26 September 2021Mark 9:38-50
Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’ (v. 50)
Read today's passage from Mark a few times and, without trying to understand or interpret it, see what you notice. What strikes you? There are so many graphic images: demons getting cast out; ‘Whoever is not against us is for us’; stumbling blocks for little ones; millstones around people’s necks; cutting off hands, feet, eyes; being lame and disfigured; never-dying fire worms eating you; salting with fire!
It is, for me, an exhausting passage to read. There are so many frankly violent images including Mafia-style executions, extreme self-harm, and horror movie scenes of worms and fire. It should definitely carry a PG if not the full R certificate.
Mark’s Gospel is full of what theologian Marcus Borg describes as ‘memories with meaning’. Memories that have been swept up into the Early Church’s overwhelming conviction that Jesus is the Messiah; is risen; and is now present as the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a neutral story-telling but a passionate recollection of Jesus who has changed the world. It preserves the intensity and passion of Jesus’ teaching. Whatever the kingdom is about, it isn’t a matter of likes and dislikes such as ‘Do you prefer your coffee with sugar?’ Following Jesus is not a lifestyle choice, but a choice of life over death. It is more serious than anything you can imagine. Jesus seems to evoke gut emotions more than intellectual curiosity in this passage. A helpful way of reading it is thus to simply ask ‘What does this make me feel?’
Personally despite the terrifying images I'm struck by how much Jesus cares for ‘the little ones’; of how much the kingdom matters. It matters more than anything else you might imagine and is more than anything that might be thrown at it, so much so that "whoever is not against us is for us". (v. 40) This speaks to me of infinite confidence that God’s love will win! Love will out and nothing will stand in its way.
And finally, I’m struck by the salt! Even those who resist, fight against and cause the little ones to stumble cannot finally evade God’s love. The salt that burns them is good. It heals, restores and brings peace. Heaven can never be fully heaven if anyone continues to stand out against the sovereign grace of God whose kingdom is coming and whose love will complete creation. All will be saved.
- What matters to you most about your Christian journey?
I am overwhelmed by the love that made me, keeps me, and saves me. I’m overwhelmed by the grace that you have shown me because you love me. Help me to be ‘me’ for you and for your world, to be salted, refined and know your peace.