Mark 9:43-10:12 (Wednesday Evening Bible Study)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

Mark 9:43-10:12

  • Mark 9:43-48
  • 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. 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. 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, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
    • This passage lays down in vivid language the basic truth that there is one goal in life worth any sacrifice
      • In physical matters, it may be that someone may have to part with a limb or with some part of the body to preserve the life of the whole body
        • The amputation of a limb or the excision of a part of the body by surgical means is sometimes the only way to preserve the life of the whole body
        • In spiritual life, the same kind of thing can happen
    • The Jewish Rabbis had saying based on the way in which some parts of the body can lend themselves to sin
      • There are certain human instincts, and certain parts of our physical constitution, which minister to sin
      • This saying of Jesus is not to be taken literally, but is a vivid way of saying that there is a goal in life worth any sacrifice to attain it
    • There are repeated references to Gehenna in this passage
      • Gehenna is spoken of in the NT in Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Luke 12:5; James 3:6
      • It is a word with history
        • It’s a form of the word Hinnom
          • The valley of Hinnom was a ravine outside Jerusalem, and it had an evil past
          • It was the valley in which Chaz, in the old days, had instituted fire-worship and the sacrifice of children in the fire
          • That terrible pagan worship was continued by Manasseh
          • The valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, therefore, was the scene of one of Israel’s most terrible lapses in to pagan customs
          • Josiah declared it an unclean place
      • When the valley had been so declared unclean and had been so desecrated, it was set apart as the place where the waste of Jerusalem was burned
        • The consequence was that it was a foul, unclean place, where loathsome worms bred on the waste, and which smoked and smoldered at all times like some vast incinerator
        • Because of all this, Gehenna had become a kind of type or symbol of hell, the place where the souls of the wicked would be tortured and destroyed
        • So Gehenna stands as the place of punishment, and the word roused in the mind of every Israelite the grimmest and most terrible pictures
    • But what was the goal for which everything must be sacrificed? It is described in two ways
      • Twice, it’s called life
      • Once, the Kingdom of God
        • We may take our definition from the Lord’s Prayer
        • Two petitions are set beside each other
          • Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
          • In parallelism, two phrases are set side by side, the one of which either restates the other or amplifies, explains, and develops it
          • In the Lord’s Prayer the one petition is an explanation and amplification of the other
          • The kingdom of heaven is a society upon earth in which God’s will is as perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven
          • We may then go on to say quite simply that perfectly to do God’s will is to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven
          • It is worth any sacrifice and any discipline and any self-denial to do the will of God, and only in doing that will is there real life and ultimate and completely satisfying peace
    • It is meant to be taken very personally
      • It means that it may be necessary to excise some habit, to abandon some pleasure, to give up some friendship, to cut out something which has become very dear to us, in order to be fully obedient to the will of God
        • It is solely a matter of a person’s individual conscience, and it means that if there is anything in our lives which is coming between us and a perfect obedience to the will of God, however much habit and custom may have made it part of our lives, it must be rooted out
        • The rooting out may be as painful as a surgical operations; it may seem like cutting out part of our own body; but if we are to know real life, real happiness, and real peace it must go
        • This may sound bleak and stern, but in reality it is only facing the facts of life
  • Mark 9:49-50
  • 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 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.”
    • We will not make sense of these two verses unless we recognize that here we have three separate sayings of Jesus which have really nothing to do with each other
      • They are a collection of sayings of Jesus in which He used salt in various ways as a metaphor or illustration
      • We must take them individually and interpret each as it comes
    • Everyone must be salted by fire
      • According to the Jewish law every sacrifice must be salted with salt before it was offered to God on the altar
      • It was the addition of that salt which made the sacrifice acceptable to God, and which His covenant law laid down as necessary
      • Before a Christian life becomes acceptable to God it must be treated with fire, just as every sacrifice is treated with salt
      • In ordinary NT language fire has two connections
        • It is connected with purification
          • It is the fire which purifies the base metal; the alloy is separated and the metal left pure
          • Fire then will mean everything which purifies life, the discipline by which sin in conquered, the experience of life which purify and strengthen the sinews of the soul
          • The life which is acceptable to God is the life which has been cleansed and purified by the discipline of Christian obedience and Christian acceptance of the guiding hand of God
        • Fire is connected with destruction
          • In that case this saying will have to do with persecution
          • It will mean that the life which has undergone the trials and hardships and perils of persecution is the life which is acceptable to God
          • Anyone who has voluntarily faced the danger of the destruction of possessions and events destruction of life itself because of loyalty to Jesus Christ is dear to God
      • We may take this first saying of Jesus to mean that the life which is purified by discipline and has faced the danger of persecution because of its loyalty is the sacrifice which is precious to God
    • Salt is good, but if the salt has become saltless, with what will you season it
      • Salt has two characteristic virtues
        • It lends flavor to things
          • Anyone knows how unpleasant many dishes are when the salt which should have been included is accidentally omitted in the preparation
        • Salt was the earliest of all preservatives
          • To keep a thing from going rotten, salt was used
          • Dead meat left to itself wen bad, but, pickled with salt, it retained freshness
          • The salt seemed to put a kind of life into it
          • Salt defended against corruption
    • The Christian was sent into a pagan society to do something for it
      • That society had two characteristics
        • It was bored and world-weary
          • Into that bored and weary world Christianity came, and it was the task of the Christian to impart to society an new flavor and a new thrill as salt does to the dish with which it is used
        • The ancient world was corrupt
          • Juvenal likened Rome to a filthy sewer
