There's a direct connection with NUM 11:27-29. Then, in our passage, JES, Greater than Moses picks up on the spirit of what his predecessor has said. Exploring & preaching the connectedness of Scripture with Scripture & Scripture with life in our margins, is the name of the game. No one makes better connections, in every sense, than JES. We preachers do well to follow in his footsteps. Dealing with issues in isolation leaves people in isolation. Us. God, too.
What JES says he says in pithy ways to help hearers, then & now, remember what's important, e.g. giving a cup of cold water. Somehow demonstrating in the process that we're doing it in his Name. Not by preaching it. By doing it. (Not setting up a committee to do it, either!) The bit about those not being against us being for us must have given as much food for thought in those days as it does still (especially when we consider the opposite position in MT 12:30). In our congregation, in its margins & their overlap with the even wider margins of life in general where people in general live, this is a smouldering issue: who's in with God & who's not? Just those we say are in? Or those God says are in? To keep on locking up God in a book or a church won't wash any more. (It never really did, did it?) To be selective, judgmental, in the way we relate to brothers & sisters who're 'not against us' or even 'not for us' is to usurp God's compassionate view of people & replace it with our own person- alised brands of insecurity, pride, sinfulness of all kinds. We need a 'personal trainer' to get us on track & into shape. Name? Number? God, by the Spirit of JES.
So long ago I've forgotten the origin, someone suggested we might understand the apparent contra- diction in what JES says about those not against us or not for us thus: the former applies when Christians are on the offensive, & the latter when we're on the defensive. Maybe there's no real explanation until the situation arises!
Putting millstones round people's necks, amputating limbs, gouging eyes, consigning people who are not 'in' seems to appeal to a lot of hard-line Christians (& hard-liners of other understandings). Even if we do it only in our hearts. How about a bit of Godly accepting, embracing, hugging, cuddling instead? God guarantees it works.
Salt & fire are both strong, inescapable imagery. I'm in the process of making bread as I write this. My dough needs salt to work alongside the chemistry of leaven, & fire to bring it to fruition. What other imagery (& then action) can we bring to JES' memorable words here. What is it he really wants us to remember & do? At which point I remember it's time for my bread to go into the oven! But it's no good unless I do that. Now! Then I'll be at peace, at least with myself & my bread!