David Guzik's Commentary on the Bible
Mark 10:1-52 - JESUS TEACHES ON MARRIAGE, RICHES, AND SERVICE
A. Marriage and divorce.
1. (Mark 10:1-2) A test from the Pharisees: is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?
Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.
a. Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Divorce was a controversial topic in Jesus’ day, with two main schools of thought, centered around two of its most famous proponents. The first was the school of Rabbi Hillel (a lenient and popular view) and the school of Rabbi Shammai (a strict and unpopular view).
b. The real point of the Pharisees’ question is made clear by Matthew’s account: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason? (Matthew 19:3) If the question is “is it lawful” then lawful is understood by for just any reason.
i. The debate centers around the Mosaic law which gave permission for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1 : When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house. The debate among the rabbis tried to answer the question “What constitutes uncleanness?”
ii. Rabbi Shammai understood that uncleanness meant sexual immorality, and said that was the only valid reason for divorce. But Rabbi Hillel understood uncleanness to mean any sort of discretion, even to the point of burning the breakfast being valid grounds for divorce.
iii. William Barclay on the teaching of Rabbi Hillel on divorce and the term uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1 : “They said that it could mean if the wife spoiled a dish of food, if she spun in the streets, if she talked to a strange man, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s relations in his hearing, if she was a brawling woman, (who was defined as a woman whose voice could be heard in the next house). Rabbi Akiba even went the length of saying that it meant if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was.”
c. The Pharisees are trying to get Jesus to speak against Moses or against popular thought; they hope they have caught Him on the horns of a dilemma.
3. (Mark 10:3-9) Jesus emphasizes marriage and God’s plan in marriage.
And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
a. What did Moses command you? Jesus gets back to the heart of the matter in Deuteronomy 24:1 : Moses did not command divorce, Moses permitted it. This went against the teaching of Rabbi Hillel, who taught that it was a righteous duty to divorce your wife if she displeased you in any way.
i. The rabbis of that day had a saying: “If a man has a bad wife, it is a religious duty to divorce her.” Jesus goes against this way of thinking.
b. The Mosaic law granting divorce was a concession to the hardness of your heart. It was never commanded by God, but permitted because of the hardness of the offending party (in the cruelty of their unfaithfulness to their spouse). It was also permitted because of the hardness of the offended party (being unable to perfectly forgive and restore a damaged relationship).
i. The law of Deuteronomy 24:1 was really given as a protection to the divorced wife. “Moses permitted divorce providing a certificate of divorce was given to the wife . . . Its primary function was to provide a degree of protection for the woman who had been repudiated by her husband.” (Lane)
c. But from the beginning of the creation: Jesus now transitions from a talk about divorce to a talk about marriage. The problem was not that they did not understand the law about divorce. The problem was that they did not understand what God said about marriage.
i. This emphasis on marriage, rather than divorce, is a wise approach for anyone interested in keeping a marriage together. Divorce cannot be seen as an option when things are hard. Marriage is like a mirror; it reflects what we put into it. If someone has divorce readily in their mind as a convenient option, divorce will be much more likely.
ii. From the beginning: It’s striking that Jesus takes us back to the beginning to learn about marriage. Today many want to say, “We live in different times” or “The rules are different today” or “We need a modern understanding.” But put all that away and listen to Jesus: go back to the beginning.
d. From the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female: God’s real purpose for marriage is not fulfilled in divorce, but only in seeing God’s original plan for marriage. In saying, “God made them,” Jesus asserts God’s “ownership” over marriage; it is God’s institution, not man’s, so His rules apply.
i. “Marriage is a condition of Divine expression and activity, therefore where its fundamental significances are forgotten, and its fundamental laws are disobeyed, it becomes the most tragic of all experiences.” (Morgan)
e. And the two shall become one flesh: By bringing the issue back to the foundation of marriage, Jesus makes it plain that couples must forsake their singleness (a man shall leave his father and mother), and come together in a one flesh relationship that is both a fact (they are) and a goal (shall become).
i. The term joined to his wife has the idea of gluing two things together. “Be glued to her . . . A husband ought to be as firm to his wife as to himself.” (Trapp)
ii. The term Jesus uses for joined together is literally yoked together. Like two animals yoked together, couples must work together and head the same way to really be joined the way God wants them to be joined.
