Scripture: Mark 9:42-50
Key verse: (43) If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
Reflection: This is one of those verses that we don’t take literally, thank goodness! Through history some Christians have taken this literally and have maimed themselves or others in their community in obedience to Jesus’ command. Jesus threatened that you might go to Gehenna, which the translators have chosen to translate as “hell.” Gehenna was the name of the valley outside of Jerusalem where, in Old Testament history, children were sacrificed. Some scholars believe that by Jesus’ day, the Gehenna valley was a place outside the city wall where the garbage was taken and burned. The fire smoldered always at that garbage pile. Perhaps Jesus was saying “better to enter life maimed than to be thrown into the garbage heap.”
When we encounter a passage like this, we either choose to understand it literally or to consider a deeper meaning. What is Jesus saying to us? Perhaps Jesus is reminding us that the life of a disciple takes effort and sacrifice. If we say we are following Jesus, we can’t keep doing all of the things we’ve always done. We need to examine ourselves, our lives, our choices and our priorities. We need to let go of some habits and traditions in order to embrace Jesus’ way of living. We ask ourselves “does this help me to be more like Jesus or does it hinder me?” We question “does this activity show the love and grace of Jesus, does it promote peace and justice, does it care for my neighbors?” Discipleship is a lifelong journey, following Jesus and growing more and more to be the person God calls us to be.
Prayer: O God, push me to wrestle with scripture in order to learn your will for my life and for my world. Give me courage to be honest about myself and about anything in my life that causes me to stumble on the walk of faith. Empower me to let go of what holds me back so that I can draw closer to you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].