Scriptures

Mark 10

Intorudction

‘Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again, crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ ‘What did Moses command you?’ he replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.’ Mark 10:1-12

At this time in His ministry Jesus went south to the region of Judea. In Mark’s writing of the ministry of Jesus, this was the only journey to Judea of the three possible journeys that Jesus made during His ministry to this area that was recorded by Mark.

Mark here recorded the final journey

From this chapter onward, Jesus focused on the cross. He prepared His disciples for His final confrontation with the religious leaders and His subsequent victory of the cross.

Jesus’ opponents decided to test Him with a hard question. They asked Him whether it was right to divorce. In their society, as in ours, there was much disagreement, even among religious people, as to whether or not it was right to divorce and, if so, under what circumstances.

Jesus answered their question by reminding them that in the beginning God created only one man and one woman. He intended for marriage to be a permanent union. Because God joins people together when they marry, it’s wrong for man to separate them.

Later He explained to the disciples that it’s not only wrong to divorce, but that a divorced person who remarries is committing adultery.

‘Divorce’ and ‘put or send away’ are not the same thing

A man who wanted to divorce his wife had to do two things. He had to write her a bill of divorcement and then send her away or put her away, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 / Mark 10:4.

A man who found that his wife had been unfaithful to him did not write her a bill of divorcement as she and the other man were stoned. Malachi 2:16 and Matthew 5:31-32 were all about men who were putting or sending away their wives without just cause.

Men were sending away their wives without writing a bill of divorcement even though their wives were not guilty of adultery. God hates the putting away

‘without divorce’

because it always involves sin. In one case, the sin of the wife for being unfaithful and in the other the sin of the husband for putting his wife away without just cause or a bill of divorcement.

The act of putting away a wife without a bill of divorcement is equivalent to separation only. The man and woman are still married if she was not guilty of adultery.

The Greek word used for

‘a bill of divorcement’

is ‘apostasion’ and it means something separative. The Greek word used for

‘divorce’, ‘put her away’

is ‘apoluo’ which means to free fully.

Note that in the New Testament there are two separate words used of two separate actions. I think it’s possible that some sincere people have kind of joined the two words together to make them mean the same thing when in fact they aren’t.

This is possibly because of some bad translations. Many times, the word ‘divorce’ has been translated in the Scripture when the word should be ‘put away’, you see this especially in the N.I.V. The Greek word, ‘apoluo’ ‘put away’ cannot mean the same as ‘apostasion’ ‘bill of divorcement’.

The Hebrew word for ‘divorce’ is ‘shalach’ which means to send away or put away. God hated the putting away of their first wife so that they could marry another woman. The man, therefore, was thinking selfishly, and not giving honour to his wife with whom he had been in a covenant relationship for many years, Ephesians 5:25-33 and so God hated this practice of divorce for such reasons.

In other words, divorcing wasn’t the real issue, it was the way they were divorcing, divorcing their wives without the use of the

‘Certificate of Divorce’

it was an illegal divorce. A woman couldn’t marry anyone else unless she had this certificate and if she did she would become an adulterer.

Does God hate divorce?

Malachi 2:16. No! He hated the way they were going about divorce. Remember that Moses gave instructions concerning the ‘Certificate of Divorce’, Deuteronomy 24:1-9. But that ‘Certificate of Divorce’ was given to bring the Israelites into conformity to God’s law concerning marriage, that one man be married to one woman for life, Matthew 5:31-32 / Matthew 19:3-10 / Mark 10:1-12.

Please note that a ‘Certificate of Divorce’ wasn’t needed when the spouse died, 1 Corinthians 7:39 nor was it needed when one of the married couple committed ‘fortification’ or ‘adultery’,

why?

Simply because the punishment was stoning to death, Exodus 20:14 / Deuteronomy 22:22 / Leviticus 20:10. This is what Jesus was trying to drive home to the Jews in Matthew 5:31-32, Matthew 19:3-10 and Mark 10:1-12.

‘People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.’ Mark 10:13-16

The disciples never seemed to want Jesus to be bothered, so they were constantly trying to keep certain kinds of people away from Him, Mark 10:46-52. In this case, it was children.

When Jesus saw that they were hindering the children from approaching Him, He was indignant and rebuked them. He said that the kingdom of God itself belongs to people who become like children. He took the young people into His arms and began to bless them. He always had time for children.

These children were simply brought to Jesus for blessing and prayer, a practice which was common in Israel. When the disciples hindered the little children from coming to Jesus, Mark records that Jesus was greatly displeased. He was greatly displeased because the children represented the nature of those who would accept His kingdom reign in their hearts.