iii. Here, there is a new and overriding unity. The bond between a husband and wife should be even stronger than the bond between parent and child. The marriage bond should be stronger than the blood-bond. “And the law of God was not, that a man should forsake his wife whenever he had a mind to it, but that he should rather forsake his father and mother than his wife; loving his wife as his own body.” (Poole)
iv. “Not only meaning that they should be considered as one body, but also as two souls in one body, with a complete union of interests, and an indissoluble partnership of life and fortune, comfort and support, desires and inclinations, joys and sorrows.” (Clarke)
f. What God has joined together: Next, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that marriage is spiritually binding before God. Marriage is not merely a social contract, and as God has joined, He will keep together.
i. In using the terms joined together and separate, Jesus reminds us that divorce is really like an amputation. Sometimes, in the most extreme circumstances, amputation may be the right thing to do. But the “patient” must first fit the criteria before God will recognize the “amputation.”
4. (Mark 10:10-12) Jesus clarifies the point for His disciples.
In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
a. His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter: This is not a one-verse teaching of all there is to know about divorce and remarriage. Jesus is clearly following up His remarks earlier in the chapter, where He indicated that God did permit (not command) divorce in the case of sexual immorality. Here, Jesus answers the question, “Then what about a divorce gained on other grounds?”
b. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her: We can only understand this passage by taking into account the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). In Matthew’s more complete recording of this teaching, he notes how Jesus said And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). With this answer, Jesus interpreted the meaning of the word uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1, showing that divorce (and the freedom to remarry) was only permitted in the case of sexual immorality.
i. The ancient Greek word for sexual immorality is porneia; it is a broad word, covering a wide span of sexual impropriety. One may be guilty of porneia without actually having consummated an act of adultery.
ii. To this permission for divorce, Paul adds the case of abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15).
iii. Note that incompatibility, not loving each other anymore, brutality, and misery are not grounds for divorce, though they may be proper grounds for a separation and consequent “celibacy within marriage.”
c. Commits adultery against her: The reason why a person who does not have a legitimate divorce commits adultery upon remarrying (as well as their new spouse) is because they are not divorced in the eyes of God. Since their old marriage is still valid, they are actually guilty of bigamy and adultery.
i. We must come to grips with the fact that marriage, as a promise made to God, our spouse and the world, is a binding promise, and cannot be broken at our own discretion. There are certain cases where God allows the promise to be dissolved, but it is up to God and not us.
d. If a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery: This statement of Jesus shows why it is important to take the whole counsel of God on any given topic. If this were the only passage on divorce and remarriage in the Bible, then we should say that if anyone divorces for any reason, they then commit adultery, therefore God never permits remarriage in the case of divorce. But taking the whole counsel of God into account, it is impossible to say this.
i. There are some that neglect the whole counsel of God and say that God never allows remarriage after divorce. But when we see what the entire Bible says on the subject, we see that if a divorce is made on Biblical grounds (adultery or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse), there is full right to remarry.
ii. If a divorce is not based on Biblical grounds - the kind of divorce Jesus refers to here - then there is no right to remarry. This is because as far as God is concerned, the marriage is still together, and to marry another would be adultery.
iii. This means that as God looks down from heaven, He does not have three categories: single, married, and divorced. He has two categories: single and married. You are either bound under a marriage vow, or you are not. If you are, you can’t marry another. If you are not, you are free to marry in the Lord. Understanding the whole counsel of God on this subject frees people from the stigma of “divorced” in the church.
5. (Mark 10:13-16) Jesus blesses the children and uses them as an example of how we must receive the kingdom of God.
