Shaking and joining hands is a physical sign of friendship, at least until social distancing emerged. Moses uses the term in a different context in Exodus 23. He warns about joining hands for bad reasons. He makes some down-to-earth statements about things that God sees as wrong. Many of these are part of life today as men and women act in devious ways to cheat and deceive one another or the Government.

“Now these are the rules you shall set before them”, God said to Moses (chapter 21:1), “You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice” (23:1,2). When Jesus said that we should love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), he probably had Moses in mind and things we also read today, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray you shall bring it back to him” (verse 4).

In Mark 9 the chapter finishes in a challenging way, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its saltiness how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves …” (9:50) What did Jesus mean? On another occasion he told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). The point is this; those who follow Jesus are to be the “salt” that influences and gives flavour to all it comes in contact with. But what if the salt has lost its saltiness? What if those that should provide influence have ceased to have any influence or have even joined hands with those who ignore God? Jesus said that useless salt “is thrown away” (Luke 14:35).

There is a really blunt message from Mark 9:42 onwards; but it is rather complex. The “hell” and “unquenchable fire” (verse 44) are part of a mini parable to convey the utter destruction of those found to be worthless. Gehenna is the Greek word for “hell”. It is the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem where fires burnt continually to consume the rubbish thrown over the wall. The lesson of Jesus is that his hearers must get rid of all hindrances in their walk to the kingdom, with special words of condemnation to those who cause others, the “little ones”, to fail (verse 42). Meditate on Colossians 4:5,6.