Mark 9:42-50 | The Demands of Discipleship

March 21, 2021
Book: Mark
Series: Mark

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As we move into today’s Scripture passage, Jesus presses into the actual cost of pride. 
Today’s sermon is heavy. 
Jesus teaches The Twelve about a very real place called hell. 
Jesus specifically instructs the Disciples about the consequences of pride in their life. And yet, at the same time, as disciples of Jesus, we will also learn the demands of discipleship. 
This passage teaches us a terrifying lesson about pride, the consequences of causing others to sin, and the necessity to do whatever it takes to sever  sin out of your life. What is this crucial lesson? Let’s find out!

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Full Sermon Transcript

Pastor Dustin Daniels | River Bible Church
Mark 9:42-50 | The Demands of Discipleship
March 21, 2021

REVIEW:
Last Sunday, we learned about the importance of humility.
We learned this vital lesson from the Twelve Disciples, who argued with one another about who is the greatest Disciple.
We watched the Lord Jesus step in and provide an illustration not only for the Twelve but for us.
He took a child and honored him in front of everyone.
The Twelve wanted that honor, and yet the Lord gave it to a child.
We see throughout the gospels how Jesus turns the values of mankind upside down:
If you want to live, you have to die.
If you want to be perfect, sell everything you have and give it to the poor.
If you want to save your life, you have to lose it.
If you want to be great, you have to suffer.
Wanna be first? Choose to be last and a servant of all.
KEYPOINTS:
There is never unity among proud people.
Leadership is serving people, not using people.
If we don’t choose humility, God chooses humiliation.
INTRODUCTION:
As we move into today’s Scripture passage, Jesus presses into the actual cost of pride.
Today’s sermon is heavy.
Jesus teaches The Twelve about a very real place called hell.
Jesus specifically instructs The Disciples about the consequences of pride in their life.
And yet, at the same time, as disciples of Jesus, we will also learn the demands of discipleship.
According to Jesus, there is absolutely no room for a proud disciple.
There is no reason for the sin of pride in a child of God.
Think about it, what do we truly have to be proud of?
Have you ever thought about how fragile life is?
That God designed you to breathe out of two tiny holes in your nose.
And all someone has to do to take you out of this life….is this.
Not only that, but the very air you breathe is not your air, but the Lord’s.
When was the last time you thanked Him for the air that you breathe?
This is the kind of message that the Lord Jesus teaches us today.
This passage teaches us a terrifying lesson about pride, the consequences of causing others to sin, and the necessity to do whatever it takes to sever and reduce sin out of your life.

What is this crucial lesson? Let’s find out!
**Please stand for the reading/honoring of God’s Word.**
SCRIPTURE: Mark 9:42-50 CSB
Mark 9:30— Then they left that place and made their way through Galilee, but he did not want anyone to know it.
Mark 9:31— For he was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after he is killed, he will rise three days later.”
Mark 9:32— But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask him.
Mark 9:33— They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”
Mark 9:34— But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest.
Mark 9:35— Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.”
Mark 9:36— He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,

Mark 9:37— “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me.”
Mark 9:38— John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”
Mark 9:39— “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name who can soon afterward speak evil of me.
Mark 9:40— For whoever is not against us is for us.
Mark 9:41— And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ—truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward.
Mark 9:42— “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
Mark 9:43— “And if your hand causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell, the unquenchable fire.
Mark 9:44 NASB—[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
Mark 9:45— And if your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.
Mark 9:46 NASB—[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
Mark 9:47— And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge 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,
Mark 9:48—  where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:49—  For everyone will be salted with fire.
Mark 9:50— Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavor, how can you season it? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
**These are the very words from God for us this morning.**

PRAY:

EXEGESIS:
Mark 9:42— “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
The sense in this verse is that someone intentionally leads someone who is a new Believer or a weak Believer into sin.
Jesus automatically judges this person as guilty.

How dare you teach someone new in the faith or someone weak in their faith and leads them away from the truth.
Jesus uses the analogy of a millstone? What is a millstone?
A millstone is a heavy stone used to grind grain.