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
a. They brought little children to Him: The ancient Greek word used for brought (prosphero) suggests bringing the children to Jesus for dedication. “The word is commonly used of sacrifices, and suggests here the idea of dedication.” (Bruce)
b. Let the little children come to Me: Children love to come to Jesus, and it says something about Him that children loved Him and that He loved children. Children don’t love mean, sour people.
i. Jesus’ attitude towards children “can only be properly appreciated within the context of the calloused attitudes toward children that still prevailed within Hellenistic society in the first century. A papyrus dated Alexandria, June 17, 1 B.C., contains a letter of instruction from a husband to his expectant wife, who he supposes may have had her child: ‘if it was a male child, let it live; if it was a female, cast it out.’” (Lane)
c. The disciples rebuked those who brought them: Because children love to come to Jesus, we should never block the way - or fail to provide them a way. We know more about Jesus than the women of Judea did. Is there any good reason for us not to bring our own children to Jesus?
i. This is a duty for children’s ministry workers, but especially for parents. The prayers and words of a parent can mean so much in the salvation of a child. Long into his adult life, Charles Spurgeon recalled the prayers of his mother for him: “Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of a mother’s prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I remember on one occasion her praying thus: ‘Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.’ That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience and stirred my heart.”
ii. It is especially important to bring children to Jesus when we remember they have a whole life in front of them to serve God with. “Will you be very angry if I say that a boy is more worth saving than a man? It is infinite mercy on God’s part to save those who are seventy; for what good can they now do with the [burnt] end of their lives? When we get to be fifty or sixty, we are almost worn out, and if we have spent all our early days with the devil, what remains for God? But these dear boys and girls - there is something to be made out of them. If now they yield themselves to Christ they may have a long, happy, and holy day before them in which they may serve God with all their hearts. Who knows what glory God may have of them? Heathen lands may call them blessed. Whole nations may be enlightened by them.” (Spurgeon)
d. He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them: Jesus simply yet powerfully, blessed them. The ancient Greek verb is emphatic, literally meaning to fervently bless.
i. How could children receive such a blessing from Jesus? Because children can receive the blessing of Jesus without trying to make themselves worthy of it, or pretending they do not need it. We need to receive God’s blessing the same way.
e. For of such is the kingdom of God: Children are not only for blessing; they are also examples of how we must enter the kingdom with a childlike faith, not with a childish faith. We must come to God with a faith that trusts God just like a little child with trust his father - and leave all the problems up to daddy.
i. The emphasis isn’t that children are humble and innocent, because sometimes they aren’t. But the emphasis is on the fact that children will receive, and don’t feel they have to earn everything they get. Children are in a place where often all they can do is receive. They don’t refuse gifts out of self-sufficient pride. So we must receive the kingdom of God as a little child - because we surely will by no means enter it by what we do or earn.
B. Jesus teaches on riches.
1. (Mark 10:17-18) An eager man questions Jesus.
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”
a. Good Teacher: This title was never applied to other Rabbis in Jesus’ day, because it implied sinlessness, a complete goodness. Jesus and everyone else recognized that He was being called by a unique title.
i. “There is no instance in the whole Talmud of a rabbi being addressed as ‘Good Master’.” (Plummer, cited in Geldenhuys) Only God was called “good” by ancient rabbis.
b. Why do you call Me good? This is not Jesus denying His deity. Instead, He invited the young man to reflect upon it. It is as if Jesus said, “do you really know what you are saying when you call Me good?”
c. What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? The focus of the man’s question is what shall I do. He thought eternal life was a matter of earning and deserving, not of relationship. As he bowed down on his knees in front of Jesus, the mere closeness of that relationship made him closer to salvation than anything he could do. He didn’t want Jesus to be his savior, he wanted Jesus to show him the way to be his own savior.
i. The man really didn’t know who he was also. He thought that he was righteous, and didn’t really know the kind of person he was. When you don’t know who Jesus really is, you probably won’t know who you are either. And knowing Jesus comes first.
2. (Mark 10:19-22) Jesus’ counsel to the young man.
“You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
a. You know the commandments: Being a Jew, this man knew the commandments. Jesus was careful to quote to him only those commandments that have to do what is often called the second table of the law, how we treat one another.
i. Each one of these commandments is pure, just, and good. How great the world would be if everyone would live by just the five commandments Jesus mentions here?
b. Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth: In his reply, this ruler says of himself that he has kept all these commandments, and that he has done so since his youth. Is this possible? Yes and no. “Yes” according to the way these commandments were commonly interpreted but “no” according to the true meaning God had for these commandments.
i. In Philippians 3:6, Paul says that in the eyes of the religious Jews, he could say that for him, concerning the righteousness which is in the law, [he was] blameless.
