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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Mark 10

Verses 1-52

The Directing of the Early Mind

Mark 10:13

I. 'That He should touch them' not simply 'that they should touch Him'. This latter was quite unnecessary. Touching is the metaphor for influence. There was no difficulty in the heart of Jesus being touched by the children; but it was extremely difficult to arrange that the heart of the children should be touched by Jesus.

II. It is easy for the developed mind to understand the child the developed mind has itself been a child and retains a memoir of its beginning. But it is not at all easy for the child to understand the developed mind that is a stage still in its future. Yet it is by higher models that the child must be touched if it is to have any mental growth. It is not enough that it should be thrown into the company of its equals. Two children of equal age and capacity might play for ever in the Garden of Eden without rising a step higher, if there were not heard betimes a more mature voice walking through the garden in the cool of the day. And I would add that, the more mature the new voice is, the better will it be for the child. A boy's best chance of growth is in associating with people already grown. If you want to make him a poet, do not point him to the model of the village rhymster. Point him to the greatest It is always the voice of the Lord God that develops young Adam.

III. The element of childhood remains in the greatest The perfected soul gathers up its past. It has many mansions in its nature and it prepares a place for all surmounted stages. It can understand the child better than the youth can, for it has a mansion for childhood which the youth has not. The youth is ever pressing onward and upward; he fain would forget But the mature soul goes back. It lives in sympathy with the things beneath it There is no model so fitted to the heart of the child as that which is planted at the summit of the hill.

G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 181.

References. X. 13, 14. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. iii. p. 241. X. 13-15. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 70. X. 13-16. C. Holland, Gleanings from a Ministry of Fifty Years, p. 60. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No. 581; vol. xxxii. No. 1925.

Mark 10:14

Tenderness is as necessary as courage if a life of sorrow is to be made wholly heroic. The very unselfishness of such a man's work for others is in danger of bringing with it something of isolation as well as of sympathy. Against his will a certain sternness and aridity will infuse itself into his manner and his style....

It is against such an impression of Mazzini as this that his friends are at most pains to guard. They wish us to imagine him as a man kept in deep peace by aspiration only, and by such simple pleasures as are inseparable from the childlike heart They tell us of his playful humour, of the mild brightness of his friendly eyes, of his delight in birds, in flowers, in children.

F. W. H. Myers, Modern Essays.

Luther is said to have remarked upon this text: 'We must not look at this text with the eyes of a calf or of a cow vaguely gaping at a new gate, but do with it as at court, we do with the prince's letters, read it and weigh it again and again, with our most earnest attention'. He particularly refers to its sanction of infant baptism.

Goethe once gave the amazing dictum to Eckermann that if Christ were painted suffering the little children to come unto Him, it would be a picture that expressed nothing at any rate nothing of importance'. Much truer is the remark of Maeterlinck in Wisdom and Destiny: 'When Christ Jesus met the Samaritan woman, met a few children, and the woman who had been an adulteress, then did humanity rise three times in succession to the level of God'.

The Children's Friend

Mark 10:14

As we read the narrative of Christ's life, you will find that not many miracles are recorded to us in anything like fullness of detail, and yet of those miracles you will find that four are given to the children. In four of those miracles do we have a child brought in the arms of faith to a loving Saviour. You will find that they occupy different social stations, from a nobleman's son to an outcast's daughter, and yet each one can claim the loving sympathy and ready help of the Children's Friend.

What then more appropriate sequel to all this interest and kindness could you have than that, on His last journey, His tragical journey to death, there should be a troop of these little children brought to the Children's Friend? His disciples rebuked those that brought them. 'But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased.' This is a very strong word used of Jesus Christ. In fact it is the only time in the whole of the Gospel narrative that such a strong word is ever used of Him. 'Much displeased;' you will find the same Greek word used in the Gospel narrative of the ten disciples when they heard that James and John had tried to secure the best places in the coming kingdom, and there it is translated 'Moved with indignation'. We can therefore quite consistently translate our passage, 'When Jesus saw it, He was moved with indignation'.

I. Take Heed lest you Stand in the Way of a Little One Coming to Jesus, or He will be moved with indignation. Through three long years He had borne with them with infinite patience; misunderstandings He had tolerated, ignorance He had enlightened, jealousy He had put on one side; but when at last they would stand in the way of the children and keep the children from Him, then He seemed to be overpowered with a sense of the injustice and the wrong, and He was moved with indignation. In the light of this narrative let us be careful what we do in the interests of the children. For if this patient Christ could be moved with indignation at the men who would keep the children back from Him, I pity the men Today who are doing the like thing. I pity the man who has first polluted the childlike innocence.