In the first century, grinding grain was a huge part of many people’s livelihood.
To do that, they used two stones.
A base stone remained stationary, and a second stone on top of the base stone was called the runner stone.
The runner stone was mounted so that it could move and pivot on the base stone.
The runner stone has a hole in the middle of it with a large piece of wood that they would attach to the center of the stone on one end and then attach to a donkey at the other.
The donkey would then walk in a circle and grind the grain.
The grain was crushed in between the two stones was ground into flour.”
These millstones are enormous and extremely heavy, weighing up to several tons.
Some were six feet or more in diameter.
And that’s why Jesus uses this as this illustration.
Everyone in the first century knows what happens when someone forces your head through that tiny hole in the middle and then is heaved into the sea.
It’s not a good day when you’re wearing a millstone around your neck like a collar at the bottom of the sea.
This is a picture of judgment on sin.
We see this imagery in the book of Revelation.
cf. Rev 18:21 CSB—Then a mighty angel picked up a stone like a large millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
In this way, Babylon the great city
will be thrown down violently
and never be found again.
Babylon is judged and found guilty, and a millstone was chosen as the means to carry out that judgment.
Now, this was not just a hyperbolic story.
Around this time, most of Israel was familiar with a man named Judas the Galilean.
Judas the Galilean was a Zealot.
He was the talk of the town.
He would have been on the front page of the newspaper and dominating social media.
Why? Well, for his zeal for God.
A zealot has an excessive devotion to God and didn’t care too much for the Roman government or human authorities.
The Zealots eventually became their own political party.
Jesus had a Zealot as one of his disciples—Simon the Zealot.
Regardless, Judas the Galilean tried to overthrow Caesar Augustus— and failed.
So the Romans, who will not stand for even a rumor of a coup… drowned him in a lake.
All that to say that Jesus’ imagery here is timely and vivid.
The Twelve could easily picture a body lying at the bottom of the sea with a millstone hung around his neck.
Why did Jesus use such a graphic illustration?
He wanted to make it crystal clear that it is better to die a horrific death… than to cause believers (“little ones”) to fall into sin!
This should serve as a big red flag for preachers and teachers who claim to be Christians who don’t preach Christ crucified.
Now, why is Jesus giving this warning?
Last week we saw how the Twelve Disciples were arguing over position and power.
They were trying to assert their own authority. They were trying to control things.
Remember the successful exorcist who was not a part of their apostolic club?
Back to…
Mark 9:42— “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—
Evidently, the Twelve were incredibly close to this, and Jesus issues a stark warning and the reality of what will take place if they don’t stop.

Mark 9:43— “And if your hand causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell, the unquenchable fire.
Jesus doesn’t let up. He presses in now to the consequences if they don’t stop.
Jesus gives another vivid and violent illustration.
It’s a picture of radical spiritual surgery.
These images are shocking to The Twelve.
Verses 43-47 are hyperbole.
Both masochism and mutilation were strictly prohibited in Judaism (Deut 14:1; 23:1; 1 Kgs 18:28; Zech 13:6).
Unlike the Greeks, who despised their physical bodies, the Jews placed a high value on the body.
Although Jesus exaggerates to make a point, please don’t think that his illustration lessons the importance.
KEYPOINT:
Jesus uses hyperbole to emphasize the violent rejection of temptation that’s needed to gain victory over sin.
Jesus is not encouraging masochism or mutilation.

There are some Christians who have taken these verses literally and have tried to mutilate themselves into obedience.
One of the church fathers, such as Origen of Alexandria, a brilliant man, but he missed this one—and castrated himself thinking that this would help with his sin of lust.
Jesus’ point is not self-mutilation but rather the need to deal with the real problem.

Back to…
Mark 9:43— “And if your hand causes you to fall away, cut it off.
So let’s look at the real problem…
The hand is symbolic of the things that we do.
Your hand does not act independently of your will.
You choose whether you will do evil with your hand or do good.
So your hand can be used as an instrument to gratify your evil desires.
So, for example, your evil desire is to steal.
You could cut your hand off physically, but can’t you steal with the other?
And yet, Jesus says, “Cut it off!”
He’s talking about spiritual surgery.
Jesus demands a prompt, decisive act of your will to stop stealing.
Cutting off your physical hand doesn’t deal with the problem.

The problem is your heart.
We are responsible for how we use our hands. Your hand isn’t!

