Text: Mark 9:38-50

Sunday September 26, 2021 (Pentecost 18)

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for this 18TH Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel lesson from Mark that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit so that living in the truth of being redeemed by you and connected to you we have been “salted” to live so others will realize they too have been “salted” to serve you! Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

The Gospel for this Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost includes some of the most difficult verses in the entire Gospel of Mark. Those most difficult verses aren’t when Jesus says, “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward”, though those verses could easily be misunderstood to turn sweet Gospel into Law.

The toughest verses aren’t even Jesus’ instruction, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off” (v 43)—as difficult as that is for us to hear.

No, among the toughest verses in Mark’s Gospel are these words: “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you salt it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace among one another” (vv 49–50). Just what does Jesus mean with that metaphor of “salt” and “salting”?

Let’s find out—as we work through the entire lesson, beginning with those other not-so-easy verses.

3. Those who are for you are for Christ himself (vv 38–41).

a. The disciples are troubled to see a man casting out demons when he’s not one of the Twelve.

(1) Compare the incident in today’s Old Testament Read­ing when Joshua is troubled by Eldad and Medad prophesying back in the Israelite camp (Num 11:24–30).

(2) This is a matter of seeing some people as “insid­ers” (where we ourselves want to be counted!) and others as “outsiders.”

(3) Like the Twelve, we may also be troubled when things done in our congregations don’t seem quite according to plan, especially when we see the person doing the questionable behavior as an “outsider.”

b. However, Jesus tells the disciples not to forbid this man from exorcising, for “he who is not against us is on our side.”

(1) We must allow God to “do his things.”, through those who we do not expect to have the ability or come from a certain group, or family.

(2) There is to be no “insider/outsider” distinction among those who share in Christ’s kingdom.

c. Though that might at first make us feel defensive, it actually demonstrates that we who are followers of Christ are especially important.

(1) Jesus says that the one who is kind to you (as in, giving you a cup of water) because you are “in the name of Christ” will not lose his reward.

(2) This is where we could turn Gospel into Law. Jesus’ focus here isn’t on the one giving the drink (commanding us to do that . . . though we should and though those being rewarded are almost surely also Christians). His focus is on the one receiving the drink—emphasizing how precious the recipient is to God.

(3) How so? Because a kindness to a Chris­tian is in fact a kindness done to Christ himself. (Recall Mt 25:40.)

(4) You’re worth so much to God that someone who cares for you is rewarded as caring for Jesus!

2. God wants no one—especially yourself!—to cause you to stumble, to be lost (vv 42–48).

a. Now comes the section of the text that we all hear right away as difficult—the part about stumbling, where you’re told to cut off your hand or foot or pluck out your eye or be drowned with a giant millstone tied around your neck.

(1) Are we really supposed to do that? Almost certainly not.

(2) However, Jesus is clearly teaching the seriousness of stumbling—of being bound to one’s old ways of trusting in self and thus turning away from Christ. Drowning or mutilation really would be better than to go to eternal fire in hell.

(3) And Jesus may also be pushing us to consider the deeper question at hand. Is it really a matter of hands or feet or eyes that might cause us to be lost? No! It’s from the heart that sins come (Mk 7:20–23). Jesus reminds us that this, too, is a matter of the heart.

b. Yet this difficult section, too, shows us how much we Christians are worth to God.

(1) Jesus talks of stumbling because he doesn’t want it to happen to anyone—including you!

(2) Woe to the person who causes you to lose your faith in Christ! It really would be preferable to God if he never lived long enough to do that.

(3) God doesn’t even want you to cause you to stumble. Remember that evil heart of yours! The real threat to being a follower of Christ lies in oneself!

(4) You’re worth so much to God that Jesus will speak in the greatest extremes to warn you against falling away! He doesn’t want anyone—especially you yourself—to cause you to be lost.

1. To God, then, you’re worth every grain of salt you have (vv 49–50).

a. Here are indeed some of the most difficult verses in all of Mark’s Gospel! To begin, these verses are difficult because the metaphor could refer to any of the ancient uses of salt:

(1) Seasoning for food

(2) Preservative or purifier of things contaminated or rotten

(3) A medium for destroying the fertility of land

(4) An addition to offerings or incense

b. “Everyone will be salted with fire.”

(1) To which of the uses of salt is Jesus referring? Probably the purgative function of salt.

(2) On the Last Day, we know, fire will purge away all that is incongruent with God’s kingdom.

(3) But this will be a good thing for God’s people, for when all that is unhelpful is purged, salted, burned away, we will be blessed with full participation in the reign and rule of Christ.

(4) That, of course, is based on us being in Christ (built upon the foundation of Christ, to use a different metaphor, Paul’s in 1 Cor 3:11–15).

c. “Salt is good, but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you salt it?”

(1) Difficult again! Because this time Jesus can’t be talking about salt as the fire of the Last Day. That salt/fire can’t lose its saltiness.

(2) This salt is different. This salt is you! You, Jesus says, are good—because you are in him. You are the ones who work against the evil of the world.

(3) But what a stern warning: You’re good only in Christ, so without him, nothing can make you good.

d. “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace among one another.”

(1) Multiple possibilities of meaning once more. But consider this: Since we are in Christ, we are invited into fellowship with all others who share the faith.

(2) And Jesus doesn’t seem to be telling us to get salt that leads to this sweet fellowship. Rather, he’s saying that we have it.

(3) We have the salt that leads to fellowship since we are in Christ, who came to us, died and rose for us, and brought us to be baptized into him and his death and resurrection so that we could be in him.

So then what do we have . . . with Jesus’ discussion of salt and with this entire passage and for the bigger picture of our life as people who are in Christ? Well, you have this:

You are worth so much to God that he sees those who care for you as caring for Christ himself. You are worth so much to God that he doesn’t want anything or anyone, including your own sinful heart, to cause you to stumble away from him. You are worth so much to God that he deems you worth every grain of salt you have.

In Christ, You Are Worth Your Salt.Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.