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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
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Nave's Topical Bible - Gentiles; Thompson Chain Reference - Reversals; The Topic Concordance - Position;
110. The rich young man (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30)
A wealthy young man came to Jesus and asked what special deeds he should do to gain eternal life. Jesus responded that there was no need to ask him, because God had already told him in the Ten Commandments what he should do (Matthew 19:16-19). The man boasted that he had kept most of the commandments, but Jesus saw that at least he had failed in the last, which said ‘Do not covet’. While people around him were suffering from hunger and poverty, he was building up wealth. His desire for comfort and prosperity prevented him from giving himself to God, and so prevented him from receiving eternal life. If he wanted eternal life, he would have to get rid of the things that stood in its way (Matthew 19:20-22).
Wealth makes people independent of others, and for this reason the rich often find it difficult to acknowledge that they are not independent of God. Their wealth makes them no better in God’s sight than anyone else. As a result few of the rich enter the kingdom of God. Actually, no one at all could enter that kingdom apart from the work of God. By his grace he accepts those who humble themselves before him (Matthew 19:23-26).
Nevertheless, those who make sacrifices for the sake of Jesus will find that what they receive in eternity is incomparably greater than anything they may have lost in the present world. They may have to sacrifice wealth, status, family or friends, but in the age to come they will reign with Christ (Matthew 19:27-30).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/mark-10.html. 2005.
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
This was addressed particularly, in this context, to Peter's question of "what shall we have?" What every man is to receive does not derive from his being first in the service of Jesus, but depends upon how faithfully he continues in the Lord's service. Judas was one of the first; and, among the apostles, Paul was the last; but in the events recorded in the New Testament, it turned out that Judas was last and Paul first. Matthew's account placed the parable of the laborers in the vineyard next after the events here; and, in that parable, this principle was elaborated (Matthew 20:1-16).
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/mark-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
An hundred-fold - One hundred times as much.
In this time - In this life. In the time that he forsakes all.
Houses ... - This cannot be taken literally, as promising a hundred times as many “mothers, sisters,” etc. It means, evidently, that the loss shall be a hundred times “compensated” or made up; or that, in the possession of religion, we have a hundred times the “value” of all we forsake. This consists in the pardon of sin, in the favor of God, in peace of conscience, in support in trials and in death, and in raising up “friends” in the place of those who are left - “spiritual brethren, and sisters, and mothers,” etc. And this corresponds to the experience of all who ever became Christians. At the same time. it is true that godliness is profitable “for all things,” having the promise of the life that is, as well as of that which is to come. See the notes at 1 Timothy 4:8. “The favor of God” is the security for every blessing. Obedience to his law secures industry, temperance, chastity, economy, prudence, health, and the confidence of the world - all indispensable to success in life, and all connected. commonly, with success. Though the wicked “sometimes” prosper, yet the “surest” way of prosperity is to fear God and keep his commandments. Thus will all “needed” blessings descend on us “here,” and “eternal” blessings hereafter.
With persecutions - Persecutions, or the contempt of the world, and bodily sufferings on account of their religion, they “must” meet. Jesus did not conceal this; but he consoled them. He assured them that “amid” these, or perhaps it should be rendered “after” these, they should find friends and comfort. It is well to bear trial if “God” be our Friend. With the promises of the Bible in our hand, we may hail persecutions, and thank God that, amid so many sorrows, he has furnished such abundant consolations.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/mark-10.html. 1870.
Mark's gospel chapter 10:
And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he wont [was accustomed], he taught them again ( Mark 10:1 ).
Now, Jesus is leaving the area of the Galilee for the last time. He is on His way to Jerusalem to be crucified. He knows this. He presently will be telling the disciples this. They still do not understand; it's still, to them, a mystery. But yet, it's very clear in the mind of Christ, and so you have to realize that He is now knowingly on His way to Jerusalem to be crucified and, of course, to rise again. So, He leaves the area of the Galilee. He arose from there, the area of Galilee, and He came to the area of Judea. So, He's moving south towards Jerusalem. He's on the far side of the Jordan River, so He's coming down in the area of the Ammonites and the Moabites. And the people were still gathering to Him and as was His custom, He was just teaching them.
And the Pharisees came to him, and [they] asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? [And notice, they were] tempting him ( Mark 10:2 ).
This was a lead kind of a question. Obviously they were seeking to trap Him in the answer that He gave. They felt that His answers were contrary to the law given through Moses. And they were hoping to trap Him, to show to the people that were gathered there that He was a heretic, that He was teaching something other than the law of Moses. And so, they asked Him the question, "Is it right for a man to divorce his wife?" Now, in the law, in the book of Deuteronomy, God did say through Moses that if a man married a woman and found some uncleanness in her, he should give her a writing of a bill of divorcement. Now, that is a little vague, not much, but a little. But there are always people who are trying to jump into any little area of controversy, or any area where there might be an excuse for what they want to do.
There were two basic schools of thought taught by the Jews that were headed under famous rabbis. There was a rabbi by the name of Shami. Shami taught that uncleanness meant only that when he married her, he discovered on the marriage night that she was not a virgin, she was not clean; she was not a virgin. And thus, if he discovered that, he had the right to divorce her. And Shami took that very narrow, limited viewpoint that the uncleanness would be adultery on the part of the wife either before or after marriage and that constituted the only grounds for divorce. Now, there was another school headed by the Rabbi Hallel, which took a very liberal interpretation of finding an uncleanness in her. If she didn't dress the way he liked her to, if she was a brawling woman . . . and they interpreted that if you could hear her voice next door, she was counted a brawling woman. Or if she didn't fix the meals to please him, that this constituted an uncleanness in her, and thus he had the right to divorce her for these grounds.
Now, the Jews were quite divided, but naturally, the Hallel side was of greater popularity among the men. And there was one rabbi by the name of Ocabe, and he said that if he found another woman that pleased him more, that constituted an uncleanness in his wife, and so he could divorce her just because he found another woman that pleased him more. Now, naturally, by these liberal interpretations, they made the law totally meaningless. But still, they were divided quite sharply on this particular issue. And so, they brought the issue to Jesus. "Can a man divorce his wife for any cause?"
And he [Jesus] answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered [allowed] to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain [two] shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain [two], but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder ( Mark 10:3-9 ).
So, Jesus, in answering their question, asked them the question, "What did Moses command?" They said, "Moses said we could give her a writing of divorcement and put her away." And they had two different bills of divorcement. The second one became quite technical and had to be written up by a rabbi and then approved by three rabbis, and you could give it to your wife and she officially was put away. But because of the liberal views that they had taken, there was social chaos: children who really were almost orphaned in the sense that they did not have a solid type of a home environment to grow up in. And so Jesus, in talking about marriage and divorce, rather than going to the precept of Moses, He said, "Moses gave you that because of the hardness of your hearts. But in the beginning and from the beginning it was not so." Now we are dealing with God's divine ideal. "From the beginning..." What was God's ideal? What was God's intention?
First of all, there is the recognition that man by himself is not complete. Woman by herself is not complete. God made them male and female, and the two become one. And there's only a wholeness as the two become one. The wife is to compliment the husband and make a completeness, as the husband is to compliment the wife and make a completeness. But neither are complete in themselves. "And in the beginning, God made them male and female. And for this cause a man leaves his mother and father, cleaves to his wife and the two of them become one, one whole, one total. Therefore, those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." And He is dealing now with the basic divine ideal established by God for marriage. And so we must note that Jesus is going back and dealing with the basic ideal and intention of God in the beginning. But man did not live up to God's divine ideal because of the hardness of man's heart, so many times the unwillingness to bend, the unwillingness to forgive, or the unwillingness just to give. For marriage is surely a giving proposition. And the hardness of a man's heart in his unwillingness to bend or to give created intolerable situations. And so, because of the hardness of their hearts towards God's divine ideal, Moses in the law declared, "Let him give her a writing of a bill of divorcement." So Jesus declares the divine ideal of God, recognizing man did not come to it; and thus, God's accommodation through the law to make that separation binding and legal, to go through the writing of divorcement. Today we are faced still with the hardness of heart.
Now, God's divine ideal still stands. It is still the divine ideal that there be one marriage for life. That's God's divine ideal. That's what God would have. But today, there are still those who have hard hearts to God's divine ideal. They will not bend, they will not yield, they will not give, they will not forgive. And when that condition does exist, marriage can be a hell. And it is extremely unfortunate when two persons set about, consciously or unconsciously, to destroy each other. That surely is not God's divine ideal either. "And I'm going to hang on until I kill her." God's divine ideal is that the two be one, that they be brought together in a harmony through love and a true oneness in love.
It's difficult to deal with this subject inasmuch as, number one, we do not want to broaden the issue to make divorce and remarriage a very simple go-for-it kind of a thing. "If she doesn't please you, if you've found someone else, divorce her." Surely, God does not intend that. In fact, God declared in Malachi He hated divorces. Yet, He also hates those intolerable conditions that sometimes exist when you get a hard-hearted person in a marriage relationship.
So, we just can't say, "Oh, well, it doesn't matter. Do what you want. Whatever pleases you." Our desire should be to please God. If we are in a bad marriage, we should seek to make it a good marriage. We should do our best to make a go of the marriage, to forgive, to give, to love, to have understanding and to come to an agreement, to come to a oneness.
On the other hand, in dealing with the subject, we do not want to create condemnation for those who have had that bitter experience of being married to someone by paper, but not by reality, where there never was a true oneness brought together by God's Spirit. And because of intolerable situations, to save themselves, found it necessary to get a divorce, less the marriage totally destroy them.
It is unfortunate, that many times in the folly of youth, young couples believed themselves to be madly in love and insist on getting married because they can't wait. And soon after the infatuation has worn off, they realized the total incompatibility. Someone has said that a decision as important as marriage should never be left up to the judgment of a child. And that's why they had marriage by arrangement. But that had its flaws too.
Now, if a person, while a teenager, gets married and it is soon obvious that it was a tragic mistake, and it's impossible to live with that person and they then get a divorce. I speak now for myself, as Paul the apostle said. Paul is speaking now, I don't have any commandment of the Lord of this, but this is Paul speaking. And so, this is Chuck speaking now. I do not believe that God says to that person, "Alright, you made your bed, lie in it." Or, "You made a mistake, now you can just suffer the rest of your life for the mistake that you made as a silly child. And you can never marry again." I really do not believe that God says that. But that's me; that is my conviction.
So, Jesus sought to bring back the realization of the sacredness of marriage. The Catholic Church says it is a sacrament, and I think that they are probably correct. It is an outward sign of a spiritual work, and there is that spiritual union that is created by God as the two become one. Marriage to the right person can be heaven on earth. Marriage to the wrong person can be hell on earth, and I speak especially now to young people who are not yet married, who are perhaps contemplating it. Spend much time in prayer over your decision. Before I married my wife, I went off and spent time fasting and praying. I'm glad. I'm glad I made the right decision. I'm glad the Lord led me to that decision through prayer and through fasting. And I mean, that is a matter that you should not leave to your heart or to your emotions. It is something that you need to prayerfully consider. Much better that you not make a mistake than you try to later on correct the mistake.
I do not believe that God condemns that person to hell who has divorced and remarried. I believe that if you find yourself in a remarriage, that you need to make the best of it. Just let your marriage become all that God wants it to be. I don't think that you should go out and say, "Well, I was married before, now I better divorce you too." I believe that you should stay in the condition where you are. The Bible tells us that a man should abide in the calling wherewith he was called; when you were called by Christ and you accepted the Lord, what your condition was there. Maybe you've been married, divorced, remarried. Work it out now in this relationship that you have. Let it bring honor and glory to God.
But we remember David who became involved with Bathsheba and later married her. And God was merciful, and God was gracious, and God was forgiving to David. The prophet said unto him, "Thy sin is forgiven." He did pay a price; they lost their first child. And yet, God granted to David that forgiveness of sin. And you may have sort of a sordid past as far as marriage is concerned. I don't know if some people are just really hard to get along with, or just don't have good judgment in picking out a partner. But you may be a loser in marriage, but yet God is able, I know, to help you. And God is glorified and honored when couples are able to resolve their differences in Christ and come to a loving relationship through Him.
And [when they came] in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter ( Mark 10:10 ).
They did not fully understand what He was declaring in His answer to the Pharisees. And so,
And he [Jesus] saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband ( Mark 10:11-12 ),
Now, there were only a few grounds upon which a woman could put away a husband. If he falsely accused her of not being a virgin when they got married, that gave her the right to divorce him. Or if he committed adultery, she had the right to divorce him.
And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery ( Mark 10:12 ).
It doesn't say anything about the innocent party here. But as I say, people are always looking for loopholes.
Now, as they are continuing on the way towards the cross,
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them ( Mark 10:13 ).
Now there is, even to the present day, this custom of going up to a rabbi to receive a blessing. And there is a very colorful little rabbi in Jerusalem today; he's a Yemonite, a short little fellow with a long gray beard, and he reads his prayers quite loudly as he walks back and forth, not directly in front of the wailing wall, but sort of out in the court, the large courtyard where both men and women can gather. And you'll hear him as he's really sort of yelling out his prayers, walking along. This little rabbi is respected by many of the young men studying to become rabbis. And they will go up to him, and he will put his hand on their head and touch them and give them a blessing. And it's interesting to watch him and to watch these young fellows go up and to receive their blessings from him, as he touches them bestowing a blessing upon him.
Now, this was what was taking place, the children were being brought to Jesus. And it was a custom in those days to usually bring the child when they were about one year old to the rabbi to be blessed. And so the parents were bringing their little children to Jesus that He might touch them. And the disciples began to rebuke the parents saying, "Oh, don't bother the Lord. He's too busy." And they started hindering those parents who desired to bring their children to Jesus.
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased ( Mark 10:14 ),
He was angry, angry at His own disciples acting on their own part and not for His part.
And [he] said unto them, Suffer [allow] the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God [heaven] ( Mark 10:14 ).
Now remember, Jesus is on His way to the cross. This is weighing heavy on Him, and yet, the disciples felt that He didn't have time for children. He shouldn't be bothered with children. But Jesus said, "No, you're wrong. Let the little children come to Me. Don't forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God."
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein ( Mark 10:15 ).
Don't stop the children from coming. You know, there is something beautiful in a child. I believe that it is natural for a child to believe in God. I think that they have to learn atheism. I think that instinctively, naturally, a child believes in God. There is that simplicity of faith there within the child, a beautiful faith in the child, a natural faith in the child. Whenever I'm not feeling good, I like my grandkids to pray for me. Such faith, it's beautiful. And Jesus said, "Unless you become as a little child, you won't enter in." That's the way to enter in, to become as a little child.
"Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will not make it."
[And he] put his hands upon them, and blessed them ( Mark 10:16 ).
I love this picture of Jesus holding the children. And I'm certain that they were just naturally drawn to Him.
When he was gone forth into the way, [from the area of Jordan, on His way towards Jerusalem in the area of Judea, when He was gone from there, and He was back on the path again,] there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God ( Mark 10:17-18 ).
Now, so many commentators say that Jesus was rebuking him for calling Him good. I do not believe that. I believe that Jesus was trying to awaken his consciousness. Jesus is either saying to this young man, "I am no good," or He is saying to him, "I am God." And I believe He is saying the latter. And He's trying to awaken his consciousness, "Why did you call Me good? Think about that a minute. There's only one good and that is God. Why did you call Me good? Because I am God." And that is in harmony with what the rest of what Jesus said to him. In fact, the rest of what Jesus said would be blasphemy if Jesus was not declaring to him, "I am God." Because Jesus is saying to him in the remainder of the story, "You have a need to have God at the center of your life; follow Me. You've got the wrong center to your life; you've got money as the center of your life. You need to have a new center to your life if you're going to come into the kingdom of God; you follow Me. You need God at the center of your life; follow Me." And so, Jesus awakening his consciousness, said, "Why did you call Me good? There's only one good and that is God.
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him ( Mark 10:19-21 ),
He looked at this young fellow He had just flashed before him the second table of the law. He said, "I kept them all from my youth." And Jesus looked at him and He loved him, and said, "Alright!"
And [he] said unto him, One thing thou lackest ( Mark 10:21 ):
Now, Matthew tells us that he had said to Jesus, "What lack I yet?" So Jesus is answering and He said, "There's one thing you lack:"
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. And he was sad at that saying, and [he] went away grieved: for he had great possessions ( Mark 10:21-22 ).
Now, as I pointed out, Jesus' central word to this young man wasn't, "Go and sell everything and give to the poor." That was incidental. The central thing that Jesus said was, "Take up your cross, follow Me." Now with him, his great riches were keeping him from coming and taking up his cross and following Jesus. I don't know what it is in your life that is keeping you from coming, taking up your cross and following Jesus. Maybe it's a relationship that you have. Maybe it's a job. Maybe it's an ambition, a goal. Whatever it is that is keeping you from coming, taking up your cross and following Jesus, get rid of it. That's what Jesus is saying. With this young man, He just named what it was. This young man had as his god, money. Jesus said, "You can't serve God and mammon. So get rid of your false god, and come, follow Me. Know the true God. Let God be the center of your life; follow Me."
Now, the word of Christ is the same to us today as far as letting God become the center of your life; follow Jesus Christ. That's the way to enter the kingdom of God; that's the way to eternal life. That's the only way to eternal life, is that the center of your life is in God. So whatever it is that is keeping that from becoming the central aspect of your life, get rid of it. "Now, this young man went away sad. He was grieved, for he had great possessions." Isn't that a paradox? Because so many of you think, "That's all I need to be happy, is great possessions." Here's a man the Bible tells us was sad, because he had great possessions. Now, do not assume that this young man was lost. We don't know. He may have thought over what Jesus said and called in his servant and said, "Sell everything and give it away. I'll see ya later. I'm going to follow Jesus." Or, he could have just gone back to his misery and lived out his life with money as his god.
And Jesus looked round about, and [he] saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they [it is for those] that have riches [to] enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words ( Mark 10:23-24 ).
Because in the Hebrew mind, they thought that riches were a sign of God's blessing upon a person. That if a person was prosperous, it was because God favored him and he was blessed with prosperity, that it was a sign of a man's faith and closeness to God. And they were astonished when Jesus said, "How hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven!" "What do you mean, Lord? I thought that was a sign that he was holy and righteous. You were able to trust him with those riches." Jesus is blowing that philosophy right out of the water. There are those today who had that same feeling, that riches, prosperity, is a sign of spirituality. And they even preach that godliness is a way to prosper. Paul tells Timothy, "From such turn away."
And so the disciples were astonished. So Jesus qualified a little bit what He said.
[He] saith unto them, Children, how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God ( Mark 10:24-25 ).
Now, as I pointed out, there are those who say the eye of the needle was a subgate in the main gate of the city, when after the gates were closed at night and a person would arrive at the city, they would not open the main gate, lest there be enemy troops that would come pouring in. So, there was this subgate that a person could dismount and come crawling through the subgate into the city. And at the subgate they say was called "the eye of the needle." So when Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to get through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven," Jesus was referring to this little subgate; how that they'd have to unload the camel and then guys would be pulling and guys would be pushing and squeezing and shoving and get that ornery beast through this little opening in the gate. But with a lot of sweat and effort, you could make it. No, that's not what Jesus is talking about. Whatever Jesus is talking about, it's an impossibility. There are always those men who would try to make salvation within the reach and grasp of struggling man; work hard enough, try hard enough, be sincere enough. Surely you can save yourself. No. Jesus is talking about an impossibility. For the disciples were astounded above measure. They were totally blown out at this point,
And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? ( Mark 10:26 )
You know, the rich aren't going to make it. Who in the world can be saved?
And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible ( Mark 10:27 ),
God help us to realize that. Salvation with man is impossible. There is no way man can save himself. No matter how noble your efforts, how righteous your deeds, how faithful your walk; no man can save himself. With man, it is impossible. Jesus in the garden said, "Father, if it's possible, let this cup pass from Me, if man can be saved by some other means." But with man it is impossible. But Jesus said,
but not with God: for with God all things are possible ( Mark 10:27 ).
As bad as you are, it's possible that God can save you. You're not beyond God's reach. You're beyond your own abilities, beyond other man's abilities, but not beyond God's abilities. And haven't we seen God work where men have given up? You know, there are some people that I have looked at and said, "It's impossible that they could ever be saved; they are so lost." And I've really given up on certain people, absolutely given up. "No way are they ever going to be saved." But God saved them anyhow, in spite of the fact that I had really committed them and condemned them as impossibilites. God has so many glorious trophies of grace.
Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all [everything], and have followed thee ( Mark 10:28 ).