ii. But Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, gave us the real meaning of the law - it goes to the heart, not just to your actions. You can have a heart filled with adultery even if you never commit it; a heat filled with murder even if you never do it; a heart that steals even if you never steal. And God looks at the heart as well as the actions.
iii. The man should have responded, “There is no way I have kept or can keep the law of God completely. I need a savior.”
c. Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him: Jesus was filled with loving compassion for this man because his life was so empty. He had climbed to the top of the ladder of success, only to find his ladder was leaning against the wrong building.
d. One thing you lack: Instead of challenging the man’s fulfillment of the law (which Jesus had every right to do), Jesus instead took him further down his own path. “So you want to find fulfillment and salvation by doing for God? Then here, do it all.” Jesus wanted the man to see the futility of finding fulfillment or salvation through doing, but the man wouldn’t see it.
i. He also could not love God more than his wealth, even though Jesus specifically promised him treasure in heaven. The man was more interested in man’s earthly treasures than in God’s heavenly treasures. Essentially, this man was an idolater. Wealth was his God, not the true God of the Bible. He put money first.
e. Then how can we be saved? This man, like all men by nature, has an orientation towards a works-righteousness; he asks what shall I do. If we really want to do the works of God, it must begin with believing on Jesus, whom the Father has sent (John 6:29).
i. Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to make the man sad; but he could only be happy by doing what Jesus told him to do. So he went away grieved. How many have almost everything, yet are grieved!
3. (Mark 10:23-27) The difficulty of riches.
Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
a. How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God . . . the disciples were astonished at His words: We are like the disciples; it is hard for us to see how riches would hinder us from the kingdom of God. We think that riches can only bring blessing and good.
i. The words of Jesus amaze the disciples because they assume that wealth is always a sign of God’s blessing and favor. After all, if the rich aren’t saved, then who is?
ii. Remember what Paul said to Timothy: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
b. We often excuse ourselves from what Jesus says here because we don’t consider ourselves rich. Yet who among us would not be considered richer than this rich young ruler was?
c. Riches are a snare because they tend to make us satisfied with this life, instead of longing for the age to come; as well, often riches must be acquired at the expense of acquiring God.
i. We may contrast the dependence of a child with the independence of a rich man - which does Jesus say is more likely to inherit the kingdom of God?
ii. As well - perhaps more importantly - the wealthy man is often a successful doer. He has done well, so he is rich. It is very easy for him to think that salvation, and relationship with the Lord is also a matter of successful doing, when really it is about humble receiving.
d. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God: With man, salvation is like a camel going through the eye of a needle. With God, it is possible.
i. “The camel was the largest animal found on Palestinian soil. The violent contrast between the largest animal and the smallest opening expresses what, humanly speaking, is impossible or absurd.” (Lane)
ii. “Attempts have been made to explain Jesus’ words about the camel and the eye of a needle in terms of a camel shuffling through a small postern gate, or by reading kamilon ‘cable’ for kamelon ‘camel’. Such ‘explanations’ are misguided. They miss the point that Jesus is using a humourous illustration.” (Morris)
e. With God all things are possible: However, God’s grace is sufficient to save the rich man; we have the examples of people like Zaccheus, Joseph of Armithea, and Barnabas.
4. (Mark 10:28-31) Our reward and the solution to the problem of riches.
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
a. See, we have left all and followed You: In contrast to the rich young ruler, the disciples have left all to follow Jesus; what will be their reward? Why does this question seem so typical of Peter?
i. Of course, there is a special honor for the disciples; they will have a special place in judgment, probably in the sense of administration in the millennial Kingdom. As well, the apostles had the honor of helping to provide a singular foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20), and have a special tribute in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 20:14).
b. There is no one who has left house or brothers . . . who shall not receive a hundredfold: There will be universal honor for all who sacrifice for Jesus’ sake. What ever has been given up for Him will be returned to us a many times over, in addition to eternal life.
i. Hundredfold is obviously not literal; otherwise, Jesus promises us a hundred mothers and a hundred wives.
c. But many who are first will be last, and the last first: This is the qualifying remark regarding the apostle’s reward. All who sacrifice for the Lord will be rewarded, but God’s way and timing of rewarding may not match up with man’s way and timing of being rewarded. When God rewards, expect the unexpected.
i. As the text continues in Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus teaches the parable of the landowner and the workers - a powerful illustration of God’s right and ability to reward in unusual - though never in unfair - ways.
ii. “In the final account, it shall be found that no man has been a loser through giving up anything for the Lord Jesus Christ though he has his own method of deciding who are to be first and who are to be last.” (Spurgeon)
iii. To anyone who looked, the rich young ruler stood first and the disciples stood last. But God didn’t look at it the way man does.
