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Mark 9:42-50


Intro: This passage finds the Lord’s disciples sailing some very treacherous seas. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to die on the cross and these men are a long way from being ready for His death and departure back to Heaven.

        Earlier in this passage, they were actually fighting among themselves over who was the greatest, v. 34. Jesus used their argument to teach them a very important truth. He taught them that greatness is obtained through service, v. 35-37. The way to become great in the kingdom of God is by serving the least, v. 41. The path to the top leads through humble service to those who cannot serve us back.        That was a lesson the disciples needed. It is a lesson that we also need in our day. Far too many want to occupy the chief seat and far too few have a servant’s heart.        

        On the heels of this event, Jesus issues a series of stern warnings to His disciples. These verses use harsh, straight to the point language that cautions us to be careful how we live our lives.

        After I preached last Sunday morning, one of our members came by at the back door with a comment about the sermon. That member told me that these last few messages from Mark’s Gospel were “moving us out of our comfort zone.” That person is exactly right! The Word of God will comfort the afflicted, but it will also afflict the comfortable.

        Like the disciples, the modern church has become far too comfortable in this world. Jesus knew that His men needed to be shocked into becoming the men He had saved them to be. He knows the same thing about us.

        Left to ourselves, we will amount to nothing. Therefore, the Lord has to come along every now and them and shake us up to get our attention. That is what these verses are designed to do.

        I want to take these verses and preach on Warnings From The Master today. I want you to see A Warning About Saints; A Warning About Sin; and A Warning About Service. Let’s look into the text and see what the Lord has to say to us today.


  I.  v. 42          A WARNING

                      ABOUT SAINTS

·         Jesus had used a child to illustrate the kind of people we are to serve in this world, v. 36-37. We are to serve those that are neglected and rejected by others. We are to serve those who cannot serve us in return. In other words, we are not to serve others so that we can be promoted. We are to willingly take the place of a slave in the Kingdom of God, serving Christ by humbly serving our fellowman.

·         In this verse, Jesus uses that same child to teach us another important principle. Not only are we to serve the least among us willingly; we are also commanded to protect the least among us from sin.

·         The word “offend” means “to scandalize”. It has the idea “of leading someone else into sin.” Jesus says that it is a very serious matter when we cause one of God’s children to fall into sin.

·         Jesus says that you would be better off having a “millstone” ties around your neck and being cast into the sea. The word translated “millstone” literally means “a donkey stone”. It referred to a stone used to grind grain that was so heavy a donkey was tied to it to turn it.

        If such a stone were tied around the neck of an individual and that person was thrown into the sea, that person would be pulled to the bottom and they would drown. When Jesus used this image, His listeners were very familiar with what He said. On more than one occasion the Romans had carried out executions by tying heavy stones around the necks of their victims and throwing them into rivers and lakes. The image is very graphic! Jesus is describing a death as horrible as any that can be imagined. Yet, He says it would be preferable for a person to die this way than for them to cause one of His little one to fall into sin.

·         Jesus says that this is a grievous sin! In fact, the person who harms one of His children is actually harming the Lord Himself, Ill. Zech. 2:8, “…for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.” That verses is also graphic. The person who reaches out his foot and causes one of God’s children to stumble is sticking his finger in God’s eye!

·         How do believers cause others to stumble? There are many way! Let me share a few with you today.

Ψ  By directly tempting others to sin - This kind of behavior is seen throughout the Bible – Eve, Aaron, Jeroboam, and the Pharisees. Ill. Matt. 5:32; The church at Pergamum, Rev. 2:14; the church at Thyatira, Rev. 2:20. (Ill. One spouse leading the other to cheat on taxes; a Christian man seducing a Christian woman or vice-versa)

Ψ  People can be led into sin indirectly – When we treat others in insensitive; unloving and unkind ways we can cause them to sin through rebellion. We can spark an angry reaction in people, or we can cause them to throw up their hands in frustration.

Ψ  People can be led into sin by a wicked example – If a believer who is weak in the faith sees a respected believer commit a sin, that younger believer could fall into sin by following that evil example. (Ill. 1 Thes. 5:22; 1 Tim. 4:12)

        It is possible to our liberty can cause others to sin. A mature believer knows the truth of 1 Cor. 6:12. That verse says, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient…” As a redeemed believer I have great liberty in Jesus. I am not under the Law, but I am under grace. However, if a weak believer sees me doing things that he believes are wrong and I encourage him to sin against his conscience, I am guilty of leading him astray.

Ψ  People can be led into sin because other believer fail to lead them into righteousness – In other words, we fail to share the riches of Christ with new believers, we fail to disciple them, and as a result, they remain weak and never grow up in the Lord. We fail to give them the spiritual food they need and they starve in the midst of plenty!

Ψ  People can be led away through false doctrine – Teachers of false religion lead people astray. When they do, they are committing a two-fold sin. First, they sin because they follow false religion. Second, they sin because they lead those that follow them away into Hell.