This rich young ruler was seemingly unwilling to pay that price. But, Peter said, "We did it. We left all to follow You."
And Jesus answered and said, Verily [assuredly], I say unto you, There is no man that hath left [his] house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel's ( Mark 10:29 ),
Now it would appear that many of them, because of the Jewish culture being so strong, their seeing and believing and receiving Christ as their Messiah, caused them to lose their inheritance, houses, homes. Caused them to lose their family relationship as they were ostracized as heretics. And in many of the Jewish homes, they would hold a funeral service and consider that child or that person as dead who had received Jesus Christ as their savior. And it would appear that with Paul the apostle, it cost him his wife. And Jesus said, "No man has left house or brothers or sisters, father, mother, wife or children, or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, "
but he shall receive a 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 ( Mark 10:30 ).
You may be persecuted, but you may have lost your brother, your sister, your mother, but you're going to gain in the family of God a hundredfold. Now, there are some of you who your faith in Jesus Christ has caused a breach in your family. I had a wedding yesterday, and the young man who was getting married, in the back room said, "Preach the gospel." He said, "My mother told me if I ever mentioned Jesus Christ again, I wasn't welcomed at home anymore." And he said, "She's here, so preach the gospel." But it cost that young man. And yet, in the family of God, that love, that bond, that relationship that we are brought into as we are made one in Christ within the family of God, I look around at all the brothers and sisters and all that we have here and it's just glorious to realize that we are all just one big family of God. And though there may have been an alienation from our natural blood relatives as the result of our commitment to Jesus Christ, yet we've come into such a broader family. I feel extremely fortunate that all of my immediate family love the Lord and serve Him. That's a blessing. I have cousins, though, that don't know the Lord, aunts and uncles that don't know the Lord. You know, I'm much much closer to all of you than I am to them. There is this gap between us. So many of them are in that social set, and...I've got to be careful, because they do listen to my tapes. They're wonderful people, but they just need Jesus. Until there is that bond in the faith of Christ, there is a division; there can't be that total unity. And so Jesus said, "Look, no one has left these things but what they're going to receive a hundredfold. You're going to get persecution, persecution from the family, yes. But in the world to come, eternal life.
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first ( Mark 10:31 ).
Why He threw that in here, I don't know.
And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem ( Mark 10:32 );
Now, He's on the way. This young guy comes and kneels at Him. They're still on the path; they're on their way towards Jerusalem.
and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and [he] began to tell them what things should [were going to] happen to him ( Mark 10:32 ),
Now, they can see that He's more contemplative at this point, getting alone. It's obvious that there is this heaviness, and so they are frightened when they see the moves. And so He gathered them and He began to tell them,
Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem [Now look, we're going 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 ( Mark 10:33-34 ).
Now notice He says that the scribes and the priests are going to condemn Him to death, but deliver Him to the Gentiles to do the job. The Gentiles will mock Him; it was the Roman soldiers who put on the purple robe and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews." They will scourge Him; it was the Roman soldiers that laid the thirty-nine stripes on Him. They shall spit upon Him; which is, of course, recorded also. And they shall kill Him; that is the Gentiles, the Roman soldiers. "But the third day, He will rise again."
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 [would you do us a favor?]. And he [Jesus] said unto them , What would ye that I should do for you [what do you want]? 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. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask [you don't really know what you're asking]: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, [Oh,] we can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of ( Mark 10:35-39 );
Herod stretched forth his hand against the church, and he had James beheaded; he was one of the early martyrs.
and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: 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 ( Mark 10:39-40 ).
God has already foreordained; God has already predestined. And so it will be given to those for whom it has been predestined. Now you remember just a couple of chapters ago, the disciples were arguing when they were on the path coming down from Caesarea Philippi as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And when they came in the house, Jesus said, "What were you guys arguing about back there on the path?" "Um, nothing." They were afraid to tell Him; they were silent, they held their peace. Because they were afraid to tell Him, "We've been arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom." But here old James and John, they come up to the Lord now, and said, "Lord, would you do us a favor? We want to be one on Your right hand and the other on the left." So, they're still seeking that prominence, that position of prominence. Jesus said, "Look, you're going to go through the fire. You're going to drink the cup. You will be baptized of the baptism whereof I am baptized, but to grant this favor is something that has already been granted. The foreordained plan of God shall stand."
And when the [other] ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John ( Mark 10:41 ).
Oh, so typical. This righteous indignation, and yet all of them were thinking the same thing.
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 so shall it not be among you ( Mark 10:42-43 ):
Now, the Gentiles, the heathen, they loved the position of authority and power and ruling over people. Jesus said, "It shall not be among you. The kingdom of God is different from the kingdom of man. For in the kingdom of God . . . "
but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto [served], but to minister [serve], and to give his life a ransom for many ( Mark 10:43-45 ).
And so again, Jesus is teaching the importance, if you want to be a ruler, if you want to be chief, if you want to be the head, then learn to be the servant. The path of greatness is through service. It is important that I realize that as I am serving man, I am actually serving God. I do it in the name of the Lord; I do it as unto the Lord. Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God. And you need to realize that in serving the Lord, that constitutes serving man, because that's what the Lord requires you to do as His servant. And so the path of greatness is the path of humility, learning to be the servant.
And they came to Jericho ( Mark 10:46 ):
And of course, He is now crossed over Jordan, come into Jericho, and He's on the last hitch, the last twenty miles up to Jerusalem.
They came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people [with them], blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth ( Mark 10:46-47 ),
No doubt he could hear the crowds going by. You know, the blind people are very perceptive; their auditory, sensory perception is extremely high. Because they can't see, they've developed capacities of listening and discerning by listening. And hearing all the people, he probably said, "What's happening? Who's going by? What's going on?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth is going by." And old Bartimaeus thought, "Man, this is my chance."
he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many [that were around him] charged him that he should hold his peace [They said, "Shut up!" But he thought, "This is my only chance," and he cried even louder.]: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called [he said, Call him to Me]. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; [for] he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment ( Mark 10:47-50 ),
Some say that this garment was the typical garment of the beggar. It was sort of the badge of the beggar. But he threw it away because he knew that he wouldn't have to be begging any more. In faith, he knew once he got to Jesus, it was going to all be over; he'd be able to see. His life would be changed. And so,
casting away his garment, [he] rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee [what would you like Me to do for you]? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight [I would like to receive my sight]. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole ( Mark 10:50-52 ).
Maybe He saw him throw the garment away, saw the faith of this man, saw the faith in his heart. He said, "Go your way; your faith has made you whole."
And immediately he received his sight [was able to see], and [he] followed Jesus in the way [along the path] ( Mark 10:52 ).
Beautiful, beautiful story! So much can be drawn from it as far as spiritual allegories, but that isn't really my bag.
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/mark-10.html. 2014.
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).
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/mark-10.html. 1993-2022.
3. Lessons concerning self-sacrifice 10:1-31
Jesus gave this series of lessons south of Galilee in Perea and Judea, not in Galilee. Another contrast is the audience. He gave the preceding instruction to the disciples in a house, but He gave this teaching to the multitudes and the disciples in the open air.
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Jesus’ instruction about wealth 10:17-31
A question from a man in the crowd initiated this incident. Then Jesus proceeded to instruct His disciples following up the encounter. The position of this section in Mark’s Gospel is significant. It occurs after Jesus’ teaching about the importance of receiving the kingdom with trust and humility (Mark 10:13-16), and it precedes Jesus’ third prediction of His passion (Mark 10:32-34). The young man thought he could obtain the kingdom with works and self-assertion, not as a little child. Jesus’ following call to commitment prepared for His passion announcement.
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Jesus’ teaching concerning riches 10:23-31 (cf. Matthew 19:23-30; Luke 18:24-30)
Jesus used the incident just past to teach His disciples about riches. Matthew’s account is the fullest.
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The first in rank and position in this age, such as the rich young ruler, will be last in the next. Conversely the last in this age, such as the Twelve, would be first in the next. These words summarized Jesus’ teaching on discipleship on that occasion and in this section of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10:1-31). This was a saying that Jesus used at other times as well during His ministry (cf. Matthew 20:16: Luke 13:30). Here these words also warned Peter against looking for immediate physical rewards for his self-sacrifices (cf. Matthew 20:1-16).
All three of the lessons in discipleship that Mark recorded in this section of his Gospel dealt with self-sacrifice (Mark 10:1-31). The lessons that Jesus taught following His first passion prediction dealt mainly with future glory (Mark 8:31 to Mark 9:29). Those He taught following His second passion prediction concerned present suffering primarily (Mark 9:30 to Mark 10:31).
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FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE ( Mark 10:1-12 )
10:1-12 Leaving there, Jesus came into the hill-country of Judaea and to the district across the Jordan, and once again crowds came together to him. As his custom was, he again continued to teach them. Some Pharisees came to him and asked him if it was lawful for a man to put away his wife. They asked this question to test him. He asked them, "What commandment did Moses lay down for you?" They answered, "Moses allowed a man to write a bill of divorcement and then to put her away." Jesus said to them, "It was to meet the hardness of your heart that he wrote this commandment for you. From the beginning of creation male and female he created them. For this cause a man will leave his father and his mother and will cleave to his wife. And the two will become one flesh, so that they are no longer two but one flesh. So then what God has joined together let not man separate." In the house his disciples again asked him about this. He said to them, "Whoever puts away his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."
Jesus was pursuing his way south. He had left Galilee and had come into Judaea. He had not yet entered Jerusalem, but step by step and stage by stage he was approaching the final scene.
Certain Pharisees came with a question about divorce, by which they hoped to test him. There may have been more than one motive behind their question. Divorce was a burning question, a crux of rabbinic discussion, and it may well be that they honestly wished for Jesus' opinion on it. They may have wished to test his orthodoxy. It may well be that Jesus had already had something to say on this matter. Matthew 5:31-32, shows us Jesus speaking about marriage and re-marriage, and it may be that these Pharisees had the hope that he might contradict himself and entangle himself in his own words. It may be that they knew what he would answer and wished to involve him in enmity with Herod who had in fact divorced his wife and married another. It may well be that they wished to hear Jesus contradict the law of Moses, as indeed he did, and thereby to formulate a charge of heresy against him. One thing is certain--the question they asked Jesus was no academic one of interest only to the rabbinic schools. It was a question which dealt with one of the acutest issues of the time.
In theory nothing could be higher than the Jewish ideal of marriage. Chastity was held to be the greatest of all the virtues. "We find that God is long-suffering to every sin except the sin of unchastity." "Unchastity causes the glory of God to depart." "Every Jew must surrender his life rather than commit idolatry, murder or adultery." "The very altar sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth." The ideal was there but practice fell very far short.
The basic fact that vitiated the whole situation was that in Jewish law a woman was regarded as a thing. She had no legal rights whatever but was at the complete disposal of the male head of the family. The result was that a man could divorce his wife on almost any grounds, while there were very few on which a woman could seek divorce. At best she could only ask her husband to divorce her. "A woman may be divorced with or without her will, but a man only with his will." The only grounds on which a woman could claim a divorce were if her husband became a leper, if he engaged in a disgusting trade such as that of a tanner, if he ravished a virgin, or if he falsely accused her of prenuptial sin.
The law of Jewish divorce goes back to Deuteronomy 24:1. That passage was the foundation of the whole matter. It runs thus: "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house."
At first the bill of divorcement was very simple. It read like this: "Let this be from me thy writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, that thou mayest marry whatsoever man thou wilt." In later days the bill became more elaborate: "On the ........ day, of the ........ week, of the ........ month, year ........ of the world, according to the calculation in use in the town of ......... situated by the river ........ I, A.B., son of C.D., and by whatsoever name I am called here, present this day ......... native of the town of ........ I acting of my free-will, and without any coercion, do repudiate, send back, and put away thee E.F., daughter of G.H., and by whatsoever name thou art called, and until this present time my wife. I send thee away now E.F., daughter of G.H., so that thou art free and thou canst at thy pleasure marry whom thou wilt and no one will hinder thee. This is thy letter of divorce, act of repudiation, certificate of separation, according to the law of Moses and of Israel." In New Testament times this document took a skilled Rabbi to draw it up. It was afterwards proved by a court of three rabbis, and then lodged with the Sanhedrin. But the process of divorce remained on the whole exceedingly easy, and at the entire discretion of the man.
But the real crux of the problem was the interpretation of the law as it is in Deuteronomy 24:1. There it is laid down that a man can divorce his wife if he finds in her some indecency. How was that phrase to be interpreted? There were in this matter two schools of thought.
There was the school of Shammai. They interpreted the matter with utter strictness. A matter of indecency was adultery and adultery alone. Let a woman be as bad as Jezebel, unless she was guilty of adultery there could be no divorce.
The other school was the school of Hillel. They interpreted that crucial phrase as widely as possible. They said that it could mean if the wife spoiled a dish of food, if she spun in the streets, if she talked to a strange man, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband's relations in his hearing, if she was a brawling woman, (who was defined as a woman whose voice could be heard in the next house). Rabbi Akiba even went the length of saying that it meant if a man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was.
Human nature being as it is, it was the laxer view which prevailed. The result was that divorce for the most trivial reasons, or for no reason at all, was tragically common. To such a pass had things come that, in the time of Jesus, women hesitated to marry at all because marriage was so insecure. When Jesus spoke as he did he was speaking on a subject which was a burning issue, and he was striking a blow for women by seeking to restore marriage to the position it ought to have.
Certain things are to be noted. Jesus quoted the Mosaic regulation, and then he said that Moses laid that down only "to meet the hardness of your hearts." That may mean one of two things. It may mean that Moses laid it down because it was the best that could be expected from people such as those for whom he was legislating. Or, it may mean that Moses laid it down in order to try to control a situation which even then was degenerating, that in fact it was not so much a permission to divorce as it was in the beginning an attempt to control divorce, to reduce it to some kind of law, and to make it more difficult.
In any event Jesus made it quite clear that he regarded Deuteronomy 24:1, as being laid down for a definite situation and being in no sense permanently binding. The authorities which he quoted went much further back. For his authorities he went right back to the Creation story and quoted Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. It was his view that in the very nature of things marriage was a permanency which indissolubly united two people in such a way that the bond could never be broken by any human laws and regulations. It was his belief that in the very constitution of the universe marriage is meant to be an absolute permanency and unity, and no Mosaic regulation dealing with a temporary situation could alter that.
The difficulty is that in the parallel account in Matthew there is a difference. In Mark, Jesus' prohibition of divorce and remarriage is absolute. In Matthew 19:3-9, he is shown as absolutely forbidding remarriage, but as permitting divorce on one ground--adultery. Almost certainly the Matthew version is correct, and it is indeed implied in Mark. It was Jewish law that adultery did in fact compulsorily dissolve any marriage. And the truth is that infidelity does in fact dissolve the bond of marriage. Once adultery has been committed the unity is in any case destroyed and divorce merely attests the fact.
The real essence of the passage is that Jesus insisted that the loose sexual morality of his day must be mended. Those who sought marriage only for pleasure must be reminded that marriage is also for responsibility. Those who regarded marriage simply as a means of gratifying their physical passions must be reminded that it was also a spiritual unity. Jesus was building a rampart round the home.
OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN ( Mark 10:13-16 )
10:13-16 They brought little children to Jesus that he might touch them. But the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw what they were doing he was vexed and said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and don't try to stop them for of such is the Kingdom of God. This is the truth I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it." And he took them up in the crook of his arm and blessed them and laid his hands upon them.
It was natural that Jewish mothers should wish their children to be blessed by a great and distinguished Rabbi. Especially they brought their children to such a person on their first birthday. It was in this way that they brought the children to Jesus on this day.
We will fully understand the almost poignant beauty of this passage only if we remember when it happened. Jesus was on the way to the Cross--and he knew it. Its cruel shadow can never have been far from his mind. It was at such a time that he had time for the children. Even with such a tension in his mind as that he had time to take them in his arms and he had the heart to smile into their faces and maybe to play with them awhile.
The disciples were not boorish and ungracious men. They simply wanted to protect Jesus. They did not quite know what was going on, but they knew quite clearly that tragedy lay ahead and they could see the tension under which Jesus laboured. They did not want him to be bothered. They could not conceive that he could want the children about him at such a time as that. But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me."
Incidentally, this tells us a great deal about Jesus. It tells us that he was the kind of person who cared for children and for whom children cared. He could not have been a stern and gloomy and joyless person. There must have been a kindly sunshine on him. He must have smiled easily and laughed joyously. Somewhere George Macdonald says that he does not believe in a man's Christianity if the children are never to be found playing around his door. This little, precious incident throws a flood of light on the human kind of person Jesus was.
"Of such," said Jesus "is the Kingdom of God." What is it about the child that Jesus liked and valued so much?
(i) There is the child's humility. There is the child who is an exhibitionist, but such a child is rare and almost always the product of misguided adult treatment. Ordinarily the child is embarrassed by prominence and publicity. He has not yet learned to think in terms of place and pride and prestige. He has not yet learned to discover the importance of himself.
(ii) There is the child's obedience. True, a child is often disobedient, but, paradox though it may seem, his natural instinct is to obey. He has not yet learned the pride and the false independence which separate a man from his fellow-men and from God.
(iii) There is the child's trust. That is seen in two things.
(a) It is seen in the child's acceptance of authority. There is a time when he thinks his father knows everything and that his father is always right. To our shame, he soon grows out of that. But instinctively the child realizes his own ignorance and his own helplessness and trusts the one who, as he thinks, knows.
(b) It is seen in the child's confidence in other people. He does not expect any person to be bad. He will make friends with a perfect stranger. A great man once said that the greatest compliment ever paid him was when a little boy came up to him, a complete stranger, and asked him to tie his shoelace. The child has not yet learned to suspect the world. He still believes the best about others. Sometimes that very trust leads him into danger for there are those who are totally unworthy of it and who abuse it, but that trust is a lovely thing.
(iv) The child has a short memory. He has not yet learned to bear grudges and nourish bitterness. Even when he is unjustly treated--and who among us is not sometimes unjust to his children?--he forgets, and forgets so completely that he does not even need to forgive.
Indeed, of such is the Kingdom of God.
HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT GOODNESS? ( Mark 10:17-22 )
10:17-22 As Jesus was going along the road, a man came running to him and threw himself at his feet and asked him, "Good teacher, what am I to do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? There is no one who is good, except one--God. You know the commandments. You must not kin, you must not commit adultery, you must not steal, you must not bear false witness, you must not defraud anyone, you must honour your father and mother." He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth." When Jesus looked at him he loved him, and he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Go, sell all that you have, and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. And come! Follow me!" But he was grieved at this saying, and he went away in sadness, for he had many possessions.
Here is one of the most vivid stories in the gospels.
(i) We must note how the man came and how Jesus met him. He came running. He flung himself at Jesus' feet. There is something amazing in the sight of this rich, young aristocrat falling at the feet of the penniless prophet from Nazareth, who was on the way to being an outlaw. "Good teacher!" he began. And straight away Jesus answered back, "No flattery! Don't call me good! Keep that word for God!" It looks almost as if Jesus was trying to freeze him and to pour cold water on that young enthusiasm.
There is a lesson here. It is clear that this man came to Jesus in a moment of overflowing emotion. It is also clear that Jesus exercised a personal fascination over him. Jesus did two things that every evangelist and every preacher and every teacher ought to remember and to copy.
First, he said in effect, "Stop and think! You are all wrought up and palpitating with emotion! I don't want you swept to me by a moment of emotion. Think calmly what you are doing." Jesus was not freezing the man. He was telling him even at the very outset to count the cost.
Second, he said in effect, "You cannot become a Christian by a sentimental passion for me. you must look at God." Preaching and teaching always mean the conveying of truth through personality, and thereby lies the greatest danger of the greatest teachers. The danger is that the pupil, the scholar, the young person may form a personal attachment to the teacher or the preacher and think that it is an attachment to God. The teacher and preacher must never point to himself. He must always point to God. There is in all true teaching a certain self-obliteration. True, we cannot keep personality and warm personal loyalty out of it altogether, and we would not if we could. But the matter must not stop there. The teacher and the preacher are in the last analysis only finger-posts to God.
(ii) Never did any story so lay down the essential Christian truth that respectability is not enough. Jesus quoted the commandments which were the basis of the decent life. Without hesitation the man said he had kept them all. Note one thing--with one exception they were all negative commandments, and that one exception operated only in the family circle. In effect the man was saying, "I never in my life did anyone any harm." That was perfectly true. But the real question is, "What good have you done?" And the question to this man was even more pointed, "With all your possessions, with your wealth, with all that you could give away, what positive good have you done to others? How much have you gone out of your way to help and comfort and strengthen others as you might have done?" Respectability, on the whole, consists in not doing things; Christianity consists in doing things. That was precisely where this man--like so many of us--fell down.
