Jesus calls his disciples to a transformational mission.
The challenge for them was to capture the vision, scope, and heart of his plan. They often missed it. Let us not miss the life-changing mission that God has for us right under our noses if we will only have the ears to hear and the eyes to see.
Sermon preached at St. John the Divine in Houston, TX on 19 September 2021. Come visit: https://www.sjd.org/
Mark 9:33-37 (ESV Version)
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Is Jesus challenging you today?What question are you too afraid to answer, and what answer are you too afraid to give?And what is the mission to which God is calling you to engage that is right under your nose?
Each one of us has some kind of influence in this world. We don’t have to be a CEO or a president or a big-name pastor. We all have influence for Christ everywhere our lives take us.
One time when my son was small, we were riding home from church after hearing a sermon about The Good Samaritan. My son said, “Dad, that sermon was about you… the priest who walked by…” I was surprised and asked him what he meant. He said, “Remember the other day when I asked you to play with me, and you didn’t do it?” Wow, that kid was paying attention! Even in our own homes, we are held accountable for our witness and influence!
We often in our minds make a disconnect between our church lives and our weekday lives. But Jesus is saying that we can’t do that! Who we are on Sunday has to be who we are every other day of the week. This is not easy to do!
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
Scholar David Turk believes that the salt Jesus is referring to in this passage is salt from the Dead Sea. In that part of the world, this salt is used everywhere – for healing, for food preservation, for flavor. He says, however, that it’s the sodium chloride in this mineral compound which is what makes it so effective and useful, and the sodium chloride is the first thing to wash out of this compound. Once the sodium chloride is gone, all that’s left is a useless white powder, only good for throwing away.
I suggest that to the degree we see moral decline in our society, Jesus is saying that it is the Christians who bear the responsibility for this. Our societies decline when Christians aren’t being “salty” enough. We have failed to preserve our societies by inserting our integrity into politics, education, business, and social justice.
If societies are to be renewed, Christians must hold the line. If we don’t do it, who will?
We are all surrounded by pressure to conform to those around us, to fit in, to keep up. But Jesus commands us to maintain our saltiness even if we are the only salt in the bowl!
Jesus commands us to shine the holiness of God, the character of God, from the inside out. We must be so firmly rooted in the ways of God that we will not be moved.
The apostle Paul says, ” Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…” (Colossians 4:6). Elsewhere, he says to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Sometimes truth and love feel like opposites, don’t they? It’s difficult to be both gracious and salty! We must resist the temptation to fall too far on either side; we either lose truth in favor of grace, or we lose grace in favor of truth. There is a fine line right in the middle, and Jesus calls us to walk it.
We are inclined to look upon bad temper as a very harmless weakness. We speak of it as a mere infirmity of nature, a family failing, a matter of temperament, not a thing to take into very serious account in estimating a man’s character. And yet here, right in the heart of this analysis of love, it finds a place; and the Bible again and again returns to condemn it as one of the most destructive elements in human nature. The peculiarity of ill temper is that it is the vice of the virtuous. It is often the one blot on an otherwise noble character. You know men who are all but perfect, and women who would be entirely perfect, but for an easily ruffled, quick-tempered or “touchy” disposition. This compatibility of ill temper with high moral character is one of the strangest and saddest problems of ethics. The truth is there are two great classes of sins – sins of the Body, and sins of Disposition.
Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World, on 1 Corinthians 13
The righteous tend to struggle with sins of the disposition – we get grumpy and judgmental. Jesus wants us to be at the same time salt (maintaining holiness and truth) and light (loving and brightening all those we come in contact with).
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
When people see you living as salt and light in the world, it will inevitably stir up conversation. People will see a difference in you and wonder why. This is when you need to not be afraid to let your light shine in order to glorify your Father in heaven. It is in these moments, when your salt is at its saltiest and your light is at its brightest, that you have the greatest opportunity to influence those around you for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.