Updated: Aug 22, 2021
John said to Jesus, “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.”
This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 21. It will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a priest on Sunday September 30, 2018. It is important because Jesus made it clear that being a part-time Christian would not qualify one eternal life in Heaven.
In this reading, Mark is first shown to identify a disciple of Jesus by name – “John.” This is the same John who had been chosen to go up the high mountain with Peter (whose story was recorded by Mark) and Jesus. John was accompanied by his brother James, both the sons of Zebedee. This means John was one of the first disciples Jesus chose, along with Simon-Peter. It is not John the writer of the Gospel by that name. That John was called “little child” (“paidion”) by Mark, in verses 36-37 of this chapter, meaning children were not mentioned by name.
Realizing that, we then read that the disciple John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” Before the response by Jesus should be understood, one needs to recall the Gospel lesson of the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost and how Jesus had used his son, John, to tell his disciples, “Whoever welcomes one [like my son John] in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:37) Now, in the very next verse (Mark 9:38), John’s memory has been joggled so that he remembered how on the trip down to Capernaum (while the disciples were arguing who was greatest among themselves) they saw someone claiming to be in the name of Jesus, casting out demons. And, oh by the way, John said, “We tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
Now the heading for verses 38-41 of Mark’s chapter nine says “Intolerance Rebuked.” (Bible Hub Interlinear) Other websites that translate the Holy Bible and add such headings say, “Whoever is not against us is with us.” That is restating Jesus’ response to John (briefly), but it gives the impression that Jesus saw his disciples attempting to stop someone from casting out demons, while shouting out, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I command you to leave this person!” The rebuke is, therefore, because someone is not a follower of Jesus does not mean he (or she) should be stopped.
The word “intolerance” can be defined as meaning, “An unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc.” [Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary] The fact that John admitted that he and the gang tried to stop someone from using the name of Jesus (not tried to stop someone from casting out demons) says they would not tolerate that association of healing with a man that person did not follow, as a student of Judaism [remember, John referred to Jesus as “Teacher”]. As such, the acts of the disciples were as intolerant as would be one branch of Christianity [a religion in the name of Jesus Christ] competing against another branch, simply because one sees the other as not following the teachings of Jesus Christ. While that is somewhat true, the focus on intolerance is misleading and misses the point of Jesus’ response.
Jesus said to John, “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.” That was first a command: “Do not stop him.” Then, it is an explanation in two parts.
The first says, “There is no one who can do a work of power that is contrarily in my name.” The use of the Greek word “epi,” which means “against, on the basis of, or to,” implying “upon,” such that Jesus said, “No one can cast out demons [a work of power] simply by calling out my name.” This then is a statement that says, “Only those who are me, reborn in my name, can do deeds of power that are born from above.”
Finally, reading that Jesus said, “Afterward to speak evil of me” is misleading. As a separate segment of words that literally state, “And will be able quickly to speak evil of me,” this is not a focus on the one in the name of Jesus who was casting out demons [doing works of power]. Instead, it refers to those who will witness such deeds and will call out the person in claiming to be in the name of Jesus as evil, not good.
By John and the other disciples trying to stop that person from doing good, they exemplified that point made by Jesus. That was then a statement about why Jesus would be “delivered into the hands of men who will kill him.” (Mark 9:31)
This is the point of Jesus then having said, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” That was not a watered-down version of the ancient proverb that says, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” such that Jesus was not telling his disciples, “It does not matter how wrong someone is, if they are going against those who are most wrong, as are we, then they are right.”
Those wanting to kill Jesus come disguised as religious men.
That means Jesus was not preaching tolerance to wrong, as “Two wrongs make a right,” if one wrong is better than the other. Jesus was saying that the enemy of his cause, which his disciples were learning, were those who persecuted the righteous. Thus, the assumption to be made from Jesus saying, “Whoever is not against us is for us” is that the one casting out demons in the name of Jesus was righteous, being for the same cause.
Keep in mind that Jesus was alive and well at that time. No religion existed then that had believers calling themselves “Christians.” The only ones who knew the name of Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth, were those who came in direct contact with him. It was not like today, when it is common to turn on the television and hear some televangelist shout out, “In the name of Jesus Christ be healed!” One has to be able to see that there is a difference between using someone’s name and representing oneself as being the one named.
This perspective is clouded and difficult to comprehend when one does not grasp the influence Jesus had on those whose lives he affected, through healing.
I have written before and it bears repeating here now, someone who was born blind but was given sight by the presence of Jesus did not simply experience a miracle in the physical sense. The same goes for the lame made able to walk, the deaf made able to hear, the lepers cured, the dead raised, and even the ones who were fed bread and fish on the plain of Bethsaida. All who experienced a miracle of Jesus were changed Spiritually.