(iii) So Jesus confronted him with a challenge. In effect he said, "Get out of this moral respectability. Stop looking at goodness as consisting in not doing things. Take yourself and all that you have, and spend everything on others. Then you will find true happiness in time and in eternity." The man could not do it. He had great possessions, which it had never entered his head to give away and when it was suggested to him he could not. True, he had never stolen, and he had never defrauded anyone--but neither had he ever been, nor could he compel himself to be, positively and sacrificially generous.
It may be respectable never to take away from anyone. It is Christian to give to someone. In reality Jesus was confronting this man with a basic and essential question--"How much do you want real Christianity? Do you want it enough to give your possessions away?" And the man had to answer in effect, "I want it--but I don't want it as much as all that."
Robert Louis Stevenson in The Master of Ballantrae draws a picture of the master leaving the ancestral home of Durrisdeer for the last time. Even he is sad. He is talking to the faithful family steward. "Ah! M'Kellar," he said, "Do you think I have never a regret." "I do not think," said M'Kellar, "that you could be so bad a man unless you had all the machinery for being a good one." "Not all," said the master, "not all. It is there you are in error. The malady of not wanting."
It was the malady of not wanting enough which meant tragedy for the man who came running to Jesus. It is the malady from which most of us suffer. We all want goodness, but so few of us want it enough to pay the price.
Jesus, looking at him, loved him. There were many things in that look of Jesus.
(a) There was the appeal of love. Jesus was not angry with him. He loved him too much for that. It was not the look of anger but the appeal of love.
(b) There was the challenge to chivalry. It was a look which sought to pull the man out of his comfortable, respectable, settled life into the adventure of being a real Christian.
(c) It was the look of grief. And that grief was the sorest grief of all--the grief of seeing a man deliberately choose not to be what he might have been and had it in him to be.
Jesus looks at us with the appeal of love and with the challenge to the knightliness of the Christian way. God grant that he may never have to look at us with sorrow for a loved one who refuser to be what he might have been and could have been.
THE PERIL OF RICHES ( Mark 10:23-27 )
10:23-27 Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, "With what difficulty will those who have money enter into the Kingdom of God!" His disciples were amazed at his words. Jesus repeated, "Children, how difficult it is for those who trust in money to enter into the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished. "Who then," they said to him, "can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God."
The ruler who had refused the challenge of Jesus had walked sorrowfully away, and, no doubt the eyes of Jesus and the company of the apostles followed him until his figure receded into the distance. Then Jesus turned and looked round his own men. "How very difficult it is," he said, "for a man who has money to enter into the Kingdom of God." The word used for money is chremata ( G5536) , which is defined by Aristotle as, "All those things of which the value is measured by coinage."
We may perhaps wonder why this saying so astonished the disciples. Twice their amazement is stressed. The reason for their amazement was that Jesus was turning accepted Jewish standards completely upside down. Popular Jewish morality was simple. It believed that prosperity was the sign of a good man. If a man was rich, God must have honoured and blessed him. Wealth was proof of excellence of character and of favour with God. The Psalmist sums it up, "I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread." ( Psalms 37:25.)
No wonder the disciples were surprised! They would have argued that the more prosperous a man was the more certain he was of entry into the Kingdom. So Jesus repeated his saying in a slightly different way to make clearer what he meant. "How difficult it is," he said, "for those who have put their trust in riches to enter the Kingdom."
No one ever saw the dangers of prosperity and of material things more clearly than Jesus did. What are these dangers?
(i) Material possessions tend to fix a man's heart to this world. He has so large a stake in it, he has so great an interest in it, that it is difficult for him to think beyond it, and it is specially difficult for him to contemplate leaving it. Dr. Johnson was once shown round a famous castle and its lovely grounds. After he had seen it all, he turned to his friends and said, "These are the things that make it difficult to die." The danger of possessions is that they fix a man's thoughts and interests to this world.
(ii) If a man's main interest is in material possessions it tends to make him think of everything in terms of price. A hill shepherd's wife wrote a most interesting letter to a newspaper. Her children had been brought up in the loneliness of the hills. They were simple and unsophisticated. Then her husband got a position in a town and the children were introduced to the town. They changed very considerably--and they changed for the worse. The last paragraph of her letter read--"Which is preferable for a child's upbringing--a lack of worldliness, but with better manners and sincere and simple thoughts, or worldliness and its present-day habit of knowing the price of everything and the true value of nothing?"
If a man's main interest is in material things, he will think in terms, of price and not in terms of value. He will think in terms of what money can get. And he may well forget that there are values in this world far beyond money, that there are things which have no price, and that there are precious things that money cannot buy. It is fatal when a man begins to think that everything worth having has a money price.
(iii) Jesus would have said that the possession of material things is two things.
(a) It is an acid test of a man. For a hundred men who can stand adversity only one can stand prosperity. Prosperity can so very easily make a man arrogant, proud, self-satisfied, worldly. It takes a really big and good man to bear it worthily.
(b) It is a responsibility. A man will always be judged by two standards how he got his possessions and how he uses them. The more he has, the greater the responsibility that rests upon him. Will he use what he has selfishly or generously? Will he use it as if he had undisputed possession of it, or remembering that he holds it in stewardship from God.
The reaction of the disciples was that, if what Jesus was saying was true, to be saved at all was well-nigh impossible. Then Jesus stated the whole doctrine of salvation in a nutshell. "If," he said, "salvation depended on a man's own efforts it would be impossible for anyone. But salvation is the gift of God and all things are possible to him." The man who trusts in himself and in his possessions can never be saved. The man who trusts in the saving power and the redeeming love of God can enter freely into salvation. This is the thought that Jesus stated. This is the thought that Paul wrote in letter after letter. And this is the thought which is still for us the very foundation of the Christian faith.
CHRIST IS NO MAN'S DEBTOR ( Mark 10:28-31 )
10:28-31 Peter began to say to him, "Look now! We have left everything and have become your followers." Jesus said, "This is the truth I tell you--there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get it back a hundred times over in this present time--homes and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands--with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
Peter's mind had been working, and, characteristically, his tongue could not stay still. He had just seen a man deliberately refuse Jesus' "Follow me!" He had just heard Jesus say in effect that that man by his action had shut himself out from the Kingdom of God. Peter could not help drawing the contrast between that man and himself and his friends. Just as the man had refused Jesus' "Follow me!" he and his friends had accepted it, and Peter with that almost crude honesty of his wanted to know what he and his friends were to get out of it. Jesus' answer falls into three sections.
(i) He said that no man ever gave up anything for the sake of himself and of his good news without getting it back a hundredfold. It so happened that in the early Church that was literally true. A man's Christianity might involve the loss of home and friends and loved ones, but his entry into the Christian Church brought him into a far greater and wider family than ever he had left, a family who were all spiritually kin to him.
We see the thing actually happening in the life of Paul. No doubt, when Paul became a Christian the door of his home slammed in his face and his family disowned him. But equally without doubt there was city upon city, town upon town, village upon village in Europe and in Asia Minor where he could find a home waiting for him and a family in Christ to welcome him. It is strange how he uses the very family terms. In Romans 16:13, he tells how the mother of Rufus was as good as a mother to him. In Philemon 1:10, he speaks of Onesimus as the son whom he had begotten in his bonds.
It would be so of every Christian in the early days. When his own family rejected him he entered into the wider family of Christ.
When Egerton Young first preached the gospel to the Red Indians in Saskatchewan the idea of the fatherhood of God fascinated men who had hitherto seen God only in the thunder and the lightning and the storm blast. An old chief said to Egerton Young, "Did I hear you say to God 'Our Father'?" "I did," said Egerton Young. "God is your Father?" asked the chief. "Yes," said Egerton Young. "And," went on the chief, "He is also my Father?" "He certainly is," said Egerton Young. Suddenly the chief's face lit up with a new radiance. His hand went out. "Then," he said like a man making a dazzling discovery, "you and I are brothers."
A man may have to sacrifice ties that are very dear in order to become a Christian, but when he does he becomes a member of a family and a brotherhood as wide as earth and heaven.
(ii) Jesus added two things. First, he added the simple words and persecutions. Straightaway these words remove the whole matter from the world of quid pro quo. They take away the idea of a material reward for a material sacrifice. They tell us of two things. They speak of the utter honesty of Jesus. He never offered an easy way. He told men straight that to be a Christian is a costly thing. Second, they tell us that Jesus never used a bribe to make men follow him. He used a challenge. It is as if he said, "Certainly you will get your reward, but you will have to show yourself a big enough man and a gallant enough adventurer to get it." The second thing that Jesus added was the idea of the world to come. He never promised that within this world of space and time there would be a kind of squaring up of the balance sheet and settlement of accounts. He did not call men to win the rewards of time. He called men to earn the blessings of eternity. God has not only this world in which to repay.
(iii) Then Jesus added one warning epigram--"Many who are first shall be last, and the last first." This was in reality a warning to Peter. It may well be that by this time Peter was estimating his own worth and his own reward and assessing them high. What Jesus was saying was, "The final standard of judgment is with God. Many a man may stand well in the judgment of the world, but the judgment of God may upset the world's judgment. Still more many a man may stand well in his own judgment, and find that God's evaluation of him is very different." It is a warning against all pride. It is a warning that the ultimate judgments belong to God who alone knows the motives of men's hearts. It is a warning that the judgments of heaven may well upset the reputations of earth.
THE APPROACHING END ( Mark 10:32-34 )
10:32-34 They were on the road, on their way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. They were in a state of astonished bewilderment, and, as they followed him, they were afraid. Once again he took the Twelve to him, and began to tell them what was going to happen to him. "Look you!" He said, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and experts in the law, and they will condemn him to death, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles, and they will make a jest of him, and they will spit on him, and they will scourge him and they will kill him. And after three days he will rise again."
Here is a vivid picture, all the more vivid because of the stark economy of words with which it is painted. Jesus and his men were entering upon the last scene. Jesus had set his course definitely and irrevocably to Jerusalem and the Cross. Mark marks the stages very definitely. There had been the withdrawal to the north, to the territory round Caesarea Phillipi. there had been the journey south, and the brief halt in Galilee. There had been the way to Judaea and the time in the hill-country and beyond Jordan. And now there is the final stage, the road to Jerusalem.
This picture tells us something about Jesus.
(i) It tells us of the loneliness of Jesus. They were going along the road and he was out ahead of them--alone. And they were so amazed and bewildered, so conscious of the sense of impending tragedy, that they were afraid to go up to him. There are certain decisions which a man must take alone. Had Jesus tried to share this decision with the Twelve their only contribution would have been to try to stop him. There are certain things which a man must face alone. Matthew Arnold, in his poem Isolation, speaks of,
"This truth--to prove and make thine own:
'Thou hast been, shalt be, art alone'."
There are certain decisions which must be taken and certain roads that must be walked in the awful loneliness of a man's own soul. And yet, in the deepest sense of all, even in these times a man is not alone, for never is God nearer to him. Whittier writes of such a time,
"Nothing before, nothing behind.
The steps of faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
The rock beneath."
Here we see the essential loneliness of Jesus, a loneliness that was comforted by God.
(ii) It tells us of the courage of Jesus. Three times Jesus foretold the things that were to happen to him in Jerusalem, and as Mark tells of these warnings, each time they grow grimmer and some further detail of horror is included. At first ( Mark 8:31) it is the bare announcement. At the second time the hint of betrayal is there ( Mark 9:31). And now at the third time the jesting, the mocking and the scourging appear. It would seem as if the picture became ever clearer in the mind of Jesus as he became more and more aware of the cost of redemption.
There are two kinds of courage. There is the courage which is a kind of instinctive reaction, almost a reflex action, the courage of the man confronted out of the blue with a crisis to which he instinctively reacts with gallantry, scarcely having time to think. Many a man has become a hero in the heat of the moment. There is also the courage of the man who sees the grim thing approaching far ahead, who has plenty of time to turn back, who could, if he chose, evade the issue, and who yet goes on. There is no doubt which is the higher courage--this known deliberate facing of the future. That is the courage Jesus showed. If no higher verdict was possible, it would still be true to say of Jesus that he ranks with the heroes of the world.
(iii) It tells us of the personal magnetism of Jesus. It is quite clear that by this time the disciples did not know what was going on. They were sure that Jesus was the Messiah. They were equally sure that he was going to die. To them these two facts did not make sense when put together. They were completely bewildered, and yet they followed To them everything was dark except one thing--they loved Jesus, and, however much they wished to, they could not leave him. They had learned something which is of the very essence of life and faith--they loved so much that they were compelled to accept what they could not understand.
THE REQUEST OF AMBITION ( Mark 10:35-40 )
10:35-40 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask you." "What do you want me to do for you?" he said to them. They said to him, "Grant to us that, in your glory, we may sit one on your right hand and one on your left." "You do not know what you ask," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup which I am drinking? Or, can you go through the experience through which I am going?" "We can," they said to him. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup which I am drinking. You will go through the experience through which I am going. But to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give you. That place belongs to those for whom it has been prepared."
This is a very revealing story.
(i) It tells us something about Mark. Matthew retells this story ( Matthew 20:20-23), but in his version the request for the first places is made not by James and John, but by their mother Salome. Matthew must have felt that such a request was unworthy of an apostle, and, to save the reputation of James and John, he attributed it to the natural ambition of their mother. This story shows us the honesty of Mark. It is told that a court painter painted the portrait of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was afflicted with warts on the face. Thinking to please him, the painter omitted the warts in the painting. When Cromwell saw it, he said, "Take it away! and paint me warts and all!" Mark's aim is to show us the disciples, warts and all. And Mark was right, because the Twelve were not a company of saints. They were ordinary men. It was with people like ourselves Jesus set out to change the world--and did it.
(ii) It tells us something about James and John.
(a) It tells us that they were ambitious. When the victory was won and the triumph was complete, they aimed at being Jesus? chief ministers of state. Maybe their ambition was kindled because more than once Jesus had made them part of his inner circle, the chosen three. Maybe they were a little better off than the others. Their father was well enough off to employ hired servants ( Mark 1:20), and it may be that they rather snobbishly thought that their social superiority entitled them to the first place. In any event they show themselves as men in whose hearts there was ambition for the first place in an earthly kingdom.
(b) It tells us that they had completely failed to understand Jesus. The amazing thing is not the fact that this incident happened, but the time at which it happened. It is the juxtaposition of Jesus' most definite and detailed forecast of his death and this request that is staggering. It shows, as nothing else could, how little they understood what Jesus was saying to them. Words were powerless to rid them of the idea of a Messiah of earthly power and glory. Only the Cross could do that.
(c) But when we have said all that is to be said against James and John, this story tells us one shining thing about them--bewildered as they might be, they still believed in Jesus. It is amazing that they could still connect glory with a Galilaean carpenter who had incurred the enmity and the bitter opposition of the orthodox religious leaders and who was apparently heading for a cross. There is amazing confidence and amazing loyalty there. Misguided James and John might be but their hearts were in the right place. They never doubted Jesus' ultimate triumph.
(iii) It tells us something of Jesus' standard of greatness. The Revised Standard Version gives a literally accurate reading of what Jesus said--"Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" Jesus uses two Jewish metaphors here.
It was the custom at a royal banquet for the king to hand the cup to his guests. The cup therefore became a metaphor for the life and experience that God handed out to men. "My cup overflows," said the Psalmist ( Psalms 23:5), when he spoke of a life and experience of happiness given to him by God. "In the hand of the Lord there is a cup," said the Psalmist ( Psalms 75:8), when he was thinking of the fate in store for the wicked and the disobedient. Isaiah, thinking of the disasters which had come upon the people of Israel, describes them as having drunk "at the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath." ( Isaiah 51:17.) The cup speaks of the experience allotted to men by God.
The other phrase which Jesus uses is actually misleading in the literal English version. He speaks of the baptism with which he was baptized. The Greek verb baptizein ( G907) means to dip. Its past participle (bebaptismenos, G907) means submerged, and it is regularly used of being submerged in any experience. For instance, a spendthrift is said to be submerged in debt. A drunk man is said to be submerged in drink. A grief-stricken person is said to be submerged in sorrow. A lad before a cross-examining teacher is said to be submerged in questions. The word is regularly used for a ship that has been wrecked and submerged beneath the waves. The metaphor is very closely related to a metaphor which the Psalmist often uses. In Psalms 42:7 we read, "All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me." In Psalms 124:4 we read, "Then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us." The expression, as Jesus used it here, had nothing to do with technical baptism. What he is saying is, "Can you bear to go through the terrible experience which I have to go through? Can you face being submerged in hatred and pain and death, as I have to be?" He was telling these two disciples that without a cross there can never be a crown. The standard of greatness in the Kingdom is the standard of the Cross. It was true that in the days to come they did go through the experience of their Master, for James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa ( Acts 12:2), and, though John was probably not martyred, he suffered much for Christ. They accepted the challenge of their Master--even if they did so blindly.
(iv) Jesus told them that the ultimate issue of things belonged to God. The final assignment of destiny was his prerogative. Jesus never usurped the place of God. His own whole life was one long act of submission to his will and he knew that in the end that will was supreme.
THE PRICE OF MAN'S SALVATION ( Mark 10:41-45 )
10:41-45 When the ten heard about this, they began to be vexed about the action of James and John. Jesus called them to him. "You are well aware," he said, "that those who are esteemed good enough to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It is not so amongst you, but, amongst you, whoever wishes to be great will be your servant, and amongst you, whoever wishes to be first will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Inevitably the action of James and John aroused deep resentment amongst the other ten. It seemed to them that they had tried to steal a march and to take an unfair advantage. Immediately the old controversy about who was to be greatest began to rage again.
This was a serious situation. The fellowship of the apostolic band might well have been wrecked, had Jesus not taken immediate action. He called them to him, and made quite clear the different standards of greatness in his Kingdom and in the kingdoms of the world. In the kingdoms of the world the standard of greatness was power. The test was: How many people does a man control? How great an army of servants has he at his beck and call? On how many people can he impose his will? Not very much later than this, 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. In the Kingdom of Jesus the standard was that of service. Greatness consisted, not in reducing other men to one's service, but in reducing oneself to their service. The test was not, What service can I extract?, but, What service can I give?
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.
The basic trouble in the human situation is that men wish to do as little as possible and to get as much as possible. It is only when they are filled with the desire to put into life more than they take out, that life for themselves and for others will be happy and prosperous. Kipling has a poem called Mary's Son which is advice on the spirit in which a man must work:
"If you stop to find out what your wages will be
And how they will clothe and feed you,
Willie, my son, don't you go to the Sea,
For the Sea will never need you.
"If you ask for the reason of every command,
And argue with people about you,
Willie, my son, don't you go on the Land,
For the Land will do better without you.
If you stop to consider the work that you've done
And to boast what your labour is worth, dear,
Angels may come for you, Willie, my son,
But you'll never be wanted on earth dear!"
The world needs people whose ideal is service--that is to say it needs people who have realized what sound sense Jesus spoke.
To clinch his words Jesus pointed to his own example. With such powers as he had, he could have arranged life entirely to suit himself, but he had spent himself and all his powers in the service of others. He had come, he said, to give his life a ransom for many. This is one of the great phrases of the gospel, and yet it has been sadly mishandled and maltreated. People have tried to erect a theory of the atonement on what is a saying of love.
It was not long until people were asking to whom this ransom of the life of Christ had been paid? Origen asked the question. "To whom did he give his life a ransom for many? It was not to God. Was it not then to the Evil One? For the devil was holding us fast until the ransom should be given to him, even the life of Jesus, for he was deceived with the idea that he could have dominion over it and did not see that he could not bear the torture involved in retaining it." It is an odd conception that the life of Jesus was paid as a ransom to the devil so that he should release men from the bondage in which he held them, but that the devil found that in demanding and accepting that ransom, he had, so to speak, bitten off more than he could chew.
Gregory of Nyssa saw the flaw in that theory, namely that it really puts the devil on an equality with God. It allows him to make a bargain with God on equal terms. So Gregory of Nyssa conceived of the extraordinary idea of a trick played by God. The devil was tricked by the seeming weakness of the incarnation. He mistook Jesus for a mere man. He tried to exert his authority over him and, by trying to do so, lost it. Again it is an odd idea--that God should conquer the devil by a trick.
Another two hundred years passed and Gregory the Great took up the idea. He used a fantastic metaphor. The incarnation was a divine stratagem to catch the great leviathan. The deity of Christ was the hook, his flesh was the bait. When the bait was dangled before Leviathan, the devil, he swallowed it, and tried to swallow the hook, too, and so was overcome forever.
