Mark 10:23-31 God Makes Salvation Possible.

Mark 10:23-31 God Makes Salvation Possible.

The previous man was an example of “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 23 vv. 17-22 Cf. 4:19; Mt. 19:23-30; Lk. 18:24-30). Jesus also said that those who put their trust in riches could be likened unto a camel going through the eye of a needle (vv. 24-25 Cf. Job 31:24-28; Pss. 52:7; 62:10; Pr. 11:28; Mt. 13:22; I Tim. 6:17). Some have speculated that this is a reference to a gate entrance to a city, where the camel would have to bow down to get through, but it is more likely that Jesus sought to depict how impossible it is for anyone to do this for themselves. This is why the disciples wondered among themselves as to who then could be saved, and Jesus’ response (v. 26). “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (v. 27 Cf. Job 42:2). Salvation is impossible for any human being, it is only possible as a sovereign act of God (Cf. Lk. 1:37; Eph. 2:8-9). It would seem that Peter may have thought that he and his fellow disciples had chosen to follow Jesus on their own. They had left all to follow Jesus (v. 28).

However, Jesus makes clear that all who follow him will have a hundredfold more in following him than they would without doing so – albeit with persecutions, but also eternal life (vv. 29-30 Cf. II Chr. 25:9; I Th. 3:3; II Tim. 3:12; I Pet. 4:12-13). Perhaps the disciples still had the lingering pride that was present when they discussed who among themselves would be the greatest (9:33-37), and they were given the example of infants. In that instance Jesus said, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (9:35). It may also be the case that what Jesus is referring to in verse 31 is the reality that many among the nation of Israel, who first received the oracles of God, and the blessings of the covenant, would in fact not ultimately receive the substance. Matthew appears to have expanded on the same words he records at 19:30, with what he follows with at 20:16. “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.” So also Luke makes the same reference to the final judgment (13:30). Humble faith and service are the marks of those chosen.

Mark 10:17-22 Covetousness.

Mark 10:17-22 Covetousness.

The man in this passage thought that inheriting eternal life was conditional on his good works. He also saw Jesus in this light, as someone whom he thought had this same outlook, and therefore could help him discover if there was yet something he needed to do (v. 17). The first thing Jesus did was to confront the man about the view he had of him. Jesus claimed equality to be God, and eventually this claim would lead to the cross. Here he gave this man the opportunity to confess that Jesus was in fact God in the flesh (v. 18). Instead, the man no longer referred to Jesus as ‘good’ but just as ‘Teacher’ (v. 20). All people must begin by determining who Jesus is, and committing their lives to him, if they wish to inherit eternal life.

The man claimed that he had kept the commandments which Jesus had recited – the ones pertaining to one’s relationship to other human beings, except for the command – “You shall not covet” (v. 19). As with the apostle Paul, this one command undid the man to his core (Rom. 7:7). Jesus commanded him to sell all he had and give to the poor, and to take up his cross and to follow him (v. 21). However, rather than reading that this man obeyed, we read that he “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 22). It doesn’t say that the man was a robber, nor that he coveted what others had, rather it says that he was saddened because “he had great possessions.”

The man coveted his own possessions more than his desire to “inherit eternal life.” Jesus was telling the man to repent and put his total faith in him. This was something he could not do. Sorrow is just an emotion which often comes instead of repentance. Not only was the man’s understanding of Jesus wrong, but he really didn’t want to do that one thing which was necessary for him to inherit eternal life – repent. It is interesting that the man would also describe the possession of eternal life as that which is inherited. Perhaps he gained his wealth through inheritance. If so, he should have understood that an inheritance is a gift, not something he had gained by his own work.

Mark 10:13-16 Blessed Children Of The Kingdom Of God.

Mark 10:13-16 Blessed Children Of The Kingdom Of God.

The blessing of little children here, reiterates the point Jesus made when the disciples were disputing among themselves as to who among them might be the greatest (9:33-37). To be blessed by Jesus was certainly more than the often flippant way we regard being blessed. The blessing of Jesus was here associated with those who receive the kingdom. It was the blessedness of the covenant. As was noted in the previous passage, these were infants who are described as being of the kingdom of God, but not yet old enough to make confession themselves. They had been brought to Jesus, likely by their parents. A little one knows their utter dependency on another for their very life, and on this one they trust. This is what is required to be a citizen of the kingdom of God – knowing one’s total dependence upon the Lord, and trusting solely in him. We are all children of the kingdom not through our own efforts, but because we have been touched by the Lord.

Mark 10:1-12 Marriage, Divorce, And Adultery.

Mark 10:1-12 Marriage, Divorce, And Adultery.

