Summary: Does Jesus really want us to cut off our hands, and feet, and gouge out our eyes, and if we did, would that prevent us from sinning? No, what we need is a heart transplant, that only the Holy Spirit can perform.
Mark 9: 43 – 47
Sermon – What causes people to sin?
Jesus here in Mark 9 is in the last stages of his earthly ministry;
soon he will make his triumphant entry into Jerusalem;
and soon after that he will be betrayed, arrested and killed.
In earlier chapters of Mark’s Gospel we have read how he calmed a storm,
healed a demon-possessed man,
raised a dead girl to life,
fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish,
and walked on water.
Mark has described how Jesus was been recognized as the Christ
and was Transfigured along with Elijah and Moses.
By now the disciples should have realized who Jesus was and what he stood for,
but obviously various pennies had not dropped at that time,
and wouldn’t until after he had been crucified, died and buried
and then seen and talked to after he had risen from the dead.
Only then would the disciples appreciate that Jesus was not just a prophet,
someone who had the mind of God and transmitted His messages;
not just a deliverer from evil,
someone who could cast out evil spirits;
not just a miracle worker,
someone who could do things for which there was no logical or scientific explanation;
not just a moral teacher,
someone who spelled out the difference between right and wrong
and how to live lives which were pleasing to God;
but Almighty God incarnate,
the Emmanuel – ‘God with us’,
the Anointed Messiah,
and God in human form walking the earth
looking like those he created at the beginning of time.
He has talked to them in parables,
such as the Story of the Lost Coin and the Lost Son
and the Story of the Good Samaritan,
and has sat down with them to explain the meaning of his stories,
which for some reason he did not do with the common people,
who were left to figure out the meaning by themselves;
but in today’s reading he does not mince words.
Jesus tells them straight how they – and through the Gospel – we,
can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven,
have everlasting life,
not just a few more years by eating a good diet and having exercise.
He tells them – and through the Gospel – us,
what the causes of sin are,
so that they, and we, can be on our guard against them,
and therefore not forfeit what God wants us to have.
According to Jesus, as recorded in this portion of Mark’s Gospel,
there are four things that cause people to sin;
four things that we should be aware of and on our guard against
every day of our lives.
The 1st is bad influences, tempters to do wrong, encouragers of doubt.
It is often difficult to know right from wrong;
black is black and white is white, and they are easy to differentiate between,
but the so called ‘grey areas’ make life difficult,
and this is where the devil can sidetrack us and make us fall into sin.
For example, we would all say that life is precious,
but what would we say to a schoolgirl who had raped, and by a man with HIV AIDS,
who thinks that an abortion would be the best way out?
Life is precious,
but what would we say to someone who is terminally ill and in pain
and asks us to leave some pain killers within their reach,
and we know they have it in their mind to end their suffering once and for all?
We see politicians claiming the maximum possible expenses
and then saying how sorry they are, after they have been caught out,
and then we receive a letter and the stamp has not been cancelled,
and we are tempted to use the stamp on a letter we have ready to post?
That MP got thousands of pounds; the stamp would save us 30p?
What does Jesus say: in the Lord’s Prayer that he taught his disciples?
‘Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil’.
And on TV, there are so many good programmers which entertain and inform,
but so many which poke fun at religion, or God, or church, or Jesus.
Do we get rid of our TVs, or jump up and turn them off when something offends us?
And for those who have to work with other people,
and all of us, when we come in contact with non-believers in the shops, etc.,
how do we react when they use the Lord’s name in vain
or say something negative about God or church?
Do we keep our heads down and our mouths shut,
or do we stand up for what we confess we believe in every Sunday morning.
One the one hand, the devil puts us in these positions to test our faith,