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.”
(Mark 9:43-50 NIV)
In our last section, we saw Jesus teaching His disciples about our effect on others – both positive and negative. In today’s passage, Jesus digs deeper to find the root cause for our sin – ourselves.
Jesus then asks a very tough question: Is any sacrifice too great to avoid the finality and pain of hell? Even the loss of a hand, a foot, or an eye is a small price to pay vs. a life without Christ.
We need to be careful here and understand Jesus is not suggesting self-mutilation in order to earn our way to heaven. There is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation. Jesus is, however, teaching His disciples the eternal consequences of those who reject Christ.
Jesus is not teaching His disciples to identify sinful people in their midst and excommunicate them from the fellowship. The enemy is not outside ourselves, but rather within ourselves.
Verses 49-50 are three separate sayings involving the common subject of salt. In Old Testament times, animals were sacrificed and their blood was a covering for the sins of the people. The meat had to be salted before it was cooked; in fact, any offerings made to the Lord had to be salted before it was offered to God (Leviticus 2:13).
When Jesus said that everyone would be salted with fire, He was talking about being preserved (with salt) and being purified (with fire). In the hot climate of the Middle East, the only way (before refrigeration) to preserve meat was to salt it. Fire was used to heat precious metals such as gold and silver so the impurities might be removed. Jesus was teaching His disciples (and us) that we will be salted like a sacrifice and purified in the fiery trials of life. This salting and burning away of the impurities of our life is part of the refining process God uses to make us more like Him, to hold His pure essence, His “saltiness” that the world craves.
In verse 50, Jesus reverts back to more domestic references to salt in everyday life. Salt with impurities can become rancid and lose it “saltiness”, the essence of its usefulness. Jesus is saying that disciples of Christ are what preserves society at large. As such, we have a responsibility to keep pure and maintain our “saltiness”, our Christ-likeness, which is our redeeming quality that preserves society. Jesus is not talking about impurities from the outside, the defilement of our outer selves, but rather, keeping pure on the inside, in our hearts and minds. We are to be in the world (to be salt and light) but not of (like) the world.
Jesus has talked about our witness in the world; now He finishes by talking about relationships among His followers. This whole dialogue had started back on the road to Capernaum, where the disciples had been arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest. Jesus now comes full circle and says that we must have that “saltiness” with other followers of Christ as well as the unbelieving world around us. We must preserve our saltiness, our Christ-likeness, in order to maintain peace among the followers of Christ.
By ending with this last admonition to His disciples (and us), Jesus is saying that our worth is not measured in the number of deeds done for Christ, nor in our rank in the church or other organizations, or the size of our bank accounts or our prestige in the community, all the things that His disciples were likely using to compare themselves to one another. The only thing Jesus looks at is our focus on and commitment to Him, and to serving one another.
When we all focus on Him, we have peace with other followers of Jesus.