In the last several chapters of Mark’s Gospel it becomes clear that there is a relationship between the geographical locale of Jesus and His messages on discipleship.  As Jesus turned south toward Jerusalem, and the cross, His messages became more specific regarding His suffering and death—and what the disciples should expect if they planned to remain faithful to the kingdom of God.  Thus, as Mark 10 begins, “He set out from there and went to the region of Judea and across the Jordan” (v. 1), the reader should brace for what is to come.  Jesus’ teaching here points up the fact Christianity is not a casual commitment.  This does not mean that God is not gracious in the salvation of sinners, or that one is made right with God by their faithfulness to Him; rather, salvation by grace invariably leads the saved to value Jesus even more than life.  Thus, it is not unreasonable to think that following Jesus “on the road” (Mark 10:32, 46, 52) to Jerusalem and the cross would include adjusting one’s view of such practical things as marriage, money, and spiritual motives.  Mark 10 is nearly sermonic in arrangement, dividing naturally into three ideas:

  1. Marriage should be viewed as a place for manifesting one’s discipleship, not maximizing one’s convenience (vv. 1-12).  In the Judaism of Jesus’ day, marriage was husband-centered, so when the Pharisees came testing Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (v. 2), they may have been attempting to instigate an uprising amongst the males in the crowd; if Jesus would censure male freedom perhaps He would not be so popular.  Yet Jesus questioned the Pharisees based upon their own area of expertise, the law.  While they could quote Moses’ permission clause (cf. Deut 24.1-5), they had yet to acknowledge the heart of God in the matter, “what God has joined together, man must not separate” (v. 9, cf. Gen 2.24).  While Jesus and Paul outlined what would constitute a “moral divorce” (cf. Matt 19.1-12; 1 Corinthians 7), they were far from the license the Pharisees had extended to Jewish males of their day.  Mark’s point is clear: discipleship involves commitment to Christ in the most intimate sphere of human relationships
  2. Love of money is incompatible with possessing the kingdom of God (vv. 13-31).  All three synoptic writers arrange the story of the rich ruler in the midst of Jesus’ blessing of children and teaching on possessions (cf. Matt 19.13-30; Luke 18.15-30).  Taken together, the three episodes in Mark 10 reveal that the kingdom of God is reserved for those who come to it with nothing to offer, and who are willing to renounce all that they possess in order to make it their own.  Here Jesus was not exalting a child’s innocence of purity, but their lack of authority and clout—as opposed to the rich ruler, an adult par excellance, one who had both position and resources.  Jesus exhorted His disciples to follow the example of the child—who represented true discipleship—and would “receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come” (v. 30).  This is how the last will be first, and the first last (v. 31).
  3. God’s blessings are given for the sake of endurance, not prominence (vv. 32-52).  Once again Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection was followed by the disciples clamoring for places of recognition!  Perhaps reflecting on the Transfiguration, James and John approached Jesus ambiguously, “Teacher, we want You to do something for us if we ask You” (v. 35).  Jesus reply, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (v. 36) is repeated exactly in the next scene, when He was speaking to the blind man, Bartimaeus (v. 51).  In the meantime, Jesus taught the twelve that greatness in His kingdom would be based upon serving others, since in fact “ the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (v. 45).  James and John, and perhaps the other ten as well, needed to learn something from Bartimaeus, who wanted only to be healed, and in gratitude immediately “began to follow Him on the road” (v. 52)

Mark 10 provides an opportunity to understand both the demands and blessings that accord faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ pointed demand upon the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10 shows that—in the flow of the storyline of Scripture—the degree of spiritual commitment required for those desiring eternal life had not waned with His arrival.  Rather, the converse.  Jesus upheld the law of Moses, but went beyond it—even to the degree that His demands move to the periphery those given on Mount Sinai.  He demanded that the one desiring eternal life sell all that he had—not only the substance for his daily needs, but also that which was the evidence that God had indeed blessed his piety of Torah (cf. Job 1.10; 42.10; Psalm 128)—and then come and follow Him.  Without a faithful commitment to Jesus, even scrupulous, faithful adherence to the Mosaic law would not gain one an entrance into eternal life.  This stringent allegiance is befitting the great blessings that were unique to Jesus’ coming and mission.  When He challenged the disciples’ view of greatness, saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—an ransom for many” (Mark 10.45), He was alluding to the fact that His imminent suffering and death would surpass the sacrificial blessings of Israel’s cult.  The lesser, temporary purification known to the old covenant community would be entirely fulfilled by the greater, permanent purification earned in Jesus’ suffering and death (cf. esp. Isa 52.13-53.12).  In the storyline of Scripture then, Jesus ushered in greater blessings and issued greater demands than any known before.

*For a complete list of references, please see