Today is the day of the feast of Thanksgiving. We cannot go to our hometown, but this Service should be a heartwarming time as if we are there… I saw an internet news article. Families and close relatives who have not met for a period of time tried to overcome the awkwardness by talking, but this talk ended up to discussions hurting other family members. So there is a list of discussion topics that should be avoided if possible…
First, something elders should not say to younger ones are: “You were nice then…” This means that this particular person is not very nice now, “Are you employed?” is not a good question to ask either. “Job in a large in an enterprise is the best…” is another bad question. Also those in the age group of marriage should not get a question such as: “when are you getting married?” or those who are studying: “where are you hoping to go to university? If you are going to an university that is not very popular, just learn a trade instead…” These questions are all easy to hurt the other person who is listening, so they should be avoided.
On the other hand, the young ones should not say some things to elders, such as when you are watching television with your parents and they ask about the name of the celebrity you should not say: “you don’t have to know”, while preparing meals you should not tell your mother to “just sit down and wait instead since we will be taking care of everything.” Above all you should avoid discussions about politics, since there is the election occurring in Korea this year it would be much more intense than other years but about the candidates and their pros and cons should not be discussed. This is because the entire family did not meet to debate about politicians, the important part is that you dearly love your family.
When I read this article I felt that even if we contend, going to our hometown seemed very happy… We would be seeing those family members we were unable to see, but from this meeting stress might be provoked and some can get hurt, we should think about the verses from today… Even if there is a feast with your family, if the essential object is not there this meeting could start to hurt others… likewise, there are some things that is essential in us. The title of the sermon says it, in us should be ‘salt.’ That is why ‘Talk about salt’ is the sermon title today, to elaborate a bit more, Mark 9:50 “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other” can be restated as ‘A story about a salt that makes peace.’ In other words, there must be a salt that can make us peaceful, and we will be contemplating about this.
Actually, the verses from today are the most challenging verses to understand in the Book of Mark. In verse 49 and 50, it is difficult to interpret, Mark 9: 49 “Everyone will be salted with fire,” the meaning is unclear. Also is the ‘salt’ used in both verses 49 and 50 the same word, or is it different, this is not certain either. Reading in context from verse 48 and linking it to verses 49 and 50 is not easy. There are many things to be understood and many views, so this is very hard…
First, Mark 9:49 “Everyone will be salted with fire”, the fire is the same as the word in mark 9:48 “where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” Also the ‘fire’ can be connected to the ‘hell’ that is mentioned in verses 43, 45, 47, this is because Mark 9:43 “…hell, where the fire never goes out.” In other words, ‘God’s country, Heaven’ is the direct opposite of ‘hell,’ and what best describes ‘hell’ and its pains is ‘fire.’ So ‘salted with fire’ is similar to the fact that ‘the cabbage being pickled by salt’ and that there will be perfect condemnation by fire.
And in verse 49, in the Korean translation there is a word that was forsaken called ‘galeu’. This word defines ‘because’, so ‘And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. [because] It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched…’ In this perspective, the ‘fire’ from verse 49 is a word that shows the end of the world and by fire we will be judged.
In this light, it seems that verse 49 isn’t that hard to understand; however, the issue comes with verse 50. Previously, we’ve been talking about fire and judgment but suddenly the gears change and it talks about the goodness of salt and how to be at peace with one another. The progression, clearly, is unnatural.
As a result, some interpret verses 49 and 50 independently and take ‘salt’ in verse 50 to connote God’s promise. Leviticus chapter 2 verse 13 says, “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings” and in Numbers chapter 18 verse 19 it says, “Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.” The reason why yeast and honey are banned from offerings is because they quicken the pace of decomposing of food. But salt, not only maintains flavours, but also prevents rotting – connoting an everlasting covenant.
Thus, the ‘salt’ mentioned in both verses 49 and 50 refer to God’s promise and when it says, “Everyone will be salted by fire,” it means that we must be cleaned with fire than salted by God’s covenant. The KJV bible explains this further as it states, “For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” When the things that soil us are burnt by the fire, this is the act of God’s covenant.
In this sense, fire and salt mentioned in verses 49 and 50 connote the final judgment but also act as the tool for carrying out God’s everlasting promise. However, since today’s topic is about salt, I’d like for us to focus a little more on it. When we look at verse 50, we can see that there are two kinds of salt – salt that has lost its saltiness and salt that needs to be within us.
When we think of salt, we tend to think of salt coming from the sea and thus, it’s hard for us to imagine salt that has lost its saltiness. However, salt mentioned in the bible is rock salt. Matthew chapter 5 verse 13 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” The rock salt used in Palestine was comprised of salt and other elements and thus, had to be melted to extract salt from the others. Simply put, salt that has lost its saltiness, then, would be these elements that are thrown away.