II. What Is the Reason for this Sympathy? We have it in the words, 'Of such is the kingdom of God'. A traveller in a far-off country comes across a piece of scenery that is just like that to which he is familiar in his homeland. Among strangers, speaking an unknown tongue, he one day comes across one with whom he can hold converse, and he says,' How refreshing this is. It reminds me of home.' And so it was with Jesus Christ. Moving along this earth of ours, desolated through sin, where He was indeed a lonely stranger, ever and again He came across these fragrant little flowers, which reminded Him of those which grow on the mossy banks of the heavenly kingdom, and when He saw their innocence and guilelessness and purity, He felt, 'That is like home,' and He grasped the treasure in His embrace. 'Of such is the kingdom of God.' And so we thank those disciples for their interruption and their action, if only for the gracious response which it drew out from the Saviour.

References. X. 14. W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 104. X. 14-16. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 357. X. 15. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Holy-Tide Teaching, p. 35. X. 15, 16. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. x. p. 275.

Mark 10:16

'Artists,' says Dostoieffsky in one of his novels, 'always draw the Saviour as one who is acting in some story related in the Gospels. I should do differently. I should represent Christ alone the disciples did leave Him alone occasionally. I should paint one little child left with Him; this child had been playing about with Him, and had probably just been telling the Saviour something in its pretty, baby prattle. Christ had listened to it, but was now musing one hand rested on the child's bright head; His eyes gazing out with a far-off expression. Thought great as the universe was in His eyes. His face was sad. The little one leant its elbow on Christ's knee, and with its cheek resting on its hand, gazed up at Him as only children gaze. The sun was setting. And there you have my picture.'

References. X. 16. H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 86. R. Collyer, Where the Light Dwelleth, p. 105.

'Then Jesus, Beholding Him, Loved Him'

Mark 10:17

Let us consider the subject of the young man of great possessions coming to our Lord, and the wonderful fact that is recorded of him, that Jesus beholding him, loved him.

I. What was There that Attracted this Divine Love in this young man? Was it not that every word of the young man was verily and indeed true? But there was in his heart a feeling of insufficiency. There was something more to be done, to be learned. He had tried to keep his life pure, he had tried to keep away from the allurements of wealth, and he had done well, but somehow there was something lacking. He felt that his character was not yet formed, that there was some trial, some treatment from on high, that was necessary to perfect his character, and a perfect character he would have. So he comes to our Lord with that desire in his heart, and our Lord gives him the answer, and his heart leaps. 'One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor.'

II. A Tremendous Charge. This young man wanted an answer to his question, and expected a hard one, but not so hard, and he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Tradition tells us that this young man was Lazarus, of whom it is said again that the Lord loved Lazarus and his sisters, and we can see how his heart was touched. 'And the Lord, beholding him, loved him,' and that love would not let him go. It followed him even through death, and coming back from death it caught him, and Lazarus in the end gave up all. Not for reward. We never hear of him again. He disappears from our sight after the wonder of his recall from the dead. No, no great reward, but only the fact that he did give up all and followed Jesus.

III. Self-sacrifice must Mark the Life of Every Christian. The life that is not marked by self-sacrifice is not the life of a true disciple of the Lord. To some the call comes Today just as it did to that young man, but this is not the case with everybody. The call comes in different ways to every person, and it i 3 for every soul to realize the voice of Jesus in guiding his life.

a. Sometimes the command will come to us at a crisis in our life.

b. Sometimes in the most sacred moments of our Eucharistic Feast.

c. Sometimes in the still, small, persistent voice of our conscience.

Then somehow we get to know that our Lord would have us give up something for His sake and we must be ready.

They who learn the power of giving up for the Master and giving up for others learn indeed the secret of true joy.

References. X. 17. C. Stanford, Expository Sermons on the New Testament, p. 57. T. Sadler, Sunday Thoughts, pp. 201, 250. W. Webb-Peploe, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p. 368. R. Duckworth, ibid. vol. xliv. 1893, p. 267. X. 17-21. J. B. M. Grimes, ibid. vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 346. X. 17-22. A. B. Davidson, The Called of God, p. 301. Richard Glover, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 350. J. McNeill, Regent Square Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 49; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxv. 1904, p. 131. X. 17-27. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 74. X. 17-45. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2946. X. 18. A. B. Bruce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 219.

