Preacher: Pastor Ray
Text: Mark 10:17-31 (Context – Mark 9:49-50, 10:32-40)
Summary: As followers of Jesus, expect to go through many fires, specifically, the fires of persecution. Allow these fires to purify you, for great is your reward.
Father, it’s so good to be home, to be amongst friends of Jesus, fellow brothers and sisters of Christ, disciples, family members where it’s safe. And where we feel loved and accepted. Lord, the world will always judge us and even the religious system will always accuse us, but Lord under you, we are one and we are loved and we are accepted. We thank you, Lord. We pray that you teach us today about a difficult topic — persecution. I pray that you would refine us and purify us as we will one day certainly go through various fires in this life. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
I was struck by these verses simply because I was confused. About a week ago, as I boarded the plane on the way to Philadelphia, to see my parents and I was confused about the meaning of these verses. If you are a disciple of Jesus, when you are confused, we are learning that we need to bring our questions to Jesus. And Jesus will answer. It might not happen in that one sitting, but if you keep on bringing your questions to Jesus, eventually, He will answer.
And so I was asking, what does this mean that salt is good and everyone will be salted with fire? And have salt in yourselves. What is that? I was very confused.
Matthew 5 says, you are the salt of the earth.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
And unfortunately, due the placement of the subheading in your Bible, you might not have linked verse 13 with the previous verses but it’s one story. And so the question is — why are we salt of the earth? And why do we have to be salted with fire? And why do we have salt continuously in ourselves?
The one point for today is — as followers of Jesus, expect to go through many fires, and specifically for the believer, it is the fires of persecution. And allow these fires to purify you, for great is your reward.
So I just want to start with the question, what does it mean that we are the salt of the earth? We are the salt of the earth. Salt preserves. And when it says, you are the salt of the earth, the earth we know one day will be burned up. One day, Jesus will come and He will baptize the earth and everything will be burned up in judgment.
But the believers’ presence on the earth functions to preserve the earth. Until the final moment, God’s judgment is delayed because of the righteous and innocent presence of believers on the earth. That’s what our function is. We are the salt. We are preserving the earth. Just the fact that we’re here, we are preserving Alhambra because there are believers that are here.
How do I know that this is the interpretation? When Sodom and Gomorrah, God was going to destroy them, Abram had a discussion with God. If there are 50 righteous, He will not destroy the city. If there are 40, if there are 30, if there are 20, if there are 10 righteous people, those 10 would function like salt. God’s judgment would not have come upon Sodom and Gomorrah, but because there was less than 10 righteous, judgment came. There was not enough salt in Sodom and Gomorrah.
And ironically, there was not enough salt in Lot’s wife because as they were being rescued, she turned back. She could not let go of what she had in this world. Even though fire was coming upon the city, she had to look back and what she was leaving behind. And in judgment, she became a pillar of salt. And what kind of salt was she? She was a kind of salt that had lost its saltiness.
Because when you extract salt from the sea in a shallow area, you just let the salt water evaporate and what remains is the sea salt. But if you don’t harvest the salt soon enough and you let it sit out in the sun too long, or if you let the rains come, that salt can be diluted and get mixed with all kinds of impurities and the salt can lose its saltiness.
And if you take good salt and you put it on fertilizer, it will function to enhance the fertilizer. But if you put saltless salt on fertilizer, it will actually ruin the fertilizer. And so when salt has lost its saltiness, what did they do in biblical times? They tossed it on the road and people trampled upon it because it was useless.
And as believers, we are the salt of the earth. Our presence is preserving the earth from judgment. And then it says, going back to Mark 9, have salt in yourselves. There’s something that’s in you that preserves you, that preserves you from spoiling, from you from being destroyed. And I believe part of it is the fruit of our righteousness. That is what preserves you.
And that fits in the context of Mark 9. While many are falling into sin through their eyes and through their hands and they’re becoming like the rest of the world, but those who are righteous, we actually struggle against sin. And in the end, there is salt in us. There’s a righteousness that not only are we preserving the earth, but we are preserving ourselves.
And it says, we will be salted with fire and there are many kinds of fires. Most clearly, in Mark 9, the chief fire is the fire of hell. There is such a thing as hell fire. And it will burn up all who did not profess and follow Jesus. And Jesus when He returns, He will baptize the world with fire. This is a fiery judgment.
And it says, everyone will be salted with fire. That includes Christian and non-Christian. Just the fact that we are in a fallen world, we will all go through fires. We will all undergo suffering through various saltings here and there, sprinklings of fires. And we must go through them. And specifically for the believer, we must go through the fires of persecution because that fire purifies us unlike any other fire.
