The Gospel according to Mark

Chapter 10

10:1 The end of Chapter 9 included teaching given in Capernaum. Now Jesus has moved south into Judea through Samaria (Luke 17:11). He then crossed the Jordan (perhaps near Jericho) into Perea (harmonies of the Gospels usually locate at this point the teaching given in Luke 10:1-17:10).

10:2-4 Mark may have asked what Jesus taught about moral matters such as divorce. The Pharisees (as in 2:18, 24; 3:6; 7:1) were continually looking a way to have Jesus condemned. When they questioned Jesus, he asked them what was written in the law of Moses and they quoted "Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes a certificate of divorce, puts it into her hand, and sends her out of the house" (Deuteronomy 24:1).

10:5-9 Jesus did not immediately deny the patriarchal interpretation, which gave men the right to divorce any time they chose, but left women with no rights in marriage (except they had to be given a paper allowing them to marry another man). He said this was a human rule to take care of what went wrong due to human hardness of heart. But he went back to the intention of the three Persons of the Trinity, "Let us make humankind in our image" and the equal creation of men and women: "So God created human in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:26, 28). Then he gave this as the reason for the marriage text where the joining of a man and a woman results in them becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24, referred to in 1 Corinthians 6:16). Based on these two foundational texts Jesus then said that it was never God's intention that this one flesh oneness be divided by divorce.

10:10-12 "What did the disciples think about this extreme interpretation? Did Jesus explain what was wrong with divorce." Jesus interpreted adultery in terms of adulteration. It means the mixing of two ingredients that should not be mixed. Spiritual adultery was the adulteration of a relationship with God with a relationship with another god (Ezekiel 23:37, 43). When a divorce occurs the one body relationship of a marriage is divided and mixed with one or more other families. In our day the confusion for children when such mixing occurs is well documented. It is interesting that although the text we quoted from Deuteronomy 24:1 only allows the man to divorce his wife, here Jesus speaks of a woman divorcing her husband. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus put this in an even stronger form. "Anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery" (Matthew 5:32). Obviously an innocent woman, who is cruelly divorced, is not caused to commit adultery. What is meant is that all her hopes for a happy lifetime marriage are adulterated whether or not she marries again. Jesus makes the exception that if she has been promiscuous then the marriage is adulterated already (Matthew 5:32. This is discussed more fully in Adultery: An Exploration of Love and Marriage, chapters 4 & 5).

10:14-15 "You mentioned Jesus' strong teaching about child abuse, of which divorce is often one of the causes (9:42). How did Jesus relate to children?" It was astonishing to see how children related to him, and he was delighted to have parents bring them close to have him touch and bless them (10:16). On one occasion when the disciples thought this was causing a disturbance and tried to stop them, Jesus was indignant (the verb aganakteo means to be aroused, indignant). He said little children should not be stopped from coming to him. Mark may have asked "Why was Jesus so much in favor of children?" (in Greek paidion is a neuter noun, as if children were insignificant till they became adults). The reason Jesus gave was that the Kingdom of God belongs to the childlike. We might think of their ability to learn vast amounts of information and new skills. They can pick up four or five languages simultaneously and use the right one to each person when they meet. But we should also include their ability to love and be loved, to play, their creative imagination, and their freedom from prejudice (which they only learn later). All those are essential parts of life as children of God.

10:16 The Christian church has again and again been renewed by Jesus' delight in taking little children in his arms (the Greek enagkalizomai means to enfold in one's arms) and blessing them. There is still a terrible hazard of child abuse (as in 9:42), but the loss of the freedom to love and cuddle and enjoy children (as in our schools) may turn out to be a far bigger danger.

10:17 "Child abuse is a particular moral issue. What was the essence of Jesus' ethical teaching?" There was a man (Luke calls him a member of the Sanhedrin, Luke 18:18) who ran up and knelt at Jesus' feet. He called Jesus a good teacher, implying that he regarded him as a moral person. Then he asked the great question discussed by rabbis. What needed to be done to have eternal life? They assumed this was a question about moral rules.

10:18-21 First Jesus pointed out that no human can be intrinsically good. Perfection could only come from God. Jesus then listed the six commandments viewed as basic to ethics in most religions. And the man claimed he had always obeyed these. Mark may then have asked "Did that mean the man already had eternal life by being a moral person?" Peter described how with great love Jesus told him to sell his property, give it to the poor, and follow him. That would test whether the first part of the commandments which related to loving God was important to him. Eternal life has to do with treasure in heaven (see Matthew 6:19-21), and ethical behavior is the outcome of that.

10:22 "How did this obviously upright citizen react to that ?" He saw immediately that, although he was a moral person, his wealth was far more important to him than loving God. And he went away sadly.

10:23-25 "Did Jesus comment on what happened?" He said that a commitment to one's earthly wealth made it very hard to share in God's purposes in the Kingdom of Heaven. As usual he gave a parable picture to make his point. There is no way a camel could go through the eye of a needle. Some explain this by imagining there was a narrow gate in the walls of Jerusalem, and a camel had to be unloaded to squeeze through. The point would be that the man would have to free himself from his wealth to enter the Kingdom. It is more likely that Jesus was using extreme parabolic language (as in the words about cutting off one's foot or tearing out one's eye, Mark 9:45-47).

10:26-27 "What was the reaction of the disciples to that?" They were totally overwhelmed with astonishment (the Greek adverb perissoz meaning exceedingly, beyond measure, was combined with the passive of the verb ekplysso, to be amazed, astounded, overwhelmed). They wondered how by that standard anyone could ever be saved. Jesus seems to be leading the disciples into the life of the Spirit which would later be made specific at the last supper. No amount of human effort or ethical behavior can effect the heart change that is needed As Paul was later able to explain so clearly, we are not made right by ethical rules but by the Holy Spirit transforming us from within (Romans 3:28, 5:5, 7:4, 7:14-8:11).

10:28-30 Peter was still not able to grasp the teaching about heart change, and he suggested that his leaving everything and following Jesus must count for something. Jesus pointed out that there were certainly great rewards of Christian service in this life, but that was not the end. Later they would learn the life of the Spirit and the eternal life that resulted from it.

10:31 Jesus ended this teaching with another paradoxical statement. When God intervenes in the life of humans the unexpected happens. People who seem to ahead on the road get left behind, and some very unlikely characters turn out to be the greatest saints.

10:32-34 "Before we end this interview I would like to ask about the final events of Jesus' life as you experienced them." We knew something ominous was coming. At one point he was walking ahead of us, and we had a terrible sense of fear and foreboding. Then he took the twelve aside, and gave us the third announcement of his imminent death (as in 8:31, 9:31).

10:35-37 You mentioned a quarrel as to who would be the greatest among the twelve. Did that question arise again?" Not understanding what Jesus was saying, James and John (the other two in the inner circle, 5:37, 9:2) wanted to be sure they would have the best places in the Kingdom. Matthew indicates that it was the mother of James and John who wanted this special favor for her sons (Matthew 20:20-24).

10:38-40 Jesus asked if they could drink the cup of suffering and go through the baptism of fire he was facing (see 14:36). When they said they were willing and able to do that, Jesus said that each in their own way would suffer with him, but places in heaven would be assigned in due course. James was beheaded (Acts 12:1-2), Peter was imprisoned but escaped certain death (Acts 12:3-8). And the apostle John lived on (see John 20:21-23) to face persecution and exile on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9-11).

10:41-44 The other ten apostles were angry with James and John for trying to obtain the best places in the kingdom. But Jesus pointed out that rulers, kings, and dictators among the nations rule over their subjects by force and tyranny. But the greatness in his Kingdom was measured not by favoritism by those who served and became willing slaves of others (Paul caught this exactly in Philippians 2:5 - 11).

10:45 The verb lutroo means to free a captive by payment of a ransom, but it is also used more generally of freeing others from any kind of danger or death. In the Magnificat Mary used the word lutrosis (Luke 1:68-71) to describe how God freed his people from their enemies. In one model Jesus is using the noun lutron in this text to refer to the price Jesus would pay for our ransoming (from the wrath of the Father, or the ransom price demanded by Satan). In the model used on this website we prefer to translate " to give his life for the freeing of many." And that includes all the ways in which the Holy Spirit (poured out as a result of his death and resurrection, Acts 2:32, Romans 8:11) would free us from every kind of sin, frailty, and death. As Paul explained he also frees us to produce the fruit of the Spirit and exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and eventually to be perfected in love for the joys of heaven.

10:46 When they came to Jericho there was a large crowd moving through the city on their way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. There was a blind beggar named Bartimaeus who called out to him. When Matthew used Mark's account for his Gospel he noted that there were actually two blind men by the roadside begging (Matthew 20:29-30), and both were healed from blindness. It seems that Peter remembered the one named Bartimaeus (bar means son of) and his father Timaeus who were well known in the early church.

10:47 Blind Bartimaeus must have heard of Jesus' geneaology (given in Matthew 1:1 ff), and he had come to believe he was the Messiah. This was his opportunity to be healed. So, in spite of the objections of the crowd, he kept shouting out "Son of David." Jesus told people in the crowd to let him come nearer. Throwing off his cloak (his most valued possession) he got up from begging and came to Jesus. His request was very simple, "Let me see again." Jesus commended his faith, and having received his sight Bartimaeus joined the pilgrims up the steep road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

Chapter 11