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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Mark 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ mark-10.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Mark 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 10:1. He arose from thence.—Between the events just recorded and those of which the Evangelist now proceeds to treat many others had occurred, which he passes over. The most important of these were:
1. The visit of Christ to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:8-10), which was marked by—
(1) The rebuke to the “Sons of Thunder” at the churlish conduct of the inhabitants of a Samaritan village on their way to the Holy City (Luke 9:51-56);
(2) Solemn discourses during the feast, and an attempt of the Sanhedrin to apprehend Him (John 7:11-52; John 8:12-59);
(3) The opening of the eyes of one born blind (John 9:1-41), the revelation of Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).
2. Ministrations in Judea and mission of the seventy (Luke 10:13-17).
3. Visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-39).
4. Tour in Peræa (Luke 13:22 to Luke 17:10).
5. The raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46).
6. Resolve of the Sanhedrin to put Him to death, and His retirement to Ephraim (John 11:47-54). The coasts of Judea.—The place whither He now retired has been identified with Ophrah, and was situated in the wide desert country north-east of Jerusalem, not far from Bethel, and on the confines of Samaria. Caspari would identify it with a place now called El-Faria, or El-Farrah, about two hours north-east of Nablous.—G. F. Maclear, D.D.
Mark 10:5. For the hardness.—To meet—in the way of concession or compromise.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:1-12
(PARALLEL: Matthew 19:1-12.)
Lessons for preachers.—This passage, which will hardly ever be required for public use, suggests some points which ought not to be neglected by the preacher.
I. Jesus Christ taught.—Ignorance was never approved by the Saviour. He saved through light, never through darkness. He conducted specific intellectual processes as well as processes distinctively moral. It was His delight to simplify truth.
II. Jesus Christ taught the people.—Not a particular class, but the people as a whole. His teaching was as impartial as the sunshine. This is the glory of Christian truth. It challenges all hearts in all ages and in all lands. It is a heavenly rain, not a local fountain.
III. Jesus Christ honoured the holy teachers who had gone before Him (Mark 10:3).—Truth is one. We find new phases, new applications, and the like; but truth is one, because God is one. This is our security amid all changes of ministers and teachers. In so far as the men have been true to God each can say, “What did my predecessor tell you?”
IV. Jesus Christ honoured the tenderest relations of the present life (Mark 10:7-9).—He did not ignore the present because of the future. He treated no vow with levity. He taught the whole law—the law of home, the law of society, the law of the Church: “There is one Lawgiver.”—J. Parker, D.D.
1. That society is necessary to the happiness of human nature, that the gloom of solitude and the stillness of retirement, however they may flatter at a distance with pleasing views of independence and serenity, neither extinguish the passions nor enlighten the understanding, that discontent will intrude upon privacy and temptations follow us to the desert, every one may be easily convinced, either by his own experience or that of others.
2. It is a proof of the regard of God for the happiness of mankind that the means by which it must be attained are obvious and evident; that we are not left to discover them by difficult speculations, intricate disquisitions, or long experience, but are led to them equally by our passions and our reason, in prosperity and distress.
3. As a general relation to the rest of the species is not sufficient to procure gratifications for the private desires of particular persons, as closer ties of union are necessary to promote the separate interests of individuals, the great society of the world is divided into different communities, which are again subdivided into smaller bodies and more contracted associations, which pursue, or ought to pursue, a particular interest, in subordination to the public good, and consistently with the general happiness of mankind.
4. The lowest subdivision of society is that by which it is broken into private families; nor do any duties demand more to be explained and enforced than those which this relation produces, because none is more universally obligatory, and perhaps very few are more frequently neglected.
5. That marriage itself, an institution designed only for the promotion of happiness, and for the relief of the disappointments, anxieties, and distresses, to which we are subject in our present state, does not always produce the effects for which it was appointed, that it sometimes condenses the gloom which it was intended to dispel, and increases the weight which was expected to be made lighter by it, must, however unwillingly, be yet acknowledged.
6. It is to be considered to what causes effects so unexpected and unpleasing, so contrary to the end of the institution, and so unlikely to arise from it, are to be attributed; it is necessary to inquire whether those that are thus unhappy are to impute their misery to any other cause than their own folly, and to the neglect of those duties which prudence and religion equally require.
I. The nature and end of marriage.—The vow of marriage, which the wisdom of most civilised nations has enjoined, and which the rules of the Christian Church enjoin, may be properly considered as a vow of perpetual and indissoluble friendship—friendship which no change of fortune nor any alteration of external circumstances can be allowed to interrupt or weaken. After the commencement of this state there remain no longer any separate interests; the two individuals become united, and are therefore to enjoy the same felicity and suffer the same misfortunes—to have the same friends and the same enemies, the same success and the same disappointments.
1. It is remarked that “friendship amongst equals is the most lasting,” and perhaps there are few causes to which more unhappy marriages are to be ascribed than a disproportion between the original condition of the two persons. Difference of condition makes difference of education, and difference of education produces differences of habits, sentiments, and inclinations.
2. Strict friendship is “to have the same desires and the same aversions.” Whoever is to choose a friend is to consider first the resemblance or the dissimilitude of tempers. How necessary this caution is to be urged as preparatory to marriage the misery of those who neglect it sufficiently evinces. To enumerate all the varieties of disposition to which it may on this occasion be convenient to attend would be a tedious task; but it is at least proper to enforce one precept on this head—a precept which was never yet broken without fatal consequences: “Let the religion of the man and woman be the same.”
3. “Friends,” says the proverbial observation, “have everything in common.’ This is likewise implied in the marriage covenant. Matrimony admits of no separate possessions, no incommunicable interests.
4. There is yet another precept equally relating to friendship and to marriage—a precept which in either case can never be too strongly inculcated or too scrupulously observed: “Contract friendship only with the good.” Virtue is the first quality to be considered in the choice of a friend, and yet more in a fixed and irrevocable choice. This maxim surely requires no comment nor any vindication; it is equally clear and certain, obvious to the superficial, and incontestable by the most accurate examiner. To dwell upon it is therefore superfluous; for though often neglected, it never was denied.
II. By what means the end of marriage is to be attained.—As it appears by examining the natural system of the universe that the greatest and smallest bodies are invested with the same properties and moved by the same laws, so a survey of the moral world will inform us that greater or less societies are to be made happy by the same means, and that, however relations may be varied or circumstances changed, virtue, and virtue alone, is the parent of felicity. If passion be suffered to prevail over right, and the duties of our state be broken through or neglected for the sake of gratifying our anger, our pride, or our revenge, the union of hearts will quickly be dissolved, and kindness will give way to resentment and aversion.
1. The duties by the practice of which a married life is to be made happy are the same with those of friendship, but exalted to higher perfection. Love must be more ardent, and confidence without limits. It is therefore necessary on each part to deserve that confidence by the most unshaken fidelity, and to preserve their love unextinguished by continual acts of tenderness, not only to detest all real but seeming offences, and to avoid suspicion and guilt with almost equal solicitude.
2. But since the frailty of our nature is such that we cannot hope from each other an unvaried rectitude of conduct or an uninterrupted course of wisdom or virtue, as folly will sometimes intrude upon an unguarded hour, and temptations by frequent attacks will sometimes prevail, one of the chief acts of love is readily to forgive errors and overlook defects. Neglect is to be reclaimed by kindness, and perverseness softened by complaisance.
3. Marriage, however in general it resembles friendship, differs from it in this: that all its duties are not reciprocal. Friends are equal in every respect, but the relation of marriage produces authority on one side and exacts obedience on the other. But though obedience may be justly required, servility is not to be exacted; and though it may be lawful to exert authority, it must be remembered that to govern and to tyrannise are very different, and that oppression will naturally provoke rebellion.
4. The great rule both of authority and obedience is the law of God—a law which is not to be broken for the promotion of any ends or in compliance with any commands, and which indeed never can be violated without destroying that confidence which is the great source of mutual happiness: for how can that person be trusted whom no principle obliges to fidelity?—S. Johnson, LL.D.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:1. A true pastor is never weary of instructing his people.—He is always ready to communicate himself, because the treasure of his heart is always full of the truths of salvation. His known charity causes people to seek and apply themselves to him, and this search and concourse invite and solicit his charity. Kindle, O Lord, this double zeal, both in the pastors and in the sheep!—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:4. A loose casuist generally wants either knowledge or sincerity.—This conduct of the Pharisees is but too frequently imitated, who, being called upon to produce the primitive law published by Moses, “He shall cleave to his wife,” suppress it, to insist upon a doctrine which was only tolerated, and to fix upon a dispensation of this law which had been extorted, as it were, by force. Men often substitute, in the room of the holy law of the gospel, a toleration of some things which corruption of manners has introduced contrary to the gospel itself.—Ibid.
Mark 10:5-9. The doctrine of Christ concerning marriage.—
1.Its binding character as instituted by God.
2. Its decay in the progress of history.
3. Its prepared restoration under the law.
4. Its transformation by the gospel.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Mark 10:5. God does by no means authorise everything which He tolerates; and He frequently permits a less evil that a greater may be avoided. It is absolutely necessary to distinguish in the Scripture that which God commands, that which He counsels, that which He expressly permits, and that which, out of His infinite patience, He only tolerates or suffers.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:7-8. Marriage may be regarded in three lights.
1. It is a natural contract, designed for “the propagation and perpetuation” of the human race.
2. It is a civil contract, entered into according to the laws of the state, for the preservation of peace and prosperity in the kingdom.
3. It is a sacred contract, raised by the new law of Christ into something higher than the natural sphere—a rite through which grace is conferred upon two human beings for the fulfilment of the duties of the married state, an image of the union between Christ and His Church.
Mark 10:7. Husband and wife complete and strengthen each other. A husband’s love will not deaden but develop what is strong and individual in a wife’s character; and a wife’s love will give edge to her husband’s individuality and heighten the worth of his work. This is not bondage, unless it be bondage for a child to be moulded by a mother’s love, or for a friend to be influenced by the nobler character of his friend. That is the true freedom when what is best in me is free to grow because it is surrounded by the conditions of growth. And that is the freedom of marriage where two souls are joined in a life-union by love and reverence, and help each other to be their true selves, enhance each other’s moral influence, and heighten each other’s joys.—D. M. Ross.
Mark 10:9. Marriage in the time of Christ.—If we bear in mind that great laxity existed with regard to marriage even amongst the Jews in the time of our Lord, we shall see that His purpose was to bring marriage back to its original foundation, and so “give perpetual security to His followers for the sanctity of home.” There were two schools amongst the Jews, those of Hillel and Shammai; the former allowed divorce for slight reasons, the latter only for grave offences. Both, though in very different degrees, fell short of the doctrine of the permanency which, according to Divine appointment, belonged to the marriage bond. When the Pharisees twitted Christ with the Mosaic “command to give a writing of divorcement,” He reminded them that it was not a “a command,” but a matter of sufferance, because the standard of their fathers was so low; and that it was not so from the beginning, but that He came to restore the institution of marriage to its original condition, and to add to it new grace.
The marriage bond.—Not only our religious but our social and national well-being demands the permanency of the marriage bond. Without it, marriage degenerates into a form of selfish and sensual gratification; with it, it is a state of complete and unreserved mutual self-surrender. Without it, home rests upon the sands; with it, it is founded on a rock. If marriages and homes are to be ruled by mere selfishness, and not by pure love, we know from history that national greatness is too closely bound up with home life to continue when domestic happiness is gone.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:1. “As He was wont.”—Wondrously expressive words. Like a tiny straw, they shew the steady movement of a mighty current. Constancy is there, never-failing and inseparably allied to the good. Christ’s whole being was but one great undivided habit of holiness. We have to “grow up unto Him in all things.” In this upward growth we are forming habits which make for righteousness and holiness with increasing certainty. They have a mutual influence. Habits make acts surer. Acts confirm habit. Our Christlikeness is not to be measured by the goodness of a particular act; neither by that of a series fitfully performed. It is rather to be gauged by such a steady trend of spirit and deed toward all goodness as will lead men abidingly to expect and confidently to affirm that we are acting thus and so wherever we are. A young man was leaving for a distant part of the country. A friend in bidding him good-bye remarked, “We need not tell you to work for God wherever your lot may be. We know you will.” A mother was being told of a certain notable example of resistance to temptation on the part of a young officer in the army. While expressing her admiration thereat, she was informed that he who thus nobly lived was her boy. Amid grateful tears she exclaimed, “Is that my boy? Is that my Will? It’s just like him. I knew he would do so—as he was wont.”
Mark 10:8. “They twain shall he one flesh.”—The parting of man and wife in the sight of God is like the rending of limb from limb. Imagine some dungeon: the smoking torch gives a fitful flame; the air is foul; the prisoner is brought. Tie his feet and hands; stretch him on the rack. Turn your wheels, ye unfeeling executioners, until the great beads stand on his forehead, until the eyeballs seem ready to start from their sockets; turn them; what matter though he yell and scream; turn them; turn them till the cracking bones and quivering sinews can hold no longer! Turn them till limb from limb the poor, quivering, feeling mass settles still in death. Horrible! Yet it is only rending “one flesh.” That ghastly, terrible, soul-revolting tragedy is a parable. It, in the physical world, is like divorce in the spiritual. Some sickening accident, when groans and shrieks and cries tell of anguish, shadows forth for us what divorce is like in God’s sight. God’s Word thus likens divorce and murder—murder cruel and barbarous.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:13-16
(PARALLELS: Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17.)
Children welcomed to Christ.—Infant baptism was assuredly in the mind, in the will, and in the intention of Christ at that moment. In fact, was it not baptism, only without the water? Where He stood visibly in all His grace and power, the emblem and the instrument were not needed. We now want the help and assurance of the external symbol. But if some say, “Is not the base too small for the superstructure? The record is so very simple here, and we only read of it but once,” I answer, Every incident in Christ’s life was intended to be a germ of great thought, of deep principle, and of extensive duty. And if it were only once that Jesus blessed the little children, as often as the children were brought to Him so often He blessed them.
I. The danger and sin of standing in the way of children coming to Christ.—
1. I do not speak now of those who, upon a principle in their own minds, do not bring infants to holy baptism: they are acting conscientiously; and doubtless their sin of ignorance is pardoned, and their children may not be suffered by a loving Father to miss the grace which He had willed to give them.
2. There are persons who, believing the baptism of infants to be according to the mind of God, nevertheless, from idolence or thoughtlessness, neglect that holy rite.
3. Perhaps few persons are aware of the extent to which children, even very young children’s minds, are capable of being affected, prejudiced, distorted, injured, by the conversation which they hear. You talk before a child lightly and falsely upon religious and moral subjects. You mean no harm. You do not remember a little child is present; and you do not recollect how that little child is listening to and drinking in all you say. But that child cannot balance or direct or dismiss a subject as you do. It has fallen with a fearful impression. It has left a stamp and an irreverence perhaps, a doubt perhaps, a wicked imagination perhaps, which will never, never be obliterated!
4. Some cast obstacles loss offensively, but perhaps more dangerously. Whoever considers the subject must become aware how exceedingly uninviting, nay, how repulsive, religion is generally made to children. Where is that cheerfulness and that gladsomeness which a child loves, and in which real religion always consists?
II. The duty of bringing children to Christ.—If you wish a child to be really religious, you must begin with the distinctive features of Christianity, and imbue it with the gospel. I will illustrate my meaning by three examples. You desire to lay in your child’s mind the foundation of right conduct, and of a good, upright life. Tell him at once about Jesus. Tell him, “Jesus died for you, and therefore, though you are a very sinful child, God has forgiven you, and God loves you. For Jesus Christ’s sake, you are His own dear child.” Or take another instance. Your child has told a lie. What shall you do to him? Tell him, “Jesus is truth. Try to be true, that you may be like Jesus. Heaven is all truth, because heaven is all like Jesus. Go, and never be unlike Jesus again.” Or your child has fallen into any sin. Do not be afraid to say to that child at once Jesus died to wash away that sin. Go and ask Him to do it. And He will do it. He will do it instantly. He will do it perfectly, if you ask Him.
III. We ourselves must be like little children.—If it were only that we might influence children, we should cultivate a childlike spirit; for none can do good, especially to the young, but those who are very simple in their thoughts and very lowly in their ways. But in what are we to become like a little child?
1. When those little children lay in Jesus’ arms, His act came before any of their acts. It was anticipatory of what was to follow. They received what He gave them as a free gift of His. They could have no sense whatever that they deserved it. But freely as He bestowed the grace, so freely the little children took it. This is just the way to get to the kingdom.
2. A very little child never doubts where it has learned to love. It believes everything, and questions nothing. The credulity of the child is the faith of the Christian. My Saviour, my Lord, has said it. I will believe it, and ask no questions.
3. A very little child is necessarily led. It knows it cannot go alone. And we must be content all of us to be borne and carried every step. Those who get to heaven do not march in, they do not walk there: they are carried there.—J. Vaughan, M.A.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:13-16. The Son of Man among the children of men.—
1. As the heavenly new and fresh related to the earthly new and fresh.
2. As the humble One to the artless.
3. As the Prince of faith to the confiding.
4. As the great Warrior to the strivers.
5. As the great Hope to the hoping.
6. As the Blessed with the happy.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Children are specially susceptible of spiritual influences.—In their case there is still—
1. Confidence instead of scepticism.
2. Self-surrender instead of distrust.
3. Truth instead of hypocrisy.
4. Modesty and humility instead of pride.—Lisco.
Mark 10:13-14. Infant baptism.—We have been accustomed to allege these words in behalf of the Catholic practice of infant baptism; and rightly, for they have been always so understood by the Church,—and the voice of the Church Universal is that of the Lord. “Baptise also your infants,” says an ancient writing, speaking the sense of the Greek Church, “and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of God. For He saith, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.’ ” And in the Latin Church of old times (as in our own), in the Baptismal Service for Infants, they read this history out of one of the three Gospels, as their Lord’s sanction of their act of charity.—E. B. Pusey, D.D.
Mark 10:14. The kingdom of heaven, or sovereignty of the Messiah, is constituted of such as the children presented to Christ. He does not say, observe, that this kingdom consists of children, but of such as children. It is therefore some similarity to that class of persons which indicates membership of the community of the faithful. In what, then, does that similarity lie? It cannot refer to age, for it is not true that infants alone are members of the Church; nor can it refer specially to the physical or external characteristics of childhood; but it refers to the following peculiarities.
1. The only prominent circumstance about an infant’s history is its birth. Nothing else has happened to it. No other event relating to it deserves notice. The grand, the sole feature to be noted is, that it was born. Of suchlike persons is the kingdom of God. What designates and marks out the subjects of this kingdom is a new birth, a regeneration. A new heart, a new spirit, a new nature, a new man—such are the expressions employed to represent their character.