While the pages of the New Testament do not tell the stories of the ones healed by Jesus, beyond their healing, one has to be able to intuit their futures. They went forth into the world as the first Apostles, those unrecognized as such. They are then expressions of the epitome of what an Apostle is: One whose self-name is unimportant, because one has been reborn as Jesus Christ, sent forth to do the work of the Lord without recognition. None of the Apostles ever sought recognition for themselves, desiring to take credit for miracles done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Realizing there were many Apostles in the name of Jesus prior to the disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit on a Sunday that was the Fiftieth Day Festival, that awareness brings more meaning to the words Jesus then spoke: “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” This translation is poor and should be inspected closer.
Symbolizing emotional and spiritual fulfillment.
The Greek written by Mark literally states, “Whoever for however might give to drink you a cup of water , in name because Christ you are , truly I say to you , that none ever shall he lose the reward of him .” I welcome all readers to look at this verse (Mark 9:41) and inspect this closer. I have only changed the double negative (“ou mē”) from “no not” to a viable translation that says, “none ever.”
To repeat the use of water in all verses in the Holy Bible, the symbolism has to be realized as a word conveying the fluidity of emotions. Because water is needed for life to be maintained, we have likewise emotional needs that make life bearable. As such, by Jesus saying “give you a cup of water,” this is metaphor for meeting an emotional need in one.
This is seen in the song of David, when he sang, “My cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:5, KJV) It is the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, when Jesus asked her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10) That focus on the element of water points to the spiritual uplift that comes from God and is always available to be poured out freely. Therefore, what Jesus was then saying to John of Zebedee first was: “Many can meet the spiritual needs of others,” which was the obvious act the disciple witnessed, where some stranger was offering a cup of living water in the name of Jesus. His trying to cast out demons in others was a God-sent gift, just like Jesus was offering.
This is why the second segment of words clarifies that the man they saw casting out demons was not lying, as some Jesus impersonator, but he was “in the name of Christ.” The Greek written here is “en onomati hoti Christou este.” Stating “in name because Christ is.” This is not a claim that he was saying he was “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said the man was “in Christ … because Christ is.” That is sort of like saying the name of God is “I am that I am” (YHWH).
Tell them I AM that I AM sent you.
The word “este” is a word of “being,” such that one takes on the name of Christ when one is filled emotionally by the Holy Spirit. One’s personal self state of being has moved aside, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the replacement self – the Christ. This new state of being is then when one’s soul has become married with God, as One.
That is not a lie or a stretching of the truth, as Jesus confirmed: “Truly I say [this] to you.” That is the truth, as is the next statement from the final segment of words: “none ever shall he lose the reward of him.” This has two meanings.
The first is that the one who is in the name of Christ has been given the works of power from above, by Jesus [the Messiah], so he or she can have the reward of the Holy Spirit. Then, secondly, it says the one given that reward will not lose it. So, having been given the name of Christ, such that one can act truly in the name of Jesus, means always having the same works of powers.
More than a cup of physical water given, the cup holds living waters that never leave one spiritually thirsty. Therefore, this series of segments is reflective of Jesus telling his disciples that they will be acting exactly as the one they saw, whom they tried to stop [but could not], while saying all who he had touched in his ministry were ahead of them, evangelizing as the Christ born in them [including the Gentiles healed].
Because Jesus had just told John and the rest of his disciples not to ever stand in the way of God working through one of His devotees, given the powers of the Christ, such a hindrance would be contrary to the ministry of Jesus. That awareness breathes new meaning into his warning, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
The plural pronoun “us” is used to denote all who are married to God and committed to do His Will. One is then either part of the God team or one is against God, as influenced by Satan. As ‘black and white, right and wrong’ as that statement now becomes, it naturally follows that Jesus would then say, “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.”
Going against God is then a death sentence for the soul [the flesh that imprisons one]. Still, it is not a sentence by the judgment of God. Instead, it is suicide, as a self-inflicted punishment. Jesus was then using the metaphor of placing a heavy stone around one’s neck and then leaping into deep waters, where one would then die by drowning, as a better way to die than trying to save one’s life, while persecuting the righteous. The metaphor of water (especially deep waters) as the means of self-sacrifice says it would be better to give up one’s ego and release one’s soul to the vastness of God’s living waters, than to try to keep living for self. This example is then confirming Jesus having said, “Those who try to save their life will lose it.” (Mark 8:35)
This death of the soul is then stated by Jesus in the physical elements that represent the body parts of sensation, where the sacrifice of hands, feet, and eyes are symbolic of human aspirations. These aspirations are from adult minds that seek self-aggrandizement. It means the self “stumbles” as far as affecting the lives of “little ones” [where Jesus used the word “mikrōn” as a parallel to his prior use of his son, John, as a “little child” – “paidion”], who are those who have been accepted into the family of Jesus, as Sons of the Father [human gender insignificant]. It means acts against the children of God are against those who are reborn as Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “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.” Here, Jesus three times used a form of the Greek word “skandalizó”: “skandalisē” once; and “skandalizē” twice.