‘As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.’ ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’ Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’ Mark 10:17-31

The young man who addressed Jesus here was rich. However, we must also remember that he was a ruler with some position in society. The positions for which James and John sought in the following case of Mark 10:35-45 is what this young ruler had but could not give up.

A rich young man ran up to Jesus requesting information on how to receive eternal life. Jesus first told him to keep the commandments, which the man said he had done. Then Jesus ordered him to sell all that he owned, give the proceeds to the poor, and start following Him. The man wanted eternal life, but not at that price.

He turned away, saddened

The problem with the young ruler, was not with his outward manifestation of religiosity, but with his heart. In order to come into a right relationship with God, this particular rich person had to relieve himself of that which emotionally kept him from dependence on God.

He was self-sufficient in his riches and self-confident in his performance of law from youth. He therefore felt that he didn’t need to trust in the grace of God.

Many follow in this young man’s steps. They desire eternal life, as long as they don’t have to make too many sacrifices. Jesus referred to these people when He remarked about how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter heaven.

He said that

‘it is easier to thread a camel through a needle than for a rich man to be saved’.

The disciples were shocked. The Lord explained that with God all things are possible, but that it is hard for rich people to go to heaven, because of the tendency to trust in material possessions and not in God. They believed that one’s wealth was a sign that God was working in one’s life. They were wrong.

The conclusion that righteousness was based on perfect keeping of the law of God was also wrong. No man can be justified before God by keeping law, for all sin. Galatians 2:16.

The lack of one thing

As Jesus talked to the rich man, He observed that he lacked only one thing: he only needed to get rid of his possessions. It became obvious that Jesus had properly diagnosed the man’s need, because the man was unwilling to do so. He indeed was valuing his possessions over the Lord.

To follow Jesus, we must give up anything in our life that is more important to us than He is. It is interesting that this man lacked only one thing. Some people have the idea that one sin is not all that bad.

They think that while they may be failing in one area, at least they serve the Lord faithfully in all the others. This story shows clearly that even one thing can keep a person from being accepted by God.

Is there one thing in your life that is separating you from faithfulness in the Lord’s service?

‘They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again, he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’ Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’ ‘We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’ When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Mark 10:32-45

For the third time, Jesus warned the disciples about what was going to happen when they got to Jerusalem. On the road to Jerusalem Jesus prepared the disciples for what was about to happen in all their lives. He talked here about His death and resurrection.

The occasion sparked an opportunity for James and John to reveal what was in their hearts. Since Jesus spoke of His departure from this world, James and John realised that leadership must be assumed.

The future of the disciples still rested in their misunderstanding concerning the kingdom reign of Jesus. They were still thinking that the kingdom would be something of this world, Acts 1:6.

And because they were thinking of the reestablishment of national Israel, their understanding of leadership in the kingdom was twisted.

Jesus gave a detailed description of the suffering He would experience there in Jerusalem but meanwhile, James and John were imagining a different scenario. They asked Jesus to agree to do whatever they would request. Jesus asked them what they wanted.

He wasn’t going to sign a blank cheque by agreeing before they made the request. They replied that they wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand, that is, they wanted the chief positions in His administration.

Jesus responded by asking if they could drink the cup He was going to drink or be baptised with His baptism, and they said they could. Jesus was referring to His sufferings which were often spoken of as a cup of agony that He would have to drink, Mark 14:36 and as a baptism in pain, Luke 12:50.

They had no clue as to His real meaning, but they enthusiastically accepted the challenge. Jesus then replied that He didn’t have the authority to grant their request, because He wasn’t the One who assigned the positions of honour in the kingdom.

The other disciples were incensed. James and John had gotten the jump on them, they themselves wished to have the highest positions and resented the fact that the sons of Zebedee had requested them first. Jesus took some time to define what greatness in the kingdom really meant, He said that in human affairs, whether government or business, the greatest have the most authority.

But, He explained, it isn’t that way in the kingdom of God. Rather, the greatest is the one who humbles himself most and serves most. He pointed to Himself as the model. He hadn’t come to be served, but to serve and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for others.

True greatness

We still desperately need these lessons of Jesus. Many, even in religion, are seeking to be great by trying to gain honour, glory and power. Churches are infested with ‘politicians’ who want the limelight and who vie for positions of maximum control and authority. We should be ashamed.