Jesus and his disciples reenter the predominantly Jewish territory of Judea, including Jerusalem, and the path to his death and resurrection (v. 1a). “And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. The Pharisees came and asked Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ testing him” (v. 1b-2 Cf. Mt. 19:1-9). Some things never change – men ask questions about the law to know what they can get away with. However, the Pharisees, like many religious leaders today, go a step further and in this case asked the question with the intent of testing Jesus. Jesus did not contradict what he had given to Moses, and so he asked them if they knew what Moses had written (v. 3). Incidentally, since their answer is based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4, and Jesus does not dispute their reference, it is clear that they were all in agreement that this was through Moses. Jesus’ answer tells us something about some of the differences we see between the creation ordinances, and what was later on allowed in the process of time, due to the sinfulness of humanity (Gen. 1:27; 5:2).

Divorce had become a reality in the fallen condition, so men were commanded to guard it by law (v. 4). It was because of the hardness of men’s hearts that a commandment was issued to guard against abuse (v. 5). Something similar occurred with polygamy, men were having sexual relations with many women, so it was guarded by the requirement for marriage, though not the creation pattern of one man and one woman – the two becoming one flesh (vv. 5-8 Cf. Gen. 2:24; I Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31), and those God brought together, man was not to separate (v. 9). Divorce was and is serial polygamy. However, part of the command of Moses was that once divorced, the original divorcees were not to remarry – so there was added this prohibition. Divorce without grounds did not cease to make a person an adulterer, the certificate merely guarded against abuse, such as remarrying the original spouse (vv. 10-12). Elsewhere Jesus would teach about divorce when there was an innocent party (Mt. 5:31-32; 19:8-9).

Mark 9:42-50 Seasoned With Fire And Salt.

Mark 9:42-50 Seasoned With Fire And Salt.

Mark has just noted how Jesus declared babes or infants as ideal examples of citizens in the kingdom of God, and to refuse them is to refuse him and the Father, and the means of blessing to them (vv. 38-41). Now Jesus declares that any who cause one of these little ones to stumble in this regard, would be better off if a milestone were tied around their neck, and they were thrown into the sea (v. 42). One’s eternal destiny should be our highest priority (v. 43), because hell is a place where torments, including the physical, will not end (v. 44), and as a fire which cannot be quenched (vv. 45-48 Cf. Is. 66:24). To this end he quotes from the prophet Isaiah three times – that at the mouth of two or three witnesses the word is established, and matters of life and death are confirmed (Dt. 17:6; 19:15; II Cor. 13:1). This is in fact a biblical principle of interpreting scripture, and in this case Jesus confirms the matter in no uncertain terms. Jesus confirms this judgement with respect to the work of our hands, the walk of our lives, and that which we look upon.

There will be a time of “seasoning” with fire and salt, when a judgment will take place which will last forever (v. 49). All the sacrifices offered under the old covenant were to be seasoned with salt, such that the LORD’s people were not to allow the salt of the covenant of their God to be lacking (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24), with the covenant itself called “a covenant of salt” (Nu. 18:19). Salt refers to the certainty of the covenantal word, a confirmation as it were (II Chr. 13:5). In this light, Paul viewed our speech as a sacrifice we are called upon to season with salt. Fire is also described as a seasoning – also speaking to a sacrifice made ready for consumption. The KJV translates halizo as ‘salted’ with fire and salt, but the context clearly makes the NKJV a closer rendering, even so Matthew 5:13. Salt in this case preserves the covenant, and shows those who are thus preserved in it. “Salt is a preservative. Jesus is telling His disciples to use humility and service to preserve the peace of the church, rather than dividing it through a desire to be great (v. 34)” (NGSB 1581).

Mark 9:38-41 “For he who is not against us is on our side.”

Mark 9:38-41 “For he who is not against us is on our side.”

Two things stand out in John’s words here – they saw someone who was not following them, casting out demons, but this person did so in the name of Jesus (v. 38). It wasn’t the bare act of casting out demons, rather it was being done by someone who shared their beliefs about Jesus, which meant accepting Jesus entire theological perspective (v. 39). Jesus made clear, using all of the Hebrew scriptures, that he came to fulfill all that was written of him. This was a thoroughgoing confession, one which many so-called Christian organizations deny. However, this person was not physically following Jesus and his close disciples. The difference here is not one of theology, but of personalities, approaches, styles, and locations.

