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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Mark 10

Smith's WritingsSmith's Writings

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Verses 1-52


In this portion of the gospel three important principles are brought before us:- First, we learn that the Lord owns natural relationships as originally established by God, and creature goodness. Marriage is respected (2-12); children are recognised (13-16); and natural uprightness and amiability are acknowledged (17-22). Secondly, we see that the natural relationships that have been established and owned by God, have become corrupted by man. The marriage relationship has been marred by the hardness of man's heart (5); children are despised as of small account (13), and natural integrity and earthly possessions are used to separate the soul from God, and hinder men from entering into the Kingdom of God (22, 23). Thirdly, such being the failure of the natural man, those that follow Christ into the kingdom, must, in this present world, be prepared for suffering. However great the earthly riches, the one that follows Christ must take up the cross (21); face persecution (30), and be prepared to take a lowly place in this world, in view of the world to come (44). Of such a path, Christ, as the lowly Servant, is the perfect example (33, 34, 45).

(Vv. 1-12). The relationship of marriage is introduced by the Pharisees coming to the Lord with the question, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" Evidently they had no real desire to learn the truth, for we read, they were "tempting Him." Apparently they hoped that by the Lord's answer they would be able either to accuse Him of ignoring what Moses said, or else sanctioning the loose customs that prevailed amongst the people. As usual, when men in their folly seek to tempt the Lord they themselves are thoroughly exposed.

The Lord meets the question, "Is it lawful?" by appealing to the law. "What did Moses command you?" In their reply they sought to turn aside the Lord's question by speaking, not of what Moses commanded, but of what Moses allowed (N. Tr.). So doing they unwittingly exposed the hardness of their hearts. They neglected the positive commands of Moses, and speak only of special precepts instituted to meet their own hardness. The commands met God's heart for man; the precepts as to divorce were to meet their hearts.

Having exposed the hardness of man's heart the Lord presents the truth of the marriage relationship according to the creation order established by God from the beginning. Thus the Lord puts His sanction upon the marriage tie, and enables the Christian to take up the relationship according to the order of creation and not according to the precepts of men.

In the house the Lord further instructs His disciples as to the solemnity of annulling the marriage tie in order to indulge the desires of the flesh towards another woman. In God's sight this is to fall into the most degrading sin.

(Vv. 13-16). In the next incident we see that even the disciples were strangers to the mind of the Lord as to little children. Apparently they thought the Lord was too great to notice these little ones, and they too insignificant to attract His attention. In rebuking those who brought their young children to be blessed by the Lord they entirely misrepresented their Master, failed to see what is beautiful in a child, and denied the principles of the Kingdom that they professed to preach.

The action of the disciples arouses the righteous indignation of the Lord. He meets their poor thoughts by saying, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." There is a welcome in His heart for the weak and simple. Even though the root of sin be in them, yet their simplicity and confidence are the outstanding marks of those who enter the Kingdom of God. And even as He took these little ones into His arms and blessed them, so will the everlasting arms be under all those who in simplicity and confidence put their trust in Him, and His hands be lifted up to bless them ( Deu_33:2 ; Deu_33:7 : Luk_24:50 ).

(Vv. 17-22). In the incident that follows we learn that creature excellence, and earthly possessions, however right in their place, not only can give no entrance into the Kingdom of God, but may be a real barrier to blessing. Nature at its best has no sense of its need of Christ, and no true apprehension of the glory of Christ.

There was much that was excellent in this rich man. He was full of youthful ardour for he came "running." He was ready to admit the superiority of Christ for he reverently "kneeled" to Him. He was desirous to do right, for he asks, "What shall I do?" Outwardly his character was excellent. He had not been depraved by the indulgence of sin. He had kept the outward law. There was much that was lovely in his character - the fruit of creation - that called forth the Lord's esteem and love. As one has said, "He was amiable and well disposed and ready to learn that which is good; he had witnessed the excellence of the life and works of Jesus and his heart was touched at what he had seen" (J.N.D.).

