1-2 The Pharisees again tried to test Jesus by asking Him a difficult question. Their aim was not to learn the truth, but to make Jesus say something by which they could condemn Him. By asking a question about divorce, they hoped to stir up Herod’s anger against Jesus, so that he might do to Jesus what he had done to John the Baptist (Mark 6:16-17). They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3-4 Very often Jesus answered such questions by asking another question. He asked the Pharisees what the law of Moses (the Jewish law) said about divorce.
The law said that if a man wanted to divorce his wife, he should write out a certificate of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). This was written in order to protect the rights of the woman, not to justify divorce. The certificate of divorce gave the woman certain legal rights, such as the right to marry again.
5 Moses wrote the divorce law because men were putting away their wives without good cause. They were separating what God had joined together (verse 9). Men’s hearts had become hardened against both God and their wives.
According to Matthew’s account, Jesus said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives becuase your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Matthew 19:8).
6-8 Jesus then described how God made men and women (Genesis 1:27), and intended that they should leave their parents and join together as husband and wife and become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). A man and his wife are closer together than parents and their children. If it is wrong for parents to desert their children, it is even more wrong for a husband to desert his wife.
9 Therefore, God’s intention was that husband and wife should never be divorced. Marriage was established by God; therefore, He is never pleased when a marriage is broken up.
10-12 Then Jesus gave a new teaching. According to the Jewish law, only a woman committed adultery. A husband could go off with another woman and it was not considered adultery. Thus the law did not treat men and women equally.
But according to Jesus’ teaching, a man is also guilty of adultery if he goes off with another woman. In marriage, husband and wife have equal responsibilities and equal rights. Even if the husband or wife fills out a certificate of divorce before marrying someone else, it is still adultery in God’s sight. God’s law is much higher than man’s law.
According to Matthew 5:32 and Luke 16:18, Jesus also taught that if any man, even a single man, married a divorced woman, he committed adultery. The same rule would apply to a single woman who marries a divorced man.66
Jesus taught that divorce was suitable only if one partner had already committed adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). If one partner commits adultery, then the innocent partner is free to marry again (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 and comment).
After Jesus’ death, as more and more people began believing in Him, the question arose as to what to do if a husband or wife became a Christian but their partner did not. The Apostle Paul discusses this matter in his first letter to the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 and comment).
The Little Children and Jesus (10:13-16)
(Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 18:15-17)
13 The disciples often misused their authority (Mark 9:38). Here they tried to prevent little children from coming to Jesus.
14 But Jesus rebuked the disciples: “Let the little children come to me.” Then Jesus said, “… for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” The kingdom of God belongs to those having the qualities of little children. Little children are straightforward, without hypocrisy. Little children do not strive for honor or power (see Mark 9:36-37 and comment). Little children are innocent, humble, trusting. These are qualities that are needed if we are to be sharers in the kingdom of God.
We can see from this verse God’s great love and care for small children. The Bible does not say what happens to small children who die, but we cannot believe that they are separated from God’s love (see General Article: Children and the Kingdom of God).
15 Jesus not only loves children; He taught that unless we become like children we cannot enter the kingdom of God (see Matthew 18:3). … anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. How does a little child receive something? He holds out his hands. He asks. A little child is helpless. He cannot earn anything. He cannot pay money for what he wants. He cannot say, “I have worked hard; I deserve to receive a reward.” The child just trusts that what he needs will be given to him. Whatever he asks for he asks in faith; he doesn’t doubt.
This is how we must enter the kingdom of God. We do not deserve to enter. We cannot earn our entrance. We cannot buy a ticket into heaven. We must receive the kingdom of God by faith like a little child. There is no other way.
16 Jesus took the children in his arms. Let us follow Jesus’ example. Let us take care never to despise or mistreat children. Rather, let us remember how much Jesus loves them.