          • Purity was gone and Chasity was unknown
          • Into that corrupt world Christianity came, and it was the task of the Christian to bring an antiseptic to the poison of life, to bring a cleansing influence into that corruption
          • Just as salt defeated the corruption which inevitably attacked dead meat, so Christianity was to attack the corruption of the world
      • Jesus was challenging the Christian; The world needs the flavor and the purity that only the Christian can bring and if Christians themselves have lost the thrill and the purity of the Christian life, where will the world ever get these things
      • Unless Christians in the power of Christ, defeat world-weariness and world corruption, these things must flourish unchecked
    • Have salt in yourselves and live at peace with each other
      • Here we must take salt in the sense of purity
        • The ancients declared that there was nothing in the world as pure as salt
        • So this will mean, “Have within yourselves the purifying influence of the Spirit of Christ. Be purified from selfishness and self-seeking, from bitterness and anger and grudge bearing. Be cleaned from irritation and moodiness and self-centeredness, and then, and only then, you will be able to live in peace with your neighbors”
        • Jesus is saying that it is only the life that is cleansed of self and filled with Christ which can life in real fellowship with others
  • Mark 10:1-12
  • He set out from there and went to the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Then crowds converged on him again, and as was his custom he taught them again. 2 Some Pharisees came to test him, asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He replied to them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses permitted us to write divorce papers and send her away.” 5 But Jesus told them, “He wrote this command for you because of the hardness of your hearts. 6 But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother 8 and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples questioned him about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. 12 Also, if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
    • Jesus was making His way south. He had left Galilee and had come to Judea. He had not yet entered Jerusalem, but step by step and stage by stage He was approaching the final scene
    • Certain Pharisees came with a question about divorce, by which they hoped to test Him
      • There may have been more than one motive behind their question
        • Divorce was a burning question, a crux of Rabbinic discussion, and it may well be that they honestly wished for Jesus’ opinion on it
        • They may well have been testing His orthodoxy
        • It may well be that Jesus had already said something on this matter, and they were hoping He might contradict Himself and entangle Himself in His own words
        • They might have known what He would say, and wished to involve Him in an argument with Herod, who had in fact divorces his wife and married another
        • They may have wished to hear Jesus contradict the law of Moses, which He did, and thereby formulate a charge of heresy against Him
        • One thing is certain; the question they asked Jesus was no academic one of interest only to the Rabbinic schools. It was a question which dealt with one of the most acute issues of the time
    • In theory nothing could be higher than the Jewish ideal of marriage
      • The ideal was there but the practice fell very far short
      • The basic fact that impaired the whole situation was in Jewish law a woman was regarded as a thing
        • She had no legal rights whatever but was at the complete disposal of the male head of the family
        • The result was that a man could divorce his wife on almost any grounds, while there were very few on which a woman could seek divorce
          • At best she could only ask her husband to divorce her
            • A woman may be divorced with or without her will, but a man only with his will
          • The only grounds on which a woman could claim a divorce were if her husband became a leper, if he engaged in a disgusting trade such as that of a tanner, if he sexually assaulted a virgin, or if he falsely accused her of pre-nuptial sin
    • The law of Jewish divorce goes back to Deuteronomy 24:1
    • “If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house.
    • The process of divorce remained on the whole exceedingly easy, and at the entire discretion of the man
    • The real crux of the problem was the interpretation of the law as it is in Deuteronomy 24:1
      • A man can divorce his wife if he finds something indecent about her
        • How was that phrase to be interpreted
        • There were two schools of thought
          • The school of Shammai
            • They interpreted the matter with utter strictness
            • Something indecent was adultery and adultery alone
          • The school of Hillel
            • They interpreted that crucial phrase as widely as possible
            • If the wife spoiled a dish of food
            • If she spun in the streets
            • If she talked to a strange man
            • If she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relatives in his hearing
            • If she was an argumentative woman (who was defined as a woman whose voice docile be heard in the next house)
            • Rabbi Akiba we’ve went so far as to say that it meant if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was
        • Human nature being as it is, it was the laxer view which prevailed
        • The result was that divorce for the most trivial reasons, or no reason at all, was tragically common
        • Things had come to such a pass that women hesitated to marry at all because marriage was so insecure
    • Jesus quoted the Mosaic regulation, and then He said that Moses laid that down only to meet the hardness of your hearts
      • It may mean that Moses laid it down because it was the best that could be expected from people such as those for whom he was legislating
      • It may mean that Moses laid it down in order to try to control a situation which even then was degenerating, that in fact it was not so much a permission to divorce as it was in the beginning an attempt to control divorce, to reduce it to some kind of law, and to make it more difficult
    • Jesus made it quite clear that He regarded Deuteronomy 24:1 as being laid down for a definite situation and being in no sense permanently binding
      • For His authorities He went back to Creation and quoted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24
      • It was His belief that in the very constitution of the universe marriage is meant to be an absolute permanency and unity, and no Mosaic regulation dealing with a temporary situations could altar that
        • In Matthew 19:3-9, He is shown as absolutely forbidding remarriage, but as permitting divorce on the grounds of adultery only
          • Once adultery has been committed the unity is in any case destroyed and divorce merely attests the fact
    • The real essence of the passage is that Jesus insisted that the loose sexual morality of His day must be mended
      • This who sought marriage only for pleasure must be reminded that marriage is also for responsibility
      • Those who regarded marriage simply as a means of gratifying their physical passions must be reminded that it was also a spiritual unity
      • Jesus was building a defense around the home

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