Our hands don’t control our hearts. Our heart controls our hands.
There is a reason this is hyperbole.
You can still sin with the other hand.
Using your hand to steal is not a hand problem but a heart problem.
Back to
Mark 9:43— …It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell, the unquenchable fire.
In this context, “hell” is an earthly place called Gehenna.
Gehenna was the Valley of Hinnom.
And in the OT, the Valley of Hinnom was the site of human sacrifice to a pagan god called Molek (2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 19:5–6).
These sacrifices occurred in a deep ravine south of Jerusalem.
That ravine was eventually called Gehenna.
King Ahaz and King Manasseh both sacrificed their children in the valley of Hinnom (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6)
Because of those sacrifices, this valley became known as the place of the drum.
Drums were beaten loudly to drown out the screams of the babies being burned alive.
Now King Josiah destroyed that place by turning it into Jerusalem’s garbage dump.
The waste included the carcasses of animals and the corpses of criminals.
Those bodies were tossed into this massive garbage dump.
To keep the dump from overflowing, the garbage had to be burned.
The fire was constantly fed by incoming garbage.
All that to say, it became a graphic illustration of eternal hell, and the Twelve Disciples knew precisely what Jesus was talking about.
Mark 9:44 NASB—[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
And if that wasn’t graphic enough, while the fire was burning the garbage, worms stayed busy eating the carcasses dumped in Gehenna.
So we see a picture of two types of torture.
First, the fire burns the carcasses from the outside.
Secondly, the worms eat the carcasses from the inside.
Verses 44 and 46 and all reiterate this point—which comes from verse 48.
Verse 48 is a quote from the prophet Isaiah where the Lord uses him to speak of final judgment for those who do not repent.

So Jesus uses a well-known metaphor for the place of eternal punishment.
Now, depending on what translation you have, you may not have verses 44, 46, and in your Bible.
The reason for that is because the earliest manuscripts of this passage do not include this repetition.

More than likely, a scribe inserted these verses to emphasize and repeat the importance of what Jesus is saying.
Now, please note that this is God’s Word, and God has preserved His word for us today.
These verses do not contradict the message or take away from the message, but I did want you to know why you may not have them in your translation.
The CSB doesn’t have them, but the NASB does, so I’ve included them here.
Jesus continues…
Mark 9:45— And if your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.
How can a person’s foot cause him to sin?
Your foot is a symbol for going somewhere to sin.
Your feet are symbolic of how you choose to live your life—your feet take you places.
And when it comes to sin, many of us have walked to places and run into places where we had no business.
We were there for the sole purpose of sinning.
Mark 9:46 NASB—[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
Jesus continues…
Mark 9:47— And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge 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,

We as human beings have the natural sinful tendency to use our eyes to lust.

Not just sexual lust, but lust for power, money, possessions, comfort, and security.
Now, we could gouge one eye out— but can’t we still sin with the other?
If you were to gouge both eyes out, can’t you still sin because of the things you have already seen?
In other words, Jesus knows that we all consume things with our eyes.
And if we meditate too long on these things, no matter what category they fall into, they will eventually impact our heart.
There is no way around that.
KEYPOINT:
You become what you watch.
If you watch the news, you become fearful.
If you watch violent movies, you will become desensitized, angry, and violent yourself—either in your thoughts, words, or actions.
If you watch shows with sensuality, you will become a pervert.
And this is where Jesus quotes Isaiah…

Mark 9:48—  where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
So Jesus continues to make a ghastly point.

That it is possible to mutilate yourself to the point to where you do not have your hands, your feet, and your eyes—
And yet still be the most lustful, materialistic, perverted, and proud person in town.
The hand, foot, and eye encompass the totality of your life.
Our hand symbolizes what we do,
Our feet, where we go,
And our eyes, what we see.
Jesus’ teaching is scandalous.
So what’s the solution?
Jesus is saying that mutilating your body has no impact on your heart.
There is a better way, and it’s called repentance.
It is better to repent from sins committed with your hands, feet, and eyes than end up in a very real place called hell.
Mark 9:49—  For everyone will be salted with fire.
Verse 49 only appears in the Gospel of Mark.
It’s a puzzling verse, and many interpretations have been made.
Let’s start with salt in the context of this narrative.
The context over the past two Sundays has been dealing with pride, embracing humility, and discipleship.

So in that context, Jesus gives an analogy with salt.
Throughout Scripture, salt speaks of sacrifice.
So the thought here is that every disciple of Jesus must be a willing sacrifice.
cf. Romans 12:1 CSB—in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.
Your bodies—your hands, feet, and eyes—are not to be used for evil but for good.
As a disciple of Jesus, you are to be a living sacrifice.
That’s kind of strange. Throughout the OT, we see that all sacrifices ended up dead.
Not here…
cf. Romans 12:2 CSB—Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Paul is reiterating what Jesus just taught.
We are not to be conformed by the world—to enjoy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or fall into pride (1 John 2:16).
We are to push back on that and be transformed by the renewing/training of our minds.
How do we do that? Only one way.