Before I get into the rich young man that I just read, I want to cover the verses that come before and after it to show that it’s one story.
Mark 10:38. This is James and John asking To sit on the right hand and on the left hand of Jesus and Jesus responds in verse 38.
38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
I used to think the cup of Jesus was reserved only for Him. And in a sense, it’s true. It is a cup of God’s wrath that Jesus alone had to drink, that when He’s praying at Gethsemane right before Calvary, He is anguishing with drops of blood and He asks for this cup to pass. This was a unique assignment for Jesus to die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world.
And the baptism that Jesus had to undergo was the the persecution — the mockery, scorn and the suffering of the final moments of His life. That was his baptism. But interestingly, when James and John asked about sitting on His right hand and His left hand, Jesus asked them, can you drink this cup and and undergo this baptism? And they say, yes. And Jesus says, you’re right. You also must drink your cup and you also will be baptized.
And we know that each of us will have a cup to drink. My cup may be very different from your cup. It is the lot that God has assigned. It is the assignment that He has given to you. And you have a choice — to take it or to reject it. I never signed up to be a pastor. God said, here’s your cup. When I began pastoring, my vision was not to worship at home. But that’s the cup that God has given. And I have a choice — to accept it or to reject it.
Each of us will have a cup. I know it will be difficult. And you’ll have a choice whether to accept or to reject. But the baptism, all of us will go through a very similar baptism. It is a baptism of persecution. It is being salted with fire. Everyone is salted with fire — with hardships, with difficulties, tragedies. That can happen to a believer or a non-believer. But for the Christian, the fire of persecution is unique to us. It is a purifying fire unlike any other fire when you are persecuted on account of Jesus Christ.
And with that I want to talk about the rich young man.
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Jesus looked at this rich young man and said the most difficult thing that you can say to a rich man. You need to give it all away. Your wealth, your love for money, your greed — if you do not deal with it, it can cause you to forfeit your soul. Because this man is asking, how do I inherit eternal life?
And Jesus, when he speaks to people He’s trying to save, He does not pull back punches. He looks at him and loved him. And we might think, loving him is to accept him. Yeah, you can follow me even though you are greedy. I’ll deal with that later. Just follow me. We think Jesus should tolerate his idolatry. Just come as you are. Be with me now. We think that’s what love is.
But Jesus shows us what love is. he says he looked at him loved him and spoke out against the one thing that he must let go before he can even begin to follow Jesus and to me this man is the most tragic man in all of Scripture. Because Jesus says, come, follow me. Did you know that Jesus doesn’t say that to everybody He meets? He doesn’t say that to everybody He saves.
For the believer, we think, okay, we’re all following Jesus, aren’t we? But did you know that when Jesus saved a demoniac in the Gerasenes and healed him of his demon possession, the man after he was healed and delivered begged him, I want to be with you, Jesus? He’s basically saying, I want to follow you, Jesus. And what does Jesus say? No, you cannot follow. Instead, go back to the Decapolis, this region of 10 cities where you are from. Preach to them. That is your cup. You cannot follow me.
It is such a privilege when Jesus invites you to follow Him. It is such a privilege. It is not for everybody. I mean, in a spiritual sense, yes, we are all followers of Jesus, but in a literal sense of dropping everything and following Jesus, that is reserved for a few. And it is such a privilege. And the one thing that Jesus said that this man must do — to let go of his wealth, sell it, give it to the poor — to a rich man, that is the hardest thing you could ask him to do. I don’t want to focus today on his wealth. I want to focus on what it says a little bit further.
22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words…
And sometimes I get frustrated at the translation in the English because “amazed at his words” sounds so weak compared to what the word actually means in the Greek. The word for “amazed” in the Greek is emotionally stalled. They are emotionally stalled by what they just heard about about the rich man, that before following Jesus, he needs to let go of his wealth. They are so emotionally stalled by that statement. They are shutting down. That is the word.
And as we hear this, we should be just like the disciples. We should be so shocked, so stalled by what Jesus is saying here because what does it mean for us who have wealth? How difficult will it be for you and me to inherit eternal life? Let me keep reading
24 …But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
Again, that’s not a good translation when it says, “exceedingly astonished.” A better translation would be, they were exceedingly struck with panic. Before they were just emotionally stalled or paralyzed. Now they are exceedingly struck with panic.
And what we observe is that there is not much that separates the rich man from the disciples. The disciples gave up houses and lands and they followed Jesus, but the fact that they’re surprised that Jesus says these things to a rich man, it shows that there’s something in them that still needs to be purified. There’s still a worldliness inside of them that Jesus has to deal with.