Yet all this natural excellence left him without any true appreciation of the Person and glory of Christ, or any true sense of the state and need of his own heart. He could discern the pre-eminent excellence of Christ as a Man, but he could not discern the glory of His Person as the Son of God. Nature, however excellent, cannot discern God is Christ. So the Lord can say to Peter, on another occasion, "Blessed art thou . . . for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." The Lord, taking the young man up on his own ground, will not admit that man is good, "There is none good but one, that is, God." Christ, indeed, was good, out He was God. He was always God, and God became man without ceasing to be, or being able to cease being, God" (J.N.D.).

Moreover, having no sense of his need, the young man does not ask "What must I do to be saved?" but "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" His fine natural disposition blinded him to the fact that, in spite of all his good qualities he was a lost sinner in need of salvation. The Lord draws aside the veil and exposes the true state of his heart, by telling him to "Go, sell that thou hast, and come and follow Me." This brings to light the solemn fact that in spite of his amiable and excellent character, he had a heart that prefers money to Christ; thus we read, "He was sad and went away grieved." How entirely this proves there is no good in man for God. An excellent character is no indication of the moral state of the heart. Truly one has written, "The thing that governs the heart, its motive, is the true measure of man's moral state, and not the qualities which he possesses by birth, however pleasing these may be. Good qualities are to be found even in animals; they are to be esteemed, but they do not at all reveal the moral state of the heart." (J.N.D.)

Christ, Himself was the perfect example of the course that He proposed for the young Man. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." ( 2Co_8:9 ). Not discerning the glory of the Lord, this young man failed to see His grace. We never see His grace until we have seen His glory.

(Vv. 23-27). Knowing the effect of His words upon the disciples, the Lord, as He looks upon them, presses home the lesson we are to learn from this young man, by saying, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" These words were an astonishment to the disciples, who, with their Jewish thoughts of earthly blessing looked upon riches and possessions as a mark of God's favour. Moreover the thought in their heart, as with ourselves too often, was possibly, if only we had riches how much good we might be able to do. To meet these difficulties the Lord shows that the great danger of riches lies in the fact that men think they can secure salvation and the blessings of the Kingdom by means of riches, and thus put their trust in riches. Let us note that the Lord does not speak of a literally rich man, but of one that trusts in riches. This is a danger to which the poorest in actual possessions is exposed equally with the one who possesses most. The Lord uses a figure to show how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. With astonishment the disciples ask, "Who then can be saved?" In reply the Lord tells us, "With men it is impossible, but not with God." Their question would indicate that the thought lingered in their minds that in some measure at least their salvation depended upon themselves. They had to learn, as we all have to learn, that our salvation is wholly the work of God, and not of man at all. Neither law nor nature, riches or poverty have any part in the saving of the soul. Salvation rests wholly in the power of God's grace, and what is impossible for man is possible with God. Thus we read, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." ( Eph_2:4-9 ).

(Vv. 28-31). Peter suggests that the twelve had taken the course that the Lord had set before the young man, and asks, as it were, what they should have? The Lord replies that they would gain a hundredfold now in this time, with persecutions, and in the coming age eternal life. If we leave the circle of our unconverted and natural relations, we shall find we are in the far larger circle of the family of God. This may result in a measure of persecution from the world circle that we have left, but it is the pathway into life. The Lord's words, however, indicate that it is not the mere fact of leaving all that will be rewarded, but doing so from a right motive. It must lot be done to exalt self, or even gain a reward but as the Lord says, "For my sake and the gospel's."

The Lord adds a searching word, "But many that are first shall be last; and the last first." This would surely be a warning word against the self-complacency to which we are all so prone, and which apparently marked the words of Peter when he said, "Lo, we have left all." What, indeed, lad he left, but a few old nets that wanted mending! Let us beware of boasting in what we have given up for Christ. It has been well said, "It is not the beginning of the race that decides the contest; the end of it is necessarily the great point. In that race there are many changes, and withal not a few slips, falls and reverses." The real question is not what we have left in the past, but what are we doing today?

(Vv. 32-34) The twelve had left all to follow Christ; but so little had they counted the cost, that at once they find themselves in a path that fills them with fear. "They were amazed" as they see the Lord deliberately taking a path that will involve trial and persecution, and they were afraid for themselves. The Lord does not hide from them the sufferings He was bout to face. He tells them that as the Son of Man he was about to be delivered up to the leaders of the Nation and of the Gentiles, who would heap every insult upon Him, and kill Him, but after three days He would rise again.

