Summary: How can we avoid laying death traps for others and for ourselves? Jesus addresses that issue for his disciples and for us. Parts: A. By fighting party pride that looks down on others B. By fighting what draws your heart into sin C. As God’s Word salts you

Text: Mark 9:38-50

Theme: Cut Away the Death Traps

A. By fighting party pride that looks down on others

B. By fighting what draws your heart into sin

C. As God’s Word salts you

Season: Pentecost 18b

Date: October 4, 2009

Web page:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which Jesus speaks to us is Mark 9

"John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and tried to forbid him, because he was not following us."

"But Jesus said, "Stop forbidding him. For there’s no one who will do a miracle in my name and be able to immediately speak evil against me. For anyone who is not against us, is for us. For whoever gives you a drink of water in my name because you belong to Christ, truly I say to you that he has certainly not lost his reward. And whoever entraps one of these little ones who believes in me, it is rather better for him if a heavy milestone is laid around his neck and he’s been thrown into the sea.

"Now if your hand should entrap you, cut it off. It is better for you to go into life maimed rather than having two hands to go away into hell, into the unquenchable fire. If your foot should entrap you, cut it off. It is better for you to go into life crippled rather than having two feet to be thrown into hell. If your eye should entrap you, throw it out. It is better for you to go into the kingdom of God with one eye rather than having two eyes be thrown into hell, where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.

"For everyone is salted with fire. Salt is good. But if the salt should become saltless, in what way will it be seasoned? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another."" (Mark 9:38-50)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

We’ve all seen old-fashioned mouse traps like this one. It’s just a piece of wood and some twisted metal. But how deadly for a curious mouse! With the trigger set, it only takes a nudge or a lick, and snap! That’s the end of the mouse. It’s a death trap.

That’s the picture behind the word Jesus uses when he talks about causing someone to sin as the NIV translates in the text. A death trap for faith is triggered. In Greek it’s the word σκανδαλίζω (skandalizo). The believer is scandalized into turning away from Jesus into unbelief. It’s a matter of life and death. The King James Version used the word offend here. But that doesn’t cut it with our current meaning of offend. Jesus is not talking about hurting someone’s feelings. He’s talking about killing faith, triggering a death trap.

We certainly do not want to be the trap that kills someone else’s faith. And we certainly don’t want to be a mouse triggering a death trap for our own faith. So cut away the death traps. That’s the theme to keep in mind. Through God’s Word and through the Lord’s Supper may the Holy Spirit strengthen you and me to cut away the death traps so that we do no harm to the faith of others or to our own faith.

A. By fighting party pride that looks down on others

1. How did the sin of party pride show in the disciples?

As we begin, let’s catch up with the flow of what’s happening. Last week in the Gospel from Mark 9, the disciples had argued about which of them was the greatest. Jesus confronts that sinful pride in them. He tells them, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, the servant of all" (Mark 9:35 NIV). He then takes a little child in his arms and says, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me" (Mark 9:37 NIV).

John has taken Jesus’ words to heart. He recalls how he had recently acted unwelcoming toward someone driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Was he and the others wrong to try to stop that man or was that a different situation? Jesus answers, "Do not stop him . . . for whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9: 39, 40 NIV).

They’re many details here we’d like to know but aren’t told. We don’t have time to go into the different possibilities. So let’s focus on the sin that Jesus brings out here, the sin that can also so easily infect you and me and lead us to be a death trap for someone else. What is that sin? Party pride. That partisanship that thinks we’re better just because of the group we belong to.

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