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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:The Reformed Church of Oamaru
 Oamaru, New Zealand
Title:Pass The Salt
Text:Mark 9:50a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

MARK 9:50a

(Reading: Colossians 4:2-6; Matthew 5:13-16)


Pass The Salt



Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ…


     If the verse before our text is a bit of a puzzle then this saying is even more so. This second of three pithy sayings continues to challenge the way our western mind processes things. You see, this proverb also has nothing to do with what has come just before or what follows it.

     The only thing we noted in common between these three proverbs is that word “salt”. And it is the object of “salt” that very much comes to the fore in this first part of verse 50.

     Yet, unlike verse 49 which is not found anywhere else in scripture, this saying has a parallel. There is a direct correlation to what our Lord spoke of in Matthew 5, the verses 13 till 16.

     With the help of such scripture and a deeper look at this proverb itself we see this is quite different than the cultic association with salt in verse 49. There the salt reference came from old covenantal religious ceremonies and symbolism. It was there that the salt in those rites was contrasted with the salting of tribulation and suffering believers go through.

     In the first part of verse 50, however, the association of salt is domestic. This is using the analogy of the everyday food that we need to physically survive. Here a particular part of God working spiritually is compared with an everyday thing.

     So, dear believer, you think of the salt you have in your kitchen pantry. And especially think of what you use that salt for. Boys and girls, what do you use salt for? When you grab that little container that’s got an “S” embossed upon it, what do you expect to do?


     That’s not so hard, is it? You use that salt to flavour your food. In the words of a first aspect to our text … SALT IS THERE TO FLAVOUR.

     And doesn’t salt make a big difference for the taste of what we eat? This is why our text says that “salt is good”. A little pinch of it here and there makes so much of our food taste better.

     Often you don’t even realise that it’s salt which makes what you eating taste as good as it does. There is salt in our bread, biscuits, cakes, vegetables, and meats. And who doesn’t like adding a dash of salt to your egg? And then there’s the salt on your chips, your popcorn, and your avocado.

     You especially realise what salt does when someone has forgotten to use it. How insipid doesn’t that food taste?


     Salt is something we are so used to we cannot imagine what it would be like if it didn’t do what salt was supposed to do. We in our world know that salt is salt. But in the ancient world, particularly in the middle-east, salt was often adulterated, like sugar was.

     These were valuable commodities and if some sneaky local market seller could get away with making more out of it, he would. Perhaps that was by mixing it with something else. Or it could be by selling the salt that was produced very cheaply locally. You see, there was salt produced from the marshes and lagoons or from the rocks in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea. But because of its mixture with gypsum and other substances it easily acquired a stale or alkaline taste. Then that salt was good for nothing. As Jesus said in Matthew 5 verse 13, then you could only throw it away and trample it under your feet.

     Yet, we are not primarily here to have a cooking lesson, or a scientific analysis of the grades of salt in first century Palestine. Jesus is drawing a parallel to a spiritual truth.

     You think about it: Saltiness is the purpose of the salt. Saltiness is a defining characteristic of that mineral. But if something so crucial to its identity can be lost, how could it ever be restored?

     And in the same way believers also have to see their role in the kingdom of God. It’s absolutely vital that we be what we actually are in this world! That’s why Jesus in Matthew 5:13 calls us the salt of the earth. We are to be his agents in purifying the world. Like salt we are to flavour this world with the gospel. And, man, how much doesn’t this world need that!

     Take just the example of the time these words were originally written. What kind of society were those believers found in? And especially think of the Christians Mark was writing to in Rome.

     Well, first of all, it was bored and world-weary. The very luxuries and excesses of that ancient world proved that in its bored tiredness it was looking for some excitement in a life from which all excitement had gone. All those scenes in movies about the Romans lounging around, eating sumptuous food, getting drunk and indulging in orgies, are not far wrong.

     They are finding more proof of that with the excavations archaeologists are doing now in the area of Mt Vesuvius. That was the place in Italy that had a huge volcanic eruption soon after the time our text was written. And how revealing aren’t those unearthed Pompeiian frescos in uncovering the debauchery so prevalent then?

     Into that bored and tired world the Gospel came. And it was the calling of the Christian to bring into that society a new flavour and a new excitement as salt does to the food with which it’s used. Much as many secular-humanists may claim Christianity severely weakened the Roman Empire it actually did the complete opposite! Rome was rescued, for a while anyway, from a cataclysmic disaster because of the biblical morals and laws that the gospel brought. 

     And what about the situation in Judea itself? As he walked across Palestine, Jesus saw many Pharisees and teachers of the law promoting a religion of rules. And how many rules didn’t they proclaim? There were dozens of layers of them! But they had completely covered up the heart of the law. Those prophets of old would have condemned them too!

     Into that world the Gospel also came. In word and in action the followers of Jesus proved him to be very true! Its flavour had such an impact that we read in Acts 6:7 of many priests themselves coming to faith!


     So, SALT IS THERE TO FLAVOUR. But there is another quality to salt we need to note here. In the words of our second aspect … SALT IS THERE TO PURIFY.

     Congregation, salt is also a preservative. In fact, salt is the earliest of all preservatives. To keep a thing from going rotten and bad salt was used. There were no fridges or freezers around then!

     The Greeks used to say that salt acted like a soul in a dead body. Dead meat left to itself goes bad, but, pickled in salt, it keeps its freshness. The salt seemed to put a kind of life into it. So salt protected against rottenness and corruption.

     I’m sure you know the smell of a dead animal. It is putrid and nauseating. You want to get away from it as soon as you can. But that’s exactly what this world is! We have to think of this world as rotten meat when we hear these words of Jesus.

     You see, a society characterised by savage violence and the darkness of depravity and deception, will, without a preservative, deteriorate. And soon enough it will self-destruct. Just look around you! Much as the media try to gloss over things, and the academics obscure things, and much as the government tries to convey positivity and enlightenment, this world is ‘going to hell in a hand-basket’!

     It is all very plain to see. The brokenness, the addiction, the depression, the insecurity, the fear – it’s a real stink out there!

     Congregation, that’s what happens when salt has lost its saltiness. And you cannot restore that salt. In fact, it can only be a genuine biblical revival that brings it to life.

     Just like Rome then was nothing better than a filthy sewer, so it is today. Purity is gone and chastity is completely unknown. And as into that ancient world the Gospel came so it must be today again. In the words of Colossians 4, verses 5 and 6, believers must be the antiseptic to the poison of life. The followers of Jesus must walk in the footsteps of their Master. They must be wise toward outsiders, having gracious speech, seasoned with grace. They must be those always ready to answer every person.

     Ezekiel 16:4 refers to newborn babies being rubbed with salt because of its purifying qualities. In the same way Christians preserve God’s commands and keep themselves pure. They live with “saltiness” towards each other, always encouraging fellow believers to stand strong for the Lord.

     You see, reading your Bible is important. Admitting your sins to the Lord and praying for forgiveness is vital. Fellowship together is absolutely essential – a brick is useless on its own!

     But then you need to commit to living out your Christian beliefs in the way you speak, the way you treat others, and what you feed your mind. Being sweet is nice – being salty is much better!


     In this way we come to a third aspect in our text. It is here we note … WHAT ARE YOU HERE FOR?

     Dear believer, another word we could use for salt here is “influence”. And it is influence which is a vital part of your Christian life. This is the influence which is the sway or impact we have with other people.

     This is an influence which has nothing to do with whether you are rich or poor, smart or not, skilful or not skilful, craftsman or journeyman. Regardless of your situation in life, you will have an influence one way or another – whether in a small way or a big way. You could even be used to change another’s person’s life altogether!

     And what shapes your influence depends largely on how you think and how you behave. In other words, what you say and what you do – your words and your actions – determine your influence. You see, you will most certainly influence others. But how will you influence others?


     Jesus says in Matthew 12:36: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…” And this is precisely because by your words you influence others. Those others can be your children, your spouse, your friends, your neighbour, your workmate, and even the stranger.

     And the words you speak and the actions you do come from what’s in your heart. Those words and actions will show what you believe and what you don’t believe. And what you believe or don’t believe will effect what is around you. That, my friend, is your character. And that is the making or breaking of you and all those you interact with too.

     You think of someone whose heart has been shaped by sorrow or lust or past grievances or bitter complaints. His heart is empty of all good things. And what he says and does – his character – will influence others in a negative way. Subtle as it may be, his children, his friends, the check-out assistant at the supermarket, are all somehow touched by his dark and empty heart.


     On the other hand, you imagine the impact of a woman whose heart is shaped by her devoted faith in Jesus and her love and her sense of forgiveness for others, and her sacrifices and her self-control. Those spiritual virtues mean her heart is full of good things. What she says and does – her character – will influence others. Her children, her friends, even the stranger on the street are blessed by her influence.

     Dear friend … WHAT ARE YOU HERE FOR? Yes, what is the impact your life is having?

     You see, as a Christian your life has been designed and commissioned by God to impact a community and to preserve what is good and right. Living a godly life where you are is very important. In fact, it’s by doing that that the presence of Christ in you shines out to others.

     His salvation can free an addict, mend a broken home, heal the pain of the past, restore a wayward child, and comfort a grieving heart. You do these things as Christ Jesus expresses his life through you.

     If you’re not in a right relationship with the Lord, though, then he says we are like salt that has lost its saltiness. Sadly, that means we are good for nothing. None of God’s saving grace and power can go out from us to others.

     You might be wondering by now: How do I test my saltiness? Well, look at your family. Are you preserving it from the destructive influences that surround it?

     Reflect on your workplace or the classroom you are a part of. Are the sinful influences where you work or study being stopped because you are there?   

     What about your community? Is it a better place because you’re involved in it?

     What about your church? Is it becoming a greater manifestation of God’s love in Christ because you’re in it?

     Dear believer, whenever you use salt in your cooking or baking, or you sprinkle it on your food, you think about what it means spiritually. Ask yourself, ‘Am I flavouring all those around me with a Christ-like character?’ ‘Is it really Jesus alive in me, keeping me, and blessing me?’

     May the Holy Spirit so help it to be.






Let’s pray…


     Heavenly Father, how much don’t we pray for the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit! May he so move in is that we will be your salt in this world – flavouring and purifying those around us.

     In the saving name of Jesus, we pray.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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