Jesus Answers Question on Divorce (Mark 10:1-12)
Passing down through Perea on the east of the Jordan, Jesus and His disciples came to the ford of Bethabara and crossed over into Judea. They were on the way to Jerusalem, where Christ was to fulfill His mission by dying as the great sin offering on a cross of shame. Although Jesus had been absent from Judea for some time, His fame preceded Him. Multitudes of the people resorted to Him. They were ready to hear what He had to say and according to His custom He took the opportunity to teach them.
Some of the sect of the Pharisees came to Him and questioned Him regarding divorce. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?” The inquiry was not made sincerely. They were not looking for instruction, but rather for an opportunity to bring a formal accusation against Him. If possible they desired to expose Him as an unsafe and heretical teacher who taught contrary to the law of Moses.
He foiled them by asking them, “What did Moses command you?” They replied that Moses had permitted a bill of divorcement to be given and an unwanted or unloved wife to be put away. Jesus declared that this had been allowed because of the hardness of men’s hearts, in order that a wife who had no favor in her husband’s eyes might not have to endure even greater indignities than being divorced. But this was not God’s highest thought as to the marriage relationship.
From the beginning when God made our first parents male and female, He intended one woman to marry one man. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain [not they three, or more] shall be one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8). Therefore when two are united in wedlock they are no more to be considered as independent personalities free to go or stay as they please; they are one flesh.
Jesus added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Men may make laws that violate this divine order, but no human decree can nullify God’s Word. Marriage is a life partnership. Elsewhere Jesus showed that if one of the contracting persons proves unfaithful and breaks the tie by cohabiting with another, the innocent one is free (Matthew 19:9). But apart from such a breach the tie is indissoluble save by death, as He made clear to His disciples when they were in the house again, away from the multitude. To divorce one’s wife and marry another is to commit adultery. Likewise if a wife divorces her husband and marries another man, she becomes an adulteress.
Jesus Blesses the Children (Mark 10:13-16)
In these verses Jesus expressed His loving concern for little children. Parents who felt that the Lord would be interested in their little ones brought them to Him that He might lay His hands on them in blessing. Not understanding the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ, the disciples tried to restrain the parents, as though Jesus could not be troubled with children. They considered this an imposition, regarding it as below the dignity of their Master to be occupied with the little ones.
The Savior was displeased with the attitude of the disciples and He immediately revealed that He is the friend of children. He invited the parents to bring the children, assuring them that the little ones were typical members of the kingdom, because of their implicit faith in Him. Children are the ideal converts. When old enough to understand the story of the Lord Jesus, they are old enough to come to Him in trustful confidence. They enter into the kingdom of God when people considered older and wiser by human standards refuse to enter. When our Lord said of the little ones, “Of such is the kingdom of God,” He was not implying that the children do not need to be regenerated in order to enter truly into that kingdom. They come from a lost race and are by nature children of wrath. But their simple faith makes them subjects of the kingdom, and in this they are examples to us all. Only as we manifest the same childlike faith do we enter into the kingdom of God.
“He took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” Parents may be assured today that, though unseen by mortal eye, He takes our children in His loving arms and gives them His blessing as we bring them to Him in faith.
There are many today who, like the disciples, imagine that little children are too young to be brought to the Lord Jesus Christ. But His words are too clear to be misunderstood. He invites children to come to Him, and encourages parents to bring them. Elsewhere He speaks of “these little ones which believe in me” (Matthew 18:6), and He gives a solemn warning to any who put stumbling blocks before their inexperienced feet. We are right when we sing of Him, “There’s a friend for little children.” He is their friend, and He delights in their love and confidence and esteems them as His friends. It is a well-known fact that by far the greatest number of those who are now earnest Christians came to the Savior before they were twelve years of age.
Jesus Defines the Cost of Discipleship (Mark 10:17-31)
The incident with the rich young man has been appropriately designated, “the great refusal.” Unlike many who questioned Jesus in order that they might trap Him in His words, this young man seems to have been, up to a point at least, intensely earnest. We are told that he came running and then, doing homage to Him, he fell upon his knees before Jesus as he inquired, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
Jesus took him up on his own legal ground. He first asked him why he used the term good in speaking to Him. Scripture says, “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3). Why then address Jesus as good, unless indeed one recognized in Him the divine Son of God, for God alone is good? To this the young man made no reply.