Jesus was born in a stable outside a small town. He lived His life as a village carpenter and itinerant preacher. He accumulated neither riches nor worldly power.

Yet, today, many of His self-proclaimed followers seek and promise the very things He rejected, as they pursue higher and higher positions in churches. It is hard to imagine that Jesus would feel at home in their costly cathedrals.

It is impossible to believe that He would preach the

‘gospels of health and wealth’

so popular today. Jesus said the way to true greatness was the road of service and suffering.

‘Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means ‘son of Timaeus’), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So, they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.’ Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus passed through Jericho, a blind beggar cried out. The crowds tried to silence him, thinking that the Lord should not be bothered with such unimportant people, but Jesus called the blind man to come to Him and healed him.

The beggar began to follow Him. Few rich men followed the Lord, Mark 10:17-22, but many of the poor and downtrodden did. Matthew 20:29-34 mentions that there were two blind men. In Mark’s account of this healing, he mentions only the outspoken blind man of the two who approached Jesus. Jesus, Son of David was a common Jewish term that was used in reference to the Messiah.

On His way to the cross, Jesus received this proclamation of who He was. He was the Prophet, the Seed of woman who was the fulfilment of all messianic prophecies, Genesis 3:15 / Luke 24:44. It’s interesting to note that these blind men recognised who Jesus was, but the theologians of Jerusalem who claimed to know the Scriptures couldn’t understand what they clearly saw.

Though many warned this blind man to be quiet, he cried out even louder his belief that Jesus was the Son of David. He cried out his belief that Jesus was the Messiah. His outcry would be the work of all disciples after the events of Acts 2.

Since Jesus fulfilled all prophecies concerning the Messiah, then He is the Messiah. Their plea would be that Israel accept Him as the Messiah.

When did this happen?

According to Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 10:46-52 the miracle took place when they were ‘leaving’ Jericho. According to Luke 18:35-43 it appears the miracle took place as the Lord was ‘approaching’ Jericho.

At that time, there were two cities named Jericho, the city destroyed by Joshua, Joshua 6:24-26 which was rebuilt and destroyed several times and one subsequently built a little further west by Herod the Great. The ruins of these are still evident. The curing of the blind men could have taken place after the Lord had passed through the tell of old Jericho and before he entered Herod’s Jericho.

Bible critics point out that the accounts of the healing of the blind men at Jericho as recorded by Matthew and Mark on the one hand, and Luke on the other, reveal ‘an apparent discrepancy’. The verses we should read are, Matthew 20:29 / Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35.

Matthew tells us that as the Lord was ‘leaving Jericho’ there were two blind men sitting by the roadside. Mark’s account also states that, as He was ‘leaving Jericho’ Jesus healed a blind beggar, who Mark identifies as ‘Bartimaeus’.

He translates this name for his readers as ‘son of Timaeus’. Luke describes the healing of a blind man occurring as Jesus ‘approached Jericho’.

There are two questions that call for answers, and they are

1. Were two bind men healed, or only one?

2. Did the healing occur on leaving Jericho or on entering Jericho?

It’s sometimes suggested that in order to resolve the perceived ‘conflict’ in these accounts we should assume that these verses record two separate events, but I believe that this explanation is unnecessary.

How many blind men were there?

I have no difficulty accepting that there were, as Matthew states, two blind men healed. This is stated so plainly that there can be no argument. The reason why Mark specifically names just one of them, Bartimaeus, is that he was apparently well-known in the Jericho region.

This is suggested by the fact that the Greek text of Mark 10:46 translates quite literally as

‘the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus the blind beggar’.

The naming of the father in this way probably indicates that he was a man of some standing in Jericho.

Notice, also, the use of the definite article,

‘the blind beggar’,

not

‘a blind beggar’.

There would be little point in naming the father and son in this way, if they were unknown in the community. This also suggests that the healing of Bartimaeus was given more prominence than that of his blind, anonymous companion, because he was a familiar figure in Jericho.

It was quite common for beggars, whether blind or otherwise disabled, to become familiar figures in the towns and cities in which they lived.

We have examples of this in John 9, which records the healing of another blind man, and also in the account of the curing of the lame man, mentioned in Acts 4. Both were clearly very familiar figures.

Again, it may even be that Bartimaeus was the more vociferous, more vocal, of the two blind men in clamouring for the attention of Jesus. This seems to be suggested in Mark’s account.

Where did the miracle occur?

Remember that Matthew and Mark say, ‘leaving Jericho’ whilst Luke says, ‘approaching Jericho’. Now this appears to be a very clear contradiction. Is it possible to reconcile the two accounts? Well, I suggest that, if we spend a short time looking at Jericho’s history and geography, we shall find it easier to resolve the problem.

‘Old Jericho’

Although this event is one of only two references to Jericho found in the Gospels, we must remember that it was a city which, by that time, had already existed for many centuries. This is a fact firmly established by archaeological research.

The first excavation of the Jericho site was carried out by a team of German archaeologists in the years 1907 to 1909, and their work was followed by an expedition by the British School of Archaeology led by Professor John Garstang, which lasted from 1929 to 1936, and which was followed in 1952 by that of the American archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon.

The latest, and I believe the last, work on what is known as ‘The Garstang Trench’ was done in 1957, after which the political climate in Palestine virtually ended the archaeological work of foreign nationals.

Many Jericho’s

However, the most important result to emerge from this work was the discovery of the earliest stratified levels revealing human occupation, ever found at any archaeological site anywhere in the world.

The mound at Ancient Jericho has revealed periods of human occupation down to a level of 45 feet, and scholars now believe that the top, most evidence of human occupation of the site occurred about 1700 B.C., whilst the lowest remains, found on the bedrock of the trench, are thought to date from 7000 B.C.

Remember, that the current site of ancient Jericho is actually a mound that ‘grew’ through thousands of years. It ‘grew’ simply because when the original settlement built on the bedrock, was abandoned, those who later resettled the site did not clear it but merely built upon it.

In this way, the level of the occupied site was raised, strata upon strata, until it became the mound it is today. The various levels can be clearly seen on the sides of the 45-feet deep trench.

This means that Jericho was an ancient Canaanite city long before it was destroyed by Joshua, Joshua 4:24 and there is evidence that, after its destruction by the Israelite army, in the course of its long history, the city was destroyed several times. After the city had been conquered it was given to the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:21.

Later, during the time of the Judges, it was occupied by the Moabites, led by their King Eglon, at which time it was known as ‘The City of the Palms’ Judges 1:16 / Judges 3:13.

Later still, we read in 1 Kings 6:14, that it was ‘rebuilt’ by Hiel of Bethel, in the time of King Ahab. And it was yet again destroyed at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, and later rebuilt once more.

Between the Testaments

It was during the Inter-Testamental Period that Jericho came under Roman control and was governed by a ‘Captain’, ‘Strategos’, in Latin, and during its time under the Romans, the city was given to Cleopatra, by Mark Anthony, and she ‘leased’ it to Herod the Great for 200 talents.

King Herod then built a new city south of the old one, complete with a castle, an amphitheatre, a hippodrome, and beautiful gardens with various water-features, and Jericho became his winter-residence. In fact, this is where he died in 4 B.C. This city, known as ‘Herodian Jericho’, later suffered the fate of earlier cities. It was destroyed by the Emperor Vespasian, in 68 A.D. But the important fact is that this city, virtually adjoining the old site, was the city which Jesus knew.

We could continue to follow Jericho’s turbulent history through succeeding centuries, turbulent, because it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. Moslems destroyed in 638 A.D. Egyptian soldiers destroyed it in 1840. In 1871, it was destroyed by fire. And after each destruction it was rebuilt.

Jesus and Jericho

But, although it would be interesting to study this later history, what concerns us at the moment is the fact that the miraculous healing occurred when Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem for the last time, after leaving Galilee in the north. Matthew 19:1.

Jericho was the last halt for pilgrims when they travelled to The City of David from Galilee and Perea. They came by way of Jericho, to avoid passing through Samaria, and Jesus, descending from the north, would first enter and pass through what archaeologist’s call ‘Canaanite Jericho’ that is our ‘old Jericho’, where the ‘Garstang Trench’ has been excavated, and he would then enter ‘Herodian Jericho’.

In other words, there was a point at which he left the ruins of the ancient city and passed into the modern city built by Herod. When we take into consideration the geographical proximity of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ cities, it is not difficult to reconcile the statements made by the Gospel writers, He was ‘leaving’ Canaanite Jericho and ‘entering’ Herodian Jericho.

The Gospel records, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, contain no contradictions when we take into consideration such matters as their geographical and historical setting.

Summary

Jesus accepted humble people, even though the disciples tried to turn them away. He accepted the man who worked for Him but wasn’t in His personal company. He welcomed the children, He invited the blind beggar, He rejected those we might have accepted, a rich ruler with so much to offer, and all those who sought position and greatness.

The great one in the kingdom is the servant.

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