5. (Mark 10:32-34) Jesus again announces His coming fate in Jerusalem.
Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
a. They were amazed . . . they were afraid: As they drew near to Jerusalem, the disciples sensed the danger of their mission. Jesus was a wanted man, and yet Jesus was going before them. Therefore, the disciples were amazed at the courage of Jesus, and they were afraid of the fate awaiting them all in Jerusalem.
i. We sometimes don’t think enough about the courage of Jesus. It took a tremendous amount of plain bravery for him to walk straight towards His fate at Calvary, and to walk in front of the disciples. The courage of Jesus is especially amazing in light of our frequent cowardice as Christians, afraid to “stand out” for Jesus. He wasn’t afraid to “stand out” for us.
ii. As they followed they were afraid: At the same time, the disciples are to be commended for continuing to follow Jesus. It is true they were afraid, but it is also true that they followed.
b. They will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles: Jesus had already told His disciples that He would be crucified and rise again the third day (Mark 8:31). This is the first time in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus reveals that they will deliver Him to the Gentiles. This was an additional insult and betrayal.
i. “Delivery to the Gentiles reveals that Jesus will be held in contempt by his own countrymen, for the Gentiles are the last people to whom the Messiah of the people of God should be handed over.” (Lane)
c. And they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him: Significantly, Jesus mentions the shame of His suffering. In His death, Jesus suffered the most terrible emotional humiliation, and it was done out of love for us.
i. This sharing in the shame of Jesus marked the early church, and was evidence of their commitment and strength. Acts 5:41 says, So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. It’s not that the disciples rejoiced in the shame itself, because Jesus didn’t rejoice in the shame itself (Hebrews 12:2). Instead, they rejoiced in identifying with Jesus, and gladly suffered shame if they had to.
C. True greatness in God’s kingdom.
1. (Mark 10:35-37) James and John request positions of status.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
a. Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory: Despite the continual declaration of His coming suffering, the disciples are still thinking that when Jesus gets to Jerusalem, He will establish a political kingdom. Here, James and John are asking for positions of high status in Jesus’ administration - which they are certain, will be installed soon!
i. The place of honor is the seat on the right, and next to it, the seat on the left (1 Kings 2:19, Psalms 110:1). They were asking for the “number one” and the “number two” places in Jesus’ administration.
b. This is no doubt an outgrowth of the continual topic of conversation among the disciples: which one among them was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). James and John feel confident they will be the greatest, so they ask Jesus to confirm their opinion by appointing them to high positions now.
2. (Mark 10:38-41) Jesus’ reply: think in terms of sacrifice, not self-glory.
But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.
a. You do not know what you ask: Since James and John still worked under carnal ideas regarding the kingdom of God, they really had no idea what it would take to be great in the kingdom - but not because Jesus hadn’t told them!
b. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink: As it would turn out, both James and John took the cup and were baptized in suffering, but they each experienced it in different ways.
i. James was the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2). According to tradition, John was never martyred, though he survived an attempt to kill him by immersion in a vat of boiling oil (according to reasonably reliable church history).
ii. “In popular Greek usage the vocabulary of baptism was used to speak of being overwhelmed by disaster or danger, and a similar metaphorical use of submersion is present in Scripture.” (Lane) Passages like Psalms 42:7, Psalms 49:3, and Psalms 69:2 reflect this idea.
c. You will indeed drink the cup that I drink: When Jesus said this, perhaps a big smile came over the face of James and John. They thought they had won something, and so did the other disciples (when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John). However, it is doubtful that Jesus smiled, because He knew what the baptism they asked for was all about.
