Mark 9:38-50

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

September 13, 2012

 

In our journey through Mark's Gospel, have come to passage which has much to say about the disciplines of the Christian life... Mark 9:43-50 is a very difficult passage...it's challenging...it makes us uncomfortable....would be easy to skip over and move along to something else...but to do that would be to ignore an important part of the teachings of Jesus...I see in this passage six disciplines which followers of Jesus should constantly be cultivating…

 

The discipline of tolerance toward others (vv.38-41)

1.      In verse 38 John is spokesman for the group...amazing statement for two reason...

·         context - Saw last week that Jesus had just warned disciples about danger of pride...just told them way to greatness was to serve, to be willing to be last...as if didn't even hear...immediately brought up subject of man they felt was usurping their place, their power, their authority...

·         content - Man in question was obviously doing something good...was casting out demons...was doing it in Jesus name or under His authority...but disciples were bothered because he wasn't "one of them" and probably wasn't doing it their way...suspect also bothered because as we saw earlier in this chapter their way wasn't working very well...tried cast demon out of sick boy and was unable to do it...now this guy comes along, and he wasn't even one of them, doing something they were unable to do...suspect that really irked them!

2.      In response to John's statement Jesus instructed the disciples in verses 39 and 40 not to hinder the man ministering in His name...in effect, He told them to view the man and others like him not as enemies but as allies...if He's ministering in my name, He is one of us...just because not doing it in way you do it, just because his style is not your style, no reason to discredit him or attempt undermine what he's doing...[all kinds of applications of that to Christians today...must never forget we're not in competition with each other...we are servants of the same Lord...should not be pitting one church against another church  or one Christian against another Christian...certainly shouldn't be sad when other Christians do well and certainly shouldn't secretly be glad with other Christians struggle!]

3.      Unfortunately that little verse could be the motto for many people in our world, including many of us who claim an allegiance to Jesus Christ...

"Believe as I believe, no more no less,

That I am right, and no one else confess.

Feel as I feel, think as I think,

Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink,

Look as I look, do always as I do,

Then and only then, I'll fellowship with you."

[Hughes, Jesus, Servant and Savior, v.2, pp.33-34]

 

The discipline of being a good example to others

1.   Jesus issued a strong warning about the danger of harboring an intolerant spirit which invariably will cause a person to become a stumbling block to others ...look again at what He told them in v.42 - "...whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea."...several things about that statement need be said...

--"little ones" doesn't mean children as the verse is sometimes interpreted...literally the phrase is "humble ones" which is description of what every Christian should be...talking about danger of becoming stumbling block to fellow believers...

--"heavy millstone" is significant...not just millstone because that could be interpreted several ways...more than one kind of millstone...was small hand held type which could find in every home...then there were the large grinding stones which were so heavy had be turned by mule or oxen... referring to the latter here...saw some of those while in Israel, and certainly large enough to make any person sink...

--"into the sea" - Jews not by nature seafaring people...had natural fear of the sea...viewed death by drowning as symbol of utter destruction and complete annihilation... drowning was sometimes a Roman punishment, but never a Jewish punishment...

2.   Wm. Barclay tells of story written by O. Henry, the famous American literary figure...about young girl whose mother died...stayed home alone all day waiting for father to come home from work...when father came home, same thing happened day after day...the girl, who was lonely and starved for attention, would ask her father to play with him...the father would tell the girl he was tired, to leave him alone, and go out and play in the streets...well, over time the inevitable happened and girl became a person of the street, living a very immoral life...died and stood before gates of heaven...Peter saw her and said to Jesus, "Master, here's a bad girl.  Should we send her to hell?"...and Jesus gently answered, "No, let her in.  Let her in."...but then with sternness in His voice Jesus added, "Go look for the man who refused to play with this girl and sent her out into the streets and send him to hell."

3.   After recounting the story, Barclay makes this comment:  "God is not hard on the sinner, but God will be stern to the person who makes it easier for another to sin, and whose conduct, either thoughtless or deliberate, puts a stumbling block in the path of [another]..."...and that's the primary reason an intolerant spirit is dangerous...it is hurtful to others...

 

The discipline of maintaining personal holiness

1.   Verse 43 is one of those difficult verses we would just as soon ignore…notice the personal pronoun "your" in the phrases "if your hand causes you to stumble" (v.43)..."your foot" (v.45)..."your eye" (v.47)...the hand, foot, and eye represent the totality of life...the hand represents what we do...the foot where we go...the eye what we see...

