The Gospel of Mark: a commentary & meditation 
"If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out"

Scripture: Mark 9:42-50

42 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Meditation: Was Jesusí exaggerating when he urged his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences?  Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness.  Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death. Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block  in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin.  The Greek word for temptation (scandalon) is exactly the same as the English word scandal.  The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall.  The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith.  Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?

What does Jesus mean when he says "have salt in yourselves"? Salt served a very useful purpose in hot climates before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave food flavor, it also preserved meat from spoiling. Salt was used as a symbol of fellowship and the common meal.  The near-Eastern expression to betray the salt meant to betray one's Master or some person who was owed loyalty and devotion.  Leonardo da Vinci in his painting of the Last Supper depicts Judas in the act of tipping over the salt shaker, thus symbolically indentifying himself as the betrayer of his Master.  Jesus used the image of salt to describe how his disciples are to live in the world. As salt purifies, preserves, and penetrates, so the disciple must be as salt in the world of human society to purify, preserve, and penetrate that society for the kingdom of God and of his righteousness and peace. What did Jesus mean by the expression "salted with fire" and "salt becoming saltless"?  Salt was often put in ovens to intensify the heat.  When the salt was burned off and no longer useful it was thrown out on the road or on the roof top where it would easily get trodden upon. Perhaps Jesus wanted to contrast useful salt used for giving flavor and for preserving food with salt which was burned and no longer of much benefit, to encourage his disciples to be faithful witnesses and to not neglect the opportunity to influence others for the kingdom of God through the witness of their lives and their testimony to the power of the kingdom of God.

"Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may radiate the joy of the gospel to others.  May your light and truth shine through me that others may find new life and freedom from sin and the corruption of evil."


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 (c) 2000, 2005 Don Schwager