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Marriage and Divorce
10:1 Then Jesus left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan River. Again crowds gathered to him, and again, as was his custom, he taught them.
The Lord had by now completed his ministry in Galilee and moved into Judea in preparation for his entry into Jerusalem and eventual death. Just as he did in Galilee, he taught the crowds of people who gathered to him.
10:2 Then some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’
A group of Pharisees approached Jesus with a question about the legality of divorce. These men were experts in the law of Moses (Phil 3:5) and were trying to trap Jesus with a difficult question rather than seeking an answer. They hoped that Jesus might show a lack of moral values and compromise on Biblical ethics.
Sometimes believers are faced with similar testing questions from sceptics. Like the Pharisees these people are not genuinely seeking for answers; they want to make Christians look foolish. Our answers to such questions should always be taken from the word of God and if we are not sure of an answer it is best to admit this rather than make an unsuccessful attempt and so appear foolish.
10:3 He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’
Jesus threw the ball straight back into their court by asking them what Moses had written concerning divorce.
10:4 They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’
Note the wording ”Moses permitted” which suggests that Moses was making a concession for a particular reason when he allowed a man to make out a certificate of divorce and send his wife away (Deut. 24:1).
10:5 But Jesus said to them, ‘He wrote this commandment for you because of your hard hearts.
Jesus explained that the reason why this concession became necessary was the perverseness and hardness of heart of the people towards the things of God.
10:6-7 But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother,
Long before the law was given it was the plan and purpose of God to create humankind male and female (Gen. 1:27; Gen. 5:2). God ordained that a man should leave his parents and take a wife; being united to her in marriage (Gen. 2:24) for the rest of their lives (Rom. 7:2). The marriage ends at death, for there is no marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:30); except the “marriage” of the Lamb (Jesus) to his people (Rev. 19:7).
10:8 and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
By coming together the husband and wife cease to be separate people in the eyes of God; they become one flesh. This does not mean that they are no longer individual souls or that one or other's personality disappears, it means that they become one body with the husband as the head (1 Cor. 11:3).
10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’
Marriage is a sacred institution ordained by God; therefore the solemn charge that Jesus gives is also the answer to the Pharisees question in verse 2. When God has united two together, let no one separate or divide them. The seriousness of the wording here suggests that if anyone should try to separate them then they will fall into the hands of the living God and be punished according to his justice.
10:10 In the house once again, the disciples asked him about this.
This teaching of the Lord's disturbed the disciples. It was quite possible that most of them were married; certainly Peter was (Mark 1:30). They had been brought up to believe that if they wanted to they could dispose of their wives. Perhaps they felt that the words of Jesus were a threat to a privilege they thought they were entitled to. Like the Pharisees they could not see beyond the letter of the law to the Spirit of the law (Gal. 3:3-6). So when they were with Jesus they asked him to explain the matter further.
10:11-12 So he told them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’
The law said ‘you shall not commit adultery’ (Ex. 20:14), but Jesus added to this “whoever so much as looks at another woman with evil desires for her has already committed adultery” (Matt. 5:28). Here he says that if a man divorces his wife and marries someone else then this is adultery against his first wife (the same applies vice-versa, if the wife divorces her husband and remarries). In Matthew's account of this it records that Jesus said that the only legitimate reason for divorce is fornication (Matt. 19:9) God considers marriage to be so sacred that in Ephesians 5:24-33 the relationship between Christ and his church is likened to a marriage.
Children Important to Jesus
Turning from the subject of marriage and divorce, Jesus next deals with one of the results and purposes of marriage: children (Gen. 1:28). The other main purpose is fellowship according to Genesis 2:18.
10:13 Now people were bringing little children to him for him to touch, but the disciples scolded those who brought them.
Why did the disciples become so angry when the people brought their children to Jesus? They would have been well acquainted with Old Testament which describes God’s view of children in these words: “children are a heritage of the Lord” (Ps. 127:3); and they were allowed to be present at religious gatherings (2 Chr. 20:13).
In the New Testament, Jesus reveals that God has set angels to watch over the children (Matt. 18:10) and their praise to the Lord was received by him (Matt. 21:15). Whatever reasons the disciples had for sending the children away their parents knew why they had brought them: that Jesus might touch them and bring the blessing of God onto their lives.
10:14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Jesus saw the attitude of his disciples and was angered by their treatment of the children. He commands the disciples to allow the children to come to him, and explains that even little children may believe and so enter the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, recent surveys suggest that the majority of people who become Christians do so before their fifteenth birthday.
10:15 I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’
Only those who receive the kingdom of God in a childlike manner will be able to enter in. This requires a humbling ourselves; realising that like little children we are dependent on God for all that we have. Most importantly, God has provided the only way whereby we might be saved and enter heaven: through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
10:16 After he took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed them.
The Lord opened his arms to embrace and bless the children. They received from him what their parents had brought them for in spite of the obstacles put in the way by the disciples.
Seeking, Finding, Losing
10:17 Now as Jesus was starting out on his way, someone ran up to him, fell on his knees, and said, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
This verse (along with the verses in Matthew 19:16-21 and Luke 18:18-26) tells us a lot about the person who came to Jesus. The fact that he was running reveals his eagerness to find what he was seeking for; and his earnest desire to obtain it. His kneeling before the Lord indicates his humility and his addressing Jesus as “good teacher” shows his willingness to learn; that he came to Jesus with an open heart, ready mind to receive whatever teaching the Lord would give to him.
Yet there is something strange about his question. He asks how he might “inherit” eternal life. Other gospels reveal that this man was young, rich and a ruler. His use of the word “inherit” may indicate that he thought he could obtain eternal life in the same way that he had obtained his riches, by inheritance from his parents; or possibly he thought that he might obtain it by good works. There are many today who believe they can obtain favour from God because they have done good works, as this young man had. But an entrance into heaven cannot be obtained in that way (Eph. 2:8-9).