2.   And when Jesus speaks of cutting off the hand (v.43) or foot (v.45) or casting out the eye (v.47), He is not advocating self mutilation as some radical people in Christian history have actually practiced... instead, Jesus is saying if there is anything in your life --anything you are doing, any place you are going, anything you are seeing-- which is causing you to be out of the will of God, you should remove that thing immediately...

4.   Three times in these verses Jesus warned that if we're not willing to make such a commitment, we are in danger of being cast into hell...important not misinterpret that...doesn't mean if behave badly go to hell and if good enough go to heaven... message of entire NT is that way to heaven, to eternal life is by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ...but if we're not demonstrating personal discipline and holiness in our lives, if not careful about what we do, where we go, and what we see, that's telling indication our faith is not genuine and therefore would be in danger of hell...

 

The discipline of enduring hardship with grace

1.   Notice what Jesus said in v.49 - "For everyone will be salted with fire."...on surface rather difficult, confusing statement... seems Jesus mixing two different images - salt and fire...key to understanding is remembering that OT required that all sacrifices be salted before being offered on the altar to God...in NT Christians are described as living sacrifices to God...and just as sacrifices in OT were salted and placed in the fire of the altar, so Christians will invariably be salted by fire...

2.   In this verse "fire"  does not mean the fires of eternal punishment as in the previous verses...it means the fires of trials and testing...can't read Scripture without seeing that some suffering will be part of our experience in this world...was true for Jesus and will be true for any who follow after Him...listen to some things Scripture says:

I Peter 4:12 - "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing..."

II Timothy 3:12 - "...all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted."

I Thess. 3:4 - "...For indeed ... we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction, and so it came to pass, as you know..."

4.      And one of the disciplines we need cultivate in our lives is the discipline of enduring suffering with grace...and we can better do that when understand that God can use the experiences of suffering to make us better people...In book Supreme Happiness Nelson Price tells of walking along Pebble Beach on coast of California...said discovered two very different types of rocks on beach...one type had been exposed to the relentless pounding of the waves...had become round and polished and were greatly desired by tourist as ornaments...other type had been protected from waves in small coves...had not felt the force of the waves...were rough and unpolished...

5.      As our lives are buffeted by waves/storms of life, the rough edges are being knocked off and beautiful qualities can be displayed...understanding that can help us develop discipline of enduring trials with grace...

 

The discipline of being useful to God

1.   Were two kinds of salt in ancient middle east...there was good salt which had salty flavor and there was salt which had been mixed with impurities which made it stale and flat...nothing more useless that salt which is not salty...

2.   Using that illustration, Jesus said in v.50 Christians should be like the good kind of salt...salt served several functions in first century world...for example, salt --

--was purifying agent...Romans viewed it as purist of all elements...Christians should be     examples of purity for the world...

--was preserving agent...used to keep food from decaying ...Christians should have a wholesome, preserving influence in the world...

--was seasoning agent...made bland food taste better... Christians should be winsome and attractive to the world...

3.   Point of all that is we should be useful to God...never a time in our lives when we should stop serving...never a time when we don't have something to offer...God can use us in His service if cultivate the discipline of making ourselves available to Him...

4.   That little song, "Take my life, lead me, Lord; Take my life, teach me, Lord; Here am I, send me Lord; Make my life useful to Thee..."should be our prayer everyday of our lives in this world...we should cultivate the discipline of being useful to God...

 

The discipline of maintaining good relationships with each other

1.   Notice the last phrase of this paragraph...it brings it all together...'...and be at peace with one another..."...points back to the issue which sparked this entire discussion...had been fighting among themselves about who was the greatest... and had been fighting with a man who was not one of them but who was ministering in Jesus' name...

2.   Jesus told them don't quarrel among yourselves and don't quarrel with other people...don't be contentious...don't be difficult...don't be angry...don't be impossible to please...don't be looking for a fight...instead, be at peace with one another...

3.   That single little phrase could be basis for entire study...when we fail in this area...when we fail to maintain good relationships in the fellowship, every other area of our lives individually and collectively is impacted...if we're not at peace with each other there is no way we will be the person or the congregation God wants us to be...

4.   That's why the Bible instructs us over and over again to love one another...be gracious one to the other...be kind to one another...and live in peace and harmony together...much depends on our willingness and ability to do so...

 

CONCLUSION

 

Anything in life that is good, valuable, worthwhile requires discipline...and that is certainly true of the Christian life...while the Christian life is the best life in the world, it is also the most demanding...I want to challenge you to continually be cultivating the disciplines of--

 

·         Having tolerance toward others 

·         Being a good example to others                          

·         Maintaining personal holiness 

·         Enduring hardship with grace 

·         Being useful to God

·         Maintaining good relationships with each other

 

That is the wonderful, demanding life to which Jesus calls us!

 

 

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