WE EXPERIENCE SUFFERING in diverse ways. It can come as financial want, sickness, death, relational stress, or persecution. Suffering is a great common denominator the unites human beings.
Jesus suffered more than any person that has lived. On his way to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, Jesus made this important statement. “For 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” (Mark 9:47-50).
This is unusual. What did Jesus mean, “Everyone will be salted with fire?”
It is important to note that he said it in the context of his own determination to suffer, die and rise from the dead. By contrast, suffering was not part of his disciples plan. In their mind following the Messiah was about victory, conquest, fame, and glory. But for Jesus it was about suffering.
Being Messiah meant their happiness at his expense.
Why the imagery of “salt” and “fire?” First, salt adds taste to food. It makes bland food interesting. It spices things up. For those of us in the West this is hard to appreciate. We have an abundance of salt at very cheap prices. It has not always been this way. Try to imagine food without it. The Lewis and Clark expedition went for many months subsisting on Elk, Venison, and Buffalo without salt. It was a monotonous diet. When they finally reached the mouth of the Columbia River, such was their passion for salt that they spent weeks boiling sea-water in order to obtain some salt for use on their homeward journey. Salt is the spice that makes a difference.
In the same way, when Jesus said “everyone will be salted with fire”he was thinking of the “fire” of suffering and how it adds flavor to our moral and spiritual character. It makes us fruitful, flavorful, and interesting to God and man. Even Jesus, who was sinless, in his humanity was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). The fire of suffering adds salt to our lives. This is why the Bible’s makes such positive statements about suffering. Note the exuberant expectation with which God’s word approaches the subject of suffering. Why? Suffering makes us salty.
(Matthew 5:10–12) “10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.“
(Romans 5:3) “3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.“
(Romans 8:17–18) We are “17 heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.“
2 Corinthians 4:17) “17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
“Count it all joy my brothers when you face various trials…”(James 1:2).
Are you counting it all joy? The heart that complains, or wallows in self-pity, does not get seasoned with salt. God only salts those who rejoice by faith in the midst of their God-sent trials, sufferings, and difficulties.
Sometimes this is difficult, in fact, humanly speaking, almost impossible. However, if we count it all joy, if we are willing to let suffering produce its intended fruit, then we “will have salt in ourselves,” and “we will be at peace with each other.” Blessed are those who have been “salted with fire,” who have been measured, sifted, and flavored by God’s heaven-sent trials.