Cut off your body parts, really?
Mark 9: 43-49
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Everyone will be salted with fire. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
So we haven’t done this yet have we? We haven’t cut our hands and feet off, we haven’t plucked our eyes out and thus saved ourselves from an eternal fiery hell.
If we were to start where would we stop? We would have no body parts left for sure!
But perhaps our understanding of these verses have caused us to try harder, to stop this, to stop that, become better, work harder, do more, go without and if we do all this then we will enter the kingdom of God.
We have certainly done that and we are up for trying even harder today.
But what if we have understood it wrongly?!
Let us remind ourselves of the scene:
Jesus has again revealed that he will suffer, die and rise again.
The disciples not understanding have spoken about who was the greatest among them.
Jesus warns them in their leadership position not to make the little ones stumble because if they did their own lives will be seriously affected, they would be the ones to stumble.
So what is the hand, the foot and the eye?
Is it certain sins that we have tried to rid ourselves from?
Or is it self-righteousness towards others? Is it the desire to become greater than others? Is it a lack of serving others? Is it policing the church making sure that those with ministries are doing it the right way and telling them off if they are not (v38)? Are these the sins that need cutting off? Are the sins against others what is being focused on rather than the sins against our own bodies?
The salt reference fits well here. The salt will purify and will be among themselves referring to the many salt covenants that were made as peace and business treaties at the time. “Be at peace with each other.” (Numbers 8:19 is just one of several OT references to salt covenants)
Jesus is countering the rising arguments of who is the greatest, of their pride and self-righteousness and of who knows best by ending with a reminder of the salt covenants between one another and to be at peace.
The gospel is a gospel of peace not of pride over acts of righteousness and achievement. This is perhaps the interpretation of this passage. It is at least the truth.
But if you don’t agree, go ahead and keep cutting off your body parts!