Persons With Flavor
August 13, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会 石井和典神学生 Seminary Student Kazunori Ishii, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. When Jesus expounded his manifold doctrine to his disciples, unexpectedly he took up a young child into his arms and said, "Whoever receives a child such as this in my name receives me." With how much love did he look at this child and utter these words? Just imagining it, [you'll] probably break into a huge smile without even trying to. That's the scene here. Jesus' affections are out in the open here. But then his facial expression suddenly becomes grim, and he says with a strong tone, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea." That's what we read aloud in today's gospel reading. At first glance it is a harsh word, uttered because he loves children. "I would rather die than do harm to a little one. I will never allow it." I think this kind of feeling by parents who love their children has always been there, it has been that way unchanged no matter where no matter when. I think this feeling by parents who love their children is such that they would take up the challenge and lay their life on the line to any person or group who would plan to do harm to their child.
2. "It would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea." More simply said, "For the one who causes a person to stumble, it would be better for him to be executed." It's an intense, even violent, statement. As a statement from Jesus, it's one that goes into a strange category. I'm sure there are more than a few of us in whom a certain image may come to mind, an image of Jesus saying something like "Somebody would be better off dead." So, who is this person, of whom [Jesus had] said, "Let him be executed!," when he "causes one to stumble?" What kind of person is this? The word "stumble" appears a number of times in the scriptures. According to that word, we stumble caught on some protrusion lying in the roadside upon which we are walking, it is pointing to the person who becomes the very thing that trips the fall, who has something definite to do with causing the fall. If you go by an English Bible, the part where it says "cause someone to stumble" is written as "to cause someone to sin." That way is a lot easier to understand. "To cause someone to sin" means to [make someone] "stumble." In other words, when we ask what was it that Jesus was wanting to say, it would be that "For a person so heinous and inhuman that he would dare cause a child to sin, it would be better for that person to die." He lifted up a dear child in his arms and said [that]. All the while thinking in their hearts, "Yes, yes. I agree. I do," the disciples must have been in complete unison with Jesus' view.
3. Whereupon suddenly, now turning his glance at each of the disciples, he spoke in a harsh tone as he looked around at the disciples, "If your other hand causes you to sin, cut it off." The disciples were astonished at Jesus' words and manner. "Why is Jesus all of a sudden talking like this? When he was wanting to give a speech regarding children, then he turns his eyes on us all of a sudden, and going beyond that, if we want to obtain life, [he said] to cut off the part of our bodies that is sinning. Why did he bring this up out of nowhere?"
4. As we read this scripture passage it may seem for the majority of sensible people that Jesus is saying something quite extreme. I'm pretty sure it sounded that way even to the disciples. However, as time passed, those words must have borne down heavily upon the disciples. So far, Jesus had been performing many different miracles and acts of healing before the disciples. Because the disciples had so many opportunities to be eye-witnesses of these things, it was clear that no matter how much they thought about it that Jesus was a special being and that he was sent from God. Therefore, it was unthinkable that Jesus would say something that was devoid of reason, that was totally without basis, and actually tasteless. They wouldn't be able to stop laughing if he was saying something so off the wall. They had great trust and hope in the words Jesus gave out. But, since he came on like that out of the blue, some of them felt let down, some of them got scared, some of them were troubled and asked, "Must we really cut off a part of our bodies?" Yet, each one ultimately could only accept it as a true message. [By accepting it] therefore, it would open up to them on its own. [And what was it?] It was "the dreadfulness of sin." Losing a part of the body is frightening for anybody. It is something we always want to pass up and avoid by all means. But, Jesus is telling us that to sin is something that we must pass up and avoid above all else. -- Because sinning is closely related to losing ones' life. If you end up losing your life, you might have hands, feet, and eyes, but what good will they be there? In comparison with life, just about everybody will think it reasonable that your life is far more important than just any part of your physical body.
5. My mother is now in the hospital. A large tumor on a section of her uterus has developed, and so she went into the hospital in order to cut it out. The surgery is already over; so far it has been a complete success. It was at the time that Mom went to the hospital and had an x-ray exam on her abdomen when the doctor found out she had a huge tumor. At that time [she] made a face as if [her] life were already over. Since she had in her abdomen a tumor of something like eight kilograms in her, I guess it was natural to think that way. Before then, everybody around her including herself thought the reason her stomach was big was just that she was gaining weight, but then all of a sudden we're told she has a tumor in her, and we hardly saw that as any better. When you actually gave a look at the x-rays, a white image covered her entire stomach area and [hers] wasn't a normal situation any way you looked at it. Mom said that at that moment [everything] became completely black before her eyes. With an eight kilogram tumor before her eyes, she felt in her untrained eyes that she had no hope of surviving this. Scorched into my mind, I will never forget mom's face at that moment, all blank, when her face lost its spirit. A few days after that, we understood him telling us that if mom's tumor were surgically removed, she would be almost problem free. The moment after she understood that her life [could] survive, mom's complexion changed immensely and her words and manner changed, where you could see her strong will, that "After undergoing surgery, I will go back home." Without any hesitation, Mom chose to surgically remove all of the bad parts. Mom took on a relieved expression, having arrived at her decision, and she wanted strongly to have her surgery done. I would say that a person who has had death right in front of his or her eyes feels exactly that way, that "If I'm about to die, I don't mind if a part of my body is cut off."