10:18 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Jesus answered the young man with a question of his own in order to direct his thoughts to the only one who is good, that is God. For if the young man were fully aware of what he is saying by addressing Jesus as “good” then he would know that he was addressing him as God.
10:19-20 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' The man said to him, ‘Teacher, I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since my youth.’
The Lord knew that this young man understood all the demands of the law and that he had endeavoured to keep them. Nevertheless, he had not found the assurance of eternal life which he needed (Rom. 3:20; Rom. 8:3). If he had, he would not have come to Jesus seeking for it.
10:21 As Jesus looked at him, he felt love for him and said, ‘You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
As Jesus looked on this man he saw something that caused his heart to reach out in love towards him. Was it his eagerness, earnestness, or his openness toward the things of God? Whatever it was, Jesus also saw that there was something lacking in his life. Jesus knew that wealth was the most important thing to him; so he challenges him: if he really wants what he is seeking for then he must give away all that he had to the poor. In return he would have an eternal treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). A similar attitude is necessary toward anything which we put before God in our hearts. Having disposed of his riches then the young man would be free to walk the path that Jesus would take him as his disciple.
10:22 But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.
This young man came seeking, found the answer he was looking for and yet he chose to keep his worldly goods that would perish, instead of grasping the opportunity to receive eternal life. This is the only man who is recorded as going away from Jesus sad. The Amplified N.T. says “his countenance fell and was gloomy, and he went away grieved and sorrowing, for he was ‘holding great possessions”. He was not willing to let go. Even after we have received eternal life, the Lord will continue to show us things in our lives that we put before him. He does this so that we might be willing to let them go and receive better, spiritual and eternal things in their place.
God of the Impossible
10:23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’
Although Jesus knew what the final outcome of this meeting with the young man would be, he still felt sorrow because of what the young man would lose. Turning to his disciples, he expressed this sorrow by telling them how hard it is for someone who has riches to enter the kingdom of God.
10:24 The disciples were astonished at these words. But again Jesus said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
The disciples were astounded at this remark because in those days a person who was rich was considered to be blessed and in favour with God.
Some translations prefer “how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God”, suggesting that it is not the fact of being rich but the action of loving riches which makes it hard for some to enter the kingdom.
10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’
It is so hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven that Jesus says it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Whether he meant an actual needle’s eye or the little gate set within the larger gate at the entrance to the city is not really important. The point he was making concerned the impossibility of it.
10:26 They were even more astonished and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’
This astounded the disciples even more, for if this was so, then who could be saved?
10:27 Jesus looked at them and replied, ‘This is impossible for mere humans, but not for God; all things are possible for God.’
Jesus had the answer. It was an impossible task for men but with God all things are possible. There is nothing that he cannot do. He has the power, strength and the ability – “to save to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:25); to make grace abound (2 Cor. 9:8); to fulfil promises (Rom. 4:21); to subdue all things (Phil 3:21); to guard the soul's treasure (2 Tim. 1:12); to keep from falling (Jude 1:24) and “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
Gain through Loss
10:28 Peter began to speak to him, ‘Look, we have left everything to follow you!’
Peter, as spokesman for the disciples, wanted to know, since they had left it all to follow the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 5:11), what were they going to get out of it?
10:29-30 Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much — homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.
God is a debtor to no man. No one gives up anyone, anything, or makes any sacrifice for the Lord's sake or the Gospel's without receiving in return, not just the same measure but with 10,000% interest (“a hundred times as much” actually indicates a return which cannot be measured). When we become his follower we become part of the household, the family of God, therefore we have countless brothers and sisters, mothers, children [spiritual], (Eph. 2:19) and besides all this persecution's as well (Luke 21:12), in this life; and most importantly of all “in the age to come, eternal life”.
10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’
The Lord’s ways are not our ways, and so he reverses the order of what people see as important. With Jesus, the last is first and the first is last. The disciples had been the first ones called to follow Jesus, but there would be many other disciples called after them who would be preferred before them.
Third Prediction of His Death and Resurrection
10:32 They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem. Jesus was going ahead of them, and they were amazed, but those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was going to happen to him.
The Lord commenced his final journey to Jerusalem, resolutely letting nothing deter him from reaching his goal (Luke 9:51). He was walking according to his Father's will and would soon become “the way” of salvation. Jesus, the good shepherd, led his disciples and they obediently followed. Even so, they were amazed or more correctly bewildered and afraid that he was heading to the place where they knew the religious leaders were waiting to take his life. It was like walking straight into a lion's den.
Perhaps the disciples had failed to understand the Lord's two previous predictions of his death; in any case, he reminds them of it again. It may have seemed to the disciples that he was walking into danger, but to Jesus who knew the plan of salvation he was walking ever closer to his final victory.
10:33-34 ‘Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and experts in the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him severely, and kill him. Yet after three days, he will rise again.
“We are going up” – the words reveal a certain determination. For the Lord there was no other way to go; he had to reach Calvary no matter what the cost. On reaching the city he knew he would be delivered to the chief priests and the Sanhedrin who would find him guilty and condemn him (Matt. 26:57-66). They would spit in his face, mock him (Matt. 26:67-68) and hand him over to the Romans who would further mock him, scourge him and put him to death (Matt. 27:26-31). But in all this they could not triumph over him for on the third day he would rise from the dead a victor over all his foes (Mark 16:6).
Today, Jesus Christ leads all his disciples, in many various ways, to follow a path of suffering as he did, with the same determination that he had. We cannot do this in our on strength but we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us (Phil. 4:13).
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Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark