During his ministry on earth, Jesus often spoke directly to those with him with words of instruction intended specifically for those individuals. Less frequently he spoke to all who would listen to him, using words of universal importance. Over these few weeks we reflect on some of the instructions from the Gospel of Mark that Jesus intended we, and all who follow him, should receive and obey.
Gospel of Mark 9: 42-48 (NIV)
42 “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. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, 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 sin, 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 sin, 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 ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
Jesus’ reference in this passage to “anyone” (verse 42) is in the negative rather than presenting an instruction regarding what should be done. “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin …”
The consequences of causing one of these to sin are so great that, in typical hyperbolic style, Jesus described alternatives that would be “better”. We should consider death by drowning preferable. Sinning is so odious to God that we are better to lose what we might consider to be vital parts of our body than to keep these and have sin in our lives. The thought of entering the kingdom of God maimed would have presented huge issues to a Jew; descendants of Aaron who carried any form of defect were not permitted to participate in temple worship. Maimed animals were not fit for sacrifice. But Jesus taught that the kingdom of God would be open to the maimed – but not to sinners who did not repent.
We are forbidden to contribute to sin in the life of another. We are to be so conscious of the consequences of sin in our own lives that we must forego living life “normally” if that would permit sin to remain in us. The change of life in a person who turns to Christ is to be total, for no vestige of the former sinful self is acceptable to God.