And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 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, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ Mark 9:43-48 ESV
There is serious business afoot, which will have serious consequences; and unless they realize this they will be in real danger. Battle has been joined; martial law is now appropriate. If the disciples are to be Jesus’ associates in the final and vital stage of his plan they must sort their ideas out and see things from his strategic view. Don’t they know there’s a war on? N.T. Wright
Battle has been joined, martial law is in effect.
It’s a serious pose that Jesus strikes after warning the disciples yet again of what they were headed for as they went to Jerusalem. It wasn’t going to be the party they were imagining.
It would be hell.
It was a time for sober calculations, for extreme measures. So he gives the disciples the proverbial wake-up call.
Millstones slung around necks and bodies cast into the depths of the sea Mafia-style — few images would be more hellish and frightening to these Jewish disciples.
Gouging out eyes and cutting off hands — no mere luxuries these, but members wholesome and good and used and needed. But if they are tripping you up — off and out with them like so much useless baggage hurled away on a sinking ship. (Note: this is not literal; it’s called an extended metaphor.)
I find that we often have a natural leaning towards extreme measures when it comes to others. We will readily make all kinds of demands for others to amputate this or that, as we, axe at the ready, stand prepared to help them in the bloody work.
But these are extreme measures we are called to take. It’s a personal challenge. It’s your eye, your hand — and it’s your neck you’d better safeguard against a millstone necklace followed by an unceremonious dump in the drink. And curiously enough, the primary focus of Jesus in this wake-up call to extreme measures is our personal treatment of “these little ones” — the last and the lost and the least that we most readily will tend to dismiss and marginalize and mistreat; those upon whom we would most readily perform our own bloody operations.
So beware. Time is short. Much is at stake.
It’s time to wake up now.