3. (Mark 10:42-45) Jesus describes true greatness.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
a. Those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them: Their desire for position and status showed they didn’t know the nature of Jesus yet, in respect to leadership and power. Those who exercise power or authority in the church today as “lording it over” others still don’t understand the Jesus style of leadership and life.
i. Yet it shall not be so among you is a stinging rebuke to the manner in which the modern church looks to the world for both its substance and style. Plainly, the church isn’t to operate the way the world does.
b. Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant: In the Kingdom community, status, money, popularity are not the prerequisites for leadership. Humble service is the greatest (and only) prerequisite, as displayed by Jesus’ own ministry.
c. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve: Real ministry is done for the benefit of those ministered to, not for the benefit of the minister. Many people are in the ministry for what they can receive (either materially or emotionally) from their people instead of for what they can give.
d. And to give His life a ransom for many: This is one of the great claims Jesus made about Himself and His ministry. He is the one who stands in the place of guilty sinners, and offers Himself as a substitute for them.
i. “The ransom metaphor sums up the purpose for which Jesus gave his life and defines the complete expression of his service. The prevailing notion behind the metaphor is that of deliverance by purchase, whether a prisoner of war, a slave, or a forfeited life is the object to be delivered. Because the idea of equivalence, or substitution, was proper to the concept of a ransom, it became an integral element in the vocabulary of redemption in the OT. It speaks of a liberation which connotes a servitude or an imprisonment from which man cannot free himself.” (Lane)
4. (Mark 10:46-52) On the way to Jerusalem, a blind man is healed.
Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
a. He cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Blind Bartimaeus didn’t have much class, but he did have persistence and determination. People tried to shut him up, but they couldn’t because he really wanted a touch from Jesus
i. The persistent and energetic nature of Bartimaeus’ prayer is a good example of prayer. He wasn’t discouraged because no one led him to Jesus. He wasn’t discouraged by those who told him to stay away.
ii. “Take the gates of heaven and shake them with thy vehemence, as though thou wouldst pull them up post and bar and all. Stand at Mercy’s door, and take no denial. Knock, and knock, and knock again, as though thou wouldst shake the very spheres, but what thou wouldst obtain an answer to thy cries. ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.’ Cold prayers never win God’s ear. Draw thy bow with thy full strength, if thou wouldst send thy arrow up so high as heaven.” (Spurgeon)
b. Have mercy on me! The blind man knew what he needed from Jesus - mercy. He didn’t come thinking that God owed him. All he wanted from Jesus is mercy.
c. What do you want Me to do for you? Why did Jesus ask this question? Wasn’t it obvious? Yet, there was real power in both the asking, and in the answer of Jesus. God may ask us the same question, and we should be able to articulate an answer that glorifies Him.
d. Rabboni, that I may receive my sight: The title Rabboni “is a strengthened form of ‘Rabbi,’ and means ‘my lord,’ ‘my master.’” (Lane) When Bartimaeus said this, he expressed his humble submission towards Jesus.
i. The specific nature of Bartimaeus’ request is a good example for our prayers. “Have mercy on me” is general, but his prayer moved from the general to the specific request, “that I may receive my sight.”
ii. “Rest assured that those are the best prayers in all respects, if they be earnest and sincere, which go most directly to the point. You know there is a way of praying in the closet, and praying in the family, in which you do not ask for anything. You say a great many good things, introduce much of your own experience, review the doctrines of grace very thoughtfully, but you do not ask for anything in particular. Such prayer is always uninteresting to listen to, and I think it must be rather tedious to those who offer it.” (Spurgeon)
e. Go your way; your faith has made you well: How did the faith of the blind man save him? Because it was:
f. Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus: Blind Bartimaeus, now healed and saved, then followed Jesus. The way of Jesus became his way. This is especially significant when we consider where Jesus was going at this time - to Jerusalem to die.
i. First Jesus told Bartimaeus, go your way. Then, Bartimaeus followed Jesus. He made Jesus’ way his own way, and was follower of Him. Bartimaeus must have figured, “Now that I have my sight, I always want to look upon Jesus.”
ii. “Apply to the Son of David; lose not a moment; he is passing by, and thou art passing into eternity, and probably wilt never have a more favourable opportunity than the present.” (Clarke)
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