This word is synonymous with the English word “scandalize,” meaning, “to cause to stumble, cause to sin, cause to become indignant, shock, offend.” It literally means “to set a snare (a stumbling-block),” while implying “to hinder right conduct or thought.” [HELPS Word-studies] It means if any part of one’s body is used “to make a child of God fall into a trap,” one’s soul will be condemned forever.
Can anyone recall how often the word “scandalous” has been applied to the revelations associated with the Roman Catholic Church, involving money matters, murders, and the abuse of altar boys?
Vatican Bank’s Roberto Calvi, with ties to the Mafia, found hanging from bridge. Just one of many scandals the Church has become known for.
The symbolism of one’s “hand” is based on the figurative meaning of “cheir”: “the instrument a person uses to accomplish their purpose (intention, plan).” [HELPS Word-studies] To cause one of the Apostles of God, in the name of Christ, to fall into a trap as part of a plot to destroy is then a prophecy of the leaders of Jerusalem plotting to destroy Jesus. Still, it foretells of the persecution that would befall many of the Saints of Christianity. To cut off such a “hand” means to sever one’s association with such figures. If those “hands” are passing thirty pieces of silver into the “hands” of a “little one,” causing him to sin, they are then responsible for the failure of that soul to return to God.
The symbolism of one’s “foot” is based on the path one travels. To cause one of the children serving God, in the name of Christ, to be misled, sending towards a trap into which they will be snared was the reason Jesus had been leading his disciples away from the normal routes taken by the Pharisees and Temple scribes. They expected all Jews to prostrate themselves at their feet. They taught Jews to follow in their footsteps, not how to walk in the ways of the Lord. It is better to hobble along a path that has evil-doers cause one to trip and fall, to be lifted up by the angels sent by God, than to take the easy road to ruin.
The symbolism of one’s “eye” is based on the figurative meaning of “ophthalmos,” where this is the “mind’s eye.” When one is led by the Mind of Christ, one will always be shown the light of truth. When one is led by the Big Brain, one envisions a course that is self-serving. The singular number, as “eye,” which had Jesus then say “it is better for you with one eye to enter the kingdom of God,” that is a willingness to be blinded to the distractions of a material world, becoming fully dependent on the All-seeing Eye of God to know the way to Heaven.
Those who see with two eyes are trapped in the physical plane and cannot see the value of Spiritual things. Nicodemus was a Pharisee ruler who had eyes but could not see in the ways of religion. They see well enough to bow down before science and its demand for obedience to the observable, condemning their souls to hell for failing to see through the wall of physical senses to the divine.
With these symbolic meanings explored, and each leading to hell, where the “fire is not quenched, “Mark wrote of Jesus stating, “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.” Here, words focused on “salt” are found repeated, meaning “salt” needs to be understood.
The Greek word “hals” translates as “salt,” which was a valuable commodity in ancient times, usually having to be mined. It is abundant in sea water, which is undrinkable. Salt was one form of preserving fish (along with smoking), meaning it pulls moisture from the fish, keeping the flesh from rotting. As a preservative, it would also add necessary salt to a human diet, while being a flavorful addition to an ordinarily bland food.
A friendly fire of life.
By realizing this, to hear Jesus say, “Everyone will be salted with fire,” this is a statement about the preservation of human souls. A soul is rolled in the salt of a human body that is seventy percent saltwater, much in the form of salty blood. The fire is smoking process or the sun drying that surrounds the salt wrap, which makes the soul a productive commodity.
When Jesus then said, “Salt is good,” it is the preservation of a soul that keeps it useful on the earthly plane. The loss of flavor is then the effect that sin has on that protective wrap. When one has sinned to the point of having lost all flavor, it has become useless. The question, “How can you season [salt that no longer is salty]?” can only be answered by realizing that salt without saltiness [the state of being salt] is nothing. The soul without a protective wrap is then like a fish out of water in the hot sun, without salt to keep it from rotting. A soul covered in sin cannot be restored to life, once the flesh surrounding it has burned away.
