Jesus is NOT speaking figuratively in Mark 9:42-50, He means literally every word he says. If a person thinks they can rid themselves of sin, what Jesus describes is how they must go about it. Sin is SO deeply entrenched, that one would have to cut away the flesh that is infected with it in order to rid themselves of it. Of course, the problem is that in order to wipe out sin in this fashion, one would have to mutilate oneself to death. So, if we cannot rid ourselves of sin, what can save us? Jesus can! Jesus does! That’s the whole point. Jesus is teaching the twelve (who had just been arguing about who among them was the greatest) to stop trusting in themselves, and trust in Christ alone. Believing oneself to be great in and of oneself is no different than believing that one can remove one’s own sin. It is vanity. Jesus teaches them humility. Be like little children! Little children are 100% helpless and dependent upon others for their survival. So too, we are 100% dependent upon God for our eternal life. Jesus very literal words paint us a horrific picture of what we’d have to do if our salvation were up to us. Thanks be to God it has all already been accomplished in Him!
Yours in the Service of Christ,
+Rev. Jeffrey Ries
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tacoma, WA