The Distinctiveness of Christian Morality

Mark 10:20-21

These are the words of that young man who won the love of Jesus before he had embraced the cause of Jesus. It is something to know that one can win the love of Christ before he calls himself a Christian that the Divine eye recognizes a virtue conferred by nature as well as a virtue derived from grace.

I. The question the young man asked was really this: In what respect does Christianity differ from the Ten Commandments? What is there in your doctrine that can give it a more permanent life than can be claimed by these precepts of Moses? He tells Jesus that, so far as his consciousness goes, he has kept undeviatingly the law of these commandments. He asks what more can be wanted to make him a Christian.

II. The answer of Christ is striking: 'Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor'. If we would see its significance, we must look at the Spirit, and not the mere form of the words. Let me try to paraphrase what our Lord means: 'You say you have given to every one his due. It is well; I admit your integrity in this respect. But is this the measure of all possible integrity? Is it the climax of goodness when a man can say that he has rendered to every one his due? It is the climax of justice; but is justice the highest step on the ladder of goodness? No; there is a step beyond justice generosity. It is not enough that you give to your brother what he has a legal right to; you must impart to him that to which he has no legal right. You have done well to respect his person, to keep your hands from his property, to abstain from calumniating his name. But after all, that is only a refraining of the hand. Is there to be no outstretching of the hand?

III. Are you content with doing your brother no wrong? Is there no good that you can do him? You have not killed your brother; but have you enlarged his life? You have not stolen; but have you added to his store? You have not defamed; but have you spread his virtues? You have brought him no domestic dispeace; but have you brought him domestic joy? You have refused to covet his possessions; but have you ever coveted possessions for him? If not, there remaineth for you a rest that is still unachieved.

G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 185.

Reference. X. 20-22. James Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life (2nd Series), p. 13.

Jesus' Appreciation of Morality

Mark 10:21

When it is recorded in this vivid Gospel, as by one who had seen the affection in the Master's eye, that Jesus loved the young ruler, we ought to allow their full meaning to the words.

I. Upon the face of it Jesus did not regard a person who is moral, but not religious, as utterly depraved.

To say that people who are not pious are depraved is an absurdity, for we know that many persons who are not religious practise higher morals, in business especially, than some who are. When Jesus considered this young man's life the Master loved him, and He did not love what was not good.

II. Jesus' appreciation of the young ruler also reminds us that the more morality there is in the community, the better both for Church and State.

III. And Jesus' treatment of this excellent young man suggests that one object of Jesus' mission is to raise morality into spirituality. Morality is like the clean and well-chiselled marble of the ancient story, beautiful, but cold. When the Spirit of Jesus touches it the stone reddens and lives. Religion is morality touched with emotion, till, instead of duty we speak of love, and to the treasure of a good conscience and an honourable life are added the peace which passeth all understanding, the joy unspeakable and full of glory and that vision of God which in itself is life everlasting.

It was not in vain that the young ruler kept the commandments; it was because he kept them that Jesus loved him. It is not in vain that any man has lived bravely outside religion, it is because he has done so well that Jesus desires to have him for a disciple. Our Lord has a welcome for all men who will come to Him, even the thief upon the cross; but of only one seeker in the Gospels is it written that Jesus loved him. He was not a reprobate, nor was he a Pharisee, he was a well-living and high-minded man. When, therefore, one like the young ruler approaches Jesus, the Master sees a man after His own heart When such a man refuses the cross which alone can raise him to his full manhood the Master is bitterly disappointed. And that man suffers the chief loss of life.

J. Watson (Ian Maclaren), The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 98.

Mark 10:21

In the morning my servant brought me word that Levett was called to another state, a state for which, I think, he was not unprepared, for he was very useful to the poor.

Dr. Johnson's Letters.

The purest forms of our own religion have always consisted in sacrificing less things to win greater; time, to win eternity; the world, to win the skies. The order, sell that thou hast, is not given without the promise thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and well for the modern Christian if he accepts the alternative as his Master left it and does not practically read the command and promise thus: Sell that thou hast in the best market, and thou shalt have treasure in eternity also.

Ruskin's Queen of the Air, sec. 50.

