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.”
Lucky you this morning! Anyone up for contemplating with me amputations, devouring worms, and unquenchable fire? Anyone? Let’s just say this upfront: this is a challenging passage--one that none of us would likely choose to start this day with! So, how should we approach this passage together?
Well a few notes on context might help. First, It is important to note that in verses 42-47Jesus is in no way encouraging self-harm as a viable pathway of discipleship. The One who who took on flesh Himself is no masochist, no hater of the flesh. Rather, Jesus is using a form of exaggeration that literary scholars call “metonymy,” where a part (in this case literally a body part) is used as a stand in for the whole. Perhaps you have used the phrase before, “That must have cost her an arm and a leg!” Your point being, not that literally the person paid with body parts, but that the purchase surely cost everything she had.
Second, note that Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is also the ancient path of Jewish pilgrimage to the temple where sacrifices were offered as an act of worship to God. In this passage Jesus draws on this temple context when he talks about cutting body parts (Mark 9:43-48), the everyday practice of ritual cutting/butchering of animals for sacrifice in the temple (temples in general were the butcher shops of antiquity). These parts of the butchered animals were then placed on the fire of the altar to be consumed (compare to Mark 9:47-48). In fact your first impression of a temple would likely have been the smell of salted (to keep it from rotting, compare Mark 9:49-50), roasted meat, an experience similar to walking up on a barbecue joint.
Jesus is saying here that as his disciple, he is not just interested in one “part” of me. No, the One who offered Himself completely on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins wants my hands (the kind of work I do), my feet (the places I go to), my eyes (the things I look at and contemplate), indeed my whole life (every part!) offered in sacrificial submission to Him. The apostle Paul sums it up in this way,”Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1-2).
Are there “parts” of you, parts of your life, that you are holding back from Jesus?
What would it look like for you to offer your whole life as a worshipful sacrifice to God?
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. Empower me to offer every part of my life this day as a living sacrifice to You.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.