Lesson 11: Mark -Chapter 10
First read Mark 10 all the way through.
The ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events in Mark 10
Things you don’t see everyday:
-Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection
-Jesus heals a blind man
Notes and Commentary:
I. Jesus Teaches about Marriage and Divorce –Verses 1-12
Verse 1: Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and traveled south into Judea and then east of the Jordan river. Huge crowds came to him there and he ministered to them. In Mark it tells us that he taught them as usual while Matthew 19 adds that he also healed some folks.
Verse 2: Again, religious leaders seek out Jesus looking for a way to trip him up. This time on the volatile subject of divorce.
They probably believe that they will get him one way or another. If Jesus comes out in support of the prevailing cultural tradition then he will be exposed as a ‘sinner’ opposing the Mosaic Law. On the other hand, if he supports the stricter ruling of Moses on divorce then he will upset many in the crowd and probably lose some of his followers.
To fully appreciate the response of Jesus it helps to understand the cultural context. It had become a practice in Judah for divorce to be in the hands of the husband only. Notice that the Pharisees are not asking if it is lawful for a woman to divorce her husband.
It had become culturally acceptable for a husband to divorce his wife for any reason at all and he could do it by simply stating- “I divorce you” -three times and it was done and over with and he could kick her out of the house. Most no longer bothered with writing a certificate as Moses had required nor did they go before a judge or Rabbi.
Verses 3-5: Jesus asked the Pharisees what the Mosaic commandment was on Divorce. They respond by saying that he demanded that a certificate of divorce be written before a man could get rid of his wife. Jesus points out their hypocrisy in the manner and even that of Moses.
Verses 6-9: Jesus gives them a scriptural lesson here and concludes that divorce was not part of God’s original plan for marriage. After all, it is God who joined the two together and no one really had the authority to end it.
Verses 10-12: The Pharisees were right to conclude that the teaching of Jesus on divorce might disturb his followers. It still disturbs many of us today.
His own close disciples ask him about it again privately. He then expands on his teaching and tells them that a man or woman who divorces their spouse and marries again are guilty of adultery (a very serious crime worthy of stoning in their culture). This would have been shocking to anyone in that nation and generation and obviously his own disciples had a hard time with this teaching. Matthew 19:10 tells us that they concluded that maybe it would be better not to marry at all.
Note here that Jesus mentions the possibility that a woman might divorce her husband which was against the prevailing cultural practice. Also, it would seem from the language that a charge of adultery followed the man or woman who was responsible for the divorce and then remarries.
In that generation and culture it normally was the man who divorced the wife, usually against her will since it left the woman with no support. Today in our culture most of the divorces are mutual and supposedly ‘no-fault’ which in reality is a misnomer. Nevertheless, Christians today in the West aren’t anymore comfortable with the teaching of Jesus than his disciples were in the first century. Particularly since the divorce rate among those in the church is nearly the same as in the general culture.
The Gospel of Matthew (19: 3) records that the Pharisees added ‘cause’ to their question on divorce:
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
After all, men were divorcing their wives for any old reason in those days- for burning the dinner, for not cleaning the house, or most of the time for not being as pretty as they once were. In answering the causal question in Matt. 19:9 Jesus teaches that it is unlawful- “…except for sexual immorality” (unfaithfulness).
II. Jesus and The Little Children –Verses 13-16
The disciples try to keep the children away from Jesus. After all, there is a whole lot of important stuff to do, and the children will just get in the way. Jesus wants to see the children and uses this occasion as a lesson for the adults:
1. The children are important.
2. The Kingdom is to be freely received like a child receives.
3. Children are closer to the Kingdom than the adults.
4. Jesus gives the children his blessing.
This scripture is commonly used in many Churches today who practice some kind of blessing or dedication of babies or young children in church services. However there is a real lesson here for adults.
III. The Rich Young Man –Verses 17-22
The young man wants to know what he still needs to ‘DO’ in order to inherit Eternal Life. The Mosaic Law listed all sorts of things to do and apparently he had followed through on those provisions. However, in the Older Covenant, one could never be sure of salvation.
Verse 18: It is interesting that the young man refers to Jesus as “good teacher”, But Jesus replies that:
“Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.”
Some have cited this passage as a proof text where Jesus actually denied his divinity. This is not the case, Jesus merely asked why he had called him ‘good’ not that he wasn’t. Then states that ‘only God is good’, without qualifying whether the designation applied to himself or not.
One thing for sure, according to Jesus it did not apply to this young man though the man probably considered himself to be ‘good’ which was probably why Jesus set him straight. Gaining heaven and eternal wasn’t just about being good.
This passage brings to memory the occasion (Mark 8:27) when Jesus asked his disciples:
“Who do people say I am?”
The young man could have replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of God”, like Peter once did when Jesus had asked-“but who do you say I am?” In that case (if the young man had faith in Jesus), Jesus could have confirmed that he would indeed inherit Eternal Life. However, the man did not know who Jesus really was else he would have probably left his wealth behind and followed him.
Verses 21-22: Notice that it says here that Jesus loved him but unfortunately it was not mutual. The man was wealthy and in final analysis he loved his riches more than he actually loved God and in the process demonstrated a violation of the most important commandment of all- to love God more than anything else.
Jesus told him that if he really wanted eternal life all he had to do is give all of his money away and :
“Then come, follow me.”
The young man said he was concerned about eternal life and yet he left Jesus behind and went his own way. Sadly he left behind the very one who could have secured it for him- The King of the Kingdom of God. Sadly today many walk away from Jesus to do their own thing and in the process also leave behind the opportunity to receive the real abundant life and life everlasting.
IV. Can The Rich Be Saved? –Verses 23-27
Verses 23-26: It was a popular understanding in first century Judea that the rich had gained it all because God had blessed them for being ‘good,’ righteous, and for following the commandments of the Law. It was assumed that the wealthy would be probably saved in the life to come since they had the time to study the Law and follow it more so than the poor.
So when Jesus seemed to teach that it was impossible for the rich to be saved, the disciples are upset:
“who then can be saved?”.
Verse 27: Jesus was trying to show them that no one could be saved merely by their own efforts- through things that they do or don’t do. Salvation comes only as a gift from God after all we can do. So it is only with God that:
“all things are possible”.
Even a rich person can be saved. Without God, no one can enter into the Kingdom, even the rich, the good, and the self righteous. It is really all about having a relationship with God- loving him with all of your heart, mind, and strength.
If only the young rich man knew who Jesus really was he could have obtained his goal of eternal life by following Jesus and by having a relationship with the Son of God who actually holds the keys to the Kingdom and eternal life. Not only that, he would have received the joy of the Lord, peace and assurance of eternal life, and a far more abundant life than his riches could have ever given him.
One wonders what happened to the young man? The fact that he was unnamed may be ominous. He made an unfortunate choice here and he may have never gotten another opportunity to secure the very eternal life he was seeking.
People also have a choice today to accept a relationship with Jesus Christ the Lord of the Kingdom of Heaven or go their own way and do their own thing and miss out on not only receiving blessings in this life but the gift of eternal life to come. What is your choice?
V. The Disciples are Upset and Concerned –Verses 28-31
Verse 28: Peter and the disciples are now concerned about their own positions in the life to come. After all, if a rich and supposedly righteous man was not necessarily destined for the Kingdom of God, then what about poor fishermen from Galilee, who gave up everything to follow Jesus?
Verses 29-31: Jesus reassures his disciples that those who gave up all for him and the Gospel will be rewarded, even if they may face persecutions. However, he also says, that many who are first will end up being last.
The implication here is that these poor fishermen and tax collecting disciples who were looked down on by the religious leaders of Judea would be among the first in the Kingdom while those who were now among the ruling class would not fare as well as they thought they would in the life to come. This could apply to the rich young man who did not give up everything to follow Jesus but went his own way instead. An unfortunate decision that people are still making today
VI. Again, Jesus Predicts His Own Death and Resurrection –Verses 32-34
Verse 32: Jesus heads for Jerusalem and the disciples are surprised and afraid since they know that the religious leaders in the capitol are against them and waiting.
Verses 33-34: Once more he informs them of the events to come. This is the third time (See also: Mark 8:31 & 9:30-31) that Jesus has predicted his own death and Resurrection. In spite all of the warnings the disciples aren’t really prepared for what is to come.
Notice, that Jesus says that the Jewish religious leaders will ‘betray’ him, but that it will be the gentiles (the Romans) who actually beat and kill him. Somehow, the entire Jewish race gets unfairly blamed for death of Jesus while the Italians get a traditional pass as Christians. The Jewish religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus but they didn’t have the legal authority to carry out capitol punishment so had to depend upon the Romans to get the job done. Despite the weak protests of Pontius Pilate, it was Roman soldiers, following the official orders of the Roman state and their commanders, who beat Jesus mercilessly, nailed him to a cross, and carried out and supervised his horrible and excruciating death.
VII. The Boldness of James and John –Verses 35-40
James and John, the Zebedee bothers are hoping to be number 2 & 3 in authority, after Jesus rules the Kingdom. There guys were pretty bold and Jesus called them the ‘Sons of Thunder’ (Mark 3:17). On one occasion recorded in Luke 9:54, the two brothers wanted Jesus to call down fire from heaven (like Elijah) upon a Samaritan village which refused to accommodate their traveling group.
James and John obviously did not understand or believe what Jesus had just told them about his coming death and Resurrection. After all Jesus had said they still believed in their cultural traditions about the Messiah taking over and ruling the entire nation eventually the whole world. When he did, James and John wanted to be sitting next to the Messiah in the throne room helping him rule.
Verses 38-39: Jesus asks them if they are ready to accept the same treatment that he was soon going to face. Of coarse they say yes, without really knowing what they are saying yes to.
Jesus then confirms that they most certainly will face the ‘cup’ of persecution in the future. Nevertheless he didn’t have the authority to assign the seating in the throne room- that right belong to his Father.
In the future, James was among the first of the disciples and the twelve to be martyred. John was later boiled in a vat of oil, and exiled to the isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. John was the last of the twelve to survive living into the turn of the next century, his death was unrecorded.
VIII. True Leadership According to Jesus –Verses 41-45
The other 10 Apostles were upset with the Zebedee boys. The whole group was jockeying for high positions within the Kingdom. Again this demonstrates that none of the disciples truly understood what Jesus had said at least three times about his coming death and Resurrection.
Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach them about true leadership.
He uses the gentile rulers as an example of how not to lead–as ‘lords’ over the people. Those who would be leaders in the Kingdom are called to be the servants of all. Churches, denominations, and Christian organizations today should pay closer attention to the leadership guidelines taught by Jesus here.
IX. Bartimaeus Receives His Sight –Verses 46-52
Verses 46-48: Jesus and the disciples are leaving Jericho with a large crowd following. A blind man named Bar-timaeus was sitting along the side of the road begging when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He started crying out and then shouted even louder as folks around him tried to shut him up. Notice that he knows who Jesus really is:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This proclamation of Bartimaeus is one of the scriptural sources for the ‘Jesus Prayer’ (along with Luke 18:13) which is preeminent and popular among the Eastern Orthodox churches.
Verses 49-51: Finally, he is called by Jesus to come and is asked what he wanted Jesus to do for him. He wanted to be healed and receive his sight.
Today, anyone who recognizes who Jesus really is and asks for mercy, like Bartimaeus did, can still receive blessings and healing from the resurrected and living Jesus Christ. Many folks have found that the ancient Christian ‘Jesus Prayer’ still works and changes lives:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Verse 52: Notice three things at the end of this story:
1. He had faith.
2. He was healed.
3. He followed Jesus.
Since his name is remembered here in Mark, Bartimaeus may have become a regular follower of Jesus and among the early members of the Christian community.
-Read: Mark 11 for the next lesson.