References. X. 21. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2946. J. Clifford, The Dawn of Manhood, p. 1. Caroline Fry, Christ Our Example, p. 102. R. W. Church, The Gifts of Civilization, p. 27. David Ross, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. 1897, p. 42. A. Balmain Bruce, ibid. vol. liv. 1898, p. 359. George Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p. 246. X. 21, 22. J. H. Gurney, Plain Preaching to Poor People (5th Series), p. 13. X. 21, 28-30. Stopford A. Brooke, The Fight of Fate, p. 254. X. 22. C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p. 217; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892, p. 264. X. 23. W. Hudson Shaw, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 131. X. 23-26. C. Gore, The New Theology and the Old Religion, p. 274; see also Church Times, vol. lvi. 1906, p. 398, and Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 209. X. 23-27. J. S. Swan, Short Sermons, p. 55.

Mark 10:25

Even a desirable mansion may come in useful for some purpose. But you, if any way possible, clear out of it, your place is not there, and between these walls, built on the despair and degradation of others, you will find it as hard to lead a pure life as is it for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The evil base of our society eats right through. That our wealthy homes are founded on the spoliation of the poor vitiates all the life that goes on within them.

From Edward Carpenter, England's Ideal.

Of riches, in particular, as of all the grossest species of prosperity, the perils are recorded by all moralists; and ever, as of old, must the sad observation from time to time occur: Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle! Riches in a cultured community... are the readiest to become a great blessing or a great curse. 'Beneath gold thrones and mountains,' says Jean Paul, 'who knows how many giant spirits lie entombed?' The first fruit of riches, especially for the man born rich, is to teach him faith in them, and all but hide from him that there is any other faith.

Carlyle on Goethe's Works.

Avarice is rarely the vice of a young man: it is rarely the vice of a great man: but Marlborough was one of the few who have, in the bloom of youth, loved lucre more than wine or women, and who have, at the height of greatness, loved lucre more than power or fame. All the precious gifts which nature had lavished on him he valued chiefly for what they would fetch. At twenty he made money of his beauty and vigour. At sixty he made money of his genius and glory.

Macaulay's History of England, xiv.

The Omnipotence of Faith

Mark 10:27

I. Man with God. Perhaps in no passage has a preposition been more persistently misread than in this saying of Christ. It is usually interpreted as if 'with' were the equivalent of 'to'. Jesus did not say 'to' but 'with'; and the distinction is important. One sets forth the contrast between man's impotence and God's power. The other links the impotent man with the omnipotent God, and makes him strong in the strength of God.

The subject under discussion is salvation. All the resources of humanity at its best are inadequate for salvation; but in salvation we are dealing not with the resources of man but of God, and all things are possible with God.

II. The Only Condition of this Fellowship is Power in Faith. The promise is to him that believes. The Scriptures attribute to faith the power: of the Infinite. This is not true of all faith, for all faith is not all-powerful. There are some who trust; God whom God cannot trust. It is the faith that commands confidence to which all things are possible. There are three stages of faith. There is the faith that receives, the faith that reckons, and the faith that risks. By the first we are justified. By the second we are sanctified. By the third we are endued with the gift of power. Faith that goes forward triumphs. The man of faith is omnipotent. Being with God, he becomes as God.

III. What do we Mean by Omnipotence? The explanation of this power in man must be the same; as that given to the attribute of omnipotence in God. When we say all things are possible to God, we mean all things consistent with Himself and with the nature of that on which He works. There is nothing of the magician in God. He does not work by magic, but by law.

So with man. When Jesus assures men that all things are possible through faith, because faith links man with God, He does not mean that there is given him unlimited power for capricious use. Power is subject to law, and is to be exercised according to the will of God.

With God, all man ought to be he can be, and. with God, all man ought to do he can do.

IV. The Impossible Demands of the Kingdom. The kingdom makes impossible demands of all men. Every man finds in his life that which corresponds! to the young ruler's possessions. The last conflict is over some possession whose roots are buried in our hearts, or some call for which we have no strength. Take hold of God, and nothing shall be impossible to you.

The kingdom demands the impossible in character as well as in its conditions of entrance.

The fig-tree that Jesus cursed is a parable. The kingdom of Christ demands that every false and unholy thing shall be destroyed from the root. He did not come to regulate sin, but to destroy it.

God's call is always to the impossible, but He blots the word out of the Christian's vocabulary by making all things possible with him.

