Faithful or Salt-Less

One day, John complained because someone who was not from among Christ’s inner circle of disciples was casting out demons in his name. And if this outsider was casting out demons, then it was God who was doing so through him. John’s complaint is rich in irony since just a few verses earlier the disciples found themselves unable to exorcise demons because of their unbelief.

Anyone who performs miraculous deeds in his name cannot easily revile the name of Jesus, and his success at exorcising demons constituted evidence that this man was commissioned by God.

Moreover, conduct that conforms to the life of Jesus results in great rewards, including everlasting life. But a man’s failure to emulate Jesus of Nazareth in service to others will result in horrific punishment, a reality Jesus will now illustrate with the image of Gehenna.


  • (Mark 9:41-50) - “For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in the name that you are Christ’s; truly, I say to you, in nowise shall he lose his reward. And whosoever shall cause to stumble one of these little ones that believe, it is seemly for him, rather, if there is hung a large millstone about his neck and he is cast into the sea. And if your hand shall cause you to stumble, cut it off. It is seemly for you maimed to enter life, rather than having the two hands to depart into the Gehenna into the fire that is not quenched. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is seemly for you to enter life lame rather than having the two feet to be cast into the Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to stumble, thrust it out. It is seemly for you one-eyed to enter the kingdom of God rather than having two eyes to be cast into Gehenna, where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone with fire shall be salted. Salt is good: but if salt becomes saltless, wherewith will you prepare it? Have within yourselves salt and be at peace one with another.

Most noteworthy is how Jesus warns his disciples about the possibility of this grim fate for unfaithful disciples RATHER THAN FOR UNBELIEVERS or those who reject him outright. The disciple that causes others to “stumble” is at the greatest risk of the “fires of Gehenna.”

The image of a millstone cast into the sea would have struck a fearful chord. Jews of the period feared the sea and viewed drowning as an especially horrific form of death. Moreover, dead bodies sink to the bottom of the sea, and cannot not be recovered for proper burial, something of prime importance in Second Temple Judaism.

The name ‘Gehenna’ is derived from the valley of Hinnom. Effectively, it was a garbage dump located to the south of Jerusalem. It was the place where refuse was burned outside the city walls, including the dead bodies of criminals.

According to rabbinic tradition, its fires burned continuously in Christ’s time. He uses this image to portray the horrific fate awaiting anyone who does not deal with his or her sins, especially sins committed against the weak and the powerless.


Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” This clause echoes a passage in Isaiah:

  • Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against me. For their WORM SHALL NOT DIE AND THEIR FIRE SHALL NOT BE QUENCHED” - (Isaiah 66:24).

In the passage, Jesus says nothing about “eternal” punishment. In the image, it is the annihilating fire that is “unquenchable,” not the punishment inflicted on the offender. The emphasis is on the result of the process – the utter destruction of the offender.

Fire and salt refine and prove things. Being “salted with fire” also symbolizes PURIFICATION. If that is the intended meaning, then the process occurs in the life of the disciple as he purges himself of sin and other causes of stumbling through his trials and sufferings.

However, the image alludes to the sacrificial system described in the book of Leviticus. All animal sacrifices were to be “salted,” and burnt offerings were consumed completely by fire. In this way, they became a “pleasing odor” to Yahweh.

Furthermore, “salt” is a sign of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel - (Leviticus 2:13, Numbers 18:19).

Thus, his disciple must live his life as a WHOLE AND LIVING SACRIFICE TO GOD. And to become such a “living sacrifice,” he must live in conscious and self-sacrificial service to others, especially to the weakest and most insignificant members of the people of God.

To cause a weaker brother to stumble is the exact opposite of what it means to be his disciple. By abusing others, the disciple becomes “SALT-LESS.” And it is in this sacrificial way that the FAITHFUL disciple loses his life for his sake, but ironically, saves it in the end.


Ekklésia - Assembly of God

Babylonian Territory