And you see that all over Mark 9 and 10. They’re arguing about who the greatest is. That thing needs to be burned up. That thing needs to be purified. And James and John, they’re going to Jesus in private and saying, can I sit at your right hand and your left? They’re jockeying for positions of power. That thing needs to be burned up and purified. The rest of the 10 disciples are indignant at James and John. They’re angry. There’s so much division and anger and selfish ambition and pride.
And might I add, there’s a love for money in the disciples because they think following Jesus means I can have a limitless supply of funds because He could just multiply things. There are things that are being revealed in their reaction to this rich man.
They’re emotionally stalled at first. Now they’re panicking. And as we keep reading…
26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” 32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid…
First, they’re emotionally stalled. Then, they’re panicking. Now they are terrified by what Jesus is saying. And Jesus does not let up on the gas pedal. He floors the gas and He says in verse 33.
33 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
Jesus, at the end of His life, is just heaping it on. And He’s telling His disciples and He’s telling all of us what we should expect in our futures. And when you hear about this future persecution that is coming, I think our initial response is very similar to the disciples. Just stalled, paralyzed, panicking, and then terrified.
Did you know that the one guarantee the scripture makes is that if you follow Jesus, you will be persecuted? Without exception. Every one of us. We will be persecuted on account of the name of Jesus Christ. And if you’re alive in the final generation and the Great Tribulation is upon you, all of the nations will hate you on account of Jesus. The guarantee that Scripture makes is that your future and my future is very similar, that we will have to go through the fires of persecution and that fire can either cause you to perish, to fall away, to be hardened, or it can purify you.
Think about this rich young man. We focus on his wealth. And yes, that is the main takeaway of what he was struggling with. But imagine if he actually followed through and began to follow Jesus and he sold all of his wealth and gave it to the poor. Before following Jesus, what’s the first thing he’s got to do? He’s got to face his parents.
And what do you think his parents would say? A rich young man with his whole future in front of him and his parents who have groomed him for this position. What do you think his parents would say when this rich young man shows up, their son comes to the door and says, Dad, Mom, I have something to tell you. I met this man named Jesus and He’s inviting me to follow Him and I’m going to go. What do you what do you think the reaction of the parents of this rich young man’s going to be?
Wouldn’t it be something like, are you crazy? Why can’t you just be like everybody else and go to the synagogue and worship with the crowds? I mean, are you saying that they’re all wrong? Why are you following this unknown Rabbi named Jesus? And this rich young man, he’s a religious man and I bet his parents are religious. I bet they all attended the synagogue together and the fact that Jesus highlights some of the commandments that this man obeyed, I think it’s not by accident that this man really obeyed the commandments. And specifically, I want to highlight the last one that Jesus mentions. He honored his father and mother.
How difficult it would be for a religious man, whose grown up in a synagogue, who honors his religious parents, to say to them, sorry, I got to leave. Think of the persecution that would’ve come.
And what distinguishes this rich young man from the apostles is not much. I mean, it’s not like the apostles were so righteous. I mean, they’re fighting with one another. They’re jockeying for position. They’re shocked and terrified after hearing what Jesus has to say about this rich young man and how difficult it is for the rich to inherit the kingdom of God.
There’s not much that separates them. But there’s one thing. The apostles actually stepped out. They actually did leave father, mother, houses and lands to follow Jesus. That is the only thing that differentiates the rich young man from the rest of the apostles.
This rich young man could have been an apostle. He would have been one of the apostles. Maybe he was the one to replace Judas. He could have been one of the apostles. It is such a privilege literally to follow Jesus while He was here. But I think he saw the fires of persecution. And he got burned. He could not go through the fires of persecution. Greed was one issue. But he loved his parents, he honored his parents. He could not choose Jesus over his parents.
There’s one thing that persecution does. When you’re persecuted on account of the name of Jesus, it purifies you from all worldliness. If you’re stuck in your worldliness, somehow, persecution has a way of dislodging it from your life. Because if you seek after the world and the world is good to you, then there’s no issue. Like you desire the world, and the world offers you things, and you receive things, and you are treated well and you’re praised and you’re well received by others, then there’s no problem.
But as soon as you’re persecuted, it’s like your eyes are opened. This is what the world is like. I’m homeless here. This place is not my home. It’s like persecution — it opens your eyes to spiritual reality. That’s why I was never meant to enjoy this life, and to put all my eggs in the basket of this life, and to seek the praise of man in this life. That’s not what a Christian is supposed to do. Persecution has a way of shaking us awake. And showing us, this is how it is. That because of Jesus, you are hated. Because of Jesus, you’re ostracized. Because of Jesus, you are discarded, you are on the margins.