6. Well, returning back to the scriptures, Jesus is clearly saying that it is "the stumbling" that causes a person to die. In short, it is to sin, to cause [someone] to sin. How is sin to be defined? Sin can be defined as that which is the extreme opposite to life. It is what causes a person to die. When it comes to defining death, which the scriptures make plain, [the Bible] shows it as the state in which the relationship between God and a person is destroyed. It is the state in which the tie to God is severed. It does not speak of death by pointing only to a bodily death. For the Christian death in the body doesn't mean the end. For, the life of the Christian lies within his or her being joined to God [or being in God]. To live with God means to obtain life. And it is salvation to us, it is the gospel, when God guarantees totally on his part alone, when God promises totally on his part alone, that God and human will live together.
7. "It is better to have a part in life even if a person has become one-handed. It is better to have a part in life even if a person has become one-footed. It is better to enter the kingdom of God even if a person has become one-eyed."
8. Jesus wanted that a person be with God no matter what sacrifice he or she might have to make, no matter what the cost. He had a strong desire that human beings be with [him]. As proof of that, a little while after he had finished this speech about this, he presented his own life and he became that sacrifice.
9. As per our natures, we, though ever sinning, must surely come to God actually casting out and getting rid of everyone of those parts of us where we are filthy, where we are in rebellion against God, (this is not only the physical).
10. "For whoever keeps sinning and entices others to sin, it would be better for that person to be executed."
11. -- Because we are walking without remembering the creator even though we're created. Going by God's righteousness, we are truly beings [worthy] only of being executed. But, what we must keep our focus on is not merely that. To tell "Who had given those words?" will make all the difference. We must not forget to tell that the one who became the scapegoat for us in our stead and who took the punishment upon his own body had given those harsh words.
12. [He] stated that he had come in order to close up the path on which human beings are bound in sin, punished, and destroyed. He bore upon his shoulders all of the punishment and wanted to set us free by making us innocent. [He uttered] words in which he only wanted human beings to receive life, and only that, only that path. We are foolish as we cause our neighbors to stumble and always tempting them to the path of sin, and we cause even ourselves to stumble, and live with the attitude that God doesn't even exist. We have been arrogant, and by our very natures, we have deserved to be thrown into the sea and to be sunken [in it]. Without remembering the creator we have spent each and every one of the valuable days of our lives, each day which we have received from God. We have lived driving the most important existence, the existence of God, into a little corner of our lives. The one who shouldered upon himself all the punishment for us that we ought to receive for the way we fundamentally are had given this harsh statement.
13. Therefore, when we read this passage from The Gospel Of Mark, we must not read it as "an exhortation, a recommendation" to the effect that "Because you are sinful, punish that sin on your own!" That's not how we should be reading it, we should be picturing the figure of Jesus on the cross, where he took all the punishment as our substitute. With the thought that "You had better have a part in life; I am receiving the punishment in your place," we must remember each and every step [that he took] when he walked the path to Golgotha fully prepared to die. Each pain Jesus received was so that we would receive life. Jesus bore the pain that we should have received.
14. The scripture words read aloud today will turn by now among us as if just a picture apart from the truth of reality. It is not possible for eternity for the Christian church to cut off a part of its body in order to be pure. But, we will need to remember in the future why this speech of his took a turn as this fabricated picture. "The one who has already been punished in our place speaks forth." We absolutely must not forget that. We must not forget that we do not need to receive any of the punishment at all, thanks to him, upon whom it was all imposed.
15. "Have salt among yourselves." Salt preserves food from spoiling and adds flavor to it. It is absolutely indispensable for humankind. As for this statement from chapter nine and verse fifty, hold it as something that is absolutely indispensable, like everyone expected you to. For such reasonable and appropriate words are being directed to you from God. What then is this thing that is so indispensable for humanity? It is life. What is life? It is living with God. Amen.
16. O God [our] Father. O Jesus [our] Savior. O God who chose to save us and to become the sacrifice yourself for that purpose. Please place us at your side. Being with you means to us that we live. O Lord, please keep granting us life. We pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.