2. Infants are helpless; and of suchlike persons is the kingdom of heaven, because all who enter therein must feel their inability to do anything of themselves. Their sufficiency must be of God. They must, “as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby.”
3. Infants are humble, unconscious of all pride and self-righteousness; and of suchlike persons is the kingdom of heaven, because the followers of Jesus must, like their Master, be humble and lowly of heart.
4. Infants are teachable, gentle, and easy to be entreated; and of suchlike persons is the kingdom of heaven, because all its subjects are brought to submit every high thought and lofty imagination to the obedience of Christ.
5. Infants are without moral obligation, and therefore untainted by the guilt of actual sin, unworldly and uncarnal; and of such is the kingdom of heaven, inasmuch as those who enter therein have been crucified to all sinful lusts—have put off the old man, which is corrupt—been renewed in the spirit of their minds—and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.
6. Infants are void of offence towards man; and of suchlike is the kingdom of heaven, because those who enter therein are “in malice children,” and have “laid aside guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings,” striving to be harmless as little children.—A. Nisbet.
Mark 10:15. To receive the kingdom as a little child implies that we receive it—
1. Humbly, as the provision of Sovereignty.
2. Trustfully, as the device of Fatherly Wisdom
3. Gratefully, as the gift of Saving Love.—J. E. Henry.
Christian childhood consists in having no more pride, impurity, resentment, craft, ambition, covetousness, and knowledge of evil than children. It is this which renders us conformable, gives us admission, and unites us to Jesus Christ in His kingdom. What is here said is not by way of counsel, but it shews the absolute necessity of being such, at least in some degree, in order to be saved.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:16. Christ blessing infants.—What parent of us would not wish, if he might, that our Saviour should lay His hand upon his child and bless it? And if His visible touch was such a source of comfort and of hope, how not and much more when He, the risen, the ascended Saviour, who from the right hand of God sheds forth His gifts abundantly upon His Church, not lays only His hands upon them, but makes them members of Himself, “members of His body, of His flesh, of His bones,” members of “His Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him which filleth all in all.” We know still less of the ineffable greatness of that we seek for than did these poor parents who sought for His bodily touch and His prayers; and the wish of those who seek for baptism for the bodily health of their children is not so far below their belief whose belief is most enlightened, as is theirs below the inexpressible reality; and so, for the comfort of us all, our Saviour herein shewed that He regarded not our merits, but His mercies—not our ignorance, but His own omniscience—not our faint wish for a blessing we know not what, but our trust in Him, our wish to have a blessing from Him, the inexhaustible Fountain of all blessedness; and grants not according to the poverty of our desires, but according to the overflowing riches of His goodness, takes our infants even now invisibly up in His everlasting arms, and returns them to us—blessed.—E. B. Pusey, D.D.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:14. Brought to Christ in childhood.—Many of the ablest and noblest of Christian teachers were brought to the Saviour in childhood. The martyr Polycarp was only nine years old when he gave himself to Christ. Matthew Henry and Isaac Watts were no older. Archbishop Fénélon was a mere child when his heart awoke to the love of God; William Channing could not remember the time when he first turned to Christ; Robert Hall was a sincere Christian when eleven years old, and became a student for the ministry when but fourteen. Baxter was only a child when he sought the Saviour; Jonathan Edwards sat at the feet of Jesus, Coleridge Patteson was devout and prayerful, Fletcher of Madeley “began to feel the love of God shed abroad in his heart”—each at seven years of age. Frederick W. Robertson became a decided and courageous soldier of Christ in boyhood; Thomas J. Comber, the heroic pioneer of the Congo, gave his heart to Jesus and devoted himself to mission work ere he was thirteen; and John Foster was not fourteen when he found peace with God in Christ Jesus our Lord. It would be easy to enlarge the list; but surely enough has been said to encourage us to lead the children to immediate decision for Christ. Let us seek to enrol them now. Let us encourage them to come, with their toys in their hands, to be blessed by Christ. The kingdom of heaven, which is open to publicans and sinners, is not closed to the little ones He loves.
Mark 10:15. Total renunciation.—A high-caste Brahmin came to receive holy baptism. He approached the font wearing the sacred thread which, among his Hindoo coreligionists, was the badge of his belonging to the “twice born,” and entitled him to little short of religious worship from those of a lower caste. But at the moment when he answered, “I renounce them all,” he stripped off the sign of idolatrous pre-eminence and trampled it under his feet.
Mark 10:16. Blessed by the good.—Says Dr. Samuel Cox: “When I was a boy, I was taken into my father’s library to be ‘blessed’ by those two great missionaries John Williams and William Knibb; and to this moment I remember how proud and happy it made me to have their hands laid on my head, and to hear the kind words they said. It made me feel very ‘good,’ at least for a little while; and I think that somehow, though I don’t at all know how that should be, I am the better for it to this day.”
“He loved little children.”—An earnest and successful minister of the gospel who died a few years ago was possessed of a beautiful ambition. Expressed in words at fitting times, it had also constant expression in his life. This is what he often said: “I should like my epitaph to be, ‘He loved little children, and tried to do them good.’ ” This single sentence sheds a flood of light on the character of the man who uttered it. Our loves determine what we are. Little children belong to the heavenly kingdom, and are therefore in the Lord’s love. A real love for little children, then, denotes a love for heavenly things. A real love is not simply a fondness for bright, pretty ways and winning graces, but a love that takes in childhood as a whole, that can bear patiently with perversity and naughtiness, that forgets self in love for the child and in desire to bring it to the best and highest place possible. A real love for children leads to just such an ambition as possessed this servant of the Lord, “who tried to do them good.”
Care for children.—A lady missionary in the East tells that one day a woman came to her with a baby, whom she had found in a ditch. The poor child had been cast out by its own father—as thousands of others in heathen countries have been—because it was “only a girl.” In begging the lady to take charge of the very unattractive object that was presented to her (it was naked and covered with mud), the woman said, “Please do take this little thing; your God is the only God that teaches to be good to little children.”
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 10:18. No one is good except God.
Mark 10:21. Loved.—Possibly caressed. It is said to have been customary with Jewish Rabbis to kiss the head of such pupils as answered well. Take up the cross.—Omitted by א, B, C, D, Δ, and Vulg.
Mark 10:22. Was sad.—Turning gloomy—his bright countenance becoming overshadowed as by a thunder-cloud—he went away sorrowful: for he was in possession of many acquisitions, which he could not bear to think of giving up.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:17-22
(PARALLELS: Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 18:18-23.)
The rich young ruler.—
I. The hopeful inquiry.—
1. Who is he? Vaguely introduced as “one”—Luke says “a certain ruler,” Matthew calls him “the young man”—all agree in saying that he was rich: combining these points, we get his usual title—“the rich young ruler.”
2. How does he act? Mark pictures the scene. His eagerness—expressed by his running; fearless disregard of opinion of others, by his public appeal to Christ (no Nicodemus); his respect for One without rank or office, by his kneeling.
3. What does he say? “Good Master, what,” etc. How to obtain eternal life, that he would know. No quibble here, no playing on the surface of things. Life’s solemn responsibility has sobered him. Much here to make us hopeful.
II. The startling reply.—Few things more remarkable than the way Jesus dealt with men. Each was to Him an open book. He replies to the thought more than to the word.
1. “Why callest thou Me good?” This was intended to make him see how shallow was his conception of goodness. The light, careless, possibly patronising use of this word, a word dropped thoughtlessly, betrayed him. Our very approach to Christ tests us, and either convicts us of lack of spiritual insight and desire, or it will call out all that is deepest and truest.
2. Christ meets him on his own ground, refers him to the six commandments which regulate man’s conduct towards his fellows. Thou knowest them—keep them. “All these have I observed.” Could you have stood up before the pitiful but piercing gaze of Jesus and said so much? Truly he knew not the deep spiritual reach of the commandments; yet “Jesus, looking upon him, loved him.” O heart of infinite love!
3. There was a fatal flaw, and Christ applied a stern test to lay it bare: “Go, sell”—then, “Come, follow Me.” All is tested by devotion to Christ’s own person. Here is the very essence of Christianity. Not correct belief, not blameless living, not human goodness—though all this is helpful and lovable; but the self given up, fully surrendered. All else parted with, and then following Jesus.
III. The disappointing refusal.—
1. “He went away.” To throw away position, prospects, wealth, it seemed a harsh demand. For there was a flaw within. Something, perhaps a great deal, he was willing to do to obtain eternal life, but to fling this life away was too great a price. So you see his original question meant, “What shall I do, and still retain my position?”
2. Yet he went away “sorrowful,” for that we will be glad: not scornful, or indignant, or with a light flippancy. He carried the arrow within. Did he ever return? Who shall say? But he missed his golden opportunity; he could not rise to the rank of hero.—T. Puddicombe.
The great refusal.—The young man in this narrative was worth looking at. To begin with, he was young; and youth is always interesting. Then he was rich, “very rich,” and “a ruler” besides. Better still, he was of upright character, claiming a due respect for the Divine law. He was amiable also, for when the Lord looked upon him He loved him. But the best of all was his earnestness. A young man in earnest, and in earnest with respect to spiritual things! When Cæsar saw Brutus for the first time and heard him pleading in the Forum, he said, “Yon youth is destined to make his mark, because he intends strongly.” The youth who here prostrated himself before Jesus intended strongly. But, alas! there were grave difficulties in the way. The heavenward path is ever steep and rugged. Three serious mistakes he made, any one of which would have nullified his pursuit of spiritual things.
I. With respect to Christ.—At this point he was an Arian. He addressed Jesus as “Good Rabbi,” and would probably have been willing to pronounce Him the most excellent of men. But Jesus would have none of it. “Why callest thou Me good?” said He; “there is none good but One, that is, God.” The alternative, put in syllogistic form, was like this:—
God alone is good:
Thou dost not believe Me to be God;
Ergo, Call Me not good. Or—
God alone is good:
Thou callest Me good;
Ergo, Go farther and pronounce Me God.
In any case, as merely a “Good Rabbi,” He could not receive it. The compliments of those who esteem Him anything else or lower than He claimed to be are, in the nature of the case, an affront to Him. All through His ministry He insisted that He was the long-looked-for Christ, and as such the very Son of God. He arrogated to Himself all the Divine attributes and distinctly made Himself equal with God. For this He suffered death. He was either what He claimed to be or He was an impostor. “Good Rabbi” He certainly was not. There is no middle ground. Was Voltaire right when he cried, “Ecrasez l’infame!” or Peter when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”?
II. With reference to himself.—At this point he was a Pelagian. He had no comprehension of his own moral character. In one of Hogarth’s cartoons a demented prisoner sits in the straw, chained like a beast to his dungeon wall; but he smiles and sings as if he were the happiest of mortals. The straw is his throne, his jailors are his courtiers; he deems himself the envy of crowned kings. Not greater is his self-deception than that of the self-righteous man who deems himself worthy to appear in judgment before God.
III. With respect to salvation.—At this point he was a Legalist. “What shall I do,” said he, “that I may inherit eternal life?” There was indeed nothing for him to do. Had he but known it, life is a gracious gift. If we are ever saved, it will not be on account of our doing, but by God’s giving. He is not a merchant that He should sell his precious wares; He is a king and gives right royally. But while salvation is free it is conditioned. God who gives it has been pleased—as was His obvious right—to affix a condition upon its bestowal, to wit, He that believeth shall live. To believe is to accept. Faith is the hand stretched out to grasp God’s grace. Salvation is free—free as air, as water, as the manna which lay like hoar-frost on the ground. But if the Israelites had not gathered up the manna they would have died of hunger. And though a man stood on the bank of the Amazon, were he to refuse to drink he would perish of thirst. There is an atmosphere fifty miles deep around this earth of ours, but a man who will not breathe must strangle. So I say salvation is free; but it saves only the man who reaches forth and takes it. The word of the Master comes to you as to this young man, “Go, sell all that thou hast: put away everything—gold, pleasure, unholy ambition, everything that separates between thee and holiness—and come and follow Me.”—D. J. Burrell, D.D.
Mark 10:18. The goodness of God.—
I. God is a good Being,—
1. Creation is evidently an effect of goodness, and thoroughout displays the goodness of God.
(1) Life is felt by all sentient creatures to be a blessing; they seek to preserve it.
(2) No creature is made without a capacity for enjoyment and a susceptibility of pleasure of some kind.
(3) The arrangement and order of the universe and its various parts, the curious organisation of creatures, the manner in which one thing is adapted to another, and the principle of utility which pervades the whole, exhibit abundant proof of the goodness of the Maker of all things.
2. Divine providence furnishes further proof that God is good.
(1) God hath made ample provision for the wants of all His creatures, and furnished them with abundant means of enjoyment.
(2) Provision is not only made for the preservation and comfort of individuals, of all who at present exist, but also for perpetuating the various orders of creatures by successive generations; and the means necessary to these ends are sources of pleasure.
(3) The kindness of Divine providence is everywhere manifested. He openeth His hand and supplieth the wants of all living. He crowneth the year with His goodness.
3. The moral system which God hath established exhibits clear proofs that He is a good Being.
(1) Such a system is established in the moral world, that man must be the artificer of his own happiness, he must erect the superstructure of his own intellectual and moral attainments.
(2) Such a connexion is established between causes and effects in the moral system, that no man can be vicious with impunity, nor virtuous without receiving a reward. Every evil passion is in some degree a tormenter. Virtue is productive of peace of mind and intellectual pleasure, and is conducive to health, cheerfulness, reputation, and even worldly comfort and advantage. The Being who hath thus arranged causes and effects must be good.
(3) The moral system is so constituted that true self-love will lead us to do good to our fellow-creatures. The more good a man does, the more happiness he gains. This order of things could arise from nothing but goodness.
(4) The laws established in the moral system have a constant tendency to intellectual and moral improvement. To judge properly of this, we should compare the present state of knowledge and improvement, both as to its degree and extent, with what it was in former times. A system which ever tends to greater perfection must have originated with a Being who is perfectly good.
4. Divine revelation is a testimony of the goodness of God.
(1) In the Scriptures the goodness of God is proclaimed. It is declared that He is good, good unto all, and that His goodness abideth continually.
(2) Divine revelation not only declares that God is good, it exhibits the most astonishing proofs of His goodness. It makes known the greatness of His love, and opens the riches of His grace to the children of men. It contains a provision for all our moral and spiritual wants.
5. The goodness of God is so evident from His works, and so plainly declared in His Word, as to compel universal assent among all who profess faith in Him. It may be objected that there is much evil in the world, and asked how its existence is to be reconciled with the belief that all things were made and are governed by a Being who is perfectly good.
(1) Evil is relative, and may be made subservient to good; there is no such thing as absolute evil: consequently its existence is not incompatible with the absolute goodness of God.
(2) Evil is partial and temporary; good or enjoyment everywhere preponderates, and will be eternal; evil is merely an infraction of the established order of things, throughout which goodness-appears.
(3) We see evil in many instances made subservient to and productive of good: hence it is reasonable to conclude all evil will be made to issue in good.
(4) Constituted as the present world is, and formed as man is, to be instructed by experience, it does not appear that all evil could be excluded in the present state.
(5) It cannot be shewn that more evil is permitted than is necessary to produce the greatest ultimate good; and unless this could be shewn, its existence cannot be proved inconsistent with Divine goodness.
II. Under what views God only is good.—
1. The goodness of God is underived, uncaused, unoriginated. Goodness is His essential and eternal nature. This cannot be said of any other being. The goodness of all others is originated and derived.
2. God alone is the primary Source of all that is good in the universe. It is either the work of His hand or a communication from His fulness.
3. The goodness of God is pure and absolute. There is nothing in God but what is good, nor that can operate but for good. His goodness is without the least alloy. It is not diminished by ignorance, nor by weakness, nor by the slightest possible limitation of powers; nor is it capable of being bounded in its operations by any power in the universe: for it is the pure goodness of an Infinitely wise and almighty Being, who is the supreme, universal, and eternal Sovereign.
4. The goodness of God is most perfect. It is all that goodness can be. It comprehends all His attributes and perfections: they are all modifications of goodness, which is His general excellence; and only differently characterised according to its various manifestations.
5. God being only and perfectly good, His goodness must be infinite. It can have no bound nor limit: It must extend to all creatures, and fill the universe; for it is the supreme excellence, infinite nature, and fulness of Him who filleth heaven and earth, whom heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain.
1. If God be infinitely good, how comprehensive must be His designs and plans of goodness respecting His creatures!
2. If God be infinitely good, He must necessarily have made all men for happiness; it is impossible He should give existence to a single individual without intending his happiness; or that He should cause him to exist, if He knew his existence, on the whole, would not be to him a blessing.
3. If God be good, He cannot require impossibilities of His creatures; He cannot call them to perform what is above their strength; He cannot require they should be more perfect than He hath formed them capable of being; He will not severely mark their frailties and imperfections; He will not reject the well-meant endeavours of His feeble and erring offspring to please Him, though mixed with ignorance and imperfection; because to do these things would be contrary to goodness.
4. If God be purely good, He must be naturally merciful, ready to forgive, and to dispense salvation and eternal life of His free favour.
5. If God be absolutely good, He must always allot to His creatures what He sees to be wisest and best for them; nor can He suffer anything painful to befall them, but what is necessary for their benefit.
6. If God be infinitely good, He cannot be partial: He cannot have limited His love, and His gracious and merciful provision of salvation and eternal life, to a part of the great family He hath created; for such partiality would be inconsistent with unbounded goodness.
7. If God be perfectly good, He cannot be the subject of revenge, for revenge is inconsistent with perfect goodness.
8. The goodness of God should lead sinners to repentance.
9. The infinite goodness of God establishes the firmest ground of confidence in Him.
10. The infinite goodness of God is a sufficient reason why we should love Him with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.
11. As God alone is absolutely good, He alone is the proper object of Divine worship and of the highest adoration.
12. As goodness is the supreme excellence, it is most worthy of imitation; and it is our highest interest, so far as we are capable, to imitate the goodness of God.
13. Our hopes, founded upon the infinite goodness of God, cannot be raised too high respecting our final portion and the final portion of our fellow-creatures. What may we not expect from such a God?—J. Smith.
Mark 10:22. Worldly-mindedness.—This young man was not the slave or lover of vice, but he was not ready to become the ardent and devoted lover of virtue. It is so with many of us. We are not ready to yield ourselves the slaves of sin, but neither are we ready to give ourselves to the pursuit of great excellence. And we compound the matter by observing the forms of religion, but giving the heart and every warm and devoted feeling to the world. In a word, very many who would revolt at the idea of vice are willing to be worldly-minded. A determination of this kind is full of treason against the nature which God has given us and against His will. He wills our moral exaltation and perfection, our transformation into His image. The worldly-minded choose to retain their likeness to that which is of the earth, and thus as effectually as the vicious, though in another way, cross and defeat the purposes of God. The love of the world is exclusive and engrossing. If it takes possession of the heart, the saying of the apostle is infallibly verified: the love of the Father cannot exist or thrive there; it is extruded or overlaid. The worldly-minded are bent upon some project or pursuit or pleasure which absorbs and fills the mind and for the time satisfies the desires. The soul does not crave anything more or better; and if it be occasionally sad and discontented, the recurrence of its customary resources and objects of satisfaction restores its tranquillity. It is not necessary in order to constitute a worldly mind that it derives all its happiness from the sources of this world; it is sufficient that it relies on them principally and most firmly. He is a bad man whose bad deeds outnumber his good ones; he is a covetous man whose mean and narrow actions are more than his generous and just ones; he is an ill-tempered man whose prevalent humour is pettish or surly; he is a sensual man who thinks more of the indulgence of appetite than of the culture of the mind and heart; and he too is a worldly man who loves the world better and more than those things that are better than and above the world, whose thoughts dwell more upon it, whose affections fasten more upon it, than upon those things which in his heart he still knows to be infinitely more worth loving.
I. In what way then, if it is so dangerous, does it obtain its bad supremacy?—The encroachments of a worldly mind are gradual; its growth is slow, but sure and regular; its dominion is established through plausible appearances and pretences.
1. A devotion to business, the pursuit of one profession by which a livelihood is to be secured or a reputation to be gained, is a broad avenue for the entrance of worldly-mindedness. It is strictly true, though it may sound paradoxical, that the most faithful discharge of the duties of our callings is attended with peculiar danger as it respects the religious affections and a right state of the soul. For it is apt to beget in time a total neglect of and indifference to any considerations but such as relate to worldly prosperity and promotion. Let me not be misunderstood. We are doubtless to love the world, its duties and callings; but it is equally plain that we are not to love them too much or too long. It is our particular business to ascertain where the virtue of loving rightly ends and the vice of loving too well begins. It can form no apology for worldliness that we were occupied industriously with the regular business of our station. For the soul, though made for earth, was made for heaven too; and those duties are equally demanded of it which fit it for the one as for the other. He does but half his work who lives but for this world, though he lives well and honourably for it.
2. Again, worldly-mindedness comes upon us through the avenue of social feelings and enjoyments. In this case too, as in the one already mentioned, we are led to it by the virtues. It is a virtue of high order to love those by whom we are surrounded, and with whom we are obliged to come in contact. It is a virtue to do them favours, and to receive in a good spirit favour from them. But how easily do these virtues run into an excess that is rightly denominated a vice! How short and direct the transition from a social to a worldly temper. The duty of mingling to a reasonable and proper degree with our fellow-men becomes in many instances so agreeable as to lead to the neglect of other and more important duties. The love of society grows into a passion. The mind that once gave itself to it timidly and reservedly, through fear of forgetting higher concerns, comes at last to be wholly dependent on it for its most valued and exciting pleasures. The sources of moral and intellectual pleasure have at length been so long forsaken that they cease to yield anything that the mind relishes. It listens perhaps with a faint and weary attention to the truths which once in seven days it thinks it right and decent to respect and believe, but all its ardour and enthusiasm and strong interest are for other scenes and other thoughts. The limit up to which all these things are either virtuous or at least innocent is soon and unconsciously passed. The world has intruded upon the soul and the love of God has departed almost before it has been perceived that any important change was going on. In this way has the mind of many a one grown to be so wedded to the enjoyments of society as absolutely to reject and despise any other source of occupation and pleasure, and at length indeed to be incapable of relishing any other.
3. Worldliness comes again through education. Education, which should be sacred to those interests of the human soul which are ultimately of the highest value, is but too often the direct and mischievous agent in debasing the desires and corrupting the mind. It is often occupied about those things which are wholly secondary or frivolous, or at least the highest and best and most useful topics of instruction are not touched upon or enforced. Moral and religious education on the part of parents is far too little attended to,—I mean the education which lies in the moral habits, pure principles, timely counsels, affectionate warnings, good examples, religious lives, of father and mother. Of this close domestic education there is too little; but of it there cannot be too much. But not only is this too much neglected, an opposite education in too many instances takes its place—one of the chief objects of which would seem not to be the culture of a moral and intellectual being, but how best to prepare for a striking entrance upon the world, how best to secure its favours and rewards. The standard of action proposed is not what is right, what is moral, what becoming our nature and conformable to the demands of religion; but what will the world think, what will it say, how will it regard you, what will best enable you to make your way in it? And the young are made to learn, to study, to think, to act, with reference not primarily to be useful and good, but to the sovereign opinion of the world. What wonder then if the world, for which youth has been thus made the season of training and preparation, should in the end engage that respect and reverence which are due to a higher authority?
II. If in these and similar ways a worldly mind is created and takes possession of us, we learn whence to expect its approach and where to place ourguard.—If we consider it rightly, we shall feel that it is a mind most hostile to religion and most dangerous to ourselves, and calling for our strong and untiring efforts to change and to conquer. In order to do this we have simply to remember the quarters whence it comes, and to feel the importance of guarding against its approach. This is the only just and meritorious way of resisting it. We have no right to take ourselves out of that world in which we have been placed and our station has been appointed. God alone may take off the burden of our trial and separate us from this scene of duty and temptation. In the meantime we must live on as we are, and resist as we may, and overcome if we can. We must mingle in the world’s crowd, we must expose ourselves to its temptations, we must venture within the magic circle of its attractions; but we must shew by our conduct that we are above it, superior to its enchantments. We must coolly compare its rewards and pleasures with those which religion offers, and prefer the latter from real conviction of their higher value.
III. If we glance at the unhappy effect which the love of the world has upon those who are its slaves, we shall deeply feel the wisdom and prudence, as well as the duty, of resisting its power. When a worldly disposition has taken entire possession of the soul, so that the world and its scenes of pleasure or occupation are all for which life is valued, I need not say that it is wholly incompatible with the existence of religion in the soul that the love of the Father cannot dwell there. But where the love of the world has not proceeded to this extreme, its effects are still deplorable and sad. It disorders the mind—unsettles it—incapacitates it for reflexion—alienates it from quiet and sober pleasures—creates a restless and uneasy longing for excitements which ordinary life, and still more religion, fails to afford. In the same way that the intemperate man has created by indulgence an appetite which continued indulgence can alone allay and satisfy, the lover of pleasure has nourished desires and cultivated tastes whose wants a life of idleness and pleasure can alone meet. With others, again, the love of the world is a mixed emotion. God and the world rule by turns. The empire of the mind is a contested region. The heart is divided. It would fain love God and lift its affections to Him, and yet it cannot bring itself to renounce so much of the world as to enable it to do so. Worldliness is in this way the successful and potent enemy of religion. It does not succeed in banishing it wholly from the soul; but it does succeed in diminishing and alloying its comforts. It does not take the mind wholly from God and the contemplation of its great destiny; but it takes it away so much and so often that it returns to them unwillingly and derives from them little satisfaction. It is in Christians of this frame that worldly-mindedness produces the most mental sorrow and disquiet. It poisons all their sources of religious pleasure, and substitutes none in their place. In the world they are without peace, for their consciences upbraid them. In religion they are restless, for their thoughts still wander to the world. If it were only for these sad effects upon our minds and hearts, which would otherwise find their joy in the best and holiest things, we see reason enough to detest the disposition of which we speak, as one mischievously productive of the acutest pains and most desponding sensations of which the human heart is susceptible.
IV. I have urged the importance of resisting the influence of the world, its occupations and pleasures; but I do not say that it is an easy duty. It is a hard one. To those who live and move in the better walks of life, into whose lap fortune has poured her full horn, who enjoy the honours and praise of the world, there is a brilliant lustre spread over the face of society, a joy and excitement in its dazzling intercourse, a deep interest in its scenes of pleasure, that occupy and absorb the whole heart, that tie it down to earth by a bond strong as death, but invisible and unfelt. It is not easy to break this bond, to conquer the strong love which has been thus created. It is not easy thus to take the heart away from such scenes and pleasures, to teach it to find its happiness in scenes and pleasures the very opposite. It is not easy for one all whose thoughts have been of the earth to fix them on the things that are above. This change involves as entire a revolution of character and feeling as when the slave of notorious sin is converted and finds in virtue the peace and joy he once found only in vice. It demands, therefore, great effort on the part of those who are interested in the work of their own conversion in order thoroughly to accomplish it. They who linger in the haunts of pleasure, in the resolve that by-and-by, at whatever time they shall desire, they will break from the world and shut it wholly out of their hearts, but in the meantime they will love it as they have ever done, are precisely those who will always love it, and the more passionately and exclusively as the mind becomes weakened by age.—W. Ware.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:17. “Good Master.”—There is more in this epithet “good,” as here applied, than at first sight appears. It betrays his self-righteous spirit. He is doing more than paying a compliment to the Saviour here. He is indirectly paying a compliment to himself—to his own goodness, or at any rate to human goodness, that idol which he worshipped with his whole soul. He looks up to Him as possessed of this goodness, in a far higher measure than himself indeed, but still of the same kind of goodness. He regards and reveres Him, much in the same fashion as some in our day, as a good man, as the good man, the perfect man, the ideal man, the personification of virtue, the incarnation of moral excellence, the pattern and perfection of all goodness, who had attained to this goodness in the way he himself had attained to his. He was thus conceiving of the Saviour as one very much like himself; he was transferring his own views and feelings to Him. “Good Master, what good thing shall I do?”—A. L. R. Foote.
An excellent question.—How advantageous is it frequently to ask at the feet of Christ what we must do in order to our salvation! It is an excellent practice, provided we perform it as we ought. He alone is capable of shewing us the way to heaven, being Himself the way; He alone is incapable of deceiving us, since He is the truth; and He alone is worthy to conduct us to eternal life, being Himself that very life.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:18. A sound foundation for religious belief.—This question appears to spring out of a general method of dealing with men in quest of salvation. Christ was in no haste to get men to make correct religious affirmations, but rather took pains to lay sound moral foundations of religious belief. To persons seeking eternal life He did not say, “Call Me good, call Me Christ, call Me God, call Me Saviour”—all things which may be truly affirmed, and which it is most desirable all should affirm eventually—but, Reflect what goodness is, what it is to be a Christ, what God is, commands, and loves, what salvation implies, what true life consists in. The attainment of true conceptions on these subjects is the business of discipleship.—A. B. Bruce, D.D.
The goodness of God.—The epithet ἀγαθός, “good,” applied by the young man to Jesus, signifies generous, large-hearted. In speaking of God as the only good, then, our Lord meant to represent the Divine Being as generous more than just—as benignant, gracious. And if we would know how benignant, we must look to His own life on earth—see Him associating with publicans and sinners, see Him dying on the Cross.—Ibid.
Mark 10:19. Christ’s use of the Decalogue.—
1. Our Lord enumerates the commandments not in the order in which they occur in the Old Testament, but as they occur to His memory.
2. If Mark’s report be accurate, He quotes them freely, using His own words instead of those of Moses, and caring for the sense rather than the letter, so freely that it is still matter of dispute which of the commandments He referred to in defraud not. The better opinion seems to be that it was the tenth commandment, beginning with “Thou shalt not covet”; for to covet anything which is our neighbour’s is, so far as we are able, to defraud or deprive him of it. If we assume this to be the reference, every commandment, from five to ten, of the second table is quoted in this verse.—S. Cox, D.D.
The commandments sufficient.—The commandments of God afford us sufficient instruction: it is often nothing but curiosity which desires other lights. The law of God makes known His will; and it is by conforming ourselves thereto that we partake of His goodness and holiness. Let Thy law, O my God, be continually the rule of my behaviour and actions!—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:20. Self-deception as to one’s character.—To us His answer seems proud and presumptuous, and yet how frequently are like words used by us! And are not similar thoughts to be found in our hearts? How we boast of our irreproachable character! Because we do not indulge in gross sins, at which even the world takes offence, we think ourselves righteous; but how far are we from being so when we view the matter aright! There is nothing about which we so greatly deceive ourselves as our own condition. The same eye which can plainly see the smallest mote in a brother’s eye cannot perceive the beam in its own.—E. Lehmann.
Mark 10:21. Christ’s look of love.—The Son of God, upon the assumption of human nature, had His soul touched with all our passions, yet so as to be sinless and innocent emotions of His Diviner mind; and, as we cannot but do, unless we be very well versed in the art of dissimulation, He also made discoveries of them in His very looks and eyes. These are the windows of the heart, through which it sees and is itself seen, and shews all its pleasures and discontents to others: hence mutual sight proves such entertainment to friends and breeds no less regret to foes. Our Blessed Lord, who was all made of compassion and love, being freed from all those rugged, boisterous distempers which we, whilst we seek to trouble others with, labour under ourselves, feeling the worst effects of our heats and animosities within our own breasts—He, I say, had all the lines of goodness drawn in His heavenly face, and above all His eyes sparkling with seraphic love, and darting forth rays of it to warm and fire the hearts of all that either beheld Him or He beheld. Fortunate man whom He who is now for ever to be thy Lord hath cast and fixed His gracious eye upon, to mark thee for His friendship and the choicest dignations of His love!—A. Littleton, D.D.
Christ loves the virtuous.—There are those whose lives have been pure, who have been generous and cherished no ill-will to others, who have been truthful, and who have been pitiful and considerate to the weak and the aged, those whose youthful brows are bound with a crown of the natural virtues. Now this passage says to all of that sort that Jesus Christ when He looks upon you loves you; He loves you with a special love, and desires you for His kingdom, for you are nearer to Him, liker to Him, than others are. Though possessing only what we may call the natural virtues and moral excellences, you are loved in His sight before you go further, and are not strictly what are called His disciples. When you live a pure life and are dutiful, when you shun uncleanness and vice, when you are truthful and upright, then the Lord Jesus, looking upon you, loves you.—A. B. Davidson, D.D.
A hard requirement.—More of us than we are willing to believe are kept from entire surrender to Jesus Christ by money and worldly possessions; and many professing Christians are kept shrivelled and weak and joyless because they love their wealth more than their Lord, and would think it madness to do as this man was bidden to do. When ballast is thrown out, the balloon shoots up. A general unlading of the “thick clay” which weighs down the Christian life of England and of America would let thousands soar to heights which they will never reach as long as they love money and what it buys as much as they do.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
“Follow Me.”—The life of Jesus Christ always illustrated the truth which He taught and the principles of His kingdom. He did not lay on the young man a burden which He Himself did not bear. It was His own life that He recommended him to follow. Christ’s poverty and the fact that He possessed nothing were not probably in order to shew sympathy with the poor, at least not specially, but in order to shew the nature of His kingdom, which is just men and God together—men with nothing, men destitute of all but themselves, possessing nothing—casting themselves just as men upon God.—A. B. Davidson, D.D.
Mark 10:22. “Sad.”—Observe that the word is “sad,” not “angry.” The young man went away grieved, not shocked nor indignant. These distinctions are of some value, as shewing that the young man had no complaint against the reasonableness or fitness of Christ’s demand. He approved and admired more than he felt able to adopt and to obey. And because he was an honest man he did not fling epithets at the Teacher or the truth which had so unexpectedly disturbed him. He paid respect to both, and practically judged himself in fault in the grief and sadness with which he went away.—C. A. Berry.
Sorrow apart from Christ.—There are thousands who do not follow Christ who are sorrowful because of it. They would give much that they were His followers. They can conceive how joyful it would be to be His. Their aimless, broken life would be reunited and made one if dedicated to Him. They have powers and influence—they feel them. They would be glad if they could devote the powers and influence they have to Him. It would, they are sure, fill and satisfy their empty, unsatisfied hearts to be His followers. They are of all men the most miserable. To the natural sorrows of life they add this sorrow, that they cannot give themselves the true comfort. But why not? Why not? Why go away? Why add another sorrow to the sorrows that already accumulate upon them?—A. B. Davidson, D.D.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:19. A classical parallel.—The resemblance which a passage of Menander, in Hirelius, bears to the Scriptural commandments, is remarkable, and is certainly not to be ascribed to imitation, but to the breadth, compass, and universality of the thought, as well as the home appeal they make to the moral sense and our general nature. “If any one, O Pamphilius, think that by merely offering a sacrifice he can arrive at the favour of God, he has an unworthy opinion of Him, and will find himself mistaken. He must become a man of virtue, beneficial to society; must not pollute virgins, nor commit adultery, nor steal, nor murder; and the wife, house, horse, youths, and maids of another he must not covet. Sacrifice therefore to God with justice and benevolence; let your purity be in your hearts rather than in your garments.”
Mark 10:21. Altogether wrong.—The rich young ruler came to hear what little decorations might now be added to the super-structure that he has laboriously built, and he is made to feel that he is wrong to the foundation. He is in the position of a man who comes to his medical adviser complaining of a slight uneasiness which he supposes a tonic or a change of air may remove, and is told that he has heart disease or cancer. Or he is in the position of a sanguine inventor, who has spent the best years of his life on a machine, and at last puts it into the hands of a practical man merely to get the fittings adjusted and steam applied, and is told that the whole thing is wrong in conception and can never by any possibility be made to work.—M. Dods, D. D.
One error fatal.—The boy goes through a long sum with great accuracy and despatch, but one mistake in the first line makes his whole calculation useless. It only takes one disease to kill a man. His brain may be sound, his lungs untouched, all his organs but one may be in a healthy condition; but if one vital organ be attacked all the other healthy organs will not save him. So it is in character. One vice is sufficient to destroy the whole man.—Ibid.
“One thing” may keep a soul from eternal life.—But is it right to make such destinies turn upon a single point? That depends on the point. In other relations one thing may bring ruin. At a crisis in worldly interests, one wrong step may lead to remediless disaster. One error in trade may make you bankrupt; one medicine in sickness may give the turn to your life; for the lack of one anchor a vessel is lost. In religion, how may “one thing” keep a soul from heaven? If there is a determined, persistent unwillingness to be saved, that would seem sufficient, would it not? Well, that is the “one thing” referred to by Christ. And, furthermore, it is some “one thing” which makes the unwillingness. The ruler loved his great possessions more than he loved his soul. But the “one thing” may take many forms. It may be one appetite, one ambition, one companionship, one pleasure. Every one is called to choose between one set of influences that helps religion and some other set which hinders. He cannot bend in both directions.
One thing needful.—One jewel only was needed to complete the circlet; one link only to perfect the chain; one step only to touch the goal; one movement only, and the beautiful gate opens into the temple of God. But the one thing lacking may be of all others the most essential—the one thing needful. He who is dying of thirst lacks only a cup of cold water; he who is perishing of hunger lacks only a morsel of bread. A corpse lacks only life.
The broken bridge.—Hossein said to his aged grandfather Abbas, “Oh, grandfather, why are you reading the gospel?” Abbas made answer, “I read it, oh, my son, to find the way to heaven!” Hossein, who had received some instruction in an English school, smiling, said, “The way is plain enough; worship but the one true God, and keep the commandments.” The man, whose hair was silver with age, replied, “Hossein, the commandments of God are as a bridge of ten arches, by means of which the soul might once have passed to heaven. But, alas! the bridge has been broken. There is not one among us who has not broken the commands again and again.” “My conscience is clear,” cried Hossein proudly; “I have kept all the commandments—at least, almost all,” he added, for he felt that he had said too much. “And if one arch of the bridge give way under the traveller, doth he not surely perish in the flood, though the nine other arches be firm and strong?”
False and true power.—I once asked a rich man, says an American writer, by what motive he had been prompted in accumulating his wealth. “Power,” said he, “power”; and then, clenching his hands and teeth, and contracting all his muscles to their highest tension, he added, “I wanted power, and I have got it.” “Yes,” said I; “you have power over any quantity of water or steam, and over any number of wheels. You have power too over the bodies of certain classes of men; but do good with your wealth, and you will become a ruler over all men’s hearts; nor will your reign cease when you die, but will last as long as you are remembered; and the love of men will not suffer your memory to perish.”
Amiability among the worldly.—Father Taylor being once asked if a certain relative of his had been converted, replied, “No! he is not a saint, but he is a very sweet sinner!”
Mark 10:22. Away from Jesus.—He went away; he went away sorrowing—sorrowing to go, and yet he went. It is like what you may see sometimes when you wander in the night-time by the side of some sleeping sea. You may see the path of the moonbeam bright and silvery upon the darkened water. You may see some ship pass out of the darkness into that pathway of the moonlight; and as the light falls upon it, every sail, every spar, almost every rope, gleams in the moonshine, and you may then see it pass out of that path into the night which hides it evermore from our view. Is not this the history of this soul, passing for a moment under this light from the face of Jesus, but passing sorrowing from it into the darkness of an endless night—the very sorrow shewing that he knew what a sacrifice he was making, sorrowing because he knew that he was leaving Jesus, sorrowing because he did not wish to leave Him, sorrowing because if he could only have had the world with Him he would have had Him, but sorrowing because he could not give up the world that he might have Him, sorrowing the sorrow of the world which worketh death?
Looking back after insight.—One hour of supreme insight, one hour of clear, surpassing vision, and life is never the same again, and cannot be the same again. A man who has dwelt from his childhood without passing beyond the mountainous bounds of the valley in which he was born, who sees only so much of God’s work as lies within the mountain-range, who has judged man and judged God by the little life of that little plain, can be happy, and in a sense can be large. But once let him climb one of those mountain-crests, let him see the undulating plains of Life stretching away to the distant horizon, let him feel the larger argument of God’s Spirit, and understand that God is not conditioned and determined by a few families in a little plain, and he cannot go back and be as happy and as strong as he was. This youth was in such a plight. The old life of piety and benevolence had been sufficient in its time; it gave him as large an environment as his soul desired or could conceive of, and in the perfect harmony of himself and his environment he was happy and strong. But Christ had just lifted him to a new height, had shewn him a nobler heritage, had touched his soul and brought it for a moment up to the high pitch of real Christlike heroism. And the young man saw, but felt he had not courage to cut his old moorings and take the new inheritance, and so, as he looked back, the vision he had seen belittled and shadowed his past inheritance. There was the cause of his sadness; he was not ready to go on, and there was nothing to go back to except a squeezed and exhausted past.—C. A. Berry.
The Hamlet of the New Testament.—What was it that drove Hamlet mad? It seems to me his madness arose out of the breach between his perceptions and his aptitudes, between his enlarged and haunting sense of duty and his faltering ability to face and fulfil it. Hamlet could have been happy under any one of three conditions,—had he never been forced out of the quiet retreat of a simple and placid life; or, being so forced, had he possessed a rougher nature, not sensitive to moral appeal, seared and hardened by coarse contact with the world; or, having a healthy conscience and recognising sacred obligations, had he boldly obeyed the vision which called to duty. It was because he saw and felt more than he had nerve to execute that a discord arose which destroyed the symmetry and sanity or his mind. And so it was with this youth.—Ibid.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 10:24. See R.V. text and margin.
Mark 10:25. It is easier for a camel.—This is (as Dr. J. Morison aptly remarks) a fine, bold, hieroglyphic, hyperbolical way of speaking, that need impose on no one with a spark of poetry in his soul. The key to its import is hung at the girdle of common sense. Southey caught its spirit:—
“I would ride the camel,
Yea, leap him flying, through the needle’s eye,
As easily as such a pampered soul
Could pass the narrow gate.”
“The text,” he says, “is gospel-wisdom.” The Saviour intended to represent vividly and memorably the extraordinary difficulty of discharging the responsibilities and overcoming the temptations of riches.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:23-27
(PARALLELS: Matthew 19:23-26; Luke 18:24-27.)
Mundane trust a barrier.—Men are ever astonished when taken out of their own little grooves. Enlarge a man’s world and wonderment is the result. Jesus never wondered at His own sayings: it is impossible that He should have so done; and when, as here, He uses the word “impossible,” He simply accommodates Himself to the finite capacity of His auditory. There is no such word as “impossible” in heaven’s vocabulary. The interpretation often given to this passage is too limited in its application; because—
I. Sometimes it is regarded as a reflexion by Jesus Christ upon worldly wealth.—The rich, the poor, the high, the low, the old, the young, were all alike to Him. He looked not to condition, but to character. Jesus is not here talking against wealth, but against trust in riches, a thing altogether different.
II. Jesus is often regarded as referring here only to very rich men.—This is one reason why all men pass the text on to their more wealthy neighbours, as being more applicable to them than to themselves. They forget that wealth is relative—forget that it is as possible to be purse-proud of five pounds as of fifty, and of fifty as of fifty thousand. Trustfulness in riches is a question of disposition and not of length of purse.
III. Jesus Christ is sometimes thought to be referring here only to the realm of the objective.—No doubt the text was suggested to the mind of our Lord by His conversation with the rich young man, the weak point in whose character was love of money. But we should be careful not to mistake parts for wholes—careful lest we conclude that the sayings of Jesus contain no more than what lies upon their surface. So that between the lines we may thus read: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, How hardly shall they that have learning, or physical strength, or intellectual power, or are socially high, or outwardly circumspect, enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for those who place their chief trust in these things to enter into the kingdom of God.”—J. S. Swan.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:23-25. Money.—The subject of “money” is largely dealt with in the Bible—as much so in the New Testament as in the Old; and no unprejudiced mind will easily escape from the following conclusions about it:
1. That all moneys belong to God, as their Creator and Proprietor (Haggai 2:8; Psalms 50:10; 1 Corinthians 10:26; 1 Corinthians 10:28).
2. That He has consequently the right to every penny we may think our own, and considers Himself robbed if we do not honour Him with our substance (Malachi 3:8).
3. That we are in danger of putting money in God’s place, and thereby becoming idolatrous (Exodus 32:31). We are all prone to the same sin.
4. That, as a counteractive, God commands us to give it away to Him; or, what is equivalent, to good and charitable objects. Thus the Jews were from the very beginning habituated to pay tithes; and Christians are under similar orders to give liberally of their means for the support and extension of the gospel (2 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 9:7).
5. That covetousness is a great evil, and leads to many others (1 Timothy 6:10; Proverbs 11:28).
6. That to be rich is to be in great spiritual difficulties. The young man became sad when Christ bade him sell off and give to the poor.
7. That, in this view of it, it is surely better to be poor.
8. That under the Christian dispensation the amount to be given is left to conscience. It is a duty, however, that those to whom God has given most should give Him most.
9. That to give liberally to God entails no loss—not even loss in kind. Given from proper motives, many a subscription of one pound sterling has filled a man’s barns or brought him a hundred per cent. It does not follow that you have really saved your money though you have withheld it (2 Corinthians 9:6; Proverbs 11:24).
10. That the miser may live and die in poverty. Judas hanged himself. Many a rich but illiberal man has died a pauper; and many a poor but liberal man has lived to be opulent and a blessing. I admired the reply that I once got from a liberal lady to a remark that she was too generous with her means. “No, no,” she said; “I am generous only to myself. I wish to keep my money; therefore I clip its wings, lest it fly away; for you know it is written, ‘Riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.’ ”
11. That to be rich in grace is far better than to be rich in gold. Devils shall knock in vain at heaven’s gate, but Lazarus enters.
12. That the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one to whom money can be safely entrusted. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive riches.”—John Macfarlane, LL.D.
Mark 10:23. Riches a hindrance.—Christ plainly says—because the world needed to be plainly told—that they who have riches (literally, “things they can make use of”) with difficulty enter into the kingdom of God. He says not a syllable about “excess” of riches. He says nothing about “the life to come.” There is nothing said about its being impossible for the man with riches to enter, but there is the definite statement that those who have affairs, businesses, and the results which come from such, shall find it hard to enter. This applies quite as much to the poor as to the well-to-do, and it is concerned with the life that now is. “The kingdom of God” means those over whom God reigns with undivided rule, where His laws are His subjects’ law, His will their will, His ways their ways. With all of us—whatever our riches may be, whether the weekly wage which just provides the things honest, or the wealth of some merchant prince—it is “with difficulty” that we keep ourselves from being “of the world”; it is “hardly” that we enter into the kingdom of God; it is with difficulty that we subserve its advance.—J. W. Owen.
Mark 10:24. Disentangled from possessions.—The poor are sooner astonished at these words than the rich are so much as moved by them: the reason is, because men see the danger of others better than their own. It is much easier for a man to be contented without those things which he has not than to disengage himself from those which he possesses and not to trust in them. The poor may find a sufficient ground of trust and confidence in their poverty, since the kingdom of God is theirs; but the rich have reason to tremble in the midst of their riches. Whoever finds in them his rest, his joy, and his happiness, never thinks of seeking for these things in God. And there lies the greatest misery.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:25. Camel and needle’s eye.—The illustration is drawn from one of the common, popular stories in the East, which would be recognised by all. There were far-spread tales and legends of some enchanted city, with a gate of entrance which was a needle’s eye. Among the applicants for admission was a rich merchant, riding on a camel, with its long neck and humped back, packed with precious wares. The rich man, who trusts in riches, fares like the merchant of the story. He cannot pass through the magic gate into the radiant city without the Divine spell which makes him free of the land of the spirit.—Bishop Wm. Alexander.
Mark 10:27. Salvation in the hands of God.—It is the comfort of the humble that their salvation is in the hands of God; and it is the blindness of the proud that they would have theirs in their own. A true Christian is not at all alarmed to find here that without grace his salvation is impossible, because he knows that God can do everything for him, and that he himself can do all things in God through Jesus Christ.—P. Quesnel.
“With God all things are possible.”—Thus God saved Zaccheus, and in this our day some rich and noble men seem to abound in every Christian grace; but though it be possible with God, we may be sure that the Lord did not intend by these words to cancel the warnings He had just uttered. Does the Lord here mean that all things are equally easy to God? By no means. All things may be equally easy to Him as looked at from the side of mere power—mere physical force; but God does not deal with intelligent creatures in the way of overwhelming power. So far as their will is concerned He deals with them, then, after such sort that they should co-operate with Him and yield willingly to Him; and the Lord, if He teaches us anything by the whole matter, teaches us this, that it requires more spiritual effort on God’s part to deliver a man from the love of the world when the man’s wealth enables him to enjoy all that the world has to offer.—M. F. Sadler.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:23-27. The peril of property.—No wonder that Anthony, the father of monasticism in Egypt, went out from the church in Thebes where this passage had been read, to give away his ancestral estates, to put his sister into the fellowship and care of pious virgins, and to go himself poor and alone into the solitude of the cliffs! No wonder that in the early centuries the vow of poverty became the threshold article of every Christian life, and, with its twin principle of celibacy, became the foundation of the great monastic orders in the Church! But surely a rich man can be a Christian, and a poor man may be a sinner! For a ragged coat and a diamond ring have no moral quality or spiritual character in themselves. Ah, no! It is not money, but the love of it, that keeps men out of the Father’s house. And so, as we strike the bell or fire the gun to arouse the sleeping village, or dash cold water in the face of the fainting, the Son of God would bestir men to the possibilities of peril which lurk in the possession of property.
Covetous to the last.—We read not long ago the experience of an English clergyman called to the death-bed of a wealthy parishioner. As he kneeled at his bedside, his pastor twice requested him to take his hand as he prayed for his upholding in that solemn hour; but the dying man declined to give it. After the end had come, and they had turned down the coverlet, his rigid hands were found holding the safe-key in their death-grip. No hand of fellowship for his minister, because he could not loose his hold upon the key to the safe-vault! The power of hands which hold in their palms such possibilities of help and service is beyond our arithmetic to compute. The peril, here and hereafter, which waits upon the misuse of such a power is infinite.
Impedimenta.—Lord Bacon, who was a prince of modern worldly philosophers, and who never spoke merely from a spiritual plane in his treatment of practical themes of thought, says emphatically: “I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue. The Roman word is better, impedimenta; for as the baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue: it cannot be spared, nor left behind, but it hindereth the march; yea, and the care of it sometimes loseth or disturbeth the victory.” Then, in commenting on the suggestion that riches will enable men to purchase themselves successes, Bacon adds that “certainly great riches have sold more men than they have bought out.”
The weight of riches.—An opulent merchant having received a sum of money, was putting the ducats one by one into a pair of scales, in order to ascertain that they were not too light. “For my part,” said Gotthold, who was present, “I should be more afraid of their being too heavy.” “How so?” inquired the merchant. “Do you not think,” rejoined Gotthold, “that money is too heavy when bedewed with the blood of the poor, the sweat of the laborious, and the tears of the widow and the orphan, or when loaded with the curses of those who, by fraud or violence, have been robbed of it. I will hope, however, that there are no pieces of this description in that heap of yours, or rather I will not fear that there are any. Suffer me, however, without offence, to express the wish that you will always make your conscience your scales, and weigh in it your dollars and ducats to ascertain that they are of proper weight, and have been honestly acquired. Many a man never learns, until he is struggling with death, how difficult, or rather impossible, it is to force a soul burdened with unrighteous gain through the strait gate which leadeth unto life. Take heed, then, that no such gain ever burdens yours. The more he carries, the more the pilgrim sweats and pants as he climbs the steep; and the more the conscience is oppressed with dishonesty and fraud, the harder will the struggle of a death-bed be.”
Mark 10:23. The giver of wealth forgotten.—Among the legends of Hindostan is one that illustrates these words of our Saviour. One Rawana, a Brahmin, was offered by his god anything that he might name. Rawana prayed his god to bestow upon him the government of the world. His god immediately granted his wish. Then he prayed for ten heads, with which to see and rule the world. After Rawana had well fortified himself, and was surrounded by riches, honours, and praise, he forgot his god Ixora, and bade all the people worship him, an act which greatly angered the god Ixora, and he destroyed Rawana. How true to human nature was the course of Rawana! And how many we find to-day that have forgotten the God that gave them all they possess!
Mark 10:24. Peril of riches.—When Alexander the Great sent a rich present to Phocian the Athenian, the latter asked why he had been the object of so splendid a gift. On hearing that it was because the king considered him the most virtuous man in Athens, he replied, “If he wishes me to preserve my virtue, let him keep his riches,” and forthwith sent back the present to Alexander.
Hard to leave.—When Garrick shewed Dr. Johnson his fine house, gardens, statues, pictures, etc., at Hampton Court, what ideas did they awaken in the mind of that great man? Instead of a flattering compliment, which was expected, “Ah! David, David,” said the doctor, “these are the things which make a death-bed terrible!”
Mark 10:25. Rich men like camels.—It were no bad comparison to liken mere rich men to camels and mules; for they often pursue their devious way over hills and mountains, laden with Indian purple, with gems, aromas, and generous wines upon their backs, attended, too, by a long line of servants as a safeguard on their way. Soon, however, they come to their evening halting-place, and forthwith their precious burdens are taken from their backs; and they, now wearied and stripped of their lading and their retinue of slaves, shew nothing but livid marks of stripes. So, also, those who glitter in gold and purple raiment, when the evening of life comes rushing on them, have naught to shew but marks and wounds of sin impressed upon them by their evil use of riches.—St. Augustine.
Mark 10:27. All things possible to God.—I was pacing to and fro, awaiting a train within a railway station. There were others in the great room, and it was singular none of them had observed it before—a sparrow imprisoned within the sliding window sashes. He had thought he saw a way, but it was a glass wall. He had beaten his wings to tatters, and his fair plumage into rags. The glass was opaque with the stains of his denuded cuticle, and streaked with blood. He may have been in this crystal dungeon for hours, and fighting till he sank into quiet from exhaustion, from which reviving again to fight as when I first heard him. Could I be denied it, as I sprang to that heavy frame and sent it with a bang to the ceiling, letting the oppressed go free? Does not Christ, the Sent to open prison doors, feel a grander propulsion to liberate unhappy men, who thought they saw a way, but found themselves in dreadful bonds of poverty, or pain, or dishonour, or conscious sin? Suppose the sparrow had piped out to me, in shrill treble, that he wanted no mercy, but justice; that he could conduct his own life; that he scorned to be beholden unto any one. It is an analogue of many human souls, who are whipping their wings to shreds against the impossible, while to God all things are possible, even their setting free.—E. J. Haynes.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 10:30. The world to come.—The age which is coming—the Messianic or Christian era, which was inaugurated by the descent of the Holy Spirit—the Life-giver—on the Day of Pentecost. Eternal life begins now, in this present world of sense and time.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:28-31
(PARALLELS: Matthew 19:27-30; Luke 18:28-29.)
The all-forsaking spirit and its reward.—The apostles, on witnessing the incident of Mark 10:17-27, could not fail to make a personal application of it to themselves. They remembered the time—not long before—when each of them had been placed in a similar predicament: their own deceitful hearts soliciting them to remain as they were; and the imperious voice of One greater than their hearts saying, “Forsake all, and follow Me.” And so they did. Will any say that these were poor men possessed of nothing worth mentioning, and that it required no great sacrifice to renounce a world which smiles not on such as they? Not so. A man can but give up his all. It costs a poor man as much to give up his daily labour, his mean abode, his little substance, as it does a rich man to part with his great possessions. The world is as dear and the ties of home are as strong to one as to the other.
I. The sense in which this declaration was first made.—The circumstances of the calling of these disciples were not, then, so different after all from those of the young man. But the result was exactly opposite. The one went away sorrowful; the others followed, and patiently continued with Him who called them. They not only acquiesced in their forlorn and destitute condition, but actually gloried in it, when they had respect unto the recompense of the reward. It was no dissatisfaction with their present mode of life, no hankering after the ease and comfort of former days, that prompted the exclamation, “Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee!” We learn from Matthew 19:27 that Peter added the question, “What shall we have therefore?” We cannot suppose that he was ignorant of the nature and magnitude of that compensation, in consideration of which he and all of them had made so great a sacrifice. But in an affair of such importance, where so much present benefit is surrendered, the mind naturally seeks all the satisfaction it can procure in regard to the security of the investment. As the miser is not content to know that he possesses so much gold, but opens his bags and gloats over the glittering hoard day after day, so those who have staked their all for a future and distant good may be excused a little anxiety on the score of the anticipated return.
II. The sense in which we may make the same renunciation.—To “follow Christ” is a common expression to denote almost any relation to or reception of Him. But we cannot properly lay claim to a part of Peter’s profession without accepting the whole. We may forsake all and follow Christ, or we may refuse to forsake all and decline to follow Christ; but to assent to the one and reject the other is impossible and absurd. Strange that men should ever dream of such a contradiction! The mistake arises, doubtless, from confounding the mere act of forsaking all for Christ with the mind and spirit which alone gives any value to the act, and which may exist equally without the act. The act may or may not be required; but no condition of life or change of circumstances can dispense with the all-forsaking spirit. The letter of this principle—“We have left all,” etc.—if universally acted upon, would make the world a desert, and involve laws, morals, and religion itself in one universal chaos: the spirit of it is a spirit of peace, order, harmony, supports laws, perfects morals, and is the life and soul of religion.
III. Wherein the all-forsaking spirit consists, and how it acts.—
1. We may discern it in a Christian’s use of this world’s good. Instead of literally forsaking all for Christ, it may be his duty to hold all for Christ, “ready to distribute, willing to communicate,” “giving not grudgingly or of necessity, but cheerfully.” This spirit is entirely opposed to that cool and calculating charity which is always saying, “Let the children first be fed; let us wait till the end of the year, and see what remains after all expenses are met, and all claims provided for.” That is charity also: that has its praise; but not the praise of those who “seek first the kingdom,” etc. That would have listened complacently to the commandment, “Give alms of thy goods”; but would have gone away sorrowful on being told, “If thou wilt be perfect, give all that thou hast.” That may be called the giving-up-something spirit, not the giving-up-all. The Pharisee who gave tithes of all he possessed is an example of the one; the poor widow who cast into the treasury all that she had is the best illustration of the other.
2. Not in pecuniary sacrifices only, or even chiefly, is the all-forsaking spirit shewn. Ancient history tells of a king who enjoyed such uniform prosperity that he began to fear his good fortune might excite the envy of the gods, and end in some dreadful disaster. To prevent this he was advised to part voluntarily with the most valued possession he had, and that one the loss of which he would feel most. So he bethought himself which among all his treasures answered best to this description; and having found it (a gold ring or some such trifle), with his own hand he cast it into the sea. So the Christian manifests his readiness to give up all for Christ by giving up that which is most precious to him, whatever it be. To some persons their time is the most valuable of all their possessions; and a portion of every day, redeemed from the engrossing cares of business, and devoted to the glory of God and the improvement and benefit of the world, is the best proof of their willingness (if need be) to forsake all and follow Christ. Others, who are not selfish persons, nor wanting in sympathy with the concerns of their neighbours, are yet fond of ease and quiet, and averse to everything likely to involve them in the strife and tumult of the world. These shew a disposition to forsake all for Christ when, from love for Him and His brethren, they give up their cherished retirement, and “go about” doing that good which the mere “liberal giver” can never accomplish.
3. So far we have thought of things which must be voluntarily renounced and cast behind us. Other things there are which, while we have them, we are permitted to enjoy, but which we may at any time be called on to resign. Indeed this is the tenure on which we hold all our precious things: riches make themselves wings, and fly away; the faces of beloved friends fade as we gaze on them; life itself is but a transitory vapour. Now with respect to such things as these the all-forsaking spirit has a twofold operation: when deprived of them, it meekly resigns; while enjoying them, it prepares to resign. Both are hard, especially the latter. It is hard to give up—harder still to procure and preserve that state of mind which is always ready to give up, always prepared to “hear the rod and who hath appointed it.” This is the disposition for all to cultivate who profess and call themselves Christians. It is not the short, sharp conflict of a day, or even the protracted battle of many days, but the continual warfare of life, which ends only with all human affections and all earthly objects. For the Pauline conception of this disposition, see 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; and for the Johannine, 1 John 2:15-17.
4. We should perhaps never think of reckoning among our treasures the lusts and appetites, human passions and natural affections, which belong to us as men. Yet are there no possessions which we can so strictly call our own, or which we are so unwilling to part with, as these. Do they not reside in and proceed out of the heart? And if a man’s heart is not his own, what else, whether within or without the body, can be so called? As, on the other hand, if a man is able at the word of Christ to tear out his own heart and cast it from him, will he not much more forsake all that he hath besides? This is our Lord’s meaning in Matthew 5:29-30. In the extirpation of every thought, desire, and affection contrary to the will of God the all-forsaking spirit has ample scope for all its energies.
IV. The reward of the all-forsaking spirit.—
1. Even the temporal condition of one whose heart and affections have been trained in the self-denying school of Christ is far better than that of those who use this world to the full, who say to their soul, Luke 12:19. What is the great secret of human happiness? Is it not to be “without carefulness”—to enjoy our present comforts and to have no disquieting apprehensions of ills to come—to lie down at night with peace in our heart? Now this state of mind is the assured possession of him who has forsaken all for Christ. He, and none but he, can say, “I shall never be moved.” The changes and chances—even the persecutions—of the world are nothing to him. He is “satisfied from himself.” He brings forth his happiness from “the good treasure of his heart,” and therefore it never fails. He receives a hundredfold more—in the testimony of his conscience, in the love of God, and in the patient waiting for Christ—than if he had grasped these things which crumble at a touch, or clung to these “bruised reeds, on which,” etc. (2 Kings 18:21).
2. “And in the world to come—eternal life.” There the Christian will meet again all those good things which he has, in heart and will at least, if not in deed, forsaken here. There he will find the worldly wealth which he scattered in Christ’s name; the much-loved ease which, to promote Christ’s interests, he was content to be without; the dear earthly delights which it was lawful for him to enjoy, yet more for Christ’s glory that he should give up. There he “rests from his labours,” etc. (Revelation 14:13). There, finally, whatever he enjoys, it is with the delightful consciousness, never felt on earth, that “his joy no man taketh from him,” that his treasure is in heaven, and can neither fade nor fail.
The trials and reward of the missionary.—God, in order to determine His people to a cordial and zealous fulfilment of His will in all things, even in those things which are most trying to faith and repulsive to flesh and blood, employs every kind of influence which is suited to His character and adapted to their nature. He employs the influence of His authority to command them, of His displeasure to warn them, of His love to constrain them, of His ability and willingness to recompense, in order to induce and to win them. And there are in all genuine disciples principles powerfully susceptible of all these influences—meek obedience to His will, awe of His displeasure, constraint by His love, and a holy ambition to acquire the rewards of grace.
I. The call of the missionary to make the sacrifices which our Lord here specifies.—
1. His call originates in the gracious purposes of God to have all the nations of the earth turned unto Himself by the power of the gospel.
2. This call flows from the commandment which the Redeemer has laid upon His Church to proceed in carrying this purpose into effect without delay (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). The faithful missionary hears the commandment, and hastens to the fulfilment of it, both in his labours and his prayers.
3. The missionary hears himself specially called by God to the service of His gospel in distant lands. He sees the purpose of God, and longs to have it fulfilled; he hears the command of God, and is moved to obey it; he perceives the promises of God to this work, and desires to seek the benefit of them; he feels the love of souls, and cannot be at rest while they are perishing; he sees the sacrifices and the dangers, but is not dismayed by them; he understands the nature of the work required, and believes that he may by grace be made instrumental in fulfilling it. And what is all this but the witness in himself that he is called of God to go far hence to the Gentiles, as if he heard a voice from heaven saying to him, “I have made thee a minister,” etc. (Acts 26:16-18).
4. He feels called by the imploring cry of a perishing world, “Come over, and help us.” He is not insensible to their sorrows because they are thousands of miles distant from him, and seas roll between, and his eye has never looked upon their wretchedness.
II. The sacrifices which are required of the Christian missionary.—
1. As the Church must enlighten the world by the instituted means of grace, some must go forth from it to carry these means and apply them to the heathen nations.
2. The missionary presents himself to the Church as ready to undertake all the labours, privations, and sacrifices in the work, and encounter all its difficulties and perils, if they at home will only support him with their habitual prayers, aiding and encouraging him under his trials, and ministering to his wants as far as his circumstances in providence may require.
3. Missionaries, in going forth to the heathen, must leave behind them not only their country, but relatives, and houses, and lands, and whatever nature esteems dear; and they have the feelings of nature in common with others.
4. They have unnumbered and unknown perils, privations, and sufferings to expect. They are exposed to the perils of the traveller both by sea and by land. The hazards to which they are exposed from climate are none of the least appalling to those who have the same love of life with other men. They are exposed to perils from those among whom they labour—from the barbarity of savage tribes, and the more monstrous enmity and persecution of civilised and nominally Christian colonists. Though they should escape all these evils, they have still difficulties and vexations to encounter in their work itself which are none of the least trying to the spirits of men—difficulties from language, from the inveterate ignorance of those whom they seek to enlighten, their incurable superstitions, or their confirmed habits of vice and ungodliness; while open resistance will usually be raised up by Satan from quarters whence it was least expected and where it proves the most effectual.
III. The motives which determine and encourage the missionary to embrace these sacrifices.—
1. Love to the Redeemer, and desire that He may be glorified.
2. Admiration of the gospel as the “power of God, and the wisdom of God,” “unto the salvation of men.”
3. Compassion and love to mankind for Christ’s sake. He is impelled by some portion of the Spirit of Him who, moved by love for our race, left His Father’s bosom, and tabernacled for a season in our sinful and wretched world, partaking of its sorrows—whose “compassion was moved” to intensity “when He beheld the multitudes, because they fainted,” and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. This compassion may be felt strongly by the missionary even at home, but far more powerfully when he is set down in the midst of the objects of his sympathy and his eye has looked upon their miseries.
IV. Their reward.—
1. They are “chosen vessels” to the most arduous and honourable part of the work of Christ on earth. To be occupied in this work is the highest glory of man, the chief happiness of the renewed mind. It assimilates to Christ, who came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. It assimilates them to angels, who are occupied in “doing His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.”
2. The honour of eminent suffering for Christ. Paul rejoiced in his sufferings for the Church (Colossians 1:24), and spake of suffering for Christ as an honour peculiarly “given” to such of the saints as were called to it (Philippians 1:29). And truly these sufferings cannot appear a small honour to any who behold in them “a manifest token” that they “shall reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12), and know that they are “working” for them “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”—Joseph Hay, M.A.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:29. Sacrifice of all.—Let no man say that this sacrifice of theirs was a trifling one. True it is they were poor men and had nothing to part with but their boats and their nets; but let us remember that the little that a poor man hath is as much to him as are riches to the wealthy. If a man be thirsty, it is as hard to persuade him to pour on the ground a single cup of water as to prevail upon another to cast away a whole barrel. It is a triumph of grace, then, when the poor forsakes his little, as well as when the rich counts his abundance as dross for Christ’s sake.—H. Verschoyle.
“For My sake.”—These three words make secular things sacred. You may go to your farm, or to your merchandise, you may sing songs, or paint pictures, or build houses, or make shoes, or heal bodies, and all these things become sacred if they are done for the love of Christ: “For My sake.”—F. Harper.
Mark 10:30. “An hundredfold now.”—What shall we say to this bountiful promise? Shall we say it is merely a flourish of words from the lips of Eternal Truth? God forbid! These are the words of truth and soberness. Looking back on the first disciples, we see this promise fulfilled: but how?
1. Though the disciples had but little left, or afterwards received but little in the stead of what they had lost, yet had they a good title to that little, and you can without difficulty conceive a man having greater enjoyment in the possession of one acre of land on a good title than ten acres on a disputed one. The child of God holds what he possesses as a gift conferred upon him in virtue of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice; the ungodly holds his possessions as things already forfeited by his sin; hence it is written, Psalms 37:16.
2. They had, besides, the capacity given them of enjoying their little, which is often denied to the most affluent. Contentment is the handmaid of real godliness; when it is joined to godliness there is great gain, because it gives a sweet relish to the most slender provision, it transforms straitness into abundance.—H. Verschoyle.
The Christian’s gain in this world.—The Christian gains back again already in this world, in the higher form of real spiritual essence, whatever in the physical and symbolical form of his life he has forfeited: houses enough, in the entertainment afforded him by his spiritual associates who receive him; brothers and sisters, in the highest sense of the term; mothers, who bless and tend the life of his soul; children, of his spirit; lands, of his activity, of his higher enjoyment of nature, of his delights; and all this ever purer, ever richer, as an unfolding of that eternal inheritance of which it is said, “All things are yours,” in spite of whatever persecutions of the world which dim the glory of these things.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Mark 10:31. First and last.—On occasions that call for a great prompt sacrifice in the interests of a worthy cause, or upon the altar of truth and principle, have you not seen, now and again, some very religious and virtuous people wonderfully outdone by some who had had but little credit for conscientiousness or moral seriousness, men to whom you would never have looked for anything like the magnanimous spirit and conduct that distinguish them? The very greatest are often behind others for a while, like your dull, slow schoolboy, who turns out afterwards a brilliant man, while his more brilliant schoolmate, who got all the praise and prizes, dims and fades beside him, the tortoise in the end beating the hare. The best are often the tortoise in development, just because they are the best, and have so much more in them to develop.—S. A. Tipple.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:28. Choosing Christ.—The poet George Herbert was so highly connected, and in such favour at court, that at one time a secretaryship of state seemed to him not unattainable. But he gave up all such prospects for the work of a humble clergyman, and in looking back upon the time when he made his choice, he could say: “I think myself more happy than if I had attained what then I so ambitiously thirsted for. And I can now behold the court with an impartial eye, and see plainly that it is made up of frauds and bitters and flattery, and many other such empty, imaginary, and painted pleasures—pleasures which are so empty as not to satisfy when they are enjoyed. But in God and His service is a fulness of all joy and pleasure, and no satiety.”
Mark 10:29. “For My sake”—George Müller, the founder of the Ashley Down Orphanage, once said that more than £800,000 had been given him towards the support of more than eight thousand orphans—a work of which a sceptic once remarked that it came nearer proving the truth of Christianity than anything he had ever seen before. But the history of it all may be written in three words—“For My sake.” And how many hospitals too have been built because Christ healed the sick! You may grave “For My sake” on a good many of the foundation stones. Again, Christian people are found to live and work in the East End of London—Christian people who have the means to live in comfort and luxury elsewhere, but who choose to live where they do in order that they may “rescue the perishing and care for the dying.” Why? “For My sake.” How is it that loving hands all over England are willing to sew and make garments in order that the gospel may reach the zenanas of India? Here again (and the list might be multiplied indefinitely) it is done “For My sake.” Young men of wealth or talent forsake home and friends and all in order to preach Jesus Christ in India, China, Japan, or Africa. Henry Martyn leaves his books, David Livingstone his loom, Mackay the engineering shed, Charles Studd the bar, and Stanley Smith fresh from the University crew—all these and myriads more of whom the world is not worthy have gone forth for life or death, and here again the only explanation is, “For My sake.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:32-34
(PARALLELS: Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-34; John 11:53-57.)
On the way to Jerusalem.—Every act of Christ relates not only to those disciples who were the immediate witnesses of it, and to events which then and there transpired, but also to His whole Church through all future ages, and to events bearing upon the interests of that Church, till her probation on earth is finished, her numbers are made up, and she stands complete in Him before the throne above. The circumstances recorded in the text therefore bear a striking analogy to the spiritual circumstances of all believers in Christ.
I. The course they pursued.—The “way” here meant was the highway to Jerusalem, a type of the way which leads to heaven, along which all must pass who wish at last to reach that glorious world.
1. As there was a public, appointed, and common way to Jerusalem, so there is an appointed and common way to heaven.
(1) The way of regeneration.
(2) The way of repentance.
(3) The way of holiness.
(4) The way of faith in Christ.
(5) The way of holy obedience.
(6) The way of atonement.
2. They were in the way. It is not sufficient for us to know that there is a way, but we must see to it that we are in it.
3. They made advances in the way. It is not sufficient that we know the way to heaven, and be in the way to heaven; but we must make progress in it, and be like the disciples, ever going up. The new life within must grow and be constantly giving forth new fruits and beauties.
II. The place of their destination.—“Jerusalem.” It was called the Holy City, because there stood the temple, there dwelt the sublime symbol of the Divine Presence, there Divine worship was carried on, and there all God’s people met to pay their Divine honours to His name. Its peace, its glory, its religious services, its enjoyment of the Divine Presence, and the security of its inhabitants caused it to be selected as a type of heaven, and hence John calls it the New Jerusalem and the City of God. There the weary pilgrim is at rest; the weather-beaten mariner has anchored for ever in the fair haven of peace; the worn-out warrior doffs his helmet and puts on his crown; the heavenly runner has reached the goal and enwreaths his brow with the garland of immortal honour; and all ascribe their glory to free and sovereign grace.
III. The Leader they followed.—“Jesus went before them.” This act of Christ was typical of glorious truths—truths which apply not only to those who immediately followed Him, but also to all His followers down to the end of time.
1. He went before them as their Mediator, to break down the impregnable barriers which sin had reared in their way to happiness, to God, and to heaven, and to give them free access to glory by His precious blood.
2. He went before them as their Glorious General, to subdue all their enemies, to lead them in the good fight of faith, to instruct and arm them for the holy war, to conduct them from conquest to conquest, and to bring them to final victory and immortal triumph.
3. He went before them as their Great Pattern of submission to the Divine will, of patience under suffering, of self-denial in the Divine service, of love to God and man, of a pure benevolence, of intense desire for the glory of God.
4. He went before them as their Infallible Guide in doctrinal truth, in practical holiness, and in the way to glory, honour, and immortality.
5. He went before them through death and the grave, to take away their terrors, and bring life and immortality to light.
6. He went before them in the first resurrection, to demonstrate to them His own almighty power and the acceptance of His great atonement on their behalf by the Father, and to teach them to rest in hope of that glorious day when He will change their vile bodies and fashion them like unto His glorious body, according to the power whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.
7. He went before them to heaven, to take possession of it in their name, to prepare it for them and them for it, and to supply them with all needed grace, till they abide in His presence and see Him as He is.
IV. The feelings they experienced.—
1. They were amazed. This appears to have been an impression made up of the mental elements of reverence, awe, admiration, and wonder, thrown over the disciples’ minds by the sublime spirit and conduct of Jesus on this occasion. As you follow the Lamb to eternal glory, have you not often felt amazed? Have you not often felt amazed at the benevolence which led Him to become poor that you might be eternally rich?—amazed that He should have loved sinners so as to become for them a Man of Sorrows, that they might become participants of eternal joys?—amazed that He should have chosen, predestinated, called, renewed, sanctified, and preserved you, when, had you been left to yourself, you had now been in the road to eternal ruin?—amazed that you do not love Him more and serve Him better, who has done, is doing, and will do so much for you?—and amazed that the glories which He has revealed as the eternal portion of His faithful people do not produce upon you a more heavenly influence in this world of sin and woe?
2. “As they followed, they were afraid.” Such were their weakness, their timidity, their imperfect knowledge, their erroneous views of His glorious mission and the true nature of His spiritual kingdom, that all the glorious majesty which He here displayed was not sufficient to preserve them from fear—fear for themselves, fear for Him, and fear for His cause. Believers fear for Christ—fear for His cause, fear for themselves—fear persecutions, dangers, afflictions, and death—because their knowledge of Christ is defective, or because they do not look sufficiently to Him.—W. Gregory.
The intensity of Jesus.—What a wonderful picture is here! There are only a few words, only a few touches of the painter’s brush, but they are the words of a loving heart, the touches of a skilful hand; and as we look at the picture we seem to realise what it means. Jesus is going up to Jerusalem with His disciples; it is the last time they will tread that road together; and on the way, instead of keeping close to Him, and hanging on His every word, they linger behind, wrapped up in their own petty trifling interests, disputing with one another as to which of them shall have the pre-eminence when the rewards of the kingdom are distributed. And Jesus goes before them, and they know it not; talking of the kingdom they have forgotten the King, and on a sudden they look up and see Him alone, sad, silent, grave, awful in the majesty of that sad face and eager on-looking eyes, and are amazed. Amazed, why? Because they see and read in all this what you and I can see and read there yet more clearly than they, a wondrous intensity. “Intense.” This is one of the words adopted by a modern sect of fashion—a fashion which delights in making men look effeminate and women masculine, which puts mere mawkish sentiment in the place of noble deeds, mistakes a rhapsody of words for great realities, and has learned the art of taking the meaning out of grandest words. But while the word has been taken and spoilt by some, remember what a depth of meaning there is in this word “intensity.” Would you know what it means? Then look at Jesus and you will learn.
I. You will see, first of all, in Him an intensity of purpose. Those fixed eyes, that set mouth, those firm steps, that grave face, they tell us of a Man who has set before Himself a great aim, who means by the help of God to accomplish it. It is the will of God, it is His Father’s business, which He had set before Him from the first. And because His aim is so high, His purpose so simple and grand, therefore the life of Jesus is not like ours, a zigzag, crooked path, but a straight, onward, undeviating path.
II. But in His intensity we see also the intensity of humility. The consciousness of a great aim in life, the recognition of a great purpose, sometimes, because of our innate weakness, makes us conceited; it gives a man self-consciousness, and so spoils his aim. But as we look into the face of Jesus Christ, so sorrowful and sad, as we look onward to the object on which His eyes are fixed, as we listen to the words wherein He explains what all this means, we learn what intensity of purpose needs to control and guide it aright. The intensity of Jesus is one that stooped, that bowed itself—ay, it is an intensity which was “obedient even to the death upon the Cross.”
III. But there is more than this; look again into His eyes and you will see what it is. Something more is wanted, something that shall join together the intensity of purpose with the intensity of humility. What is it that will make a man’s life straight as the flight of an arrow, and yet at the same time lowliness itself? Nothing, I think, but the intensity of love. This intensity of Jesus, remember, is for us.
1. For us, because all this intensity was expended on our behalf. He goes up to Jerusalem before us as our Sacrifice. “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”
2. For us, because this intensity may be ours. He goes up to Jerusalem before us as our Example (1 Peter 2:21). And hence you and I may go forward on the path God hath marked out for us, in some of this intensity of purpose, of humility, of love, which marked the life of Jesus. This intensity may be ours, for He was Perfect Man as well as Perfect God. His intensity was human intensity, made up of human purpose, human humility, human love. This intensity may be ours, for we see something of this intensity in the lives of others. Other men have attracted us or shamed us as we have looked upon their intensity and compared it with our lack of it.—C. J. Ridgeway.
Following Jesus fearingly.—Notice the singular combination, the compatibility and the union of two apparently contradictory things: though they “feared” they “followed,” and though they “followed” they “feared.” The fear was not enough to stop the following, nor the following sufficient to arrest the fear. There was a love in the fear which kept them following; and yet a nature in the following which still left them fearing. And I should not be wrong if I carried the connexion of these two thoughts a little further. They feared because they followed, and they followed because they were afraid. Fear is the strongest fascination. There is always a tendency to go to what we greatly fear. So the following led up to the fear, and the fear led up to the following. That walk up to Jerusalem appears to me strangely illustrative of the path by which many of you are going to heaven. This strange and, but for experience, this incredible condition of a man’s heart—the fear that follows, and the following that fears—whence is it?
I. Certainly, if you were not a follower, yon would not be a fearer.—I never knew any one in my life begin to fear till God had begun to love him and he had begun to love God. The fear is an index that you are on the road. Because you are His the Spirit works those tender, awe-stricken feelings in your mind; because you are His men hate you; because you are His the devil harasses you; because you are His you know that “through much tribulation you must enter into the kingdom of God.”
II. But is this, then, right?—Have you ever known what it is, in any sense, to have undertaken—absolutely to have undertaken for anybody? And then have you felt the mortification of finding that person, for whom you had undertaken in everything, afraid, mistrusting? It is good to follow fearingly; but it is much better to follow trustingly.
III. How is it that a real follower may be a real fearer?—I will find the answer on that road up to Jerusalem. Why did the disciples fear?
1. They had not adequate ideas of Him whom they followed. So it is with you. If you knew the character of Christ, if you knew the work of Christ, you would be rid of that fear.
2. Though they loved Christ, they did not love Him as He deserved. If they had, the love would have absorbed the fear; they would have rejoiced to endure with Him, even to the death; the dignity, the happiness of partnership with Him would have swallowed up every other consideration.
3. They had not what their Master had—one, great, fixed, sustaining aim. There is nothing so ennobling, there is nothing which makes a hero, a martyr, a saint, like an object, distinct, lofty, worthy. Usefulness is such an object; the extension of Christ’s kingdom is such an object; the glory of God is such an object.
4. They had their fears undefined. It was the indefinite which terrified them. I should hardly say too much if I said that fear is indefiniteness. The terror is the mist which enwraps it.
IV. Take, then, four rules.—
1. Fortify yourself in the thought of what Christ is—His person, His work, His covenant; and what He is to you.
2. Love Him very much, and realise your union with Him—the preciousness, the grandeur of that union, especially in sorrow, persecution, and death.
3. Set a high mark, and carry your life in your hand, so you may reach that mark, and do something for God.
4. Often stop and say deliberately to yourself, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” and do not go on till you have got an answer.
V. But are you still afraid?—Let me offer you this counsel. Do not care about it; do not care for your fears; do not fear because you fear. Only follow on, follow on. The disciples came in all right to Jerusalem at last, though they did follow fearingly.—J. Vaughan.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:32. The way of the Cross.—All nature trembles in a man, when God obliges him to take the way of the Cross. Christ goes forward therein, with a firm and even pace, and with a true courage. He who hazards his life in hopes of a better fortune exposes it only because he hopes not to lose it, and is but the more fond of it on this account; as a covetous person is really the fonder of riches the more he exposes to the hazard of gaming, on the prospect of greater gain. True courage consists in the contempt of this present life through the hopes of that which is eternal; and this contempt is so much the greater the more sure a man is of losing it, as Jesus Christ and the martyrs were.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:33-34. Going up to Jerusalem.—
1. They were very near the end of one experience, and on the threshold of the next. Every sudden transition awakens strange feelings. The change from one experience to another, when it appears to come with any measure of suddenness, comes to us with pathetic interest. This must have affected the disciples with exceptional power.
2. The feeling that an important experience has come to an end without our having made the best use of it, adds to our sense of loss and our feeling of regret at the thought of parting company with such an experience. Christ knew nothing of that sadness. In His experience everything had led up to the Cross; and although there was a natural recoil on His part as the Son of Man from the agony of the Cross, and the dread experience of deadly contact with the world’s sin, yet He had nothing on his own part to dread as He entered the conflict.—D. Davies.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:32-34. Will-power.—There is nothing to be done in life without an inflexible will. “To be weak is to be miserable, doing or suffering.” And our Master has set us the example of this, that unless there run through a man’s life, like the iron framework on the top of the spire of Antwerp Cathedral, on which graceful fancies are strung in stone, unless there run through a man’s life the rigid bar of an iron purpose that nothing can bend, the life will be naught and the man will be a failure. Christ is the pattern of heroic endurance, and reads to us the lesson, resist and persist, whatever stands between us and our goal.—A. Maclaren, D. D.
Invincible courage.—It was as if, in the old days, some excommunicated man with the decree of the Inquisition pronounced against him had gone into Rome and planted himself in the front of the piazza before the buildings of the Holy Office, and lifted up his testimony there.—Ibid.
The may of the Cross.—An old ecclesiastical legend tells how an emperor won the true Cross in battle from a pagan king, and brought it back, with great pomp, to Jerusalem, but found the gate walled up, and an angel standing before it, who said, “Thou bringest back the Cross with pomp and splendour; He that died upon it had shame for His companion; and carried it on His back, barefooted, to Calvary.” Then, says the chronicler, the emperor dismounted from his steed, cast off his robes, lifted the sacred Rood on his shoulders, and with bare feet advanced to the gate, which opened of itself, and he entered in. We have to go up the steep rocky road that leads from the plain where the Dead Sea is to Jerusalem. Let us follow the Master, as He strides before us, the Forerunner and the Captain of our salvation.—Ibid.
Stern resolution in face of danger.—With unshaken resolution Jesus pressed forward to receive the crown of thorns, and to pass through the terrible crisis that awaited Him. We may remember, by way of illustration, the words of Julius Cæsar, when he embarked in a raging storm to obtain the sooner aid for the famine-stricken people of Rome: “It is necessary that I should go, but it is not necessary that I should live!” Thus a brave man is inspired by the circumstances, and supported by the enthusiasm of those around; but in our Lord’s case, in the solitariness of His mysterious life, He “treads the winepress alone.”
The loneliness of the great.—Great men, as a rule, are not club men. The thinkers of the world have not been society fractions. In their isolation they remind us of the oak, which is never seen in a crowd, forming what may be properly termed a wood. An oak forest is nothing more than a poetical figure; for the oak stands alone, or mingled with other trees of different foliage, which it dominates with venerable feudal sovereignty. We have one Dr. Johnson and a number of Boswells round about him.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 10:40. See R.V. for last clause, which, however, may also be rendered same to them for whom it is prepared (made ready). “The throne is the prize of toils, not a grace granted to ambition,”
Mark 10:45. “The human blood of the Eternal Son was the ransom paid to God for our eternal redemption from the curse of the law and from the wrath of God, and from the claims of Satan and from the power of sin.” This “one offering, single and complete,” when put in the balance over against the transgressions of many, proved sufficient to atone for all.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:34-45
(PARALLEL: Matthew 20:20-28.)
The petition of Zebedee’s sons.—It was our Lord’s custom, when any indefinite request was preferred to Him, to draw forth from the petitioner a more exact statement of his wants and desires. Of this we have one instance here (Mark 10:35-36), and another in Mark 10:51. Can we have a stronger argument than this for the exercise of special prayer? And can we have a plainer testimony to the need of self-examination before we venture to approach the throne of grace?
I. The request of the two brothers.—“Grant unto us,” etc.
1. This petition displayed their ignorance of Christ’s plans. They looked for a kingdom of this world and a temporal Messiah. They were waiting with impatience for the moment when Christ should throw aside the mean disguise under which He now walked, and proclaim Himself in His true character, as the lawful inheritor of the throne of David. All enemies being subdued, and the whole world reduced to a state of peaceful subjection under His sceptre, then (they imagined) would begin such an earthly kingdom as would swallow up the splendour and the remembrance of all former ones. And they, the chosen companions and faithful followers of His low estate—what should they not have, what honours and dignities might they not aspire to in His exaltation?
2. This petition was marked by forwardness and presumption. To ask that they might “sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom,” was to seek for themselves a pre-eminence in that kingdom above their fellows; for these were the two most honourable seats in an Eastern court, and always reserved for those whose rank was only inferior to him who sat upon the throne. It is dangerous to say, “What wilt thou?” to persons whose requests are not likely to be guided by modesty or discretion.
3. Observe, also, the worldliness of this petition. It looks no farther, apparently, than the present life.
(1) How many still follow Christ, knowing and caring nothing about the riches of His redeeming grace, but desiring to eat of the loaves and be filled! How many make a profession of religion for the sake of certain worldly advantages which they expect to gain by it! Not so gross, but equally dangerous, is the delusion of those who look for any part of the reward of godliness in this world. If we entered thoroughly into the mind of Christ, and saw eye to eye with Him the end He has in view, we should never think of asking of Him such mere temporal advantages as a good name, a quiet mind, a comfortable enjoyment of life, or even a peaceful and happy death. These are consolation certainly, but not the consolation of Christ; these are blessings, but not the blessing of Him who “came to bless us by turning,” etc. (Acts 3:26).
(2) How many religious parents, like “the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 20:20), display a much greater anxiety about the worldly prospects of their offspring than about the welfare of their souls! Judging by their conduct, they think more of seeing them now “riding upon the high places of the earth,” than of meeting them hereafter at the right hand of power in heaven.
II. The Saviour’s reply.—“Ye know not,” etc.
1. It may be said to all who pray for any temporal advantages, “Ye know not whether the issue of your prayer, if granted, will be for good or evil.” We do not, however, bid you not ask at all for the things of this life; but when you do, ask discreetly, modestly, without importunity, with an entire submission to the will and wisdom of God, confident that He will not only give good things, but also refuse evil and hurtful things, to them that ask Him.
2. But Christ’s answer to these petitioners seems to insist chiefly on their ignorance of the manner in which the great prizes (so to speak) in the distribution of heavenly honours were to be sought and won. Would they have preferred their request in this form had they realised that “through much tribulation,” etc.? “My own exaltation,” says the Saviour, “will be the reward of My previous sufferings and humiliation. If you desire to share in My Crown, you must expect to bear your part in My Cross. Are you able to do this?” Those who are contented to be called the least in the kingdom of heaven may perhaps escape with just the ordinary afflictions that fall to every man’s lot. But those who aspire (as who would not?) to a place near the throne must expect to be called upon to resist unto blood, striving against sin, to go through fire and water, and to be baptised in the furnace of affliction, “that the trial of their faith,” etc. (1 Peter 1:7).
III. The decision of the two brothers.—“We can.”
1. Here we have a striking instance of the levity and rashness with which men undertake they know not what. Amongst Christ’s followers, as indeed in the outset of any enterprise whatever, there was no lack of zealous promisers and hasty undertakers (Mark 14:29-31). But “pride goeth before destruction.” When the hour of trial came, “all the disciples forsook Him and fied.”
2. If you are wise you will before beginning to build “sit down first and count the cost,” etc. (Luke 14:28-30), duly sensible of your own weakness, relying only upon the ability and sufficiency which cometh from God. Then you may adopt as your own the golden maxim of the apostle (Philippians 4:13).
IV. The Saviour’s concluding observation.—
1. “Ye shall indeed drink,” etc. This is generally supposed to be an intimation of what should happen to these two brothers in the prosecution of their apostolic ministry.
(1) James was the foremost in time of all the apostles to follow his Master to death (Acts 12:2).
(2) John was preserved alive the longest of all the apostles, and for that very reason doubtless endured and suffered the most.
2. “But to sit on My right hand,” etc. The power of Christ, whether to reward or punish, is a judicial power, not to be exercised in a partial or capricious manner (if we could suppose Him capable of such weakness), but by certain fixed rules and principles. It is of the very essence of a judge to judge according to law. Surely we do not need to be told that in the distribution of heavenly honours there is no room either for partiality on the part of the dispensers or solicitation on the part of the candidates. Nor does it diminish aught from the dignity of the Son that He should assign the high places of His kingdom to those who are the blessed and approved of His Father. And who are they? “Not every one that saith,” etc. (Matthew 7:21). “Holy and humble men of heart”; “Israelites indeed”; “the true circumcision”; they that “worship God in the spirit,” etc. (Philippians 3:3). They who “strive to enter in at the strait gate”; and, being entered, strive to advance farther and farther, always “pressing toward the mark,” etc. (Philippians 3:14). Above all, they who in this life have “received their evil things,” and counted them as good; who have been great and patient sufferers, whether “in mind, body, or estate”; who have “come out of great tribulation,” etc. (Revelation 7:14).
3. If we would know these assessors of the Saviour, these right-hand and left-hand men, while they are upon earth, or if we would determine whether we ourselves are of the number, we must attend to the signs which He has given us (Mark 10:42-45).
The request of James and John.—I. The request.—This request is a remarkable instance of that slowness and dulness of heart with which our Lord had to deal, even among those who understood Him most. For you observe that it was made immediately after a very clear prediction of His Cross and Passion. You may judge how great was the solitude of heart, the isolation in which the Incarnate Son abode on earth, when even His intimates and closest followers could so little sympathise with His purposes or enter into His thoughts.
II. Our Lord’s answer.—He does not deny that there are high places in His kingdom, but He unveils the terms on which only they may be won. Nearest to Him they might be, but then it must be a nearness in self-abasement, self-sacrifice, and suffering. The very terms Christ uses spoke of suffering: the poison-cup was not seldom used of old as a mode of execution—you remember the hemlock of Socrates; and water was sometimes the instrument of death—we read of being drowned in the depth of the sea. They were terms, moreover, which the Old Testament connected with suffering; “the cup of trembling,” “the cup of the Lord’s fury,” express some discipline very terrible to flesh and blood: “I will take the cup of salvation” is by some interpreted, “I am ready to undergo even the pains of martyrdom”; and the mention of the baptism also would recall such expressions as these, “All Thy waves and storms are gone over me.” And the sharp searching trial implied in these words would only be intensified when, at a later period, they heard their Master speak of that terrible agony which they were called to witness as His cup—“Let this cup pass from Me”; when they stood before His Cross, and saw His life-blood streaming from His head, and hands, and feet, and side, a very baptism of blood. Were they able to face such things as these? to go through those trials, that anguish, coming in various shapes, which were necessary to prepare in them those graces, only as possessing which they could stand high in the kingdom of the Man of Sorrows, of the Lamb slain? In short, in these words our Lord intimates the use of suffering as a preparation for glory, for the presence of God. Not that suffering necessarily does this. It can act on us only according to the state we ourselves are in, and a corrupt heart it is likely only to embitter and harden. Suffering can bless but those who receive it meekly and in the love of God.
III. What a bearing has all this upon ourselves.—
1. Have we not often asked our Blessed Lord to place us near Him, to shew us His truth, to open our eyes to enable us to cast in our lot with Him, to give us a throne among His saints, to set us on His right hand at least, if not upon His left? What do such prayers imply?
(1) To cast in your lot with Christ, what is that? To share the portion of One whom the world rejected, whose goodness those about Him could not appreciate. Are you ready to do that? to be called an enthusiast? to lose the support of the many who stand by that which is popular and moderate and safe? to become in their estimation “a fool for Christ’s sake”?
(2) To know Christ’s very truth; do you understand that to wish this is to draw down on yourself the agony of seeing truths which the world will not accept, while you see also that she is suffering for not accepting—the agony which prophets of old knew, of having a message, a revelation, which men will not hear from you, which is the only panacea for the ills of society, of nations, of homes, and yet to which they will not listen?
(3) To be like our Lord, you have asked that. But have you considered through what you must pass, that you may have opportunities of exercising longsuffering, forgiveness, calmness, like His? Have you thought what a discipline it requires, what self-denials you must exercise to prepare in you a mind like that of Jesus?
2. And yet do we withdraw you from these high aspirations because there is a price to pay for their fulfilment? Ah, no: those are indeed your most blessed moments, your most blessed thoughts, when you long the most to be like your Incarnate Lord, feel most the attracting influence of His purity. Cleave to them, part not with them, cost you what they will. Whatever the price you must pay for the fulfilment of those wishes, however bitter the cup or the baptism, there are some thoughts which will strengthen you to bear them.
(1) You may think of them as His baptism and His cup; as sufferings and trials which He has sanctified for you by first bearing them Himself, taking His own deep draught before the cup is handed on to us.
(2) You may think of the sympathy of Christ; for there is that close oneness of life between Christ and His people that their afflictions become His.
(3) There is the strength supplied to you in sacramental grace. The very terms our Lord uses to denote His sufferings, and His people’s, are borrowed from those two great means of grace, whereby our union with Him is begun and perfected. We have our baptism into Him, as the guarantee that our souls have been brought into a relation of grace to Him, into a capacity of receiving life from Him, which nothing but our own sinfulness can render nugatory. We have that other Sacrament of His Body and Blood, the cup of blessing and the bread of life, wherein we can again and again draw nigh to Him, and unite ourselves with Him, and reinvigorate, as it were, the wasting frame of spiritual strength. This baptism and this cup, since they bring the faithful soul into such direct connexion with Him through whom we may do all things, are able to equip us for all the demands of patience, of sweetness, of strength, which that other baptism, that other cup, may make upon us.—Canon Turnock.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:37. Is ambition wrong?—What is ambition? Ambition is an instinct of nature, a desire to rise; and, like all other instincts, capable of good and evil. Satan took hold of it, and said, “Ye shall be as gods.” Jesus enshrined it, “Ye shall sit on thrones”; “Be ye perfect, even as your Father, who is in heaven, is perfect.” When a man wishes to go out of his own line into another, to which evidently God has not called him, his ambition is wrong. When a man tries to get to the very top of his own line, his ambition is right. When a man seeks great things for himself, only for himself, it is a worldly ambition. When a man pursues great things for usefulness, for the Church, for Christ, it is the same principle, but it is consecrated, pious, and good.—J. Vaughan.
Mark 10:38. “Ye know not what ye ask.”—Often we offer large petitions with small meanings or motives, and would be overwhelmed if they were granted. When they ask for thrones, they ask the path leading thither—the discipline fitting for them, the service which wins such influence.—R. Glover.
Cup and baptism.—The word “cup” is often used by sacred and other writers to signify the portion of good and evil which is assigned to men in this life. It probably arose from the custom in ancient times of the master of the household distributing to his children and servants a certain separate allowance of meat and drink each by himself, differing in quality and quantity according to their desert. The same custom was also observed in entertaining guests (see Genesis 43:34). In allusion to which custom the word “cup” is used for the dispensation of Providence—the Almighty, as our common Master and Father, appointing to each one his respective share of suffering and enjoyment. “Baptism,” which signifies immersion, is also familiarly used in Scripture to denote a person being overwhelmed with calamities, as it were with a flood of waters. The “cup,” then, which Jesus was to drink of was one of affliction; the “baptism” with which He was to be baptised was that of a cruel and ignominious death. And they who should follow Him in His career were to drink deep of that cup of suffering and be immersed in the darkest horrors of human barbarity.
Mark 10:39. The ambitious person finds nothing difficult, provided he can but raise himself.—He easily presumes upon that which he cannot perform, to obtain that which he cannot deserve. It was but a moment ago, and these men were seized with fear and amazement at the bare sight of the way to Jerusalem; but one passion weakens another, and, like a burning fever, supplies a man with fresh strength and courage.—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:40. No true honours are lightly won in either earth or heaven.—None are arbitrarily given; for to give honours for which we are unfit would be no kindness. Besides, the true crown is a flowering of our nature, not a garland lifted and put on. Accordingly the right-hand and left-hand thrones go to those fullest of the Saviour’s spirit, and who, of all men, have been most like Him in their work and sacrifice.—R. Glover.
Lessons.—On the whole incident note—
1. How noble these men are in their very faults; they seek not money, fame, or ease, but the honour that comes from God.
2. How graciously Christ deals with what is faulty in us.
3. How, in answering our prayers, He has to answer not the great words, but the small meaning, lest we should be overwhelmed.
4. In the other world there will be no unequal distribution of rewards, but each will receive what fits him.—Ibid.
Mark 10:41. Ambition of the clergy.—The ambition of clergymen is a great scandal in the Church, and is frequently an occasion of emulations, enmities, divisions, schisms, and wars—of all which the displeasure and indignation of the apostles give us an imperfect shadow and resemblance. If apostles, trained up with so much care in the school of charity and humility, notwithstanding are not free from this vice, what effects will not ambition produce in souls, wholly immersed in flesh and blood, which have no motion but from their passions, no law but that of their own desires!—P. Quesnel.
Mark 10:42. The principle of scramble.—There is a strange ambition ruling in the hearts of multitudes—to be ministered to instead of ministering. Men wish to get rather than to give. Hence the universal scramble in commerce. Hence the worldwide diffusion of the spirit of selfishness—a spirit whose tendency is to turn every man into an Ishmaelite, with his hands and heart against all other men, and all other men’s against him. One might have expected men would see that the plan of seeking to receive ministry rather than to give it is short-sighted and suicidal. Suppose you were one of an association of a hundred persons, all jealous of one another, each seeking to take advantage of all the rest, and trying to get them all to minister to him. What is likely to be the result? Each will shut himself up as in his own castle to defend himself against all the rest. All the energy that each possesses will be expended on promoting his own particular advantage; and not one will get from any of his neighbours a really helping hand, if the circumstances will admit of the help being withheld. This is the principle of scramble—every one for himself and for himself alone. It has been tried in every country and in every coterie under heaven, and everywhere with lamentable results. All tyrannies have sprung from it. All wars have been begotten by it. All poverty is its child. All household feuds and family alienations are to be traced to its baleful influence.—J. Morison, D.D.
Mark 10:43-44. Mutual service is something very practical. Do not put it aside as one of the counsels of perfection, or as a theory that will not work on weekdays. Mutual service may be the abiding principle of every-day life in any station of domestic or public or mercantile life. Think, first, how much is done for us—what service we receive and absorb. Let our imagination travel for a moment over the scenes where toil is even now going on for us, to the far countries whence come our food-supplies—all the world laid under tribute; think of our sailors in their hard and dangerous work; visit in fancy our miners, our labourers, our factory-workers, our clerks, the myriad-handed, myriad-headed service of a great city. Think what has been the labour of creating the civilisation, the conquest over nature, even the delicate organisation of faculties that we unconsciously inherit. Which of us can repay to the existing generation, still more to the world, the vast debt we owe? Are we not indeed under a sort of spell that forces us to sit, and be clothed, and carried about, and amused by the labours of others? No, it is not so. You may break the spell. It is open to all of us to render service to others over and above our business in life. We may render bodily service; and we know how high a value our Lord puts on the service of our bodily needs. We may diminish the scale of our own comfort, that we may raise the standard of the comfort of those who work for us; we may thus serve our own generation even in its physical needs, and this is an absolute duty. But there is other service than this. When material nature is conquered, its wastes tilled, its wild beasts slain, there remains the harder problem of conquering human nature, reclaiming its waste places, casting out its evil spirits. There is the noblest service of all, the spiritual service of lifting the ignorant and degraded, of supplying “the spiritually indispensable—the bread of life.” Here are our worlds to conquer, our unknown seas to traverse. Men have toiled for us in body, and are toiling, that we in our turn may toil for them and give them light, and life, and hope, and heaven. This is the true mutual service, and this we may all render.—J. M. Wilson, D.D.
Mark 10:45. Christ’s ministry and self-sacrifice.—I. The negative side—“the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto.” This clears the ground. The Son of Man is not a self-seeker. That is the meaning of the manger in little Bethlehem, the want of a place to lay His head, the departure into a mountain alone when they would make Him a king.
II. The positive and general side—“but to minister.” This is the character of His life—the Son of Man ministers to the sons of men. He restores health, brings back the dead, speaks and there is a great calm. Then after a hard day’s ministering He rises a great while before day to pray—to pray for strength to minister more. And it was all of His own free choice. He came to minister, and He ministers still.
III. The positive and precise side—“and to give His life a ransom for many.” The first two clauses point to His life; this points to His death. And it rises to a climax—this is His greatest deed. He gave His life for many. So He places a great value on His life. His single life is an equivalent for many lives. I am in the circle of the many. Like Paul I say, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”—A. Scott.
Service and sacrifice.—
1. The greatness of God is, in one point of view, service. Every power in nature is a power of God, so that in steam, electricity, and the like we are in different ways taking advantage of God’s goodness as a servant.
2. In all nature God is a servant, and finds joy in the service. But in redemption it is otherwise. This is the highest service God has rendered man, and it has the element of sacrifice in it.
3. Thus the death of Christ is an example of service and sacrifice—of the highest form of service, service which demands what it is hard to give. But there is more in it than that. There is substitution. His death was the climax and consummation of a life of ministering; but it was a death in the sinner’s room, without which the sinner could not have been saved.—W. M. Taylor, D.D.
“Even the Son of Man.”—The Saviour was perfectly conscious of His own intrinsic elevation and dignity. It was not because He could do no better that He came into the world amid poverty and lived among the poor. Of His own free-will, and although He was infinitely rich, He stooped into the valley of humiliation. But He never forgot the height from which He had descended, and back to which He was by-and-by to reascend, leading captivity captive.—J. Morison, D.D.
Gifts to the ministering Christ.—He came not to get, but to give. Such was His aim. But He got, nevertheless, and still gets, and will continue to get, through all time and through eternity. He cannot help getting. He gets gratitude. Oh, how much of it! and yet not one atom more than He deserves. He gets devotion of hearts, such as no other being ever gets or got. All the noblest souls that are either in the higher places of society or in the lower places and the hidden nooks and corners count it their joy to do service to Jesus. They do minister to Him, even as also, though on a lower plane, they minister to their fellow-men.—Ibid.
Christ’s life the ransom for our life.—The suggestions of this statement are very grave.
1. Our life is forfeit.
2. Sin is so great an evil that even God cannot, without sacrifice, free us from it.
3. To let us off without penalty or atonement would make us indifferent to doing wrong.
4. In love to man God punishes sin.
5. And to save thoroughly Christ shares with us that punishment. Are we thankful for the great redemption? humbled by the Cross? saved by it? Be grave with the Saviour’s gravity in your thoughts of sin and of salvation.—R. Glover.
The needed ransom.—The surrender of the life of Christ unto death was the needed ransom. No wonder! A ransom is something valuable. It may be all but invaluable. Certainly the life of Christ was inestimably valuable, more valuable by far than myriads of other lives—the lives of nobles, or princes, or kings, or queens. Yet He came into the world, and into our nature, that He might give His life a ransom for many. Oh, the incalculable value of a life such as Christ’s—a life so rich in possibilities of enjoyment, and so rich in goodness, unselfishness, and every kind of moral beauty and excellency! Thus valuable and invaluable was the life of Jesus; and yet it was that very value that made the surrender of His life, in connexion with the great moral government of the Father, something incalculably better, and more glorious and more glorifying to the law, than a mere equivalent for all the penalties that could have been inflicted on the guilty.—J. Morison, D.D.
The ransom paid for all—The word “many” is not used to suggest that the ransom was paid for fewer than all. It is another idea altogether that is intended. All are not always many. All the queens of Europe are not many. All the great poets of the world are not many. All the inhabitants of a hamlet are not many. But the persons for the salvation of whose souls the Son of Man gave His life as a ransom were and are many—incalculably numerous. Yet not one was left out of His regard and interest and sympathy.—Ibid.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:38. Ambition.—A boy at play hit a ball so that it fell on the roof of a high barn. He climbed up the rugged door, and, clinging by a hole in the brickwork, reached the top of the barn, rubbing off the skin from his fingers, tearing his clothes, and running great risk of breaking his neck. He gained the ball; but was it worth climbing for?
Mark 10:39. Use of suffering.—In the manufacture of paper the filthy rags are torn to pieces, reduced to pulp, bleached and washed till it is white as snow, then shaken to and fro till fibre crosses fibre and gives firmness to the sheet, and ironed by hot cylinders till made smooth and even. Such is the effect of tribulation.
Mark 10:44. Life as service.—Confucius being asked if he could in one word express the whole duty of life, said, “Will not the word serve do?”
Mark 10:45. The law of service.—
Not to be served, O Lord, but to serve man
All that I can,
And as I minister unto his need,
Serve Thee indeed;
So runs the law of love that hath been given
To make earth heaven.
What if the task appointed me be mean!
Wert Thou not seen
To gird Thee with the towel, as was meet,
To wash the feet
Of Thy disciples, whom Thou wouldst befriend
Until the end?
For meanest work becomes the noblest part,
When a great heart,
Pitiful, stoops to comfort our distress,
Or to impress
A sealing kiss on penitence fresh clad
In raiment sad.
And if the wanderer’s feet be soiled and sore,
So much the more
He needs a tender hand to cleanse and heal,
And make him feel
There is no task that love will shrink to do
Life to renew.
Walter C. Smith, D.D.
A throne for the ministering Christ.—The other day I sat in St. Paul’s, and by my left was Nelson’s monument. Why was that monument erected? Nelson told his men that England expected every man to do his duty, and he did what he felt was his duty. And because he served his country, his country honours his memory. I have in my heart a throne, and on that throne—Christ. Why? Because He came to minister, and has ministered to me.—A. Scott.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Mark 10:46-52. See R.V. for several graphic touches obscured by A.V.
Mark 10:51. Rabboni.—The highest title he could give, the gradations being Rab, Rabbi, Rabban, Rabboni. See John 20:16.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mark 10:46-52
(PARALLELS: Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43; Luke 19:1-28.)
Bartimeus.—There are three powers which, interacting upon one another, work out the drama of life. There is the power within us, the power of self. There is the power without us, the power of the world. In proportion as we can make the power within operative on the power without we are successful. But above these two powers there is a third—the power of God over all. If the power of self, working in conjunction with the power of the world, brings about success or failure, the realisation of the power of God is the way to that best success—the success over ourselves and the world, the victory of character. The story of Bartimeus shews us a man in difficulties, and exhibits his conduct when face to face with these three powers of life.
I. The world is the first power we shall think of in this case.—
1. The world has its power. There is something which the world can do, and that something is what the world on the whole very readily does. Bartimeus found that this was the case. The world gave pity, also practical evidence of its pity. The world gave its alms.
2. But the world has its limitations. The one thing which the man most needed was the one thing which the world could not give. The world could not supply his real need, for his real need was sight. The world seldom can reach the real needs of men. She can bestow honour, she can alleviate suffering, but she cannot heal or satisfy the soul. The gifts which the world gave to Bartimeus, kind and well intentioned as they were, were just those gifts which reminded him most keenly of his misfortune. In receiving the alms of men he felt his dependence. Men in all ages have found out the world and its limitations. Like Severus, who had reached the supreme height of power, they have tried everything and found that everything was naught. Like Augustine, they have found that the heart which is made for greater things cannot rest in the lesser. Like Lacordaire, they have exclaimed with indignation and loathing, “I cannot leave my heart in this heap of mud.” The world, great, kindly, and generous as it is, cannot satisfy the desire of the soul.
3. The world, too, has its moods. The society in which we live is kindly and well disposed. It is not hard-hearted, but it likes to help in its own way, and it is relentless in its opposition to those who strike out their own line. Society has its moods as well as its limitations. The story of Bartimeus illustrates this, for it not only shews us what the world could do and what it could not do, but it also shews us what it did do. The action of the world in this respect may be described in one word—hindrance. It hindered the man in his attempt to realise his most cherished dreams. He desired to be no longer a profitless and dependent creature, but to be restored to the possession of sight, and with it to that capacity for self-direction which is requisite for true life. The moment came when it was within his grasp. The Healer, the Prophet of Nazareth, endowed with the powers of restoration, was near. Bartimeus lifted up his voice in earnest appeal. Society chided Bartimeus for his cry. “They rebuked him that he should hold his peace.” The picture is true to life. The world is intolerant of the best aspirations of men; it resents the attitude of those who take a line of their own. The world has a way of stifling the utterance of the great and unexpected voices which are lifted up in earnest desire or noble appeal. Genius has found it so. The world has hindered, frowned upon, and too often clamoured down the man whose intellectual range was beyond the grasp of average dulness. Philanthropy has found the same. Even a Howard and a Wilberforce cannot escape detraction; and society has shouted against those who have cried aloud in the cause of humanity, and has bidden them to hold their peace. The reformer has fared no better. There are always Eliabs to be found who chide the aspirations of young faith. And even apostles proclaiming a nobler life and spiritual emancipation to society will be clamoured against as those “who turn the world upside-down.”
II. What the man Bartimeus did for himself.—There are two principles which are essential to independent success. One is the principle of self-dependence, the other is that of single-mindedness. Bartimeus illustrates both these principles in his action.
1. He was self-reliant. He took his own course. He did not abandon his purpose because of the clamour of the crowd. This is a lesson which life soon teaches us. Men begin life by hoping much from their patrons. They know men who have influence; they look forward to an easy grasp upon the object of their desires. But they soon unlearn this delusion. Like Dr. Johnson, they discover that too often the office of patron is to leave the struggling man unassisted, and to encumber him with help when he no longer stands in need of it. Men soon discover that their own best patron is their self-reliance. It is this quality which Bartimeus displays. He is heedless of the crowd; but it is not the heedlessness of a coarse and indifferent nature. It is the heedlessness of a man who knows what he wants, and who has the courage to dare all to secure it. It is the quality of soul which Wellington displayed when he planted himself on the heights of Torres Vedras, and held to his choice in spite of the clamour, abuse, and accusations of home ignorance. He knew what he was doing, and he was in earnest. He was not to be turned aside from his purpose because of the empty chatter of impatient and inexperienced criticism.
2. The companion virtue of self-reliance ought to be single-mindedness. Single-mindedness seeks, by concentration of all the attention and all the powers upon one thing, to secure the end in view. It is the spirit which will not be turned aside or seduced. It knows that some sacrifice is needed, and it is ready to pay the price. It compels the attention of the whole mind to the thing in hand. It will cast overboard the most precious freightage in order to reach its harbour successfully. This spirit also Bartimeus displays. It is necessary for him to reach Christ. He must run no risk of failure. The long robe about him was useful enough as he sat by the gate of the city the whole day through. But it might prove a hindrance to his advancing footsteps. There is no hesitation in his action. If there is any chance of its being in his way, it must be sacrificed. He flings aside his robe, and so, unimpeded, advances towards the Lord. Greatness possesses the courage which can sacrifice what may be useful, when it may also prove a temptation or an encumbrance to its advancing march. Cæsar knows when to burn his boats. Industry knows that many a social pleasure and many an hour of relaxation must ruthlessly be sacrificed if ultimate victory is to be achieved. Like Lord Eldon, it knows that the way to success is to live like a hermit and work like a horse! The message of successful lives is the lesson of a single-minded devotion to the object in view. That which is the counsel of successful lives is the command of religion. For the sake of the higher life the encumbrances of the lower must be laid aside. The garments of the old life must be left behind. When the soul is filled with one strong passion, such single-mindedness becomes easy. To Bartimeus it was as nothing to cast aside his robe. He thirsted for sight. What was raiment compared with such a dowry? To those who thirst for the vision of God no sacrifice seems too great. Indeed, it is only those who are possessed of a spirit ready to sacrifice all who can behold that light.
III. What Christ did for him.—When we have spoken of self-reliance and single-mindedness, we have not said the last word about success. As far as temporal life is a conflict with the world these two are indispensable factors of success. But there are ranges of life which lie outside the compelling forces of energy and self-denial. Life is not merely energy, industry, achievement. There is place for repose and worship as well as for zealous activity. Man is not merely a busy, achieving sort of creature; he is a receptive being also. Self-assertion works well against the world; but in the presence of Him who is greater than the world, the spirit of self-assertion drops away. As Bartimeus stands before Christ his whole demeanour is changed. He is no longer the strong and stout pleader of his own cause and his own need. Jesus commanded him to be brought; and when he stands before Christ he is silent till Christ speaks. He stands as one who waits. It is right that it should be so. There are gifts which come only to waiting souls. There are utterances which are open to all the world, which only they hear who wait to hear—
“Celestial harmonies then only heard
When the heart listens.”
This calm and trustful attitude of mind has a kind of natural devoutness in it. It recognises a source of inspiration greater than itself. Great men of different faiths and different ages have realised this. Avicenna found his subtlest syllogisms given him after meditation and worship. Haydn prayed before he composed. Many a man of genius can truly say of some of his best works, “They were given to me.” Inspirations are for men who can and will wait upon God. In the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor one of the most suggestive pictures on the walls exhibits this aspect of the soul waiting for God’s gift. David and the harpists of Israel are represented with their instruments in their hands. Their fingers hang listless upon the strings. Their heads are bowed. All the appliances of their art are in their grasp, but the Divine gift is not yet. They are waiting for the inspiration from on high. So Bartimeus, the man of energy and self-assertion, waits before Christ for the gift which his force and his determination cannot seize, which must be given as love’s free gift. He waits till Christ asks, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” To say that our Lord shewed love to the blind man is to say what is true enough and obvious enough; but it does not help us to the full appreciation of Christ’s personal dealing with Bartimeus. His action shewed much more than a vague and limp benevolence. His love was ever exerted with an everlasting moral influence upon those whom He helped.
1. There was sensibility. Here, amid the clamour of the crowd, He detects the voice of want, just as at another time He knew at once when the weary and suffering woman laid a trembling finger on His robe. His love was of that delicate and responsive order which makes kindness twice welcome in being so obviously the outcome of a sympathetic and ready heart.
2. There was decision. No clamour or noise of discountenancing crowds could stay the march of His love. Jesus, in the midst of the outcry against Bartimeus, stood and commanded him to be brought. In one moment the clamouring crowd changes its demeanour. “Be of good cheer. Rise: He calleth thee.” Nothing succeeds like success. A little firmness, and the strong man brings the whole multitude over to his side. The man who knows what he means, and has the requisite firmness to pursue it regardless of noise, is like a solid mass floating on the surface of the water which draws the purposeless jetsam to its side.
3. There was judgment. He does not heal the blind man all at once. There is a pause; there is a question. “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” The need was obvious, but it was well the man should express it. The interchange of speech created a feeling of confidence; the bond between him and Christ became one through which moral sympathy might flow. It was no cold exercise of power; it was no heartless magic which restored the sight. It was power exercised by wise and loving sympathy. Here we touch a principle which may shed light upon the mystery of prayer. Why go through the form of asking God to help us, when God, if He be all-knowing, knows all about our needs? If all-powerful, He can help us. If all-good, He will. What need is there, then, of prayer? But is prayer only so to be measured? Is the establishment of sympathetic confidence between the soul of man and the love of God to count as nothing?
4. There was capability. With Christ, love and power were one. “Receive thy sight.” The words are spoken, and Bartimeus looks up. The restoration of sight is restoration to his true and complete manhood. He can see things as they are. It is this which Christ can bestow on all. It is the power to see in their true relationship the great forces of life—the world, self, God—the force without us, the force within us, and the power above us. It is the power to see God as He is—in His purity and lovingness as well as in His might. It is the power to see ourselves as we are in our weakness and dependence, in our sinfulness and foolishness. It is the power to see the world and life as they are, and therefore to see life not as the opportunity of accumulating the things which perish, but as the opportunity of being what we ought to be, and of doing what we ought to do.—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Mark 10:46. The uncomfortable situation of the blind.—In what uncomfortable circumstances are some of the children of men placed! One is deprived of his eyes, another of his ears, a third of his legs, and a fourth of his judgment. Of all these there are none more pitiable and helpless than the blind.
I. The uncomfortable situation of the blind.—
1. They are deprived of the benefit of light, which is so cheerful and animating.
2. They are deprived of the advantages of reading, either for instruction or entertainment.
3. They are incapable of following the common occupations of life, by which to earn their bread.
4. They are in a great measure dependent upon others.
II. Some means by which to alleviate the miseries of the blind.—
1. To furnish them with some employment, which may prevent them from being a burden to the public.
2. That the occupation be of such a nature as gently to engage the mind without fatiguing it, and by diverting their attention to make them less a burden to themselves.
3. That they be taught the principles of the religion of Jesus, which are so nobly suited to afford consolation under the hardest lot, and to render them contented and happy.—D. Johnston, D.D.
Mark 10:47. In the Nazarene Bartimeus saw the Messiah. Why did he so? Why more than the rest of the crowd that followed? Can we doubt the reason? Can we be in a difficulty about it? He was blind now. But there had been a time, perhaps, when he was able to see. If so, he had used his eyesight for a heavenly purpose. He had read and marked and inwardly digested the truth as it is in Jesus. Happy Bartimeus! He can see clearer than the most keen-eyed. The penetration of philosophy is nothing to his; he understands all mysteries; he pierces the thick palpable darkness; he sees through the veil of the outward sense the glory and the majesty of Him who is the Light of the world. What an example for us to follow! We may not be dark-visioned, like Bartimeus, but we shall have our hours of the heart’s darkness, or of moral twilight. How shall we prepare for them? Most surely in the way that he prepared—by reading God’s Holy Word, by diving into its hidden depths, by praying for enlightenment, by committing to our memories, and by treasuring up in them the holy texts of promise or of prophecy which lie like jewels within that great sea of wonder.
Mark 10:48. Want and faith not to be silenced.—Could their hands stop the mouth of him who spoke and felt as Bartimeus did? Nay; for he had a double tongue. His faith and his misery alike were speaking. You may stifle almost anything else; but there is a life and an energy in want and in faith which nothing can overpower. Did the winds and the waves ever prevent the seaman that has been washed overboard from crying for the cable to be thrown him? Is not his cry the mightier for their tempestuous riot? It is the cry of nature, the cry of that voice which God has implanted in all. But the cry of the new nature is in this case added to that of the old; it is the cry of grace and of nature too. It is nature that feels the want; it is grace that believes the remedy.
Mark 10:49. “Commanded him to be called.”—By this circumstance Christ administered reproof and instruction: reproof, by ordering those to help the poor man who had endeavoured to check him; instruction, by teaching us that, though He does not stand in need of our help, He will not dispense with our services, that we are to aid each other, that though we cannot recover our fellow-creatures we may frequently bring them to the place and means of cure.—W. Jay.
Mark 10:50. Renunciation.—The action of the blind man in casting aside his garment in order to come to Jesus means to us much more than a mere revelation of personal character—a disclosure of the faith and zeal of the blind beggar. It may be taken as a type of the removal of the hindrances of whatever kind that prevent a soul from coming to Jesus as its Saviour.
1. The necessity of casting away our garment of self-righteousness in order to come to Jesus. Every man thinks that he has whereof to boast—his acts of worship or kindness, his upright character and goodness of heart. We are slow to believe that God does not ask some valuable consideration at our hands, and that if we would seek His blessing it is not necessary for us to be furnished with some price or equivalent to give. We have our formularies, our ordinances, our offerings, which we think will open our way; and we exact from ourselves certain spiritual qualifications as a preparation. But if we are to be cured of our blindness and poverty, we must fling this garment aside. If we would get near enough to Jesus to get personal benefit from Him, we must have the conviction inwrought in us of our utter destitution of true religion. We must be brought to believe that we do not believe. We must hide our poverty no longer from ourselves. We must honestly and humbly take the beggar’s place and raise the beggar’s cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
2. The necessity of casting away the garment of effete forms and methods in order to grow in knowledge and grace. Religion itself is often made a hindrance in the way of coming nearer to Christ. What would happen if, when the warm, quickening sun of spring is calling every living thing to new growth and development, the buds of the trees persisted in retaining the scales in which they were wrapped up, merely because they had been indispensable in preserving the vitality of their buds during the winter’s frosts and storms? There would be no foliage, no blossom or fruit, no formation of new wood for man’s use, no shade for the earth and its creatures. The whole economy of nature would suffer grievous loss and be deranged. Nay, more, the arrested buds themselves would either die into hard knotty excrescences, or would be transformed into formidable thorns. And so, if we persist in retaining the old effete wrappings of religion merely because they were formerly, at an earlier stage of growth, indispensable, when the summer sun of a higher faith is quickening us and calling us to a fuller Christian life, we shall become mere dry sticks in the vineyard of the Lord, providing no shade or fruit or beauty for ourselves or others; we shall derange the whole economy of the Church by our deadness and conservation, and our arrested growth will be transformed into a wounding thorn.
3. The necessity of casting away in the end the garment of the body by death in order to be present with the Lord, and to be effectually cured of all our poverty and blindness. All nature is deciduous. The bud casts off its scales in order to produce its foliage; the flower casts off its petals in order to produce the fruit; the fruit decays in order to liberate the seed; the seed dies in order that the germ may grow. The worm leaves behind its silken tomb in order to emerge a butterfly. And at every stage of advancing life some old garment that suited an old purpose is cast away. So we cast away our body every seventh year in order to grow and mature our physical nature. And in the end we must cast away our body itself in order to finish our development and emerge into ampler life. As the growth of the young foliage of spring from the cast-off husks of autumn is a process of life and not of death, so in the expansion of the soul through the casting off of the body death loses all the elements which make it death. It is a process of life and development—in the harmony, and not out of the harmony, of the Divine order. A higher miracle than that wrought upon Bartimeus will be performed upon us; and what this world under the bright sunshine was to him when his eyes were couched of their films, and he saw the glory of nature for the first time, this in a far grander form will be the heavenly world that shall burst upon our purified vision, and we shall see the glorious form of Jesus in the light in which He dwells. We shall see Him as He is, and we shall be changed into the same image. Surely it is worth casting away the garment of the body; surely what things are gain to us in this world we may well count loss, to have such a revelation and experience as that!—H. Macmillan, D. D.
Mark 10:52. “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”—Ask for this faith, if you have it not. Exercise it if you have it. It is the appropriator of every blessing; it is the hand which lays hold of every blessing, yea, which puts on Christ Himself. Grace stands, so to speak, above us, holding out the mantle of blessedness; faith raises its hand, takes the mantle, and puts it on. Poor, blind, naked, ignorant, wretched, as we may be, yet come we in faith, come we in tears, in penitence, in deep contrition, and yet in faith to the Friend of penitents; and there is not a stain we lament which shall not be wiped out, nor a heart-wound which shall not be healed.
Following Jesus.—So with us, when our eyes are opened we follow Jesus in the way. Before that we walk in our own way, in the way of the world; we follow the multitude to do evil, we follow our own sinful lusts and passions; we choose our own way instead of God’s way; we prefer the path which is most pleasant, most easy, most profitable; but when our eyes are opened all is changed, we learn to say, “I loved to choose and see my path; but now—lead Thou me on.” Thus we come to follow Jesus in the way; and that way is the way of holiness, the narrow way which leads to life. It is not always a smooth way; it climbs up the Hill Difficulty, and anon winds down into the Valley of Humiliation; it passes through a garden of Gethsemane, a place of agonised prayer; it leads to a cross, a lifelong cross sometimes; it carries us to a grave, but, thank God, a grave from which the stone is rolled away, and which is bright with the light of a glorious resurrection. And withal it is a way of pleasantness, and a path of peace, of peace such as the world cannot give, and it ends in heaven.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 10
Mark 10:46. The blind beggar and the multititude.—Origen gives a very pretty allegorical turn to this narrative. He makes the blind man, who calls on Jesus, an Ebionite; and the multitudes around, who commanded him to hold his peace, believers from among the heathen converts, who generally held the more exalted views in regard to the Passion of the Messiah; and then he continues thus: But although the multitudes commanded him to be silent, yet he said the more because he believed in Jesus, although his faith was of a human kind; and he cried out aloud, and said to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” How different would many things have been if men, in this spirit of love and freedom, had always allowed the grace of the Redeemer to fall on all who call upon Him! if they had always taken into account the various stages in the Christian progress up to the ripeness of manhood in the faith, and had not wished to force different spirits all at once into the same measure and degrees!
Treatment of the poor.—The Jews had a law that there should be no beggar in Israel. England has statutes also to correct impudent poor and to provide for impotent poor; but, as it is observed, our laws have a better prologue than epilogue; they be well penned, but ill kept; and so this good order is neglected among us, as it was about Jericho, to the great scandal of Christian religion and dishonour of our English nation. It is written of the Athenians that they punished idle persons as heinous offenders. And the Egyptians had a law that every man should bring his name to the chief ruler of the province and show what trade he followed. The Romans enacted severe statutes against such as negligently left their ground untilled. Among the Chinese every man is set about somewhat, according to his strength and years; one labours with his hand, another with his foot, etc.; and (which is most admirable) they keep in Canton four thousand blind men, unfit for other service, to grind corn and rice for the people. If either the law were believed as gospel, or the gospel kept as law, such as would not labour should not eat. Loiterers and sturdy rogues should be sent to prison, or some place where they might work well; and as for such as cannot labour, it is fit, we that are strong, should help to bear the burdens of the weak, being eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.—Dean Boys.
Mark 10:47. Soul sight.—One day a cry went down the street, every one fled, as a runaway horse came tearing along the road. A little blind girl, left all alone, stood in the road, not knowing which way to turn to escape from death. She could not see, and no human hand was there to guide. She did not try to run, but sinking down on her knees just where she was, with upturned face to the heaven the bodily eye could not see, she commended herself to the Father of all. The horse dashed on—it was upon her! It swerved and thundered past, leaving the lonely kneeling child unhurt. That little one’s bodily eye could not see, but the soul eye, looking out beyond all, saw the Maker and Creator of all. So sometimes blind folk see more than those who think they see.
Mark 10:50. “And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.”—I remember once reading these words on a memorial tablet in a country church. Inscriptions on tombstones are often unsatisfactory, and Scriptural quotations upon them most inappropriate; but this one was as suitable as it was singular. The squire of the village had late in life come under the influence of Christian friends, who brought him to a knowledge of the gospel; and to him the words of the Evangelist were applied. They were very suggestive. They told of pride, and worldly pursuits, and self-righteousness, of all to which the man had clung for a lifetime, cast away that he might come to the Saviour. For a sinner saved in life’s last hours a better epitaph could hardly have been chosen. I admired the piety that compared the rich man lying there to the poor blind beggar of the gospel story, the once highly esteemed garment of personal righteousness to the beggar’s worthless robe, and that expressed the one hope and refuge of the soul in Christ by the words “he came to Jesus.” It reminded me of the lines on William Carey’s tomb:
“A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Thy kind arms I fall;
Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus, and my all.”
What is your mant?—We complain of wandering thoughts; we kneel at our devotions, and our thoughts go fluttering away from us like the sparrows that flit and twitter in the trees. The remedy for this is to have a want. Let us pause at the threshold of prayer as Jeanie Deans did at the door of the audience-room, laying her hand upon her heart. Let us, if we would present a petition at the throne of heavenly grace, feel the parchment to make sure it is there.