(Vv. 35-45) At that time the Lord could not find one amongst the twelve who could enter into His mind, feel with Him, or understand the need of His sufferings. Possessed with the thought of a kingdom on earth James and John come forward with a desire for a high position, close to the Lord's Person, in the kingdom. There was true faith that the kingdom was going to be established, but, as so often with ourselves, there was a good deal of unjudged flesh intruding into the realm of faith. They viewed the kingdom as an opportunity for their own advancement, rather than as the sphere for the display of the glory of Christ. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," whether it be in obscure saints or leading apostles; and how often since that time has the ugliness of the flesh especially betrayed itself in those that seem to be somewhat.

The Lord turns this fleshly question into an occasion for instruction. He presses that the path to the glory of the kingdom is through suffering. He alone could accomplish redemption by the sufferings of the cross when forsaken by God. But the disciples should have the privilege of drinking the cup of suffering from the hands of men. Moreover if He could assure to them the privilege of suffering for His Name's sake, He could not give them a place at His right hand in the kingdom. He had taken the place of the Servant, and He leaves to the Father to say who shall have a place of special privilege in the day of glory.

Furthermore, the flesh betrays itself in the ten whose indignation with James and John proved that jealousy was at work in their own hearts. One has said, "It is not alone by the fault of one or another that the flesh becomes apparent, but how do we behave ourselves in the presence of the displayed faults of others? The indignation that broke out in the ten shewed the pride of their own hearts, just as much as the two desiring the best place."

Jesus calls them to Himself and corrects the fleshly thoughts of the two disciples and the ten, by setting before them the path of true greatness. If He cannot give them the chief place in glory, He can shew them the path that leads there. The One who takes the lowest place on earth as the bondman of all, will have the highest place in glory. Of such a path the Son of Man was the perfect pattern.

( Mar_10:4-52 ; Mar_11:1-26 ) REJECTION OF THE KING

In each of the first three Gospels the Lord's entry into Jerusalem, and the miracle by which sight is given to the blind man, introduces the closing events that lead to His death and resurrection. His life upon earth as the Son of Man who came to minister in lowly grace is finished. Now He presents Himself to Jerusalem as the Son of David - the promised Messiah. His rejection as the perfect Servant of Jehovah is followed by His rejection as the Son of David, and both prepare the way for His yet greater service of giving His life as a ransom for many as the Son of Man.

( Mar_10:45-52 ) The Lord enters Jericho - the city of the curse - not in judgment to execute the curse, but in lowly grace that was about to bear the curse. Passing out of the city we hear of a blind man sitting by the wayside begging. May we not say that the physical condition of the blind man sets forth the moral condition of the nation? The Messiah was present with grace and power to bless, but the nation, as such, was blind both to the glory of His Person, and to its own deep need. All they could see in Jesus was a despised Nazarene.

In contrast to the crowd, Bartimaeus was conscious of his need, and his own helplessness to meet his need. As ever it is the needy soul that is attracted to Jesus, and that discerns His glory. The people may speak of Jesus as a Nazarene, but faith can discern in that lowly Man the Son of David, the One of whom it is written that He would "open the blind eyes" ( Isa_42:7 ). Thus the blind man can "cry out, and say, Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me."

As ever, when a soul is seeking Jesus there will be hindrances to overcome. Many would have the blind man hold his peace, and not have the Lord disturbed by a beggar. But faith rising above every hindrance, cried out the more a great deal, and grace on the part of the Lord "stood still" and commanded him to be called. Casting away his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. Good, indeed, when conscious of our need, and discerning something of the glory of Jesus, we cast away the garment of any righteousness of our own in which we might trust, and come to Jesus just as we are, in all our need and helplessness. Very blessedly, when the Lord asks, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" the blind man replies, "That I might receive my sight." The Lord takes the place of the doer, and the blind man accepts the place of the receiver. At once the Lord acknowledges this simple faith. The blind man receives his sight and "followed Jesus in the way," from henceforth to be His disciple. He did not attempt to follow Jesus in order to receive his sight; but having received the blessing he became a follower. We must first receive the blessings of salvation and forgiveness through what Christ has done before we can follow Him as an object for our soul's delight.

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 10". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/mark-10.html. 1832.
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