Mark 9:38-50

Mark 9-38-50

An Activity

You will need a pair of scissors, about 18″/50cm of string to make a short necklace that will not come off over your head, and a polo mint (lifesaver in the States).

Slip the polo onto the string and tie a knot to keep it in place. Then tie the string around your neck. This is the millstone of your sin, and there is no way to be rid of it.

Have a friend cut the string and take away your millstone. This is what Jesus did for you on the cross. Keep your string and millstone as a reminder.

A Reflection

Woah! there’s some seriously heavy stuff in here. Drowning, chopping off hands and feet, everlasting fire and immortal zombie maggots! Why is Jesus going so over-the-top here? Surely he’s being a bit heavy-handed?

Well, no actually. Because he’s talking about something really very serious. It’s a tiny little word that keeps popping up in our text, just like it keeps popping up in our lives. sin. Little word. sin. Hardly there at all. sin. Doesn’t really matter, does it?

Apparently, it does.

Imagine you heard that a friend had been involved in some terrible accident and had lost the sight of one eye. That’s awful! What about if you were hit by a drunk driver and had lost a foot or a hand. How dreadful! And dying – that’s the worst thing ever.

Yet Jesus says that eternity without God is far, far worse even than these. And the cause would not be a drunk driver or accident or someone’s stupidity, but me. Just me. I would have done that to myself because of sin. That tiny little word again.

The problem is that we can see this world and we can’t see eternity. We can see our hands and feet and we’re quite keen to keep them. We want to stay alive. Of course we do. But ultimately, eventually, in the very end, we won’t. There will come a time when I am not alive any more. And then what?

Then I will find out that ‘in the very end’ was not the very end at all. To take Churchill out of context, I’ll find that death was “not the end … but …the end of the beginning.”

Sin has consequences. And I don’t mean the ‘big’ sins, like murder. There are in fact, no ‘big’ sins and ‘little’ sins. It doesn’t matter if I’m an axe-murderer or a dear little old lady who once, fifty years ago, got slightly annoyed with her neighbour. That’s quite enough to send me to hell, with the immortal zombie maggots.

I’m putting in the odd funny to lighten things a bit, but really this a very serious subject. We are creatures of eternity, we humans – “He has also set eternity in the human heart” Ecc 3:11 – yet we sometimes forget to look beyond the little life we live in this transit camp and see the real life waiting for us in our real home.

Sin has consequences. All sin. Both in eternity and in this life. We don’t have to look far to see the consequence of selfishness, greed, bitterness. We see it in the world news, in our friends and family (however much we may love them), in ourselves. No-one is perfect.

We use that to comfort ourselves, don’t we? When someone messes up, we pat them on the back and say “Never mind, no-one is perfect” And sure, yes. Accepting our humanity is a good thing. We don’t need to beat ourselves up trying to reach unattainable standards. Because they are unattainable. God’s standard is perfection. There’s only one person who ever met the standard, and he’s in heaven right now. Because he deserves to be.

Me? I don’t. I don’t deserve to get to heaven, ‘cos I’m a million miles short of the standard. All my sin is like a millstone around my neck and it’s dragging me down. It really does not matter if it’s a big millstone or a small millstone – anything, anything is enough to drag me down.

Imagine the situation. You’re in the middle of the ocean, maybe you fell out of your private jet. You are just afloat. Only just. And you have to hold your sin. Does it matter if it is a small stone or a massive block of concrete? You’re gong down. You can’t simply let go, because this is your sin, and sin has consequences, in eternity even more that in life. What you need is someone to carry your sin for you, and to give you instead a life jacket, something that will take you up.

Jesus. It is Jesus. On the cross he bore the righteous anger of God against all sin, for all people, for all time. He took, he carried, he became my sin – all I have done, all I will do. In its place he covered me in the right-ness that was really his. So that when God, the just, the absolutely fair, the incomprehensibly pure looks at me, he sees not a wretched sinner, deserving only the right punishment for my sin, but he sees the perfect life of Jesus, my saviour, in whose right-ness I stand.

If this has sparked something in you, and you feel that you may be in danger of sinking with the great millstone around your neck, then I would urge you to take this opportunity to get rid of it. Come to know God who “is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Ps 103:8) The prayer below will help you if you don’t know what to say. But only pray it if you mean it. It will change your whole life. And more than that.

A Prayer

Loving Lord of mercy,
I come to you just as I am. No pretence. No trying to hide all the bad stuff. You know all the bad things I have ever thought or said or done. 
This is not how I want to be. The weight of my sin is like a millstone around my neck and I am sinking, God.
I am sinking.
I cannot save myself. I need you to save me, please.
Thank you that Jesus died to take the punishment for my sin, so that I do not have to.
I want to accept your free gift of righteousness, so that I can be right with you and live for you, both now and in eternity.
Amen

If you have prayed that prayer for the first time and really meant it – awesomely brill, you’re a new brother or sister of mine and I’ll see you in heaven. Please don’t just leave it there. Be sure to tell a trusted friend who prays and reads their Bible, or you local minister. And tell me – I’ll be thrilled!

Bible Text

Mark 9:38-50

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

“Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.

“But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’

“For everyone will be tested with fire. Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavour, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

New Living Translation

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


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