Finally Peter the Lombard brings this idea to its most grotesque and repulsive. "The Cross," he said, "was a mouse-trap to catch the devil, baited with the blood of Christ." All this simply shows what happens when men take a lovely and precious picture and try to make a cold theology out of it.
Suppose we say, "Sorrow is the price of love," we mean that love cannot exist without the possibility of sorrow, but we never even think of trying to explain to whom that price is paid. Suppose we say that freedom can be obtained only at the price of blood, toil, tears and sweat, we never think of investigating to whom that price is paid. This saying of Jesus is a simple and pictorial way of saying that it cost the life of Jesus to bring men back from their sin into the love of God. It means that the cost of our salvation was the Cross of Christ. Beyond that we cannot go, and beyond that we do not need to go. We know only that something happened on the Cross which opened for us the way to God.
A MIRACLE BY THE WAYSIDE ( Mark 10:46-52 )
10:46-52 They went to Jericho. As Jesus was passing through Jericho, on his way out of the city--his disciples and a great crowd were with him--Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there he began to shout. "Son of David!" he cried, "Jesus! Have pity on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted all the more, "Son of David! Have pity on me!" Jesus came to a stop. "Call him here!" he said. They called the blind man. "Courage!" they said to him. "Get up! He is calling you!" He threw off his cloak and leapt up and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "Master teacher! My prayer is that I might see again." Jesus said to him, "Go! Your faith has cured you." Immediately he saw again, and he followed him upon the road.
For Jesus the end of the road was not far away. Jericho was only about 15 miles from Jerusalem. We must try to visualize the scene. The main road ran right through Jericho. Jesus was on his way to the Passover. When a distinguished Rabbi or teacher was on such a journey it was the custom that he was surrounded by a crowd of people, disciples and learners, who listened to him as he discoursed while he walked. That was one of the commonest ways of teaching.
It was the law that every male Jew over twelve years of age who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem must attend the Passover. It was clearly impossible that such a law should be fulfilled and that everyone should go. Those who were unable to go were in the habit of lining the streets of towns and villages through which groups of Passover pilgrims must pass to bid them godspeed on their way. So then the streets of Jericho would be lined with people, and there would be even more than usual, for there would be many eager and curious to catch a glimpse of this audacious young Galilaean who had pitted himself against the assembled might of orthodoxy.
Jericho had one special characteristic. There were attached to the Temple over 20,000 priests and as many levites. Obviously they could not all serve at the one time. They were therefore divided into twenty-six courses which served in rotation. Very many of these priests and levites resided in Jericho when they were not on actual temple duty. There must have been many of them in the crowd that day. At the Passover all were on duty for all were needed. It was one of the rare occasions when all did serve. But many would not have started yet. They would be doubly eager to see this rebel who was about to invade Jerusalem. There would be many cold and bleak and hostile eyes in the crowd that day, because it was clear that if Jesus was right, the whole Temple worship was one vast irrelevancy.
At the northern gate sat a beggar, Bartimaeus by name. He heard the tramp of feet. He asked what was happening and who was passing. He was told that it was Jesus. There and then he set up an uproar to attract Jesus' attention to him. To those listening to Jesus' teaching as he walked the uproar was an offence. They tried to silence Bartimaeus, but no one was going to take from him his chance to escape from his world of darkness, and he cried with such violence and importunity that the procession stopped, and he was brought to Jesus.
This is a most illuminating story. In it we can see many of the things which we might call the conditions of miracle.
(i) There is the sheer persistence of Bartimaeus. Nothing would stop his clamour to come face to face with Jesus. He was utterly determined to meet the one person whom he longed to confront with his trouble. In the mind of Bartimaeus there was not just a nebulous, wistful, sentimental wish to see Jesus. It was a desperate desire, and it is that desperate desire that gets things done.
(ii) His response to the call of Jesus was immediate and eager, so eager that he cast off his hindering cloak to run to Jesus the more quickly. Many a man hears the call of Jesus, but says in effect, "Wait until I have done this," or "Wait until I have finished that." Bartimaeus came like a shot when Jesus called. Certain chances happen only once. Bartimaeus instinctively knew that. Sometimes we have a wave of longing to abandon some habit, to purify life of some wrong thing, to give ourselves more completely to Jesus. So very often we do not act on it on the moment--and the chance is gone, perhaps never to come back.
(iii) He knew precisely what he wanted--his sight. Too often our admiration for Jesus is a vague attraction. When we go to the doctor we want him to deal with some definite situation. When we go to the dentist we do not ask him to extract any tooth, but the one that is diseased. It should be so with us and Jesus. And that involves the one thing that so few people wish to face--self-examination. When we go to Jesus, if we are as desperately definite as Bartimaeus, things will happen.
(iv) Bartimaeus had a quite inadequate conception of Jesus. Son of David he insisted on calling him. Now that was a Messianic title, but it has in it all the thought of a conquering Messiah, a king of David's line who would lead Israel to national greatness. That was a very inadequate idea of Jesus. But, in spite of that, Bartimaeus had faith, and faith made up a hundredfold for the inadequacy of his theology. The demand is not that we should fully understand Jesus. That, in any event, we can never do. The demand is for faith. A wise writer has said, "We must ask people to think, but we should not expect them to become theologians before they are Christians." Christianity begins with a personal reaction to Jesus, a reaction of love, feeling that here is the one person who can meet our need. Even if we are never able to think things out theologically, that response of the human heart is enough.
(v) In the end there is a precious touch. Bartimaeus may have been a beggar by the wayside but he was a man of gratitude. Having received his sight, he followed Jesus. He did not selfishly go on his way when his need was met. He began with need, went on to gratitude, and finished with loyalty--and that is a perfect summary of the stages of discipleship.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/mark-10.html. 1956-1959.
But many that are first shall be last,....
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/mark-10.html. 1999.
|A Hopeful Youth Falling Short of Heaven.|
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? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 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. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 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. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 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! 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. 26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. 28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 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, 30 But he shall receive a 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. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
I. Here is a hopeful meeting between Christ and a young man; such he is said to be (Matthew 19:20; Matthew 19:22), and a ruler (Luke 18:18), a person of quality. Some circumstances here are, which we had not in Matthew, which makes his address to Christ very promising.
1. He came running to Christ, which was an indication of his humility; he laid aside the gravity and grandeur of a ruler, when he came to Christ: thus too he manifested his earnestness and importunity; he ran as one in haste, and longing to be in conversation with Christ. He had now an opportunity of consulting this great Prophet, in the things that belonged to his peace, and he would not let slip the opportunity.
2. He came to him when he was in the way, in the midst of company: he did not insist upon a private conference with him by night, as Nicodemus did, though like him he was a ruler, but when he shall find him without, will embrace that opportunity of advising with him, and not be ashamed,Song of Solomon 8:1.
3. He kneeled to him, in token of the great value and veneration he had for him, as a teacher come from God, and his earnest desire to be taught by him. He bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus, as one that would not only do obeisance to him now, but would yield obedience to him always; he bowed the knee, as one that meant to bow the soul to him.
4. His address to him was serious and weighty; Good Master, what shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life? Eternal life was an article of his creed, though then denied by the Sadducees, a prevailing party: he asks, What shall he do now that he may be happy for ever. Most men enquire for good to be had in this world (Psalms 4:6), any good; he asks for good to be done in this world, in order to the enjoyment of the greatest good in the other world; not, Who will make us to see good? But, "Who will make us to do good?" He enquires for happiness in the way of duty; the summum bonum--chief good which Solomon was in quest of, was that good for the sons of men which they do should do,Ecclesiastes 2:3. Now this was, (1.) A very serious question in itself; it was about eternal things, and his own concern in those things. Note, Then there begins to be some hope of people, when they begin to enquire solicitously, what they shall do to get to heaven. (2.) It was proposed to a right person, one that was every way fit to answer it, being himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the true way to life, to eternal life; who came from heaven on purpose, first to lay open for us, and then to lay open to us; first to make, and then to make known, the way to heaven. Note, Those who would know what they shall do to be saved, must apply themselves to Christ, and enquire of him; it is peculiar to the Christian religion, both to show eternal life, and to show the way to it. (3.) It was proposed with a good design--to be instructed. We find this same question put by a lawyer, not kneeling, but standing up (Luke 10:25), with a bad design, to pick quarrels with him; he tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do? It is not so much the good words as the good intention of them that Christ looks at.
5. Christ encouraged this address, (1.) By assisting his faith,Mark 10:18; Mark 10:18. He called him good Master; Christ would have him mean thereby, that he looked upon him to be God, since there is none good but one, that is God, who is one, and his name one, Zechariah 14:9. Our English word God doubtless hath affinity with good; as the Hebrews name God by his power, Elohim, the strong God; so we by his goodness, the good God. (2.) By directing his practice (Mark 10:19; Mark 10:19); Keep the commandments; and thou knowest what they are. He mentions the six commandments of the second table, which prescribe our duty to our neighbour; he inverts the order, putting the seventh commandment before the sixth, to intimate that adultery is a sin no less heinous than murder itself. The fifth commandment is here put last, as that which should especially be remembered and observed, to keep us to all the rest. Instead of the tenth commandment, Thou shalt not covet, our Saviour here puts, Defraud not. Me apostereses--that is, saith Dr. Hammond, "Thou shalt not rest contented with thy own, and not seek to increase it by the diminution of other men's." It is a rule of justice not to advance or enrich ourselves by doing wrong or injury to any other.
6. The young man bid fair for heaven, having been free from any open gross violations of the divine commands. Thus far he was able to same in some measure (Mark 10:20; Mark 10:20), Master, all these have I observed from my youth. He thought he had, and his neighbours thought so too. Note, Ignorance of the extent and spiritual nature of the divine law, makes people think themselves in a better condition than they really are. Paul was alive without the law. But when he saw that to be spiritual, he saw himself to be carnal,Romans 7:9; Romans 7:14. However, he that could say he was free from scandalous sin, went further than many in the way to eternal life. But though we know nothing by ourselves, yet are we not thereby justified.1 Corinthians 4:4.
7. Christ had a kindness for him; Jesus, beholding him, loved him,Mark 10:21; Mark 10:21. He was pleased to find that he had lived inoffensively, and pleased to see that he was inquisitive how to live better than so. Christ particularly loves to see young people, and rich people, asking the way to heaven, with their faces thitherward.
II. Here is a sorrowful parting between Christ and this young man.
1. Christ gave him a command of trial, by which it would appear whether he did in sincerity aim at eternal life, and press towards it: he seemed to have his heart much upon it, and if so, he is what he should be; but has he indeed his heart upon it? Bring him to the touchstone. (1.) Can he find in his heart to part with his riches for the service of Christ? He hath a good estate, and now, shortly, at the first founding of the Christian church, the necessity of the case will require that those who have lands, sell them, and lay the money at the apostles' feet; and how will he dispense with that? Acts 4:34; Acts 4:35. After awhile, tribulation and persecution will arise, because of the word; and he must be forced to sell his estate, or have it taken from him, and how will he like that? Let him know the worst now; if he will not come up to these terms, let him quit his pretensions; as good as the first as at last. "Sell whatsoever thou hast over and above what is necessary for thy support;" probably, he had no family to provide for; let him therefore be a father to the poor, and make them his heirs. Every man, according to his ability, must relieve the poor, and be content, when there is occasion, to straiten himself to do it. Worldly wealth is given us, not only as maintenance to bear our charges through this world, according to our place in it, but as talent, to be used and employed for the glory of our great Master in the world, who hath so ordered it, that the poor we should have always with us as his receivers. (2.) Can he find it in his heart to go through the hardest costliest services he may be called to as a disciple of Christ, and depend upon him for a recompence in heaven? He asks Christ what he should do more than he has done to obtain eternal life, and Christ puts it to him, whether he has indeed that firm belief of, and that high value for, eternal life that he seems to have. Doth he really believe there is a true treasure in heaven sufficient to make up all he can leave, or lose, or lay out, for Christ? Is he willing to deal with Christ upon trust? Can he give him credit for all he is worth; and be willing to bear a present cross, in expectation of a future crown?
2. Upon this he flew off (Mark 10:22; Mark 10:22); He was sad at that saying; was sorry that he could not be a follower of Christ upon any easier terms than leaving all to follow him; that he could not lay hold on eternal life, and keep hold of his temporal possessions too. But since he could not come up to the terms of discipleship, he was so fair as not to pretend to it; He went away grieved. Here appeared the truth of that (Matthew 6:24), Ye cannot serve God and mammon; while he held to mammon he did in effect despise Christ, as all those do who prefer the world before him. He bids for what he has a mind for in the market, yet goes away grieved, and leaves it, because he cannot have it at his own price. Two words to a bargain. Motions are not marriages. That which ruined this young man was, he had great possessions; thus the prosperity of fools destroys them, and those who spend their days in wealth are tempted to say to God, Depart from us; or to their hearts, Depart from God.
III. Here is Christ's discourse with his disciples. We are tempted to wish that Christ had mollified that saying which frightened this young gentleman from following him, and by an explanation taken off the harshness of it: but he knew all men's hearts; he would not court him to be his follower, because he was a rich man and a ruler; but, if he will go, let him go. Christ will keep no man against his will; and therefore we do not find that Christ called him back, but took this occasion to instruct his disciples in two things.
1. The difficulty of the salvation of those who have an abundance of this world; because there are few who have a deal to leave, that can be persuaded to leave it for Christ, or to lay it out in doing good.
(1.) Christ asserts this here; He looked about upon his disciples, because he would have them all take notice of what he said, that by it they might have their judgments rightly informed, and their mistakes rectified, concerning worldly wealth, which they were apt to over-rate; How hardly shall they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God!Mark 10:23; Mark 10:23. They have many temptations to grapple with, and many difficulties to get over, which lie not in the way of poor people. But he explains himself, Mark 10:24; Mark 10:24, where he calls the disciples children, because as such they should be taught by him, and portioned by him with better things than this young man left Christ to cleave to; and whereas he had said, How hardly will those who have riches get to heaven; here he tells them, that the danger arose not so much from their having riches as from their trusting to them, and placing their confidence in them, expecting protection, provision, and a portion from them; saying that to their gold, which they should say only to their God, Thou art my hope,Job 31:24. They have such a value as this for the wealth of the world, will never be brought to put a right value upon Christ and his grace. They that have ever so much riches, but do not trust in them, that see the vanity of them, and their utter insufficiency to make a soul happy, have got over the difficulty, and can easily part with them for Christ: but they have ever so little, if they set their hearts upon that little, and place their happiness in it, it will keep them from Christ. He enforces this assertion with, Mark 10:25; Mark 10:25, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man, that trusts in riches, or inclines to do so, to enter into the kingdom of God. The disproportion here seems so great (though the more it is so the more it answers the intention), that some have laboured to bring the camel and the eye of the needle a little nearer together. [1.] Some imagine there might be some wicket-gate, or door, to Jerusalem, commonly known by the name of the needle's eye, for its straitness, through which a camel could not be got, unless he were unloaded, and made to kneel, as those camel, Genesis 24:11. So a rich man cannot get to heaven unless he is willing to part with the burthen of his worldly wealth, and stoop to the duties of a humble religion, and so enter at the strait gate. [2.] Others suggest that the word we translate a camel, sometimes signifies a cable-rope, which, though not to be got through a needle's eye, yet is of great affinity to it. A rich man, compared with the poor, is as a cable to a single thread, stronger, but not so pliable, and it will not go through the needle's eye, unless it be untwisted. So the rich man must be loosed and disentangled from his riches, and then there is some hope of him, that thread by thread he may be got through the eye of the needle, otherwise he is good for nothing but to cast anchor in the earth.
(2.) This truth was very surprising to the disciples; They were astonished at his words,Mark 10:24; Mark 10:24. They were astonished out of measure, and said among themselves, Who then can be saved? They knew what were generally the sentiments of the Jewish teachers, who affirmed that the Spirit of God chooses to reside in rich men; nay, they knew what abundance of promises there were, in the Old Testament, of temporal good things; they knew likewise that all either are rich, or fain would be so, and that they who are rich, have so much the larger opportunities of doing good, and therefore were amazed to hear that it should be so hard for rich people to go to heaven.
(3.) Christ reconciled them to it, by referring it to the almighty power of God, to help even rich people over the difficulties that lie in the way of their salvation (Mark 10:27; Mark 10:27); He looked upon them, to engage their attention, and said, "With men it is impossible; rich people cannot by their own skill or resolution get over these difficulties, but the grace of God can do it, for with him all things are possible." If the righteous scarcely are saved, much more may we say so of the rich; and therefore when any get to heaven, they must give all the glory to God, who worketh in them both to will and to do.
2. The greatness of the salvation of those that have but a little of this world, and leave it for Christ. This he speaks of, upon occasion of Peter's mentioning what he and the rest of the disciples had left to follow him; Behold, (saith he), we have left all to follow thee,Mark 10:28; Mark 10:28. "You have done well," saith Christ, "and it will prove in the end that you have done well for yourselves; you shall be abundantly recompensed, and not only you shall be reimbursed, who have left but a little, but those that have ever so much, though it were so much as this young man had, that could not persuade himself to quit it for Christ; yet they shall have much more than an equivalent for it." (1.) The loss is supposed to be very great; he specifies, [1.] Worldly wealth; houses are here put first, and lands last: if a man quit his house, which should be for his habitation, and his land, which should be for his maintenance, and so make himself a beggar and an outcast. This has been the choice of suffering saints; farewell houses and lands, though ever so convenient and desirable, through the inheritance of fathers, for the house which is from heaven, and the inheritance of the saints in light, where are many mansions. [2.] Dear relations. Father and mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters. In these, as much as in any temporal blessing, the comfort of life is bound up; without these the world would be a wilderness; yet, when we must either for sake these or Christ, we must remember that we stand in nearer relation to Christ than we do to any creature; and therefore to keep in with him, we must be content to break with all the world, and to say to father and mother, as Levi did, I have not known you. The greatest trial of a good man's constancy is, when his love to Christ comes to stand in competition with a love that is lawful, nay, that is his duty. It is easy to such a one to forsake a lust for Christ, for he hath that within him, that rises against it; but to forsake a father, a brother, a wife, for Christ, that is, to forsake those whom he knows he must love, is hard. And yet he must do so, rather than deny or disown Christ. Thus great is the loss supposed to be; but it is for Christ's sake, that he may be honoured, and the gospel's, that it may be promoted and propagated. It is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr. And therefore, (2.) The advantage will be great. [1.] They shall receive a hundred-fold in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters; not in specie, but that which is equivalent. He shall have abundance of comfort while he lives, sufficient to make up for all his losses; his relation to Christ, his communion with the saints, and his title to eternal life, shall be to him brethren, and sisters, and houses, and all. God's providence gave Job double to what he had had, but suffering Christians shall have a hundred-fold in the comforts of the Spirit sweetening their creature comforts. But observe, It is added here in Mark, with persecutions. Even when they are gainers by Christ, let them still expect to be sufferers for him; and not be out of the reach of persecution, till they come to heaven. Nay, The persecutions seem to come in here among the receivings in this present time; for unto you it is given, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his name; yet this is not all, [2.] They shall have eternal life in the world to come. If they receive a hundred-fold in this world, one would think they should not be encouraged to expect any more. Yet, as if that were a small matter, they shall have life eternal into the bargain; which is more than ten thousand-fold, ten thousand times told, for all their losses. But because they talked so much, and really more than became them, of leaving all for Christ, he tells them, though they were first called, that there should be disciples called after them, that should be preferred before them; as St. Paul, who was one born out of due time, and yet laboured more abundantly than all the rest of the apostles, 1 Corinthians 15:10. Then the first were last, and the last first.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/mark-10.html. 1706.
Children Brought to Christ, and Not to the Font
July 24th, 1864
C. H. SPURGEON
"And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them:
and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 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. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive
the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he
took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed
them"--Mark 10:13-16 .
My attention has been specially directed to this passage by the fact that
it has been quoted against me by most of the authors of those sermons
and letters which are, by a stretch of imagination, called "replies" to
my sermon upon "Baptismal Regeneration." Replies they certainly are
not, except to one another. I marvel that a Church so learned as the
Anglican, cannot produce something a little more worthy of the point
in hand. The various authors may possibly have read my discourse, but
by reason of mental absorption in other meditations, or perhaps
through the natural disturbance of mind caused by guilty consciences,
they have talked with confusion of words, and have only been
successful in refuting themselves, and answering one another. They
must have been aiming at something far removed from my sermon, or
else I must give them credit for being the worst shots that ever
practiced with polemical artillery. They do not so much as touch the
target in its extreme corners, much less in its centre. The whole
question is, Do you believe that baptism regenerates? If so--prove that
your belief is Scriptural! Do you believe that baptism does not
regenerate? Then justify your swearing that it does? Who will reply to
this? He shall merit and bear the palm.