Verse 50 has told us that salt is good and that it must be kept within us, but what does salt symbolize? This is today’s core question. In order to understand this, we need to look at from chapter 9 verse 30 of Mark to verse 50 entirely. In verses 30 to 32, Jesus foreshadows his death and his resurrection and yet in verse 33 to 37, we see the disciples arguing about who is the greatest among them. At the end, Jesus tells them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.”
Afterwards, verses 38 to 40 is a conversation with John where he says that he had stopped a man deriving demons out in Jesus’ name, because he wasn’t one of them. Jesus in response said, “for whoever is not against us is for us.” Verses 41 to 48 then, talk about how it is better to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck than cause one of the little ones who believe in Jesus to sin. Then at last, in verse 50, he tells us to keep salt within us. Thus, it seems that salt is the conclusion to discipleship that Jesus had been preaching. It is the everlasting covenant of the cross (30-32), the serving of the little ones, little in age or in stature, (33-37) and the accepting of disciples outside the twelve (38-40). In other words, it is the carrying out of Jesus’ mission without excluding anyone else; it is serving and helping those in need; and the path to the cross. And if we were to lose this salt, we would not be able to avoid being thrown into hell.
How are you accepting what I told you? “Those who welcome children will go to heaven, and those who cause even one child to stumble will go to hell…” This statement is difficult because it should be understood in soteriological point of view, not an ethical one.
How do you think God decides whether you go to heaven or hell?
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3)
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
Bible is saying that salvation is only found by knowing Jesus God and there is no other way to be saved. But today it seems like the Bible is saying one needs to act ethically to be saved.
Here, we need to understand who the “little children” are. As I mentioned earlier, when Jesus was on his way to the Cross, he foretold to his disciples about death and resurrection. At the time, Jesus was walking on the path of the weak. But the disciples were arguing each other about who was greater because they wanted to be the winner… That is why Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” He was saying that welcoming Jesus who was walking on the path of the weak is like welcoming a little child.
Many of the disciples believed that their privileged statuses were more important than the ministry work that Jesus was doing. That is why they tried to have Jesus to themselves and they tried to prohibit others from chasing away the demons in Jesus’s name. However, Jesus said that for whoever is not against is for us… This is because no one can have the truth to himself… What was the direct reason for Jesus’ death? It was because the Pharisees were trying to have Jesus to themselves. That is why they tried to exclude Jesus from others so other people won’t able to have him… In the end, this made them try to kill Jesus. Just like the Pharisees, the disciples were trying to exclude other people. Jesus is saying that by excluding those people, you are also excluding Jesus.
Also, Jesus is also saying that it is better to fall into the sea with a millstone fastened to your waist than to make even one child stumble. In Matthew 16, when Simon Peter tells Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my church” and continues by talking about the Passion.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter," Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:22-23)
Here, while causing the weak to stumble can mean bullying the weak, but it also means getting in the way of the Christ who is on his way to the cross.
These are all the core concepts of ‘salt’ and they form the basic meaning of the sentence, ‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.’ If we do not have salt in ourselves, we will all try to be greater and we will try not to lose our privileged positions. We will lose our thoughts on the cross and that is being a stumbling block to Jesus Christ. That is why it is not just about a moral statement of taking care of the weak. It is relevant to the issue of whether we will be saved and go to heaven.
Jesus came to us not as a strong person, but as a weak person. He did not wear a crown of victory but a crown of thorns, that of sacrifice. Instead of excluding himself to others, he was completely dissolved in order to save the world… just as salt that can only have a salty taste when they are dismantled and disassembled. Without it, salt becomes useless and would only be discarded.
Let’s make a conclusion. I like Beef Bone Soup with no salt but, my family members don’t. So I am always arguing with them about how harmful salt is to our body. Anyhow, I am sure that salt is indispensable in our life. What I mean is that ‘the covenant of salt’ keeps us cleaned from corruption. In order to live as Jesus who has almightiness and has showed His ability through the cross of death, we must all have the salt in ourselves.
There is a song called “A Salt Doll” that Shihwa Ryu wrote and Chihwan Ahn sings. The lyrics of the song are as below;
Like the salt doll/ that entered into the water/ to measure the depth of the sea
I/ who fell/ into your blood/ melt instantly,/ like the salt doll
The lyrics of the song are actually from the writing work of Saint Ramakrishna (19C, India). I think Christians are like the salt dolls that melt instantly and loss their individual existence. (Ramakrisha wrote ‘If one drops a salt doll, a cloth doll, and a stone doll in the ocean, the salt doll melts instantly and loses its individual existence.’)
Beloved church members, the Lord says, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” I wish we live the life of salt, as Jesus did, being lowered rather than being raised, serving others rather than being served, and embracing rather than excluding… This is so that we can live the heavenly life…
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