·        I am a man, but I am also a parent. I can forgive a slight against me pretty easily, but you touch one of my children and I will have a harder time in the forgiving department. But, I am in good company! God says that the person who offends one of His little ones is in big trouble! Whether we see it or not, this is a very serious warning! There is A Warning About The Saints.


 II.  v. 43-48   A WARNING

                         ABOUT SIN

These next few verses are very graphic in nature and they offer a stern warning to both saint and sinner alike.

·         Jesus refers to the “hand” the “foot” and the “eye”. These are our three problem areas when it comes to dealing with sin. The “hand” refers to “the things we do.” The “foot” refers to “the places we go.” The “eye” refers to “the things we see or desire to have.” These three words describe all the areas where we humans are tempted to sin, 1 John 2:16; Gen. 3:6.

·         Jesus says that if the hand, the foot or the eye causes us to sin, we are to take drastic action and amputate that body part, so that we will not give in to its desires.              Let me just say that Jesus is speaking figuratively here. He is using hyperbole. Jesus is using exaggeration to emphasize the horrible nature of sin. He is not commanding us to mutilate our bodies.

        In the early days of the church some men took these words literally. One of the more notable examples was Origen of Alexandria. He had such a problem with sexual lust that he had himself emasculated to get rid of that temptation.

        What Origen discovered is what you and I need to know today. No amount of surgery on the outside will cure the problem on the inside! Man does not need a change on the outside; man needs a change of heart! Man needs to be born again. All our sins proceed from the heart, Mark 7:18-23.

        What Jesus is talking about in these verses is how we are to deal with our sins. When temptation to sin comes into our lives, we must deal with it immediately, harshly, ruthlessly, consistently and decisively! Sin should receive no quarter in your life or mine!

        If a relationship is leading you into temptation and sin, you need to sever that relationship! If some activity is leading you into temptation and sin, you need to cut that out of your life immediately.

        In Jewish society, the right eye, the right foot and the right hand represented a person’s best and most precious faculties. The right eye spoke of one’s best vision. The right foot spoke of one’s best walk. The right hand spoke of one’s best skills. Jesus is simply saying that we must be willing to give up the most precious, the most valuable things we have in our effort to avoid sin.

·         Jesus warns His disciples that nothing in this world is so valuable that it is worth going to Hell over. Yes, Jesus believed in Hell! His references to Hell are very graphic. Let’s examine what Jesus said.

        The word “hell” comes from the word “Gehenna”. Gehenna was a place in the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem. In ancient times it had been a site devoted to pagan worship. It was here that the people of Israel had sacrificed their children to the false gods of the Canaanites. King Josiah tore down the pagan altars and desecrated the site, turning it into a garbage dump.

        By Jesus’ day Gehenna was a horrible place! Fires burned there continually. Wild dogs roamed the dump, feeding on the carcasses or animals and criminals. The insane and other outcasts lived there as well. It was a fitting description of what Hell will be like.

        Jesus is trying to teach His men that even if radical surgery is required for a person to be saved, that surgery is necessary and warranted. The Lord wants people to know that there is a horrible place called Hell and that lost people will spend eternity there.

·         Jesus says that Hell will be characterized by two terrible realities. Jesus quotes Isa. 66:24 and tells us that people in Hell will suffer in two terrible ways.

       First, “their worm dieth not…” This phrase has been interpreted many ways over the years. Some think it refers to actual worms that will gnaw on the body in Hell. I do not think that is what He is talking about! Others think Jesus is talking about the soul. They feel that He is saying those who go to Hell will live forever. They do, but I do not think that is what He is talking about here. When Jesus says, “And their worm dieth not…” I think He is speaking about the internal torments man will suffer in Hell. When the rich man died and went to Hell in Luke 16, we are told that he had an active and accurate memory, Luke 16:25. Those in Hell will remember every opportunity they had to be saved. They will remember the love and grace of God. They will remember the cross and the empty tomb. They will be reminded for all eternity that they did not have to be in that horrible place.

        Second, Jesus says, “and the fire is not quenched.” This phrase refers to the physical agonies of Hell. The torments of Hell are real and they are horrible. They are unceasing and they are unimaginable. Above all, they are avoidable! You do not have to go there!

Ψ  Hell Is A Place Of Punishment - Matt. 25:41

Ψ  Hell Is A Place Of Fire - Luke 16:24; Mark 9:43-44

Ψ  Hell Is A Place Of Thirst – Luke 16:24-25

Ψ  Hell Is A Place Of Pain - Luke 16:24,25,28; Rev.14:10-11

Ψ  Hell Is A Place Of Divine Wrath – 2 Thes. 1:8-9

Ψ  Hell Is A Place Of Frustration And Anger -             Matt.13:42; Matt. 24:51

Ψ  Hell Is A Place Of Eternal Separation From God - 2 Thes. 1:8-9

        Friend, Hell is real! If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you will spend eternity there. It does not have to be that way! You can be saved, of you will come to Jesus!