The Scripture before us is by several of the champions on the other
side exhibited to the people as a rebuke to me. Their reasoning is
rather ingenious than forcible: forsooth, because the disciples incurred
the displeasure of Jesus Christ by keeping back the little children from
coming to Him, therefore Jesus Christ is greatly displeased with me,
and with all others like me, for keeping children from the font, and the
performance there enacted; and specially displeased with me for
exposing the Anglican doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration! Observe
the reasoning--because Jesus was much displeased with disciples for
hindering parents from seeking a blessing upon their children,
therefore he is much displeased with us who do not believe in
godfathers and godmothers, or the signing of the cross on the infant
brow. I must say at the outset that this is rather a leap of argument,
and would not ordinarily be thought conclusive, but this we may
readily overlook, since we have long ceased to hope for reasonable
arguments from those who support a cause based upon absurdity. My
brethren, I concluded that there must be something forcible in such a
text as this, or my opponents would not be so eager to secure it; I have
therefore care fully looked at it, and as I have viewed it, it has opened
up to me with a sacred splendour of grace. In this incident the very
heart of Christ is published to poor sinners, and we may clearly
perceive the freeness and the fulness of the mighty grace of the
Redeemer of men, who is willing to receive the youngest child as well
as the oldest man; and is greatly displeased with any who would keep
back seeking souls from coming to him, or loving hearts from bringing
others to receive his blessing.
I. In handling this text in what I believe to be its true light, I shall
commence, first of all, by observing that THIS TEXT HAS NOT THE
SHADOW OF THE SHADE OF THE GHOST OF A CONNECTION WITH BAPTISM. There is no
line of connection so substantial as a spider's web between this incident
and baptism, or at least my imagination is not vivid enough to conceive
one. This I will prove to you, if you will follow me for a moment.
It is very clear, Dear Friends, that these young children were not
brought to Jesus Christ by their friends to be baptized. "They brought
young children to him, that he should touch them," says Mark.
Matthew describes the children as being brought "that he would put
his hands on them and pray," but there is not a hint about their being
baptized; no godfathers or godmothers had been provided, and no sign
of the cross was requested. Surely the parents themselves knew
tolerably well what it was they desired, and they would not have
expressed themselves so dubiously as to ask him to touch them, when
they meant that he should baptize them. The parents evidently had no
thought of regeneration by baptism, and brought the children for quite
In the next place, if they brought the children to Jesus Christ to be
baptized, they brought them to the wrong person; for the Evangelist,
John, in the fourth chapter, and the second verse, expressly assures us
that Jesus Christ baptized not, but his disciples: this settles the
question once for all, and proves beyond all dispute that there is no
connection between this incident and baptism.
But you will say, "Perhaps they brought the children to be baptized by
the disciples?" Brethren, the disciples were not in the habit of
baptizing infants, and this is clear from the case in hand. If they had
been in the habit of baptizing infants, would they have rebuked the
parents for bringing them? If it had been a customary thing for parents
to bring children with such an object, would the disciples who had
been in the constant habit of performing the ceremony, have rebuked
them for attending to it? Would any Church clergyman rebuke parents
for bringing their children to be baptized? If he did so, he would act
absurdly contrary to his own views and practice; and we cannot
therefore imagine that if infant baptism had been the accepted
practice, the disciples could have acted so absurdly as to rebuke the
parents for bringing their little ones. It is obvious that such could not
have been the practice of the disciples who were rebuked.
Moreover, and here is an argument which seems to me to have great
force in it, when Jesus Christ rebuked his disciples, then was the time
if ever in his life, to have openly spoken concerning infant baptism,
godfathers and godmothers, and the whole affair. If he wished to
rebuke his disciples most effectually, how could he have done it better
than by saying, "Wherefore keep ye these children back? I have
ordained that they shall be baptized; I have expressly commanded that
they shall be regenerated and made members of my body in baptism;
how dare you then, in opposition to my will, keep them back?" But no,
dear friends, our Saviour never said a word about "the laver of
regeneration," or, "the quickening dew," when he rebuked them--not a
single sentence. Had he done so, the season would have been most
appropriate if it had been his intention to teach the practice; in the
whole of his life, there is no period in which a discourse upon infant
regeneration in baptism could have been more appropriate than on this
occasion, and yet not a single sentence about it comes from the
To close all, Jesus Christ did not baptize the children. Our Evangelist
does not inform us that he exclaimed, "Where are the godfathers and
godmothers?" It is not recorded that he called for a font, or a Prayer
Book? No; but "He took them up in his arms, put his hands upon
them, and blessed them," and dismissed them without a drop of the
purifying element. Now, if this event had any connection with baptism
whatever, it was the most appropriate occasion for infant baptism to
have been practiced. Why, it would have ended for ever the
controversy. There may be some men in the world who would have
raised the question of engrafting infants into the body of Christ's
Church by baptism after all this, but I am certain no honest man would
have done so who reverently accepted Christ as his spiritual leader. I,
my brethren, would sooner be dumb than speak a single word against
an ordinance which Christ himself instituted and practiced; and if on
this occasion he had but sprinkled one of these infant s, given him a
Christian name, signed him with a cross, accepted the vows of his
godparents, and thanked God for his regeneration, then the question
would have been settled for ever, and some of us would have been
saved a world of abuse, besides escaping no end of mistakes, for which
we are condemned, in the judgment of many good people, for whom
we have some affection, though for their judgment we have no respect.
So you see the parents did not ask baptismal regeneration; Christ did
not personally baptize; the disciples were not in the habit of baptizing
infants, or else they would not have rebuked the parents; Christ did not
speak about baptism on the occasion, and he did not baptize the little
I will put a case to you which may exhibit the weakness of my
opponents' position. Suppose a denomination should rise up which
should teach that babes should be allowed to partake at the Lord's
Table. Such teaching could plead precedents of great antiquity, for you
are aware that at one period, infant communion was allowed, and
logically too; for if an infant has a right to baptism, it has a right to
come to the Lord's Table. For years children were brought to the
Lord's Table, but rather inconvenient accidents occurred, and there
fore the thing was dropped as being unseemly. But if some one should
revive the error, and try to prove that infants are to come to the Lord's
Supper, he might prove it from this passage quite as clearly as our
friends can prove infant baptism from it. Moreover do not forget that
even if infant baptism could be proved from this text, the ceremony
prescribed in the Prayer Book is quite as far from being established.
Whether the baptism of infants may or may not be proved from other
Scriptures I cannot now stay to enquire, but even if it can be, what are
we to say for godfathers or godmothers, or the assertion that in
baptism children are made "members of Christ, children of God, and
inheritors of the kingdom of heaven?" Truly I might as well prove
vaccination from the text before me, as the performance which the
Prayer Book calls "infant baptism." I do not hesitate to say that I could
prove any earthly thing, if I might but have such reasoning granted to
me as that which proved infant baptism from this passage. There is no
possible connection between the two. The teaching of the passage is
very plain and very clear, and baptism has been imported into it, and
not found in it. As a quaint writer has well said, "These doctrines are
raised from the text as our collectors raise a tax upon indigent,
nonsolvent people, by coming armed with the law and a constable to
distrain for that which is not to be had. Certainly never was text so
strained and distrained to pay what it never owed; never man so
racked to confess what he never thought; never was a pumice stone so
squeezed for water which it never held." Still hundreds will catch at
this straw, and cry, "Did not Jesus say, 'Suffer the little children to
come unto me?'" To these we give this one word, see that ye read the
Word as it is written, and you will find no water in it but Jesus only.
Are the water and Christ the same thing? Is bringing a child to a font
bringing the child to Christ? Nay, here is a wide difference, as wide as
between Rome and Jerusalem, as wide as between Anti-christ and
Christ, between false doctrine and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. Now, for our second and much more pleasing task, WHY THEN WAS JESUS
Read the passage and at once the answer comes to you. He was
displeased with his disciples for two reasons: first, because they
discouraged those who would bring others to him; and secondly,
because they discouraged those who themselves were anxious to come
to him. They did not discourage those who were coming to a font, they
discouraged those who were coming to Jesus. There is a mighty
distinction ever to be held between the font and Christ, between the
sprinkling of the priest and living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, his disciples discouraged those who would bring others to him. This
is a great sin, and wherever it is committed Jesus Christ is greatly
displeased, for a true desire to see others saved is wrought in the believer
by God the Holy Spirit, who thus renders the called ones the means of
bringing wandering sheep into the fold. In this case they discouraged those
who would bring children to him to be blessed. How can we bring children
to Jesus Christ to be blessed? We cannot do it in a corporeal sense, for
Jesus is not here, "he is risen;" but we can bring our children in a true,
real, and spiritual sense. We take them up in the arms of our prayer. I hope
many of us, so soon as our children saw the light, if not before, presented
them to God with this anxious prayer, that they might sooner die than live
to disgrace their father's God. We only desired children that we might i n
them live over again another life of service to God; and when we looked
into their young faces, we never asked wealth for them, nor fame, nor
anything else, but that they might be dear unto God, and that their names
might be written in the Lamb's Book of Life. We did then bring our
children to Christ as far as we could do it, by presenting them before God,
by earnest prayer on their behalf. And have we ceased to bring them to
Christ? Nay, I hope we seldom bow the knee without praying for our
children. Our daily cry is, "O, that they might live before thee!" God knows
that nothing would give us more joy than to see evidence of their
conversion; our souls would almost leap out of our bodies with joy, if we
should but know that they were the children of the living God. Nor has this
privilege been denied to us, for there are some here who can rejoice in a
converted household. Truly we can say with the apostle Paul, "I have no
greater joy than this, that my children walk in the truth." We continue,
therefore, to bring them to Christ by daily, constant, earnest prayer on
their behalf. So soon as they become of years capable of understanding the
things of God, we endeavour to bring them to Christ by teaching them the
truth. Hence our Sabbath-schools, hence the use of the Bible and family
prayer, and catechizing at home. Any person who shall forbid us to pray
for our children, will incur Christ's high displeasure; and any who shall
say, "Do no t teach your children; they will be converted in God's own time
if it be his purpose, therefore leave them to run wild in the streets," will
certainly both "sin against the child" and the Lord Jesus. We might as well
say, "If that piece of ground is to grow a harvest, it will do so if it be
God's good pleasure; therefore leave it, and let the weeds spring up and
cover it; do not endeavour for a moment to kill the weeds, or to sow the
good seed." Why, such reasoning as this would be not only cruel to our
children, but grievously displeasing to Christ. Parents! I do hope you are
all endeavouring to bring your children to Christ by teaching them the
things of God. Let them not be strangers to the plan of salvation. N ever
let it be said that a child of yours reached years in which his conscience
could act, and he could judge between good and evil, without knowing the
doctrine of the atonement, without understanding the great substitutionary
work of Christ. Set before your child life and death, hell and heaven,
judgment and mercy, his own sin, and Christ's most precious blood; and as
you set these before him, labour with him, persuade him, as the apostle did
his congregation, with tears and weeping, to turn unto the Lord; and your
prayers and supplications shall be heard so that the Spirit of God shall
bring them to Jesus. How much more like the Scripture will such labours
be than if you were to sing the following very pretty verse which disfigures
Roundell Palmer's "Book of Praise!"--
"Though thy conception was in sin,
A sacred bathing thou hast had;
And though thy birth unclean has been,
A blameless babe thou now art made.
Sweet baby, then forbear to weep;
Be still, my dear, sweet baby, sleep."
I cannot tell you how much I owe to the solemn words of my good
mother. It was the custom on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little
children, for her to stay at home with us, and then we sat round the
table and read verse by verse, an d she explained the Scripture to us.
After that was done, then came the time of pleading; there was a little
piece of "Alleyn's Alarm," or of Baxter's "Call to the Unconverted,"
and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we
sat round the table; and the question was asked how long it would be
before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek
the Lord. Then came a mother's prayer, and some of the words of a
mother's prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I
remember on one occasion her praying thus: "Now, Lord, if my
children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they
perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day
of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ." That thought of a mother's
bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience and stirred
my heart. This pleading with them for God and with God for them is
the true way to bring children to Christ. Sunday-school teachers! you
have a high and noble work, press forward in it. In our schools you do
not try to bring children to the baptistry for regeneration, you point
them away from ceremonies; if I know the teachers of this school
aright, I know you are trying to bring your classes to Christ. Let Christ
be the sum and substance of your teaching in the school. Young men
and young women, in your classes lift up Christ, lift him up on high;
and if anybody shall say to you, "Why do you thus talk to the
children?" you can say, "Because my soul yearns towards them, and I
pant for their conversion;" and if any should afterwards object, you can
remember that Jesus is greatly displeased with them, and not with you,
for you only obey the injunction, "Feed my lambs."
The case in our text is that of children, but objectors rise up who
disapprove of endeavours to bring any sort of people to Christ by faith
and prayer. There are some who spend their nights in the streets
seeking after the poor harlot, and I have heard many harsh
observations made about their work; some will say it is ridiculous to
expect that any of those who have spent their days in debauchery
should be converted. We are told that the most of those who are taken
into the refuges go back and become as depraved as ever; I believe that
to be a very sad and solemn truth; but I believe, if I or anyone else
shall urge that or anything else as a reason why my brethren should
not seek the harlot, that Jesus would be greatly displeased; for any man
who stands between a soul-seeker and the divine object of getting a
blessing for the sinner's soul, excites the wrath of Christ. Some have
hopes of our convicts and criminals; but every now and then there is
an outcry against those who even believe it possible for a transport or a
ticket-of-leave man to be converted. But Jesus is greatly displeased
with any who shall say about the work, "It is too hard; it is
impossible." My brethren in Christ, labour for souls of all sorts: for
your children and for those who are past the threescore years and ten.
Seek out the drunkard; go after the thief; despise not the poor down-
trodden slave; let every race, let every colour, let every age, let every
profession, let every nation, be the object of your soul's prayers. You
live in this world, I hope, to bring souls to Jesus; you are Christ's
magnets with which through his Holy Spirit he will attract hearts of
steel; you are his heralds, you are to invite wanderers to come to the
banquet; you are his messengers, you are to compel them to come in
that his house may be filled; and if the devil tells you will not succeed,
and if the world tells you that you are too feeble and have not talent
enough, never mind, Jesus would be greatly displeased with you if you
should take any heed to them; and meanwhile he is greatly displeased
with your adversaries for endeavouring to stop you. Beloved, this is
why Jesus Christ was greatly displeased.
A second ground of displeasure must be noticed. These children, it
strikes me, and I think there is good reason for the belief, themselves
desired to come to Christ to obtain a blessing. They are called "little
children," which term does not necessarily involve their being infants
of six months or a year; indeed, it is clear, as I will show in a moment,
that they were not such little children as to be unconscious babes. They
were "infants," according to our version of Luke, but then you know
the English word "infant" includes a considerable range of age, for
every person in his minority is legally considered to be an infant,
though he may be able to talk to any amount. We do not, however,
desire to translate the text with so great a license. There is no necessity
in the language used that these should have been anything but what
they are said to be--"little children." It is evident they could walk,
because in Luke it is said, "Jesus called them;" the gender of the Greek
pronoun used there refers it to the children, not to the persons, nor to
the disciples. Jesus called them, he called the children, which he
would hardly have done if they could not comprehend his call: and he
said, "Suffer the little children to come," which implies that they could
come, and doubtless they did come, with cheerful faces, expecting to
get the blessing. These perhaps may have been some of those very
children, who, a short time after, pulled down branches from the trees
and strewed them in the way, and cried, "Hosanna," when the Saviour
said, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained
strength." Now Christ was greatly displeased with his disciples for
pushing back these boys and girls. They did, as some old folks do now-
a-days, who cry out--"Stand back, you boys and girls! we do not want
you here; we do not want children to fill up the place; we only want
grown-up people." They pushed them back; they thought that Christ
would have too much to do, if he attended to the juveniles. Here comes
out this principle, that we must expect Christ's displeasure, if we
attempt to keep anybody back from coming to Christ, even though it be
the youngest child. You ask how persons can come to Christ now?
They cannot come corporeally, but they can come by simple prayer and
humble faith. Faith is the way to Jesus, baptism is not. When Jesus
says, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden," he did
not mean, "be baptized," did he? No; and so when he said, "Suffer the
little children to come unto me," he did not mean, "Baptize them," did
he? Coming to Jesus Christ is quite a different thing from coming to a
font. Coming to Christ means laying hold upon Christ with the hand
of faith; looking to him for my life, my pardon, my salvation, my
everything. If there be a poor little child here who is saying in her
little heart, or his little heart, "I would like to come to Christ, O that
I might be pardoned while I am yet a little one"--come, little lamb; come,
and welcome. Did I hear your cry? Was it this?
"Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child;
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to thee."
Dear little one, Jesus will not despise your lispings, nor will his
servant keep you back. Jesus calls you, come and receive his blessing.
If any of you say a word to keep the young heart back, Jesus will be
displeased with you. Now I am afraid some do that; those, for instance,
who think that the gospel is not for little children. Many of my
brethren, I am sorry to say, preach in such a way that there is no hope
of children ever getting any good by their preaching. I cannot glory in
learning or eloquence, but in this one thing I may rejoice, that there is
always a number of happy children here, who are quite as attentive as
any of my audience. I do love to think that the gospel is suitable to
little children. There are boys and girls in many of our Sabbath-school
classes down below stairs who are as truly converted to God as any of
us. Nay, and if you were to speak with them about the things of God,
though you should get to the knotty points of election and
predestination, you would find those boys and girls well taught in the
things of the kingdom: they know free will from free grace, and you
cannot puzzle them when you come to talk about the work of Jesus and
the work of the Spirit, for they can discern between things which
differ. But a minister who preaches as though he never wanted to
bring children to Christ, and shoots right over the little one's heads, I
do think Jesus is displeased with him.
Then there are others who doubt whether children ever will be
converted. They do not look upon it as a thing likely to happen, and
whenever they hear of a believing child, they hold up their hands at
the prodigy, and say, "What a wonder of grace!" It ought to be, and in
those Churches where the gospel is simply preached, it is as common a
thing for children to be converted as for grown-up people to be brought
to Christ. Others begin to doubt the truth of juvenile conversions. They
say, "They are very young, can they understand the gospel. Is it not
merely an infantile emotion, a mere profession?" My brethren, you
have no more right to suspect the sincerity of the young, than to
mistrust the grey-headed; you ought to receive them with the same
open-breasted confidence with which you receive others when they
profess to have found the Saviour. Do, I pray you, whenever you see
the faintest desire in your children, go down on your knees, as your
servant does, when the fire is almost out, and blow the spark with your
own breath--seek by prayer to fan that spark to a flame. Do not despise
any godly remark the child may make. Do not puff the child up on
account of the goodness of the remark, lest you make him vain and so
injure him, but do encourage him; let his first little prayers be noticed
by you; though you may not like to teach him a form of prayer--I shall
not care if you do not--yet teach him what prayer is; tell him to express
his desires in his own words, and when he does so, join ye in it and
plead with God on his behalf, that your little one may speedily find
true peace in a Saviour's blood. You must not, unless you would
displease my Master, keep back the smallest child that longs to come
Here let us observe that the principle is of general application, you
must not hinder any awakened soul from seeking the Saviour. O my
brethren and sisters, I hope we have such a love for souls, such an
instinct within us to desire to see the travail of Christ's soul, that
instead of putting stumbling-blocks in the way, we would do the best
we could to gather out the stones. On Sabbath days I have laboured to
clear up the doubts and fears which afflict coming sinners; I have
entreated God the Holy Spirit to enable me so to speak, that those
things which hindered you from coming to the Saviour might be
removed; but how sad must be the case of those who delight
themselves in putting stumbling-blocks in men's way. The doctrine of
election for instance, a great and glorious truth, full of comfort to
God's people; how often is that made to frighten sinners from Jesus!
There is a way of preaching that with a drawn sword, and say, "You
must not come unless you know you are one of God's elect." That is
not the way to preach the doctrine. The true way of preaching it is,
"God has a chosen people, and I hope you are one of them; come, lay
hold on Jesus, put your trust in him." Then there be others who preach
up frames and feelings as a preparation for Christ. They do in effect
say, "Unless you have felt so much depression of spirit, or experienced
a certain quantity of brokenness of heart, you must not come to
Christ," instead of declaring, that whosoever will is permitted to come,
and that the true way of coming to Christ is not with a qualification of
frames and feeling and mental depressions, but just as you are. Oh! it
is my soul's delight to preach a gospel which has an open door to it, to
preach a mercy-seat which has no veil before it; the veil is rent in
twain, and now the biggest sinner out of hell who desires to come, is
welcome. You who are eighty years of age, and have hated Christ all
the time, if now the Spirit of God makes you willing to come, Christ
seems to say, "Suffer the grey- headed to come unto me, and forbid
them not:" while to you little children, he stretches out his arms in the
same manner, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." O my
beloved, see to it that your heart longs to come to Christ, and not to
ceremonies! I stand here this day to cry, "Come ye to the cross, not to
the font." When I forget to lift up the Lord Jesus, and to cast down the
forms of man's devising, "let my right hand forget her cunning," and
"let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth"--
None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good;"
The font is a mockery and an imposition if it be put before Christ. If
you have baptism after you have come to Christ, well and good, but to
point you to it either as being Christ, or as being inevitably connected
with Christ, or as being the place to find Christ, is nothing better than
t o go back to the beggarly elements of the old Romish harlot, instead
of standing in the "liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free," and
bidding the sinner to come as a sinner to Christ Jesus, and to Christ
III. In the third and last place, let us also gather from our text, that
WHEN WE DISCOURAGE ANY, WE ALWAYS GO UPON WRONG GROUNDS. Here was the case
of children. I suppose that the grounds upon which the apostles kept back
the children would be one of these--either t hat the children could not
receive a blessing, or else that they could not receive it worthily.
Did they imagine that these little children could not receive the
blessing? Perhaps so, for they thought them too young. Now, brethren,
that was a wrong ground to go upon, for these children could receive
the blessing and they did receive it, for Jesus took them in his arms
and blessed them. If I keep back a child from coming to Christ on the
ground that he is too young, I do it in the face of facts ; because there
have been children brought to Christ at an extremely early period. You
who are acquainted with Janeway's "Tokens for Children," have
noticed very many beautiful instance of early conversion. Our dear
friend, Mrs. Rogers, in that book of hers, "The Folded Lamb," gave a
very sweet picture of a little son of hers, soon folded in the Saviour's
bosom above, who, as early as two or three years of age, rejoiced and
knew the Saviour. I do not doubt at all, I cannot doubt it, because one
has seen such cases, that children of two or three years of age may
have precocity of knowledge, and of grace; a forwardness which in
almost every case has betokened early death, but which has been
perfectly marvellous to those who have talked with them. The fact is
that we do not all at the same age arrive at that degree of mental
stature which is necessary for understanding the things of God.
Children have been reported as reading Latin, Greek, and other
languages, at five or six years of age. I do not know that such early
scholarship is any great blessing, it is better not to reach that point so
soon; but some children are all that their minds ever will be at three or
four, and then they go home to heaven; and so long as the mind has
been brought up to such a condition that it is capable of understanding,
it is also capable of faith, if the Holy Spirit shall implant it. To suppose
that he ever did give faith to an unconscious babe is ridiculous; that
there can be any faith in a child that knows nothing whatever I must
always take ground to doubt, for "How shall they believe without a
preacher?" And yet they are brought up to make a profession in their
long-clothes, when they have never heard a sermon in their lives. But
those dear children to whom I have before referred, have understood
the preacher, have understood the truth, have rejoiced in the truth, and
their first young lispings have been as full of grace as those glorious
expressions of aged saints in their triumphant departures. Children are
capable, then, of receiving the grace of God. Do mark by the way, that
all those champions who have come out against me so valiantly, have
made a mistake; they have said that we deny that little infants may be
regenerated; we do not deny that God can regenerate them if he
pleases; we do not know anything about what may or may not happen
to unconscious babes; but we did say that little children were not
regenerated by their godparents telling lies at a font--we did say that,
and we say it again, that little children are not regenerated, nor made
members of Christ, nor children of God, nor inheritors of the kingdom
of heaven, by solemn mockery, in which godfathers and godmother s
promise to do for them what they cannot do for themselves, much less
for their children. That is the point; and if they will please to meet it,
we will answer them again, but till such time as that, we shall
probably let them talk on till God give s them grace to know better.
The other ground upon which the apostles put back the children would
be, that although the children might receive the blessing, they might
not be able to receive it worthily. The Lord Jesus in effect assures
them t hat so far from the way in which a little child enters into the
kingdom of heaven being exceptional, it is the rule; and the very way
in which a child enters the kingdom, is the way in which everybody
must enter it. How does a child enter the kingdom of heaven? Why, its
faith is very simple; it does not understand mysteries and
controversies, but it believes what it is told upon the authority of God's
Word, and it comes to God's Word without previous prejudice. It has
its natural sinfulness, but grace overcomes it, and the child receives
the Word as it finds it. You will notice in boyish and girlish
conversions, a peculiar simplicity of belief: they believe just what
Christ says, exactly what he says. If they pray, they believe Christ will
hear them: if they talk about Jesus, it is as of a person near at hand.
They do not, as we do, get into the making of these things into
mysteries and shadows, but little children have a realizing power.
Then they have great rejoicing. The most cheerful Christians we have
are young believers; and the most cheerful old Christians are those
who were converted when they were young. Why, see the joy of a child
that finds a Saviour! "Mother," he says, "I have sought Jesus Christ,
and I have trusted him, and I am saved." He does not say, "I hope,"
and "I trust," but "I am;" and then he is ready to leap for joy because
he is saved. Of the many boys and girls whom we have received into
Church-fellowship, I can say of them all, they have all gladdened my
heart, and I have never received any with greater confidence than I
have these: this I have noticed about them, they have greater joy and
rejoicing than any others; and I take it, it is because they do not ask so
many questions as others do, but take Jesus Christ's word as they find
it, and believe in it. Well now, just the very way in which a child
receives Christ, is the way in which you must receive Christ if you
would be saved. You who know so much that you know too much; you
who have big brains; you who are always thinking, and have tendency
to criticism, and perhaps to scepticism, you must come and receive the
gospel as a little child. You will never get a hold of my Lord and
Master while you are wearing that quizzing cap; no, you must take it
off, and by the power of the Holy Spirit you must come trusting Jesus,
simply trusting him, for this is the right way to receive the kingdom.
But here, let me say, the principle which holds good in little children
holds good in all other cases as well. Take for instance the case of very
great sinners, men who have been gross offenders against the laws of
their country. Some would say they cannot be saved; they can be for
some of them have been. Others would say they never receive the truth
as it is in Jesus in the right manner; ay, but they do. How do great
sinners receive Christ? There are some here who have been reclaimed
from drunkenness, and I know not what. My brethren, how did you
receive Christ? Why in this way. You said, "All unholy, all unclean, I
am nothing else but sin; but if I am saved, it will be grace, grace,
grace." Why, when you and I stood up, black, and foul, and filthy, and
yet dared to believe in Christ, we said, "If we are saved, we shall be
prodigies of divine mercy, and we will sing of his love for ever." Well
but, my dear friends, you must all receive Jesus Christ in that very
way. That which would raise an objection to the salvation of the big
sinner is thrown back upon you, for Christ might well say, "Except ye
receive these things as the chief of sinners, ye cannot enter the
kingdom." I will prove my point by the instance of the apostle Paul. He
has been held by some to be an exception to the rule, but Paul did not
think so, for he says that God in him showed forth all longsuffering for
a pattern to them that believe, and made him as it were a type of all
conversions; so that instead of being an exception his was to be the
rule. You see what I am driving at. The case of the children looks
exceptional, but it is not; it has, on the contrary, all the features about
it which must be found in every true conversion. It is of such that the
kingdom of heaven is composed, and if we are not such we cannot
enter it. Let this induce all of us who love the Lord, to pray for the
conversion both of children and of all sorts of men. Let our
compassion expand, let us shut out none from the plea of our heart; in
prayer and in faith let us bring all who come under our range, hoping
and believing that some of them will be found in the election of grace,
that some of them will be washed in the Saviour's blood, and that some
of them will shine as stars in the firmament of God for ever. Let us, on
no consideration, believe that the salvation of any man or child is
beyond the range of possibility, for the Lord saveth whom he wills. Let
no difficulties which seem to surround the case hinder our efforts; let
us, on the contrary, push with greater eagerness forward, believing
that where there seems to be some special difficulty, there will be
manifested, as in the children's case, some special privilege. O labour
for souls , my dear friends! I beseech you live to win souls. This is the
best rampart against error, a rampart built of living stones--converted
men and women. This is the way to push back the advances of Popery,
by imploring the Lord to work conversions. I do not think that mere
controversial preaching will do much, though it must be used; it is
grace-work we want; it is bringing you to Christ, it is getting you to
lay hold of him--it is this which shall put the devil to a nonplus and
expand t he kingdom of Christ. O that my God would bring some of
you to Jesus! If he is displeased with those who would keep you back,
then see how willing he is to receive you. Is there in your soul any
desire towards him? Come and welcome, sinner, come. Do you feel
now that you must have Christ or die? Come and have him, he is to be
had for the asking. Has the Lord taught you your need of Jesus? Ye
thirsty ones, come and drink; ye hungry ones, come and eat. Yea, this
is the proclamation of the gospel to-day, "The Spirit and the bride say,
Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst
come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." I do
trust there may be encouragement in this to some of you. I pray my
Master make you feel it. If he be angry with those who keep you back,
then he must be willing to receive you, glad to receive you; and if you
come to him he will in nowise cast you out. May the Lord add his
blessing on these words for Jesus' sake. Amen.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/mark-10.html. 2011.
The transfiguration, as a matter of fact witnessed by the eyes of chosen witnesses, introduces naturally the great change that was about to be effected by the mighty power of God; for that wondrous scene was the passing vision of a glory that shall never pass away. Therein certain disciples were admitted to a sight of the kingdom of God coming with power, founded upon the rejection of Christ by man, and the maintenance and manifestation by-and-by of the power of that Jesus rejected of man, but glorified by God. Of course, our Lord's ministry had this double character. It was, as is everything in Scripture, presented to human responsibility before its result is established on God's part. There was every evidence and proof that man could ask; there was every moral manifestation of God; but man had no heart for it. Hence the only effect of such a witness was the rejection of Christ and of God Himself as thus morally represented here below. What, then, will God do? Surely He will make good His counsel by His own power; for nothing fails that is of Him, and every testimony of His must accomplish its aim. But then God waits; and, even before He lays the foundation for that great work of establishing His own kingdom and power, He gives a sight of it to those whom He is pleased to elect. Hence it is that the transfiguration was a kind of bridge, so to speak, between the present and the future, confronting men even now with God's plans! It is really the introduction, as far as a testimony and even a sample could go with believers, of that kingdom which should be set up and displayed in due time. Not that the rejection of Christ ceases after this, but, on the contrary, goes on up to the cross itself. But in the cross, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see, by faith, the issue complete; man's rejection on the one side, and God's foundation actually laid on the other. Notwithstanding a testimony to it was on this holy mount brought before the sight of the disciples according to the sovereign choice of our Lord, He takes even out of the chosen twelve a chosen few to be the witnesses of His glory. But this gives it a very important and emphatic place in the synoptic gospels, which bring before us the Galilean progress of Christ; more particularly in the point of view of ministry we have this in our gospel.
The Lord having then taken up James and John, as well as Peter, was transfigured before these disciples. The glorified men, Elias with Moses, are seen talking with Him. Peter lets out his lack of appreciation of the glory of Christ, and the more remarkably, because only in the scene immediately before Peter had in striking terms testified to Jesus. But God must show that there is but One faithful witness; and the very soul that stood out brightly, we may say, for a little moment in the scene that preceded the transfiguration, is the same that manifests the earthen vessel more than any other in the transfiguration. "It is good," says Peter, "for us to be here. Let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias." It is evident, that although he might put the Saviour at the head of the three, he counted the others to be in a measure on a level with Him. At once we see the cloud overshadowing, and hear the voice out of it which maintains supreme undivided glory for the Son of God. "This" (says the Father; for He it was who spoke) "this is my beloved Son: hear him."
You will observe that in Mark there is an omission. We have not here the expression of complacency. In Matthew this was made prominent, as we know. InMatthew 17:1-27; Matthew 17:1-27 it is, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him," I apprehend the reason was to set this in the most absolute contrast with His rejection by the Jewish people. So again, in the gospel of Luke, we have the testimony of Christ being God's Son on the ground of hearing Him rather than Moses or Elias. "This is my beloved Son," he says: "hear him," omitting the expression of the Father's complacency in Him. Assuredly He was always the object of the Father's delight; but still there is not always the same reason for asserting it. Whereas, on comparing the testimony in 2 Peter 1:1-21, there is an omission of "hear him" found in the three gospels. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." It is evident that the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ over the law and the prophets is not the point in Peter. The reason, I think, is obvious. That question had been already decided: Christianity had come in. It was not the point here to claim for Christ a place above the law and the prophets, but to show simply the glory of the Son in the eyes of the Father, and His delight or loving satisfaction in Him; just as afterwards he makes it plain that in all the word of God the one object of the Holy Ghost is Christ's glory; for holy men of old spake as they were moved of Him. Scripture was not written by man's will; rather, God had a great purpose in His word, which was not met by the transient application of certain parts of it to isolated facts, to this person or to that. There was one grand uniting bond throughout all prophecy of Scripture. The object of it all was this the glory of Christ. Separate prophecy from Christ, and you divert the stream of the testimony from the person of Him to whom that testimony is most due. It contains not mere warnings about peoples, nations, tongues, or lands; about facts providential, or otherwise; about kings, empires, or systems in the world: Christ is the Spirit's object. So on the mount we hear the Father there witnessing to Christ, who supremely was the object of His delight. The kingdom was ensampled there; Moses also, and Elias; but there was One object pre-eminently before the Father, and that object was Jesus. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The point was not exactly hearing Christ, but hearing the Father about Him, so to speak. Such was the emphatic object here; and therefore, as I believe, are the words "hear him" omitted. In Matthew we have the fullest form of all, which the more enforces the call to hear Him. Luke gives the "hear him," but the expression, both in Mark and Luke, of personal complacency was not so much the ruling aim. Of course, there were common points in all, but I just notice this for a little passing moment to illustrate their differences.
Then we find, without dwelling upon all the particulars, that our Lord tells the disciples that the vision was to be kept hid till the rising from the dead. His own resurrection would introduce an entirely new character of testimony. Then it was that the disciples could make manifest, without hindrance, this great truth. The Lord was thus teaching them their total incapacity, until that great event brought in a new work of God, the basis of a new and unrestricted testimony, old things being passed away, and all things made new to the believer.
This, I think, was very important, if we look at the disciples here as called to service. It is not in man's power to take up the service or the testimony of Christ as he will. From this is evident the weighty place that the rising from the dead holds in Scripture. Outside Christ sin reigned in death. In Him was no sin; but, until the resurrection, there could not be a full testimony rendered to His glory or His work. And so in point of fact it was. After this follow, passingly, a notice of the difficulties, which shows how truly our Lord had measured their incapacity; for the disciples were really under the influence of the scribes themselves at this time.
At the foot of the mountain another scene opens. At the top we have seen, not the kingdom of God only, but the glory of Christ; and, above all, Christ as the Son, whom the Father proclaimed now as the One to be heard beyond the law or the prophets. This the disciples never did understand till the resurrection; and very manifest is the reason, because the law had naturally its place till then, and the prophets came in as corroborating the law and maintaining its just authority. The raising from the dead does not in any wise weaken either the law or the prophets, but it gives occasion to the display of a superior glory. However, at the foot of the mountain there is an awful evidence to present facts, just after the sample of what is to come. Meanwhile, before the kingdom of God is established in power, who is the potentate that influences men and that reigns in this world? It is Satan. In the case before us most manifest was his power a power that the disciples themselves could not eject from the world because of their unbelief. Here, again, we see how manifestly service is the great thought all through this gospel. The father is in distress, for it was an old story; it was no new thing for Satan to exercise this power over man in the world. From his childhood such was the case; even as from the earliest day it was the history of man. In vain had the father appealed to those that bore the name of the Lord in the world; for they had wholly failed. This drew out from our Lord Jesus a severe reproof of their unbelief, and especially for the reason that they were His servants. There was no straitness in Him; no stint of power on His part. It was really unbelief in them. Hence He could only say, when this manifestation of the weakness of the disciples was brought before Him, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming." For the Lord would not hide the full extent of the power of Satan, but allows the child to be torn by his power before their eyes. There could be no question that the spell was unbroken up to this. The disciples had in no way subdued, suppressed, or crushed the power of Satan over the child. "And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child." It was really the history of this world in contrast with the new creation. Of the world, or rather kingdom, of God, a vision at least had just been seen in the transfiguration.
Thus the chapter is first of all founded upon the announced death of Christ in utter rejection, and the certainty of God's introducing His kingdom of glory for the Christ rejected of men. In the next place, the uselessness or impossibility of testifying the transfiguration till the rising from the dead is affirmed: then it would be most timely. Lastly follows the evidence of what the power of Satan really is before the kingdom of God finally comes in power, where the testimony of it even was unknown. The fact is, that under the surface of this world viewed by the disciples, and brought to light by the presence of our Lord Jesus, there is this complete subjection of man from his earliest days, as it is said. The power of Satan over man is too plain, and the servants of the Lord only proved how powerless they were, not from any defect of power in Christ, but because of their own lack of faith to draw it out. The Saviour at once proceeds to act, letting the man see that all turns on faith. In the meantime, what Christ brings into evidence is the power that deals with Satan before the kingdom is established. Such is the testimony at the foot of the mountain. The kingdom will surely in due time be established, but meanwhile faith in Christ defeats the enemy's power. It is beyond doubt that this was the true want and only remedy. Faith in Him alone could secure a blessing; and so, accordingly, the father tremblingly appeals to the Lord in his distress. "Lord," he says, "I believe; help thou mine unbelief." "When Jesus then saw the people running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter no more into him." The work was done. Apparently the child was no more; but the Lord "took him by the hand, lifted him up, and he arose." In the house He gave the disciples another profitable lesson in the way of ministry.
Such, then, it is easy to see, is the point that comes out here. The Lord shows that, along with the unbelief, is the lack of the sense and confession of dependence on God. This alone also judges the energy of nature, "This kind," he says, "goes not forth, but by prayer and fasting." While the power is in Jesus, faith alone draws it out; but that faith is accompanied by the sentence of death upon nature, as well as the looking up to God, the only source of power.
Next, we have another lesson, still connected with the service of the Lord, while the power of Satan is at work in the world, before the kingdom of God is established. We must learn the state of these servants' own hearts. They desire to be something. This falsifies their judgments. They departed thence, and passed into Galilee; and He would not that any man should know it. For He taught His disciples, and said unto them, "The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying." At first sight how singular, yet how frequent, is this lack of ability to enter into the words of Jesus! To what is it owing? To self unjudged. They were ashamed to let the Lord know what the true reason was; but the Lord brings it out. He came to Capernaum, and being in the house He asked them, "What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?" "But they held their peace; for by the way they bad disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest." No wonder there was little power in the presence of Satan; no wonder there was little understanding in presence of Jesus. There was a dead weight behind this spirit of thinking of themselves, of desiring some distinction to be seen and known of men now. It was evident unbelief of what God feels, and is going to display, in His kingdom. For there is but one thought before God He means to exalt Jesus. They were thus quite out of communion with God about the matter. Not only had those failed who were not on the mount, but just as plainly James, Peter, and John, all had failed. How little has special privilege or position to do with the humility of faith! This, then, is the true secret of powerlessness, either as against Satan, or for Jesus. Further, the connection of all this with the service of the Lord must, I think, be manifest.
But there is another incident, too, peculiar to Mark, of which we hear directly after this. The Lord rebukes them by taking a child, and thence reading them humility. What a withering censure of their self-exaltation! Even John proves how little the glory of Christ, which makes one content to be nothing, had entered into his heart now. The day is coming when it would all take deep root there when they would really gather everlasting profit from it; but for the present it was the painful demonstration that there is something more needed than the word even of Jesus. So it is, then, that John immediately after this turns to our Lord, complaining of some one that was casting out demons in His name the very thing they had failed to do. "Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name." Was not this, then, a matter for thankfulness of heart to God? Not a bit of it! Self in John took fire at it, and became the mouthpiece of the strong feeling which animated them all. "Master, we saw" not "I" merely; he spake for all the rest. "We saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followed not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us." It is evident, then, that no previous reproof had in any way purged out the self-exalting spirit, for here it was again in full force; but Jesus said, "Forbid him not." Another most weighty lesson in the service of Christ is this. The question here is not one of dishonour done to Christ. None in this case contemplates or allows any act whatever contrary to His name. On the contrary, it was a servant going forward against the enemy, believing in the efficacy of the Lord's name. Had it been a question of enemies or false friends of Christ, overthrowing or undermining His glory, he that "is not for him is against him; and he that gathereth not with him scattereth abroad." Wherever it is a question of a true or a false Christ, there cannot be a compromise of one jot of His glory. But where, on the contrary, it was one who may have been unintelligent, perhaps, and who certainly had not been so favoured in point of circumstances as the disciples, yet who knew the value and efficacy of His name, Jesus graciously shields him. "Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part." He certainly had faith in the Lord's name; and by faith in that name he was mighty to do what, alas! disciples were feeble to do. It was evident that there was a spirit of jealousy, and that the power which manifestly wrought in one who had never been so privileged outwardly as they, instead of humbling the disciples to think of their own shortcoming and lack of faith, led even John to cast about for some fault to find, some plea for restraining him whom God had honoured.
Hence, our Lord here brings out an instruction, not of course at variance with, but totally different from what we had in Matthew 12:30. Their distinctive use in the right time and circumstances, I cannot but hold to be by no means unimportant. Mark's, you will remember, is the gospel of service; and it is the question of ministry here. Now the power of God in this does not depend upon position. No matter how right (that is, according to God's will) the position may be, that will not give ministerial power to the individuals who are in the truest position. The disciples, of course, were in an unimpeachable place as following Christ there could be nothing more certainly right than theirs; for it was Jesus that had called them, gathered them round Himself, and sent them out clothed with a measure of His own power and authority. For all that, it was evident that there was weakness in practical manifestation. There was a decided want of faith in drawing upon the resources of Christ, as against Satan. They were, then, quite right in cleaving to Christ, and in following none other; they were right in abandoning John for Jesus; but they were not right in letting any reason hinder their acknowledgment of God's power, which "ought in another who was not in that blessed position which was their privilege. Accordingly our Lord rebukes this narrow spirit sternly, and lays down a principle seemingly counter, but really harmonious. For there is no contradiction in the word of God here, or anywhere else. Faith may rest assured that nothing in Matthew 12:1-50 opposes Mark 11:1-33. No doubt at first sight there might appear to be such a difference; but look, read again, and the difficulty vanishes.
In Matthew 12:30 the question was totally different. "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." There it was a question of Christ Himself of the glory and the power of God in Jesus here below. The moment it comes to be a question of His person, assailed by adversaries, then he that is not with Christ is against Christ. Do persons allow anything to lower His person now? All questions are secondary in comparison with this, and any one who is indifferent to it would deliberately take the part of the enemy against Christ. He who would sanction the dishonour of Jesus proves, no matter what his pretensions may be, that he is no friend of the Lord, and that his work of gathering can but scatter.
But in the mind of the Lord given in Mark, wholly different matter was before them. Here it was a question of a wan who was exalting Christ according to the measure of his faith, and certainly with no inconsiderable power. The disciples, therefore, in this case ought to have acknowledged and delighted in the testimony to Christ's name. Granted that the man was not so favoured as they; but surely the name of Christ was exalted in desire and in fact. Had their eye been single, they would have owned that, and thanked God for it. And here, therefore, the Lord impresses on them a lesson of another kind altogether: "He that is not against me is for me." Thus, wherever it is a question of the Spirit's power put forth in Christ's name, it is evident that he who is thus used of God is not against Christ; and if God answers that power, and uses it for the blessing of man and the defeat of the devil, we ought to rejoice.
Need I say how applicable both these lessons are? We know, on the one hand, that in this world Christ is rejected and despised. Such is the main groundwork of Matthew. Accordingly, in Matthew 12:1-50, we have Him not merely the object of loathing, but this even to those who had the outward testimony of God at that time. Hence, no matter what way be the reputation, the traditional respect or reverence of men; if Christ be dishonoured, they that prize and love Him can have no fellowship for an instant. On the other hand, take the service of Christ, and in the midst of all that bears the name of Christ around, there may be those whom God employs for this or that important work. Am I to deny that God makes use of them in His service? Not for an instant. I acknowledge the power of God in them, and thank Him; but this is no reason why one should abandon the blessed place of following Jesus. I say not, "following us," but "following Him." It is evident that the disciples were occupied with themselves, and forgot Him. They were wishing ministry to be their monopoly, instead of a witness to Christ's name. But the Lord puts everything in its place; and the same Lord who in Matthew 12:1-50 insists on decision for Himself, where His enemies had manifested their hatred or contempt of His glory, is no less prompt in the gospel of Mark to indicate the power that had wrought in the ministry of His unnamed servant. "Forbid him not," says He. "for he that is not against me is for me." Was he against Christ who used, on John's own showing, His name against the devil? The Lord thus honours, in any quarter or measure, the faith that knows how to make use of His name, and gain victories over Satan. Hence, therefore, if God employs any man say, in winning sinners to Christ, or delivering saints out of the bondage of wrong doctrine, or whatever else the snare may be Christ owns him, and so should we. It is a work of God, and homage to Christ's name, though not a around, I repeat, for making light of following Christ, if He have graciously accorded such a privilege. It is a most legitimate ground, no doubt, for humbling ourselves, to think how little we do as entrusted with the power of God. Thus we have to maintain Christ's own personal glory, on the one hand, always holding that fast; we have, on the other hand, to acknowledge whatever ministerial power God is pleased in His own sovereignty to employ, and by whomsoever. The one truth does not in the slightest degree interfere with the other.
Further: let me draw your attention now to the appropriateness of the place of, the incident in this gospel. You could not transpose either it or the solemn word in Matthew. It would altogether mar the beauty of the truth in both. On the one hand, the day of despising and rejecting Christ is the day for faith to assert His glory; on the other hand, where there is the power of God, I must acknowledge it. I may have been myself rebuked for my own lack of power just before; but, at least, let me own God's hand wherever it is manifest.
Our Lord follows this up with a remarkably solemn instruction, and in His discourse shows that it was no question merely of "following us," or of anything else, for a time. Now, no doubt, the disciple follows Him through a world where stumbling-blocks abound, and dangers on every side. But more than that, it is a world into the midst of whose snares and pitfalls He deigns to cast the light of eternity. Hence it was not a mere question of the moment; it was far beyond the objects of party strife. Our Lord, therefore, strikes at the root of what was at work in the mistaken disciples. He declares that whosoever gives a cup of water in His name the smallest real service rendered to need "because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." Yet more, it was not merely a question of rewards on the one side, but of eternal ruin on the other. They had better look to themselves while they yet may. Flesh is a bad and ruinous thing. No matter who or what the person may be, man is not safe in himself, especially, let me add, when in the service of Christ. There is no ground where souls are more apt to get astray. It is not merely in questions of moral evil. There are men that pass us, and. that, so to speak, run the gauntlet of such seductions unscathed; but it is quite another and a very much more dangerous thing, where, in the professed service of the Lord, there is the nursing of that which is offensive to Christ, and grieves the Holy Ghost. This lesson comes out, not merely for saints, but also for those that are still under sin. "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." Deal unsparingly with every hindrance, and this on the simplest moral ground; most urgent, personally, and imminent is the peril they entail. These things would test a man, and sift whether there be anything in him Godward.
The end ofMark 9:1-50; Mark 9:1-50 reminds one of the end of1 Corinthians 9:1-27; 1 Corinthians 9:1-27, where the apostle Paul, no doubt also speaking about service, deepens in his tone of warning, and intimates that service may often become a means of detecting not state only, but unreality. There may not be open immorality in the first instance, but where the Lord is not before the soul in constant self-judgment, evil grows apace out of nothing more than ministry, as, indeed, the fact proved among the Corinthians; for they had been thinking much more about gift and power than about Christ; and with what moral results? The apostle begins by putting the case in the strongest way to himself; he supposes the case of his own preaching ever so well to others, but abandoning all care about holiness. Occupied with his gift and others, such an one yields without conscience to that which the body craves after, and the consequence is total ruin. Were it Paul, he must become a castaway, or reprobate ( i.e., disapproved of God). The word is never used for a mere loss of reward, but for absolute rejection of the man himself. Then, in 1 Corinthians 10:1-33, he applies the ruin of the Israelites to the danger of the Corinthians themselves.
Our Lord in this very passage of Mark similarly warns. He deals with the slight which John put upon one that was manifestly using the name of Christ to serve souls, and defeat Satan. But John had unwittingly ignored, if not denied, the true secret of power altogether. It was really John that needed to take care holy and blessed man as he was. There was an evident mistake of no ordinary gravity, and the Lord proceeds from this to the most solemn warning that He ever gave in any discourse that is recorded of Him. No other sets eternal destruction more manifestly before us in any part of the gospels. Here, above all, we are admitted to hear continually ringing in our ears the awful dirge, if I may so call it, over lost souls: "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." On the other hand, our Lord turns the occasion also to the profit of His own, though this too be a solemn warning. Hence observe, before the subject closes, how He lays down grand principles that involve the whole of this question. Thus we are told, "Every one shall be salted with fire." It is well to remember that grace does not hinder this universal test of every soul here below. "Every one," says He, "shall be salted with fire;" but besides that, "Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." These are two distinct things.
No child of man, as such, can escape judgment. "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after that the judgment." The judgment, in one form or another, must be the portion of the race. Whenever you look at what is universal, man, being a sinner, is an object for divine judgment. But this is far from the whole truth. There are those here below who are delivered from God's judgment even in this world who have even now access into His favour, and rejoice in hope of His glory. What then of them? They that hear Christ's word, and believe Him who sent the Saviour, have eternal life, and enter not into judgment. But are they not put to the proof? Assuredly they are; but it is upon another principle altogether. "Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" It is clearly not a question there of a mere sinful man, but of that which is acceptable to God; and, therefore, not salted with fire, but salted with salt. Not that there is not that Which tests and proves the ground of the heart in those that belong to God; but even so their special nearness to Him is borne in mind.
Thus, whether it be the general dealing in a judicial manner with man, with every soul as such; whether it be the special case of such as belong to God (i.e., every sacrifice acceptable to God, as brought in by Christ on the foundation of His own great sacrifice), the principle is as clear as it is comprehensive and sure for every one; not only for every sinner, but for every believer, however truly acceptable to God by Jesus Christ our Lord. With the glorified saints, although it be not, of course, the judgment of God, certainly there is no concealment of the truth, though there is that also which God in His grace makes to be mighty to preserve; not pleasant, it may be, but the preservative energy of divine grace with its sanctifying effects. This, I think, is what is meant by being "salted with salt." The figure of that well known antiseptic does not leave room for the pleasant things of nature with all their evanescence. "Salt," says our Lord, "is good." It is not an element which excites for a moment, and passes away; it has the savour of God's covenant. "Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it?" How fatal is the loss! How dangerous to go back! Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another; "that is, have purity first, then peace mutually, as the apostle James, too, exhorts in his epistle. Purity deals with nature, and resists all corruption it preserves by the mighty power of God's grace. Following this, but of no worth without it, is "peace one with another." May we possess this peace also, but not at the cost of intrinsic purity, if we value God's glory!
This closes, then, our Lord's ministry the connection of ministry, as it appears to me, with the transfiguration. That manifestation of the power of God could not but impress a new and suited character upon those concerned.
In the next chapter our Lord introduces other topics, and very strikingly, because it might be hastily gathered, that if all is founded upon death and resurrection, and is in view of the coining glory, such a ministry as this must take no account of relationships which have to do with nature. The very reverse is the case. It is precisely when you have the highest principles of God brought in, that everything God has ever owned on the earth finds its right place. It was not when God gave the law, for instance, that the sanctity of marriage was vindicated, most. Every one ought to know there is no relationship so fundamental for man on earth there is nothing that so truly forms the social bond as the institution of marriage. What is there naturally in this world so essential for domestic happiness and personal purity, not to speak of the various other considerations, on which all human relationships so much depend? And yet it is remarkable that, during the legal economy, there was the continual allowance of that which enfeebled marriage. Thus, the permission of divorce for trivial reasons, I need not say, was anything but a maintenance of its honour. Here, on the contrary, when in Christ the fulness of grace came, and, more than that, when it was rejected, when the Lord Jesus Christ was announcing that which was to be founded upon His approaching humiliation unto death, and when He was expressly teaching that this new system could not be, and was not to be, proclaimed until His own rising from the dead, He also insists on the value of the various relations in nature. I admit the connection with the resurrection is only shown in Mark; but, then, this points out the true import of it, because Mark naturally indicates the importance of that epoch and glorious fact, for the service of Christ in testimony, for bringing the truth out to others.
Here, however, the Lord having disposed of that which was eternally momentous, having traced it up to the end of all this passing scene, having shown the results for those that have no part nor lot in the matter, as well as for such as enjoy the grace of God in its preservative force, namely, those that belong to Christ, now takes up the relation of these new principles to nature, to what God Himself acknowledged in what you may call the outside world.
The Lord here, then, stands up as the vindicator, first of all, of the relationship of marriage. He teaches that in the law, important as it was, Moses did not assert the vital place of marriage for the world. On the contrary, Moses permitted certain infractions of it because of Israel's state. "For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother." That is, even the nearest other relationship, so to speak, disappears before this relationship. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." To this it came; but for this most simple yet thorough. exposition of God's mind, we are indebted to the Lord Jesus, the great witness of grace, and of eternal things, now connected with His own rejection and the kingdom of God coming with power, and the setting aside of the long spell of the devil. It is the same Jesus who now clears from the dust of ruin God's institutions even for the earth.
A similar principle runs through the incidents that follow here. "They brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them." Had His followers drank deeply into that grace of which He was full, they would, on the contrary, have estimated very differently the feeling that presented the infants to their Master. The truth is that the spirit of self was yet strong; and what so petty and narrow? Poor, proud Judaism bad tinctured and spoilt the feelings, and the little ones were despised by them. But God, who is mighty, despiseth not any; and grace, understanding the mind of God, becomes an imitator of His ways. The Lord Jesus rebuked them; yea, it is said, "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." In both these particulars, so all-important for the earth, we find the Lord Jesus Christ proving. that grace, far from not giving nature its place, is the only thing that vindicates it, according to God.
Another lesson follows, in a certain sense even more emphatic, because more difficult. It might be thought that God's mercy occupies it specially with a child. But let us suppose an unconverted man, and one, too, living according to the law, and in great measure satisfied with his fulfilment of its obligations, what would the Lord say of him? How does the Lord Jesus Christ feel about such a one? "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 Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." The man was totally in the dark; he had no saving knowledge of God; he had no knowledge really of man; he had no sense of the true glory of Christ; he did honour Him, but merely as one differing in degree from himself. He owned Him to be a good Master, and he wanted to glean what he could from Him as a good disciple. He put himself, therefore, so far on a level with Jesus, assuming his competency to carry out the words and ways of Jesus. It is evident, therefore, that sin was unjudged, and that God Himself was unknown in the heart of this young man. The Lord, however, brings out his state fully. "Thou knowest the commandments," He says, putting expressly forward those duties that touch human relations. "He answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth." The Lord does not refuse his statement raises no question how far he had fulfilled the second table. On the contrary, it is added, that "Jesus, beholding him, loved him." Many find a serious difficulty in that assertion of the Spirit of God. To my own mind it is as instructive as it is beautiful. Not that the man was converted, for he was clearly not; not that he knew the truth, for the difficulty arises from the fact that he was a stranger to it; not that the man was following Jesus, for, on the contrary, we are told that he went away from Jesus; not that his heart was made happy in God's grace, for in truth he turned back sorrowing. There was the deepest reason, therefore, to regard him with pain and anxiety, if you judged the man according to what was eternal. Nevertheless, it remains true that Jesus looked upon him, and beholding him, loved him.
Is there nothing in this which traverses ordinary evangelicalism? An important lesson for us, I cannot doubt. The Lord Jesus, from the very fact of His perfect perception of God and His grace, and the infinite value of eternal life before His Spirit, was free enough, and above all that crowds human judgment, to appreciate character and conduct in nature, to weigh what was conscientious, to love what was lovable in man simply as man. So far from grace weakening, I am persuaded it always strengthens such feelings. To many, no doubt, this might seem strange; but they are themselves the proof of the cause that hinders. Let them examine and judge whether the word does not reveal what is here drawn from it. And let it be noted that we have this emphatic statement, too, in the gospel which reveals Christ as the perfect servant; which gives us, therefore, to know how we are to serve wisely as we follow Him. Nowhere do we see our Lord bringing it out so distinctly as here. The same truth substantially is given in Matthew and in Luke; but Mark gives us the fact the He "loved him." Nor do Matthew and Luke say a word about there being the perception of the reason why the Lord thus loved the young man: only Mark tells us that, "beholding him," Christ loved him. Of course, that is the great point of the case. The Lord did admire what there was naturally lovely in a man that had been preserved providentially from the evil of this world, and sedulously trained in the law of God, in which he had hitherto walked blamelessly, even desiring to learn from Jesus, but without divine conviction, of his own sinful lost estate. Certainly the Lord did not deal with either the narrowness or the roughness which we so often betray. Indeed we are, alas! poor servants of His grace. The Lord far better knew, and far more deeply felt than we, the state and danger of the young man. Nevertheless there is much for us to weigh in this, that Jesus, beholding him, loved him.
But, further, "He said unto him, One thing thou lackest." But what a thing it was! "One thing thou lackest." The Lord denies nothing that he could in any way or ground commend; He owns everything that was naturally good. Who could blame, for instance, an obedient child? a benevolent and conscientious life? Am I, therefore, to attribute all this to divine grace? or to deny the need of it? No! these things I own as a boon belonging to man in this world, and to be valued in their place. He that says they have no value whatever slights, to my mind, evidently, the wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, he who would make this, or any thing of the sort, a means of eternal life, evidently knows nothing as he ought to know. Thus the subject calls, no doubt, for much delicacy, but for what will find a true recognition in Jesus, and in the blessed word of God, and nowhere else. Our Lord therefore says, "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor." Is not this what Jesus had done, though in an infinitely better way? Certainly He had given up all things, that God might be glorified in the salvation of lost man. But if He had emptied Himself of His glory, how infinite were the results of that humiliation unto death itself?
The young man wanted to learn something of Jesus; but was he prepared to follow even in the earthly path of the Crucified? was he willing only to have the thing he lacked supplied? to be a witness of divine self-renunciation in grace to the wretched? to abandon treasures on earth, content to have treasure in heaven? If he had done this, however, Christ could not but ask more; even as here He adds, "And come, take up the cross, and follow me." The Saviour, as we may thus see, goes not before the light of God; He does not anticipate what would be brought out in a day that was at hand. There is no premature announcement of the astonishing change which the gospel in due time made known; but the heart was fully tested. Man in his best estate is proved to be lighter than vanity, compared with Him who alone is good; and this revealed in Christ, His only adequate image and expression. Yet could He who thus (not to speak of the unfathomable depths of His cross) distanced man look on this young man with love, as He beheld him spite of evident shortcoming. Still, whatever he was, this did not in the smallest degree take the man out of the world. His heart was in the creature, yea, even in the unrighteous mammon: he loved his property, i.e., himself, and the Lord in His test dealt with the root of the evil. And so the result proved. For it is said, "He was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions." Now, it appears to me that our Lord's way of dealing is the perfect pattern; and first in this, that He does not reason from that which was not yet revealed by God. He does not speak of His own bloodshedding, death, or resurrection. They were not yet accomplished, and it would have been quite unintelligible. Not one of the disciples themselves knew anything really, though the Lord had repeatedly spoken of it to the twelve. How was this man to understand? Our Lord did what was of all importance He dealt with the man's own conscience. He spread before him the moral value of what He had done Himself, giving up all that one had. This was the last thing the young man thought of doing. He would have liked to have been a benefactor a generous patron; but to give up everything, and to follow Christ in shame and reproach, he was in no way prepared to do. The consequence was, that on his own ground the man was left perfectly convicted of stopping short of good brought before him in the good Master to whom he had appealed. What the Lord may have done for him afterwards is a matter for the Lord to tell. As it is not revealed in the word, it is not for us to know; and it would be vain and wrong to conjecture. What God has shown us here is, that no matter what the extent of moral following the law, even in a most remarkable case of outward purity and of apparent subjection to the requirements of God, all this does not deliver the soul, does not make a man happy, but leaves him perfectly miserable and far from Christ. Such is the moral of the rich young ruler, and a very weighty one it is.
