MARK 9:38



The Bible says in Mark 9:38, “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he follows not us; and we forbad him, because he follows not us.” Something bothered the disciples that should not have bothered them. They viewed other servants of God who were not in their own group as competitors of theirs. This same kind of human competition between religious groups exists today. That is, it exists among those that are carnally minded. Mind you, in many of the situations throughout the gospels we see that the apostles were not spiritually minded. This is one of those situations.


Jesus made it very clear that it is not a matter of what group or what denomination someone is a member of. The issue should not have been: is this person a member of the twelve or not. After all, one of the twelve had a devil and betrayed Jesus. The issue during the time of Christ was a matter of what message was preached. That’s the same issue today: not what group someone is a member of, but what message do they preach? The most important part of their message that must be there is the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is the name that must be lifted up above every other name. Listen to the message of the speakers. Listen for the name of Jesus. If His name is used the way it ought to be used, then that is the greatest clue of all that such is a speaker is on the right track; and he does not have to be a member of your group to be on the right track. That’s why the Bible says in Mark 9:39, “But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.”


Jesus also said in Mark 9:40, “For he that is not against us is on our part.” It’s pretty easy to identify the enemies of God. They are in opposition to the name, to the message, and to the work of Christ. That is why they are called antichrists. They are against Christ. If someone is not openly and actively against Christ, then you should not be opposed to them either. Of Course, if you are not an enemy of Christ, then it would be good for you to identify those who are servants of Christ and do something for them. Every good deed that is done and every gift that is given to the servants of Christ will be rewarded. God knows who the enemies of the gospel are. If you are a friend of the gospel, make sure that you do something for the servants of Christ. Jesus said in Mark 9:41, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.”


Of course, some people, instead of helping those who believe in Christ, may oppose them or in some way be a negative influence on them. For those who do so, Jesus gives a stern warning: a warning of hell. Jesus said in Mark 9:42, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” The word to offend in the Greek means to cause to stumble. Of course, Jesus is speaking of causing to stumble in a moral or a spiritual way. When Jesus spoke of “these little ones that believe in me,” He was probably primarily talking about children because they are the most vulnerable; but He was also no doubt talking about all of His believers.


God loves His children, and He wants good things to happen to us. One of the facts of life is that human beings are easily influenced by others. How many lives have taken a horrible path into immorality or lawlessness or godlessness because of a bad influence that entered into their lives? Everyone is responsible for their own actions, but those who caused to stumble or who were a bad influence will also be held accountable for what they did. It’s such a major error to cause someone else to stumble that Jesus says, “It is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” In other words, it would be better to die a sudden and horrific death than to influence someone (especially children) for evil and to cause them to stumble.


In Mark 9:43-44 Jesus said, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” In saying this, Jesus is making an emphasis by way of contrast. He is emphasizing in no uncertain terms that the spiritual is more important than the physical. What happens to you in the next life is far more important than what happens in this life. Your eternal destiny is far more important than anything that might happen to you in this life. Of course, we know that Jesus is not in any way telling people to cut off their own hands. We know that because other scriptures tell us how precious is the human body and that it should not be marred or disfigured in any way. It says in First Corinthians 3:16-17, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” Also, other teachings of Jesus make it very clear that problems of human behavior come from the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” It is the thoughts and spiritual condition of your innermost being that causes you to sin. Cutting off your hand or any other part of your body could not possibly make you better spiritually. What Jesus is saying here in Mark chapter 9 is making a point by way of contrast. He is not telling you what to do with your hand or your foot or your eye.


Jesus is making this emphasis by using such a shocking example, and He also makes this emphasis of the importance of the spiritual over the physical by repeating Himself three times. Jesus said on Mark 9:45-48, “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Three times Jesus said that it is better to enter into the kingdom of God having lost some physical capacity than it is to go through life having total physical capability but not end up in the kingdom of God. Three times Jesus warned of hell fire.


There is a hell because Jesus Himself said that there is one, both here and in other places in the gospels. Hell is a literal place where people will be sent who are condemned. That’s one of the reasons that forgiveness is such a wonderful thing. If you are forgiven by Jesus, you do not have to go to hell. God does not want you to go to hell. That’s why Jesus came to die for you: so that you could believe in Him and thus not go there. That’s one of the most important reasons to be saved: to have a destiny of heaven instead of hell. If you are not saved yet, you might want to get that taken care of as soon as possible.