S. Chadwick, Humanity and God, p. 157.

References. X. 28-30. Eugene Bersier, Sermons, p. 311. X. 29. E. H. Bickersteth, Thoughts in Past Years, p. 261. X. 30. B. Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 291. X. 32. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVl. p. 81. X. 32-52. W. H Bennett, The Life of Christ According to St. Mark, p. 157. X. 33. A. Baker, Addresses and Sermons, p. 66.

Mark 10:35

In society and politics we call those great who have devoted their energies to some noble course, or haves influenced the course of things in some extraordinary way. But in every instance, whether in art, science, or religion, or public life, there is an universal condition, that a man shall have forgotten himself in his work. If any fraction of his attention is given to the honours or rewards which success will bring him, there will be a taint of weakness in what he does.

Froude's Beaconsfield, p. 259.

References. X. 35. E. E. Cleal, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 295. X. 35-45. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 90.

Mark 10:39

'I bless my God,' Samuel Rutherford once wrote, 'that there is a death and a heaven. I would weary to begin again to be a Christian, so bitter is it to drink of the cup that Christ drank of, if I knew not that there is no poison in it.'

And again: 'There is no question but that our King and Lord shall be master of the fields at length. And we would all be glad to divide the spoil with Christ, and to ride in triumph with Him; but, oh, how few will take a cold bed of straw in the camp with Him!'

References. X. 42-45. H. C. Beeching, The Grace of Episcopacy, p. 1. X. 43, 44. N. Boynton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 136. X. 43-45. A. Pearson, Sermons for the People (2nd Series), vol. ii. p. 198.

Mark 10:44

With Hildebrand... the action of the Church as a party or a power came before all thoughts of its higher duties.

Freeman, William, the Conqueror, vi.

References. X. 44. G. Campbell Morgan, The Missionary Manifesto, p. 143. X. 45. J. E. Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 346. H. Hensley Henson, ibid. vol. lxv. 1904, p. 177. X. 46. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 95. X. 46-48. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. 1900, p. 344. X. 46-52. J. Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 323. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 400. B. D. Johns, Pulpit Notes, p. 24. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 351. R. Higinbotham, Sermons, p. 122. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. li. No. 2955; vol. v. No. 266. X. 47. M. Guy Pearse, Jesus Christ and the People, p. 177. X. 47, 48. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 645.

The Principle of Christ's Selection

Mark 10:49

You will observe Jesus called the blind man while he was yet in his blindness. This is the most significant and the most suggestive feature of the narrative.

I. We all feel the value and the glory of religious light; but it is a great mistake to imagine that religious light is essential to a man's call. We have come to look upon the intellectual perplexities of a human soul as a sign that this soul is unconverted. They are no such sign. This man in the streets of Jericho is a typical case. The typical thing about him is not that he regains his sight, but that he comes to Christ before he has regained his sight. The thing that makes him spiritually fit for the kingdom of God is not his vision of the light but his contact with Jesus.

II. The moral would to my mind have been equally effective without the cure. All the men in the streets of Jericho were saying, 'This man's darkness proves him to be outside the kingdom of God'. Jesus says, 'I will refute that belief; bring the man to Me in his present state of dilapidation; bring him with the burden unrelieved and the night unbroken, and even thus I will let him in'.

III. Christ is the only Master that has membership for the benighted. All others cry, 'Get your sight and come'. He says, 'Come and get your sight'. Moses asks cleansing; Socrates desires knowledge; Plato needs philosophy; Buddha seeks worldly renunciation; Confucius demands orderly life; John Baptist requires the fruits of repentance. But Christ will accept the hearing of a voice in the night. He does not ask preliminary morning. He does not ask antecedent vision. He does not ask, for the opening miles, a knowledge of the way. He only appeals to the ear; He says, 'Come'.

G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 89.

References. X. 49. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1389; vol. xxvii. No. 1587. X. 50. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 106.

Mark 10:51

Compare Longfellow's lines on Bartimæus. Also George Macdonald's saying about prayer: 'Him' at gangs to God wi' a sair heid 'ill the suner gang til 'im wi' a sair hert'.

References. X. 51. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2458. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Plain Preaching to Poor People (9th Series), p. 102. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 107. XI. 1; XII. 44. W. H. Bennett, The Life of Christ According to St. Mark, p. 169. XI. 2. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 109. XI. 2-6. Father Benson, Eight Sermons and Addresses, p. 11. XI. 3. S. Baring-Gould, Plain Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 314. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Mark IX.-XVI. p. 119.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Mark 10". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/mark-10.html. 1910.