Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally) to make the point that what is a sin pattern in our life can steal, kill and destroy us. It also can be a hindrance to others, affect our peace and cause us to feel we have no worth or meaning.
We know that cutting off a hand, foot or gouging out an eye doesn't get to the inner life issues that can keep us caught in a sin pattern: addiction, resentments, fears, shame, and hiding. Maggots and fire suggest decay and destruction as a result. The imagery reveals that this is a really big deal to God. Instead of destruction, God wants to give us life in abundance, freedom and joy. God desires that we be fully engaged in life and that we become a source of life to others.
So how do we get rid of it? Let God be God. Give up trying to control it yourself. Invite God to give you the power to do what you cannot do on your own. Get honest with another. Confess, name what is going on, and trust another to come alongside you who will accompany you through the healing process into freedom and restoration.
MARK 9: 38-50 NLT
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.
43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.
49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”
For Reflection and Prayer:
• What did you hear as you listened/read? What stood out to you? What seems to be just for you in these words?
• Jesus uses radical language to emphasize dealing with sin in one’s life. What is Jesus really inviting? What has this been like for you? Painful? Convicting? Life-giving? How would you describe the process that you have experienced? How has sin crippled you?
• What is your source of saltiness? What keeps you going, nourishing and preserving your desire for God?