Year B – Proper 21 – Mark 9.38-50

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 afterward 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.”

Summary – On the heels of Jesus’ teaching regarding who is the greatest, using a child as an object lesson, Jesus responds to John’s question regarding someone else casting out demons who was not a disciple.  The two incidents are related as they deal at the heart with the disciples’ attitudes towards each other and others.  In the previous passage, they were concerned to be greater than one another.  In this passage, they are concerned to show their superiority to others.  Jesus continues to preach humility:  someone else who does a miracle in Jesus’ name will eventually join us, and whoever gives us a cup of water because of Jesus will be rewarded by God.  Don’t impede, then, the work of those who are or will be on our team.  Jesus then flips it around:  by pridefully shutting down someone else who thinks positively about the name Jesus, they would be putting a stumbling block before them, and would receive punishment.  Jesus goes on to build His message which at the root is aimed at cutting out sin and supporting belief in Him.

Insight – Imagine if you were out shopping for clothes with a friend, and your friend kept talking about how amazing this new pair of shoes was.  He went on and on, saying, “These are the best shoes ever!  Everyone who is anyone needs these shoes.  No shoes will EVER be as cool as these.”  So you begin to think to yourself, “Okay, these must be pretty neat shoes, I should check them out.”  So you walk over to the shoe section, find the shoes, and begin to try them on.  But then your friend walks over, makes a face at you, and says, “You look dumb in those shoes, you shouldn’t wear them.”  How would you feel?  Would you want to buy the shoes anymore?  Jesus’ disciples wanted to do something similar.  They wanted to tell someone who was beginning to believe in Jesus to stop.  Jesus called this a “stumbling block,” because it causes people to fall and not continue in the path they are walking in.  Each day, we, as Jesus’ disciples, must do everything we can to build other people up in such a way that they begin to think positively about Jesus and then believe in Him.

Child Catechism – Why does Jesus teach us to support and encourage other people?  So that they learn who Jesus is.

Discussion – Do you think Jesus actually wants you to cut your hand off or pull out your eye?  Why or why not?  What might He really be getting at?  What does the very last sentence of verse 50 have to do with the rest of the passage? (That “peace with one another” is more or less the goal of each piece of the passage.)

Prayer – Father, we so often fail to look at others with love.  We want to put them down because they don’t do things our way.  Change our hearts through your Spirit that they would not cause others to stumble, but would put aside those things which cause us and others to stumble.  Cause us to have the mind of Christ which is humble and obediently dies to self.  For your name’s glory, Amen.

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