To call on the name of Jesus, repent from your old lifestyle, and believe that Jesus died, was buried and three days later was resurrected—for the sole purpose to save you from God’s wrath and this place called hell.
Jesus is teaching the Disciples about temptation and what to do with it.
So, even though the Twelve will not experience hell, nor anyone else who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior,
We will still experience the purifying fire of God that can only come through suffering.

This time of testing will push you beyond your human capacity to cope, and this is where your faith comes in.
Mark 9:50—  Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavor, how can you season it? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Scientifically speaking, salt is a stable element and cannot lose its saltiness.
But Jesus is not giving us a science lesson here.
He’s using salt as a spiritual illustration and how it preserves the life of a disciple.
The Jews had a saying, “The world cannot survive without salt. ”

And that proverb is a vivid reminder that salt was used in the ancient world because it preserved food from rotting.
However, Jesus as the master storyteller, issues a challenge for his disciples to be a preserving influence in a dying world.
If we are salty, those around us will know it.
cf. Matthew 5:13 CSB— “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
In other words, disciples who lose their gospel saltiness— are no longer effective witnesses for Jesus.
In essence, they are not disciples and should deeply consider if they are indeed saved.

PREACH:
So what do we with this message that Jesus gave His disciples?

Are these demands— too demanding?
Does it turn you off? Do the words of Jesus offend you?
Jesus’ words are offensive. Jesus does not mince words.
Have you ever considered why? Why is Jesus so demanding?
Well, next week is Palm Sunday, and the following week is Easter.
And if you have these kinds of questions, I want to invite you to come back for the next two Sundays.
Because the answer to your questions are embedded and revealed as to why Jesus had to suffer, die the most horrific death known to mankind, was buried and resurrected.
Is it a coincidence Jesus was pierced through his hands and his feet?
No, Jesus was pierced through His hands and feet because of the sins that you have committed with your hands and your feet.
Those sins had to be paid for.
And Jesus willingly paid for your sins through the cross.
Is it a coincidence that Jesus wore a crown of thorns on his head?
Not at all, Jesus was slapped, His beard was ripped out of his face, and the Roman soldiers beat a crown of thorns into his skull.

Why? Because your lust of the flesh and your lust of your eyes had to be paid for.
And Jesus willingly paid for your sins by means of the cross.
And the whole reason Jesus talks about hell so much is that He wants us to know that He is the one who paid for your sin.
He’s the only one who could and did.
And the world stands around and says,
Thanks, but no thanks, Jesus.
I don’t believe in hell.
I don’t think that a loving God can send people to hell.

Let me close with a question…

Have you ever asked yourself where you will be a hundred years from now?
We live in a land of complacency.
Unfortunately, many Christians make matters worse by emphasizing God’s love and patience.
And instead of leading people to repentance, we over-emphasize God’s love.

And whenever we over-emphasize one of God’s attributes in favor of another.

That unfortunately, breeds a false sense of security.
We think, “God hasn’t punished me yet, so I’ve got nothing to worry about.”
This attitude proves a Christian’s addiction…and that is that we are addicted to God’s grace.
It’s Scripture passages like today, why we teach and preach the Bible verse by verse.

Our prayer is that you will experience God day-by-day.
Because very few pastors and preachers are going to do a topical sermon on hell.
Many Christians are surprised to learn that no one in the Bible talks more about hell than Jesus.

Jesus talked more about hell than heaven.
And He wants you to do something with this passage today.

Hell is not the absence of God.
The people in hell are experiencing one specific aspect of God’s attributes.
And that attribute is His wrath against sin.
They are experiencing, for the rest of their life, what Jesus experienced on the cross for those who have received His grace.
And the reason that hell is eternal is that they will never pay for their sins in full like Jesus did.

Their sin debt is never paid in full.
They don’t have the capacity to do that.
Only the blood of the Son of God, who is at the same time the Son of Man, has that ability.
Now, Jesus mentioned these specific body parts—hand, foot, and eye.
Each body part emphasizes the battle that you have against sin.
In what ways do you sin with your hands—Jesus says, “cut it off—spiritually.”
In what ways do you sin with your feet?—Jesus says, “cut it off—spiritually.”

In what ways do you sin with your eyes—Jesus says, “cut it off—spiritually.”
Jesus calls for—demands— a radical spiritual severing of sin from your life.
The consequences of failing to come to terms with your life and how you choose to continue living your life are frightening.
Dear friends, I’m not saying this to get an emotional response from you today.
My prayer is that you will examine your life and your habits, seek the face of the Lord, repent from these things and allow Him to save and change you.
PRAYER ROOM:
PRAY:

Sermon Bibliography
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