Everyone Will Be Salted With Fire

Photo by Francesco Alberti on Unsplash

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Psalm 124

James 5:13-20

Mark 9:38-50

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 rewardESV

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 claims12“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 seaESV 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 hellNET

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.

Mike Lawrence

Jesus Short Circuits the Disciples’ Minds

Free stock image of Mosaic of Vineyards and Olive Tree Groves - Douro Valley created by Jack Moreh
Jack Moreh

Proverbs 31:10-31

Psalm 1

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Mark 9:30-37

30-32 Then they left that district and went straight through Galilee. Jesus kept this journey secret for he was teaching his disciples that the Son of Man would be betrayed into the power of men, that they would kill him and that three days after his death he would rise again. But they were completely mystified by this saying, and were afraid to question him about itPhillips

These two verses are packed with information as well as the clear statement that is the basis of Christianity.

First, we learn that Jesus and his disciples—likely only the Twelve—were able to walk through Galilee, their home territory, without anyone knowing they were there. Once you understand the geography of Galilee, it is difficult to imagine 13 men walking around without being noticed. The photo above is a fair representation of the whole region in that time. Unlike today, people worked their crops nearly every day. It was all hand labor.

Second, Jesus had no misgivings about leaving thousands unhealed and untaught. His time on earth was limited and he had other things to do. Perhaps the second most important job Jesus had was to get his disciples ready to take over when he was gone. I could be argued to be job one. Considering how thick-headed they all seemed to be, that was a full-time job.

Third, we are told that Jesus wanted time with the Twelve for special instruction that was not intended for everyone—yet. Mark gives us a bare bones outline of what was perhaps a week as well as a skimpy teaching report. Matthew repeats this in nearly the same words. Luke does add more detail about what the Twelve were thinking. 45 But they didn’t understand what he meant by this. It had been concealed from them so that they would not grasp its meaning, and they were afraid to ask him about itCJB

We read this kind of thing throughout the Bible, giving us the idea that God does not want us to understand. In fact, the understanding comes later. First, they must get the idea, then when the resurrection happens, the disciples can begin to piece the teachings together. They do that in a shared setting where the disciples—the larger group—talk it out until they are ready at Pentecost for the full picture to fill their minds with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Consider this statement: the Son of Man would be betrayed into the power of men. Jesus did not suggest that one of his own would betray him. This early in the ministry, he may not have known that it would be one of the Twelve. We know two things about Jesus; he received from God everything he needed when he needed it; and he had a human body with a human brain that could not hold unlimited information.

If God told Jesus, ‘Pick Judas from Iscariot because he will betray you at the end,’ how difficult would that have been for Jesus day after day? I do believe God gave Jesus what he needed, and it could be that Jesus needed to love on Judas as compensation. That goes on my long list of questions for God/Son when I sit at the banquet table in the New Jerusalem.

Notice also that Jesus was to be turned over to humans. You and I might have joined the crowd that turned against Jesus. Clearly, Jesus does not blame either Jews or Romans; he blames us.

33 So they came to Capernaum. And when they were indoors he asked them, “What were you discussing as we came along?” 34-35 They were silent, for on the way they had been arguing about who should be the greatest. Jesus sat down and called the twelve, and said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.” 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

Capernaum was the base of operation for Jesus and his followers. Phillips chose not to specify that they entered a house, we assume the house where Jesus—at least—lived when they were in the town. Likely it was the home of Peter who moved his family there from Bethsaida.

We can only speculate about the living arrangements of Jesus before his baptism, but some think he may have been living there, perhaps for years, preparing himself for his ministry. If so, the house could have been his. Again, is so, perhaps Mary moved there to be closer to him. This has large question marks?

The tradition throughout the Roman world of the day—but based on Greek tradition—when a teacher was traveling with his students, even walking a few meters, no student would dare walk beside the teacher unless invited to do so. We then should see Jesus striding along with the disciples strung out behind. No doubt, the discussion got a little heated and Jesus overheard enough to know what was going on. God did not have to tell him about it.

‘So….boys, what’s up?’

I would guess by then they knew Jesus had eyes and ears everywhere, but they still were not willing to confess to such teenage behavior. (It is hard for us to remember that they were mostly under age 25—best guess.)

Jesus takes a seat, a signal that the lesson was about to come. The students always stood. “If any man wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.” Mark repeats this message at 10:45 in response to John and James’ request that they sit on either side of Jesus in Heaven. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be the slave of all men! For the Son of Man himself has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others freePhillips

John gives us the ultimate repeat of the message in John 13:3-5.  By supper-time, the devil had already put the thought of betraying Jesus in the mind of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. Jesus, with the full knowledge that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the supper-table, took off his outer clothes, picked up a towel and fastened it round his waist. Then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel around his waistPhillips

Most of the disciples dressed like their master, that is, wearing a long robe over undergarments. They did not have to aske if it was boxers or briefs. The loins were girded with a cloth not unlike a diaper. Over that they wear a tunic which was like an extra-long tee shirt that covered the chest and groin. Men doing labor generally wore only the tunic. Ladies avert your eyes.

Jesus striped down to his tunic, just like household slaves, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, just like a household slave. Can the image of being a Christian be any clearer?

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence