In our study of Mark chapter ten, we travel with Jesus on His final walk to Jerusalem as He shares about love. On His way to demonstrate the meaning of God's love for us, He shares about our love for each other.
Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
At the end of Chapter 9, Jesus was teaching the disciples in Capernaum. Now, He has left there and is traveling on the east side of the Jordan as He makes His way towards Jerusalem. Even as He must have felt the growing weight of what would take place there, He still took the time to teach anyone that would come to meet Him.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?'
Jesus was now in the area known as Perea where Herod Antipas ruled for the Romans. This same Herod Antipas is the one that had John the Baptist beheaded for condemning his unlawful divorce and marriage to Herodias. In asking this question, they were hoping to get Jesus to say the wrong thing. They wanted Him to condemn divorce and in effect do the same thing that John the Baptist did in hopes that He would share the same fate. They simply did not want to kill Jesus with their own hands but were totally willing to let the Roman authority do so.
'What did Moses command you?' he replied. They said, 'Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.' 'It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,' Jesus replied.
Jesus answered their question with a question of His own. When the Pharisees answered that divorce was permitted under the Law, Jesus explained that their sinful hearts was the reason for that rule. The Hebrew term for this is parashat devarim and it speaks of a heart that is unfeeling when it comes to the needs of others. Jesus was in effect saying that divorce was allowed by Moses because of their own selfish desires and lack of love for others.
'But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.'
Jesus schooled the Pharisees on the topic of marriage by quoting and explaining Genesis 2:24. In the Jewish mindset, two becoming one flesh is an intimate relationship so close that the other person's desires are more important than your own. This is also what John described in his first letter. Jesus reminds them that a real marriage is one in which God has brought the couple together. If God has done that, then He has given them the ability to put the other first. If that is the case, then nobody will be able to tear them apart. It is interesting to note that Jesus is not talking about a piece of paper from a government binding two people together like a contract. He is talking about the hand of God at work in the hearts of a man and a woman.
When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, 'Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.'
In Jewish practice, it was the man who could give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away. Jesus explained that, if this was the wife that God had sent him and he put her away, it would be adultery to be with any other woman. Jesus went on to extend it to the woman as well knowing that there would be a time when either one could send the other away. Under Jewish law, adultery was all about the physical relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus extended it to the heart and simply looking on a woman with lust in what is known as the sermon on the mount (see Matt. 5:28). The heart is the center of the soul and so Jesus was, in fact, extending adultery into the spiritual realm.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.
At this time, there were many people coming to Jesus for physical healing and for blessing. People were bringing their kids for this as any good parent wants the best for their child. The disciples tried to stop this as they were beginning to understand that the ministry was more about the spiritual things than the physical.
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'
The disciples did not understand the law of love which was demonstrated by the children. True love cannot be earned and cannot be kept to yourself. The children did not think that they could bring anything to Jesus except themselves and Jesus explained that it was the same with salvation. Any attempt to bring our actions (other than accepting Jesus like a child), denies the fact that salvation is by grace. The simplest definition of grace is that it is a gift and, if and when you try to pay for a gift it no longer is a gift. The phrase "kingdom of God" refers both to the reign of God in the hearts of men on this earth as well as the physical dwelling of God with men in the future on the new earth.
And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
esus gave a physical demonstration of His love and the fact that it was freely given. It reminds us that, if we accept Him like the children, we are blessed (do not have to worry about anything). A child simply has faith (trust) that their needs will be taken care of and that is the same type of confidence that we need to have. Our need for a Savior was taken care of by Jesus as well as our need for His guidance in our daily lives.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good - except God alone.'
Luke tells us that this man was a part of the ruling class (see Luke 18:18). He ran up to Jesus without acknowledging who Jesus was and hoped to gain salvation. Jesus' answer points him to the fact that the standard for "good" is very high and in fact no man can achieve it. The same type of thing happens even in the churches of today as many run to Jesus but do not acknowledge who He is. Without recognizing Him as the Son of God, there is no ability to be saved because only God is "good". His sacrifice would not have been perfect if He was not the Son of God. A perfect sacrifice was required to replace the animal sacrifices of Judaism.
'You know the commandments: "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother."' 'Teacher,' he declared, 'all these I have kept since I was a boy.'
Jesus answered the man by listing the six commandments that deal with man's relationships with their fellow men. The rich man responded with the assertion that he had fully kept the law of loving his fellow man since the "age of accountability". This age is thirteen according to Jewish tradition and is when a child becomes a man and it is celebrated with a bar mitzvah.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'
Jesus loved the man and did not contest his assertion that he had kept the law of love dealing with his fellow man. Instead, Jesus gently pointed out the fact that he was trusting in his earthly wealth and actions instead of having faith in Jesus. He was not trusting God for his daily needs and that was a sign that he did not trust God for his eternal need of salvation.
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
When faced with the decision to trust in his material wealth or to trust in Jesus, the man chose his wealth. This is what Jesus was talking about when He described the cost of being a disciple (see Luke 14). If you put your hope and trust in anything but the finished work of Jesus Christ, then, you do not have faith in Jesus. Without faith, it is impossible to please God and you are lost.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard is it for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'
Jesus repeated Himself and explained how difficult it was for the rich to give up their self reliance and to trust in Him. He calls them "children" as they were still at the beginning of their understanding of the ways of God. The camel was the largest animal in the land and the eye of the needle was the smallest of openings. He used this contrast in sizes to see how it was impossible under human strength. No matter how hard you tried or how much time you spent in it, you were not going to be able to push a camel through that opening.
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.'
The disciples were puzzled because they were all from humble beginnings. They were not used to the fact that it was easier for them to do something than a rich man who could easily hire someone to do his work. Jesus went on to explain that it is faith that saves and not the works of men.
Then Peter spoke up, 'We have left everything to follow you!'
Peter was a man that was quick with his words and was not quite sure in his faith. He questioned whether he and the other disciples were even saved after they had given up their way of life to follow Jesus. If we are all completely honest with ourselves, we can admit that we probably have the same type of struggle at times. We must recognize that this is an attack by the devil as he does not want us to remain confident in our faith.
'Truly I tell you,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields - along with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.'
Jesus' answer to Peter's doubts was a reassurance of blessing. His answer would have called to mind the Parable of the Sower that he had shared with them (see chapter 4). But, what of Jesus' answer? I have seen many that have struggled all their lives to serve the Lord even when it cost them family, etc. Where is the hundred times crop? Many times it is not visible until their death and the funeral service. I have seen where servants of the Lord have thousands of people show up to say goodbye to them. Would not many of them consider that servant their family and open their home to them? This is the same thing that Jesus had taught the disciples just a short time before (see Mark 3:34). He went on to explain that persecution will come with the blessing but the end result will be eternal life. He also went on to warn Peter about pride and comparing our Christian walk with that of others. We can get so focused on what we have "given up for the Lord" or what we have "done for the Lord" that it can be an issue of pride.
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
The final trip to Jerusalem continues and we see that the disciples were amazed by the fact that Jesus did not sway from His purpose. He had already told them twice what was going to happen when they got there and, now, He tells them again. This would have been the third time and we remember that the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will.
'We are going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.'
For the third time, Jesus tells them exactly what is going to happen when they get to Jerusalem. It is important to note that God's plan was carried out by both Jew and Gentile. Both groups took part in His death and both groups can take part in salvation through Him.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we want you to do for us whatever we ask.' 'What do you want me to do for you?' he asked. They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'
We notice that the disciples addressed Jesus as Teacher even though He had explained how He was much more than that. Once again, it shows that they were really unaware of the spiritual aspect of Jesus' ministry. The same type of thing had happened when Jesus had shared God's plan with them the second time. They were still focused on earthly position and power. The positions that they desired were positions of honor and would have been a symbol of their closeness to Him.
'You don't know what you are asking,' Jesus said. 'Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?'
Jesus answered the men with a question and that question is basically can you share my fate? He was, in a way, asking them to count the cost.
'We can,' they answered. Jesus said to them, 'You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.'
The men answered that they had counted the cost of following Jesus and that they would continue to follow Him all the way. Jesus agreed with them that they would endure to the end but He went on to explain that their wish was not up to Him. That had already been decided from the beginning as the Father knew the end from the beginning.
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'
When the other apostles heard about their request, they became upset. They were bothered by the fact that the two had went to Jesus in private and asked for this. They were probably all wanting the same thing. Seeing this, Jesus called them together and reminded them that they were acting like the rest of the world. He went on to remind them that even He did not come to be a King (this time) but to be a servant. That service was to pay the price to set men free from the grip of sin and death.
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means 'son of Timaeus'), was sitting by the roadside begging.
As the procession to Jerusalem continued, they left Jericho. Along the road was a blind man begging and we see that he was the son of Timaeus which means "highly prized".
When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.'
The blind man cried out for Jesus to help him but the crowd wanted him to be quiet. Bartimaeus would not be denied and cried out even more. Jesus stopped and had the disciples get him. This was a chance for Jesus to physically demonstrate the relationship between the law and love. According to the Law, the people were legally required to help the man to get food. In love, Jesus stopped to give him much more than money or a bite to eat.
So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him. The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.' 'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he recovered his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
When called, the blind man immediately jumped up and approached the Lord. When asked what he wanted, Bartimaeus boldly stated that he wanted his sight back. Like Bartimaeus, we are also "highly prized" and can boldly ask the Lord for what we require. He did not give any reasons for his deserving the help but instead simply trusted in the love and mercy of Jesus. By the words of Jesus, it was granted to him and he followed Jesus. In this, we see that the law of love involves action.