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Tony's Reflection 76
How do you feel about salt?
It’s a vital nutrient. It keeps your blood pressure healthy, your nerves and muscles working well.
Eat too much of it, as the experts say most of us do, and you get high blood pressure, heart failure and heart attack, kidney problems, fluid retention, strokes and osteoporosis.
The health-conscious among us are ambivalent about salt.
Back in Jesus’ day, they had none of those reservations about it. Salt was really precious. Not just as a flavouring. They had no fridges, but you could keep meat fresh by sticking it on a slab of salt. Salt was so valuable, Roman soldiers would sometimes be paid in salt. That’s why we sometimes say someone is “worth their salt”.
In today’s episode from Mark (
) we are sat with Jesus. We are joining in the lessons he gave the 12 on how to be great with God.
Lesson one: be happy for other Christians’ success.
Lesson two: reflect Jesus’ own care for children, especially when it comes to encouraging their faith.
We heard these last week.
Now for lesson three: “be salty and stay that way”. Let’s eavesdrop on the last great lesson for greatness.
As soon as Jesus starts talking about salt, he sees the eyes of the 12 light up. Their mind goes back to when they first got to know Jesus. Back then, he had preached to all comers and said his disciples were “salt for the world”.
That had felt so good.
Their mouths had started to water. Each was thinking of a succulent piece of lamb or juicy beef. How that little bit of salt made all the difference. It brought out the flavour. Stew just wasn’t the same without it.
Jesus had told them they would be like salt in the world. By living distinctively and differently for Jesus, as they went his way and put his teaching into practice, they would be adding that essential zest and zing to the “flavour” of the lives of all around them.
They also had pictures of that beautiful joint of meat being kept fresh by salt. The world could be a pretty rotten place, sometimes, but they would help stop the rot. They could “keep it fresh” by living the Jesus way, counter to the rottenness of the world.
They had felt 10 feet tall. They would make a difference for Jesus, by being like salt in the world.
Now Jesus returns to the familiar theme of salt again, they start to feel at ease and comfortable.
That doesn’t last long, though.
“Guys, you’ve got to stay “salty” for me,” says Jesus. “You know what happens to salt that loses its flavour?”
They certainly did. If dust or dirt got mixed in with the salt, it was only good for one thing. That salt went in the rubbish.
Hearts sink. They remember the quarrel they were having that started all this. The one about who would get the best position, when Jesus set up his kingdom. Their consciences prickle as they remember the angry words they had for each other, how close they had been to an all out fight. That was hardly “salty” was it?
They shuddered as they thought about where the rubbish ended up. It ended up in a huge incineration pit, riddled with maggots and being burnt into ashes.
They, too, would be thrown into a fiery pit, if ever they lost their saltiness. Except the flames and burning torment they would suffer would never stop. Ever.
They are desperate to stay out of the pit. How could they keep their “saltiness”? How could they stay different enough from the world around them to add flavour and keep it fresh?
“Remember those times you fall short?” says Jesus.
They certainly did. They had been “falling short” by quarrelling, just a few hours earlier.
“Work out what makes you fall short and deal with it ruthlessly,” continues Jesus. “If it’s your hand, cut it off. If it’s your eye, gouge it out. If it’s your foot chop it off. It’s better to get into heaven with one hand and one eye, limping, than to walk perfectly into hell with both hands and eyes.”
Fear gripped all of them. When Jesus talked like this, you could almost feel the flames of hell burning at you.
Each one of them looked deep inside his own heart. What was there inside them which needed cutting off or ripping out, to stop them falling short? Habits that could be cut short? Attitudes that needed hacking away?
No one ever said being great for God would be easy. It takes a ruthless streak.