This is then why Jesus said to his disciples, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” This returns to the family theme of all who will serve God in the name of Christ, because they have seen Jesus as the Son of the Father. Jesus is the salt that protects the soul. Jesus promised John of Zebedee and his brother James, “I will make you fishers of men.” They would all seek out the souls of men who needed to be rolled in the Holy Spirit (cast out demons) and then salted by God and Christ.
They should see themselves as salted by Jesus of Nazareth; but, like the one who they tried to stop casting out demons in the name of Jesus, they would be salted in the name of Christ soon enough. Once they reached that point in their lives, peace would come to all but Judas. The resurrected Jesus would appear to the eleven in the upstairs room, telling them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
As a Gospel selection for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry for the LORD should be underway – one has removed all the limitations of hands, feet, and eyes and is fully trusting in God – the message here is to stop being part of the problem and begin being part of the solution. A minister in the name of Jesus Christ knows who is for God and who is against God.
This reading from Mark is a continuation of the past Sunday’s lesson, but few will be able to see that unless they are told to look closer. No one understands that the “little child” was Jesus’ son, and no one sees how that father-son relationship is vital for disciples of Jesus to see themselves in a Father-Son replication, as family. Being able to see that value of a family of God makes this lesson a continuation of the family theme. However, failing to see that makes this reading seem as if John of Zebedee just laughed Jesus off, saying, “Ha ha ha Jesus. But, changing the topic let me tell you how we tried to stop someone who was promoting himself as you.”
This lesson is more about the family theme, demanding that one understand the Father-Son lesson of last Sunday, which leads directly into this. Instead, there will be sermons galore about how Jesus taught us not to be intolerant to all the other people of the world, most of who are trying to kill Jesus and the truth of Christianity. Most handouts at church doors will say, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
By seeing with two eyes that read Scripture in socio-political ways, people promote themselves just like did the Pharisees, Temple scribes, and High priests. They find reason to justify sin, by misusing Scripture. In doing so, they are trying to mishandle, trip, and get congregations to see things their way, so they benefit and others beat their chests as they pray to God to forgive their sins, which they know not how to stop.
Not again! Lord, please help us!
It used to be that preachers used the message of fear to get people to toe the line of righteousness. The told of fire and brimstone coming to those who did not follow Jesus religiously. That is a message that comes through loud and clear today, especially when Jesus said, “It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” People today do not want to think of a theme of punishment, because they like to see Jesus in the light of all lovey-dovey forgiveness. It is that mean ole God that likes to burn souls in fire.
As I had stated before about every reference to water in the Holy Bible is metaphor for emotional needs, let me now add the metaphor that comes from fire. Fire is the different from emotions, as it symbolizes actions that come from within. Whereas the water of emotions can come as rushes, like waterfalls, river rapids, or tumultuous seas, they can also be still pools, quiet creeks, and the depth of oceans. Fire, on the other hand is a smoldering urge, an inspiring bonfire, or a raging forest fire. Whereas water can be solid, liquid or gas, as an indication of temperature – from frozen, to thawed, to evaporating – fire is transformative, such that the destruction of one state of matter is necessary for a return to elemental properties.
This analysis means “the unquenchable fire” (or “the fire not quenched”) means a state of existence has been reached where it is impossible for the emotions of love to become a cool touch on the tip of one’s tongue. The fire will rage on forever, always having fuel to feed it, rather than something damp to put it out. Since matter is the fuel that burns hottest, a soul will be condemned to always return into a body of flesh that will reignite into a burning spirit of selfishness, time after time after time (reincarnation). The only respite will be when the earth is cool enough to let a body of flesh grow before the flames burst forth again. Should mankind cause the planet to be too hot for any comforts, it will become the hell Jesus referred to (reincarnation no longer possible in a zombie world on fire).
Still, when Jesus said “Everyone will be salted with fire,” it is not from a vacuum that souls are drawn to the Holy Bible and the promise of Jesus Christ. I have used the analogy, “Wouldn’t it be nice to pray to God before bedtime, asking “God, please let me wake up and be a lawyer making lots of money.” If God were to answer such a prayer, it would be to send one the insight to study long and hard, so one could gain entrance into a prestigious law school. Then, after years of hard work, one could graduate from law school and begin at the bottom at some law firm. Then after years of doing all the hard labors of law, maybe one will come to understand that making a lot of money means selling one’s soul. Being a lawyer is only one way to sellout.
The moral of that story is everyone has to face the fire of testing. God will see how willing one is to do all the work He expects from a fiancée (human gender is insignificant). God will see how much flavor is in one’s salt. God will determine if one is worth His salt.