When Jesus mentioned hell in this passage, he said a couple of things that tell us what hell will be like. Speaking of hell, Jesus said, “Into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Hell is a place of torment and of fire. It’s a place of punishment. People who go to hell will go there because they deserve to go there to be punished for their sins. Some people ask the question, “How can God put people in hell?” Knowing people the way that I know them, I ask a different question: “How can God possibly allow people to go to heaven?” He does so because of the great mercy that is found in Christ Jesus.


Hell is a place of punishment, and it’s a place of eternal punishment. That’s why Jesus said, “The fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Those who go to hell will be there forever and ever and ever and ever. That’s a long time. Don’t go there. Repent and turn to Jesus before it’s too late. This is one of the main reasons for telling people about Jesus the Savior: so that if they believe, they will not go to hell. 


Concerning the punishment of hell, something else is indicated by what Jesus said here. Jesus said concerning hell, “Where their worm dieth not.” Worms are that which eat a dead and decaying body. Of course, those in hell will not have a physical body. Each of theirs would have long-since decayed. Jesus must have been talking about the souls of the damned. Something will forever gnaw away at the souls of the damned. Perhaps it’s their own conscience and their own guilt that will gnaw away at them. In this life some people hide from their conscience. They deny it, or they get so busy they cannot think about it, or they use alcohol or drugs to forget it. But in hell there will be no forgetting the truth of what has been done. Every sin will be remembered and its effects. The pain will be felt by the wrongdoer of every person who has been wronged or hurt or cheated or lied to. It will be a terrible thing for the damned to have to experience and to remember and to think about in all of the detail that eternity will allow, the full effects and guilt of all their sins and errors. That’s one of the reasons that the greater the sins, the greater will be the punishments of hell. Finally, justice will be served to those who receive judgment in the place where “the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” How blessed are those who have found forgiveness in Jesus. They will live forever in paradise with a clear conscience.


Evidently because Jesus mentioned fire, He turned from the subject of the fire of hell to a general principle about fire. There is a symbolic meaning to the use and purpose of fire that applies to everyone’s life. Jesus said in Mark 9:49, “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” Fire has a good purpose when it is used in the right way. Many manufacturing processes use fire in order to take raw materials and make something useful out of them. God wants to make something useful out of you and out of your life, and therefore He is going to bring fire into your life to burn away the dross. You can count on that. Peter reminded his congregations in First Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” 


When the trial of fire comes into your life, it will accomplish that which it was meant to accomplish only if you allow it to do so by going through it with faith. The same fire that melts the wax hardens the clay. That’s why when a great tragedy comes into someone’s life, for some people it ends up hurting their faith and tearing it down. For others, it draws them closer to God and they end up having a stronger Christian character and a greater light to shine in a dark world. Why do bad things happen to good people? One reason is that God permits the bad things in order to make you into a better person: to purge out more of the dross of your own selfish nature, to help make you more selfless and more like Christ, to strengthen your faith, and to make you even stronger. Just make sure that you are aware of this: the fire of trials will come into your life because Jesus said, “For everyone shall be salted with fire.”  


Jesus also said, “Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” In the Old Testament in the book of Leviticus one of the requirements was that salt be applied to the sacrifices. Evidently from what Jesus said here, this was symbolic of something that happens in the lives of Christians. We offer ourselves as sacrifices to God, and then God takes that which was offered and applies things to our lives to make it better and more useful for His service. That’s one of the things that salt does when it is applied to food. Salt makes the food more palatable, more appetizing, and more attractive. God wants your life to attract people to the gospel. God will do things to cause that to happen: to cause salt to come into your life. We already talked about the fires of trials that He allows to purge you and strengthen your faith. He will also give you gifts, and opportunities to exercise and build up those gifts.


Of course, what the Lord does to improve your life and to make you a better witness in the world is not one-sided. It will take a willing cooperation on your part. That’s why the Lord said in Mark 9:50, “Salt is good: but if the salt has lost its saltness, wherewith will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves.” Your will and your choices will have a lot to do with how much spiritual salt will be in your life. Make the right spiritual choices. How will you know if you have made progress with fire and salt in your life? Perhaps by the last thing that Jesus said in this passage. He said, “Have peace one with another.”              





Copyright; 2002 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved