Mark 9:28-50 (NIV) 28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” 30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” 38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. 42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck 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, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Many homes have a sign something like this out front. It tells would be thieves that the house has a security system. We have such systems to protect things we value, like jewelry, electronic equipment, cash and any other items worth something. But most of all we want to protect the people in our homes, our families and especially our children from anyone who would harm them. Important as such security and protection is, how much more do we want to protect our families and again, especially our children from even greater and eternal harm. To do so we need the security system God gives us in his all-powerful word. We have just that before us today in the Gospel reading we heard a few moments ago. Let me highlight a few verses once again. May the Holy Spirit encourage us in this truth today as we continue our general theme, “Family Values”, GOD’S SECURITY SYSTEM PROTECTS OUR CHRISTIAN FAMILY VALUES. I. The value of being mistakenly exclusive. II. The value of resisting “scandals” that rob us of our heavenly home. II. The value of remaining salty.
As always, the setting for the word before us is very important in gaining valuable guidance for our hearts and lives. Shortly before this Jesus had proclaimed he would soon very humbly offer himself on a horrific cross to pay for the sins of all lost humanity. After a short walk to Capernaum with Jesus’ humble proclamation still fresh he had to ask what the disciples had talked about on the road. He knew that they had argued about who was the greatest among them. So Jesus taught a lesson in humble service by setting a young child in their midst and saying, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me...” He was modeling the service of humbly and lovingly welcoming a young child because they were followers of Jesus.
In this setting the apostle John, often described by himself as the one Jesus loved, addressed Jesus with an incident that occurred sometime before this. “Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” Apparently John, and it seems the others also, thought they had the exclusive right and power to drive out demons. Was it that there was way too much “us” in their exclusive attitude? Or was John truly concerned about Jesus’ name being kept holy and honored? Either way, Jesus had to teach John and the others they were being mistakenly exclusive. The man was not driving out demons in the name of Satan, other occult powers or even in the name of some Old Testament prophet. He was doing so in the name of Jesus, with power of the Lord. Whether he was at this time one who truly believed all that Jesus was, his Savior from sin and hell, is not told us. But he was certainly not against Jesus and what he taught about himself. In using Jesus’ name for good he showed he was for Jesus, not against him. Just because he was not one of the twelve did not make him a non-believer. This was a valuable lesson for John and the others. They were being mistakenly exclusive.
None of this mitigates against what is taught elsewhere in Scripture. Jesus also taught when it comes to someone opposing him in unbelief or even apathy that person is against him and should be avoided when it comes to joining them in their opposition. Also, when someone is espousing false teaching, even if they do not totally oppose Christ, we need to be careful we don’t give the impression it is OK to have a little error in God’s word. To do so we avoid spiritual fellowship with them. What we do want to protect both our biological and church families from is mistaken exclusiveness. It causes division in our homes when one child is left out of some activities because he or she is not athletic or musical. It causes divisions in the church when some can’t attend a certain bible study or activity and those who do think there are the exclusive few. Divisions are always harmful to the Lord’s work and Satan smiles. Read all about it in I Corinthians. In both our homes we should have the Christian value of welcoming those who need our help or who need Jesus just as Jesus taught when he said to welcome a little child is to welcome Jesus.
Speaking of children in our biological family and our church family, Jesus went on to teach the importance of teaching and modeling the value of resisting “scandals” that rob us and them of our heavenly home. Jesus said, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” Wow, I guess Jesus really meant what he said. A millstone so large it had to be turned by a donkey would take one down to the bottom and keep you there. Jesus surely was teaching how valuable children are to him and everything should be done to keep them from sins which would pull them away from Jesus. And remember it is true that when it comes to children often more is caught than taught. It is vital to model the value of sin resistance as well as to teach it to them. So if any parts of the body follow the lead of the sin that lurks in the heart and betray this value of resisting sin, it better to get rid of that part of the body than to lose the heavenly home. Because every sin pulls away from the Way to that heavenly home, Jesus the Savior. Now does Jesus literally mean we should cut off our hands that want to punch our brother or sister or gouge out our eyes that lust after someone in an R rated movie? Well, yes if that would really work. But probably he is just trying to really make the point of how vital it is for ourselves and our children in our home and church to model and teach the value of resisting sin that would rob us of our heavenly home. After all, isn’t it our greatest desire to reach and to have our children reach our real home with Jesus? And the devil, the thief, is always at the door.
Surely you noted that I used the word “scandal” for sin. That is the original sense of the word Jesus used here. It means to trap. Isn’t that what Satan tries to do with temptations to sin? Trap and destroy. But I also intentionally used it to make another point. Oh, how we hear about scandals today, especially in high places. We can too easily point fingers and deceive ourselves into thinking our sins are very minor compared to those “scandals”. And Satan traps and smiles. So we need to protect each other and our children by modeling and teaching the value of resisting all sins that rob of our Savior and our home in heaven. That’s using God’s security system.
That also means our family home and our church home need to protect the value of the peace Jesus won for us with his death to pay for our sin and his resurrection to give us new life. Jesus taught how to do that. Each person has to know and live the value of remaining salty. Jesus said, “Have salt in your selves and be at peace with each other.” Salt generally adds to taste. We need to taste good to God and to each other by having the Holy Spirit salt our hearts and lives with God’s word, the fire of the law and the soothing, cleansing good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So use God’s salt shaker daily, his word in personal Bible reading, family devotions, worship and Bible study for children and adults. Value highly these opportunities to remain salty. Teach our children. Encourage one another. And when Satan tempts you to become unsalted, dial up God’s number like the one on the security sign near our front door. He is prepared to help you 24/7 by shaking the salt of his word on you again and making you secure in God’s family values.
Want God’s security system at the door to your family home and your church family home? Have it read, “Jesus lives here!”