If you just attend church and your Christian experience is just a one hour on a Sunday, nobody’s going to bother you. Nobody is going to bother you if all that you have in terms of your faith is one hour on a Sunday. No one will complain. You can be as greedy as you want to be. But no one’s going to persecute you because all you’re doing is one hour on a Sunday.
But as soon as you say things like, I can’t make a decision until I hear from Jesus, to a church-going Christian, even tto them, it might sound crazy. What do you mean? You actually hear from Jesus? Jesus actually speaks to you. I thought we just read the Bible and learn principles and then just do life. We just try our best and everything is just trial and error. We make mistakes, but we learn from our mistakes. And I thought that’s the Christian journey. Just go on Sunday. Learn some principles and live out your life to the fullest.
If you live that way, the world will not complain. It will never persecute you. But if you say things like, I am following a man named Jesus, and even to this day, He speaks to me, people are going to look at you funny. And you will undergo persecution.
I realize that even while persecuted, you can say the right things, but you can say it the wrong way. Imagine James, the first martyr among the apostles, while he was being sawed in two or beheaded by the sword, however he died, imagine if he is arguing and trying to win the argument right before he was martyred. And he’s trying to prove how wrong everybody is and he’s so angry as he’s testifying about Jesus.
You could say, he’s saying the right things, but he’s saying it in the wrong way. And so what persecution does, it purifies us. The disciples in Mark 10 still have a long way to go,l but persecution is right around the corner. And these brothers, they were purified. And so when they die, they die, not just only saying the right thing, they’re saying it in the right way, with such forgiveness, with such love, with such compassion.
We’re not here to win arguments. Even though, we know we’re right and what people are saying to us is completely false. And if the attacks come from your own family members, there such an indignation that rises up, and we feel like we have to prove that we are right and we have to shut down the argument. That tells me that we have not been purified completely yet.
There is a part that has been omitted in the English translation in Mark 9:49. I don’t know why it doesn’t show up in the English. It shows up in the Greek.
49 For everyone will be salted with fire… and every sacrifice with salt shall be salted.
The second half of the verse — we know that’s a reference from Leviticus 2, that when you offer grain sacrifices or various sacrifices, you salt them and the salting makes the sacrifice palatable to God. God receives it because it’s seasoned with salt.
But in Mark 9, guess who the sacrifice is? Of course, it’s Jesus. He is the ultimate, once-for-all sacrifice. But also, to a lesser degree, the sacrifice is us. We are the sacrifice. And so, as a sacrifice that may be burned up by a fiery persecution or trial, we need to have salt. We need to preserve our lives. We need to be righteous. So transformed on the inside, that as we’re being persecuted, we’re not as evil and wicked as our persecutors. We’re not as angry and hostile as our persecutors. We are so changed.
That’s why there are fires. That’s why God permits fires. He knows there are certain things that will not change in us until we go through certain fires. The fires of persecution produces the kind of character that is needed to forgive as you are being persecuted. There’s an anger — that anger — God wants to purify you so that you’re seasoned with salt. So that when you are the sacrifice on the altar of persecution, you will represent Christ well.
Christians, may we lose every argument and be okay with it, even though we know we’re right about eternal things. One thing I said to my parents is — I am okay losing every argument pertaining to politics and worldly affairs. I’m okay losing every argument because in their minds, they are wiser than me, and I am okay, I’m fine with that. But in this one area of spiritual life,
I hope one day, and this is when I had calmed down, I said, I hope one day you will be able to listen to what I’m saying and receive Jesus.
Okay, let’s pray.
As followers of Jesus living in a fallen world, we will go through many fires. But the fire that is most effective in purifying us is a fiery persecution. What you are going through purely and only because of the name of Jesus, that’s the only reason you’re going through it.
And I pray that you can allow these fires to purify you in a way that no other fire can. So that at the end of our lives, if we are put on the altar and burned up, may we be properly seasoned with salt. We are righteous like Jesus. We are at peace like Jesus. We are forgiving like Jesus. We are gracious and patient like Jesus while on the altar of fiery persecution.
Father, thank you for making it clear that although the cup that we are assigned may differ from person to person in this room, we all share a common fate, that we will go through many fires, specifically, a fiery persecution.
It’s easy to hide in a church. And never mention the name of Jesus. But when we start talking about following Jesus and hearing His voice and waiting for His voice, that’s when the persecution starts.
It was like that in Jesus’ day. It is like that even today. But Lord Jesus, we are willing to follow you. You took your cup. You were baptized with fiery persecution in your final days. And we, too, are willing to take our cup and undergo our baptism of this fiery persecution. I pray that through it, we will not perish, but we would be purified. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen