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V. THE SERVANT’S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM 8:31-10:52
Having comprehended Jesus’ true identity the disciples next turned south with Jesus and headed from Caesarea Philippi toward Jerusalem. This section of the Gospel traces that journey and stresses Jesus’ preparation of His disciples for His coming death and resurrection.
"It is no coincidence that the narrator frames the journey to Jerusalem with two healing stories about blindness [Mark 8:22-26; Mark 10:46-52], for the journey surely seems dominated by Jesus’ urgent efforts to deal with the disciples’ blindness to the things of God." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, pp. 126-27.]
Mark structured his narrative around three predictions of His passion that Jesus gave the disciples. Each unit begins with a prediction followed by the disciples’ reaction. Then follow lessons that Jesus taught them about discipleship. Until now, Mark reported Jesus speaking in veiled terms (cf. Mark 2:20; Mark 4:33-34). From now on He spoke more clearly to both the disciples and the multitudes.
"This openness is theologically significant within the larger context of Jesus’ messianic self-revelation in the Gospel of Mark. It points beyond Jesus’ hiddenness, which reaches its climax on the cross, to his revealed glory. In the cross and resurrection of Jesus the secret of the Kingdom is thoroughly veiled as well as gloriously revealed. Mark exposes this tension, which is inherent in the gospel, through the reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ sober teaching throughout Chs. Mark 8:31 to Mark 10:52." [Note: Lane, p. 294.]
B. The second passion prediction and its lessons 9:30-10:31
For a second time, Jesus told His disciples of His coming death and resurrection (cf. Mark 8:31), and again they failed to understand what He meant (cf. Mark 8:32-33). Jesus responded by teaching them additional lessons on discipleship (cf. Mark 8:34 to Mark 9:29).
The transition from Galilee to Judea 10:1 (cf. Matthew 19:1-2)
Though Mark did not record it, Jesus gave His disciples much additional instruction as they traveled from Capernaum in Galilee toward Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 8:19-22; Matthew 18:15-35; Luk_9:51 to Luk_18:14; Joh_7:2 to Joh_11:54). Evidently Jesus departed from Capernaum and journeyed through Samaria to Jerusalem. Then He proceeded east across the Jordan River into Perea, which lay east and north of the Dead Sea. From there He returned to Jerusalem again. Leaving Jerusalem Jesus visited the tribal territory of Ephraim, traveled farther north into Samaria, headed east into Perea, and returned to Jerusalem a third time. The following ministry took place during this last loop in Perea and Judea. [Note: Hoehner, Chronological Aspects . . ., pp. 62-63.]
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.
This teaching grew out of the Pharisees’ attempt to trap Jesus. The incident occurred in Perea, Herod Antipas’ territory. Perhaps the Pharisees wanted to get Jesus to explain His view of divorce because they suspected it was the same as John the Baptist’s. John had lost his head literally because of his views on marriage. Probably Jesus’ critics hoped that He would also antagonize the Roman ruler with His views. The form of their question implied they thought that Jesus was against divorce for any reason.
The Pharisees all believed that the Old Testament permitted Jewish men to divorce their wives and to remarry (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). They disagreed among themselves on the grounds for divorce. Followers of Rabbi Shammai believed Moses meant the only ground was fornication, sexual sin. Rabbi Hillel’s disciples held that anything a wife did that displeased her husband constituted legitimate grounds for divorce.
Jesus’ instruction about marriage 10:2-12 (cf. Matthew 19:3-12)
Jesus responded in rabbinic fashion with another question. He asked the Pharisees what Moses, the authority whom they all professed to recognize, taught. Jesus sent them to God’s Word rather than debating traditional interpretations that the Pharisees treated as authoritative.
The Pharisees viewed Moses’ permission as God’s desire, but Jesus viewed it as a divine concession.
"A distinction has to be made between that which sets forth the absolute will of God, and those provisions which take account of men’s actual sinfulness and are designed to limit and control its consequences. Whereas the Ten Commandments (in this connection Exod. xx. 14) and such passages as the verses quoted in Mark 10:6-8 represent God’s absolute command, Deut. xxiv. 1 is a divine provision to deal with situations brought about by men’s sklerokardia [hardness of heart] and to protect from its worst effects those who would suffer as a result of it. (Much that is contained in the O.T. falls within the category of such provisions.)" [Note: Cranfield, p. 319.]
Jesus contrasted the Pharisee’s view of marriage with God’s view of it. God instituted marriage. It involves the union of a male and a female that results in a uniquely close relationship, a "one flesh" relationship. "One flesh" is a Semitic expression that means "one." [Note: Wessel, p. 711.] This relationship is closer than even the parent child relationship. Furthermore it continues throughout the rest of the husband and wife’s lives.
"The import of all this is that marriage from its very nature and from the divine institution by which it is constituted is ideally indissoluble. It is not a contract of temporary convenience and not a union that may be dissolved at will." [Note: John Murray, Divorce, p. 29.]
"While the spiritual element is vitally important in marriage, the emphasis here is that marriage is a physical union: the two become one flesh, not one spirit. Since marriage is a physical union, only a physical cause can break it-either death (Romans 7:1-3) or fornication (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9)." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:144.]
Jesus drew a conclusion from what the Scriptures that He just quoted revealed. It is therefore wrong for man to break a bond that God has fashioned. Thus Jesus did not side with either school of rabbinic interpretation. He affirmed God’s ideal in marriage, namely, no divorce.
The disciples wanted clarification of Jesus’ view, so they asked Him for it in private. Mark recorded His straightforward reply. Neither husband nor wife should divorce their partner and remarry someone else. To do so constitutes committing adultery against the spouse.
Mark 10:12 is unique in Mark. Under Roman law a wife could divorce her husband, but under Jewish law she could not. [Note: Nineham, p. 266, footnote.] There were exceptions, however, as in the case of Herodias who had divorced Philip to marry Antipas (Mark 6:17-18). Herod the Great’s sister also divorced her husband. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 15:7:10.] Jesus viewed all divorce followed by remarriage as constituting adultery no matter who initiated it. Divorce is wrong, but divorce followed by remarriage is worse.
"The new element in this teaching, which was totally unrecognized in the rabbinic courts, was the concept of a husband committing adultery against his former wife. According to rabbinic law a man could commit adultery against another married man by seducing his wife (Deuteronomy 22:13-29) and a wife could commit adultery against her husband by infidelity, but a husband could not be said to commit adultery against his wife. . . . This sharp intensifying of the concept of adultery had the effect of elevating the status of the wife to the same dignity as her husband and placed the husband under an obligation of fidelity." [Note: Lane, p. 357.]
Mark’s omission of the exception clause that Matthew included was also due to his audience (cf. Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9). He did not want to draw attention to the exceptional case because to do so would weaken the main point, namely, that people should not divorce. Divorce was very common in the Greco-Roman world. Apparently Matthew included Jesus’ permission to divorce for fornication because the subject of how to deal with divorce cases involving marital unfaithfulness was of particular interest to the Jews, his primary audience.
Mark’s account of this incident is very similar to Matthew’s. However, Mark alone noted that Jesus became indignant when He learned that the disciples were discouraging those who were bringing the children (Gr. paidia) to Him. This is another indication of the evangelist’s interest in Jesus’ humanity (cf. Mark 1:25; Mark 1:41; Mark 1:43; Mark 3:5; Mark 7:34; Mark 8:12; Mark 9:19). Jesus had formerly commanded His disciples not to forbid the exorcist who cast out demons in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:39). The disciples were abusing their authority by excluding some people from coming to Jesus: those outside their circle, and those regarded generally as unimportant.
Jesus’ instruction about childlikeness 10:13-16 (cf. Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17)
The simple trust in Jesus that the children in this pericope demonstrated contrasts with the hostility of the Pharisees in the previous paragraph. Another thought connection is the progression from discussing marriage to discussing children.
This verse occurs in Mark and Luke (Luke 18:17), but Matthew recorded Jesus’ similar statement on another occasion (Matthew 18:3). It expands Jesus’ words in Mark 10:14. Jesus’ point was that people must receive things associated with the kingdom of God as children receive things, namely, with trust and dependence on Himself. Personal ability and effort do not determine one’s reception of God’s best gifts, but a proper orientation to Jesus does.
"We tell the children to behave like adults, but Jesus tells the adults to model themselves after the children!" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:145.]
Mark also wrote that Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them fervently (Gr. kateulogei). This was the act of a father in Jewish life (cf. Genesis 27:38). This Greek word appears only here in the New Testament. The disciples viewed the children as individuals unworthy of Jesus’ attention, but Jesus saw them as important in their own right and possessing important qualities that adults need to cultivate. Mark recorded eight times that Jesus touched someone, and in each case the effect was beneficial (cf. Mark 1:41; Mark 3:10; Mark 5:28; Mark 5:41; Mark 6:56; Mark 7:32; Mark 8:22; Mark 10:13).
"This was the overflowing of Jesus’ divine love for children. It was this experience that the disciples in their insensitivity were preventing the children from having and Jesus from giving! No wonder Jesus was indignant." [Note: Wessel, p. 714.]
Mark tied this incident into what immediately preceded more closely than the other evangelists did. He wanted his readers to see this young man as expressing exactly the opposite of what Jesus had just taught His disciples. The man was a rich (Mark 10:22) young (Matthew 19:20) ruler (Luke 18:18). His approach to Jesus was unusually earnest and respectful, but he viewed eternal life as something one must earn.
Matthew wrote that he asked what he should do to get or obtain (Gr. scho) eternal life, but Mark and Luke said that he used the term "inherit" (Gr. kleponomeo). The man clearly did not believe that he had eternal life and wanted to learn what he needed to do to get it. Probably Matthew recorded the exact word he used (the ipisissima verba) and Mark and Luke interpreted what he meant (the ipisissima vox). It was important for Matthew to tell his original Jewish readers that the young man was talking about getting something that he did not possess. Mark and Luke wrote for Gentiles for whom "inheriting" clarified what was in the rich young ruler’s mind. He was talking about getting something that he as a Jew thought that he had a right to obtain because of his ethnic relationship to Abraham.
"In the rich young ruler’s mind entering heaven, inheriting eternal life, and having eternal life were all the same thing, and all meant ’go to heaven when I die.’ Jesus neither affirms or denies this equation here. He understands that the young man wants to know how to enter life, or enter the kingdom." [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, p. 65. Cf. William E. Brown, "The New Testament Concept of the Believer’s Inheritance" (Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984).]
The encounter with the rich young ruler 10:17-22 (cf. Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 18:18-23)
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.
The man had a superficial understanding of goodness. Jesus’ response confronted the man with the implications of trying to do some good work to earn eternal life and calling Jesus "good." Was he ready to respond to Jesus’ instructions as to God’s Word?
The Old Testament taught that if a person kept the Mosaic Law he would live (Deuteronomy 30:15-16). This was theoretically possible but practically impossible. Jesus reminded the man of what the law required by citing five commands in the second table of the Decalogue. The commands Jesus mentioned are easily verifiable in conduct. Mark alone recorded the prohibition against defrauding, which was evidently a particular expression of stealing appropriate to the wealthy. [Note: Plummer, p. 239.]
The man’s superficial understanding of God’s standards became apparent in his claim that he had kept all those commandments from his youth up. He regarded obedience simply as external conformity without internal purity (cf. Philippians 3:6). This was the natural implication and consequence of the Pharisees’ teaching. At age 12, a Jewish boy became a "son of the covenant" (Heb. bar miswah, from which comes Bar Mitzvah). The Jews regarded themselves as responsible for their obedience to the Law from that age on. [Note: Mishnah Berachoth 2:2.] It is probably from this time that the man meant he had observed the law.
Only Mark recorded that Jesus loved the rich young ruler when he replied as he did. Evidently the man had sincerely tried to earn eternal life by obeying the law. His superficial understanding of what God required was more his teachers’ fault than his own.
Jesus put His finger on what kept this man from having eternal life. He expressed it in the terms that the man had been using, namely, doing something. He was trusting in his wealth, wealth he probably viewed as evidence that his good works made him acceptable to God. The Old Testament taught that God normally blessed the righteous with physical prosperity (e.g., Job 1:10; Job 42:10; Psalms 128:1-2; Isaiah 3:10). He needed to abandon that essentially self-confident faith, and he needed to trust in and follow Jesus. He had also made wealth his god rather than God. His reluctance to part with it revealed his idolatry. By selling all he had, giving it to the poor, and following Jesus he would confess his repudiation of confidence in self and affirm his trust in Jesus. Then he would have treasure in heaven, something that would last forever.
Today many people consider themselves good because they have lived a moral life and have not committed gross sins. Some believe that all they need to do is a little more good and God will accept them. They fail to see that they are totally bankrupt spiritually and that even their good deeds are as filthy rags in God’s sight. They need to cast themselves on God’s mercy, trust in what He has done for them in Christ rather than in their own goodness, and begin following the One who loved them and gave Himself for them. Such was the case with the rich young ruler.
Abandoning his physical security and trusting in Jesus was too great a risk to take. The rich young ruler’s wealth brought him sorrow instead of joy. This is the only time in the Gospels when someone called to follow Jesus did not do so.
The case of this unbeliever had important significance for Jesus’ believing disciples. Rather than being a preview of divine eternal blessing, wealth could be a barrier to obtaining it. Jesus did not envy the rich, as most of His contemporaries did. He pitied them. [Note: Hiebert, p. 249.] Wealth does not exclude a person from the kingdom, but it gives him a handicap.
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.
This verse is unique to Mark. The disciples’ amazement arose from the popular belief that riches were a result of God’s blessing for righteousness. They thought riches were an advantage, not a disadvantage in one’s relationship with God. Here only in the Gospels Jesus addressed the disciples as "children" (Gr. tekna). Their amazement revealed their spiritual immaturity.
The longer textual reading at the end of Mark 10:24 gives the sense of Jesus’ statement, but it was probably not a part of the Gospel originally. The shorter statement is perfectly true as it stands and accounts partially for the disciples’ second amazement (Mark 10:26). Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:25 also helps us understand their surprise.
One writer paraphrased Jesus’ proverb as follows.
"It is easier to thread a needle with a great big camel than to get into the kingdom of God when you are bursting with riches." [Note: Moule, p. 80.]
The camel was the largest beast of burden in Palestine. The needle Jesus referred to was a common sewing needle (Gr. hraphis). The disciples reacted with amazement because they thought that wealth indicated righteousness (cf. Job, Abraham, Solomon).
Jesus’ point was that salvation is totally God’s work (cf. Jonah 2:9; Ephesians 2:8-9). It is humanly impossible to obtain it on the basis of achievement or merit. But God can enable anyone to realize his or her complete dependence on Him and turn to Him for salvation.
Peter, speaking for the other disciples, was still thinking in physical rather than spiritual terms. He turned the conversation back to the subject of giving up all to follow Jesus (Mark 10:22). The rich young ruler had refused to forsake all and follow Jesus, but the disciples had done just that. "We" is emphatic in the Greek text. Mark did not record the rest of Peter’s statement: "What then will there be for us?" (Matthew 19:27). Mark did not need to. The implication is clear enough from Peter’s statement without his question.
Jesus graciously did not rebuke Peter’s selfishness but rewarded his self-sacrifice with a promise. Disciples who follow Jesus wholeheartedly can anticipate three things. First, God will give them more in kind spiritually of what they have sacrificed physically. Second, they will receive persecution as Jesus’ disciples. Only Mark mentioned this, undoubtedly for his original persecuted readers’ benefit. Commitment to discipleship means persecution as well as rewards. Third, faithful disciples will enjoy their eternal life to an extent that unfaithful disciples will not (cf. John 10:10; John 17:3). [Note: See Dillow, pp. 135-36.]
"God takes nothing away from a man without restoring it to him in a new and glorious form." [Note: Lane, p. 372.]
The present age refers to the inter-advent era and the age to come, the messianic kingdom.
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).
Jesus and His disciples were traveling to Jerusalem from somewhere in Perea or Judea. They had not yet passed through Jericho (Mark 10:46-52). Jesus’ position in front of them, in typical rabbinic fashion, suggests His determination to go to Jerusalem in spite of His coming death there (cf. Mark 14:28; Mark 16:7). His attitude probably accounted for the disciples’ amazement. Other disciples following farther behind were afraid because of what Jesus had said lay ahead there. Jesus turned to give the Twelve further information about His coming passion.
1. The third major prophecy of Jesus’ passion 10:32-34 (cf. Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-34)
C. The third passion prediction and its lessons 10:32-52
This is the last time Jesus told His disciples that He was going to die and rise again as He approached Jerusalem. Each time Jesus gave them more information than He had given before. The first time the disciples reacted violently (Mark 8:32). The second time they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him for an explanation (Mark 9:32). This time Mark recorded no reaction to His announcement except that an argument about who would be the greatest in the kingdom followed immediately. Clearly the disciples did not comprehend what was coming because they continued to focus increasingly on the coming physical kingdom and their roles in it. Nevertheless Jesus continued to teach them lessons of discipleship that they needed.
The following chart shows the greater detail of this prediction and the fulfillment in the passion narrative compared with the previous two predictions. [Note: Adapted from Taylor, p. 436.]
|First prediction 8:31-9:29||Second prediction 9:30-10:31||Third prediction 10:32-52||Passion narrative 14:1-15:47|
|1.||Handing over to the Sanhedrin||(Mark 9:31)||Mark 10:33||Mark 14:53|
|2.||Condemnation by the Sanhedrin||(Mark 8:31)||Mark 10:33||Mark 14:64|
|3.||Handing over to the Romans||Mark 10:33||Mark 15:1|
|4.||Mocking, spitting, and scourging||Mark 10:34||Mark 14:64; Mark 15:15-20|
|5.||Execution||Mark 8:31||Mark 9:31||Mark 10:34||Mark 15:24; Mark 15:37|
|6.||Resurrection||Mark 8:31; Mark 9:9||Mark 9:31||Mark 10:34||Mark 16:1-8|
Since there is such a remarkable correspondence between these predictions and their fulfillment in the passion narrative, some commentators believed Jesus could not have predicted them. [Note: E.g., Nineham, p. 278.] Still even without divine foresight Jesus could have anticipated what awaited Him in Jerusalem. He knew the depth of the religious leaders’ antagonism, and He understood the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah’s career (cf. Psalms 22:6-8; Isaiah 50:6; Isa_52:13 to Isa_53:12).
"’Jerusalem’ is a place of danger and condemnation to death [in Mark]. Jesus’ enemies are at home here, and from here scribes and Pharisees come to Galilee to attack him and his disciples. And the ’Temple,’ the house of God’s presence and the seat of the religious authorities’ power, is a place of intense conflict: Prior to his passion, Jesus’ last great confrontation with the religious authorities occurs here." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 4.]
James and John’s request seems almost incredible. They wanted Jesus to give them whatever they requested, carte blanche. When asked what that might be, they explained that they wanted the positions of highest honor in Jesus’ messianic kingdom. The person who sat at a ruler’s right hand enjoyed the highest assigned position, and the person who sat at his left the second highest. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 6:11:9. Cf. 1 Kings 2:19; and Psalms 110:1.] These brothers obviously believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and they thought He was going to establish His kingdom soon, probably when they reached Jerusalem.
Matthew wrote that their mother, Salome, the sister of Jesus’ mother, voiced their request for them (Matthew 20:20). Mark put the words in their mouths because they came from their hearts even though Salome spoke them. Perhaps they thought their family connection with Jesus justified their request. James and John were Jesus’ cousins (cf. Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). Frequently rulers appointed close family members to important government positions.
"This narrative contains a bright mirror of human vanity; for it shows that proper and holy zeal is often accompanied by ambition. . . . They who are not satisfied with himself alone, but seek this or the other thing apart from him and his promises, wander egregiously from the right path." [Note: Calvin, 2:417.]
2. Jesus’ teaching about serving 10:35-45 (cf. Matthew 20:20-28)
This pericope parallels Mark 9:30-37. Both sections deal with true greatness, and both follow predictions of Jesus’ passion. This second incident shows the disciples’ lack of spiritual perception and their selfishness even more than the first one.
Those who share Jesus’ honor in the kingdom must also share His sufferings in this age. The cup often is a symbol of trouble and suffering in the Old Testament (Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15-28; Jeremiah 49:12; Jeremiah 51:7; Ezekiel 23:31-34; Habakkuk 2:16; Zechariah 12:2). Likewise baptism, being under water, pictures inundation with trouble (Job 22:11; Psalms 18:16; Psalms 69:1-2; Psalms 69:15; Isaiah 43:2).
James and John confidently affirmed that they could endure all the trouble and suffering that Jesus might have to endure because they had not understood what He had predicted about His passion. They would indeed experience a measure of suffering themselves as Jesus’ disciples but not as much as Jesus would have to endure. James was the first apostle to experience martyrdom (Acts 12:2), and John may have been the last. [Note: See Lane, p. 381, footnote 87.] However, God the Father would determine who would receive the positions of authority and honor in the messianic kingdom (cf. Matthew 20:23).
The jealous reaction of the other disciples shows that selfish ambition also motivated them. [Note: Cf. Cole, p. 170.] Jesus had to repeat His teaching about greatness because the disciples had not learned its lesson (Mark 9:33-37). [Note: See Santos, pp. 23-25.]
Rule and authority in the kingdom come by faithful and humble service in the present age. [Note: See idem, "The Paradox of Authority and Servanthood in the Gospel of Mark," Bibliotheca Sacra 154:616 (October-December 1997):452-60.] The disciples needed to concentrate on present service rather than future honor. The godless world focuses on the benefits of position. Disciples of Jesus should concentrate on qualifying for honor. The godless even exercise authority prematurely by lording it over others. Disciples should voluntarily place themselves under others to help them. A slave (Gr. doulos) was one who sacrificed his or her rights to serve others (cf. Luke 22:24-30).
Notice that Jesus did not rebuke the disciples for wanting to be great in the kingdom. This ambition is good. He corrected them for focusing on self-centered goals rather than on altruistic goals, and He clarified the method for obtaining greatness.
"Here is the paradox of the Kingdom of God. Instead of being lords, its great ones become servants, and its chiefs the bond-servants of all." [Note: Gould, p. 202.]
Even the Son of Man had to follow the rule that Jesus just explained. He is the great example of it. His incarnation was not that of a potentate whom others had to serve but that of a servant who met the needs of others.
His service extended to giving His life as a ransom (Gr. lytron, cf. Matthew 20:28). In koine Greek (the common Greek of the New Testament world), this word often described the money paid to release slaves. In the New Testament, it has a narrower, more theological meaning, namely, release or redemption. The only two occurrences of this word in the New Testament are in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45. The Exodus is the great Old Testament instance of this redemption and release.
"For" (Gr. anti), used in Mark only here, means "instead of" or "in place of," a clear reference to substitution (cf. Matthew 2:22; Luke 11:11; 1 Peter 3:9). [Note: Moulton and Milligan, p. 46.]
"Many" (lit. "the many") contrasts with the one life (Gr. psychen) of Jesus given as a payment (cf. Mark 14:24). One man’s act affected many others (cf. Isaiah 53:11-12). "Many" does not mean some in contrast to all. While Jesus’ death benefits everyone in one sense and the elect in another sense, that was not the point of Jesus’ contrast here. Jesus took the place of everyone else by paying the penalty for their sins.
This verse is not only the climax of this pericope (Mark 10:35-41), but it is the key verse of Mark’s Gospel. It summarizes the ministry of Jesus as the Suffering Servant of the Lord, Mark’s particular emphasis. [Note: See John C. Hutchison, "Servanthood: Jesus’ Countercultural Call to Christian Leaders," Bibliotheca Sacra 166:661 (January-March 2009):53-69.] Here it constituted another announcement of Jesus’ coming death, but it added the purpose for His dying not previously revealed.
"This verse contains the clearest statement of the object of Christ’s coming found in the gospels. But this theological declaration was made to enforce a practical truth for everyday conduct." [Note: Hiebert, p. 261.]
That John finally got the message is clear from what he wrote in 1 John 3:16: "He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
|Contrasts between a Helper and a Servant|
|A Helper||A Servant|
|A helper helps others when it is convenient.||A servant serves others even when it is inconvenient.|
|A helper helps people that he or she likes.||A servant serves even people that he or she dislikes.|
|A helper helps when he or she enjoys the work.||A servant serves even when he or she dislikes the work.|
|A helper helps when the circumstances are convenient.||A servant serves even when the circumstances are inconvenient.|
|A helper helps with a view to obtaining personal satisfaction.||A servant serves even when he or she receives no personal satisfaction.|
|A helper helps with an attitude of assisting another.||A servant serves with an attitude of enabling another.|
Jericho stood about five miles west of the Jordan River and six miles north of the Dead Sea.
Scholars have attempted to harmonize this account with the other two in the Synoptics. A few believe that the accounts represent three separate events. Some believe there were two healings, one as Jesus entered Jericho (Luke 18:35) and another as He left Jericho (Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:46). Still others believe there was only one healing, and it happened somewhere between old Jericho and the new Jericho that Herod the Great had built one mile southwest of the old city. [Note: E.g., Zane C. Hodges, "The Blind Men at Jericho," Biblitheca Sacra 122:488 (October-December 1965):319-30.] I prefer this view since the three accounts are quite similar. Another view is that the beggars approached Jesus as He entered the city but He healed them as He departed from it. The various descriptions of what happened argue against this theory.
Mark was the only evangelist to record the more prominent of the two beggars’ names. This is in harmony with his interest in individuals and detail. Perhaps Mark’s original readers know Bartimaeus.
3. The healing of a blind man near Jericho 10:46-52 (cf. Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43)
Mark probably included this incident in his Gospel because it illustrates how Jesus would open the spiritual eyes of His disciples that were still shut (cf. Mark 8:22-26). This is the last healing miracle that Mark recorded.
"This second account of the blind being healed (see Mark 8:22-26 for the first account) concludes this central section of Mark (Mark 8:27 to Mark 10:52) and serves as ’bookends’ of this section. Recorded as they were and where they were may be suggestive of the trouble the spiritually blind disciples were having in grasping the need for the death of Christ and the need for faithfulness in taking a stand for Christ in the midst of opposition.
"This passage is the only place in Mark where someone called Jesus ’Son of David.’ That Jesus accepted this title and healed the man is evidence that He affirmed the truth that He is indeed the Messiah." [Note: Bailey, p. 87.]
The two descriptions of Jesus in these verses reveal the faith of Bartimaeus. The crowds simply described Jesus as "the Nazarene." Bartimaeus had obviously heard about Jesus and had concluded that He was the Messiah. "Son of David" is a messianic title (cf. Mark 11:9-10; Mark 12:35-37; 2 Samuel 7:8-16; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24). Even though Bartimaeus lacked physical sight he saw more clearly who Jesus was then the multitudes who could see. His cry for mercy from Jesus expressed the attitude of trust, humility, and dependence that Jesus had been teaching His disciples to maintain.
"Presumably, Jesus did not silence the beggar (in contrast to Ch. Mark 8:30) because he is at the threshold of Jerusalem where his messianic vocation must be fulfilled. The ’messianic secret’ is relaxed because it must be made clear to all the people that Jesus goes to Jerusalem as the Messiah, and that he dies as the Messiah." [Note: Lane, p. 387.]
Jesus responded again to the faith of a believer. Bartimaeus’ response verified his belief that Jesus could help him. Mark’s details stress Jesus’ compassion and the beggar’s conviction.
Jesus’ question allowed Bartimaeus to articulate his faith and made personal contact with him. "Rabboni" is an emphatic personal form of "rabbi" meaning "my lord and master" (cf. John 20:16). Jesus healed him instantly with a word attributing his healing to his faith. His faith was its means, not its cause. The Greek word translated "made well" or "healed" is sesoken, meaning "saved."
"What was happening in the man’s body was really, we may presume (Mark 10:47-48), but the outward picture of what had happened in his soul." [Note: Morison, p. 301.]
"The second stage in the progressive disclosure of Jesus’ identity [to the reader] centers on his Davidic sonship (Mark 10:46 to Mark 11:11; Mark 12:35-37). . .
"What is noteworthy in this scene is that Bartimaeus, a person of great faith, appeals to Jesus as the Son of David. By granting Bartimaeus his request for sight, Jesus in effect accepts for himself the title Son of David. Moreover, he also shows how he fulfills the end-time expectations associated with David. He does so not by donning the helmet of a warrior king but by using his authority to heal and in this way to save." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 45. Cf. 8:27-30; and 11:12-15:39.]
Bartimaeus responded appropriately and began following Jesus, at least toward Jerusalem if not as a disciple.
This incident sets the stage for the climax of Mark’s story. Jesus had finished His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Some people, like Bartimaeus, were believing on and following Jesus. Others, like the religious leaders, did not believe. Conflict in Jerusalem was inevitable.
"Bartimaeus pictured discipleship clearly. He recognized his inability, trusted Jesus as the One to give him God’s gracious mercy, and when he could ’see’ clearly he began to follow Jesus." [Note: Grassmick, p. 155.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26