It is no different than the unique writing styles that we find among the biblical writers, and yet the message is the same. God employs the unique talents of all his children, for his cause and kingdom. The disciples should have been thankful that there were other messengers being raised up to reap the harvest. When word and deed are done in Jesus’ name, he works his work through the means of many. “For he who is not against us is on our side” (v. 40). It could be something as simple as offering them a cup of water in Jesus’ name, because they also believed that he was and is the Christ, and they would be rewarded (v. 41). We also must be thankful for all those who share this same belief, though they labour differently than we do.

Mark 9:33-37 “Who would be the greatest?”

Mark 9:33-37 “Who would be the greatest?”

Around the time that Muhammad Ali went from being Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., he “converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay, which he called his “slave name,” to Muhammad Ali (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Ali). This he did even though “he was named for his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr.(1912–1990), who himself was named in honor of the 19th-century Republican politician and staunch abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay.” Some speculate that the name Cassius goes back to the opponent of Caesar, who would later commit suicide, and “also shown in the lowest circle of hell in Dante‘s Inferno as punishment for betraying and killing Caesar.” Pride comes before a downfall (Pr. 16:18).

Even in jest, this clearly is not to be the sentiment of a Christian. Jesus alone is the greatest and King of the world and all things. It is not surprising that Cassius would then change his name. Jesus’ close disciples disputed who among them as to who would be the greatest, betraying the level of ignorance that they still had at this point (vv. 33-34). However, this was the philosophy of the world, and still is for many. To suggest that the greatest is the servant of all, is for many laughable (v. 35). What is more, Jesus “took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me’” (vv. 36-37).

A little child here is “paidion…an infant or half-grown boy or girl” (Strong’s). Although teknia refers exclusively to infants, and paidia can refer to infants or half-grown children, in this context paidion (repeated at 10:13-15), is modified in Luke’s account by his use of brephos, which also only ever refers to an infant or babe (18:15-16). There can be no mistaking the fact that Jesus regarded infants or babes as examples of those who are citizens of his kingdom, and he blessed them as such, long before they could utter words of confession. It ought therefore to be shocking that so-called Christian churches bar infants of covenant members from baptism or the Lord’s own supper of blessing! By implication, not to receive such in the manner the Lord himself has prescribed is to not receive him or the Father.

What is it about an infant or babe that makes them the perfect example of what constitutes a true citizen of the kingdom? For one thing, they know their utter dependency on another for their very life. Secondly, they trust those under whose care they rest. These are the hallmarks of the true child of grace. Our salvation is all of grace, as is our ongoing life. A true child knows their utter dependency on God, and looks continually to him for all his mercies. It is such who understand that we are to likewise serve him and others, even as Jesus has served us and continues to serve us. Do we aspire to greatness? Then we must employ whatever gifts and means that the Lord has given each one of his, including to pray for his kingdom to come, and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Cf. Mt. 6:10; Lk. 11:2).

Mark 9:30-32 The Central Message.

Mark 9:30-32 The Central Message.

Jesus and his disciples continued travelling through the gentile area of Galilee, but at this point “He did not want anyone to know it. For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day’” (vv. 30-31). The disciples, along with the vast majority of the people, including the religious leaders, did not understand that the Anointed One, the Messiah, had to first suffer and offer himself up as a priestly sacrifice, before he could begin his reign as king. Of course, they had already accepted that he was the Anointed prophet, the first in order of his threefold office as the Christ. However, even after again teaching them concerning his death and resurrection on the third day, his closest disciples “did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him” (v. 32). Luke makes clear that this was hidden from them at this time, proving that God must enable one to perceive the truth (9:44 Cf. 18:34).

Sometimes the knowledge of certain historical facts, especially those which have yet to take place, are best kept in secret from those who would not understand the significance of the events. Jesus death would be no ordinary one, and certainly his resurrection would be unique. As with all the events of salvation history, they are historical facts, but they are also wrought with profound spiritual meaning, and occurring, as Paul also pointed out, “according to the scriptures” (I Cor. 15:4). Jesus spoke of his betrayal as being then presently active, for he knew what his enemies were conspiring against him, and he knew they would kill him (v. 31a). However, he also knew that after three days he would rise from the dead (v. 31b). The reason that there is hope for sinners in the death of Christ is because it is followed by the resurrection. The resurrection was the sign that the sacrifice of himself would be accepted by the Father for the sins of his people, and the resurrection of the new life to be received.

Mark 9:14-29 “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

Mark 9:14-29 “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

When they returned to the other disciples, “He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them” (v. 14). For some reason the people were amazed to see Jesus, on the other hand Jesus was concerned with what the scribes were discussing with them (vv. 15-16). It would seem that they may have been discussing why the boy, possessed of an evil spirit, could not be healed by the disciples (vv. 17-18). Jesus’ response makes clear that the issue was a matter of faith, namely that generation that had none (v. 19). Upon meeting Jesus, the boy went into convulsions, and we learn that he had been this way from his childhood, the spirit seeking his destruction (vv. 20-22). Then Jesus got to the crux of the matter – if the father would believe for his son, “all things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23).

