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Saturday, May 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 10

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Chapter ten is one of the longest chapters in Mark, being surpassed only by chapters six and fourteen. Matthew’s parallel account requires two chapters (19-20). Luke’s parallel account is found in chapter eighteen and contains over half of the material found in Mark 10. This chapter contains a few of the events of Jesus’ Perean ministry. It is probable the Perean ministry does not immediately follow the "withdrawal" travels, which begin in chapter seven, verse 24. Robertson places the later Judean ministry in an interval just prior to this narrative in Mark 10 (A Harmony of the Gospels 114). Hendriksen says:

Intervening was the Later Judean Ministry lasting from the final October to December of Christ’s life on earth. See John 7:2; John 10:22. Consequently the Perean Ministry probably fell within the period December of the year 29 to April of the year 30 (374).

This chapter contains Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce (1-12); a lesson on proper attitudes, based on Jesus’ blessing of little children (13-15); the account of the rich young ruler (16-22); a lesson about true riches (23-31); a third prophecy of Jesus’ Passion (32-34); the request of the sons of Zebedee (35-45); and the healing of blind Bartimaeus between the two Jerichos (46-52).

Verse 1

And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.

And he arose from thence: Almost the same wording is found in Mark 7:24, where, as here, there is the beginning of a journey of considerable distance. The place from which Jesus departs is clearly the region of Galilee, and more precisely, Capernaum. Jesus now begins His journey toward Jerusalem. Mark records only one such trip to Jerusalem by Jesus; but there is some evidence, particularly in Luke, that He makes other such trips.

The geographical structure of Mark is in this sense very simple. Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and surrounding regions is climaxed by his movement toward Jerusalem and the crucifixion. In this sense there was one consistent purpose, the supreme sacrifice (10:45) (McMillan 121).

and cometh into the coasts of Judaea: The word "coasts" is from horia, and means "territory, region, district" (Wuest 194), and refers to Judea and the adjoining territory.

by the farther side of Jordan: This phrase is literally translated "beyond the Jordan" (Marshall 181) and means that the Lord and His disciples are traveling south through Perea, east of the Jordan River.

and the people resort unto him again: The word "resort" is from sunporeuomai, meaning "to go with someone on a journey" (Wuest 194). It is impossible for Jesus to avoid crowds of people. Many people join the Lord and His apostles along the road as they make their way toward Jerusalem.

and as he was wont: This phrase means "as was His custom." When a crowd gathers around Jesus, it is His custom to teach them.

he taught them again: Jesus resumes His practice of public teaching, but He does not discontinue His intensive teaching and training of the Twelve.

Verse 2

And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.

And the Pharisees came to him: It is probable these are some of the same Pharisees who assailed Jesus previously (see 2:16, 24; 3:6, 22; 7:1-5; 8:11). Whether they are or not, they follow the natural order of events: multitudes throng Jesus, He teaches them, and the Pharisees attack Him.

and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him: Virtually all the Jews, including the strictest rabbis, are in agreement that the law of Moses permits divorce. Consequently, Matthew’s fuller, parallel version (chapter nineteen) becomes very important in helping us to understand the true nature of the Pharisees’ question. Matthew 19:3 says, "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" All the Jews agree that under Moses’ law divorce is permissible; the only point of dispute is "for what cause?" or "on what grounds?" This is a very controversial subject among the Jewish rabbis. In the century before Jesus, there is a very prominent rabbi named Hillel. He is a native of Babylon but subsequently comes to Jerusalem, studies the law with great success, and becomes the head of the main school in that city. One of his disciples named Shammai separates from his teacher because of their differences in interpreting the law and establishes another school. Consequently, in the time of our Lord, the scribes and doctors of the law are polarized into two parties, namely the followers of Hillel, who remain the most influential, and the followers of Shammai. These two schools are widely separated on the subject of divorce; and the school with which people identify depends on how they interpret the phrase some uncleanness in Deuteronomy 24:1:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.

The word "uncleanness" is from erwath dabhar; and according to Rabbi Shammai and his followers, the reference is to something morally shameful, particularly adultery, or unchastity (if a newly married husband discovers his wife is not a virgin, he could put her away). But they also believe it includes a failure to observe the Jewish law, which prescribes great reserve for a wife (Lane 353; Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life 157).

Rabbi Hillel argues that the "uncleanness" could be of practically any nature--wrinkling too early, burning her husband’s bread, going about with loose hair, spinning in the street, familiarly talking with men, ill-treating her husband’s parents in his presence, brawling, that is, "speaking to her husband so loudly that the neighbors could hear her in the adjoining house" (Chethub, vii 6), a general bad reputation, or the discovery of fraud before marriage (Edersheim, Sketches 157-158). Hillel and his disciples emphasize the words "that she find no favor in his eyes" (Deuteronomy 24:1) and accordingly permitted divorce for the flimsiest reasons.

Human nature being what it is, the more lax view is the one that prevails. As a result, the divorce situation among the Jews in Jesus’ day is deplorable, and, according to Edersheim, polygamy is also undoubtedly in force. Peterson quotes Thompson as saying:

Jewish society was disgraced by an appalling laxity in the matter of divorce. Family life was imperilled by it and an intolerable wrong was done to womanhood. It made woman the slave of man, putting the wife at the husband’s mercy. For, while she could not for any cause divorce him, he might, for no cause at all, divorce her and cast her out upon the world (74).

Josephus records how he has divorced two wives on comparatively trivial grounds and speaks incidentally of "many causes of all kinds" as justifying separation (99).

tempting him: It is very likely, however, that there is more to the background of this question the Pharisees ask Jesus than just the debate over which rabbinic interpretation is correct. The expression "tempting him" shows the Pharisees are not really con­cerned about receiving information from Jesus, but that they have strictly hostile intentions. They hope to test His consistency. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:32), Jesus has taken a very strict position on the issue of divorce; but later when He is questioned about the woman who has been taken in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11), His seemingly lax and tolerant treatment of her indicates He might have a lower standard as to the obligations of marriage.

If they could not prove a contradiction in His teaching, the Pharisees hope their entrapping question would at least bring Jesus into conflict with one of the prevailing schools of the day. If Jesus endorses the stricter interpretation of Shammai, He would alienate the followers of Hillel’s view, the most popular view of the day, which probably includes these Pharisees (Matthew 19:7)--and even the twelve apostles (Matthew 19:10). But, if He endorses the permissive interpretation of Hillel, He could be accused of contradicting His earlier teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:32), and the disciples of Shammai would think He is tolerating moral looseness; consequently, He would lose credibility with them.

The Pharisees apparently have another very real motive for posing this question to Jesus. It is this same question about the lawfulness of divorce and remarriage that causes John the Baptist to condemn the marriage of Herod Antipas and Herodias (6:17ff) and ultimately leads to his violent execution. Jesus is now in Perea, which is under Herod’s jurisdiction. The Pharisees ap­parently hope that Jesus’ answer would cause Herod to intercede and perhaps seize Jesus as he had John.

Verse 3

And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

Jesus shows His consummate wisdom by answering the Pharisees, not according to the current debates of Shammai or Hillel but according to Moses (Mark 7:1-23; Mark 10:17-20). The word "command" is significant. Jesus is not asking for what Moses allowed in Deuteronomy 24:1, but rather He is asking for positive instruction, probably what Moses has written in Genesis 2:24 as the ideal state of things.

Verse 4

And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.

And they said, Moses suffered: The word "suffered" (epetrepsien) means "permitted" (Marshall 181). The Pharisees are careful not to say that divorce is "commanded" by the law of Moses but rather that it is allowed or permitted.

to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away: In Deuteronomy 24:1, the verse that is referred to here, the right of divorce is assumed. Divorce has been established by custom, and "Moses" (the law of Moses) takes it for granted (Leviticus 21:7; Leviticus 21:14; Leviticus 22:13; Numbers 30:9). The law points out there are certain formalities that have to be followed when initiating a divorce. First, it is the man who divorces the wife, not the wife who divorces the husband. As mentioned earlier, Jewish women did not have the right to divorce their husbands (although Roman women did have the right of divorce). Next the husband has to write "a bill of divorcement" and give it to his wife. "J. Lightfoot on Matthew gives a specimen of a bill of divorcement, and it expressly mentions the right of the divorced wife to marry again" (Plummer 232). The only other requirement is that the divorced woman could not, under any circumstances, return to her first husband, if her second husband divorces her or dies. Hendriksen offers these comments:

This Mosaic regulation was by many--probably including several of these Pharisees--interpreted as meaning, "If you wish to divorce your wife for any reason whatever, go right ahead, but be sure to hand her a divorce certificate." The real meaning of the passage, however, is this, "Husband, you better think twice before you reject your wife. Remember that once you have put her away and she has become the wife of another you cannot afterward take her back; not even if that other husband should also have rejected her or should have died" (377).

The reason for divorce is not stated, but it could not be adultery. According to the law, the penalty for adultery is not divorce, but rather, the adulterer and adulteress are to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:22; Leviticus 20:10; John 8:5). The law of Moses neither commands nor forbids divorce but commands that, if it takes place, it must be done in a certain way and must be irrevocable.

Lane agrees with the above:

Moses permitted divorce providing a certificate of divorce was given to the wife. This provision assumes the practice of divorce and describes a right to which a wife is entitled: she is to be given a bill of divorce which authenticates her release from the marriage contract and affirms her right to remarry. The Mosaic provision was made for the contingency of divorce, but did not in itself determine whether the contingency was right or wrong. Its primary function was to provide a degree of protection for the woman who had been repudiated by her husband (354).

Verse 5

And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart: Jesus points out that Moses does not command divorce but only tolerates it as a temporary concession to the hardness of their hearts. The expression "hardness of your heart" is from sklerokardioi and means "stubbornness of heart; the coarseness and harshness of the people" (Thayer 579). "It denotes the rude nature which belongs to a primitive civilization" (Gould 184), and it is a shameful condition that manifests itself in various forms time and again in Israel (Deuteronomy 9:6; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 3:7; Exodus 33:3; Acts 7:51). In this case, the expression means that the Jews have stubbornly refused God’s original plan for marriage; and, as a result, polygamy is being practiced, and divorce is common. Jesus points out the concession of Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1 is an effort to put some restraint upon the freedom with which men put away their wives. It is not so much a permission to divorce as it is an effort to control divorce and make it more difficult. Beginning with Moses’ precept, a divorce could not take place until some legal steps had been taken, and a regular instrument had been drawn up; and this delay might often be the means of preventing a divorce that might otherwise have been effected in a moment of passion (Bickersteth, ii 60). The law, then, is a merciful concession for the sake of women. By it, God is not placing His approval on divorce or even encouraging it, but He puts sufficient regulations around it so that the wives would not become victims of their husbands’ whims. Without a bill of divorcement, a woman could easily become a social outcast and be treated like a harlot. No man would want to marry her, and she would be left defenseless and destitute.

Jesus does not condemn Moses for making this concession for the Jews, but He makes it quite clear that He regards it as being laid down for a definite situation and that it is in no sense permanently binding.

This principle of accommodation to the time in Scripture is of inestimable importance, and of course limits finally the absoluteness of its authority. See also John 16:12 (Gould 184).

Jesus’ answer shows that Hillel’s interpretation of the law is the correct one--that divorce in Moses’ time is obtained for virtually any reason as long as it is done according to the proper procedure.

he wrote you this precept: The word "precept" literally means "commandment." Jesus is not talking about the command to divorce because there is no such command. But He is speaking of the command to follow a specific procedure in the event of a divorce.

Verse 6

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.

But from the beginning of the creation: Christ directs them to a far earlier authority than that of the temporary, Mosaic law. Moses, who is also the author of the book of Genesis, has given the original, timeless ideal of marriage as shown in the creation (Genesis 2:24).

God made them male and female: When God originates the institution of marriage, He bases it on the ground of the couple’s sexual relationship. Marriage is between a man and a woman, not two men or two women, and the relationship is sacred and permanent. He makes no provision for divorce. He makes a pair, without a surplus of either males or females. The words in this verse are from Genesis 1:27, and the Pharisees would immediately recognize them. But Jesus is not trying to place Moses and God at odds, as some think. He is showing that in the books of Moses we have evidence that the concession made by the law to degenerate human nature is not included in God’s original plan.

Verse 7

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;

For this cause: This phrase means "on this account," and it is referring to the physical relationship between husband and wife, which is an even closer union than that between parent and child. The very nature of their relationship makes it more intimate and compelling than any other.

shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife: The word "leave" is from katakeipo and means "to leave behind, to depart from, to forsake" (Wuest 196). The word "cleave" is proskollao and means "to glue to, to join one’s self to, to cleave closely, to stick to" (Wuest 196). The idea in the verb "cleave," therefore, includes the initial act of joining one’s self to another and then remaining thus joined. Cole says:

The natural phenomenon of a man voluntarily leaving the strongest social group that he already knows (his own kith and kin) to form a new and closer link with a woman previously unknown to him would be inexplicable, were it not seen to be another instance of the outworking of this purpose of God. As so often, the Lord is appealing to the common sense of ordinary man against the intricacies of Pharisaic theologians (cf. Mark 7:15) (157).

Verse 8

And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.

And they twain shall be one flesh: The word "twain" is from duo and means "two." God creates Adam as a male, perfectly designed for an intimate union with Eve, who is created later from the very body of Adam, and as a female. Each, accordingly, is made for the other. While the spiritual element is vitally important in marriage, the emphasis here is that marriage is a physical union: the two become one flesh, not one spirit. Gould offers this excellent explanation:

The union pointed out is a physical one, being that to which the sexual relation points--they shall become one flesh. The sexual act unites them, makes them one, the same as the junction of two streams make one river, the union of hydrogen and oxygen in certain proportions makes one substance, water, the mechanical joining of different parts fitted to each other makes the one structure. This is our Lord’s inference from the preceding quotation. The duality no longer exists; it has been replaced by this structural unity. Before, there had been two beings structurally fitted for each other; now, their union makes this new structural unity. If they had remained two, they would be separate; but being now structurally one, they belong together (185).

Since marriage is a physical union, only a physical cause can break it--either death (Romans 7:1-3) or fornication (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9). Mark does not include the exception clause found in Matthew, but neither does he say that death breaks the marriage union.

Verse 9

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

The word "asunder" is chorizo, meaning "to separate, divide, part" (Wuest 197). God is the One who conceives of marriage ["It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18)] and establishes marriage as a divine institution (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:9); therefore, man should not try to nullify God’s institutions by separating what God has joined together.

Verse 10

And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.

The exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees is now over, but a private conversation between the Lord and the Twelve follows. Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees takes place outside, but now He is inside a house, which allows His disciples to question Him further. After they hear Jesus’ startling words to the Pharisees, the disciples are now convinced that it is a dangerous thing to get married.

Verse 11

And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.

Jesus has laid down the premise that the marriage bond is divine and cannot be dissolved by man-made legislation. He now informs His disciples that to remarry after divorce, unless it is granted on the grounds of fornication (Matthew 19:9), would make the person guilty of committing adultery.

The concept of a husband committing adultery against his wife is new teaching to the disciples and completely unrecognized by the law of Moses. According to rabbinic law, a married man could have sexual relations with another unmarried woman and could even take her as an additional wife if he chose, but his actions are not considered as adultery against his wife. The only way he could be guilty of adultery is to have sexual relations with a married woman, in which case the adultery is against the married woman’s husband (Deuteronomy 22:13-29). Thus, Jesus’ words have the effect of further abrogating the Mosaic permission in Deuteronomy 24:1, elevating the wife to the same marital status as her husband and placing the husband under the same obligation of fidelity as the wife.

Verse 12

And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

At this point Mark adds something that is not found in Matthew. Mark points out that Jesus applies the same rule also to the wife who, without regard to the divine ordinance, divorces her husband.

This statement by Jesus is something else completely foreign to the disciples. The right of a wife to divorce her husband is not recognized by Jewish law. In cases of impotence, denial of conjugal rights, and unreasonable restriction of movement, a wife could petition for divorce, but the husband makes the final decision as to whether a divorce is granted.

To divorce one’s wife and marry another is to break the seventh commandment, and the rule applies with equal force to putting away one’s husband and marrying another. This pronouncement of Jesus goes far beyond anything the Jews ever taught. Coffman adds:

Mark’s record of Jesus’ application of the rule on adultery to both sexes is thought to have been prompted by Gentile readers to whom this gospel is supposed to have been directed. The view here is that Christ spoke all that is recorded of him, both here and in the other gospels; and the fact of one writer’s having recorded one thing and another’s having recorded different things (though not contradictory) is due to the difference of intention and purpose that each had. This means that the total of Jesus’ teaching must be determined by the composite record of all the gospels. Such a view is in line with what Jesus himself said regarding the belief of "all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25) (204).

Barnes offers this summary of the narratives in Matthew and Mark concerning marriage and divorce:

In Matthew 19:9: "And I say unto you..." Emphasis should be laid on the word I. This was the opinion of Jesus--this he proclaimed to be the law of his kingdom--this the command of God ever afterward. Indulgence had been given by the laws of Moses; but that indulgence was to cease, and the marriage relation to be brought back to the original intention. Only one offence was to make divorce lawful. This is the law of God; and by the same law, all marriages which take place after divorce, where adultery is not the cause of divorce, are adulterous. Legislatures have no right to say that men may put away their wives for any other cause; and where they do, and where there is marriage afterward, by the law of God such marriages are adulterous (195).

Verse 13

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

The circumstances surrounding this incident are sketchy, and the time and place are omitted; but the situation is clear: children are brought to Jesus in order to receive a blessing for future life. It is possible this event took place immediately after the Lord taught His disciples concerning divorce and in the same house.

And they brought young children to him: The expression "young children" is from paidia and refers to "partly grown children" (Thayer 473). A girl of twelve is referred to by this same word in Mark 5:39; Mark 5:42. There must have been some infants also because Luke 18:15 uses the word brephie, which means "babes" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 73). It is obvious the children who are brought to Jesus are of various ages, from the infant in the arms to the elder children still under the mother’s care.

that he should touch them: Matthew enlarges on what Jesus actually does, in that He lays His hands on the children while asking the Father to bless them. Sick infants are often brought to Christ in order to be healed by His touch. But even those who are not afflicted would be honored by His tender touch and blessing. Swete says:

The custom of laying on of hands with prayer upon children for the purpose of benediction, finds its archetype in Genesis 48:14-15. Such benedictions, it seems, were commonly obtained by parents for their children from the ruler of the synagogue; and here was One greater than any local synagogue-ruler. But perhaps the purpose of the friends was simply to secure a bless­ing by contact with the wonder-working Prophet (210).

and his disciples rebuked those that brought them: This reaction of the disciples seems typical of them. They do not want to be bothered by little children who seem to have no need of special attention; nor do they want their Master, who is exhausted by ministering to multitudes of adults, to be bothered. They unsuccessfully try to rid themselves of the parents who are bringing their children into the house.

Verse 14

But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased: The word "displeased" is aganakteo and means "to feel pain" (Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament 350). He says it is a strong word of deep emotion. Thayer says, "to be indignant, to be moved with indignation" (3). Jesus is angry with His disciples because they are trying to put a limit on His love and work that would exclude children.

and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: The word "suffer" is from aphiemi and means to "permit, allow." The word "forbid" is from koluo, meaning "to forbid, hinder, prevent" (Thayer 367). The word is in the present imperative and means "stop hindering." Jesus forbids the disciples from continuing their action.

for of such is the kingdom of God: The expression "of such" indicates Jesus is talking about those who possess qualities that are "like" children. Those qualities would include humility, obedience, trust, and shortness of memory (not holding grudges, etc.).

Verse 15

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Jesus sets forth a little child as a model of trusting, simple, and loving obedience and indicates that adults must emulate these characteristics in order to enter into the kingdom of God. "Entering the kingdom" means becoming a member of the society (the church) in which Jesus’ rule prevails.

Verse 16

And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

The verb "blessed" is intensive in its force, "blessed them fervently," and imperfect in tense, "kept on blessing them" (Wuest 200). Bruce says "Jesus took each child in His arms, one by one, and blessed it...The process would last awhile, but Jesus would not soon weary of such work" (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 410).

Verse 17

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And when he was gone forth into the way: Matthew says that immediately after laying His hands upon the young children, Jesus departs thence. "Into the way" means to "start out on the road for a journey." This road is the one leading to Jerusalem, where Jesus is going.

there came one running, and kneeled to him: Mark gives the most vivid description of the three gospel accounts. He alone reports the detail of the rich man running and humbling himself before Jesus, an act indicating youthful impulsiveness. All three Synoptists place this event immediately after the blessing of the children which suggests the possibility that the young man has either witnessed or heard of Jesus’ blessing and is motivated to approach Him. The eager approach of the man while Jesus is setting out on His way, His kneeling posture, the formal address together with the weighty character of his question--all suggest deep respect for Jesus and genuine earnestness on the part of the man himself. He comes to consult Jesus as a distinguished teacher and shows Him the deference reserved for revered rabbis of the law (Lane 364).

The stranger who entreats Jesus is called "a young man" (Matthew 19:22) and "a ruler" (Luke 18:18). All three of the Synoptists describe him as a very rich person, one who owns much property (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23). Therefore, the composite title of "rich young ruler" is generally applied to him. He is probably one of the officials in charge of the local synagogue.

and asked him, Good Master: Some commentators think the young man’s words are flattery. The word "good" is probably sincere, however, although not a full compliment. The young man is seeking instruction from a teacher of great reputation for wisdom and kindness--but one he believes is merely human.

what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life: The expression "eternal life" is mentioned by Mark only here and in verse 30. Matthew and Luke mention the expression three times, and John uses it seventeen times. The original Greek expression never varies, but the King James Version translates it variously "eternal life," "life eternal," "everlasting life," and "life everlasting."

The concept of "life everlasting" originates in the Old Testament in connection with Daniel’s teaching on the resurrection: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (12:2). The rich young ruler is, no doubt, familiar with Daniel’s teaching. Even though it is unlikely he understands the full meaning of the expression as taught by Jesus, he eagerly thirsts for this "eternal life." He believes it is to be won by some good deed of exceptional and heroic goodness.

Verse 18

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Plummer says:

"Good Master" was a very unusual form of address; no example has been found in the Talmud, and the rich man seems to have used it glibly. If it was not a mere compliment to win favor, it was said without consideration. There was some defect in his use of the epithet (238).

The Jewish rabbis do not allow the word good to be applied to themselves. Only God is good, and the word is to be reserved for Him alone. Jesus is not denying that He is God; rather, He is affirming it. He just wants to be sure the young man really knows what he is saying and that he is willing to accept the responsibilities involved. Hendriksen adds:

Jesus knew that the rich young ruler, in addressing him as "Good Teacher," was being very superficial. If this young man had really believed with all his heart that Jesus was good in the highest sense of the term, he would have obeyed the command the Lord was about to give him (see verses 21, 22). That same shallowness is evident also from the praise he bestows on himself (verse 20). The Master knew very well that if this enquirer was going to be saved, he must be confronted with the absolute standard of goodness, namely, the perfect law enacted by The Perfect One, God. That explains Christ’s answer (392).

Verse 19

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Thou knowest the commandments: The ten commandments are universally known by the Jews, and Jesus answers the man according to this law under which he lives.

Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother: All three of the parallel accounts place the fifth commandment ("Honour thy father and mother") last and omit the first four. Just why Jesus does this is not known. The first four commandments regulate our relationship to God while the last six regulate our relationship to our fellow man. It is possible Jesus mentions only the six rules on the second table of the Decalogue because a failure to observe these rules would imply a failure to observe the others: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20).

Defraud not: It is possible this statement is intended to represent the tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet." The word "defraud" refers to the evil of withholding from the laborer that which is due to him; that is, it refers to the sin of not paying (or underpaying) him. It is also possible Jesus adds this as a special warning for the sake of a rich man who apparently has many employees working for him. A third possibility is this could be a summary of the entire second table of the Decalogue (Matthew 19:19, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself"). Thus interpreted, His meaning would be, "Do not withhold from your neighbor the love you owe him."

Verse 20

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

The young man is struggling with his own conscience. He claims satisfaction at having kept the law, but he is obviously discontented, as is evidenced by his words in Matthew, "...what lack I yet?" (19:20). Plummer believes he "expected to be advised to undertake something exceptional and difficult, and he is told of the humdrum duties which every decent person tries to perform" (239).

Coffman makes this observation:

Many a person in his circumstances would have said, "I need nothing;" but it is to the great credit of this man that he recognized his soul’s need, despite all of his own sincere efforts to do God’s will. It is ever beyond the power of men to achieve eternal life through their own keeping of sacred law, and yet eternal life is dependent upon the perfect keeping of the sacred law. Christ achieved eternal life for all men (potentially) by his perfect keeping of all of God’s commandments, and by setting up a plan by which men become a part of his true spiritual body, thus enabling them to be saved "as Christ." Yet this does not deny that salvation results from (Christ’s) keeping all the commandments (210-211).

Verse 21

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Then Jesus beholding him: The word "beholding" is from emblepo, which means "to fix the eyes for a moment on an object" (Wuest 202). It is a concentrated, penetrating look.

loved him: The word "loved" is from agapao and indicates the highest kind of love, far beyond mere affection.

It is used in the NT of God’s love, and of the love that God is. The tense is ingressive aorist, speaking of entrance into a new condition. Jesus fell in love with this young man (Wuest 202).

Jesus loves the man for what he is and for what he might become.

one thing thou lackest: Jesus does not challenge the man’s estimate of himself. If what the man says is true, there is only one thing he lacks in order to be made complete (perfect) (Matthew 19:21).

go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor: The sale and distribution of property are not required of every disciple of Christ in order to obtain eternal life, but they are a test of obedience and faith, which our Lord sees to be necessary in this particular instance. Andrew and Peter are not told to sell all they have because their hearts are not tied to their possessions. Consequently, giving up everything of a material nature cannot be a general obligation. In essence, Jesus is telling the young man to trust completely in Him. Without complete confidence and trust in Jesus, he is not going to divest himself of all his material goods. The critical test is whether to trust in riches or in Jesus.

and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: Jesus does not mean this act would guarantee eternal life. It is not the mere giving away of his property that could earn eternal life, but it is obedience to the second command ("take up the cross, and follow me") that promises heaven. It is entirely possible to give all one’s goods to feed the poor without being a follower of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:3).

and come, take up the cross, and follow me: The word "follow" is from akoloutheo and is in the present imperative (Analytical Greek Lexicon 12). It means to follow Jesus continually and to devote attention to Jesus without interruption. Consequently, the young man would have to deny self and forsake his former occupation.

Verse 22

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

The word "sad" is stugnazo and means "to put on a gloomy and downcast look" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 378). Vincent says, "The word paints forcibly the gloom which clouded his face" (114). The young man’s attitude has radically changed. At first he is enthusiastically optimistic, but now he departs in sorrow and grief, probably thinking to himself, "This command is not fair. None of the others were commanded to give up all their material possessions."

Verse 23

And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

And Jesus looked round about: After the man is gone, Jesus quickly glances around at the faces of His disciples to see how they have reacted to this conversation with the rich young ruler and to teach them a lesson from this incident.

And saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God: The expression "how hardly" is from pos duskolos. Wuest offers this definition:

Pos is used here in an exclamation, and means "how?" Duskolos means "with difficulty." The question of our Lord does not declare the impossibility of a wealthy person being saved, but the difficulty of getting him saved. How the words of James echo in our hearts, "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith,and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?" (2:5) (204).

Verse 24

And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

And the disciples were astonished at his words: The disciples are bewildered and perplexed at Jesus’ words. Of what kind of kingdom does Jesus speak where one must become as a child to enter and rich men find it virtually impossible to gain an entrance?

But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children: Jesus uses the tender expression "Children." Jesus’ heart is filled with tender affection for the disciples. He knows they are growing increasingly perplexed, so He adopts a tone of unusual tenderness.

how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God: Here Jesus distinguishes between "having riches" and "trusting in riches," just as Paul stipulates it is "the love of money" and not just "money" that is the "root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Dorris observes:

A man may have great wealth and love God more than the wealth, and be a Christian; just as a poor man may have a little and love the little more than God, and never be a Christian. The principle works both ways (239).

The thrust of Jesus’ teaching, though, is that it is extremely difficult for a rich man not to trust in his riches, and those who trust in riches cannot enter into the kingdom (Matthew 6:24).

Plummer writes:

The true text says that it is hard for anyone to enter the Kingdom (Luke 13:24), and therefore very hard for the wealthy (Luke 6:24; Luke 16:19; James 5:1). This was a solemn warning to Judas (241).

Verse 25

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

It is obviously impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Some have tried to explain what Jesus means by making "camel" (kamelon) mean "cable." But the word clearly has the same meaning that it has in Matthew 23:24, "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." Others teach that the "eye of a needle" refers to a gate in the wall of Jerusalem through which by means of much pulling and pushing a camel could finally be taken. The Greek of Matthew 19:24 and of Mark speaks of a needle that is used with thread, and that of Luke 18:25 uses a medical term for the needle used in surgical operations. It is evident the gate is not meant, but the tiny eye of a sewing needle (Wuest 205).

Plummer explains:

Christ’s Sayings, like those of other Oriental teachers, are often hyperbolical; "strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel" (Matthew 23:24), "whoso shall say to this mountain etc." (11:23), "a grain of mustard seed, less than all seeds, becometh a tree" (Matthew 13:32), etc. In the Talmud an elephant going through a needle’s eye is used to express an impossibility (242).

Jesus is obviously using hyperbole here for the purpose of emphasizing the difficulty; thus, the figure is given not to be taken literally. Jesus clearly means it is impossible for a rich man to use his powerful riches to work or worm his own way into the kingdom of God. It is impossible for anyone whose love of riches keeps him from trusting completely in Jesus as Savior to be saved.

Verse 26

And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

And they were astonished out of measure: The disciples, who are already astonished by the Lord’s words recorded in verse 23, are now shocked, "knocked out of their senses." The rabbis have taught from the Old Testament that God blesses good men with wealth and that most men either have it or work to get it. It is incredible now to be told that it is a monumental hindrance to salvation.

saying among themselves, Who then can be saved: The disciples are baffled by the special difficulties of the rich. It seems that of all people the rich could use their position to gain entrance into the kingdom most easily. If they are excluded, the disciples ask, who can dare to hope?

Verse 27

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

And Jesus looking upon them: The words "looking upon" is emblepsias and has the same meaning as is found in verse 21, that of a concentrated, penetrating look (Analytical Greek Lexicon 134).

With men it is impossible, but not with God: Jesus means exactly what He says. He neither explains nor softens the strong statement in verse 25, but He shows where the solution to the problem is to be found.

for with God all things are possible: The expression "all things" is from panta (Marshall 184) and is not to be understood as absolute. God places limits on Himself because of His nature ("it is impossible for God to lie" Hebrews 6:18), but all things necessary for the salvation of mankind are possible with God--and that is the point here.

Verse 28

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

According to Matthew 19:27, Peter adds, "what shall we have therefore?" The emphasis is on "we." Peter could hardly keep from comparing his own response to the call of Jesus with that of the rich man’s. Peter is saying, "We, the Twelve, have done exactly what you told the rich man to do. We did not prefer our own possessions, but we left everything to follow you. Now, what shall we have?" Based on what Jesus tells the rich young ruler, the answer should have been that Peter and the other disciples would have "treasure in heaven"; but Peter seems to be uncertain about this treasure. Jesus reassures Peter and the other disciples and then adds a warning.

Verse 29

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you: Jesus answers Peter as if Peter is the spokesman for the Twelve. His answer is not a direct one; but, typical of Jesus, it is one that includes the answer and much more.

There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands: There are no exceptions. Jesus says everyone who has given up what is most dear to himself or herself will be abundantly rewarded here and hereafter.

for my sake, and the gospel’s: No one who follows Christ will ever lose what is really important, but our motives must be right. The true motivation of the above is our love of Christ and His message of salvation. As R.J. LeTourneau says, "If you give because it pays, it won’t pay! If we sacrifice only to get a reward, that reward will never come" (Wiersbe 103).

Verse 30

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

But he shall receive an hundredfold: "An hundredfold" means a hundred times as much. True followers of Christ will be reimbursed many times over ("manifold more" Luke 18:30).

now in this time: In other words, there is much to be gained in the here and now by being a disciple of Jesus.

houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers,and children, and lands: True followers of Christ will be able to enjoy their material possessions even more than the ungodly enjoy theirs. If, for the sake of Christ and the gospel, it becomes necessary to forsake close relatives, new relatives will now be theirs (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Romans 16:13; 1 Corinthians 4:15; et al.), relatives who belong to the "household of faith" (Galatians 6:10), the family of God (Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 3:15). Coffman observes:

The rich young ruler would have been far better off if he had followed the Lord, giving up all of his wealth. If he lived so long as 70 A.D., everything that he owned was wiped out in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state. Whereas the Christians survived that debacle without the loss of a single life, the non-Christian portion of Israel was utterly destroyed, some 1,100,000 of the population being put to the sword. Thus, when the rich young ruler turned away from Jesus, he turned his back upon his highest secular interests as well as the promise of eternal life. The Lord knew what was best for him; but it is also true that the Lord knows what is best for every man! (214-215).

with persecutions: Temporal blessings to the disciples are to be tempered with persecutions. Jesus has already told His disciples what He is to suffer in Jerusalem at the hands of both the Jews and Romans, and now He informs them that they will have their share of persecution. "God balances blessings with battles, developing mature sons and daughters" (Wiersbe 103).

and in the world to come eternal life: "Eternal life" refers to an unlimited duration in heaven.

Verse 31

But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

There will be some surprising position reversals in the world to come. Hendriksen’s comments are appropriate:

As the saying itself, we are reminded of the words of Jehovah addressed to Samuel, "Jehovah does not see as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). The "first" are those who because of their wealth, education, position, prestige, talents, etc., are highly regarded by men in general, sometimes even by God’s children. But since God sees and knows the heart, many of these very people are by him assigned to a position behind the others; in fact, some may even be altogether excluded from the halls of glory Cf. Matthew 7:21-23...Many of those who are now regarded as the very pillars of the church will be last, but also many who never made the headlines--think of the poor widow who contributed "two mites" (Mark 12:42), and Mary of Bethany whose act of loving lavishness was roundly criticized by the disciples (Matthew 26:8)--shall be first on the day of judgment (Mark 12:43-44; cf. Matthew 26:10-13). The disciples, who were constantly quarreling about rank (Mark 9:33ff; 20:20; Luke 22:24), better take note! (403).

Verse 32

And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,

And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem: Plummer points out, "As in English, a journey to the capital is ’going up’" (244). But this is literally true of going to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is "a city set on a hill" (Matthew 5:14), and the hill stands high above the sea. Regardless of the side from which a person approaches Jerusalem, it is always an ascent (compare John 2:13; John 5:1; John 11:55; Acts 11:2; Acts 25:1; Galatians 2:1).

and Jesus went before them: As a shepherd goes before his sheep, the Lord walks in advance of His disciples. This is not a momentary going on ahead but a habitual practice. Jesus often walks alone, ahead of His disciples. He walks with resolute steps. Stedfastly He sets His face to go to Jerusalem. The solemnity and determination of His manner are a foreboding of danger.

and they were amazed: Why are the disciples amazed? Undoubtedly, they are amazed at Jesus’ demeanor--His countenance. It would include the look in His eyes, the manner of His walk. They are amazed at the steadfastness of His purpose. He has already told them He is going to suffer much at the hands of His enemies, and now He is heading directly to their headquarters!

and as they followed, they were afraid: There are two groups who follow Jesus. There are the Twelve, who are awe-struck at Jesus’ manner and are beginning to anticipate an impending disaster, and there are the casual followers, the traveling caravans, going to Jerusalem for the Passover. The fear and uneasiness of this secondary group are understandable. They sense something bad is about to happen, and being in the company of Jesus is risky business. Bruce makes this observation:

The astonishment of the Twelve and the fear of the others were not due to the fact that Jesus had, against their wish, chosen to go to Jerusalem in spite of apprehended danger. These feelings must have been awakened by the manner of Jesus, as of one laboring under strong emotion. Only so can we account for the fear of the crowd, who were not, like the Twelve, acquainted with Christ’s forebodings of death. Memory and expectation were both active at that moment, producing together a high-strung state of mind: Perea, John, baptism in Jordan, at the beginning; Jerusalem, the priests, the Cross, at the end! filled with the varied feelings excited by these sacred recollections and tragic anticipations, He walks alone by preference, step and gesture revealing what was working within and inspiring awe--with majesty and heroism (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 412-413).

And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him: Jesus takes the Twelve aside from the crowd because He knows it would not be wise to make the statement about His suffering and death to all the followers. The atmosphere is so tense there is the danger of a real panic.

The word "again" is significant. It shows this is not the only time Jesus makes a separation between groups of followers or separations within one group. The previous two lessons about the cross had also been given to the Twelve privately.

Verses 33-34

Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

This is the third and, by far, the most detailed prediction of Jesus’ impending Passion and resurrection. He has made His first prediction when He and His disciples are in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, and just after Peter has confessed Jesus as "the Christ" (Mark 8:31). That prediction emphasizes the necessity of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. After the Transfiguration and the healing of a demon-possessed boy, Jesus makes the second prediction, which emphasizes the certainty of these upcoming events (9:31). Now, Jesus makes the third prediction and gives details of seven specific events.

The expression "chief priests and scribes" refers to the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of the Jews. The prediction that the Sanhedrin will "deliver Him to the Gentiles" almost reveals that He will be crucified (John 18:31-32), for "the Gentiles" could refer only to the Romans. The Romans would not allow the Jews to carry out the death penalty; therefore, they would turn Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman Governor. Jesus would be mocked and spit upon and then be scourged, as a prelude to the crucifixion. Kittel offers these comments on scourging:

According to Roman law the verberatio (scourging) always accompanied a capital sentence, and other degrading punishments with the loss of freedom or civil rights. In many cases it was itself fatal. It usually preceded crucifixion. It was so terrible that even Domitian was horrified by it. Women were exempted. We know little about the details. The number of strokes was not prescribed. It continued until the flesh hung down in bloody shreds. Slaves administered it, and the condemned person was tied to a pillar (Vol. IV 517).

These very real and horrifying events that lay before Jesus oc­cupy His mind at this time. The vivid suffering and sorrow He is soon to endure threaten to overwhelm Him. No doubt these thoughts are reflected in His face and His walk, contributing to the consternation among His disciples and the fear in the crowd. Isaiah prophesies of Jesus’ countenance on this occasion: "I set my face like a flint" (50:7).

But, as in the other announcements of His suffering and death, He concludes the prediction with a promise of triumph. For the fourth time, He predicts He will rise again from the dead on the third day (Matthew 20:19; Luke 18:33). Luke reveals that the disciples "understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (18:34).

Verse 35

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him: Luke does not record this story, but Matthew does. There is a slight difference in Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts. In both narratives, James and John are accompanied by their mother Salome to Jesus to make a request of Him. In Matthew’s account, Salome is represented as being the speaker. But, in Mark’s narrative, James and John are the speakers. There is really no contradiction here. All three are represented as being present, and clearly the request of the mother is also that of the sons.

saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire: The question is almost childish in its simplicity. The disciples try to get Jesus to agree to their request before they actually reveal what it is.

Verse 36

And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

Jesus is not coerced into making a rash promise. He makes them state plainly and frankly what they want.

Verse 37

They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

James and John envision Jesus sitting upon His royal throne, surrounded by His royal servants; and now, they attempt to guarantee their own positions of highest honor. To sit on the right hand and left hand of the king are the most honorable positions within a kingdom. It seems bizarre that two of Jesus’ most favored disciples would make such an ambitious request so soon after He has foretold of His own suffering and death. They are probably thinking of Jesus’ promise that in the future kingdom the disciples would sit on twelve thrones with the Lord Jesus (Matthew 19:28). It is possible they feel there is going to be some sort of crisis on this journey to Jerusalem, and they want to assure their positions in the kingdom now.

Matthew’s account (20:20-21) suggests that Salome, the mother of James and John, put the idea into her sons’ heads. It is probable that she is the sister of Christ’s mother (15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25). Consequently, James and John would be first cousins of Jesus, a relationship that would encourage their hope of preferential treatment.

Verse 38

But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: Jesus does not rebuke them for their misunderstanding of the nature of the kingdom, but He does correct them. He tells them they really do not know what they are asking. They do not understand that entrance into the kingdom is through suffering and that those who would reign with Him must also be ready to suffer with Him (Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12).

can ye drink of the cup that I drink of: "Drinking of a cup" is often used in the Old Testament as a metaphor, referring to the full undergoing of an unpleasant experience. Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22 refers to the "cup of God’s fury." Jesus speaks of His "cup of bitter suffering" in Gethsemane (14:36).

And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: This is a synonymous expression. Plummer offers this interesting observation:

Regarding troubles as a flood in which one is plunged is also common in literature (Psalms 18:16; Psalms 69:1-2, etc.). But here more may be meant. Baptism is immersion with security against sinking; rising again follows. It was therefore a very fit metaphor for the Passion, and Christ had used it before (Luke 12:49-50); but Mark alone reproduces it here. Baptism into water inaugurated the earthly work of the Messiah; baptism into death is to inaugurate His return to glory (247).

Verse 39

And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

And they said unto him, We can: Swete calls this:

...a lighthearted and eager reply, which reveals the absence even in a disciple like John of any clear understanding of the Master’s repeated warnings, and at the same time the loyalty of the men who were ready to share the Master’s lot, whatever that might be (237).

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: Jesus does not question the self-estimation of James and John and actually foretells of their future suffering for His sake. James is the first apostle to suffer martyrdom. He is executed by the sword at the orders of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2). John is imprisoned and beaten (Acts 4:3; Acts 5:18; Acts 5:40), is banished to the isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9), and eventually dies of natural causes after a long life. The subsequent legends of John’s being thrown into a pot of boiling oil and of his having drunk a cup of poison in the presence of Domitian probably arises from a desire to find a literal fulfillment of this verse.

Verse 40

But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Jesus points out that the degrees and positions of eminence in the church and in heaven are not given out to kinsmen and political friends, but they are gained through faithful service and loyalty to Christ as is decreed in God’s eternal counsel (Matthew 20:23 "prepared of my Father"). They cannot now be altered by the Mediator (see Matthew 24:36; Matthew 25:34; Luke 12:32; Acts 1:7; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:11).

Verse 41

And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.

It is interesting that there is no record of the nine being jealous of Peter, James, and John when the Lord earlier shows them preference (at the house of Jairus and on the Mount of Transfiguration). The difference here could be that Peter is excluded from the request of the two brothers and, feeling offended, leads the others in their indignation. Possibly it is the fact the brothers request preferential treatment that angers the others. The bitter feeling threatens the harmony of the apostles and could create a faction among them. Ironically, the very same spirit that causes James and John to ask for exalted positions in the kingdom is what motivates the others to anger. We sometimes condemn in others the very things of which we are guilty.

Verse 42

But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.

But Jesus called them to him: Jesus has gently rebuked the two brothers; now He calls all of the disciples around Himself to rebuke and teach them concerning this important matter.

and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: Jesus meets this potential crisis among His disciples by contrasting the ideas of greatness among the Gentile world system with the meaning of greatness in the spiritual kingdom.

It was pomp and circumstance, privilege and power, position and authority in the Gentile world, which was esteemed great, and the greatness of the individual came from his place in the system (Wuest 212).

The heathen rulers are tyrants who "lorded it over" their subjects, and made them feel the crushing weight of their power. Barclay says, "Galba was to sum up the heathen idea of kingship and greatness when he said that now he was emperor he could do what he liked and do it to anyone" (257).

and their great ones exercise authority upon them: This statement refers to the great officials who act from delegated authority from the king. Generally, these delegates are just as bad as the monarch, or even worse.

Verse 43

But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

But so shall it not be among you: Jesus points out that the conditions that determine their relations to one another are quite different. Even though Jesus has already pointed out that it is the childlike spirit of humility and submissiveness that is esteemed in the kingdom (9:36; 10:15), the disciples have not yet grasped that truth.

but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: The word "minister" is from diakonos and means "a servant seen in his activity of serving" (Wuest 212). In essence, this is the same teaching Jesus gives earlier (9:35-57); but now He uses a different form. His statement is an amazing paradox and cuts squarely across the grain of our commonly accepted views. He is saying that in the kingdom greatness will be attained by humble service to others.

Verse 44

And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

Jesus continues His paradoxical concept. The one who is the greatest in the kingdom is the one who does the greatest service for his fellow man. The word "servant" is the word doulos and is literally translated "slave" (Wuest 212), implying absolute surrender to God and Christ and resulting in true freedom. Barclay adds these comments:

We tend to think this is an ideal state of affairs, but, in point of fact, it is the soundest common sense. It is in fact the first principle of ordinary everyday business life. Bruce Barton points out that the basis on which a motor company will claim the patronage of prospective customers is that they will crawl under your car oftener and get themselves dirtier than any of their competitors. They are in other words prepared to give more service. He points out that although the ordinary clerk may go home at 5:30 p.m., the light will be seen burning in the office of the chief executive long into the night. It is his willingness to give the extra service that makes him head of the firm (257).

Verse 45

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto: The phrase "For even" can be translated "For what is more" (Thayer 315), implying additional reason to support what has just been said. As the Messiah, the King of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus gives service...He does not demand service for Himself. He often receives service, but that is not the reason for His coming into the world. Here "He does not say that He was sent (9:37), but that He came--of His own free will--to minister, and to give--of His own free will--His life" (Plummer 250).

but to minister: The Apostle Paul says, "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7).

and to give his life a ransom: Jesus now describes the ultimate service that He purposes to give. A "ransom" is the price paid to redeem one from death (Exodus 21:30) or slavery (Leviticus 25:51). This word beautifully proclaims the vicarious nature of Jesus’ death.

Anything that releases any one from a state of punishment or suffering, or sin, is a ransom. Men are captives to sin. They are under condemnation (Ephesians 3:3; Romans 3:9; Romans 3:23; Romans 3:30; 1 John 5:9) and exposed to eternal death (Matthew 25:46; Romans 2:6-9). They must have perished unless there had been some way by which they could be released. This was done by the death of Christ; by his giving his life a ransom (Dorris 249-250).

Jesus says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). This is the greatest service, and Jesus comes for the purpose of giving it.

for many: The word "for" is anti and means "instead of" (Marshall 186). Jesus gives His life in the stead of many. He gives His life in their place. His punishment and death are a substitute for the many.

The word "many" (pollon) is contrasted with "one." The giving of one life rescues many (1 Timothy 2:6; John 15:13: 2 Corinthians 5:18; 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:6). The glad tidings of salvation through the ransom paid by Christ is for all who believe in and obey Him. It is not restricted to the few--His friends or His enemies--but it must be proclaimed to all.

Verse 46

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

The last paragraph of this chapter (verses 46-52) is fraught with several minor problems. Again, all three of the Synoptists record this event, but apparently no two of them agree on every point. Mark and Luke mention one blind man while Matthew mentions two. Matthew and Mark say the blind man is healed while Christ is going out of Jericho, and Luke says it occurs as Jesus is approaching the city. Mark and Luke say the blind man is healed with a word, but Matthew says he is healed with a touch. These apparent discrepancies are really not significant and can, for the most part, be explained satisfactorily.

And they came to Jericho: At last the company of Jesus moves down into the Jordan valley and crosses the river over into Judea. Coming up on the western side, they enter the ancient city of Jericho. Immense crowds form as they work their way to the great Passover feast, now only a few days away.

Jericho has a very colorful history. The city has been razed and rebuilt several times. The actual site of the city mentioned here is a couple of miles southeast of the ancient city of Old Testament days. It is located about fifteen miles northeast of Jerusalem and is much lower in altitude. Luke mentions a man who "went down from Jerusalem to Jericho" (Luke 10:30). Herod the Great, who dies in Jericho, has done much to augment and beautify the city, including building an amphitheater and a hippodrome. Its winter climate is pleasant; and its palm trees, rose gardens, and other vegetation give it the appearance of "a little paradise."

and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people: Matthew (20:30) agrees with Mark that this event occurs as the group is leaving Jericho, but Luke (19:35-43) says it happens as they are approaching the city. There are several possible explanations. Some commentators, Coffman among them, believe there are two Jerichos which are just a few miles apart and that the group has just left one of the cities and is approaching the other. But, because Mark’s and Luke’s accounts are so similar, it is very unlikely they would use the same name to refer to two different towns. Another possibility is that Jesus is on His way out of Jericho when He meets Zacchaeus up in a tree. He then reenters the city with Zacchaeus to spend the night; and during His reentry, He meets the blind man and heals him. If this were the case, the word "entered" in Luke would have to have the meaning of "reentered from the other side." This conclusion seems unlikely. Still, another possible explanation is there are two separate and distinct cases of healing the blind--one as Jesus enters the city (Luke 19:35-43); the other as He leaves (Matthew and Mark). Regardless of the proper explanation, we know of a certainty, according to Mark’s account, that at this time the Lord and His companions have passed through Jericho and are leaving the town, enroute to Jerusalem.

blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging: Matthew 20:30 says, "two blind men." There is no contradiction here. Mark just selects the most prominent one for his narrative and does not mention the other (the Gadarene demoniac Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 8:28). The name "Bartimaeus" means "the son of Timaeus" as Mark explains. Blind beggars are a common sight in Palestine. Vincent says:

Diseases of the eye are very common in the East. Thomson says of Ramich, "The ash-heaps are extremely mischievous; on the occurrence of the slightest wind the air is filled with a fine, pungent dust, which is very injurious to the eyes. I once walked the streets counting all that were either blind or had defective eyes, and it amounted to about one-half the male population. The women I could not count, for they are rigidly veiled" (Land and Book). Palgrave says that ophthalmia is fearfully prevalent, especially among children. "It would be no exaggeration to say that one adult out of every five has his eyes more or less damaged by the consequences of this disease" (115).

Mark says Bartimaeus is sitting by the side of the road that leads from Jericho to Jerusalem and is begging. Although he cannot see, he can hear all who pass by.

Verse 47

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out: The bustle of the crowd tells Bartimaeus something unusual is happening; and upon inquiry, he is told Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. No doubt he has heard of Jesus, and that Jesus has cured other blind men, so he immediately cries out to Him, his voice penetrating the noise of the crowd.

and say, Jesus, thou son of David: Bartimaeus addresses Jesus, not as "Jesus of Nazareth" but as "thou son of David." His statement implies two things: they are now back on Judean soil and Jesus is the Messiah. In Jerusalem, all Jews believe David is their father, but they think of the Messiah as a son of David in a special way. Bartimaeus is convinced that if Jesus is the Messiah, He could give sight to the blind (Isaiah 61:1).

have mercy on me: The word "mercy" is eleeson and means "pity" (Marshall 187). He is asking Jesus to consider his deplorable condition--he is blind and a beggar--and to have pity on him.

Verse 48

And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.

And many charged him that he should hold his peace: The word "charged" is epetimon and means a "severe censure; a sharp rebuke" (Thayer 245). Luke 18:39 points out it is the people in the front of the crowd who try to silence the blind man. It is probable they resent his persistent shouts for attention, feeling it is not in harmony with the dignity of Jesus. It is also possible they are uneasy about the public announcement of Jesus as the "son of David." They know such an announcement would anger their religious leaders, so they try to silence the blind man in order to avoid trouble.

but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me: The efforts of the crowd to silence the blind man seems to have fanned the fires of his persistence. He knows if he is going to be healed, the Son of David (Messiah) is going to have to do it, and he might not have another chance to confront Him.

Verse 49

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called: Luke 18:40 says, "And Jesus stood" (statheis), which may mean that He assumed some sort of conspicuous place. Nevertheless, Jesus stops the procession and passes word to the front of the crowd that the blind man is to be called away from the roadside where he is sitting. Ironically, Jesus makes the people who have been trying to censure the blind man report to him that his cries have been effective. Luke’s account says Jesus tells the people to lead Bartimaeus to Him.

And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee: The crowd perceives Jesus is interested in the beggar and immediately their attitude changes from rebuke to friendliness, indicating their respect for Jesus. The people around Bartimaeus begin to tell him, "Take courage. He is calling you. Get up on your feet because He is calling for you."

Verse 50

And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.

Not everyone is ready to respond to the call of Jesus, but this man is. He perceives this as the opportunity of a lifetime. He throws aside his robe, which, because he was a beggar, may have been the most valuable thing he possesses and which he may never recover. But it is nothing if he can only reach the Messiah.

The word "rose" is anapedesas and means "to leap up, to spring up" (Wuest 214). Bruce says these words show a:

...graphic description of the beggar’s eager response--mantle thrown off, jumping to feet, he comes, runs, to Jesus. Though blind, he needs no guide, led by his ear (Expositor’s Greek New Testament 414-415).

Verse 51

And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee: Jesus tenderly asks this question of Bartimaeus, not because He did not already know what Bartimaeus wants but because He wants Bartimaeus to ask. This requirement is consistent with the general teachings of God that He already knows our needs, but He wants us to ask of Him (James 4:2).

The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight: "Receive my sight" is from anablepo and means to "recover sight" (Wuest 214). These words imply the blind man had been able to see at one time.

Verse 52

And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole: The man’s faith is so great that Christ heals him with a word. Dorris observes:

His faith saved him by leading him to use the means necessary to arrest the attention of Jesus and to secure the blessing desired. In the same way does faith of a sinner save him. Faith alone, or faith without action, could not have opened the blind man’s eyes, nor can it save a sinner from his sins. "Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith" (James 2:24) (253).

And immediately he received his sight: His cure is instantaneous. At one moment he is blind, and now he can see clearly!

And followed Jesus in the way: Bartimaeus now joins the crowd and follows Jesus on to Jerusalem. But he does more than this. Luke 18:43 reveals he praises God, and the people follow his example.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 10". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/mark-10.html. 1993-2022.
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