The Rich Young Man (10:17-31)
(Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30)
17 A man ran up to Jesus and asked, “… what must I do to inherit ETERNAL LIFE?” What he was asking was: “How can I be saved?” This is the main question deep in the heart of every person. This man was rich (verse 22), and he was young (Matthew 19:22). According to Luke 18:18, he was also a ruler. He had everything the world could offer; but he still was looking for eternal life in heaven.
18 Although the young man was seeking eternal life, he was thinking in worldly ways. He called Jesus Good teacher (verse 17), supposing Him to be only a human teacher. He thought he himself was good; that is, he believed that he had followed the law exactly from his youth up (verse 20). He thought that to obtain eternal life one had to be “good,” and he was asking Jesus if he needed to do any further “good” work in order to be saved.
Therefore, Jesus told him that no man can be good by his own work. Only God is good. In God’s sight, all man’s righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Paul wrote: I know that nothing good lives in me (Romans 7:18). No man can be good enough by his own effort to merit salvation.
19-20 Jesus then reminded the young man of some of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:12-16). He also mentioned the second great command: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14). The young man assured Jesus that as far as he knew he had obeyed all of these commandments from his youth. Like Paul, he was faultless as far as legalistic righteousness was concerned (Philippians 3:6). Yet the young man still had no confidence he was saved. If one could indeed obey the law perfectly in every respect, he would obtain eternal life67 But there is only one problem: no one has ever been able to obey the law perfectly (James 2:10-11). Neither had this young man obeyed the law perfectly. He had broken the first of the ten commandments: You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). He had made his possessions his god. He had also broken the greatest commandment of all: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30). Yes, he had loved God to some extent, but he had not given to God all his love. He loved his possessions more than God. Because of this, even though he may have followed all the other commandments, he was not worthy to receive eternal life.
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. Then Jesus said, “One thing you lack.” What did the young man lack? Love for God, love for neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). How could that young man show his love for God? By giving up that which he loved most, his possessions. Those who give up their earthly possessions for God will receive eternal treasure in heaven (see Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:33 and comments).
Jesus did not say that if the young man sold all his possessions he would automatically receive eternal life. Paul wrote: If I give all I possess to the poor … but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). Rather, Jesus was showing the man what it meant to follow the law perfectly. The law teaches us what we must do, but it does not give us the power to do it. The law leads us to Christ (Galatians 3:24), but it cannot save us. It is only by faith in Christ that we can be saved, not by works of the law (see Galatians 2:15-16 and comment).
In telling the young man to sell his possessions, Jesus wasn’t giving the man a new law to follow. Jesus does not tell everyone to sell their possessions. But he knew that love of possessions was preventing this young man from giving his life to God. Whenever we love anything more than God, we must give it up, we must “sell it.” We cannot serve both God and Money (see Matthew 6:24 and comment).
22 Jesus said to the young man: “Go, sell everything you have. … Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. To be a disciple of Jesus was too hard. The cost was too great. The young man had come to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus said to him, “… follow me, and I will lead you to eternal life.” But the young man went away sad. He loved his possessions more than Jesus. He had hoped he could have eternal life and keep his possessions too. But Jesus told him, “You must choose. You cannot have both.”
It is not only love of possessions that keeps us from following Jesus. It can be love of family, love of friends, love of work, love of fame (see Matthew 10:3738). Jesus asks each one of us: “… do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15). Paul wrote to the Philippians: I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them (all these things) rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:8-9).
23-25 Jesus then told His disciples that it was extremely difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus wasn’t talking only about those rich in money, but about all those who value worldly things above God.
Poor men can also love their few possessions just as much as the rich love theirs. But in the world’s eyes, the rich man has more to lose by following Christ. Therefore, it is usually harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The rich are usually less willing to put aside their possessions for Christ’s sake.
26-27 The disciples understood Jesus’ deeper meaning. Jesus was saying that it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God by one’s own effort. No man can save himself; it is impossible. But God can save us; with Him all things are possible. Salvation is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
28 Then Peter began to compare himself and the other disciples with the rich young man. “We have left everything to follow you.” Then, according to Matthew 19:27, Peter asked, “What then will there be for us?” It is not wrong for us to inquire what we shall gain by following Christ. Christ calls us to our profit, not to our loss.
According to Matthew 19:28, Jesus first answered Peter by saying that at the renewal of all things—that is, at the end of the world when Christ comes again—the twelve disciples will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. They will in some way share in Christ’s rule and in His work of judgment in God’s kingdom. They will receive great honor. In this world they would be abased; in the next world they will be exalted.
29-30 Then Jesus gave a promise to all who leave home, family, and fields for His sake. They will lose nothing. Instead, they will gain. First, they will gain eternal life (verse 30). They will gain Christ, and with Christ they will gain all things (Romans 8:32; Ephesians 1:3). Christ promised that whatever they give up, they will receive a hundred times as much, not only in heaven but on earth as well.
When Christ said we shall receive homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields, He was talking about the church. When we become Christians, we become members of a great family, which collectively possesses many homes and many fields. But as members of that family, we shall also suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings (Romans 8:17).
31 The disciples wanted to be first, or “great” (see Mark 9:34; 10:37). They thought that because they had followed Christ and had given up everything for Him, they should be first. But Jesus taught: “Don’t seek to be first.” We must never try to bargain with God. We must never think: “I have done this for God; now He must reward me.” God does not reward men according to men’s opinions. Those who think they deserve to be first will usually end up last. Those who put themselves last will often end up first (Matthew 20:16; Luke 13:30). God will raise up the humble and put down the proud (see James 4:6,10; 1 Peter 5:6). Let each believer seek only Christ, and follow after Him. Then God Himself will put each man in the place prepared for him (see verse 40).
Jesus Again Predicts His Death (10:32-34)
(Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-34)
32 Jesus and His disciples had begun their final journey to Jerusalem, where Jesus would be put to death. The disciples were astonished at His teaching, at His miracles, and at His transfiguration.
Besides the disciples, many others also followed Jesus. They were afraid. Perhaps they had a premonition that something terrible was going to happen in Jerusalem.
33-34 For the third time Jesus predicted His death (see Mark 8:31; 9:31 and comments). This time Jesus said that the chief priests and teachers of the law would condemn him to death, and that they would hand Him over to the Gentiles,68 that is, the Romans. The Gentiles would then kill Him. According to Matthew 20:19, Jesus said that He would be crucified, which was the Roman method of executing criminals.
All this came to pass exactly as Jesus said (Mark 14:64; 15:1,19-20). But even having heard this three times, the disciples did not understand what Jesus was talking about (Luke 18:34).
The Request of James and John (10:35-45)
(Matthew 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-27)
35-37 After Jesus had finished talking about His death and resurrection, James and John (Mark 1:19-20) asked Jesus to give them the highest places in His kingdom—on His right hand and on His left. According to Matthew 20:20-21, James and John’s mother also made the same request on their behalf. They were probably thinking of Jesus’ earthly kingdom. They were jealous of Peter and desired to get ahead of him. Even after Jesus had taught them that they must never seek to be first (Mark 9:34; 10:31), His disciples continued to struggle with each other for the highest place.
38 Jesus asked James and John: “Can you drink the cup I drink?” “To drink the cup” was a Jewish saying which meant “to suffer.” The cup was a “cup” of suffering (see Mark 14:36).
“Can you… be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” asked Jesus. Here baptism means “death” (see Romans 6:3-4). Jesus was called not only to suffer but also to die. Were James and John ready to suffer and die with Christ? Those who desire to be glorified with Christ must first suffer with Him (Romans 8:17).
