This is a tough saying of Jesus about the demands of discipleship. In Jewish style, the offending part of the body is ‘responsible’ for actions it carries out – hence it is to be removed. The metaphor is one of radical choice, the framework is eschatological; enter life in the kingdom now or face future judgement. Kingdom life can’t be divorced from sacrificial discipleship to and belief in Jesus. In contrast, the image of Gehenna [hell] is one of utter spiritual ruin.
Verse 49 is only in Mark and seems to point to a different sort of fire – that of purification. Discipleship to the Messiah involves suffering.
The salt theme continues into verse 50; the responsibility for disciples is be salty – to live distinct kingdom lives in a world that faces ultimate judgement.
Disciples of Jesus are called to live radically committed lives for the good of the world, which is passing away. Following Jesus is far from a comfortable lifestyle choice, it involves self-denial, committment and a willingness to endure suffering. Is it this that helps to explain that it is in the Global South, where following Jesus often demands such qualities, that the Christian church continues to grow at an extraordinary rate?
Causing to Sin
42“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48where ” ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
49Everyone will be salted with fire.
50“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”