When Jesus had completed these teachings, he left Galilee and crossed the region of Judea on the other side of the Jordan.
Great crowds followed him there, and he healed them.
One day the Pharisees were badgering him: "Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?"
He answered, "Haven't you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female?
And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh - no longer two bodies but one.
Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart."
They shot back in rebuttal, "If that's so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?"
Jesus said, "Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hardheartedness, but it is not part of God's original plan.
I'm holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery."
Jesus' disciples objected, "If those are the terms of marriage, we're stuck. Why get married?"
But Jesus said, "Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn't for everyone.
Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked - or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you're capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it."
One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off.
But Jesus intervened: "Let the children alone, don't prevent them from coming to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these."
After laying hands on them, he left.
Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
Jesus said, "Why do you question me about what's good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you."
The man asked, "What in particular?" Jesus said, "Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie,
honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself."
The young man said, "I've done all that. What's left?"
"If you want to give it all you've got," Jesus replied, "go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me."
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn't bear to let go.
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God's kingdom?
Let me tell you, it's easier to gallop a camel through a needle's eye than for the rich to enter God's kingdom."
The disciples were staggered. "Then who has any chance at all?"
Jesus looked hard at them and said, "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it."
Then Peter chimed in, "We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?"
Jesus replied, "Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel.
And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields - whatever - because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life.
This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.
"God's kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.
They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.
"Later, about nine o'clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed.
He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage.
At five o'clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, 'Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?
' "They said, 'Because no one hired us.' "He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
"When the day's work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, 'Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.'
"Those hired at five o'clock came up and were each given a dollar.
When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar.
Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager,
'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.'
"He replied to the one speaking for the rest, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn't we?
So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you.
Can't I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'
"Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first."
Jesus, now well on the way up to Jerusalem, took the Twelve off to the side of the road and said,
"Listen to me carefully. We are on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death.
They will then hand him over to the Romans for mockery and torture and crucifixion. On the third day he will be raised up alive."
It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request.
"What do you want?" Jesus asked. She said, "Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand."
Jesus responded, "You have no idea what you're asking." And he said to James and John, "Are you capable of drinking the cup that I'm about to drink?" They said, "Sure, why not?"
Jesus said, "Come to think of it, you are going to drink my cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that's not my business. My Father is taking care of that."
When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers.
So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads.
It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.
Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.
That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served - and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage."
As they were leaving Jericho, a huge crowd followed.
Suddenly they came upon two blind men sitting alongside the road. When they heard it was Jesus passing, they cried out, "Master, have mercy on us! Mercy, Son of David!"
The crowd tried to hush them up, but they got all the louder, crying, "Master, have mercy on us! Mercy, Son of David!"
Jesus stopped and called over, "What do you want from me?"
They said, "Master, we want our eyes opened. We want to see!"
Deeply moved, Jesus touched their eyes. They had their sight back that very instant, and joined the procession.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)