A VIEW OF MINISTRY
As we continue on in our study in Mark chapter 9 this evening, keep in mind that what Jesus is teaching on is born out of the actions of the disciples. Jesus spoke of His death in Jerusalem by the hands of the religious leaders, and then on the third day He was going to rise from the dead. Now the apostles, as they were traveling to Capernaum, probably to Peters house, they were arguing who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom. They were not looking towards the cross, but to glory. But before the glory there is the suffering. And Jesus is going to teach them what a servant is all about. That the kingdom is not going to be established at this time, but He is going to serve others as an example to His men and to us.
1. Now remember, John was coming against a man who was not a card carrying member of the Apostolic Troop, and yet he healed a man of his demon possession. And Jesus tells John that no one can do this if he was not of God. Now here in verse 41, Jesus speaks of someone who performs the smallest, simplest act of hospitality, of love, in the name of Jesus, and says that this person will be rewarded for their actions. Thus, Jesus is speaking of those that are saved reaching out to anyone who is in need, no matter how insignificant it might be, for God acknowledges that act and will reward you for it. There is no service to small that is done in His name!
2. We also need to understand that our salvation is not based upon good works. We are not saved by the things we do. Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Thus, good works are the fruit that is born in the life of a believer and the rewards are just Gods precious promise to us for our faithfulness to Him.
3. That is the positive side, now Jesus is going to speak on the negative side, those that are not doing good, those that are bearing fruit from a heart that is far from Him.
1. This should be a sobering thought. The word "little ones" can speak of little children, but I think also included here is the thought of those who are immature in the faith. That phrase "to stumble" can also be translated "to fall into sin," SKANDZLISE in the Greek. It is a word that carries with it the idea of someone who has baited a trap to catch you. And the point Jesus is making here is this, if you cause someone to stumble in the faith, a weaker brother or sister, you would be better off swimming with cement water wings on, than facing the Lord and trying to explain to Him your actions!
2. In I Corinthians 8:9, as Paul speaks about our liberty in Christ, says "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak." In other words, we need to be careful in the things we do so we dont cause others to stumble. Then how do we know what we can do and what we cant do if we are to have liberty, freedom in Christ to do what we want? First of all, if it goes contrary to Gods Word, dont do it. That is easy. Secondly, Paul said in I Corinthians 10:23-24, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being." Yes we can do all things, but if the things you do will hurt your walk, then dont do it. If the things you do will cause others to stumble, then dont do it. You see, that too is having a heart of a servant, caring for the welfare of others. Think of it this way, if you are pursuing holiness in your own life you are not likely to cause others to stumble! I think that is understandable, and makes sense.
1. These statements by Jesus shock many people. They are disgusted by them, it turns them off. Others take what Jesus said literally. First of all, if Jesus said these things, then He wants us to understand them, and it is an important point that He is making, something He wants us to apply to our own lives. Secondly, if you think about it, if every time you did something wrong you would cut off a hand, a foot, a eye, it would not be too long before you ran out of things to cut off. So that cant be what Jesus is speaking of. Then what in the world does He mean?
In Matthew chapter 5, verses 27-28, Jesus is speaking of adultery, but He takes it a step further and makes the point that if you even look at a woman in a lustful way, you have committed adultery in your heart. He then goes on and speaks of cutting off your hands, you feet, your eyes if they cause you to sin. And the point Jesus is making is this is a matter of the heart. You can change your behavior for a time but the heart stays the same. Then what is the point? Jesus is not speaking of self-mutilation, but self-examination!
Those things that cause you to cling to this world and its wicked behavior must be removed just as a surgeon amputates a gangrenous limb! And thus, our hands speak of the deeds we do. Our feet speak of where we are walking, the things we are getting involved in. And our eyes speak of the things we see, the things we allow to enter our mind and our hearts. And thus, a heart self-examine is important as you allow the Word of God, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to show you what is in your heart!
