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Mark 10

Scripture: Mark 10:1-52

Overview:

  • Jesus is on his way through Judea, teaching the crowds, when the Pharisees decide to give him a little test. “Hey, Jesus, is lawful for people to get divorced?”
  • Jesus asks them what Moses said about divorce, and they reply that he allowed it.
  • Jesus reminds them that the only reason Moses gave this law to them because people are often far from God’s intended course for mankind.
  • Jesus then quotes Genesis to show that from the beginning God had intended the union of a man and woman to be permanent, and that people should think twice before breaking up what God had put together.
  • In private, the disciples ask Jesus about divorce and he tells them that, “People who divorce each other and remarry are committing adultery.”
  • Later, people are bringing their kids to be blessed by Jesus, but the disciples are sending them away.
  • Jesus is unhappy about this and has the kids brought to him. He hugs them and blesses them and reminds his disciples that if they want to enter the kingdom of God they, too, will have to be lowly and undeserving like children.
  • Then a (rich) man falls on his knees before Jesus, calls him a good teacher and asks how to inherit eternal life.
  • Jesus reminds the man that only God is good, then tells him that he has to keep the ten commandments.
  • The man says, “Nailed it. I’ve been obedient my whole life.”
  • Jesus is compassionate towards the man and says, “Cool. Then all you need to do is give up what you treasure here and realize that there is greater treasure in heaven. Come, follow me.”
  • The man is sad and leaves because he doesn’t want to give up his wealth.
  • Jesus says to his peeps, “It’s not easy for rich people to get into the kingdom of God. In fact, it’d be easier to squeeze a full grown camel through the smallest space you can think of than for a rich person to get into the kingdom.”
  • The disciples are floored (because wealth is a sign of God’s favor in their eyes), and they say, “If a rich guy can’t get in, then who can?”
  • Jesus says, “Man’s efforts will never get him there, but with God anything is possible.”
  • The Pete says, “We gave up everything for you.”
  • Jesus says, “Whatever you gave up here you will get immeasurably more of in the age to come. Remember, the first will be last, and the last will be first.”
  • Back on the road to Jerusalem, Jesus reminds the disciples that he’s going to die.
  • James and John take an opportunity to ask Jesus to be his #1 and #2 go-to dudes when he comes into power.
  • Jesus replies, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Can you handle what I’m about to handle?”
  • They say yes.
  • Jesus says, “Yeah, some tough times are coming for you, but that doesn’t mean you get the top two seats. Those seats are already accounted for.”
  • When the other disciples learn what James and John asked, they’re miffed.
  • Jesus reminds his crew that the world places value on hierarchies, but that in his eyes the servant is the most important person.
  • “Even I didn’t come to be served but to serve,” Jesus says. “I’m here to pay the price of freedom for mankind.”
  • On their way out of Jericho a blind man, named Bartimaeus, calls out to Jesus saying, “Messiah, have mercy on me!”
  • People tell the blind man to pipe down, but he persists, so Jesus has Bart brought to him.
  • Jesus asks him what he wants and he says he wants to see.
  • Jesus gives Bart back his sight and the formerly-blind man starts following Jesus.

Historical Context:

Divorce

In Deuteronomy 24 Moses gives a man permission to divorce his wife, but only in cases where the husband had found something “indecent” in his wife.

In the first century, two schools of thought persisted among the Jewish community regarding how best to interpret the Mosaic laws on divorce: The first, from Rabbi Shammai, was extremely strict, allowing divorce only for unchastity. The second, from Rabbi Hillel, allowed divorce for many trivial reasons, including even the burning of bread in preparation of a meal.[1]

The divorce rate in Israel during the first century was not a pressing problem. It was estimated to be close to 4%.[3] By contrast, the divorce rate in modern America is estimated between 40%-50%.

The Pharisees may have “tested” Jesus with a question about divorce because: (1) The Pharisees wanted Jesus to pick a side in the Shammai/Hillel debate and thus be discredited by the one or the other group (the more popular group being Hillel, the lenient position)[3]; (2) The Pharisees wanted Jesus to speak out against  Herod Antipas’ marital affairs, much how John the Baptist had, with the hope that Jesus would end up as John did—dead.[3] ; or, most likely, (3) the Pharisees were reflecting upon the prior teachings of Jesus (which called people to be even more righteous than them) and thought they had found a place where he disagreed with Moses, thereby driving a wedge between Jesus and the Law, thus discrediting him with the people.[3]

The way the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce was in hopes of pinning Jesus in a corner. If Jesus answered, “Yes, divorce is lawful,” then they could ask follow up questions and pigeonhole him into either a popular, or unpopular school of thought. If he answered, “No, it is not lawful,” then he would be answering contrary to Moses, who did allow for divorce.[3] Jesus, however, bypassed Moses altogether by quoting Genesis 1:27 and 5:2. Jesus’ teaching on this subject is grounded in the original purposes of the Creator, not in the accommodations made because of man’s sin.[1]

The Pharisees are concerned with how and when a man can walk away from his wife, but Jesus points out that the design of marriage is not to see it end.[3]

Children

Children, as written about in the post on Mark 9, were people without status in ancient societies.

There are several ways scholars interpret Jesus’ saying that the kingdom of God belongs to “ones such as these”: (1) Some think Jesus may have had in mind such subjective qualities of children as humility, obedience, trust, and shortness of memory (not holding grudges, etc.); (2) some say Jesus is speaking of a child’s implicit trustfulness,  helplessness and dependence. (3) Others think that Jesus was saying that the kingdom does not belong to the mighty, the strong, the influential; but the weak, the insignificant, and the unimportant.[1]

Rich Young Ruler

Mark does not explicitly state that the man is rich, young or a ruler, but Matthew 19:20 adds the adjective “young” and Luke 18:18 calls him a “ruler” and all three say that he had “great wealth.”[1]

There is a good chance that this man was a wealthy, moral, significant civic and religious leader–a recruit that the disciples would’ve seen as an easy addition to their cause. The term “ruler” implies that he was a leader in the local synagogue.[4]

By calling Jesus “good” he is intentionally comparing him to God.

The disciples wonder aloud, “Who then can be saved?” because Deuteronomy 27-28 relates one’s covenant keeping with God’s blessing as displayed by personal health and wealth. So, in the disciple’s eyes, this man had obviously been blessed by God.[4]

Bartimaeus

Mark makes a point to translate this man’s Aramaic name for his audience as “son of Timaeus.” Mark may have wanted to contrast the blindman’s words to Jesus, “Son of David” (i.e. the Messiah) with the origins of his name “son of Timaeus” (i.e. a child of Greek philosophy–Timaeus was the name of a character used in one of Plato’s dialogues).

In 360 BC, Plato wrote a dialogue with Timaeus in which he introduced several key concepts: (1) There is a distinction between the physical world, and the eternal world; (2) The physical world is the world which changes and perishes, and is only a shadow of the greatness of the eternal world; (3) And the cause of the universe is a demiurge (a god) who fashioned and maintains the physical world and through whom order (or closeness with the eternal world) can be brought about only through the changing the paradigm of mankind.[5]

Many scholars also see Bartimaeus’ story as a an archetype of how people are saved from sin: (1) the condition is a figure lost in darkness (sin); (2) the blind man believed in Jesus as the Messiah; (3) he cried out to the Lord for mercy; (4) he persisted in spite of the rebukes of many; (5) he answered Jesus’ call; (6) he cast aside all hindrances (the garment which he would’ve used for sleeping in or collecting food and alms); (7) he pleaded for mercy; (8) he was saved; (8) he followed Jesus.[1]

Observation:

  • “Testing” comes from the word periazō which has the connotation of testing with a view toward destruction.[4]
  • What “‘God has joined together'” is literally what God has “yoked together.”[4]
  • The one thing lacking in the young man was his renunciation of all trust in worldly things and following Christ. The words “Come, and follow me,” are exactly the same words used in the call of all Jesus’ disciples earlier in Mark.[1]
  • Only here in the gospels is a command of Jesus to follow him clearly rejected.[1]
  • One scholar remarks, “God can put the camel through, but it takes divine power to do it; and the process is hard on the camel!”[1]
  • Mark may be contrasting Jesus’ position on status by talking about children (who had no status) but were capable of entering the Kingdom of God, and a wealthy young man (who had high status) but rejected the call. One is ready to enter the kingdom, the other is not.
  • Jesus’ followers had not actually forsaken everything as is evident throughout Mark (i.e. Peter and Andrew still had a house in Capernaum, James and John’s mother traveled with them, etc.)
  • The Greek word for “ransom” means a payment for a prisoner of war, or a slave. The Old Testament use of the word in the Septuagint means the money a man paid to redeem his life which was forfeit because his ox had killed someone (Exodus 21:30), or the price paid for the redemption of the firstborn (Numbers 18:15), or the money by which the next of kin bought back an enslaved relative (Leviticus 25:51).[1]
  • “It is not mine to give,” does not mean that Jesus didn’t have the power to make the gift, but that my particular request was not in line with his purpose.[1]

Discussion:

  • What question would we ask Jesus about divorce today? What do you think his answer would be?
  • What is the church’s opinion about divorce? How does this align with Jesus’ answer?
  • The young man was unwilling to part with his wealth in order to follow Jesus. Is this true of us today? What does Jesus ask us to give up to follow him? Where are our attachments? How strong are they?
  • What can we learn about persistence from the stories regarding the blessing of the children and the healing of Bartimaeus? Are we trying hard to get to Jesus despite the obstacles in our way? Who is trying to get to Jesus today that we are the obstacles for them?

References:

  1. Coffman’s Commentary
  2. France’s Commentary
  3. Luck’s Commentary
  4. Utley’s Commentary
  5. Timaeus – Wikipedia
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