Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
In this chapter, Mk 10:1-31 deal with marriage, children, and possessions. These are things that God in His goodness has given to man in creation. It is important to see all three as a good gift of God and to deal with them in this way. Unfortunately, we see that all three have been removed from their true places in the hands of sinful people and are being abused. Through the Lord’s teaching here, all three of them get back their rightful place. The natural relationships, as God created them in the beginning, are shown by Him in their original purpose.
It is about the distinction between the natural and the carnal, between the earthly and the worldly. The natural, earthly is that which God has given in creation. The carnal, worldly is that which has come into the world through sin. In these things we see what the flesh has made of what God has given as good in nature. Marriage is an institution God gave even before sin came into the world. We also see this with the children, although they were only born after the Fall. Also possession, the management of things, was given by God to man even before the Fall.
A Question About Divorce
The Lord leaves Capernaum and goes to another region to do His work. Wherever He comes, crowds gather around Him. So also here. And again He does His usual work: teaching about God and His kingdom. This teaching takes place in Judea and in the district at the other side of the Jordan. This last area is outside the actual promised land. The promised land speaks of heavenly blessings and the other side of Jordan, the land on the east side of the Jordan, speaks of earthly blessings.
As He does the work of God, Pharisees come to Him who do the work of satan. They oppose Him in His service. They do not listen to Him, but instead of leaving Him, they also come to Him. Their questions have the intention of making Him in some way say something that would allow them to sue Him with the people. Now they have a question about marriage.
The Pharisees, who are extremely strict in their doctrine, have always taken marriage in general very lightly. There are two views as a result of teaching in two schools. Hillel’s school teaches that a woman can be sent away for the slightest thing her husband does not like; Shammai’s school is much less loose in this. These two currents are always at odds with each other. By their question they try to pull the Lord in either direction.
Divorce and Remarriage
The Pharisees forget that they are up against the only wise God. The Lord does not let Himself be tempted to make a choice. Any choice would be wrong. Instead, He catches those who pretend to be wise in their own craftiness (1Cor 3:19). He answers their question with a counter-question with which they, with all their knowledge of the law, will have no difficulty.
They know perfectly well what Moses said about situations in which a man would want to send away his wife. But their answer already shows their wrong way of reading Scripture. The Lord has asked what Moses has commanded, but they speak of lawfulness. In doing so, they suggest that a certificate of divorce is not necessary, but merely recommended.
The Lord then sets the cause of the commandment that Moses gave before their attention. The commandment has to do with the hardness of their hearts. He speaks of the commandment as being given to them - “you” - here and now and not just to a people long ago. The commandment given a long time ago comes from God and has lost nothing of its power. So it is with the cause. The cause is not only the hard heart of the people at the time, for they have just as hard a heart. The Lord speaks of “your heart”.
Moses does not allow anyone to send away his wife. But if anyone does, he must give her a divorce certificate stating the reason for her rejection. Furthermore, if she has become another man’s wife who also dislikes her, he may not take her back. It is all meant as a protection for the woman, so that the man who intends to send her away will think twice before he does it (Deu 24:1-4).
It is therefore a foolish question to suppose that someone can send his wife away and that it is only a question of what reason. The Lord brings marriage back to its origins. Moses never said that anyone should send his wife away. And what was given under the law as a restrictive provision is excluded under grace.
The commandment had become necessary because man had deviated from God’s original plan of marriage. As with all things, it is of the utmost importance to go back to the origin of marriage. This word is unabated today. God created man in a masculine and feminine form, no more and no different. This is the starting point and basis of marriage. Its denial (in unmarried cohabitation) and its change (in same-sex marriage) is a contempt for God’s institution. It is a great dishonor to God.
The Lord quotes what is written in Scripture (Gen 2:24). Therein is the path along which marriage is established. This path cannot be denied unpunished and this order cannot be changed unpunished. A man leaves his father and mother to form a new unity with his wife that is expressed in the becoming ‘one flesh’.
By “so they are no longer two, but one flesh,” the Lord emphasizes that a man and a wife in marriage are no longer independent persons living side by side, each with his or her own interests, but that a marriage makes them a complete unity. Marriage leads to a complete entanglement of interests. One can do nothing without affecting the other. In marriage nothing is private anymore, but everything is shared with the other, without any secret.
The Lord’s answer is that no one should ever send away his wife. The unity between man and wife is established because of the unifying bond of marriage. God is the Originator of marriage. He has placed this inseparable bond of marriage around a man and a wife. That is why it is sin and foolishness if man wants to separate.
Divorcing His Wife
The issue raised by the Pharisees, and what the Lord has said about it, continues to occupy the disciples. When they are in the confinement of the house again, so among themselves, they ask the Lord about it again.
In His further instruction to the disciples, the Lord no longer speaks about marriage and especially about divorce, but about how God intended it. He confirms the unbreakable bond of marriage, without exception. Divorce is always wrong.
A Christian should never initiate divorce. He who is married is so as long as the spouse lives, even if the other divorces. Only through the death of the spouse will the remaining person be free to marry again (Rom 7:2; 1Cor 7:39). He who, despite this institution of God, divorces his wife and thinks he can enter into a new marriage relationship, commits adultery against his lawful wife.
What applies to the man applies equally seriously to the wife. The Lord does not mention any exceptions or extenuating circumstance.
The Lord Blesses Children
Now, after marriage as an institution of God, attention is turned to children. Children are a blessing, a gift from God (Gen 33:5) and belong to marriage. They are always in God’s interest and therefore also in the interest of the Lord Jesus. Those who bring their children to Him seek His blessing for them. There is nothing better parents can do. The disciples think differently. They find children annoying and inconvenient in the performance of their service. They have not quite learned the previous lesson (Mk 9:36-37) and they have forgotten how much the Lord binds children to Himself.
When the Lord notices what His disciples are doing, He gets indignant and punishes them. He absolutely does not want this. Children enjoy His greatest interest and love. He wants to have them with Him. These are precisely the persons who fit the kingdom of God. It is theirs, it belongs to them, and not: it is for them as if they will enter it later when they have converted.
The Lord applies to every person what the child is. Only by becoming like a child can one enter the kingdom. The kingdom of God is not about the strongest and the biggest, but about the smallest, weakest and humblest, the simplest confidence. These are His own characteristics and He likes to see them in His own. His own can learn that from children.
After this teaching, the Lord does more than He has been asked. He has been asked to touch the children, but He takes them into His arms and blesses them. He is abundant in beneficence for all those who want to take the place of a child.
To Inherit Eternal Life
When the Lord leaves the house, someone comes to Him quickly. He has gone up the way and is therefore accessible to those who need Him. The rich young man – that he is, we know from other Gospels – seems to have been waiting for Him to come out. He falls on his knees before Him as a tribute.
Yet his words show that he does not realize for Whom he is kneeling. He sees in Christ only a “good Teacher” Who can tell him how to inherit eternal life. He sees in Him a perfect Someone, but no more than that. He thinks he can learn from Christ to become perfect as well. That is why he asks his question.
His question implies that he thinks he is capable of doing good, but that he doesn’t know what it is and how to do it. In doing so, he relies on his own human strength. He has seen the Lord Jesus do good. That is why he turns to Him with sincerity in order to learn from Him the way that leads to eternal life.
There is an honest desire in him to learn a new lesson and take a new step in doing good things. We see a natural person who is doing his best to do good and has the intention to do even better. However, he is fundamentally on the wrong track because his question assumes that man, as he is, is good and can do good.
The Lord’s answer shows that He is not impressed by the young man’s approach and tribute. He asks why he calls Him good. The young man could only say that if he also saw God in Him, for only God is good. The Lord says, as it were: ‘If I am not God, I am not good.’ The young man does not approach him as God. He sees only one particularly good person in Him. But then you are completely wrong about His Person and you cannot learn from Him how you can inherit eternal life.
However, if the young man wants to inherit eternal life by doing good, then the Lord has a standard. That standard is the old way, that of the law. It states how a man can earn life. After all, the law says that the man who does God’s ordinances will live (Lev 18:5). As an example the Lord mentions some commandments. He consciously only mentions the commandments that govern the relationship between people, not those that govern the relationship with God.
Of the commandments He mentions, the man can say that he has kept them conscientiously. There is no pride or arrogance in his statement. He has sincerely kept those commandments. Similarly, Saul, like this young man, was blameless according to the law (Phil 3:6). But once Saul has seen Who Christ is, he gives up everything. Once he has seen Christ in glory, he no longer wants any righteousness of his own, for that would be a human, carnal righteousness. He possessed the righteousness of God through faith. Then the righteousness for which he had made such an effort no longer has any value.
The young man is not a hypocrite. The Lord looks at him and sees his sincerity. Then we read of the Lord’s love for an unregenerate man. It is a love because of the natural attractions a natural man can have. The young man had really kept these commandments, not as a Pharisee, to impress others, but in the conviction that this was the way to life.
Nevertheless, he had not yet found in them the satisfaction he was looking for in his heart. This is because he was looking for eternal life in the wrong way. He believed that the Lord would point out to him a work of the law that would bring him the desired eternal life as merit. With all his efforts and what he has already acquired, the young man is on the way to hell. There is a way that appears to be straight, but leads to death (Pro 14:12). That way is the young man’s way.
The Lord shows him the right way and that is a work of faith. If he really wants to be like Christ, then he must do what He has done. He is now testing the young man’s heart and not just his outward behavior that is blameless. By pointing out to him what he lacks, he exposes the young man’s attachment to his earthly possessions. If he were to abandon them, give them away to the poor, he would receive from Him treasure in Heaven. The Lord invites him to follow Him until he receives this treasure.
What He asks the young man to do, He Himself has done to a much greater extent. He was rich and became poor for our sake, so that we might become rich through His poverty (2Cor 8:9). Here it appears that the young man lacks faith. He cannot give up the visible earth for the invisible heaven. The simple but powerful word of the Lord reveals the desire of his heart. He prefers his money to God revealed in love and grace.
With God Everything Is Possible
When the young man has left, the Lord looks around because He has a lesson for all those around Him. They all saw how the young man came to Him. They all heard what the young man asked and what the Lord answered. They have also seen how the young man’s countenance fell on what the Lord said and then turned his back on Him. By looking around, the Lord wants to make it clear to all that they should take His words well into account when He says that it is difficult for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of God.
With His words He has in mind people who trust in their wealth and not all people who are wealthy. Nevertheless, He speaks primarily in the most powerful words about the mere possession of wealth, i.e. generally about those who are wealthy. With this He denounces the danger of possession.
He knows that earthly blessings also play an important role for His disciples. This is apparent from their amazement at His words. The disciples also reveal something of the young man’s spirit. They are used to seeing riches as a sign of Divine favor. The Lord makes it clear that it is all about having wealth and trusting in wealth. It is difficult to have wealth and not rely on it. Involuntarily we all hang on to wealth and the earthly things. Christ offers us the cross and heaven.
When the Lord sees their amazed faces, He emphasizes the difficulty that wealthy people have in entering the kingdom of God. By addressing them as “children”, He makes it clear to them that He wants to protect them from this danger by committing them to Himself.
Viewed from the rich it is really totally impossible to enter the kingdom of God. The illustration of a camel going through the eye of the needle makes it clear that there is not the slightest chance that a wealthy person will enter the kingdom of God. The amazement of the disciples is increased by this example. Their conclusion is simple. If it is so impossible for people visibly under the blessing of God to enter the kingdom of God, then it is impossible for anyone to be saved.
It is indeed not about something that is very unlikely, but about something that really is completely impossible for people. Salvation is not unlikely, but impossible for people. As far as it depends on man, it is impossible to be saved because of his condition. But if man has no hope of salvation or can offer it, God can show what He is capable of. And He has done so in Christ.
Those Who Have Left Everything
Peter again is the mouthpiece of the disciples. He has a remark in keeping with what the Lord said to the young man (Mk 10:21). He says what he and his fellow disciples have all left. In the undertone the question sounds, what does that bring them?
The Lord does not blame Peter for his remark as if he feels better than the young man. He goes into it by saying that the only motive to leave everything must be He Himself and that in the message that is brought He must be central. Only then is it good to leave possessions and family.
Whoever follows Him from the right motive and has given up everything, gets much more in return. What we have left is only one hundredth of what we get. And not only in the future, but also now. Many can testify that, by accepting the Lord and living for Him, they have lost much of their material possessions and natural family ties, but have regained much more spiritual possessions and a spiritual family in return. This is already the case today and will only become more so in the future when eternal life is enjoyed in the realm of peace.
Incidentally, the Lord also promises persecution in this day and age - that is the time of the disciples and also our time. Accepting and following Him does not produce earthly prosperity and peaceful scenes, but lack and enmity. We follow a rejected Lord. We share in His fate, both now and in the future.
The end of the race counts, not the beginning. It may seem that some people have everything, like the rich young man. They seem to be the first to enter the kingdom. However, they will have no part in it if they do not repent and give up everything for the Lord’s sake.
Others seem to be the losers, the last. They seem to have everything against them. They also have the world and satan against them. So it was with the Lord Jesus and so it is with those who follow Him. But they will be the first to enter the kingdom. There the reward will be given by Him to each one personally for the faithfulness shown. The Lord warns with these words that, as far as personal reward is concerned, we should not judge by appearances.
Third Announcement of Suffering
They continue their way to Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus in front. He is in charge, He sets the way, and He Himself is going that way first. The disciples are amazed and afraid. They feel the feelings of hatred of the religious leaders toward them. This was different with Paul. He longed to be conformed to the death of the Lord Jesus (Phil 3:10). That is what grace does. The disciples don’t know it yet and the flesh never understands it. They are still too attached to this earthly life.
Again He takes His disciples to Himself. He is always busy to form them for true service and therefore He explains why His way leads to Jerusalem and what will happen to Him there. They will be witnesses to what will happen to the true Servant and therefore what fate awaits servants.
The Lord says where they are going together, “we”. Then He gives a sevenfold revelation of man’s wickedness toward Him, the Son of man. It is a Man who takes upon Himself the cause of men, that He may one day rule over all men and all creation. When they are in Jerusalem, He will be delivered – by Judas, one of the twelve – to the religious leaders. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the nations. Those leaders are the people who should have preceded His people in the service of God and prepared them for the reception of Him Who is their King.
There will be no humiliation, defamation, disgrace, and torment spared Him before He is finally killed. That seems to be the end. But He will rise triumphantly for a new beginning.
A Place in the Kingdom
After the Lord’s frank words about what will happen to Him, the brothers James and John come to Him with a request. We may always come to Him with our wishes. He invites them to say what they want Him to do. He already knows what they want to ask. In the same way He knows what we need or want before we make our wishes known to Him. However, he wants us to come forward with them, to speak out about them. That does not mean that we always get what we ask for, nor does it mean that we always ask for the right things or even that we do it in the right way. The Lord wants us to gain insight into our questions and motives, and therefore invites us to speak out.
The brothers ask if they may have a place next to Him when He is in His glory, when He has established His kingdom. It is a kind of reservation of the best place next to Him. They think they are ahead of the others with this. They believe in His glory, which they appreciate. However, they are blind to the fact that He must first suffer and die and that this will also be their part in following Him. They do not think about His suffering, of which He has just spoken. It seems as if they have not heard that. All they can think about is His reign and their own place in His kingdom. They don’t think about the place of the Lord and how He will get it. They’re too preoccupied with themselves for that.
The Lord answers them that they do not know what they are asking for. Sharing in His glory is preceded by sharing in His suffering (Lk 24:26; Rom 8:17) and they don’t understand that. That is why He asks them if they can drink His cup. That means if they can endure the suffering He will endure. The cup indicates more the inner suffering, the suffering of the soul, because of all injustice and defamation. He also asks if they can be baptized with the baptism with which He is baptized. This also means suffering, even to the point of death. Baptism connects us in the picture with the rejected Christ and points more to the outer suffering, the bodily suffering. The cup and the baptism as proposed by the Lord here is about putting ourselves on the side of the rejected Christ with all its consequences.
In addition to their ambitious desire for the best places in the kingdom, they also appear to have an excess of self-confidence. Ambition and self-confidence belong together. It should come as no surprise to us that these two disciples also flee when the Lord is captured. Yet He does not blame them for saying they can do it. He even says they will. They will die for Him. That is why He makes the carnal desire of the two of them an opportunity to teach His disciples. If they want to be with Him, it is necessary that they go the same path as He. Then they will experience something of bitter suffering, both internally and externally.
But whatever suffering they will experience in imitation of the Lord Jesus, all that suffering, of course, has nothing to do with His unique suffering for the sake of sin to work reconciliation with God for others. He has experienced this suffering alone and no one can imitate Him in this. They will be able to share in the suffering that people will cause to Him. They won’t be able to share in the suffering that God will cause Him because He alone will endure it and because of the sins of all who believe in Him.
As for their request, He does not decide as the Servant. The division of tasks in His kingdom is prepared by His Father. He gives everyone his place in the kingdom according to His wisdom.
Come to Serve
When the other ten disciples hear this, they blame the brothers for asking. Their reaction shows that the brothers have in fact done what they too would have liked to do. They too wish for themselves the best places in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. Often the pride that dwells in our own hearts is made public by a stirred reaction to someone else’s pride.
The Lord patiently calls all His disciples to Himself to teach them again, this time in response to their quarrels. This quarrel makes it clear that they all need the same teaching as the two brothers. Each time, the behavior or words of His disciples is an occasion for Him to teach them something about their work as servants.
He points to the nations of the world how they do things . There are, on the one hand, rulers and distinguished people with authority and, on the other, people over whom is ruled and who are under authority. It should not be the same among servants as it is among the nations. There should be no spirit of dominion over others. They are all slaves of one Master and fellow slaves of each other.
If someone really wants to be great, it can be by being a servant of servants. If someone really wants to be the first, it can be by being the slave of all slaves. That means to be the very least of everyone and to be like the Lord Jesus Who showed that.
What He presents to His disciples, He Himself, as the Son of man, has fulfilled perfectly and gloriously. The Son of Man, He Who will reign over all things, did not let Himself be served as Prince, although He had the right to do so, but served. His service, the dedication of His time and strength, concerned not only temporal bodily suffering, but much more than that. His service led Him to give His life in death, in which He paid the ransom for many to an eternal salvation. The ransom for many is not for all people, but for all His own. What a service and what a Servant! What a privilege to serve Him and each other.
Healing a Blind Man
His service leads Him to Jerusalem. In each of the first three Gospels, His last journey to Jerusalem begins with this delay in Jericho to heal a blind man. On the way to Jerusalem they come to Jericho, the city of the curse. The Lord is surrounded by His disciples and a large crowd. Yet Mark turns our attention to that one blind beggar, sitting there by the road. This man is the Lord’s concern.
This blind Bartimaeus sees nothing with his physical eyes, but his spiritual eyes see all the more. He has heard about the Lord Jesus. Now he hears that He is near him. He does hear about Him as “Jesus the Nazarene”. To the crowd He is just a man from Nazareth. But Bartimaeus sees more in Him. He calls to Him, that He may have mercy on him. He calls upon Him as the “Son of David”.
We hear this name for the first time in this Gospel. By calling this name, Bartimaeus shows that he believes in Him as the Fulfiller of all the promises made concerning His kingship over Israel. Here is a heart that searches for God and such a heart sees everything (Pro 28:5b). He knows he is blind, he acknowledges his condition and desires to see. He who has insight into his own condition begins to see.
There are always people who want to silence the voice of someone who asks the Lord for help. There are even many here. This makes it clear that there is no faith among the crowd. For Bartimaeus the opposition is a reason to shout even louder. If we act in faith, we will always meet reproaches. But resistance does the opposite of what it is intended to do. It always works to express the authenticity of faith.
The Lord always stops for those in need. He tells them to call the blind. This happens while they also encourage Bartimaeus. These people know the Lord and testify of Him when they bring others to Him. In the same way, we too may bring someone to Him.
Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak because it is a hindrance to get to the Lord quickly. The cloak is a picture of one’s own righteousness that is always a hindrance to go to Christ. This own righteousness has always been the hindrance for the people (Isa 64:6).
Faith always runs parallel with the will of the Lord. Just as He previously asked James and John what they wanted Him to do (Mk 10:35), He now asks Bartimaeus. But with him He sees faith and answers it. If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1Jn 5:14). The result is instantaneous. With this He proves that He is the Messiah (Isa 35:5). The first thing Bartimaeus sees is the Lord.
He says to him that he may go, but Bartimaeus stays with Him and follows Him “on the way”, that is the way to the cross. The Lord has never claimed anyone He has healed, as if the blessing He has granted would create a right for His own benefit. We see this with the possessed (Mk 5:19), the daughter of Jaïrus (Mk 5:43), the young man at Naïn (Lk 7:15), and the countless others healed by Him. The twelve He did call have not been healed by Him.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 10". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26