best. This is like the impropriety of driving to your parents’ funeral while arguing with your siblings over who is going to get the house. The disciples fail to grasp the weight of what Jesus is doing and they are only thinking about themselves.
  • So Jesus, already knowing what they were talking about asks, “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?”
  • Of course, nobody wants to answer (they are silent), and so Jesus tells them the first thing that must die in them if they would become salty, if they would have peace amongst themselves.
  • And so the first thing they must die to is the desire to be great in the eyes of the world. Self-importance, the good opinion of others, the adoration of the masses, these self-centered desires for greatness must die in us if we would truly follow Jesus.
    • So many of our problems and conflicts come from caring more about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us. And that is the opposite of the fear of the Lord.
    • You want to be great, you want to be better than that guy or that girl, why? What is driving that desire? This is what Christ exposes.

Verses 35-37

35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. 36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, 37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

  • In order to illustrate the essence of true greatness, Jesus takes a little child up into his arms (this could have been Peter’s own son). And this child signifies the external insignificance that should characterize the disciples internally.
    • The disciples want to be great, children are small.
    • The disciples want to be powerful, children are weak.
    • The disciples want to be noticed and seen, children are often overlooked.
  • And yet Jesus says, that whosoever receives one of these little children in my name, whether an actual child, or a child in the faith, they are receiving Christ Himself, and not just Christ, but the Father who sent him.
  • And so Jesus flips the world’s value system upside down, and he literally embraces what is considered small, and weak, and insignificant, and gives it by the giving of his name to the child, an infinite value.
  • To receive a child in the name of Jesus, is to receive Jesus, and therefore to receive God. And if you have God, what more could you want?
  • And so far from discouraging their aspiration for greatness, Jesus redirects them to desire He who is Very Greatness, God Himself. If you want to be great, you must want God.
  • Practically, this means that by serving one another, by stooping low and embracing the little children, we come to embrace God. And when we embrace God in these little children we are conformed into the image of God, we begin to reflect to the world what God is like, and we become actually great in the eyes of God.
  • This is what Jesus exemplifies and it is what he calls all of his disciples to do. If you want to be great, if you want to be like God, then you must lower yourself like He did, that is what Greatness Incarnate did.
    • It says in Psalm 138:6, “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: But the proud he knoweth afar off.”
    • What does Mary say when she is given the honor of carrying the Godman in her womb? “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)
  • So the first thing that has to die in us, the must be purged from us if we would have peace, is the desire to be great in our own estimation and in the eyes of the world, instead of desiring to be great in the eyes of God.
    • It is easy to compare oneself with others and arrive at a conceited or inflated view of ourselves. But when we compare ourselves to the divine majesty, to He who is truly Great, suddenly the competition is exposed for the folly that it is.
  • Flowing from this inflated view of the self, is a second desire that we must likewise put to death. And that is the desire to gain a following for ourselves. Or put another way, it is the desire to be a gatekeeper according to our own opinions and preferences, rather than drawing the lines where God draws them. We see this in verses 38-40.

Verses 38-40

38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our side.

  • John is concerned that there is an exorcist outside of The Twelve that is casting out devils in Jesus’ name. And perhaps more embarrassing in the larger context is that the disciples had just found themselves unable to cast out a devil from the boy who was foaming at the mouth.
    • It is almost as if the disciples have an inferiority complex. They are insecure in their abilities and therefore forbid this man (who is actually being effective) from using Jesus name to do spiritual warfare.
  • Jesus corrects this misguided prohibition, and says, “Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our side.”
  • Insecurity and self-importance breed evil suspicions. And when we are more concerned with ourselves and our click, and our place in the pecking order, we are unable to see clearly who is friend and who is foe, who is an ally and who is an enemy.
  • There is so much friendly fire in the church because we sin in this way. We think that just because some other Christians do things or think things a little differently than we do, that they must be heretics. Or in the words of John, “because they followeth not us,” therefore we must stop them.
  • Jesus’ response is that if they are doing miracles in Jesus’ name, they are doing good works, they are on our side, therefore, don’t forbid them.
    • There are resonances here to what Paul says in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
  • Now this is not to say we must blindly approve of everyone who claims to come in Jesus’ name. We know from the Apostle Paul that some people really do need to be silenced. There really are false teachers and the church really must forbid certain people from teaching.
    • Paul says in Titus 1:10-11, “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”
    • So those people really do exist, there are many in the church today, and they must be silenced. That is not who Jesus is talking about here.
    • We are not told exactly who this man was. He might have been a disciple of John the Baptist, or a recent convert, for all we know, this mancould have been one of the other seventy disciples that Jesus had commissioned to do this work (Luke 10:1). Just because he was not among The Twelve does not mean he is an unlicensed minister.
  • Whatever the case, we are unworthy of making these kinds of judgments and unworthy of making this distinction between friend and foe, if we lack the humility and meekness of Christ.
  • And this is what Jesus wants his disciples to internalize. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. And so pray for God to raise up more laborers to go and gather in the elect, to fish for the souls of men, to spread the gospel to the ends of the world.
  • When we start to equate following Jesus with following us, as John did, we are in danger of confusing and mistaking our friends as enemies. And what is worse, we risk stumbling those who are children in the faith. Jesus continues in verses 41-42…