39 In answer to Jesus’ question about whether they could drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism (death), James and John confidently replied: “We can.” And Jesus said to them: “And indeed you will.” James and John didn’t realize what they were saying. But Jesus knew that later on both of them would indeed suffer for Him (see Acts 12:2; Revelation 1:9). They weren’t ready to suffer then, but later they would be filled with the Holy Spirit and receive the strength to suffer all things for Christ’s sake.
40 Even if James and John suffered and died for Christ, it was not Christ’s place to appoint them to sit on His right and left. God Himself will give each person his proper place in the kingdom of heaven, and He will show no favoritism (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:6,11; 1 Peter 1:17). God will give us a place in heaven according to our faith and according to our love for Him.
41 The other ten disciples were indignant with James and John for asking to be put ahead of them in Christ’s kingdom. But they were no better than James and John: they wanted the highest places also! They were not happy to be last. How quickly we become indignant at the sin of others, not because it is sin, but because our own selfish interests are affected!
42-44 Jesus then once more reminded His disciples that they were not to be like men of the world (see Mark 9:35; 10:31 and comments). In the world men strive to be first, to gain power and authority for their own advantage. Once they have gained authority, they lord it over other men, they put others down. But the disciples of Christ must not be like that. If they want to be leaders, they must become servants. Among Christians, to be a true leader means to be a servant of others. It is not wrong to desire to be a leader in the church (1 Timothy 3:1). But it is wrong to desire to be a leader in order to benefit oneself or to lord it over others (1 Peter 5:2-3). We must desire to be leaders only in order to serve others.
45 This is one of the most important verses in Mark’s Gospel, because here for the first time Jesus explains to His disciples why He has come to earth. The Son of Man—that is, the Son of God—the greatest leader the world has ever seen, came not to be served, but to serve. He came as a servant, not as a master (see Philippians 2:6-8 and comment).
But Jesus did not come only to serve; He came to give His life for us. He came to suffer and die for us. Service is good, but it is not enough. We need more than service; we need salvation. We need salvation from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death (see Romans 6:23). Therefore, Jesus came to take upon Himself the punishment for our sin, which otherwise would have come upon us. He died in our place. He became a guilt offering for us (see Leviticus 5:17-19; Isaiah 53:10; Hebrews 9:28 and comment). He gave His life as a ransom for many; that is, He gave His own life in exchange for our lives (see 1 Timothy 2:5-6). We were once slaves of sin and Satan; Jesus bought us—He bought our freedom. And the price He paid was His own blood. Paul wrote the Corinthians: You are not your own; you were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Christ poured out His own blood to purchase our salvation (Mark 14:24).
The prophet Isaiah, in the great fifty-third chapter of his book of prophecy, fully described the life and work of the coming Savior, Jesus Christ: He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed … the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all … my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities … he poured out his life unto death (Isaiah 53:5-6,11-12).
The two most important things that anyone can know in this world are that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1), and that He came to give his life as a ransom for many. He is the Savior of all who believe in Him (Romans 10:9). Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight (10:46-52)
(Matthew 20:29-34; Luke 18:35-43)
46 On their journey to Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples came to the city of Jericho,69 eighteen miles northeast of Jerusalem.
According to Matthew 20:30, Jesus healed two blind men on this occasion, but Mark mentions only one of them, Bartimaeus.
47-48 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus had come, he called out: “Jesus, Son of David.” Jeremiah had prophesied that the Messiah would be descended from King David, the great king of the Jews (Jeremiah 23:5). And indeed Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled (Matthew 1:1,6,2021; Romans 1:2-3). Bartimaeus, although he was blind, recognized Jesus to be the Messiah. And even though the crowd rebuked him, he persisted in his request (see Luke 18:1-8).
49-51 Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus was a beggar (Luke 18:35). Jesus asked the question so that the crowd would know that Bartimaeus was not asking for money but for his sight. To us, also, Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” He wants us to say exactly what we want. Ask and it shall be given to you (Matthew 7:7).
52 Bartimaeus was healed because of his faith. “… your faith has healed you” (see Mark 5:34 and comment).