Next, our Lord applies the same principle to the disciples; for now He has done with the outward question. We have seen nature in its best estate seeking Christ in a sense; and here is the result of it: after all the man is unhappy, and leaves Jesus, who now looks upon His disciples in their utter bewilderment, and enlarges on the hindrance of wealth in divine things. Alas! this they had thought to be an evidence of God's blessing. And if they were only rich, how much good might they not do! "How hardly," says Christ, "shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God!" He further says to them, already astonished, "Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The Lord insists only the more solemnly on this lesson, so little understood even by disciples. They, beyond measure surprised, say among themselves, "Who, then, can be saved?" which gives the Lord the opportunity to explain what lies at the bottom of the whole question; that salvation is a question of God, and not of man at all. Law, nature, riches, poverty no matter what, that man loves or fears has nothing in the least to do with the saving of the soul, which rests entirely on the power of God's grace, and nothing else: what is impossible for man is possible with God. All turns, therefore, on His grace. Salvation is of the Lord. Blessed be His name! with God all things are possible: otherwise how could we, how could any, be saved?
Peter then begins to boast a little of what the disciples had given up, whereon the Lord brings in a very beautiful word, peculiar to Mark. "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, but he shall receive a hundredfold." Be it noted that only Mark mentions "and the gospel's." It is service that is so prominent here. Others may say, "for His sake;" but here we read, "for my sake, and the gospel's." Thus the value of Christ personally is, as it were, attached to the service of Christ in this world. Whosoever, then, is thus devoted, He says, "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." It is a wonderful conjunction, but most true, because it is the word of the Lord and the reckoning of faith.
All things that Christ possesses are ours who believe in Him. No doubt such a tenure does not satisfy the covetous heart; but it is a deep and rich satisfaction to faith, that, instead of wanting something to distinguish self by, one has the comfort of knowing that all the Church of God possesses on the earth belongs to every saint of God on the earth. Faith does not seek its own, but delights in that which is diffused among the faithful. Unbelief counts nothing its own, save what is for selfish use. If, on the contrary, love be the principle that animates me, how different! But then there is an accompaniment "with persecutions." These you must have somehow, if you are faithful. They that will live godly cannot escape it. Am I only to have it in that way because they have it? It is better to have it myself in the direct following of Christ. In His warfare, what eau be so honourable a mark? But it is a mark that is found especially in the service of Christ. Here, again, we see how thoroughly Mark's character is preserved throughout. "But many that are first shall be last, and last first," we find solemnly added here as in Matthew. It is not the beginning of the race that decides the contest; the end of it necessarily is the great point. In that race there are many changes, and withal not a few slips, falls, and reverses.
The Lord then goes on to Jerusalem, that fatal spot for the true prophet. Man was wrong in averring that never a prophet had arisen in Galilee; for, indeed, God left Himself not without witnesses even there. But, assuredly the Lord was right, that no prophet should perish out of Jerusalem. The religious capital is exactly the place where the true witnesses of God's grace must die. Jesus, therefore, in going up to Jerusalem was well understood by the disciples, and so, amazed, they follow Him. Little were they prepared for that course of persecution which was to be their boast in a day that was coming, and for which they would be surely strengthened by the Holy Ghost. But it was not so yet. "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, saying, Behold, we go up" (how gracious! not only "I," but "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." Then we have the persecution unto death (and what a death 1) fully laid before us. James and John at this critical time show how little flesh, even in the servants of God, ever enters into His thoughts. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," no matter in whom. Again, it was not in obscure ones, but in those that seemed to be somewhat, that the ugliness of the flesh especially betrayed itself; and therefore it is these who furnish the lesson for us. "Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire." Their mother appears in another gospel in the gospel where we might expect such a relationship after the flesh to appear; but here, alas! it is the servants themselves, who ought to have known better. As yet their eyes were holden. They turned the very fact of their being servants into a means of profiting the flesh even in the kingdom of God itself. They seek to gratify the flesh here by the thought of what they would be there. So the Lord brings out the thought of their heart, and answers them with a dignity peculiar to Himself. "Ye know not," He says, "what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with. the baptism that I am baptized with? 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: 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." He is the servant; and even in view of the time of glory He preserves the same character. A high place in the kingdom is only for those "for whom it is prepared."
But it was not merely that these two disciples betrayed themselves; the ten made the secret of their heart manifest enough. It is not alone by the fault of one or another that the flesh becomes apparent; but how do we behave ourselves in presence of the displayed faults of others? The indignation which broke out in the ten showed the pride of their own hearts, just as much as the two desiring the best place. Had unselfish love been at work, their ambition would assuredly have been a matter for sorrow and shame. I do not say for lack of faithfulness in resisting it; but I do say, that the indignation proved that there was a feeling of self, and not of Christ, strongly at work in their hearts. Our Lord, therefore, reads a rebuke to the whole, and shows them that it was but the spirit of a Gentile that animated them against the sons of Zebedee; the very reverse of all He, could not but look for in them, even as it opposed all that was in Himself. Intelligence of the kingdom leads the believer into. contentedness with being little now. The true greatness of the disciple lies in the power of being a servant of Christ morally, going down to the uttermost in the service of others. It is not energy that ensures this greatness in the Lord's estimate now, but contentedness to be a servant, yea, to be a slave in the lowest or least place. As for Himself, it was not merely that Christ did come to minister, or be a servant; He had that which He alone could have the title, as the love, to give His life a ransom for many.
From Mark 10:48 comes the last scene the Lord presenting Himself to Jerusalem, and that too, as we are all aware, from Jericho. We have His progress to Jerusalem, beginning with the cure of the blind man. I need not dwell on the details, nor on His entrance on the colt of the ass into the city as the King. Neither need I say more about the fig tree (one day cursed, the next day seen to be thoroughly withered up), nor the Lord's call to faith in God, and its effect in and on prayer. Nor need we enter particularly into the question of authority raised by the religious leaders.
The parable of the vineyard, with whichMark 12:1-44; Mark 12:1-44 opens, is very full on that which concerns the servants responsible to God. Then we hear of the rejected stone that was afterwards made the head of the corner. Again, we have the various classes of Jews coming before Him with their questions. Not that there are not important points in every one of these scenes that pass before our eyes; but the hour will not permit me to touch upon any of them at length. I therefore pass by advisedly these particulars. We have the Pharisees and the Herodians rebuked; we have the Sadducees refuted; we have the scribe manifesting what the character of the law is; and, indeed, in answer to his own question, the Lord shed the full light of God upon the law, but at the same time accompanied by a remarkable comment on the lawyer. "When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." It is a beautiful feature in our Lord's service this readiness to own whatever was according to truth, no matter where He found it. Then our Lord puts His own question, as to His own person, according to the Scripture, gives a brief warning as to the scribes, and marks in contrast the poor blessed widow, His own pattern of true devotedness and of real faith in this most spiritually destitute condition of the people of God on earth. How He passes completely by the wealth that merely gave what it felt not, to single out, and for ever consecrate, the practice of faith where it might be least expected! The widow that had but the two mites had cast in all her living into the treasury of God, and this at a time decrepit and selfish beyond all precedent. Little did that widow think that she had found even upon earth an eye to own, and a tongue to proclaim, what God could form for His own praise in the heart and by the hand of the poorest woman in Israel!
Then our Lord instructs the disciples in a prophecy strictly conformed to the character of Mark. This is the reason why here alone, where you have the service of the Lord, the power by which they could answer in times of difficulty is introduced into this discourse. Hence our Lord passes by all distinctive reference to the end of the age an expression which does not here occur. The fact is that, although it be the prophecy which in Matthew looks to the end of the age,, still the Spirit does not so specify here; and for the simple reason, that a prophecy which was forming them for their service accounts for what is left out and what is put in, as compared with Matthew. Another thing I may notice is, that in this prophecy alone He says, that not only the angels, but even the Son does not know that day (Mark 13:32). The reason of this peculiar, and at first sight perplexing, expression seems to me to be, that Christ so thoroughly takes the place of One who confines himself to what God gave to Him, of One so perfectly a minister not a master, in this point of view that, even in relation to the future, He knows and gives out to others only what God gives Him for the purpose. As God says nothing about the day and the hour, He knows no more. Remark also how characteristically here our Lord describes both Himself, and the workmen, and their work. There is no such dispensational description, as in Matthew's parable of the talents, but simply this: "The Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch." The features of difference in Matthew are plain. There is far greater augustness. He who goes a long way provides as it were for the length of His absence. Here, no doubt, He goes; but He gives "authority to His servants." Who can fail to note the suitability for the purpose of Mark? Again, He gives "to every man his work." Why, may we not ask, are these expressions found here? Surely, because in Mark it is the very subject-matter of the gospel all through; for even in a prophecy the Lord would never abandon the great thought of service. Here it is not so much the question of giving gifts or goods as of work to be done. Authority is given to His servants. They wanted it. They do not take it without a title. It is doing His will, rather than trading with His gifts. We find this last most appropriately in Matthew; because the point in the earlier gospel was the peculiar chance to follow the Lord's leaving the earth, and the Jewish hopes of Messiah, for the new place He was going to take on ascending to heaven. There He is the giver of gifts a thing quite distinct in its character from the ordinary principle of Judaism; and the men trade with them, and the good and faithful enter finally into the joy of their Lord. Here it is simply the service of Christ, the true servant.
In Mark 14:1-72 come the profoundly interesting and instructive scenes of our Lord with the disciples, not now predicting, but vouchsafing the last pledge of His love. The chief priests and scribes plot in corruption and violence for His death; at Simon's house in Bethany a woman anoints His body to the burying, which discerns many hearts among the disciples, and draws out the Master's, who next is seen, not accepting an offering of affection, but giving the great and permanent token of His love the Lord's Supper. The state of Judas's heart appears in both cases conceiving his plan in the presence of the first, and going out to accomplish it from the presence of the last. Thence our Lord goes forth; not yet to suffer the wrath of God, but to enter into it in spirit before God. We have seen all through the gospel that such was His habit, to which I merely call attention now in passing. As the cross was of all the deepest work and suffering, so most assuredly the Lord did not enter upon Calvary without a previous Gethsemane. In its due season comes the trial before the high priest and Pilate.
The crucifixion of our Lord is in Mark 15:1-47, with the effect upon those that followed Him, and the grace that wrought in the woman men betraying their abject fear in the presence of death, but women strengthened, the weak truly made strong.
Finally, in Mark 16:1-20, we have the resurrection; but this, too, strictly in keeping with the character of the gospel. Accordingly, then we have the Lord risen, the angel giving the word to the women "Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter" a word found only in Mark. The reason is manifest. It is a mighty consideration for the soul. Peter, despising the word of the Lord really, though not intentionally; Peter, not receiving that word mixed with faith into his heart, but, on the contrary, trusting himself, was pushed into a difficulty where he could not stand, even before man or woman, because he had never borne the temptation upon his spirit before God. So it was then that Peter broke down shamefully. From the Lord's look he began to feel his conduct acutely; but while the process went on he needed to be confirmed, and our Lord therefore expressly named Peter in His message the only one who was named. It was an encouragement to the faint heart of His fallen servant; it was an acting of that same grace which had prayed for him even before he fell; it was the Lord effecting for him a thorough restoration of his soul, which mainly consists of the application of the word to the conscience, but also to the affections. Peter's was the last name, according to man, that deserved to be then named; but it was the one who needed most, and that was enough for the grace of Christ. Mark's gospel is ever that of the service of love.
On the cross and resurrection, as here presented, I need not speak now. There are peculiarities both of insertion and of omission, which illustrate the difference in scope of what is here given us from that which we find elsewhere. Thus we have the reviling of the very thieves crucified with Him, but not the conversion of one. And as in the seizure of Jesus we hear of a certain young man who fled naked when laid hold of by the lawless crowd that apprehended the Saviour, so before the crucifixion they compel in their wanton violence one Simon a Cyrenian to bear His cross. But God was not forgetful of that day's toil for Jesus, as Alexander and Rufus could testify at a later day. Not a word here of the earth quaking, either at the death of Christ, or when He rose; no graves are seen opened; no saints risen and appearing in the holy city. But of the women we hear who had ministered to Him living, and would have still ministered when dead, but that the resurrection cut it short, and brought in a better and enduring light, the Lord employing angelic ministry to chase away their fright by announcing that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth was risen. How admirably this is in keeping with our gospel need scarcely be enlarged on.
I am aware that men have tampered with the closing verses (Mark 16:9-20) ofMark 16:1-20; Mark 16:1-20, as they have sullied with their unholy doubts the beginning ofJohn 8:1-59; John 8:1-59. In speaking of John, it will be my happy task to defend that passage from the rude insults of men. Assured they are wrong, I care not who they may be nor what their excuses. God has given the amplest array of external vouchers; but there are reasons far weightier, internal grounds of conviction, which will be appreciated just in proportion to a person's understanding of God and His word. Impossible for man to coin a single thought, or even a word fit to pass. So it is in this scene.
I also admit that there are certain differences between this portion and the previous part of chap. 16. But, in my judgment, the Spirit purposely put them in a different light. Here, you will observe, it is a question of forming the servants according to that rising from the dead for which He had prepared them. Had the gospel terminated without this, we must have had a real gap, which ought to have been felt. The Lord had Himself, before His resurrection, indicated its important bearing. When the fact occurred, had there been no use made of it with the servants, and for the service, of Christ, there had been, indeed, a grievous lack, and this wonderful gospel of His ministry would have left off with as impotent a conclusion as we could possibly imagine. Chapter 16 would have closed with the silence of the women and its source, "for they were afraid." What conclusion less worthy of the servant Son of God! What must have been the impression left, if the doubts of some learned men had the slightest substance in them? Can any one, who knows the character of the Lord and of His ministry, conceive for an instant that we should be left with nothing but a message baulked through the alarm of women? Of course, I assume what is indeed the fact, that the outward evidence is enormously preponderant for the concluding verses. But, internally also, it seems to me impossible for one who compares the earlier close with the gospel's aim and character throughout, to accept such an ending after weighing that which is afforded by the verses from 9 to 20. Certainly these seem to me to furnish a most fitting conclusion to that which otherwise would be a picture of total and hopeless weakness in testimony. Again, the very freedom of the style, the use of words not elsewhere used, or so used by Mark, and the difficulties of some of the circumstances narrated, tell to my mind in favour of its genuineness; for a forger would have adhered to the letter, if he could not so easily catch the spirit of Mark.
I admit, of course, that there was a particular object in the earlier verses as they now stand, and that the providence of God wrought therein; but surely the ministry of Jesus has a higher end than such providential ways of God. On the other hand, if we receive the common conclusion of the gospel of Mark, how appropriate all is! Here we have a woman, and no ordinary woman, Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus, who was now dead and risen, had once cast seven devils; and who, therefore, so fit a witness of the resurrection-power of God's Son? The Lord had come to destroy the works of the devil; she knew this, even before His death and resurrection: who then, I ask, so suitable a herald of it as Mary of Magdala? There is a divine reason, and it harmonizes with this gospel. She had experimentally proved the blessed ministry of Jesus before, in delivering herself from Satan's power. She was now about to announce a still more glorious ministry; for Jesus had now by dying destroyed Satan's power in death. "She went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept." This was untimely sorrow on their part: what a thrill of joy that ought to have sent to their hearts. Alas! unbelief left them still sad and unbiassed. Then "he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them." Here was an important practical element to remember in the service of the Lord the dulness of men's hearts, their consequent opposition and resistance to the truth. Where the truth does not concern men much, they slight without fear, hatred, or opposition. Thus, the very resistance to the truth, while it shows in a certain sense, no doubt, man's unbelief, demonstrates at the same time that its importance leads to this resistance. Supposing you tell a man that a certain chief possesses a great estate in Tartary; he may think it all very true, at any rate he does not feel enough about the case to deny the allegation; but tell him that he himself has such an estate there: does he believe you? The moment something affects the person, there is interest enough to resist stoutly. It was of practical moment that the disciples should be instructed in the feelings of the heart, and learn the fact in their own experience. Here we have it so in the case of our Lord. He had told them plainly in His word; He had announced the resurrection over and over and over again; but how slow were these chosen servants of the Lord! what patient waiting upon others should there not be in the ministry of those with whom the Lord had dealt so graciously! There again we find, that if it be of moment, it is most especially so in the point of view of the Lord's ministry.
After this the Lord appears Himself to the eleven as they sat at meat, and "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them Which had seen him after he was risen." Yet a most gracious Master He proves Himself one that knew well how to make good ministers out of bad ones; and so the Lord says to them, immediately after upbraiding them with their incredulity, "Go ye into all the world, and. preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." There is the importance not only of the truth, but of its being openly and formally confessed before God and man; for clearly baptism does symbolically proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ; that is the value of it. "He that believeth and is baptized." Do not you pretend that you have received Christ, and then shirk all the difficulties and dangers of the confession. Not so: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." There is not a word about baptism in this last case. A man might be baptized; but without faith, of course it would not save him. "He that believeth not shall be damned." Believing was the point. Nevertheless, if a man professed ever so much to believe, yet shrank from the publicity of owning Him in whom he believed, his profession of faith was good for nothing; it could not be accepted as real. Here was an important principle for the servant of Christ in dealing with cases.
Further, outward manifestations of power were to follow: "These signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils." By-and-by the power of Satan is to be shaken thoroughly. This was only a testimony, but still how weighty it was! The Lord in this case does not say how long these signs were to last. When He says, "Teach [make disciples of] all nations [or the Gentiles], baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them all things whatsoever I have commanded you," He adds, "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world [or age]." That is, He does connect His continuance with their discipling, baptizing, and teaching all the Gentiles what He had enjoined. This work was thus to go on till the end of the age; but as for the signs ofMark 16:1-20; Mark 16:1-20, with marvellous wisdom He omits all mention of a period. He does not say how long these signs were to follow them that believe. All He said was, that these signs were to follow; and so they did. He did not promise that they were to be for five, or fifty, for a hundred, or five hundred years. He simply said they were to follow, and so the signs were given; and they followed not merely the apostles, but them that believe. They confirmed the word of believers wherever they were found. It was but a testimony, and I have not the slightest doubt, that as there was perfect wisdom in giving these signs to accompany the word, so also there was not less wisdom in cutting the gift short. I am assured that, in the present fallen state of Christendom, these outward signs, so far from being desirable, would be an injury. No doubt their cessation is a proof of our sin and low estate; but at the same time there was graciousness in His thus withholding these signs towards His people when their continuance threatened no small danger to them, and might have obscured His moral glory.
The grounds of this judgment need not be entered into now; it is enough to say that undoubtedly these signs were given. "They shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Thus there was a blow struck at the prolific source of evil in the world; there was the expression of God's rich grace now to the world; there was the active witness of the beneficence of divine mercy in dealing with the miseries everywhere occurrent in the world. These are, I think, the characteristics of the service, but then there remains a striking part of the conclusion, which I venture to think none but Mark could have written. No doubt the Holy Ghost was the true author of all that Mark wrote; and certainly, the conclusion is one that suits this gospel, but no other. If you cut off these words, you have a gospel without a conclusion. Accepting these words as the words of God, you have, I repeat, a termination that harmonizes with a truly divine gospel; but not merely that here you have a divine conclusion for Mark's gospel, and for no other. There is no other gospel that this conclusion would suit but Mark's; for observe here what the Spirit of God finally gives us. He says, "After the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven." You might have thought, surely, that there was rest in heaven now that Christ's work on earth was done, and so perfectly done; more particularly as it is here added, ,and he sat on the light hand of God." If there is such a session of Christ spoken of in this place, the more it might be supposed that there was a present rest, now that all His work was over; but not so. As the gospel of Mark exhibits emphatically Jesus the workman of God, so even in the rest of glory He is the workman still. Therefore, it seems written here that,, while they went forth upon their mission, they were to take up the work which the Lord had left them to do. "They went forth and preached everywhere " for there is this character of largeness about Mark. "They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." Thus Mark, and no one else, gives us the picture most thoroughly, the whole consistent up to the last. Would a forger have kept up the bold thought of "the Lord working with them," while every other word intimates that He was then at least quiescent?
Thus have we glanced over the gospel of Mark, and have seen that the first thing in it is the Lord ushered into His service by one who was called to an extraordinary work before Him, even John the Baptist. Now, at last, when He is set down at the right hand of God, we find it said that the Lord was working with them. To allow that verses 9 to the end are authentic scripture, but not Mark's own writing, seems to me the lamest supposition possible.
May He bless His own word, and give us here one more proof that, if there be any portion in which we find the divine hand more conspicuous than another, it is precisely where unbelief objects and rejects. I am not aware that in all the second gospel there is a section more characteristic of this evangelist than the very one that man's temerity has not feared to seize upon, endeavouring to root it from the soil where God planted it. But, beloved friends, these words are not of man. Every plant that the heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up. This shall never be rooted up, but abides for ever, let human learning, great or small, say what it will.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Mark 10:31". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/mark-10.html. 1860-1890.
the Fourth Week after Epiphany