2. Now if a person consistently indulges in these things, the things of the flesh, it just shows that they were never saved. And if they are not saved, then they will enter into Hell or Gehenna, and this final resting place of the wicked is also illustrated for us in the valley of Hinnom, a physical place to the south of Jerusalem, outside its walls. Back in the Old Testament this valley was used by the Southern Kingdom of Judah to sacrifice their children to the god Molech, which was an abomination before the Lord. By the time king Josiah came on the scene and brought reform to the nation, he made the valley of Hinnom into a garbage dump for the city that continually burned with fire day and night.
And this was the back drop for what Jesus said here. They knew what this valley was like, and Jesus says this is what Hell, or the Lake of Fire will be like, that final place of eternal torment for all those who have rejected Him.
3. And the picture of this place is seen as Jesus said "where Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:44. What does that mean? The worm speaks of maggots that feed on garbage, dead things. And these maggots will have an eternity to feed on the eternal body of those who have rejected Jesus. The fire burning continually speaks of their eternal body will be the fuel for this fire to consume. Thus, Jesus is saying that you have to get out of your life those things that offend the Lord - He is not joking. Examine your heart and give Him those things that will only hurt you. He is serious about this! And, if you dont want to be a stumbling block to others, dont stumble yourself!
1. Now to understand the point that Jesus is making you have to go back to the Old Testament. Most of the sacrificial offerings were seasoned with salt and burned in the fire unto the Lord. And I believe the point that Jesus is making here in verse 49 is that our lives that are seasoned with salt unto the Lord, are given as a sacrifice unto Him, and many times we do things when it is not so easy, when there is persecution from others, during times of great trials.
Peter expounds on the cost of living for Christ in I Peter 4:1-5, when he said "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles-- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." Because we refuse to be like the world, floating downstream like a dead fish, people will come against us. You see, we are swimming against the tide of this world, going upstream, and in doing so, our light exposes the evil that others are doing and they dont like it.
2. Now verse 50 is a New Testament idea, and the thought is this, salt was used as a preservative. They didnt have refrigerators back then, so you would place a heavy layer of salt on the meat and it could last 3-4 days before it would spoil. In Matthew 5:13 Jesus said "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men."
In other words, we are to be that preserving force in the world. Sin is causing this world to rot away and yet we are to slow down that process by our influence. And our influence will continue till the time of the rapture of the church, when we are taken to be with our Lord, and in II Thessalonians 2:7-8a we read "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed..." You see, we are that restraining force as the Holy Spirit empowers us to live the kind of life that God wants us to live. But once we are removed, lawlessness will abound, much worse than what we are seeing today.
Salt also makes people thirsty. By the way we live our lives should make others thirsty for God, to desire the things we have. And it is Jesus then who will satisfy their thirst with the living water only He can give. In John 7:37-38 we read "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
And salt, when placed upon a cut, burns but it also acts like an antiseptic. As we live our lives for God, we will irritate people by the way we live, the joy we have. Our prayer is they will receive the healing power of Jesus in their lives.
3. And we are to have peace with others, not to get into fights, but to love people, with the understanding they might not love us back. It is as Jesus said in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." The fruit of a Christian is his sacrificial love for others, that AGAPE love, that loves as Jesus did, not to get anything in return, but to be a servant to all!
4. Some heavy duty lessons Jesus was teaching His men. Did they get it? Not yet! On their very next journey, as they are heading to Jerusalem, they are still talking about the kingdom and their position in the kingdom. And even at the last supper they were arguing about who was to be the greatest in the kingdom. Did they finally get it? Yes, for all but John were martyred for their faith in Christ. They learned what it meant to be a servant. Dont leave here tonight not getting it. Be a servant. Put others ahead of yourself. Dont cause others to stumble. Dont forget verse 42, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."
5. Let me leave you with these words from Warren W. Wiersbee. He said: "If we are yielded to Him, then suffering will lead to glory, faith will produce power, and our sacrificial service will lead to honor." In I Peter 5:10 we read, "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." Peter finally got it. He understood the heart of a servant! How about you?