The hermeneutic I try to follow is a simple one. It is expressed in the following series of questions.
Who said what to whom?, What is the occasion?, What is the background?, When was it said?, Are there clues in the text to help interpret the text?
In applying these questions to today's text, I find a continuity that ties the entire section together. I realize that I may on thin ice, but I pray that you will be blessed by my feeble efforts to understand the mind of Christ and that no harm will be done.
Father, I pray that our love and devotion to you would never
be side tracked by the desire for personal advancement, power,
money, or success. We remember that Jesus rejected all the
kingdoms of the world along with their glory because the cost was
to worship Satan rather than God. Lord we are tempted to seek
these things rather than God's Kingdom. Help us to hold
faithfully to you alone.......................in Jesus' name.
Jesus, keep me near the cross:
There's a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary's mountain.
Near the cross a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the Bright and Morning Star
Sheds its beams a round me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow over me. REFRAIN
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Open your Bible to Mark 9:30 -10:16. Read this section over several times until you are familiar with the text.
Since Mark 6:30, Jesus has been seeking a quiet place to rest with His Apostles. He has revealed to them that He is The Messiah, and that He must be rejected, delivered up, killed, and on the third day rise again. The Apostles are having a hard time accepting this teaching, it clashes with their Messianic Expectations. They have been taught that The Messiah will destroy the power of Rome, set their nation free and establish His Kingdom with great might, wealth, and prosperity. The Apostles are so reluctant to surrender their Messianic hopes, that Jesus reveals His Glory on The Mount of Transfiguration to Peter, James, and John, to demonstrate His Authority, God's voice declaring, "This is my Son whom I love. Listen to Him."
Mark 9:10, shows that they still don't understand Jesus' mission.
Jesus has retreated from his public ministry to minister to his Apostles. It is critical that they come to understand what is about to take place lest they become vulnerable to the evil one. Even today the death and resurrection of Jesus is a stumbling block to the faith of many who are searching to find God. It is the corner stone of our relationship with God. If Jesus didn't die and then rise from death, He was just a nice man who tried to do good things only to fall into the hands of his enemies and get murdered.
It is obvious that the Apostles are still thinking that God's Kingdom was going to be a worldly kingdom and that Jesus was going to rule like any other king. All His teachings about being rejected, handed over, killed, and rising again, have gone over their heads. The question in their minds was "who is going to be His number two man?"
Even today many think that The Church is a way of moving up in the world. A place to carve out a niche for yourself. Gather a faithful following, establish your own agenda, and have things done the way you want them done - or else! Is it this way in your Church? What would Jesus say?
Jesus' words turn their concept of greatness up side down. He uses a little child to illustrate His point.
Little children have always been at the bottom of the social latter. They have no power, no property, and no wealth. Anyone who puts the interests of a child before their own, and serves their needs in the Name of Christ with no hope of earthly reward; has a heart that God is pleased to dwell in.
It seems that Jesus' words are uncomfortable for the Apostles to listen to, so John tries to change the subject. Implicit in his comments are the idea that "The 12" are "in", and anyone else is "out". He still wants to establish the Apostles position of authority in God's Kingdom. Jesus' answer brings to mind Romans 14:4 "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
If the Apostles, or any one else with a leadership role in the Church, by their desire to promote their own self interests and authority, draw away the weak and lowly into sin, they will face an angry God and terrible judgment.
Remember Jesus is speaking to the Apostles. He plainly warns them to do what ever it takes to deal with their divisive ambition to be rulers in God's Kingdom and to stop resisting His teachings about His rejection, betrayal, death, and resurrection. If they refuse, even though they were hand picked by Jesus and called to be Apostles, they will perish. See Isaiah 66, to get into the thought behind Jesus words.
The word hell in these verses is Gehenna, the valley of Hinnon outside of Jerusalem. Picture a place where human sacrifice had once taken place, a garbage dump filled with rotting maggot infested waste and smoldering fires that never go out. This is what Hell is like, you don't want to go there.
Our commitment to Jesus, his death and resurrection, will be tested. In ancient Judea salt came from the Dead Sea. It consisted of a mixture of salts and minerals that were evaporated out of the sea water. Moisture sometimes leached out the sodium chloride leaving a mixture that looked like salt, but contained no salt at all. It was good for nothing because it wasn't what it appeared to be. We must not be like that leached out salt. Our commitment to the truth of the Gospel, and the cross of Christ, must be real and fruitful, not just a shallow consent to a set of beliefs. Our faith in Jesus must dwell in us richly and show itself to be a true faith, seen plainly by our Godly love, obedience, and good works.