Last week’s lesson ended with verses 36-37. Then he took a little child and stood him in front of them all, and putting his arms round him, said to them, “Anyone who welcomes one little child like this for my sake is welcoming me. And the man who welcomes me is welcoming not only me but the one who sent me!” Phillips
In addition to the lesson about the Son of God, those two verses reminds us that even when Jesus is instructing the Twelve, other disciples are nearby, including some of their children.
John immediately says, “Master, we saw somebody driving out evil spirits in your name, and we stopped him, for he is not one who follows us.” Phillips
If John the Apostle is also the author of GJohn and Revelation, one can wonder when he finally understood what Jesus was teaching. Here, he still does not seem to get it. ‘You said something about little kids, but you should have seen us the other day when we put a stop to some ruffian who does not follow you.’
And Jesus wept.
Actually, 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. ESV
I suspect this passage puts a ding in the idea that the only way to God is through Jesus. By extension, only people who are baptized into Jesus have any chance of avoiding Hell. Give these verses serious study. He is not a follower of Jesus, but he can drive out demons. How can this be?
Clearly, Jesus had no problem with a non-follower doing miracles in the name of Jesus.
This episode has a kind of recurrence decades later in Corinth. Paul writes in his first letter to the church there to quell divisions.
11 For I know, from what some of Chloe’s people have told me that you are each making different claims—12“I am one of Paul’s men,” says one; “I am one of Apollos’,” says another; or “I am one of Cephas’”; while someone else says, “I owe my faith to Christ alone.” 13 What are you saying? Is there more than one Christ? Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? Phillips Several translations use at verse 13; Is Christ Divided?
Mark and Paul have the same answer; Christ now and forever, there is no other. Do not reject a cup of water from someone you know to be a serious sinner, he may be a follower of Jesus.
I believe that Jesus is the way to Heaven, but God and His Son can bring people in who have never heard of Jesus. We do not know all the ways of God.
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. ESV It is likely that Jesus still has the child near him from verse 36 on. Possibly, he pointed to several children with the larger group of disciples.
The message is clear; do right with children—always.
But there is another important message—that millstone. Jesus did not invent the concept; it was another common form of execution all over the Roman Empire. It was likely that many of the crowd had seen or heard of such executions.
What is the meaning theologically? Jesus praised the welcoming of children into the fellowship in verse 37. Now comes the opposite, the punishment for turning them away. Jesus speaks even more broadly, do not hinder anyone from coming to Jesus.
There are so many ways we can discourage people from believing in Jesus. Tens of thousands have been sexually assaulted by priest, ministers, and rabbis—children and adults. How many have turned away after meeting a “Christian” who called them unpleasant names; engaged in public shouting matches; refused to serve a meal to a dirty person; or simply ignored someone wanting information? I suspect all of us are guilty of unknown—to us—slights and offenses.
43-49 “Indeed, if it is your own hand that spoils your faith, you must cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to keep both your hands and go to the rubbish-heap, If your foot spoils your faith, you must cut it off. It is better to enter life on one foot than to keep both your feet and be thrown on to the rubbish-heap. And if your eye leads you astray, pluck it out. It is better for you to go one-eyed into the kingdom of God than to keep both eyes and be thrown on to the rubbish-heap, where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’. For everyone will be salted by fire.” Phillips
What are we to make of this strangeness? The maiming is found also in Matthew 5:27-30. You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your embers than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell. NET
Let’s take care of the big question: Jesus was not advocating chopping off hands. He is speaking metaphorically. If you cannot be in the same room as another person without wanting to commit adultery, stay away. There are any number of simple, if not easy, ways to deal with strong emotions. Ask yourself questions. Is she beautiful or is it makeup? Would I want her parents as in laws?
For everyone will be salted by fire.” 50 “Salt is a very good thing; but if it should lose its saltiness, what can you do to restore its flavour? You must have salt in yourselves, and live at peace with each other.” Phillips
The Greek manuscripts available today have three different versions of verse 49. The one above is found in the oldest manuscripts. A different version reads; Every sacrifice will be salted with salt. And the third version reads; Everyone will be salted with fire and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. The general rule in translation is to use the oldest manuscript, but that is not always the best. Here, the meaning of salted by fire is cryptic, whereas, salting a sacrifice was common practice in the Temple.
Salty Christians will add flavor to the world, also a little preservative. We are not doom-and-gloom robots spouting death to heathens; nor are we too holy to be touched by the dirty world.
We live sinful lives, even as we try to avoid sin. We believe in Jesus, that is how we differ from non-Christians. Give peace a try—every day.
Be righteous and do good.