Mark 9:42-50 – Temptations to Sin

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Mark 9:42

  1. This statement is a typical “hyperbole”, an “exaggerated simile intended to create an unexpected reaction in the audience”. Hyperboles were common in Jesus’ time and were very useful when Jesus wanted to shock the audience in order to create a reflection. A hyperbole is not meant to be interpreted literally, but in this case the parable is intended to help Jesus’ disciples understand the great seriousness of leading someone else to sin.
  2. The little ones mentioned are either children or new to the faith. They have not matured enough in their faith to be able to stand on their own two feet or be strong enough to resist temptation.
  3. Throwing someone into the sea with a millstone around their neck was a Roman and Greek method of execution.

Mark 9:43

  1. Jesus is again not literal when he calls on his disciples to cut off their hands, but uses yet another “hyperbole”, i.e. shocking language to make his disciples understand the great seriousness.
    1. If, on the off chance, one were to cut off one’s hand because one is tempted, then the problem arises that the other hand can also tempt to sin, and how can one cut off that hand if one has only one hand left?
    1. Jesus’ point, then, is not that one should literally cut off one’s body parts, but that if one is in a situation where one is exposed to temptation, one should do everything possible to get out of it so that one cannot fall into temptation (Genesis 39:11-12, 1 Corinthians 6:18).
  2. Gehenna (the Valley of Hinnom), is a valley in Jerusalem.
    1. According to one theory, the Valley of Hinnom was used as Jerusalem’s garbage station where garbage was burned. The fires were constantly burning and therefore acted as an image of hell. However, there is no biblical support for this theory.
    1. The Valley of Hinnom was used in Old Testament times to sacrifice children to the idol Molech (Jer 32:35).
    1. Gehenna is not a pleasant place, so Jesus warns his disciples against committing sins that lead to Gehenna (Matthew 5:22) and urges them to fear the God who has the power to condemn people to Gehenna (Luke 12:5).
    1. Hell is meant for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), but it is also a place where people who do not belong to God go (Matthew 13:40-42).
      1. Jesus has been given the power to judge people (John 5:27) and He will condemn the wicked to Gehenna (Revelation 21:8).
        1. However, those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:36) and go to paradise (Luke 23:43).

Mark 9:49

  1. In the Old Testament, all food offerings were to be salted before they were sacrificed (Leviticus 2:13).
    1. In the same way, Jesus’ disciples will serve as a living sacrifice to God, “salted” through trials (Rom 12:1, 1 Pet 4:12).
  2. The fire of trial that Jesus’ disciples go through is preferable to the eternal fire that the wicked go through.

Mark 9:50

  1. Salt has two main uses: seasoning and preservation.
    1. Salt adds flavour to whatever it is salted on. Food can be transformed from tasteless to delicious with just a little salt, but salt that loses its saltiness becomes as useless as sand.
      1. God’s people are the salt of the earth and should add flavour to a lifeless world by spreading the gospel of Jesus.
    1. Salt has a preserving and conserving effect.
      1. God’s people are the salt of the earth and should make sure that the world does not rot in sin by, for example, working for a fairer world, getting involved politically and being present in all kinds of workplaces. If a Christian is in a particular place, he/she has a great opportunity to improve that environment by spreading love and thus ensuring that sin does not take over too much.
  2. God has instituted a covenant of salt with Israel (Numbers 18:19) and given Israel to the Messiah through a covenant of salt (2 Chron. 13:5).
    1. Israel and the Messiah are supposed to serve as salt for the rest of the world.
  3. A disciple should make sure that he has salt in him so that he can serve the rest of the world by spreading the kingdom of God.
    1. If the disciples fight over who is the greatest, they risk losing their saltiness and thus not functioning as salt should function.
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