INI + AMEN.
Jesus has a very elementary discussion for us today. It seems rather odd what He all ties together: His name, water, fire, salt, and, to top it all off, peace. But what Jesus is doing is very basic stuff, rooted in some Old Testament language. He’s really talking about unity, purity, and peace. That’s it. Those three things: unity, purity, and peace. When we see that, it’s very easy to understand what Jesus is talking about. All He’s saying is that
UNITY, PURITY, AND PEACE ARE FOUND IN JESUS AND HIS NAME.
I. Unity is found in Jesus and His Name.
Now, if unity is found in Jesus and His name, then it’s not found in your allegiance to a group or person. That’s the disciples’ problem in our Gospel text today. John speaks up, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your Name, and we stopped him because he didn’t follow us.” John and the disciples don’t say, “We stopped him because he wasn’t following You, Jesus.” No, they’re upset because this man wasn’t part of their clique. Their group. Their club. “He’s not doing it our way Jesus. He’s not a good disciple like we are. We follow you, and this poor fellow wasn’t in line with us. He’s not part of our Church, Jesus. So we put a stop to it.” They saw union with Jesus in what they were doing.
But there’s unity there only as long as they can keep it going. That’s not true unity there. Oh, there may be some temporary alliance there, but not true and lasting unity. Unity is found only in Jesus and His Name, the proper use of His name. You see, “for the true unity of the Church it’s enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It’s not necessary that [human traditions and ceremonies] should be the same everywhere.”
Union is found in Jesus, in His name. In the God’s Name, the proper use of His name. For we should not “lie or deceive by His name,” that is, we shouldn’t say, “Thus says the Lord,” when the Lord hasn’t said so. So lets turn again to this man. He was casting out demon’s with Jesus’ name. His faith in Jesus moved Him to use Christ’s name to cast out demons. This is certainly the right use of Jesus’ name. In fact His name is “kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity.” That’s what this man was doing, and true unity is found when this is going on. It’s not just a matter of trusting in Jesus’ name—that’s certainly important. But how His name is being used is the ultimate question.
Is Jesus’ name being used at all, and if it is, is it being used to teach that He saves us? That we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection alone? What about how Christ’s salvation is delivered to you? Did Jesus really mean what He said when He said, “Take, eat; this is my body given for you. Take, drink; this is my blood shed for you for your forgiveness”? Is it true that pastors forgive as Jesus said, “If you forgive them, they are forgiven”? Are the little children brought to Jesus in the Holy Font, are they saved there? These are of vital importance to unity. For unity isn’t found in ignoring Christ’s Word or Name, but in holding fast to Him through the Words and Promises He gives us.
This brings us to our second point:
(II.) Purity is found in Jesus and His name.
If your unity is in Jesus and the proper use of His name, then you will have purity. If there is any impurity, it must be removed at all cost! Jesus puts it in stark terms: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.” It’s better to enter heaven “crippled, lame, or one-eyed than be thrown into hell.” Sin begins in the heart and what you heart thinks of Jesus and His name. Does it have unity with Him and the proper use of His name? Having been baptized into Him, we do of course. But as the body of Christ we must strive to keep the body pure through the same thing that unites us: Jesus and proper use of His Name. We must cut off those who would teach something that might “cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.” For this reason alone Jesus puts such church discipline and confessional standards in such stark terms. For this reason we remain divided with others on things like justification, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, even absolution.
But just because we hang our hat in the right place doesn’t mean we’re pure. Nothing we do can make us pure. Not even our right answers. But Jesus purifies you with the fire of the Holy Spirit. “For everyone will be salted with fire.” Jesus has purified you with the Spirit the waters of Holy Baptism. That’s who we are. So we strive to be pure from all falsehood. Paul talks about false teaching in similar terms in 1 Corinthians. He says, “If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”
(III.) Peace is found in Jesus and His name.
Salt and peace go together. They don’t seem to, but they do. You see, in the Old Testament sacrifices salt was used to purify sacrifices, even the peace sacrifices. Yes salt is good, but if you’ve lost what purifies, how will it be pure again? Jesus is good, but if the we have lost his Jesus-ness, how will you make it Jesus-y again? Through Him we have salt. He is our salt. He is our peace. His sacrificial death have won us peace with God, and so we have peace with one another through that peace being given to us. And so we pray after communion that Jesus’ body and blood would strengthen us in “fervent love toward one another.”
No matter what happens we must hold to what’s precious, and what’s precious is what gives us peace, what makes us pure, what gives us unity. Thanks be to God it’s all the same thing: Jesus and His name that do it. That’s what our text from Mark 9 is all about today. UNITY, PURITY, AND PEACE ARE FOUND IN JESUS AND HIS NAME. Jesus makes sure of that. We cling to Him, His Name, and Word. This saves us. It unifies us, purifies us, and gives us peace now and forever.
INI + AMEN.