·         Sin is not something to be toyed with! You may think you are its master, in reality you are its servant. When it has ruined and taken all you have, it will cast you into Hell and torment you there for eternity. Whatever your particular poison is, it is not worth going to Hell over! You would be far better off to live this life denying yourself the “pleasures of sin for a season” so that you might go to Heaven and avoid Hell. There is A Warning About Hell.


III.  v. 49-50      A WARNING

                        ABOUT SERVICE

·         The two verses that close this chapter are among the most difficult in the New Testament to interpret. But, I think we can understand what they are saying to us, if we take them in their natural context. In all of these verses Jesus is talking to His people. He is talking to the people of God. First, in verse 42, Jesus warns His people against offending weaker believers. Second, in verses 43-48, Jesus warns His people to avoid the terrible and tragic consequences of sin. He is not saying that a believer can lose his or her salvation; He is saying that sin is a destroyer and that it must be handled ruthlessly. In these verses, Jesus warns His people that serving Him will require sacrifice and purity. Let me explain.

·         In verse 49, Jesus says, “for everyone shall be salted with fire.” As you know, fire is a purifier. Fire is a cleansing agent. Jesus is telling that those who would be is servants can expect to be cleansed through fire. In other words, God will allow us to go through persecution and trials in an effort to make us more like Jesus. Ill. 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Thes. 3:3-4; Acts 14:22; 1 Pet. 4:12-13. God sends us into the fire so that the flesh and its power over us might be burned away.

·         Then Jesus says, “and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt”. This is a reference back to the sacrifices of the Old Testament era. When a sacrifice was offered, it was to be offered with salt, Lev. 2:13; Eze. 43:25. Again, salt was a purifying agent and it made the sacrifice acceptable to the Lord. Jesus is telling His followers that we are to be a willing sacrifice, giving up all of our rights to serve Him and others in this life, Rom. 12:1-2.

·         In verse 50, Jesus says, “Salt is good!” And so it is! Salt was a valuable commodity in that day. The ancient Jews had a saying that went, “The world cannot survive without salt.” The word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium”. It referred to the fact that often Roman soldiers were paid their wages in salt, which could be traded ounce for ounce for gold. Salt was also necessary for life in the days before refrigeration. Meat would quickly spoil, but if meat was pickled in a salt brine solution, it would keep for long periods of time. Salt was also good because it made the unpalatable tasty. Some foods juts need a little salt to make them edible. Salt was often placed into wounds to help them heal and stop the spread of corruption. Salt was a preservative, a flavoring, an antiseptic, and a currency.

        Salt is good, but if the salt loses its saltiness what good is it? Salt in our day is pure and it does not lose its flavor. In that day, it was often contaminated with other minerals and after a short time salt would develop a terrible flavor. Salt in that condition was good for nothing, but it was to be thrown away.

        Jesus then says, “Have salt in yourselves…” In this context to have salt means to be real. Jesus is telling us that if we are truly the children of God, then we should act like and live like children of God. How do we do that?

1. We do not cause others to stumble and fall into sin.

2.  We avoid sin at all costs in our own lives.

3.  We willingly embrace the salt of a sacrificial life and the persecution that comes with it. When we do this, we will demonstrate another quality of salt. Salt creates thirst. When believers are salty and walking as Jesus would have them walk, they create a thirst for the things of God in the lives of the lost around them. The best witness for Jesus Christ id a salty Christian who lives like Jesus, 1 John 2:6.

4.  Like salt we are to be a preserving agent in the world. When we come around, our very presence should raise the moral atmosphere, promote honesty, elevate conversation, stir the conscience and make people want to live a little cleaner. Our lives should make a difference in the world around us!

                 Like salt, we are to make this world thirsty for Jesus. Like salt, we are to make this world a better, more appetizing place to live. Like salt, we are to help stop the spread of corruption in the world.

·         Jesus is simply telling His followers, that if they are going to be His servants, they can expect God to send trails to purify them. And, they are expected to embrace their trials and be salt and light to a world that desperately needs what the believer possesses! There is A Warning About Service!


Conc: Jesus closes this chapter by saying “and have peace one with another.” You will remember that the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest among them, v. 34. And, they had rebuked a man who was working in Jesus’ name, just because he was not one of their number, v. 38.

        I think the Lord is saying that His people should not be worried about who is the greatest, and His people should not be rebuking others. God’s people should be in the business of examining their own hearts. We should “salt” ourselves and judge our own faults!

        It is easy for us to lose our saltiness and become useless to the Lord. We need to remember that it glorifies God when His people live lives of commitment and character day by day. It also glorifies Him when we forget about who might be the greatest among us and prove that we are His by loving one another and by being at peace one with another!

        Where does this message find you today?

·         Are you lost in sin and headed to Hell? Would you like to be saved? You can be if you will come to Jesus. The Lord can help you, get to Him!

·         Are you struggling to live the right kind of life and having trouble? The Lord can help you, get to Him!

·         Do you need to be more salty? The Lord can help you, get to Him!

·         Is the Lord purifying you through trials? The Lord can help you, get to Him!

·         Are you leading people to the Lord, or away from Him? The Lord can help you, get to Him!

        Let’s obey His voice as He speaks to hearts today.

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