Stumbling On: Mark 9:30-49

Day 23
Monday,
March 12, 2018
“Stumbling On”
Mark 9:30-49

Now the ‘Messianic Secret” seems to be justified by the predictions – he knows he will be betrayed and killed – and 3 days later will rise. So says Mark, now – but do you think Jesus really said that to the disciples, or later, folks put those words in his mouth? Whatever he said, they didn’t get it… or tell others… till later.

There’s another riff of the stupid disciples, quibbling about which of them is top in the pecking order.  Jesus seems critical of such climbing – but isn’t he the one that took 12 out of the crowd, and took 3 up to the transfiguration? What does it mean to be called or set apart – to be set above?

It’s a great pair of aphorisms:
• Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all… that’s where we got the word ‘ministers’ from… at last among the disciples, we aspire to a servant leadership
• Whoever welcomes on such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me… is this really Victorian sentimentality about children?

From one misconstruction to another – John is stopping other exorcists who claim to act in Jesus’ name – since they would not subordinate themselves to the 12 disciples. From the beginning, we’d rather be in charge than make alliances with other friends of Jesus.

Jesus’ strategy, at least according to Mark, is to let it go – since the others, once claiming his name, can’t easily speak evil of him. Another pair of aphorisms are tacked on, in Mark’s arrangement:
• Whoever is not against us is for us
• Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward…

Resisting alliances is bad, but putting stumbling blocks before the little ones who believe is worse.  Cut off the parts of you that offend, lest you go to hell – some kind of ‘gentle Jesus’, eh? This sounds like a set of threats to me  - at least to our competitive individualism.

Salt – with fire… Salt, without saltiness… salt, in you, peace among you…  So is salt good?  Is this just faith as a bit of enhancement to the flavour of life?  In this context, it suggests something closer to curing food with salt, transforming it, than sprinkling a bit later:

They went on from there
and passed through Galilee.
 
He did not want anyone to know it; 
for he was teaching his disciples, 
saying to them,

‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands,
and they will kill him, 
and three days after being killed, 
he will rise again.’

But they did not understand
 what he was saying
and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; 
and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘
What were you arguing about on the way?’ 

But they were silent, 
for on the way
they had argued with one another
about who was the greatest. 

He sat down, 
called the twelve, 
and said to them, 
‘Whoever wants to be first
must be last of all
and servant of all.’ 

Then he took a little child
and put it among them; 
and taking it in his arms, 
he said to them, 

‘Whoever welcomes
one such child
in my name
 welcomes me,
 and whoever welcomes me
welcomes not me
but the one who sent me.’

John said to him,

‘Teacher, 
we saw someone
casting out demons
 in your name,
and we tried to stop him, 
because he was not following us.’

But Jesus said,

‘Do not stop him; 
for no one who does a deed of power
in my name
will be able soon afterwards
to speak evil of me. 

Whoever is not against us is for us. 

For truly I tell you,
 whoever gives you a cup of water to drink
 because you bear the name of Christ
 will by no means lose the reward.

If any of you put a stumbling-block
before one of these little ones
who believe in me, 
it would be better for you
 if a great millstone were hung around your neck
and you were thrown into the sea. 

If your hand causes you to stumble, 
cut it off; 
it is better for you to enter life maimed
than to have two hands
and to go to hell, 
to the unquenchable fire. 

And if your foot causes you to stumble, 
cut it off; 
it is better for you to enter life lame
 than to have two feet
and to be thrown into hell., 

And if your eye causes you to stumble,
 tear it out; 
it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye
than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 
where their worm never dies, 
and the fire is never quenched.

For everyone will be salted with fire. 

Salt is good; 
but if salt has lost its saltiness, 
how can you season it? 

Have salt in yourselves,
 and be at peace with one another.’