It is at this point that the man utters what has become very famous words – “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (v. 24). The man had been granted just enough belief to know he needed the Lord’s help to believe fully. The man had to be brought to the place of desperation for the life of his son, for him to recognize his own need of the Saviour. Upon the man’s request Jesus commanded the unclean spirit, who was deaf and dumb, to come out of the boy, never to return (v. 25). The boy symbolizes the condition of all human beings. We need the Lord to help us believe, that we would stop being deaf and dumb to him and his word. Initially the people thought the boy was dead, because he was no longer controlled by that which was evil and unclean, and this is true of all who come to faith in Jesus as Lord (v. 26).

We die to that which is unclean and evil, and live by faith in him – death comes before life. It is Jesus who heals us and reaches out his hand to help us up to live (v. 27). When Jesus and his close disciples entered a house and were private, they asked him why they could not do what he did, and this is when they and we learn, that there are times when prayer and fasting are called for. The boy’s father knew the intensity of what was involved, because it concerned his own loved one. There are times when this kind of focused intensity is required, but we also learn from this story that we also need the Lord to increase our faith. The father likely had not eaten for days, for he could think of nothing but the healing of his son, and finally he prayed that the Lord would heal his own unbelief – fasting and prayer.

Mark 9:1-13 The Transfiguration.

Mark 9:1-13 The Transfiguration.

Jesus made abundantly clear that the presence of the kingdom of God with power was not off in some far distant future. There were some standing before him who would “not taste death” until they saw it. It was far enough away that some might taste death, but close enough that some would not. It would occur in that generation in which he spoke (v. 1). Jesus had just taught his disciples that any who desired to come after him must take up their cross and follow him. This was before his accursed death (8:34-38), but this was after he predicted his own death and resurrection. Clearly the coming of the kingdom with power refers to this context – the death and resurrection of the Christ, and his ascension to the right hand of the Father to begin his messianic reign.

Some of the disciples were about to have a foretaste of that soon coming ascension in the transfiguration. Mark wrote that “after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them” (v. 2). “After six days” may refer to the intervening time between the Sabbaths, but of this we can only speculate, since Luke states that it was “about eight days.” The word ‘about’ tells us that this was not meant to be an exact number but an estimate, with Matthew and Luke picking different start and end times (Lk. 9:28). In any case, Mark records that Jesus’ “clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as a launderer on earth can whiten them” (v. 3). Luke indicates that this happened as Jesus prayed (9:29).

Mathew also commented on Jesus face which “shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (17:2 Cf. Lk. 9:29). Elijah, as no doubt representative of the prophets, and Moses the law, appeared with Jesus and talked with him (v. 4). Luke refers to the presence of Elijah and Moses as their appearing in glory, no doubt referring to the well known Glory-Presence of the LORD God, and that “Peter and those with him…saw His glory” (v. 32), so that they regarded this as also Jesus’ glory. However, it would appear that they did not fully understand the gravity of this Glory-Presence, for immediately they were separated from Jesus, Moses, and Elijah and the glory, by the cloud of the Glory-Presence. It was from this cloud which surrounded them, that the Father bore witness to the Son.

Jesus was in a very unique sense the Father’s beloved Son, whom they were to hear (v. 7 Cf. Lk. 9:35)! Luke also states that they discussed Jesus coming death (9:31), the necessity of which Jesus had been pressing home to his disciples for some time. At this point Mark records that Peter simply referred to Jesus as ‘Rabbi’ (v. 5), and he offered to erect tabernacles for them “because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid” (v. 6). When the Glory-Presence departed, along with the cloud, the disciples were alone with Jesus as before (v. 8). “Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (v. 9). Clearly this refers to the coming of the kingdom of God with power.

Part of the reason for this delay was the fact that the disciples didn’t even understand what Jesus meant by “rising from the dead” (v. 10). However, now that they had seen the appearance of Elijah they do ask Jesus why the scribes said that he must appear before the coming of the Messiah, and yet here he was appearing after Jesus advent (v. 11 Cf. Mal. 4:5). There were two conflicting views about the Messiah. The apostate Jewish leadership could not accept the scriptural testimony that the Messiah must first suffer and die before he began his reign. They had Elijah in the person of John preaching a baptism of repentance, the forgiveness of which depended on the Anointed One’s priestly sacrifice of Himself (v. 12). They would do to him as “they wished,” but in doing so they helped fulfill what was written of Him (v. 13).