Jesus then quoted the six commandments that summarize our responsibilities to our neighbors, including that which calls on us to honor our parents, who stand in the place of God to children in the home. The law said, “Keep my statutes… which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Leviticus 18:5).
Without a moment’s hesitation the young man replied, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” Outwardly he, like Saul of Tarsus before his conversion, was blameless concerning the righteousness of the law. What he did not realize was that all human righteousness is but as filthy rags in the sight of God, because of the corruption of the heart (Isaiah 64:6).
To test him and expose the hidden evil of his heart Jesus said, “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.” It was a call to receive Christ as Savior and acknowledge Him as Lord. But he who seemed so earnest at first could not rise to the opportunity put before him. He professed to love his neighbor as himself but was not prepared to give up his wealth for the good of others. He was not ready to yield control of his life to Jesus. So he went away sorrowful, because his great wealth stood between him and allegiance to Christ. Did he ever repent? We do not know. So far as Holy Writ is concerned we know only that he went away in nature’s darkness, because he turned from the light of life.
We can sense the pain in the heart of the Lord as He musingly said to His disciples, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” They were astonished to hear this, for undoubtedly they thought, as many do today, that poverty rather than wealth would be the greatest impediment to entrance into the kingdom. But Jesus explained the danger: putting one’s trust in wealth can keep him from taking his rightful place before God as a needy sinner who can be saved only through grace. A camel could more readily pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter into the kingdom of God. Only those who judge themselves and come to God—only those who acknowledge their lost estate and spiritual poverty—find entrance there.
Amazed, the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” In reply Jesus told them that all things are possible with God. Even the rich may be brought to the place where they no longer trust in their wealth but in the living God.
The question naturally arises in our minds as to what prompted Peter to say, “Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.” Was he concerned as to the future of himself and his fellow disciples if the rich were not going to rally to the side of Jesus and assist Him in establishing the expected Messianic kingdom? Possibly so. His words seem to imply that he wondered whether they had risked all on a forlorn hope.
Jesus replied with words of assurance, though not at this time fully correcting His followers’ carnal ideas of the coming kingdom. He gave the definite promise that no one would lose, but rather gain by sharing His path of rejection. But He warned them, “Many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” That is, not everyone who gave promise of being a faithful and devoted follower would continue in the path of self-denial for Christ’s name’s sake, and some whose devotion seemed questionable, would prove genuine in the hour of trial.
To follow Christ means to share His cup of sorrow, to be misunderstood, and even hated and maligned by the world that lies in the hand of the wicked one. But the follower of Christ finds a joy, unknown to the world, in fellowship with the rejected King and in communion with fellow sufferers. He looks forward with assured hope to entering eternal life in the age to come. All believers now have eternal life abiding in them but in a decaying body. In the age to come we shall enter into life in all its fullness when the body as well as the soul is fully redeemed from the bondage of corruption.
Jesus Deals with Worldly Ambition (Mark 10:32-45)
As the little band moved on toward Jerusalem there was something in the bearing and appearance of Jesus that moved His disciples to fear and concern. In Luke 9:51 we read, “He stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” He knew exactly what awaited Him there, and He went forward unflinchingly with a serious determination that evidently was expressed in His countenance, and caused the twelve to have a feeling of uneasiness. Were all their dreams of a coming glorious kingdom, in which He would declare Himself Messiah and deliver Israel from the Roman yoke, to be dissipated? Had they, after all, left everything they possessed and ventured all on a baseless hope?
Jesus sought to make them understand just what was before Him. He told them that when they reached Jerusalem the Son of man would be delivered to the religious leaders, who were ever His enemies and who would condemn Him to death. These leaders would turn Him over to their Gentile rulers who would mock and scourge Him, even spit in His blessed face, and finally put Him to death. But again He gave the promise, “The third day he shall rise again.” But still they failed to comprehend His words, so obsessed were they with the thought that the kingdom should be set up immediately.
Giving evidence of how little they understood the mind of Christ, James and John said, “Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.” Their request was based on selfishness and worldly ambition, but the two brothers were doubtless unaware of the true condition of their hearts. The Lord Jesus desired to bring to the surface what was in their thoughts; so He pressed them to put the request in their own words.
“Grant… that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.” When James and John sought exalted positions in the coming kingdom, they showed how little they understood its true nature. They little realized how obnoxious to the Lord Jesus Christ were their ambitions. It is quite true that our Lord will bestow special honors on certain of His followers when He returns to set up His kingdom. He made this clear in several of His utterances (Matthew 19:28; Luke 19:17). But those who will occupy the highest places then will be those who were content to take the lowly places in the King’s absence, and who were willing to suffer uncomplainingly for His sake.
“Ye know not what ye ask.” The rebuke of the Lord Jesus was spoken not in anger but in love. Jesus wanted the disciples to learn the meaning of participation in His sufferings so they could share in the glories to follow. He wanted them to realize how little they understood what was about to take place. He asked them, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” He was referring to the cup of rejection and judgment soon to be pressed to His lips, and to the baptism of death He was to endure on the cross.
Not knowing what they said, James and John declared, “We can.” Their loyalty was evident, but the full nature of that cup and baptism was hidden from them. Jesus replied that they would indeed drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism (for all who follow Him have to taste the cup of rejection by the world and some are even delivered unto death for His sake). However, Jesus went on to say that no man can choose His own place in the kingdom that will be displayed in power and glory. Each one will have the place for which his life and service on earth have fitted him.
The other disciples also had desires for the highest offices, and were indignant that John and James had forestalled them. It was very difficult for the disciples to dissociate the thought of a kingdom from dreams of positions of prominence for themselves. In the kingdoms of the nations the great lord it over those of lesser degree. But in the kingdom of God the very opposite rule prevails. The kingdom of which Jesus Christ is Lord is a kingdom of love. There all are to seek the blessing of others, and lowly service takes the place of haughty authority. In the kingdom of Heaven those who labor for the blessing of their fellows are recognized as great.
“Whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” Our Lord Himself is the pre-eminent example here. He who was Lord of all became servant of all, that men might be brought to God. We are called to follow in His steps. He left the glory of the Father’s side and came into this world. He became man in order that He might die. Never once did He seek recognition from men. He was content to be despised and rejected so that He might accomplish His great mission of redemption. Dare we, who owe everything for eternity to His humiliation, aspire to worldly honor and seek the approbation of our fellow men rather than the approval of God?
Humility is one of the loveliest flowers that springs up in the garden of the regenerated heart. We are all inclined to pride and vanity by nature. When the Spirit of Christ possesses us, we exhibit that lowliness and meekness which ever characterized our blessed Lord. Where this lowly spirit prevails, it is easy to extend forgiveness to those who have offended us. To many this seems like slavish servility, but it is the very opposite. Greatness is evidenced by one’s readiness to deny self and to serve others for Christ’s sake, who “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” We cannot share in His atoning or redemptive work, but we can and should follow Him in His life of patient service for the blessing of a needy world.
Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52)
To this poor sightless beggar the coming of the Lord Jesus was to mean the opening of his eyes, both physically and spiritually. He did not wait for Jesus to call him first, but “when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out.. Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” Surely, such faith must have gratified the heart of the Lord.
Many of those who were in the crowd that followed Jesus as He passed through the city tried to silence Bartimaeus, but his faith refused to be deterred by their objection, and he continued to cry out. Assured in his soul that Jesus was the predicted Messiah, the offspring of David, Bartimaeus knew that Jesus could open his eyes if he could attract the Lord’s attention. Faith like his never pleads in vain.
Jesus stopped and commanded the beggar to be called. It must have brought joy to the poor man’s heart when they said, “Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.” Casting away his outer garment in his haste, he arose and came to Jesus. Doubtless he was guided by some kindly person in the crowd.
The Lord inquired tenderly, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” Jesus knew well the desire of his heart, but He desired him to make a public confession of his need. “Lord,” cried Bartimaeus, “that I might receive my sight.”
His faith was at once rewarded. Jesus granted his request and gave him the additional assurance, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” In his exuberance and gratitude Bartimaeus followed Jesus as He went along the way. Though there is no evidence that he was called to give all his time to witnessing for Christ, what a testimony he had to give to the compassion and healing power of Him whom he had acclaimed as the Son of David!