“Salt is Good!” A sermon on Mark 9:49-50
Salt has long been associated with many traditions in different cultures. Salt has been linked to all kinds of old customs. The accidental spilling of salt has always been considered bad luck. You never spill salt. Usually, throwing a pinch of salt over the left shoulder will nullify that bad luck. An old Norwegian belief says that spilled salt indicates the shedding of tears. Tears are salty, and they say you will shed as many tears as necessary to dissolve the spilled salt.
Salt is also associated with friendship because of its lasting quality. In the Middle Ages, salt was always presented to a guest first, before dinner was served. This signified hospitality and friendship. In Hungary, it was an old custom to sprinkle the threshold of a new house with salt. This would provide good luck for the family moving in. In some parts of Europe, a new-born baby would be sprinkled lightly with salt. This was thought to offer protection from harm. Salt also symbolizes hard work because sweat and perspiration are salty. We call someone “an old salt” if they have had years of experience and hard work.
Our language is filled with all kinds of expressions that indicate the special role that salt has played. We say, “If you want to catch a bird, you have to put salt on its tail,” or “I’ll take that with a grain of salt,” or “That guy is the salt of the earth,” or, “He’s so lazy. He’s not worth his salt.”
Today we hear our Lord Jesus Christ speak about salt. Jesus says, “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
In the Bible, salt was most commonly used in the sacrifices at the temple. All of the sacrifices were required to be seasoned with salt before they were offered-up to God. This was especially true for the burnt-offering which was offered-up by fire to atone for sin. Salt was also used to ratify covenants and treaties. It symbolized fidelity, commitment, and truthfulness to your word. Salt also stands for wise conversation. “Let your words be seasoned with salt,” Paul told the Colossians.
And now we hear Jesus say, “Salt is good. Have salt in yourselves.” Here, salt stands for the saving work of Christ; it symbolizes the Gospel itself. We are salted with the cross and resurrection of our Lord. And this salt of Christ now empowers us to serve.
Salt is good because in our Lord’s hands it has a purifying, cleansing effect. We are sprinkled with salt; we are purified and made clean. As Jesus says, “We are salted with fire.” This is true because Christ himself was salted with fire. He is the final and perfect sacrifice. He is our ultimate burnt-offering. He was offered-up to take away our sin and guilt. Our Lord is salted with his own blood, sweat and tears.
On the cross, Christ sheds his blood. He experiences that unquenchable fire as he suffers the punishment we deserve. He experiences the fires of hell. He is forsaken and abandoned. He is cursed and damned. He sweats and does that impossibly hard work of suffering for the sins of all people. That bitter salt was spilled as Christ sacrifices himself for us. His bitter tears were shed as he bears our burden. He is burned-up with the unquenchable fire of hell.
At the end of his suffering, Jesus cries out, “I thirst,” and he receives a brief refreshing drink. Then, he cries out, “It is finished!” and he says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” and he breathes his last breath. His redeeming work is done. It is finished. Sin has been atoned for. The price has been paid. We are now forgiven because of our Lord’s salty sacrifice. We are now sprinkled with the blood of Christ. We are salted with his blood, sweat and tears.
Jesus says, “Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good. Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Salt is good! It is good to receive God’s gift of salvation. It is good to hear Christ say, “I love you and I forgive you all of your sins.” It is good to be forgiven by Christ! That forgiveness now empowers us to serve others. We are salted to serve. This means we are now called to witness to others about the saving work of Christ.
We are missionaries who bear witness to Christ. We declare to others, “This is the Son of God! He died and rose again for you. There is hope in Christ. There is salvation. There is someone who loves you with an eternal love. There is a Good Shepherd who wants to restore your soul and lead you beside the quiet waters.
We bear witness to our Savior. We reach out to others with the good news of what Christ has done for us. He rescues us from the fires of hell and brings us into his kingdom of grace. The Lord delivers us so that we can now be his people. We are his redeemed children. We are his missionaries. We are salted to serve.
And we are not only missionaries of the Word, but we are also missionaries of mercy. We care for others who are hurting. We seek to help others. We show mercy and compassion. This means we serve the Lord by serving others.
In a practical way, we are called to show mercy wherever God has placed us in life. We show mercy to our families, marriages and households. We show the love of Christ in our workplace and in our local communities. We become active and involved in whatever way we can to help somebody who is going through hardship and difficulties.
We reach out to the hungry, the poor, and the needy. We care for the sick and dying. We help our friends who are grieving and dealing with the loss of a loved one. We visit the elderly and homebound. We pray for those who need God’s help and God’s peace.
There are so many ways to love and serve others. There are so many ways for us to bear witness to our Savior. We can share with others that peace of God which passes all understanding. By God’s grace, we are missionaries of the Word and also missionaries of mercy. Therefore, let us all work together to share God’s love and to proclaim God’s Word. As Jesus says, “Salt is good. Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Amen!