Verses 41-42

41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. 42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

  • It is a grave sin to make a child to stumble. And notice Jesus calls them “little ones that believe in me.” Little children have the capacity to believe in Jesus.
  • Regardless of whether you believe infants should be baptized or not, what you must not do is put a stumbling block in their way to Christ. You must not sow seeds of doubt in their heart, or keep them from the arms of Jesus. Instead, you should encourage and confirm their belief, not constantly second guess whether their faith is genuine or not.
  • When parents undermine the faith of their children (and they can do this in many way), they are asking God to hang a millstone around their neck and drop them into the ocean. That should sober us and scare us into repentance.
  • This is one of the many reasons why we want our children in the worship service with us. Because not only do they have the capacity to believe and participate at a very young age, but Jesus explicitly commands his disciples in Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Likewise in Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Jesus welcomes and embraces children, and he commands to humble ourselves as little child, with simple faith, if we would become great in the kingdom of heaven.
  • The disciples’ sin was to exclude the children, to exclude the unnamed exorcist, and to look down upon those who did not follow them. But in both cases, Jesus says, “forbid them not.” They may be children in understanding, they may be ignorant in many ways, but place no stumbling block in their path. Let the come to me.
  • So we must mortify in ourselves the desire to be more tidy and organized than God. Christ’s body, the church. is a messy place. There are many lines of division and schism in the body, and yet we will be unable to judge and discern rightly, if we are more concerned about people following us and our pet doctrines, than following Christ.
  • We must have a sense of due proportion if we do as Paul says in Ephesians 4:3, “Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
  • Summary: We must purge our desire to be great in the eyes of the world. We must purge our desire to gain a following for ourselves. And finally, we must put to death three sins of the body. We’ll call these:
    • Sins of the hand.
    • Sins of the foot.
    • Sins of the eye.

Verses 43-44

43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

  • The logic of Jesus argument in all three of these cases is essentially, do whatever it takes to not go to hell. Whatever you must do to avoid eternal punishment, do it.
  • It is of course unlawful according to Lev. 19:28 (and the golden rule, Lev. 19:18), to literally cut off your hand, or foot, or gouge out your own eye, but Jesus uses this image to get the point across.
    • One of the reasons we know this a figure of speech, a metaphor, is because cutting off your literal hand or foot or eye, doesn’t actually keep you from sinning. You still have the other hand, the other foot, the other eye, you still have a sinful heart from whence sin actually proceeds, and so it is not the literal body part that causes sin in the first place.
    • And this is why the Christian tradition has taken the hand, foot, and eye in this context as metaphors for different kinds of people or different kinds of sins we might commit.
    • And of course, Scripture itself uses these body parts as metaphors in countless places.
      • For example, Paul says famously in 1 Corinthians 12 that the church is one body with diverse members. So there, feet and hands and eyes and ears are all metaphors for different kinds of people in the church.
      • We see also that hands, feet, and eyes can signify different actions (good or bad) that we do.
        • To judge unjustly is to have an evil eye (Matt. 20:15).
        • The adulterous woman has feet that go down to Sheol (Pr. 5:5).
        • The works of man’s hands can be either good or evil.
  • So when we reflect on Jesus command here, to cut off the hand, or foot, or eye, we can apply it in a diversity of ways.
    • To cut off the hand may mean we need to sever certain friendships that are tempting us to do evil. A hand is like a counselor, a close friend on the right or the left. And Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:33 that evil counsel, bad company, ruins good morals.
      • So who is your “right hand man?” Who are your close friends? Are they making you more like Christ? Or are they making you more worldly?
      • If your friends are causing you to sin, you need new friends, you need to cut them out of your life.
      • And if that sounds harsh, or like it might be painful, there is reason Jesus then warns of the far greater pains of hell.
      • Three times he repeats himself, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
      • So you can either have temporary pain and discomfort now, you can suffer the difficulty of ending close relationships. Or you can keep those relationships, and then suffer forever. That’s the tradeoff.
    • To cut off a foot might mean you stop going places that tempt you to sin. It might mean you stop going there literally, or in your imagination. It might mean you get a dumbphone and cut off access to the internet.
      • Proverbs 1:15-16 says, “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; Refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, And make haste to shed blood.”
      • What roads do your feet take you down, that are not the straight and narrow path of Christ?
      • What mental roads do you stroll down, that you would be ashamed for other people to see? Especially God, who sees all.
      • Cut them off. Run to Christ.
    • And lastly, what sins of the eye must be cut out, if we would see God?
      • Job 31:1 says, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; Why then should I think upon a maid?”
      • Psalm 119:37 says, “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way.”

Conclusion

Jesus says in verses 49-50

49 For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. 50 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

  • Everyone is going to be salted with fire, that is everyone must pass through the judgment of God, who is a consuming fire.
    • And you can either burn forever, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” or you can become a living sacrifice that God receives and transforms into something glorious.
  • God’s covenant is called a covenant of salt, and He required in Leviticus 2:13 that “the salt of the covenant of thy God [must not] be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.”
    • And so if you and I would become acceptable sacrifices to God, we must as Jesus says, “have salt in ourselves.”
    • So purge yourself from every sin that clings so closely, cut off whatever will keep you from the kingdom, for as Jesus promises, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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